Thursday, May 31, 2007

Can you believe this?

The neighbor across the street is hugely pregnant. How did I miss this until now? Come to think of it, I haven't seen her for a while-- her husband and kids-- yes, but not her.

The good thing about the heatwave in The Old City? I only saw 8 pregnant women the whole time there. Yes, I counted. Yesterday I saw 5 here. One of them across the street from me. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Once again, we took too few days to visit The Old City. We realized that by the weekend, and so tried to jam all the things we still needed to do, and all the people we still wanted to see, or see again, into the remaining couple of days. This is how come on Monday morning I found myself heading for the city cemetery without my family, but with an old family friend, Alex, who looks after the graves of my maternal maternal great-grandparents. I also had in my purse the "address" of my paternal maternal great-grandparents' grave, but I remembered not finding it last time we were in the city (although I had less precise "address" last time).

The Old City Cemetery is a sprawling affair, with no staff to maintain the grounds beyond the quick and dirty, with sections, but not rows marked, and with so little space between the rows, that if two plots facing each other both have their fences set just a bit outside of the allotted space, you can't fit in the few remaining inches and have to circle one of the plots to continue walking your chosen row. Spring has been late coming to The Old City, and when it came, it came with a vengeance, making most of our days there almost unbearably hot, and bringing up weeds in the cemetery to above my waist in less than three weeks.

Because of the weeds it took us a little bit to find my maternal great-grandparents' grave. I've been there before-- two and a half years earlier, when we came to The Old City last. I knew from then that my great-grandfather's headstone also had the pictures of their two sons who perished in the war. I knew also how much her big brothers meant to my grandmother, how much she wanted a son herself, and how happy she was when she found out I was pregnant with a boy. Some weeds have sprung on the plot itself, making their way from under the tiles, displacing the tiles in the process. Alex went to get me some water for the peonies I bought for the graves, and I was left at the plot by myself.

I was pulling the weeds around my great-grandmother's grave with determination usually reserved for things that seem more consequential-- I knew, even as I was doing it that the weeds will be back, probably before I have left the country-- when I looked up to see the simple inscription on the gravestone. Mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. That's me, I thought. I made her a great-grandmother. And although I don't remember her, I know she knew me. At the time, I knew her too. I looked at my great-grandfather's stone. It's signed by the wife, daughter, and a granddaughter. That's my mom. When my great-grandfather died, my aunt wouldn't be born yet for another two years, and when born, she would be named after him. My great-grandmother outlived her husband by a generation. A whole generation. I stood up then, and asked them whether they knew my son. He is a good boy, I said. That was something I haven't done before-- I acknowledged, by the very act of speaking these words, speaking them instinctually, realizing that I was saying them only as they were coming out of my mouth, what I believe about the other side. I am not even sure what it is I believe exactly, but at the time, I believed they could hear me, and I believed they could know him.

I finished cleaning up, Alex returned with water, and I set up the flowers and took pictures for my grandmother, my mom and my aunt. We stopped by the graves of Alex's parents-- they lived across the hall and were like surrogate grandparents to me. Then it was time to look for my father's grandparents' graves. That took a while-- the rows are not marked, and we miscounted at first. When I found it, I wasn't sure it was actually them-- I have never even seen their pictures, and I didn't know my great-grandmother's given name. But the thing that was most confusing to me was that there was another person listed on her gravestone-- a son, 22 years old, perished in the war. I didn't know he existed. I cleaned up there too, all the while thinking of the story my grandmother told about how distraught my father was when she told him his grandmother had died. He was ten, I think. My father's grandfather only outlived his wife by five years. Neither of them got to see any of the great-grandchildren. I think that's why I haven't thought much of them, or heard stories-- they were long gone by the time I came around. And yet, somehow, this knowledge that they had a son, and that he died, suddenly meant so much to me. I asked them too, consciously this time, whether they knew my son.

It wasn't until I was on the plane back to the States that I found what I think is the reason this great uncle I never knew existed got to me. All of a sudden, my two sets of great-grandparents, people who never met, became real to me through the shared tragedy of their lives. Both had three children, both lost their sons. My mother's grandparents were left with a daughter, my father's-- with two. And it occurred to me that maybe I know a little something about them because my son died too.

