Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Despite Our Best Intentions

We recently replaced a very aged Mac and doing so gave me occasion to look through our photo collection as I ported the library of photos over to the new machine. Because I love photography, I couldn't help but pour over the photos. As I moved backward through time marked in images, I anticipated seeing our precious few photographs of Eva. But I didn't get that far because it is a photo that was taken after her death that gave me pause.


I didn't take the girls' survival for granted. Before entering the hospital at 24 weeks, I bought 2 preemie outfits to bring them home in. That's it. With MoMo twins, you can't help but be aware that there are no guarantees. Even at viability, even when you're being monitored, losses can happen. Throwing a heart defect into the mix of my already cautious nature and let's just say that I was, at a minimum, guarding against hubris. All this sounds so strange and foreign to me now, but I felt that humility and pragmatism and well-managed expectations required me to wait on the exuberant pink spending orgy.

Nevertheless, during those eleven weeks in a hospital room I had a little time on my hands. In addition to a love of terrible-yet-entertaining VH1 shows, I found a great deal on Craig's List for a double snap n' go and 2 Snug.Ride infant seats. All for $100! That's pragmatic, right? I wasn't tempting anything, was I? It wasn't even pink. My dear friend went and picked up the gear for me.

The day my surviving daughter was discharged from the NICU we brought one of the car seats to the hospital and found that although she met the weight minimum, the straps were nonetheless too loose even at their tightest setting. Par for the NICU course, they sent us on our way in late afternoon and told us that our daughter was discharged and they would not keep her another night. Nor would they let us take her home in our Snug.Ride. We spent that evening going from one store to another until we found a seat that would accommodate her puniness. At that point, we had no fewer than 4 infant seats.

So, when the reality that we would not be needing our double snap n go set in, we paid the deal forward. I took this photo for the post.

A woman brought her young daughter, pregnant with twins, to look at the gear. D handled the transaction, while I sat out of sight, but within earshot, nursing (and you'd be right to wonder what, exactly). Grandma asked why we were selling the gear. Silence, hushed tones and shortly thereafter, I could hear her asking if she could give us more money. It was one of those bewildering/well-meaning/clueless interactions. Seeing the picture brought back a complicated set of emotions (pain... guilt... hopelessness) and the memory of one of those surreal moments -- a clear moment like a splinter in the fog of early grief.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What Your Mother and the Broken Treadmill Have in Common

If the broken treadmill in the gym were on Facebook, I would friend it. And that is saying something.

Today, I rendezvoused with the broken treadmill at 1200 hours for a quickie. At least, the treadmill told me it was a quickie -- sub-7:00 miles at times. That treadmill is like my mother, telling me I'm fast, when all other evidence suggests otherwise. The broken treadmill insists that I am worthy even as it screeches and groans under my ponderous waddle, even as the mirrored wall shivers and the very laws of physics mock us. Like my mother, I go to this treadmill when I want to feel good about myself. But if I want the truth, I have to go elsewhere.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Mommy Track

Back in the day I used to say, "I'm not motivated by money." You could practically hear me sniffing with self-satisfaction. It was easy to be unconcerned with money at the time. I didn't have kids and I made more than I needed. But there was plenty that work didn't offer me and adhering closely to my normal pattern, I focused on how I was different from my coworkers, how I didn't fit into my work environment rather than what I was getting and how I was similar. In any case, I may not have been motivated by money, but I was sure held in check (ha!) by it. I didn't leave until an acquisition and lay-off ended the wild swings of opinion on whether or not I would grow a pair (of mammaries, sha!) and get out.

When I finally started working again, it was on a contract basis and the "dream" job quickly revealed itself to be notevenremotely serious/career-enhancing/likely to exist for long. So we thought maybe it would be a good time to get on with the second child thing. And voila, 9 months later Eva died. For all the times and ways I've turned those two words over in my mind, I've never before today really thought about the fact that from the time we decided to have our second child to the time we lost our third was nine months. We are so lucky in so many ways. I feel so damned sometimes.

But this was about the outside the house kind of work. After a few months of being at home with my surviving twin, I got to a point where it became essential that I go back to work. I took the first job I was offered. It was a big pay cut and a lot less of a challenge, but in my grief and eagerness to discount myself, I took it. I told myself that I needed a soft place to land and that I couldn't afford to fail. Both were true, but two years later, the place on which I landed feels so soft that I can't quite get my footing. It's starting to feel like quicksand. It neither provides me with the flexibility I would like to be available to the children nor does it reward me in the ways I need now.

But it wasn't until a good friend was effectively jettisoned by her employer after she returned from maternity leave that I realized that she and I had been mommy-tracked, she by her boss and me by, well... me.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Diminishing Returns

My thinner, neater, and just-generally-better half has been gone all week for mandatory work fun (MWF). I shall hereby take this moment to wax insanely bitter about it... and then I shall get on with the show.

MWF is called "kickoff" and implies a certain organizational collaborative strategory planning orgy of business readiness and profit margin fireworks. In reality, it is drinking, eating, lectures, drinking, eating, lectures, free time, drinking, eating, drinking, fun and games, drinking, eating, lecture, free time, eating, drinking, eating, free time, fun, fun and drinking. I think I have pretty well summarized the week's itinerary. In these winter escapades (note how easily that word turns into escape), I mean "kickoffs," which are always the first week in January (you know, right after the holidays, first week back at work and school, just to keep the whole funness thing happening...for them), activities have included, bowling, deep sea fishing, super long zip fly through a canyon and other distinctly profitless (ad)ventures. In the meantime, we have been at home in sub-freezing temperatures trying to get back into the swing of things. Sniff. He comes home tonight and that's a good thing, cuz the house needs to be cleaned. And he's good at that.

