Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lights out


I lit this candle the night of the day the big wave overtook me. By the time it was ready to go out, shortly after some of you lit your candles on the second Sunday in December, I was through the worst of that particular round.


The last of the last candle of the last Shabbat of the year. And if you are quick on the uptake, you realize that the fact that I took this picture proves that I am decidedly not Orthodox.


Hanukkah is also finished. Sigh. I love the candles every night.

A's name means "the father of the candle (or of the light)." Honestly not until I submitted my portrait for the Glow contributors page did I make the connection with how much comfort I drew from the candles I have lit in the last 23 months. I am slow like that. But I also don't think it's any kind of a sign-- we picked the name after he died, but it was the name at the top of a very short list. And I have always loved watching candles. And bonfires.

Today is 23 months. It's a Wednesday again, only the second time this has happened so far. And in an hour it will be a new year where we are.

2008 was good to us, even if it was hard. But I will take good and hard over terrible and hard, any day. And now it must end. Just like every candle ever lit must go out.

I wish you all a good year, a better year than you dare wish for yourself. See you on the other side.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ebb and flow

When I first started this post, some two and a half weeks ago now, its title was "Fuuuuuuuck." It was an apt description of the wave of grief that had slammed into me, unexpected in its full-throttled intensity. Those days the missing was intense. Physical. Heavy.

I don't really know why. It came on just as Monkey and the Cub were each recovering from a major case of non-overlapping sickies (though I think it started for each of them with a common, in both senses of the word, cold) and JD slightly more than half way through his business trip to half a word away.

While they were sick, clingy and miserable I hugged, comforted, took temperatures, dispensed medications, and even ran to work for a couple of hours each of the three days the nanny was at our house. My work suffered, but I regarded the ever-growing pile of brick wall deadlines being bulldozed towards the winter break with resigned calm. I had zen.

I was also acutely aware that one of my children was missing. Is missing. Will always be missing. But that is sort of an everyday background hum kind of awareness. It's there, and it colors, but it does not encroach, it does not overwhelm. It is an awareness of sitting on the couch, holding the baby to me with one arm, and the first grader with another, both of them sick and in need of the mommy fix, knowing that as a result that coffee fix I need is a long way off, and yet feeling decidedly uncrowded. Feeling in my bones the outline of the one I never did, never will get to comfort, feeling, with my body and my soul, exactly where he would fit.


I learned to swim when I was little. I remember going to my swim class at six, and I was pretty good by then, so the lessons must've started at five or so. Before that I know that my dad taught me. I have pieces here and there, but no coherent memories of learning piece by piece. But I also watched and helped him teach my sister a couple of years later, and that is why I know that it had to be him who taught me to lie on the water. I remember him telling Adelynne to trust it, telling her that the ocean will support her body if she just relaxes and nixes the flailing. I remember him explaining to me why this is such an important thing to learn.

If I may be so bold as to speak for my sister, it has served us well, that skill. Once you learn how to make like a starfish and float, among other things, you have a resting place on any beach. It even comes with built in earmuffs (natch). And if you can do that face down and are not opposed to the feel of snorkel in your mouth, many an underwater wonder are yours for the looking. Relax, don't fight it, it will carry you. It works great even with a mild wave going-- you just get rocked a little and carried gently.

That's what that everyday feeling is like-- the ocean under me. I am aware of, but not generally bothered by it. And it's a long way from the rather opposite one that overtook me just as it became clear that both sickies were in retreat-- the feeling of being picked up by a wave only to be violently thrown against a seawall. Complete, of course, with a rinse and a repeat. I felt like I was drowning in grief.

I don't know why it happened just then. I am wondering if it wasn't that doing as much as they needed for the two children who are here underscored just how little, nothing really, I get to do for the one who is not. But ultimately it doesn't matter why. It happened, like it has happened a number of times before, like I am sure it will happen time and time again in the future.

[I hasten to add here that of course my life with the Cub is better than it was before him. Of course. Richer, more colorful, more joyous, more tender, filled once more with wonder. But he is not a bandaid, nor a fancy laser surgery even. This is not about him.]


This fall has been full of subtle and not very much reminders of two years ago. The trapeze. When I first saw it, it looked both intimidating and enticing in its otherness. I wanted to try it, but I couldn't-- I was pregnant with A. JD talking about a conference he was forgoing this year causing me to remember going there with him two years before, right after the big ultrasound, trying to get used to the idea that the baby was a boy, trying not to freak out about it.

This year I wore flip flops on December 1st, just as I did two years before. Then it was because my feet had swelled, and it was very warm out. This year it was because it wasn't terribly cold, and because due to thyroid weirdshit (it's a term of art-- look it up) I can tolerate cold even better than my normal abnormally high tolerance. Last year on December 1st we were pretty well snowed under, and I was reminding JD where we were the year before.

I wonder if the slowroll of memories isn't because last fall was all about being stuck, waiting, waiting some more, and a whole lot of RE trouble. But it doesn't matter, does it? It just is.

The December we are having is some kind of a weird mix of the two before it-- less snowed under than last year, and with a thorough thaw following the storms that left our deck buried, but much better endowed in the snow department than two years back. Monkey remembers that, by the way-- she remembers that it didn't snow much the winter her brother died.

My December, too, has been mixed. By the time JD was back from his trip I was doing better. I could breathe, for one. I've had a bad day or three since, and more bad hours thrown into otherwise fine days. I know that part of it is about today and tomorrow marking not just the end of the calendar year, but also our 23 monthaversary, the gateway into the final month of the second year. The second anniversary is looming. Not as intimidating as the first, but clearly not a day at the park. I can already feel the kind of hard that January will be. I will have a lot to say, if the words don't get stuck in my throat.

Monday, December 22, 2008

What's your poison?

Today over at Glow in the woods I spin a long tale of whence my latte habit comes from. And I ask for your personal get through the day without losing your mind techniques. Please share with the class-- I for one am always on the lookout for more and better vices ways to deal.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Hanukkah

We've had three straight days of snow.


The deep fryer has fried its first batch of latkes for the season. And there is new light in this house.


I wish much the same to all of you, with types and levels of precipitation, as well as identities and methods of preparation of season-specific goodies set to your individual desired values.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Time

A year ago it was my grandmother's 80th birthday. The day before, I flew to see her and my parents, sitting on tarmac for hours on end, one of the last planes to make it out of my city before the airport closed. The next day, a year ago today, I got up at insane o'clock in the morning, showered, grabbed the keys to mom's car, and drove two hours kinda-north. I stopped at a plaza to make phone calls and grab a tote of bagels to share with the people I was going to see.

A year ago today, in the early hours of the morning, on my grandmother's 80th birthday, my friend Beruriah had her second son. I met Baby Man on his birthday, his actual honest to goodness birth day. I met him before any of his grandparents. A big, lovely, gorgeous, living baby. I also met Kate and got to hang with her boys, M and T that day.

It felt good to be there, to drink from the well of happy conclusions to some journeys. The new baby did not take away the pain of his brother's death, nor did anyone there expect him to. But it was a glorious thing to celebrate-- a child who made it, for dear friends, for one of us. So today I want to say Happy Birthday, my dear Baby Man! And many-many more!


We here all know that, sadly, our best days are bound to be someone's worst. We've thought and written about it an awful lot. We've learned to make room in our happiness for the pain of others, as we would hope others would do for us. The day I drank from the well, the day Baby Man entered the world was also the day CLC's world came crashing down. Beautiful Hannah was born as I made my way two hours south-ish, back to my parents' house. Please stop by to remember and celebrate Hannah with her loving parents.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fit-ness: a sob story and a shameless plea

Raise your hand if way back in school you were the kind to get to work on a given piece of graded material at the last possible minute? I certainly was. And tonight I am again. The incomparable Magpie is giving away a Wii Fit literally for a song. Ok, not so much a song as a story. About fitness. And sweet dreams featuring a Wii Fit. Told to her no later than 11:59pm tonight (see above re: last minute). Terms and restrictions apply.

The genre is left wide open. I choose sob story. The kind that usually ends with a shameless plug, plea, or good old fashioned begging. I won't disappoint.

So once upon a time there lived a little girl. Well, before that, the Earth cooled and then the dinosaurs came, but that's not important right now. Point is, I used to be fit. I used to be a competitive swimmer, even. Last summer I surprised myself with what I could still do.