Their lives were harder, no doubt. They lived through much turmoil, through the war, three of them died young. And yet, I am sure of it, their hearts broke in much the same way as ours do. I don't envy them, for sure, but I do think they had some advantages over me-- they got to raise their sons, for one. For another, people must have acknowledged their losses-- their sons died in a war, like so many others, and people around knew that pain, saw it everywhere. But mostly, it's not about who had it better, it's just about the shared pain. I am sure they had happiness too, I am sure they delighted in the same things we do-- living children, friends, nice days, for example. But it took their pain to make them more than an obligation.

You see, we had so many things to get done, so many living people to see, that I was really tempted to skip the cemetery this time. But I knew it was important to my grandmother, and so I went. Now it's important to me too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Old City

The Old City is green, which, frankly, is the adjective I was hoping to be able to use as I was thinking about it on the plane. And the City, it did not disappoint. I think my heart leaped just a little when the view first opened on the way from the airport. Which then helped make up for my very swollen feet. I mean I didn't have ankles. Let me tell you, people, those are very nice to have. Sleeping with my feet elevated helped, and today things are much better in that department.

Monkey did very well on the plane. Would've done even better if our plane wasn't delayed leaving, so that by the time they served dinner it was past 9, which, then, meant that she couldn't fall asleep till after 10. When she did, JD got her head, I got her legs, and her seat got the middle part of her. And all was good until she started turning a lot and I got hit a few times too many. That was just before they started serving breakfast, which factors combined caused me not to feel sorry at all about waking her up.

Today we got to show Monkey a few of the places that are important to us. She had a blast, as did we. More to come over the next week. I fear, however, that Monkey will ask for asylum based on the fact that they sell ice cream here on nearly every corner, there too many types to count, and each one of them is good. Same can be said about beer, which means that I can't be sure of JD's loyalty either.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

If you are here from The Huffington Post...

...this is what you are looking for.


Chocolate has been my drug of choice for as long as I can remember needing one of those. I have standards, of course-- it has to be dark, it has to be smooth, and these days, it mostly has to be sugar-free. I have a less stable, on again, off again relationship with coffee. Nowadays, it's on again, mostly in the form of hazelnut lattes (sugar-free, again-- I am good PCOSer). Which is by way of saying that as of late, I have had in my possession a rather large number of Starbucks cups.

It seems that some time ago a marketing genius at Starbucks must've decided that there was entirely too much white space on the cups, that people's natural instinct when drinking coffee is to read something, and that people would indeed be so famished for that something! anything! to read that they would gladly read their own coffee cups. Thus, The Way I See It, a series of musings by people famous, semi-famous, and made only a tiny bit semi-famous by the appearance of their very saying in print, so to speak, was born. Interestingly, nobody thought that putting a bookshelf with some books for customers to read while at the shop was a good idea.

Anyway, I must admit that the marketing genius definitely earned his money's worth yesterday-- I went on the Starbucks website and read through every single way someone or other sees it. Oddly, these are numbered 198 to 253. There are also several two-digit numbers reserved for so-called featured authors, who, in addition to having their way of seeing it (summarized succinctly enough to fit on a coffee cup, of course), along with their photographs displayed on the website, also get a screen's worth of an interview. So I was basically that marketing genius's wet dream-- a customer who is hooked by the cup to peruse the website for a rather prolonged period of time.

Julie, she of Great Snark, has already contemplated the road these quips take might take from that fateful click of the mouse to your very own cup, so I shall leave that part alone. And perhaps, as she already so masterfully worked it over, I should leave the whole subject alone. But, as is so often the case with me, I can't.