Here's how we have fared without him:

Monday: D leaves and I resolve that we will have a peaceful and unharried week. Nutritious meals will be eaten and voices will not be raised. There will be no occasion for time-outs. The wine in the fridge will not be consumed.
Monday night: Reasonably healthy dinner is consumed, thanks to the spinach I snuck into a tray of baked ziti (with brown rice pasta - thank you Tra.der J.oe's!) made on Sunday. Children are relatively kempt and peace, however tentative, is maintained.

But, sleep is scarce. Son worries loudly to his worry dolls about "villains, sharks, Eva and death" but seems relieved and unburdened thereafter.

Tuesday: Alarm does not go off in the morning for the second day in a row. I thought I fixed this problem (yeah, apparently I did not suspect the pesky volume culprit)! I wake to the sound of the children playing by themselves because they do not want to "bother" me. All, however, is not lost. Nutritious breakfast (organic vanilla yogurt, with lowfat granola and fruit) is still prepared. We manage to rally and work together and we are fed, caffeinated (um, just me) cleaned, dressed, bundled and strapped into our car in under an hour. We are champions and we know this. Son asks, "Is this a record?" Satisfied, I tell him that it just might be.
Tuesday night: Pickup motorcade is a slog. Both children have gotten less than stellar reports from school. Disagreements between the children occur regarding dinner and the right of the other child to continue to exist. Mother compromises by offering a mix of Asian and Italian favorites on the same plate (a state of affairs that WOULD NOT STAND were D present). Hidden spinach is still nobly appearing in the roll of vegetable and I hope against hope that the shu mai has some cabbage or something mixed in there. Mother consumes wine. Highly anxious son ends up in mom and dad's room that night.

Wednesday: Mother is required to appear at place of employment at 7:30 a.m. Breakfast is coffee cake because there is no dilly or dally over delicious baked goods in this house. I think there may have been some bruised fruit also. We three stoicly trudge to the car at an unreasonable hour only to arrive at son's school before the morning care program starts. Trudge back to car and wait with heater on full blast. Daughter tells teacher at dropoff that she had cake for breakfast. Mother avoids eye contact with teacher and scurries away, arriving only 15 minutes late for work.
Wednesday night: Welcome reprieve from normal commute. Son is sullen as always when going to his sibling's school, suspicious and on the lookout for any potential injustice in the distribution of familial resources. Dinner is tater tots and chicken burgers. Vegetable = ketchup. Mother ponders beverage options. Voices may have been slightly elevated but only so as to make my meaning Quite. Clear. My dear friend visits, leaves at midnight.

Thursday: No alarm snafus as children cheerily wake me at 6 a.m. Based on the forensic evidence found later, they were probably fed fruit leather in the car on the way to school, but I can't guarantee that.
Thursday night: Back to the long slog commute. I can't remember what was for dinner other than the terrible Muscat I choked down with seltzer. You can be quite certain there was no vegetable...

Friday: I woke up with a cold and my son sleeping next to me. Saw snow on the ground and skipped the caffeine. Experienced palpable relief on the discovery that schools were open.
But then I got to work and saw an e-mail from my boss in which he indicated that he was going to be late because [the same system as my son's] school was delayed. What? Where is my son? I remember dropping him off! With an adult! I think! A quick check of the appropriate (read: not the one I checked from home) website revealed... PHEWW... we were both right. School was delayed, but the before-school care program was only slightly delayed. My son is probably playing shoot 'em up games on the computer as I type.

All this is to say, we really missed you, better half.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Vanquishing Platitudes Wherever They May Cower or Everything Will Revert to the Mean

I heard that song, "Rocka.bye" or "Lullabye" by Shawn Mull.ins on the radio today. I'm not complaining, mind you. Anything beyond the core rotation of 4 songs on the average radio station is most welcome. Anyway, digression off... The line in the chorus, "Ev.er.y.thing's gonna be alright..." got me thinking about one of my favorite bones of contention -- the feeble platitude. I have written about this topic before. It's become a little obsession, actually. One of the ways I have changed as a person as a direct result of what we went through with the twins and with losing Eva is a renunciation, a lack of patience with these insipid throwaway words. Maybe it's because we heard so many of them and they were so hollow.
That which doesn't kill you...
Everything happens for a reason...
It'll be okay/alright/fine...
Forgetting the expressions of blind faith, which leave me cold.

I want to know what that line means. On some level, I should accept it as meaningless, as all platitudes are, by definition. But what if there is some truth to it. After all, the phrase isn't "everything will be great" or "nothing will change" just that everything will be alright. Maybe it is a more humble and truthful expression than I give it credit for and it does account for the possibility of the unexpected even if the unexpected sucks. Maybe it is my understanding of what 'alright' means that needed an adjustment and the expression was right all along.

Further, "everything's gonna be alright" doesn't imply a deadline and so maybe over long horizons the majority of us survive what befalls us, even if some of us are slightly more diminished and some of us are slightly enhanced (a topic for another day). Is there some profound truth that over time everything and everyone -- including those who've experienced tragedies -- will revert to our mean, give or take a standard deviation? Is that what it means to have hope and to "be alright?"