But at some point (puberty, ok, it was puberty), PCOS, though I didn't then know this evil being's proper name, showed up, kicked off its shoes and decided to stay. The fucker even moved across continents with us. Couldn't shake that bastard. I kicked its ass a few times. Got my weight down, some, a time or three. Two years into a big giant fight got my body to ovulate. But the fucker loves to have the last laugh. I carry, now, the weight of all my pregnancies. I started the one with Monkey 40+lbs less than where I sit tonight. I started the one before her, the one that ended in a miscarriage at more like 45 or more less.

I didn't realize just how bad it had gotten until I was standing in line for the trapeze, and realized that people are looking at me funny. Kinda the I can't believe she is gonna do this kind of a look. I looked around, and realized that everyone else was in much better shape. Much better. I didn't care. I was there to do something CAAAAAREYZZZZZZEEEEEEEEE. But damn if that ladder didn't kinda shake under me. And damn if my poor arms didn't feel the entire weight of the giant sac of potatoes that is me when I stepped off that platform. And tripple damn if the pictures didn't all look kinda sad. I posted the best one here, and you can still tell my ass is lobbying for its own zipcode.

I denied things for a while, wearing maternity and rationalizing it as soon to be replaced by my regular clothing. But recently I broke down and bought, in two installments of 2 pairs each, 4 pairs of pants in size humongous. I'd like to give them away someday, and not because I need something bigger.

It's not a vanity issue with me. Believe me, I have very little vanity left. But my knee hurts from carrying the extra weight. It stinking hurts every time I go down the stairs, and every other time when I go up. Bending over to wash the tub so kids could take a bath? Ginormous effort. Not to mention I kinda want to see that old hag AF again some day, and last year's experience shows that the traitor runs and hides at weight fifteen pounds below where I am now.

I am not dumping on my body. I know it's doing the best it can given PCOS, and my new friend thyroid issues (which may have just become more complicated than anyone expected-- back onto beta blockers with me, but that is a story for another day). But it needs help. Industrial strength help. Shiny new Fit type of help would be just what the doctor ordered, methinks. PCOS isn't fighting fair, so why should I?

And if my sob story doesn't convince, think of the children. One child in particular-- Monkey. Scoring a Fit (as opposed to pitching one) might just be what I need to pull out a win in that coveted coolest mom in the house category. And because I am good at paranoia, I can also tell myself that the Fit would serve as an insurance policy against that fucker PCOS grabbing the bottom bunk in her room. Because, you know, her three hours of gymnastics a week is clearly not enough. Think of the childrens!!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Life after: the short version

Outfits thoroughly soaked in curdling milk are Cub's specialty. As I was changing him out of one of those tonight he looked at me with a bit of mischief in his giant blue eyes, and a thought, a question, a wondering entered my mind. It had to do with his sister who still adores formerly-her-and-now-his nanny, and who finds it bearable to be sick and out of school on the days the nanny is here because duh-- she gets to spend time with her. So the wondering, it was about how he might feel about the nanny five years hence, whether he might be as open about his adoration as his sister is, or whether he might play it cool.

"You will grow up" I said, starting to trail mid way through grow, my brain putting the brakes on before I got to articulating what might happen at that time. And then "Will you grow up? Will you grow up?"*




*I was actually speaking the Old Country language, which happens to have one word that means all of "will grow up," meaning the difference between the first part and the second was only the inflection. But this is a close enough translation.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Family Circus

 

The first time Monkey saw this thing, erected on the lawn in front of the entrance to the apple-picking-train-and-pony-riding-goat-petting-hay-climbing-llama-camel-ostrich-andwhothehellrememberswhatelse-watching-ridiculously-overpriced farm she was four and a half and fierce. She said she wanted to fly, and we paid for the lesson. She went on the little practice trapeze, and decided the big one was too scary. Then, after watching for a while, and, admittedly not without some gentle maternal nudging (because I can never pass up an opportunity to help her plow through another risk aversion block), she undecided about the scary and started climbing the ladder.

Ever since she was a tiny baby, with every stage of her development she seemed to me so grown, and very soon so independent. So mature. Grown up. At four and a half she seemed big, you know? Grown kid. She still seems that way to me, again and again with every milestone. You'd think I'd learn sometime, but I just don't seem to. Except once in a while, when the world stops for a second and I see just how little she is. Her climbing that long-long ladder was one of those times. The ladder illustrated to me, with the help of physical distance and laws of geometry how tiny she was, and how high she had to climb.

It was all perfectly safe-- harnessed from A to Z, even on the ladder, someone holding a safety line. I watched, so proud of my little girl, holding my breath just a little. I think they had to hold her up to the trapeze, I don't think she had the height then to stand on the platform and hold on to the trapeze at the same time. And then they let her go, and she flew.

We had to go back week after week that year. Before too long, maybe even the very next time, thanks to her love of gymnastics, she was doing knee hangs. Soon after it was upside down splits, and then all kinds of combinations. The girl was in love. She vowed to be back next fall.


(pst.. this pic is from this year, but you get the idea)

Between the vow and next fall her brother died. By the time fall rolled around I was somewhat functional, sometimes. We went back to the farm, but the contraption wasn't there. Eventually we heard where it was hanging out, and we tried to go, once, but it was closed just then, and I never got my act together to try again.


So this year, literally the day before the Cub was born, a friend forwarded an email about how the very people who taught Monkey to fly had a camp in a new location near us. And because the camp was undersubscribed, they were letting in first and second graders. So one thing to another, and Monkey and one of her classmates spent a week learning circus arts. At the end there was a concert. And because we are not right now talking about the concert, all I will say about it is that next year Monkey is going to this camp for two weeks, and the thing is worth every penny.

After the concert there was a trapeze demonstration. And Monkey said she wanted to try a catch. What's a catch, you ask? Well, let's start with the other side of the trapeze thingie, shall we? It looks like this:

 


See those swing-looking thing there, and no ladder to get to them? Yeah. So a catcher sits there, and swings at the same time as the trapeze flyer, who lets go of the bar completely, and aims for the hands of the catcher. Like so:

 


I caught my breath, and JD caught the shot. The Cub slept through the whole thing, being two weeks old and all.

We went back for lessons a few more times before the trapeze people packed up and went home to warmer climes, promising to come back when our average daily temperature was back to reliable short sleeves range.

Sometime in there I realized that my body hasn't been mine in too long. It wasn't still, but I could do some things now. Swim was my first thought, but seeing as I was still at the time a public health hazard, that was out of the question. But more to the point, I wanted to do something completely and utterly crazy. Something I absolutely positively couldn't do as a pregnant woman. You know where that's going, don't you? Yup.

 




This post is my return to Mel's weekly Show and Tell. For more showing and telling, click right over.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

You know you are too tired when...

...you hold it together the whole day by promising yourself a good long cry when you have done everything you need to do, only to fall asleep half way into the second sob of that cry.

And, of course, the way you figure that out is by waking up with a distinctly dissatisfied feeling, and working your way back to only remembering winding up for the second sob of your long-awaited cry. Which, of course, means that you have no choice but to start a new day with the same promise to self. Who wants to guess how that's going to go?


Feel free to add your own concluding sentiments for the title of this post. I have a feeling this time of year everyone's got a few.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Zero

I did it. The number of unread posts in my reader as I start writing this is 0. Down from damn near a thousand only two weeks ago.

I know exactly when my reader exploded. The evening of August 14th I was reading and commenting as I watched my TiVoed Olympic swimming, anticipating following it with my women's all-around Olympic gymnastics. I think I had that reader down to single digits, or teens at the most. And then the Cub was born. And then I got swallowed by the new baby tired craziness. And the reader exploded.

89. I remember 89. I thought it was a lot, and I hoped to get some time over the weekend to read and comment. Then it was 200+. 500+. 800+.

I felt horrid. You all have been there for me. And now there I was, having snagged the biggest lucky break ever, a real live take home baby, there I was not being there for you. I wanted to be. I wanted to read, to witness your every word. Because how could I not? Because how would I have survived to where I was if you, collective you, flowing and changing you, weren't there for me through it all? Not well, that's how.