Having wasted spent some time on the website, I concluded that while The Way I See It is not a newspaper, it is a fine example of what passes for journalism in these here United States. First, it apparently likes to show "both sides of the issue," and thus contains quotes from Dr. Laura (#205)and Randi Rhodes (#239), from Jonah Goldberg (#22) (we will be back to this one, I promise) and President Carter (#205), from Dr. Jonathan Wells (#224) and David Quammen (#220). Second, it apparently doesn't want to appear elitist, and thus contains quotes from both famous people and Starbucks customers, the latter presumably being their best approximation to the average Joe. And although I have resolved not to take the particular detour that leads into the discussion of why this approach to journalism is a bad idea, I will just say that there are topics that do not have a legitimate opposing opinion, such as, oh say, theory of evolution, and that not every Joe is possessed of profound yet folksy wisdom.

To wit, there's this gem, #236, from Joseph Palm, a Starbucks customer from Oshkosh, Wisconsin:

Scientists tell us we only use 5% of our brains. But if they only used 5% of their brains to reach that conclusion, then why should we believe them?

Do I even need to go into the explanation of the scientific process and the way we know what we know, or should I just stick with the way-too-easy quip about how some of us apparently use our 5% somewhat more efficiently than others? Yeah, I know you saw that one coming.

Of course, the ones that really raise my heart rate (don't tell my doctors, ok?) are the plain stupid ones. Let me show you a couple of examples, ok? First, I promised you we will get back to Jonah Goldberg, didn't I? So here goes, #22:

Everywhere, unthinking mobs of “independent thinkers” wield tired clichés like cudgels, pummeling those who dare question “enlightened” dogma. If “violence never solved anything,” cops wouldn’t have guns and slaves may never have been freed. If it’s better that 10 guilty men go free to spare one innocent, why not free 100 or 1,000,000? Clichés begin arguments, they don’t settle them.

I will leave the analysis of why it seems to be fashionable to celebrate the anti-intellectualism to those better qualified. I will personally stick with ranting--it's just more fun. See, Mr. Goldberg, he made a bet (scroll to the bottom two paragraphs) once, a bet about whose judgment is superior. As the measure of that judgment, he offered his prediction for the future of Iraq two years on from the date of the offer. The future of Iraq as a result of the war he didn't fight in, because, you know, he had a Very Lame Reason, but had no compunctions whatsoever about sending other people's children to die in-- that war. However, when history, sadly but predictably, proved that whereof he speaks, Mr. Goldberg knows not even a little, he didn't have the intestinal fortitude to own up. So I ask you, what do I care how the man with the truly pathetic judgement and no spine sees it? And shouldn't lack of either one of those attributes, not to mention both simultaneously, permanently bar him from that apparently coveted place on my coffee cup? Or, at the very least, from being a featured author, the title that allowed him to hurt my brain some more?

Look, I get that the company doesn't want to alienate consumers based on their political affiliation, but couldn't they at least pick someone not quite so full of his own bad self?

I have a couple more. Ready? Well, here they come anyway:

#204: Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure. Never forget your Personal Legend. Never forget your dreams. Your silent heart will guide you. Be silent now. It is the possibility of a dream that makes life interesting. You can choose between being a victim of destiny or an adventurer who is fighting for something important. -- Paulo Coelho, Novelist.

So is it the fear of failure that makes some women have undetected ectopics and loose their tubes? Just asking...

#212: Patience is a virtue, life is a waiting game. Peace must be nurtured, and all the money in the world can buy you nothing. Let me tell you that. -- Corinne Bailey Rae, Musician.

Don't you just know that Miss Rae never needed money for an IVF? But hey, don't you know, if you are patient and relaxed, it will just happen? Of course it will.

#229: What is to be will be, sure to come true. -- Peter Frampton, Guitarist.

Do you know how much money Mr. Frampton just saved me? I don't have to take those stupid prenatal vitamins, or the PCOS meds, or even see a doctor-- it will happen if it's supposed to happen. Simple, see?

#238: Have you noticed that dogs are the new kids? You take a walk with your kid and your dog, but nobody says, “What a cute kid!” Instead they say, “What a cute dog! What’s his name? Is he a rescue?” Maybe if I put a collar and leash on my kid someone will notice her. -- Judy Gruen, Humorist and author of The Women’s Daily Irony Supplement.

If only, Judy, if only.

