Friday, February 29, 2008

The extra day

Calliope is talking about what ifs today. Many have chimed in, articulately and beautifully. I wanted to say something too. Something deep and profound, something rare, as this extra day that inspired the topic is rare.

But I find myself in a different place, with a different view of this day. I am not inspired by the extra day, nor grateful, nor did I, prior to reading the posts today, even register it as an unusual enough occurrence to merit some sort of a reflection. Apparently, I have a grudge against February. Since I started blogging last year this is the month with the fewest number of posts. And the fewest number of days, you correctly point out. Yes, and that's where the grudge is. It's too short, February. I feel like I am behind on things, even though I actually accomplished a fair bit this month both at work and at home. I am not ready for March. The month of Monkey's sixth birthday. The month we thought we would be celebrating A's first.

If you've been reading for a while, you have probably heard me say that the two date thing, the death day and the birth day, is still confusing. But most months I at least get one of them. Not so in February- it jumps right over both, and sends me straight into March, the month that used to be all about joy and is not exactly anymore. And this extra day? It's insult to injury in my book. It comes closer, but not close enough. It laughs at me.

And because I look at the world this way now, the thought that disturbed me today was what about the parents whose children die today? Today, on a leap day. Next year, having completed this grueling and cruel circle they will approach the end of February with their hearts full of love and grief. Their days will be ticking down to that imaginary one year line, line that many of us seem to instinctively imbue with meaning, the magnet and the brick wall of many of our days and nights. But the calendar will turn over on them, skip over the day their world stopped. Would it feel cruel? Insulting? One more way in which they are marginalized, required to measure the time differently than even the rest of their brethren.

I didn't think about what it might be like for kids with a February 29th birthday until much, much later. Can't be a picnic from their point of view. But man, they would be alive. So you know, all good.

Like I said, a different place.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Catching up is hard to do

For the last three weeks or so I have thought at the beginning of the week that I would be posting nearly every day that week. And every week something or some number of somethings has happened to take that train neat off the rails. This week it was work (I rock problem writing hard core-- I think I am getting a hang of my new setting. Woo-hoo! And also? Yee-ha!) and 100 days of school project for one little Monkey* [note: the * part below is me whining, in jest, about a school project. Please don't read that part if you are not in the mood, k?].

I have in my head about seven serious posts and at least three memes I owe people. I need to come back here, and I need to clear up the terrible back up in my reader. I got a little ways through it today, and I have high hopes for finishing that part tomorrow afternoon. For now, though, I feel like I should at least get one meme done. So I am going with the shortest one, I believe. Magpie tagged me for this one.

So, the rules:
1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages)
2. Open the book to page 123
3. Find the 5th sentence
4. Post the next three sentences
5. Tag 5 people

The book is Truth and Consequences by Keith Olbermann, the host of The Countdown on MSNBC and the reason I went back to getting some of my news on TV. This is a compilation of his special comments from the show, and was a present to myself this past December, but I have not yet started reading. Of course I heard some of these when he first delivered them, but as it took me a while over the last year to start giving a crap about the world enough to worry about politics, it wasn't many that I heard in real time. So, without further ado, three sentences starting with the sixths sentence on page 123:

Which party rode roughshod over American's rights while braying that is was actually protecting them, Mr.Giuliani?
Which party took this country into the most utterly backwards, utterly counterproductive, utterly ruinous was in our history, Mr.Giuliani?
Which party has been in office as more Americans were killed in the pointless fields of Iraq than were killed in the consuming nightmare of 9/11, Mr.Giuliani?

Who knew you could say that stuff on TV?

I tag Lori, Tash (when she comes back from her gloriously warm vacation), Bon, Kate, and (new) Reality. And I so hope to do better by this blog, and starting soon.