I made a concerted push in early October, and got down to like 400-some-odd. And then I got swamped again. Work (I am working half time this term, which is a lot harder than it was in my imagination; back to full time in January) and life, and just some overwhelming craziness interfered, and I was back to 800+. So two weeks ago I decided that I can't have this hanging over my head anymore. And so I read, and read, and read. Drinking your words like water, pretty much every word I missed. Which means that I read a lot more than 800 posts, because for some I was catching up starting from that night when I didn't get to see women's all around (and the reader only counts the last calendar month of posts as new). I started at the top of the list in my reader and worked my way down, but making sure to keep reading new posts from those I have caught up on. That was my mistake in October-- allowing the new posts to accumulate again, until it was all a jungle again.

So now I am all caught up on everyone in my reader. And I can finally add the new blogs I have been meaning to add. Yay, hallelujah!

But here's the thing-- I read all your words, I witnessed them all. But in large part I was too late. I wasn't there when you really needed support. I wasn't there when maybe an experience I could've shared might've actually been of use. I understand now that I should've declared bankruptcy at some point, marked all as read, and started over. I would've missed things, sure. But I would've been present from then on, instead of the ghost I was in the last two weeks, catching up. The funny thing is that I realized this somewhere around a half way through the exercise, but felt bad doing an all clear then. It wouldn't have been fair to the bloggers whose digs are listed in the bottom half of my reader. Stupid, I know.

So I did it. But I did it wrong.

===========================

An odd request perhaps, after that confession, but please help the girl out. If I am not reading you but I should, or if I left comments some time ago but not in a long while (probably because I didn't add you to the reader right then, and then, you know, see above), please leave me a comment so I can remedy the situation. My blogroll on the right is but a fraction of my reader, so don't go by that. Someday I might get a free second to update the blogroll, but not soon, I think.

I know better now. I will use the mark all as read button if I have to. But when I can, whenever I can, I will be here, reading and commenting in real time. Present, in real time.


P.S. I have a lot of posts that need to come out. On some level I didn't feel entitled to write so much while my reader overflowed, but I was also swamped. I am still swamped, but I also feel the need to write. So, you know... maybe...more posts soon.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pretty sentences

Friday before last the Cub ended up spending a night at Children's. See? Not that hard to type. In the end wasn't even that hard to deal with. Not even anything to worry about. A blip, really. But for some reason I couldn't bring myself to post about it. In fact, as is glaringly obvious from the absence of you know, posts, I couldn't bring myself to post about anything.

We were only in the hospital for 25 hours, gone from home for 28 or so. And yet nearly nine times as much time has passed since we got home before I was able to start this post. (Yes, I calculated that. Cause I am geek, which I do believe I have confessed to before.)

I think I know why. While it ended up not being scary, it didn't start out that way. It started out with me on a Friday morning standing over Cub's crib thinking I must be too sleep-deprived to see straight because what I was seeing wasn't computing. I was seeing the area above the Cub's upper lip, that little triangle of flesh that points to the nose, go blue. So I picked him up, and watched the color return. I carried him to our bedroom, and then proceeded to watch him for a bit. He did that a bunch more times, and I decided that what I had in front of me was a certifiable sick day.

Our pediatrician was out of town, which I knew sort of by accident. But that meant I was prepared when I called his number and got forwarded to a covering physician. Who told me she would see us at 10:45. Sometime in the course of the morning there was a time when he was oh so sleepy, and he was going blue again, and for a split second there I thought he looked like he was slipping, checking out. I blew on his face, and rocked him, and patted his back and his chest, and it was over, probably in under two seconds altogether-- breathing regularly and all pink, though still sleepy.

So here's the part where I have to admit that there was an extra reason I was so freaked out. See, they heard a faint murmur while the Cub was in NICU. But based on his oxygen saturation, and a couple other tests, they concluded that he was not in any danger or need of additional tests. They thought the sound would most likely go away as he grew. But the murmur was still there at our two months appointment, and so our pediatrician referred us to Children's to a big shot cardiologist. The appointment with Dr.Heart? It was scheduled for the Monday after the weekend in question. So wheeee.... I am sure you can follow my mind down the particular rabbit hole it went upon seeing blue, yes?

So long story short, we saw the covering doc, who said she didn't hear anything respiratory, tried to get us seen by the cardiologists right then, was told no dice and to go to Children's ER. We did, told them the whole story, they listened, to us, then to the Cub, then said bronchiolitis. Bronchio-what now? Inflammation of the bronchioles, tiny air passages in the lungs, usually caused by a viral infection. They thought RSV, but later tests said no, so likely a sneaky cold virus that got where it wasn't supposed to go. Of course, if I haven't bored you to tears yet, and you were following along, you might wonder how come that pediatrician said she didn't hear anything respiratory. If you do, you wouldn't be alone-- in fact JD is still sputtering mad about that part. I am just baffled, but whatever. Moving right along.

Children's is efficient, and so on top of things. The Cub got his tests, which all confirmed the diagnosis, and the little bit of treatment there is to give for this thing. They heard some wheezing, so if he keeps doing that we will have to at some point talk about the A word, asthma. He was obviously sick, but also incredibly amused. All the new people, with their smiles and their shiny name tags that swing when they bend over him-- priceless, I tell you. He charmed them with smiles and with his newly-acquired skill-- getting his fingers where they need to go so that he can suck on them. He did drop his oxygen saturation once, but he recovered on his own. They kept us overnight mostly as a precaution, because he had pneumonia as a newborn. Insult to the lungs and all.

We had a mostly quiet night, with a couple of drops in oxygen saturation, but he always recovered on his own. In the meantime I learned that it is not uncommon for babies to go blue around the mouth, and that the one to really worry about is blue lips and/or tissues in the mouth. In the morning the doctors listened to the Cub, declared him sounding better than the day before, and therefore clear to go home. Which we did, happily.

Of course between then and the cardiology appointment, I was still in my tightly wound "what was that?" mode. The appointment, first thing Monday morning, went great. Dr.Heart still hears the murmur, though it was hard to hear, what with the freight train in his chest cavity that is bronchiolitis in retreat. The doctor thinks there are a couple of possibilities, one more likely in his mind than the rest. In any case nothing needs to be done for now. We need to come back in three months for a follow up which should hopefully give a clearer picture. But even the worst possible diagnosis given his current condition likely means nothing needs to be done until he is at least four years old. Thus, I am now pretty relaxed about his heart.

See? In the end, not scary at all. So why couldn't I make myself write about it? It's not like I haven't been online in the interim. I have been reading and commenting like a woman possessed, trying to catch up on everyone. I have made a nice thorough dent in what was a scarily big number of posts in my reader. But I haven't written. Why?

I think I figured it out.

Last week on Glow Tash published her interview with Elizabeth McCracken about her memoir An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination. It's a great interview. More like a conversation, actually. Reading it is like listening to two smart, thoughtful women talk. The subject just happens to be dead babies and how we talk about them.

So somewhere in the interview Elizabeth says that writing pretty sentences is a form of therapy for her. And I thought "heh, me too." And read on. But then, days later, as I was trying to figure out why I fell so silent on my own blog, it occurred to me that maybe, somehow, having decided to write about the stay at Children's, I was now stumbling over my need to write of it in pretty sentences. Now I am almost sure that was it.

What I am not so sure about is why do I try for those pretty sentences. It's not just a dead baby thing for me, but it is an especially dead baby thing. Why do I dote on these sentences more than other sentences? It's not, I think, to pretty the subject matter up. I don't think dead baby mamas in general and I in particular try to make our stories more palatable with language. In fact we often search for words and sentences to express just how raw and overwhelming this bereavement thing is.

So it may be, I am thinking, that we (I, really-- I can only speak for myself) seek to make them more captivating, if that's the word. To make our stories, our voices, our children matter. Wild theory, that. Don't even know how much I believe it myself.

The other explanation I came up with sounds perhaps a bit more grounded. Writing is unhurried, if we are willing to give it the time and space it needs. Writing, unlike talking, gives us a chance to see whether we actually said what we meant to say, and to adjust if we didn't, tinker with it until it's a perfect way to express this one particular thought. And that's, I think, why it works-- finding a way to express a thought occasionally allows us an opportunity to let go of all the thinking and struggling we did with this particular subject. Writing, then, is like graduation for thoughts and emotions.

And yet, neither of these really explains why, as the days wore on, I still wasn't writing about the Cub's adventures at Children's. This I think is a whole separate beast. This is me twisting myself into a pretzel to make it sound all along like it was just a virus. It wasn't like that in real time. In real time it was scary for a while. I think I found yet another fucked up thing about my new dead baby normal-- I react to possible issues like the sky is falling because, once, it did. But when it turns out to have been less scary, I downplay it, with pretty sentences, and humor, and deflection because it wasn't, you know, the sky. Falling.