#251: A mature person is one who can say: My parents may have made some mistakes raising me, but they did the best they could: now it’s up to me. --Shannon Fry
Starbucks customer from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Some parents do much worse than the best they could. Glad you never met anyone like that, Shannon.

And here comes my favorite, the one that made me go to the website in the first place. This gem comes to us from Bill Scheel, Starbucks customer from London, Ontario. He describes himself as a "modern day nobody."

#247: Why in moments of crisis do we ask God for strength and help? As cognitive beings, why would we ask something that may well be a figment of our imaginations for guidance? Why not search inside ourselves for the power to overcome? After all, we are strong enough to cause most of the catastrophes we need to endure.

For the sake of all that is holy, have people not hear of cancer? I get that most have not heard of child loss and think that infertility happens when evil career women put off childbirth too long, but cancer? Or can we cause that too?

All these quotes, what they have in common seems to be the inability to notice the exceptions, to acknowledge that generalizations can hurt people to whom they do not apply. This is what we are, the exceptions. Easy to miss, easy to hurt. Noticing us, acknowledging us, is not easy. And if you do, your quote may not fit on a coffee cup anymore. Maybe I should stop reading the coffee cups then. Maybe. But once is a while they can surprise you, kinda like so:

#246: Sometimes good art is simply creating an honest mess. -- Stacy D. Flood, Writer and Starbucks customer from Redmond, Washington.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Can one be pre-tired?

I was whining to the shrink today that when I went to see my GP for a thyroid test (seeing as a patient with thyroditis should do that once in a while), she decided that she was so unimpressed with my heart rate that I should (1) get a mild heart medication, and (2) see a cardiologist. I am way too young for either of these things, but yes, I filled the prescription and made the appointment.

The shrink wanted to know what about that bothered me the most. There are a few things, starting with the obvious (FREAKING HEART MEDICATION!!!), but it wasn't the obvious that got to me.

And here's where that question comes in: can one be pre-tired? Tired ahead of time? Because I think that is how I feel. The thing about this new development is not so much that it is here right now, but the knowledge, the surety, that it will be here again. And again. See, I want to raise three children. I want to have two more living children. Kinda soon. Which means at least two more rounds of this. And I haven't even gotten to the hypo part yet.

I feel like I am standing in front of a very tall mountain, with a very heavy backpack. I am waiting to start climbing this mountain, the mountain the top of which is obscured by clouds, with the terrain I can't see beyond the first little bit. And my backpack just got heavier.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The meme, it's all about me

I am a procrastinator, which fact is evident in the time lapsed since Niobe tagged me.

I am behind on a work project I need to finish before we head to the Old Country this Sunday.

I am excited about going and about taking Monkey for the very first time.

I am not as excited as I thought I would be.

I am anxious, just a little. Actually, a little more than a little.

I am looking at a candle we lit this morning because Monkey wanted to have one going again.

I am more glad than sad that she wanted to light it.

I am missing my son.

I am still laughing.

I am getting my brain back, slowly.

I am still missing my drive.

I am kinda used to the way I am now.

I am looking forward to when we will be allowed to try again.

I am also uneasy about that.

I am sleepy.

I am formerly a pretty good chess player.

I am no good at speed chess.

I am addicted to the stat counter I installed the other day.

I am not sure when we might get to travel again as a family. Hopefully not soon.

I am about to take a ten hour flight with a five year old. Holy shit.

I am a stranger in a strange land.

I am home.

I am OK.

I am tagging
Aurelia, and
Wannabe Mom.
Ladies, you get to write those "I am" statements now. If you want to, of course. No pressure.

Bonus track:

I am a little sad that I can't use the very first thing that popped into my head when I saw this meme-- it's in the language of the Old Country and would carry no meaning in translation.

I am sad, in fact, that I had to do this meme in one language-- too many bad multilingual puns got away.

Friday, May 11, 2007

What makes me a mother?

The Parent Bloggers Network is running this Blog Blast thingie (sponsored by LightIris), where everyone gets to answer the questions above. (You can get in on the fun yourself, up until the end of the day today.) Well, nowdays it hurts me to even see that question, but somehow I just can't walk away. So here goes.