So how do you write? Why do you write?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

We were not neglecting our yard...


We were allowing for the possibility of some found art creating itself...


Yeah, that's it!


Well, that's my story anyway, and I am sticking to it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

This and that

Thank you, all, so much for your kind comments on my last post. That was hard to write, but necessary. It helps that it was met with such gentle kindness. Thank you.

********************

Twelve weeks ago yesterday my sister told JD that she thought it was kinda funny that she was hoping we would have the baby already, so that she could start getting more sleep, and we could start getting less. The her getting more part was because she stayed up every evening waiting for the call in case she needed to come over and stay with Monkey while we headed for the hospital. The us getting less part... well, that's pretty obvious. For some reason neither Adelynne nor I got, JD didn't think it was funny, or even kinda funny. Me? Since that Thursday was something like the fourth consecutive evening of contractions until wee hours of the morning (with a non-negligible number of nonconsecutive days in the weeks prior) I a) thought the joke was hi-effing-larious, and b) didn't think it was possible for me personally to get any less sleep than I was getting at that point.

Of course my sister got her wish mere hours after voicing it. Which, I thought, was an excellent deal for all involved. As a bonus, it turns out that I was right in the predictions department too-- I am not getting any less sleep now than I was getting that week. Except now that it has been over thirteen weeks of that much (ha-ha!) sleep I can say with some authority that the sleep deficit thingy really does accumulate. Drats.

********************

As we say in the Old Country language, these days only a lazy person is not writing about the election. Not that I don't have thoughts, but I (see above) am having some difficulty rubbing neurons together to produce complete sentences. Except this tidbit affords me an opportunity to both rant (mini-rant, honest; I promise-- mini) and brag. How could I possibly pass on that? I am only human, you know. So here goes.

After the 2004 election I noticed that a lot of conservative pundits acquired a new favorite line-- "And this is why you lost,"-- deployed, it seemed, any time a representative of the other side of the spectrum expressed an opinion about the state of the electorate or the tactics used to drive turnout or to "assist" voters in making up their minds. Used to drive me bonkers.

So in the spirit of joyful reciprocity I would absolutely love to say that the reason R's lost so thoroughly this week is that the country is no longer buying their divide and conquer, us against (and better than) them politics. I would love to be able to say that the Republican presidential campaign jumped the shark the moment Sarah Palin declared that she loves to visit real America, the pro-America America, implying, of course, that there exists, outside of those there fine small towns, fake America, consisting of the not pro-America parts of America. I would love to be able to say that that was why they lost.

I am realistic enough to know that that wasn't why, though I maintain that a country where it would absolutely have been the why would be an incredible place to live. And I persist in my belief that this country can one day be that country.

Meanwhile here in the fake America Monkey's class has been learning about the American flag. They learned all kinds of good things about where it came from and how you show respect to one. And, in preparation for the school's election day assembly, they learned a song.


P.S. This poster, that, of course, is still hanging on the board, was a completely spontaneous and independent project. Weird, don't you think, given, you know, that we are centrally located in the beautiful downtown, fake America?

P.P.S. We keep forgetting how well Monkey can read these days. We were watching the news the night the story of that quote broke, and when Monkey walked into the room, we paused (long live TiVo!) the news right as they were playing that quote while they also showed the transcript of it on the screen. She read the quote right off the screen, and she got offended. The stick your tongue out at the screen, and do a high kick in that screen's general direction kind of offended. So we talked about how these feelings are understandable, but how the real way we fight back against that kind of rhetoric is by voting and volunteering.

In the meantime I keep marveling at the amount of stuff (in areas of citizenship and dead baby studies just to name a few) that my six year old gets instinctively that some so called adults completely fail to grasp.

*******************

Speaking of jumping the shark, I do not appreciate it when the shows I make time to watch regularly do the jumping. Have you guys seen the episode of House from last week?

Um... seriously? First of all, lactose intolerance and milk allergies are different and distinct, and the terms may not be used interchangeably. A much bigger deal? No adoptive parent worth their salt (or past a good agency's approval process) would ever try to talk a birth mother out of her new decision to parent. Like, NEVER. Ugh...

*******************

I need tips for not forgetting medication. My thyroid is on its regularly scheduled post-childbirth adventure, providing me with an array of fun symptoms the worst of which is tachycardia. Which means heart medication, for symptomatic relief. Beta blockers, yum!

I am on the kind that is compatible with breastfeeding, but which needs to be taken three times a day. And there is my problem-- I have, in the last week, forgotten at least one pill a day more times than I care to admit, and yesterday I forgot two in a row. I am trying to take them after a feeding, to be extra careful. But I tend to need to do X, Y, and Z right after a feeding, plus, as I mentioned above, I am freaking exhausted, which, in my experience, does not help with keeping to the mental to-do list. Hence, unsurpringly, I sometimes end up forgetting to take a pill. So what do I do to avoid forgetting? Other than hiring a personal assistant to keep track of such things, I mean.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Names and faces

Monkey has great many nicknames. One that is older than most, acquired in fact just about the day she came home from the hospital, is kitten. Trite, yes, but she looked it-- tiny, content, very snugly-- perfect (biased? who, me?). At the time, and for a while after, even though I freely used the salutation, I thought it was in all honesty a cheat. I mean, don't all babies fit the bill? Turns out, not exactly.

We tried out a few nicknames while still in NICU. Nothing in particular was sticking. For one thing, he did not look like a kitten. It's not that he was particularly big. He was smaller than Monkey was when she came home, but a kitten he was not. Small and cuddly-- check, snugly too. Just not a kitten. Not entirely un-catlike, you understand, but decidedly not a kitten. And then, a day or two after we came home, I picked him up just so, and his head went kinda like that, and we got it-- a small kitten of a very large cat. Lion Cub, or the Cub for short. And that is what we will call him around here too, from now on. But first, today, there are other names to name.

The Cub, he is 11 weeks old today, two and a half months. Which makes this post two months late, give or take (I know-- shoot me). His birth day, the 15th, is as far away on the calendar as a day can get from his brother's birth day, the 31st, without being closer again on the other side.


It's twenty one months today, a year and nine months. A year ago today the nine months thing was kicking my ass, and I was just relieved to survive Halloween at the same location I spent it a year prior, visibly pregnant and waddling. Ironically, stab for stab, today might have been harder-- the Cub, in his stroller, and then in the sling, underscoring that neither of them was here last year, and that one of them never will be. My dead son's would-be best friend calling JD by name today, for the first time ever, and to his mother's obvious surprise and delight, underscoring that we will never hear one of our children say anything for the first time.


I can't be any more clear in my own mind that my boys are different people, one not a consolation prize for the other. I am so clear on it in fact, that I needed to voice it for all to hear, lest anyone be tempted to say or imply otherwise. And yet to me they are undeniably connected, both in their similarities and their differences.

While the Cub was still in utero we knew he had his brother's nose. That kinda freaked me out because I didn't recognize that nose. Where did it come from, and why do both of them have it? After the Cub was born my mom mentioned, all matter-of-factly, that the nose was my paternal grandmother's. Smack forehead. Of course-- DUH!!!! How did I not see that? Weirder still was the relief I felt at that recognition-- the part, it turns out, was from the Standard Family Catalog of Parts. What does it matter, JD asked. They still have eight great-grandparents, the same exact gene pool, and this was still the same part for both of them, fished out, as it were, of that pool. I know, I know. And yet it seems less freaky now that it has a back reference than it did when I thought it a product of a random re-mix of the two families' genetic makeups.

The Cub looked a lot like A when he was first born. And now he doesn't, most of the time. I'll have you know that never take pictures of sleeping babies, didn't even in the time before thanks to an Old Country superstition, but I did take one of the Cub a few weeks ago. Because sleeping as he did just then, he looked so much like A.

He is very substantial, my younger son. There is substance to his whole being. Right down to the little fingers. Long, like his brother's, but... well, let's just say that to look at his hands, you'll never mistake him for a poor eater. He chows down on those fingers too, goes at them with gusto. I can't blame him-- they are positively delicious looking, and I wouldn't mind a nibble myself.


He grabs our fingers when we offer those to him. Most of the time I am right there in the moment, but every so often I am also back in that hospital room feeling my heart break because A's beautiful fingers won't ever grab anything. It sucks so much that I am the only one who knows, has a physical memory of, how strong he was, and how vital. The Cub holds his head pretty much without needing support, has for a while-- an impressive feat among the 0-3 months crowd. People tend to comment on that. Every once in a while I want to tell them that his brother was big and strong too. I never do.


They are separate people, without a doubt. But the fact is that you are here reading about the Cub because his brother died. Because his brother died, and I needed to write. I read blogs for years before then, but never needed one of my own, until. And for some reason that cries out to me for some kind of fairness-- fairness to them, to you, or to myself, I am not sure. For some reason it compels me to give voice to their proper names, just this once,* for some kind of record. So here they are, my boys.


A\/n.er G1de0n, A

and


L.i0r S0l0m0n, the Cub.


And finally this, the last bit of what I wrote the night before Cub's bris, a brief note that came surprisingly easy to the fingers, but much harder to the lips, when it was time for me to read it outloud:

We did not set out to find a name for this son that would connect with and honor the son who came before him. Naming our babies has traditionally been a difficult process for us, replete with complicated sets of requirements and aesthetic preferences. So when we discovered that both of us liked the name L.i0r, and that it fit our criteria, that alone was a reason for celebration. But the fact that this name shares a common theme with the name we gave our first son was more than a little significant to us.

Our two sons will never get to play together, or to cause trouble for each other or their big sister. They are, for us, connected by the family bond, and by their uncanny resemblance. And now they are also connected through their first names. A\/n.er means the father of light (or of the candle). L.i0r means my light.




P.S. Last Halloween was the day for the lovely C. Please stop by and remember with her as she marks her one year anniversary and Callum's first birthday.



*...even if I am still using funny characters to minimize the likelihood of being found via a search... I am not that brave.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Obligatory

It's in the fine print, this obligation. You know, the part you click "Agree" under without actually reading it, because if you don't agree, you will just have to go looking for a different blog platform to sign up with, and then where will you be? Reading another agreement, in a different small font, that's where. And if my hunch is correct, it will be there too.

It of course is the provision, located I believe right next to the "the blogger shall, when the opportunity presents itself, bake apple pie. Further, the blogger shall expound on the experience in a long and winding post, prominently featuring mom" provision, that requires the very selfsame blogger to, from time to time, post pictures of fall foliage. Waxing poetic, melancholic, thoughtful, or enigmatic is optional.

The enigmatically poetic, thoughtful, and at times melancholic Niobe has, of course, already fulfilled her contractual obligation. With one picture and with but a title word. Because that's how she rolls. But honestly, with a picture like that who needs words?

It seems that, in stark contrast, I have already run my fingers off with rather a few words. So how about I stop and present to you a few shots of the fall in a battleground state near me.








Oh, what the hell... One parting bit of waxing, cause I can't resist:

It appears that while the grass is rarely greener somewhere else, the sky certainly seemed bluer on that side of the border.


So what has this fall been like for you so far?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Light


Today was the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I wasn't home at 7pm, to hit the wave of light part, but I figured my time zone was likely well represented.

For me, from the very beginning right alongside my own pain was this realization, this dull knowledge, that every day there is more of us, that the number can only go up, and that it does so all too fast. The ever growing chain of babies and families who miss them. Last December Tash brought the names of many of the blogosphere's lost babies with her to a memorial service, to share and lighten the load. If she was to do that today, there would be so many more... The chain has grown. The chain is growing.

And so I did my lighting later, finally putting to use the long candleholder we've had since the New Year (I find that Yankee swaps are a lovely way to update home decor, don't you?).

There are twelve candles burning over my fireplace tonight. Twelve candles to remember so many more.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Subtle


It is not uncommon, nor, I believe, unexpected for bereaved parents to go about their day with a subsequent baby while a second thought-track plays on. Would he have snuggled like so too? Would he have had more patience? Would he have insert any one of a million little things here? It is a new way of missing, sort of a granulation of the missing. All those things we never got to know about the baby who died now playing out with this new baby. And we wonder.

It is subtly different to watch that new baby, as it happens with me from time to time, and as it happened tonight while I was getting him ready for bed, and realize that he didn't have to be here either. There are no guarantees, remember? Anything could've gone differently at any point, and then we wouldn't know any of these things we already know about him.

Breathtaking thought, that. And it takes me to a place other than my usual duuuuude, but we got ridiculously lucky this time.

In the early days and weeks I unknowingly worried that I loved A less, and was greatly relieved to realize that it wasn't the case. So suddenly tonight I am thinking of that very common way parents talk about their babies, the "I am falling more in love with her/him every day." Suddenly tonight I am thinking about how that implies change over time, and not just in the speaker. Babies change so fast, they grow so much. From one day to the next there is a million ways a baby could change. That saying above seems to indicate that the more they develop and change, the more you get to know them, the more you love them. That bothers me. It bothers me because if that's how it goes, then, logic dictates, we love our dead babies less. But I am sure that I am not the only one who doesn't.

So I think it's like this-- the love, it's already there. And it's deep and infinite, as always. What happens with a live baby, I think, is that as we get to know them, we get to see that love reflected differently, anew, in each new day and each new thing. If you think about it, though, it happens with the dead ones too-- something in our world strikes us anew, makes us miss them anew, shows us this new to us facet of our loss, of our love.

So much in this post can probably be labeled semantics. Seems tonight, just like the day I started this blog, semantics are important to me.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Shana Tova

"So this is the time of year for getting there, eventually." So said the chief rabbi of my congregation in his Rosh Hashana sermon yesterday, about two sentences after I finally made it to services. The pause, right before "eventually" was measured and delivered for maximum effect--lightening the mood mixed in equal measure with The Whole Point of the Sermon, or so I deduced not having heard most of the thing. He used to be a litigator, you know, so he is on top of this dramatic pause business.

You know you are reeeeaaaaly late to services when you get there for the tail end of the sermon. But, you know, as the man said, we got there, eventually. We went home after. But an hour and a half later we were back, in time not just for the community Tashlich ceremony, but for the walk from the synagogue to the pond. Tashlich is a ceremony where we throw breadstuffs into living waters, a focal point, a way to acknowledge the things you want to do better on, to name them to yourself, and to begin the long hard slog of actually doing better.

Well, this is what it's supposed to be. Watching the kids gleefully lob chunks of chalah into the pond yesterday, it was hard to believe they were up to such lofty self-examination. On the walk back to our car I asked Monkey what she was thinking of as she did the lobbing. And holy crap-- the child actually had a list, a reasonable list of things she wants to do better on. I tried to act like I fully expected her to say that, but really? Wow.

For my part, I was thinking almost exclusively of my good and dear friend procrastination. I have always procrastinated, as far back as those elementary school papers and projects. I have also had periods of great productivity in my life, some brief, and some much more prolonged. In the wake of A's death, though, I somehow found procrastination to be mostly a warm, familiar blanket. When you have a lot to get done, there is a lot to think about, and procrastinating on all of it keeps all of it available for thinking about. Not exactly the same magnitude as the black hole in the middle of your soul, you understand, but we take what we can get.

The trouble with procrastinating, of course, is that the shit piles up. At work, and most certainly at home, I have projects galore. In other words, I need to get my rear in gear. I don't expect to magically get on top of things and stay there forever and ever, amen. But I am going to take a stab at it. This new resolve comes at a good time. I think in fact it has been bubbling up to the surface for a little while now-- last week I started making those to-do lists that have been the staple of nearly all of my productive periods, and have even crossed some stuff off already.

Not that you do or should care about my new found resolve, except that I have also been procrastinating here, in my electronic home, to an unfortunately large degree. My younger son is now almost seven weeks old, and for five of those weeks I have been trying to write a post of proper introduction. Layout, some sentences, and even small passages of it are in my head, but, so far, no electrons have been harmed in the making of that post. It's a big one, that post, and committing it to writing is, judging by how long I am taking, a big deal. It's on my list though, with the title and everything.


My brother in law proposed a toast yesterday in which he said that this past Jewish year, as far as our immediate family goes, would be hard to beat. On paper, he is absolutely right-- they got married, we had a live baby. Unfortunately, this was also the year our cousin got his heart broken, stomped on, and fed to the dogs. And this is the year when our grandmother's Alzheimer's stepped up from difficult to profoundly disabling. But here's the thing-- even for those of us with the shining and brilliant outcomes the road has not been easy. It may be that my sister and brother in law have managed to exhale that great big clusterfuck to the chupah that was planning their wedding, but I don't think I can honestly say that I have exhaled my past year, yet. (Though today's services helped. I cried. That's probably all you need to know.)