My daughter made me a mom. In ways big and small, in my own eyes and in the eyes of the world, she made me a mom.

My son made me a different kind of mom. Today, I am a mom who loves with all my heart a child who gives the best hugs in the world, and one who never did and never will. Today, much like I could a year ago, I can describe in excruciating detail the amazing blended colors of my daughter's eyes. But today, every time I think of those most unusual eyes, I also know, with the knowledge that makes me want to howl, that I will never get a chance to discover the color my son's eyes would have been.

I was never big on Mother's Day. We didn't have one in the Old Country, and it took some getting used to once we got here. But this year, I am particularly ambivalent about it. In fact, I think it makes me mostly sad.

This year, I am sad for all my sisters in grief who will not be seen and acknowledged by the world as mothers this year. Those who had to make that most excruciating of choices to let their children go, and those who had no choice at all.

This year, I am a sad for all the mothers of living children, who, getting the cards and the presents this Sunday morning will miss, dreadfully, the card, or a hug, or just a smile from their kids who don't get to give them one, who never will.

This year, I am sad for all the women out there who long to be mothers, but who, through the circumstances of biology, life, or money are not.

The shrink I see is actually a very nice woman who is doing research into better ways to help bereaved parents. Unfortunately, because I am seeing her as part of a study, I only have two more meetings with her. Also because this is a study, I have to fill out questioners every week, consisting of rating my agreement or disagreement, as of each week, with a number of statements. One statement, that up until now I have always marked as "neither agree nor disagree" is "Being a bereaved parent means being a 'second class citizen.'" I think this week I will circle "agree."

The founder of LightIris is a well-meaning man named Kevin, who is documenting his month of wearing a pregnancy suit in an effort to gain empathy for what moms go through. Sorry, Kevin, but there is no suit that will give you empathy for what some of us go through. There is no suit that will make you understand how little wearing a pregnancy suit has to do with being a mother. I suppose I should be glad that for Kevin, and most other people in the world, our experiences are so foreign as to not even register on their radar of what motherhood means. And I am glad.

But I also want to, need to, speak up for myself and other bereaved mothers. Why? I don't know. Perhaps in the vain hope of making our experiences part of mainstream conversation about motherhood. Perhaps because I wish we could find a way to honor all mothers without making some of us feel left out and hurt. Perhaps because there is nothing else I can do for my sisters.

So what is it that makes me a mother? This year, it's straddling the two worlds, loving both of my children, and seeing the fullness of what being a mother means.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

That thinking business

I think a lot. I used to think about great many things. Politics, for example. I still check on that once in a while, but I have lost the zeal. Mostly.

For now, it feels like most of my thoughts are connected in some way to my grief. Did I mention before that I haven't been a terribly productive employee in the last three months? Well, I haven't.

All of this by way of introduction to my very belated thoughts on being nominated for the Thinking Blogger Award by the very thoughtful Lori.


I am honored that I make at least one other person think. Thank you, Lori. Apparently, I can't nominate those who have already gotten one of these, so I have to settle for honorable mentions for Lori, Niobe, Sara, Cecily and Aurelia.

So here are the rules:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

Trying to figure out who to nominate myself has been a challenge. What finally made my choices clear was thinking back to the first few days and weeks after A died. I remember feeling that I was not entirely unprepared to deal with this horrendous thing because I have read so many thoughtful and articulate women who have been there before. Reading their stories made me think about how one might handle something so humongous and unthinkable before this humongous, unthinkable thing became my reality. So I nominate them-- those who walked this way before, who retained their strength and their humanity, who showed me the way before I knew I would follow.

Julia at Uncommon Misconception. A long time ago I stumbled on her blog and read about the most wrenching decision of her life-- choosing to terminate her pregnancy to spare her son Thomas immeasurable suffering. She made me think about the entirety of what it means to be a parent, about the duty of mercy we owe our children, and about the strength it takes to live and hope again. In a post I can't find right now, Julia shared some pictures of Thomas with his parents. Funny, but the words she used when talking about the pictures pierced my heart at least as much as the pictures did. He might have had his father's nose, Julia said. That stuck with me. As I labored with A, I wanted to know whose nose he would turn out to "might have had."