So it's been a hard, but a very good year. Which certainly beats the pants off a hard and bad year any day. And in the end, at the very end, this was the year that I flew.



But that is a story for another day. Soon. For now, though, have a happy and sweet new year, everyone, Jewish, academic, or arbitrary.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Since we are talking...

Time melts around here. I blink, and it's the next day. Or the next. Usually evening, and I am wondering, again where the time went.* We are in a prolonged, waxing and waning growth spurt, complete, as it turns out with Baby's First Thrush. Mommy's too. Ouch.

Given the cause of my sleepless existence, just about the only truly regrettable thing about the whole deal is my apparently complete inability to keep up with the blogging world. My reader has began counting backwards (which means that it now contains posts too old to be considered new) and currently stands at 865. And here, in my very own digs, I abandon hotly contested conversations I myself start, and promptly disappear. Yes, ladies (and gents?), I am a sucky host these days. I mean, I appreciate every single comment, and I very much like that even while disagreeing mightily we can still all remain respectful, AND I did finally reply, but by the time I did, I am guessing at most two and a half people still cared. Oh well.

So in the comments to that very post Christa brings up the question that I actually think could use some discussing (especially in light of the 2-3 Supreme Court Justices the next President is likely to appoint)-- the question of abortion and our views on it as affected by particular life experiences. By discussing, interestingly, I do not mean what passes for the same on the talking heads shows-- each side lobbing zingers and cliches at the firmly entrenched other. I think the issue deserves a much richer treatment then that, so I am going to give it a try. BTW, did I mention how much I liked that the comments on the last post remained respectful and all topic-at-hand oriented? I believe I did. But I am mentioning it again so that I can ask everyone to please do that again here. This is a somewhat hotter issue, I realize, but I have faith in our collective ability to stay on topic and not go the name calling route. Help me keep my faith, mmmmmkey?

So Christa asks: ...has infertility and/or the loss of a child at any stage of development changed your view of abortion?

First, Christa, I need to say that I am very sorry about your miscarriages. It's not a small or insignificant loss. I am truly sorry.

Now, short answer: infertility, miscarriage, and child loss have all made me a lot more thoughtfully pro-choice, pro-choice in a more examined way. By which I mean that before I was pro-choice sort of on general principle, for reasons many people easily site. Now I have a much more nuanced understanding even of those reasons, and I have acquired others. Long answer involves a number of components that I am going to try to summarize (briefly-- I am still not the master of my own time-management-related destiny, and the shorter this is, the more likely I am to actually finish it) below. So here goes.

Personal/Religious

My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 6 weeks, the day after we saw the heart beating on the ultrasound. Three days after that I had to run a quick errand to a supermarket. It was around 7am on Saturday. The supermarket is near the local Planned Parenthood clinic. As I walked towards the store, I could see the lone protester near the clinic, holding a sign and a doll. The sign said something about killing babies and something about God's attitude towards it. I walked very quickly by her and into the store. And then spent the entirety of my time in the store mentally mapping out ripping the protester woman a new one. She was gone when I came out. Probably a good thing. What I wanted to ask her, then, was how come, if her God was so opposed to killing fetuses, how come her God just killed mine?

For the record, I do not think that G-d, hers or anyone else's, is really micromanaging this. For one thing, if G-d supervises chromosome replication, errors in which are one of the big ones among the causes of miscarriage, well then let me be the first to say that G-d needs a hobby. Seven plus years on from that encounter, though, the thing I would ask the lady, if I could, would actually be about how she can be so sure of G-d attitude on this. There is not so much text on abortion in the Bible (though if you want your brains to explode, try Exodus 21:22), but there is plenty on treating people nicely. And it could just be me, but the last thing I would call accosting a girl or a woman on her way in to a procedure that is already likely to be traumatic is "nice."

See, that's the thing, I think. I have this inherent trust in women. I believe that an overwhelming majority of those who have had to make this decision made it after a thorough and deliberate consideration. The conceptual artist with unfortunate lack of understanding of the female reproductive system notwithstanding, I have yet to hear of a woman who woke up one morning, looked at her bucket list, smacked herself on the forehead for forgetting to do that, and ran off to get herself knocked up just so she could finally have that abortion she always wanted. C'mon! Do we really want to, as a society, to think so low of half of the population as to believe that women are incapable of grasping the implications? Or that we can't make these decisions responsibly?

But what of my own miscarriage? I mourned it. I was devastated. It was my first pregnancy, finally achieved after two years of IF, PCOS diagnosis, and a whole lot of hoop jumping that did in the end result in spontaneous ovulation. We saw a heartbeat. After the non-doubling betas, the heartbeat, we were told, was reassuring. We had one good day after that before the blood came. I barely made it through Mother's Day that snuck up on me only weeks later. But see, that was all because that pregnancy meant things to me. I imbued it with meaning, with hope. It was supposed to grow to be our child.

But here's the thing-- I would never presume to think that everyone is supposed to feel the same way about their pregnancies. For an obvious example, I can see how a 15 year old, accidentally pregnant girl might be mostly relieved to have miscarried at six weeks. That goes both ways, of course. I can honestly say that though the miscarriage was devastating at the time, it is not now. But I know there are people who mourn their six week miscarriages very deeply, and I would never deny them that.

I think that to some people stillborn babies are also mostly constructs. Obviously not to me. To me, my son was a very real baby, a very real person. And yet, as I think about the grief that his death brought, I also think that no-one should be made to feel that pain under duress, so to speak. If abortion is outlawed, there will be bereaved parents who didn't even mean to become parents in the first place. Would you want to be them?

Imagine, if you will, a young woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. The pregnancy messes up all of her life plans, but since she lives in Sarah Palin's America, she can't get an abortion. Gradually, she makes her peace with the pregnancy, makes preparations for the baby, and is even starting to look forward to the arrival. Only the baby dies. What is your estimate for how much time it will take her to do a dive, head first, into a giant vat of magical thinking and self-blame, to become convinced that the baby is dead because she didn't want him/her right away? My money is on two seconds flat.

Medical/Health

This should be a very short paragraph. Some abortions are done to save the life of the mother. I like mothers. I think they should live. Again, I trust women and their doctors to make the best decision for the woman and her family. The end.

Oh, wait-- a caveat, I guess, but really a furtherance of the argument: I think every individual woman has the right to decide to prolong her pregnancy in order to try to reach viability even if it is threatening her life. What I think shouldn't happen is the government telling all of us that we must. I do not want to be considered only as important or as useful as my uterus. In fact, I don't think one has to be suffering delusions of grandeur to appreciate that one is important to at least a few people in this world. Helping Monkey make sense of her world after A died was not the easiest of jobs. The mind boggles at considering the job of the surviving parent in a family that would lose a mother. The decision to risk this particular outcome can't belong to anyone but the family, can it? And I haven't even touched on all the other interested parties-- parents, siblings, friends.

Health. Which certainly includes mental health (I am looking at you, Senator Obama). Much like it shouldn't be up to anyone but my family and my doctor whether to put my life at risk, the decision on how much my health is risked is also nobody else's business. There are severe conditions that show up or are aggravated in pregnancy, and I think those pretty much move over to the life argument above. But there are smaller but still significant issues, and I gained first hand appreciation for these lately.

The last two pregnancies have not been easy on me. Aside from the psychological, there is the sheer physical part. I get episodes of post-partum thyroiditis after each delivery. The one I had last year was sever enough to require medication. Heart medication. Temporary, but still. I have PCOS, and it is getting worse with each pregnancy. I have started monitoring my blood sugars again because I am afraid my glucose tolerance is still impaired, five weeks plus after giving birth. There is other stuff too, but this should be enough to make my point. Which is that pregnancy is not guaranteed to be a walk in the park, and it can lead to/exacerbate long-term health challenges, and that nobody should be forced to assume these.

Pregnancy should not be a punishment. Not for being young and stupid, not for being subjected to the abstinence only sex education, not for your birth control failing, and certainly not for being raped. This last one deserves a bit of a special mention, in light of the Republican platform this year and their Vice Presidential nominee's views (both are against abortion for rape victims).

Being pro-choice doesn't mean that if you are faced with this choice you automatically make the decision to abort. And, in fact, for myself, with my fairly comfortable economic situation and my proximity to the highest quality medical care, something very serious would have to be at play to point me towards choosing termination. One thing that absolutely without a doubt would have me making an appointment would be getting pregnant as a result of being raped. Not only would I not like to experience all of the physical issues to bring into the world a constant reminder of being violated, but I wouldn't want to put my family through watching me do that.

Hell, yes, mental health is important. I would argue that this part is important not just for the mother, but also for the immediate family. This was an extreme example, but there are others. In short, I'd say that ideally family planning should mean not just the process of planning when to try to add to the family, but also to the consideration paid to existing members of the family and their needs.

Public Policy/Morality

I hate the phrase value voter. I believe that it is misleading because it limits the things that can be considered values, and, more importantly, because almost all of us vote for or on our values. My values just happen to include less legislating one's particular brand of morality and more being your brother's keeper.

During Republican convention, I happened to catch a radio program where Phyllis Schlafly, responding to a caller's question on what the Republican machine would react to a Democratic candidate for office going back to work only days after giving birth to a special needs child and having a 17 year old unwed pregnant daughter said that "If Sarah Palin were a Democrat, she would have aborted the baby. That’s the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats." Is anybody here surprised that this snippet had me hopping mad for the rest of the day?

I know Mrs. Schlafly was going for the shock value, and I know she was using that shock value to deflect the actual question posed to her, but I was just knocked over by the boldness and brutality of this willful misrepresentation. Let's try this one more time, slowly, for Mrs. Schlafly. What one would choose in a given situation for oneself is a distinct question from whether one would like others to have the ability to choose for themselves in a similar situation. It is, again, down to trusting or not trusting people to make their own decision.

Being pro-choice absolutely means supporting women who are making the decision to continue the pregnancy. It may also mean that you yourself are far more likely to choose this option. Being a Democrat on the other hand, likely means that you think every baby (and every adult) should have health insurance, and that other structures should be in place to help the child reach their potential. Interesting how if these things are implemented, it would become a lot less scary to choose to continue the pregnancy. And funny, not ha-ha funny, but you know what I mean, how being Republican doesn't seem to mean anything about the child once it is no longer a fetus.

And if we are talking about morality, let me tell you what I believe is immoral. Not providing education that would help limit the unwanted pregnancies in teenagers is immoral. Yes, I am talking about the ginormous failure that is the abstinence only sex education. I am talking, again, about my deeply held belief that pregnancy should not be punishment. No matter how it came about, it shouldn't be punishment. The other hugely immoral thing is to not provide the services the presence of which might make it a lot less scary/impossible to choose to continue the pregnancy.

So this is where I get... what do you call it? Pissy? Uppity? Oh, let's go with uncompromising and hard-line. Here's my categorical statement: if your personal solution for reducing abortions in this country does not include these here components-- paid maternity leave, universal health care, affordable child care, and affordable housing-- if your solution doesn't include these, then you are not pro-life. You are pro-birth. End of story.


I think this is it, though I might still be missing some aspects. Have a go at it, but remember to play nice. OK?


*I wrote that part six (holy crap! six!!!!) days ago. As I was saying...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Of celestial bodies and strong emotions

We interrupt our regularly scheduled inability to find words for that Big Post to bring you this post of inability to contain the rant. I have been trying since Wednesday night, and I have failed. So here comes.

One explanation I have heard time and again for the often sorry state of some of our interpersonal relationships is that while men are from Mars, women trace their ancestry from an entirely different body in the Solar System. As reasonable as that explanation seems some days, at least every two years, and certainly every four, it should become apparent to anyone with a habit of cursory perusal of print and TV news, let alone of the political blogosphere, that the gold standard for complete lack of ability to perceive another worldview as valid is the political process in our entrenched two party system. Of course, since I firmly belong to one of the parties (and have a sticker on my car to prove it), I do think that we are (mostly) right, and the other guys are (mostly) wrong. But that doesn't stop me from frequently despairing at the depth of the chasm.

This week was worse than most. I will spare you most of the really?ies that passed my lips this week as I watched Republican Party's quadrennial it wasn't us, it's all the other guy's fault routine, but as I am still bursting at the seams to address what for my money was the biggest indecency of Sarah Palin's speech, you are stuck with it. Not really-- you can always click away, but you know what I mean.

As the Dems collected a cool 10 million smackaroos in the 24 hours after the Governor's speech, many seem to have their favorite moment in the running for that title. Or maybe it's that there were so many, and of such outstanding quality, that for some it is simply too hard to choose. But for me there was never any contest. Perhaps I am cheating here, since mine isn't really a moment, but a more of a series of unfortunate events. No, I am not talking about the tone she used to deliver her speech, the tone of that one teacher in your middle or high school who was just sure that she was the best educator for miles around, and who wasn't ever going to let anyone forget it or question it, and, consequently, always spoke to the students in this most condescending of tones. Nope, not that.

In college, I spent a fair bit of time doing theater or a mix of standup and theater. So I know a lot about enunciating and projecting, a good deal about referring to current events in your script in a way that includes a punch line the audience will still be talking about when they get home, a fair bit about set design, costumes, and props, a respectable amount about sound, and even something about lighting. So I feel qualified to say that the people who worked on all these aspects of Governor's speech were, clearly, professionals. Sometimes very mean-spirited professionals, but professionals nonetheless.

And that is also why I feel that the Governor should have summoned some of her fabled moral fortitude complete with some of that unfailing politeness and used the "thanks, but no, thanks" line every time set designers, prop masters, or writers brought to her yet another way to exploit her children. Though it's not like this was new hat for the Governor-- she started the week by announcing her daughter's pregnancy in order, as the campaign said, to defend her against the big mean bloggers saying things about her last pregnancy. Right, because there is no better way to save your hide than by throwing your child out there instead.

So let me ask you, Governor. When they told you to exploit your son's imminent departure, possibly doing something illegal, and certainly ill-advised in the process, did you try telling them it didn't seem right to you?

Of course, since no reporter is allowed to subject her to the unthinkable scrutiny of, you know, asking her a question these days, I don't expect she would answer one of mine either. But I am going to pose a few more anyway.

What I really want to know is why did they bring the baby to the speech. It seems like in any time zone the shindig was way past his bedtime. I don't suppose the answer is that they couldn't find a qualified and properly vetted babysitter on such a short notice. No, I get a sinking feeling that it was so that they could show him off, to say "look, this is the baby with Down Syndrome I decided to keep" without saying it, without bringing up the unfortunate fact that in deciding to keep this baby Sarah Palin exercised the very freedom to make a choice that she would take away from the women of America.

"And children with special needs inspire a special love" Sarah Palin says, and I, predictably, bristle. Because what, my children only inspire the stale, unspecial kind of love? Actually and more importantly, Governor, can you explain to me how exactly is your love for your youngest son special? Because there was that pause in your speech, right around when you uttered this particular phrase, where the way you were triumphantly looking around, I could've sworn you were expecting your medal (for being so awesome and keeping the baby) to arrive at any moment.

And it irks me, a lot. Maybe it's because I believe that I had my children for a very selfish reason-- I thought that my life would be better if I had them, and so I went for it. Whatever happened along the way, I don't think I deserve any accolades. And I don't think Governor Palin does either. See, he is either a child to you or proof of her pro-life credentials. And if he is a child first then all of this is unseemly. IMHO, of course.

But, of course, this wasn't the extent of the little Trig's star turn as a prop. Did you see the Palin family make their way into the VIP box a speech or so before she spoke? I did, and let me tell you, I thought it was unfortunate. Not only was Bristol, Palin's pregnant 17 year old daughter carrying Trig, but suddenly the boyfriend (whose MySpace page explicitly states that he doesn't want children) was by her side, and there was rather a few empty seats around the young couple. Made for TV, anyone? Look how good we look with a baby. Aren't we just fit to be on the cover of some magazine or other?

You know what I realize? The campaign asked everyone to respect family's privacy. I realize that I would love to. As soon as the candidate herself starts to do the same.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Show and Tell (with bonus Show and Tell)

Ahem... didn't mean to go MIA, really didn't. The intro post is a bear, but one I will hopefully kill sometime this week. Meanwhile, will the double dose of Show and Tell* do?