Tertia at So Close. I started reading Tertia when she was pregnant with Adam and Kate, having recently lost Ben (and, before him, Luke). She made me think about what it means to mourn one life while trying to grow another.

I also think that more than anything else, Tertia's and Julia's pictures of themselves with their children made me get, on an intuitive and visceral level, that our dead children are still, first of all, our children, and only then dead (something everybody's favorite Dear Abby correspondent, and Dear Abby herself for that matter, might have done well to consider, but I digress). We too have pictures of our baby boy. That we have them, that it wasn't a question for me whether to take them-- I think I owe these two remarkable women a huge thank you for that.

Julia at Here Be Hippogriffs. She made me think about unconditional love and acceptance and about living with gusto even as one gets sucker punched again and again by life, universe, and everything. In a word, the unbreakable Julia has shown me what grace is.

Catherine at Everything is Under Control. I read Catherine's comment at Julia's last summer, and followed her back to her place. I read and read and read, laptop on top of me, my butt propped up on pillows, progest.rone suppository lodged in place. I thought about oh, so many things. For the first time, I thought about what it might be like for an older child to have a stillborn sibling. I saw the very vastness of sorrow and the very depth of love. And I saw that there is a way through, that you can survive.

For my fifth nomination, I choose Ollie at The Mind of Olivia Drab. Because someone has to educate the world with some first rate (and artistically impressive) snark.

I should also point out that all of these ladies are funny. Can't go wrong with that.

The world is too effing small

The world. It's too effing small. Tiny, really.

See, having grown up in the Old Country, I knew next to nothing about the religious aspects of being a Jew. I have since worked on rectifying this particular deficiency, but that is not the point of this post, except that one of the consequences has been my rabbi asking me last year to go look at this one Jewish day school. They are different, she said. You will like it, she said. Long story short, I went, I looked, I liked. Which surprised me for a variety of reasons, but again-- not the point here. Since I liked, JD was dispatched to also look, and he also liked. So we applied and after a little bit of drama, Monkey was admitted.

One more foray into ancient history here. Indulge me, please. So. I came to the Big University a couple of years after we arrived in this country, and eventually got involved with the Jewish student group on campus. But there were a few people, mostly of the very privileged background, that I didn't really get along with. Two of them, Jon and Rachel, were a couple, and Rachel and I had many a disagreement throughout the years. Last one of those came on the alum email list when I was very pregnant with Monkey. The reason it started is irrelevant, but it was over whether or not a pregnant woman needs access to a hospital. Seeing as I had previa, and didn't know whether I would be able to deliver or would need a C-section, I was rather unamused with her point of view that a laboring woman does not need to go to a hospital since women have given birth at home for thousands of years, and that's exactly what she, as a very pregnant woman herself, was planning on doing.

If you are playing along, you have now without a doubt realized who I met as I walked into the meeting for future Kindergarteners and their parents this morning. Right. But did you also guess they have a brand spanking new 3 month old baby too? If you did, you have a sense of humor as warped as the universe's.

Monday, May 7, 2007

More than words

Julie says it's National Nurses Week, and since she hasn't led me astray yet, I believe her. And since many things she does are a good idea, even if they are not the law, I figured I should thank the nurses that helped me survive.

Trouble is, I don't really know how I could ever thank them enough.

My day shift nurse. How do you thank someone for only saying "Oh, good-- you missed the bed" when you barf your clear liquids all over the floor because IV pain meds make you feel very very drunk? How do you thank her for holding your hands and talking you through the part where they put the epidural in with contractions 2-3 minutes apart? Sometime in the middle of all that she also put together a list for me-- tips, resources, remedies. Did you know that sage helps stop lactation? Well, now you know.

My night shift nurse. How can you ever thank a person for bringing warm blankets and a hat for your dead baby? Toasty warm blankets. As in, she warmed them up. Not right away, either-- she gave us time right away. And how on earth do you ever thank that very same person for being the one to look after his body after you let him go and for putting together his memory box? Or for not making you verbalize the reason you were hesitating to ask for the hat he was wearing? For understanding you enough to say "It's OK. I will put another one on him"? How do you thank a person for that?

How do you thank these nurses enough for not making you feel like what you were doing in that L&D room was any less than natural, any less than any other birth? Or for conspiring to keep you in that L&D room for close to 15 hours after delivery, instead of the allowed 2, so that you could go home right from there?

My OB's nurse. How do you thank someone for making sure that even three months later, your phone calls are always returned, your test results reported promptly, your questions passed on to the doctor and answers relayed to you the same day? How do you thank someone for simply saying "You know, I do think about you, and wonder how you are doing."? Yesterday. 14 weeks later. It doesn't sound like a lot now that I typed it out. But it is. Being able to trust the people you need to trust to keep your next child safe and to bring that child into the world is a lot.

So how does one thank them? You don't suppose a post on an anonymous blog is enough, do you?

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Tip of the day

Dear friends,

You know we love you and your kids. And most of the time, we are even happy to come to your kid's birthday party. Just one little thing, really. Could you please remember not to encourage random other friends of yours who we don't know and who come to the party with their infants to sit down on the bench next to us so you can take a picture? Especially if said infants were so obviously born within weeks of A's due date? Pretty please? 'Cause I could've sworn there was plenty of air to breathe in that room just a second before.


Wiped Out

Friday, May 4, 2007

Other people's pain

I got a phone call yesterday. My cell showed a number I didn't know, but I picked it up anyway. The caller, whose voice I didn't recognize, spoke in the language of the Old Country. A second later he introduced himself-- Glen, my first crush, which (said crush, on him) I acquired at the ripe old age of 7. And yes, I do realize that Monkey is mere two years away from that particular age, the age at which I thought of myself as rather grown up and very, I mean very mature. Thanks for reminding me. No, this does not unsettle me. Why do you ask?

Moving right along. I knew that Glen's family lives in Another Big City-- my mom found them a few years back, and has talked to them and even visited with them on one of her many business trips (yes, our parents were friends in the Old Country). I think that's when I talked to Glen for the first and only time since leaving the Old Country-- my mom thought it would be a good idea to ring me up while she was right there with them-- and learned that they had a little girl a few weeks younger than Monkey. I felt a bit awkward through that conversation, but it was pleasant enough, and we ended it with me promising that if we are ever in Another Big City, we will call them up and come for a visit, and, I believe, vice versa.

So Glen called yesterday morning, and I invited him over for dinner. I was surprisingly calm. By which I mean I was not in the full freak-out mode. But I did worry, on slow boil, about whether he is a nice person now, about whether my house is sufficiently clean, and whether I have enough food for entertaining. I was anxious, though, about whether he knew. He didn't say anything on the phone, and I didn't remember my mom telling me she spoke to his parents since A died. Quick phone call to mom confirmed that she didn't, and so he wouldn't know. New worry-- do I bring it up? Would he ask me whether we are thinking of having another kid? Do I just not say anything?

Guess what? He is a very nice guy. If he lived here, we would probably be close friends. They have another little girl now. We looked at each other's pictures, talked about jobs, vacations, Old Country, soccer. JD liked him-- when Glen stepped out for a minute, JD said that I have good taste. I liked him too. And you know what? Not at any point did he ask why we are not having another kid, or even if we are thinking about it. Not even when discussing our nannies. Not even when we gave him the tour of the house and he saw a clearly freshly painted and clearly underutilized baby room. I do have good taste, don't I?

I began to think I would probably not bring it up. I didn't see how to even say it. "Would you like another piece of cake? And by the way, our baby died." Our mothers will obviously talk now that we met, and my mom will tell his mom. And then the conversation jumped from my grad school research interests (many moons ago) to his mother's diabetes, and how she is doing with it. And then he said "Dad died, though."

"Sorry" was all I managed.

It's been about two years now, Glen said, lung cancer. That's when he went gray and lost his hair. His brother was still very young, he said, and living at home. Still does.