Show and Tell the First: Let there be light

Torah (Old Testament for those of you not familiar with the original name :)) commands us to keep and remember Shabbat. Or to remember and keep, depending on which version of the commanding you are reading. So the rabbis told us that lighting two candles for Shabbat was a good idea. You know, to keep and remember, or to remember and keep. Some Jews also light a separate candle for each of their children. I have never done it before, but have been mulling it over for a while.

Last Friday we got home from the NICU only a few hours before sunset. A bit later my sister and brother in law showed up with a feast. Not a virtual feast, a real one. Soup to ice cream kind of feast, where even the ice cream was homemade. And then we made Shabbat.




Show and Tell the Second: American girl


This was Monkey yesterday morning, waiting for her playdate with a classmate. The book is from another classmate, and has had her in stitches for a few days now. A particular favorite, believe it or not, was the "emergency meeting of the Society to Get Rid of Slimy Girls."


*Mel's Show and Tell is the weekly chance to bring out a camera, or a scanner, whatever the case may be. Go see what the cool kids are sharing this week.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

When


Life is so hard when you are a baby. You want to eat, but you want to sleep. It's enough to make you cry. And then there all these contraptions they put you in. Sigh.


Thursday's bili test was borderline, and thus bought us one more day under the lights (since they, understandably, didn't want to see us back for a re-admit). Friday middle of the night test showed a clear improvement, and the one they drew 12 hours after the lights went off was even better. There was also a carseat challenge test, which underscored just how tiny this baby is (though I do realize that he was likely the biggest patient in NICU at the time).

And now we are home. Things still are a little hectic, and I still need a lot little sleep. But we are home. We are home.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The view from here

And there was evening...

 

(and late evening...)

 

and there was morning...

 

The sixth* day. And this really is the view from our NICU window.
The view on the inside isn't bad either, most days.

 

Yes, he is still a bit yellowish, and he is in for a bili draw in the morning, along with the CBC. The results of these should tell us when we might be able to spring him from his very plush accommodations and back to our humble abode.


I have thought, when I had the time and the inclination to think about such things, which is to say fleetingly, that I seem to be doing a little too well. My physical recovery has been the easiest of the three labors. And if emotionally I have been walking in circles on top of a rather large powder keg, I have also been able to mostly ignore the stuff under my feet. So you know I was due for a meltdown.

It came last night, prompted by a crazy-making encounter with a nurse who is likely very good, but was just all wrong for me. I came apart in a quiet way where I just couldn't stop the tears for a few hours while madly typing in chat windows. My heartfelt thanks to two people who helped talk me down. You know who you are.

Things were much calmer and much better today, aided as they were by our very own hit parade of most excellent nurses (night, day, and now night shift again). I am OK, though more keenly aware that there are things to deal with, to exhale, to confront. Just not now. Later.


*I cheated-- the pictures are from different days. Sue me.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Moving day

Thank you a million times for your wonderful comments. I have read every single one, and am planning on reading them at least a few more times. They have been great support as we are learning from experience that things in NICU can be unpredictable.

In the Old Country there is a saying that roughly translates to "do not yell hurrah until you land the jump." It occurs to me now that in declaring that we had nothing to worry about health-wise I had violated that very wise injunction. It's all much-much better now. But yesterday was scary. Well, half of yesterday was scary.

On Friday we were so thrilled with his progress off CPAP that we sort of put the question of the other thing he was being treated for-- increased level of white blood cells, indicating a possible infection-- on the back burner. Partially because he was getting antibiotics already, and partially because that whole breathing difficulty thing seemed a little more pressing and serious. And when they called me in the middle of the night to say that he was alert, seemed hungry, and could try breastfeeding, and we went down, and lo, he breastfed, well, that just didn't seem like a sick baby, you know?

Yesterday morning he ate again, and was alert, if a bit pissy. The kid's got a set of pipes on him, let me tell you. So there we were, getting contact high from him doing so well when they tell us that his CBC was a lot worse, and they would like to do a lumbar puncture to see whether the infection they presume he has has gotten into the cerebral spinal fluid. Right, then.

I asked about how they manage to ensure that babies don't move during the procedure, and the answer was in various ways, including, if they absolutely have to, and in very small doses, morphine. We couldn't be in the room while they did it, and when they called us about how it went the story was that they got enough for the main tests they wanted to run, but not for the quick look-sees, and that they did end up having to give him the morphine.

The scary part(s) came after we got back to see him. For one, he wasn't interested in waking up or eating. At all. For another, a bit later he started having episodes of bradycardia (significantly slowed heart rate) and real, honest to goodness apnea. Neither of these things is good. Both can indicate infection. Or they could both indicate that he was waaay tired from an active morning and resisting the procedure (apparently he put up a rather serious fuss) and/or that he was having a reaction to morphine.

So the evening featured JD quietly freaking out in the chair as I tried very hard to remain analytical as I had a conversation with the pediatrician that felt like an episode of House, only much less cool, seeing as it was my kid we were talking about. The maddening thing is that none of the cultures are growing anything. In the land of microorganisms, as, I hear, is the case in any warfare, knowing your enemy is very important. If we knew what this infection was or where, we could tailor the treatment. As is, he is getting the antibiotics cocktail that covers the most common sources of infection in newborns, and we hope that it does its thing.

At one point I asked the pediatrician whether this thing could get away from us. Not the easiest question to ask, and perhaps worse to answer. She said that she can never say no, because she can never say that to anyone (appreciate the honesty, I do), but that we are doing everything appropriate to the situation. We went over the tricks still up their sleeves, and the situations in which it makes sense to go to those. In the end I had to agree that there was nothing to do but wait out the night and see what the morning tests showed.

Waiting out the night got a lot easier when he woke up with his late evening diaper change. Not turn on the disco it's party time woke up, but enough to indicate that he was hungry, and to go to town on both breasts plus two syringes of previously pumped colostrum. Good stuff, that.

Still, I could see both the doctor and the nurse were still worried. So it was nice to see them smiling as they greeted us at 5am this morning-- white cell count was down slightly from yesterday, and the differential was much better. Meaning we seemed to have caught up with whatever this thing is, wherever it is hiding. And there hadn't been any apneas through the night. The only snag was that his bilirubin levels went up sharply (thought the absolute value was still a non-threatening 10), and so he bought himself some time under the lights.

Today, as I said, has been much-much better overall. He spent a good deal of time sleeping contentedly in his isolette-cum-tanning booth, but he woke up for all the feedings and he ate with determination and appreciation. Every lactation consultant's wet (diaper) dream. His color is improving, so we may be done with the lights as early as tomorrow. Antibiotics are staying for seven days altogether, and, consequently, so are we. We are, again, waiting for morning test numbers, thought with a lot less trepidation than last night.


Nominally I was discharged from the hospital today. In reality, I moved down three floors. I am bunking with my son, in his NICU room. Because it's huge and has a couch that is meant for parents. I have never seen such a thing, nor heard of it before. A NICU where all rooms are private, large, and designed so that it is possible for a parent to be with the baby all the time. And the visiting hours here are 24/7. A pump can also be rolled right into the room, and my attachments for it stay here, right next to the sink that is next to the couch on which I am about to fall asleep for the night.

With this level of care for the whole family built into our experience here, I can't help but think of all of my internet friends who have had no more than a curtain for privacy when sitting by their baby's isolette, who have had to make the drive, back and forth, a couple of times a day, who were limited to a small set of visiting hours. I know this is an expensive set up they have here, and I know not everyone is fortunate enough to have a dedicated donor family like the one that made this facility possible with their gift and now has a fancy plaque out in the lounge to show for it, but damn if not everybody should.

Three weeks ago, when I was in the hospital for PTL, I told JD that if the baby came then (which meant he would be in NICU for at least a week), there would be two hard things. One, when they would take the baby from the room and we would be left there by ourselves, again. Two, when we would have to get into a car and go home without our baby, again.

When the first of these came to pass in the early hours of Friday morning, I think it helped that we were still disoriented from the avalanche labor. Today would've been the day for the second. Instead, thanks to this NICU, I was spared the need to find out how I would handle it. It was rather enough, I believe, to have triggered physical memories of last year with a simple trip to the bathroom, thank you very much.

Only one parent can really room in here, though it doesn't have to be the same one all the time (and both can stay all day), so JD went home. He called me to say that he was uneasy not being with us, and he stopped by again later. But I think me not having to go too cut down on the deja vu factor for him. It's amazing how much a little chunk of well thought out real estate can do for people.



P.S. I am still working on a blog nickname for the new arrival, so a post with proper introductions is to follow.