You know what I did? I asked about Glen's brother, and then didn't come back to the topic of his dad. That's right-- I suck. I didn't ask how his mom was doing with it, or him, or his older daughter. I didn't ask how they did through his dad's sickness. Yeah, I suck.

It was getting pretty late by then. Glen invited us to come visit them. I told him about A, and he didn't say anything stupid. We exchanged complete sets of coordinates, said our goodbyes, and promised to keep in touch.

I called my mom this morning and I told her Glen's dad died. She was really shaken. She couldn't believe it's been over two years since she last spoke to Glen's mom. She started crying, and remembering all these things about Glen's family and his dad. I felt even worse for being such an ass yesterday. My mom said she will call Glen's mom a little later. I called again a few hours later, and she told me she can't call-- she is too shaken and needs a few days before she would be able to call.

All of a sudden I realized I wanted to call Glen's mom myself, which is unusual, because I don't tend to voluntarily call people who I am not close to. I called, and we talked for a while. She is just not the same. She seems a lot older than she actually is, her cadences, the ways she talks, things she focuses on-- all are more like my grandmother's than like my mother's. Is that because they are both widows?

I feel better having called, but I still feel shitty about yesterday. Am I not supposed to be good at this now? Am I not supposed to know what to say to people in pain? I guess I thought that somewhere among the mountains of booklets and paperwork with which we got discharged from the hospital, they issued me one of those all-purpose grief access badges. So why did I choke? I think I would know what to do if someone told me they've lost a child. Why then did I blow it so badly when it was about a parent?

Public service announcement

Please go read Julie, and if you are so inclined, do what she asks. You know you always wanted to be a rock star.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Another one

My mom just called to tell me that a cousin of one of my friends from high school found out yesterday her baby died. They started the induction yesterday afternoon. Tuesday. It was a Tuesday for us too.

She is a couple of years younger. I remember her as a teenager. Bright, a little awkward, had issues with her parents. And now she is one of us.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Hair and surprises

I got my hair colored and cut while I was waiting to find out whether I was pregnant. That was last June. Somehow, I never got around to having another haircut while pregnant. Sometime after A died, I lazily thought that I should get a haircut and maybe a color, since I wasn't pregnant anymore. But I wasn't getting around to it for two reasons. One, I have known Mia, the hairdresser, for something like 6 years, and just couldn't face going there for what she would think was a routine haircut just to tell her what had happened. Two, I knew I would start loosing my hair soon. You know, all the hair that doesn't fall out while you are pregnant that eventually falls out afterwards, and in giant clumps to boot.

About two weeks ago I couldn't stand the look of my hair anymore and I thought that maybe I didn't start loosing the hair for like 5 or 6 months after Monkey was born, so I called and made the appointment. And inspired by Julia, I wanted to ask about doing a perm. I had the cut last Wednesday, and a perm. I like the look, and it's easy to take care of (as desired). I shouldn't be too surprised, though, that my hair promptly started to fall out, should I? Oh, well.

The more surprising thing is what else happened at the haircut. Mia was recommended to me by a friend who found her through her stepmother. Turns out that my friend had been for a haircut and has told Mia about A. Mia was very nice, offered condolences, and didn't say anything stupid. And then she blew me away. I have known for a while that Mia does acupuncture too, but never cared much. Out of the blue Mia says "I want you to come for acupuncture. I want to give you a session free." I was a bit skeptical because the only acupuncturists I encountered before were Chinese men. But I have this new policy not to decline kind offers, so I said thank you and made an appointment. And it was good-- I felt better afterwards, and the things she said made sense. I am even thinking of scheduling a couple of paid appointments in the future. But it's the kindness of the offer that I am still amazed by.

When we were at the hospital, I remember feeling so much gratitude to the nurses and doctors, to our rabbi, to the funeral director. They were doing their jobs, yes, but they were also being kind, and somehow that mattered. Why is it that human kindness amazes me so? Is it because we are so fragile that it feels like we can't take any more hurt (even if we can), and when someone is kind, somewhere in the back of our minds we think "wow, that was nice. what if s/he didn't do that-- it could've hurt more," and we feel "extra" gratitude? Or is it just that I wasn't paying nearly enough attention before?