*Next time a school project comes up, please, for the love of all that is holy, remind me that encouraging elaborate or even slightly complicated implementations is probably not in my best interest. They had to bring in a collection of 100 things. Examples in the mailing sent to parents were interesting and creative. We decided on 100 pictures Monkey took with her little $10 digital camera that she got for Hanukkah this year. We didn't think about how much time cutting up construction paper for backings for individual pictures was going to take. Nor the gluing of the pictures onto said backing, nor the gluing of the assembled pieces onto poster paper. Most kids just brought 100 of something. Like pennies or M&Ms.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pluses and minuses

The major, biggest plus, is that I am ok and airbags did not deploy.

A minus, as you have by now deduced, is that I was in an accident. Going home from work early to try to avoid bad driving conditions. Yeah.

A plus, again, is that the car was drivable, and got home on its own power.

A minus is that this is JD's car. My car would've totally stopped. This one skidded. Straight under the tail end of a landscape/plow truck. That for some reason wasn't moving after stopping at a completely empty rotary. I was a good distance back, started applying brakes in plenty of time, but skidded.

A plus, definitely, is that I had the presence of mind to use the training I got once in a course on driving to save your life (half a day, free as a bonus for getting my car that particular month, totally one of the best spent half days ever) to turn the car enough that the part stuck under the tail end of that truck was the passenger side, almost the very edge of it. Hence, no airbag deployment. Yeah, I am happy about it, particularly since I am short and sit very close to the wheel.

A minus is that I didn't think to honk while I was turning. If I did, maybe he would've moved just enough to avoid the collision. As is, there was a small island in the middle of the road, so I couldn't turn enough to avoid him completely.

No idea on whether this is a plus or a minus. The reason I had JD's car at all is that he took my very safe Volvo to go skiing with Monkey on her school vacation. They left Wednesday, won't be back until Sunday. I didn't tell him because there is nothing he can do from there, and all it would do is leave him worried about it when he should be enjoying what probably is the last ski trip of the season and his extremely technically competent skiing daughter.

I called in the insurance claim. Unfortunately, I can't see an adjuster until Tuesday, and who knows how long the repairs will be after that. It seems the damage is only on the body, so the day they can get the parts in should be the day we get the car back. I also called a friend who is a car wizard hoping he could come out and help me decide whether the car needed to be covered up or what. But he had knee surgery this week and is, therefor, immobile. Not to worry, I am ingenious-- took some pictures of the damage and some pictures of how I covered it up and sent to him for inspection. Got back a gold star and a suggestion to come out and brush all the snow off the front when it stops snowing just to make sure that melting snow doesn't seep in where it shouldn't go. So I stayed up clearing out my reader and waiting for the snow to stop. Went out at 1:30am and cleared it all off. With a house broom. It was kinda fun, but it looks like we got at least a foot of snow today, so there may be some not fun times in our future on clearing off the driveway into the garage. And no, I couldn't just put the damaged car into the garage today-- the driveway slopes down, making parking that car in the garage nontrivial, even under the best weather conditions. When there is snow, the car is always always parked outside.

Ok, off to bed now. I am sleeping in in the morning. It's not like I could go anywhere even if I really wanted to this weekend. My car and its lovely occupants don't come back until Sunday night.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Only an instant

"Mama, did you hear us sing?"
I was resting upstairs after an afternoon trip to the ER found acute bronchitis, probably viral, but with your history, here's a script for antibiotics anyway. Resting, may I add, on doctor's orders, as discharge papers stated quite clearly that I should get plenty of rest and extra fluids. And yes, I could hear them sing. I would have to be deaf not to. JD and Monkey pulled out the karaoke machine, complete with two microphones, and have been singing, very well and in two languages, for at least thirty minutes at that point. I knew for a fact that Monkey didn't know all the words to all the songs they sang, so the thing I found most remarkable from the vantage point of my bed upstairs was that she was reading the words on the screen fast enough to sing correctly. When I came downstairs with Monkey, my mom, visiting for the weekend, suggested that I could supplement family income considerably by taping a session just like that and selling it to the grandparents at a dollar a song.

Just then JD declared that he was going to sing just one more, and pack it up. I always loved the song he picked. It's a little sappy, but the melody is nice, and the sentiment, while not something I always feel in my bones, seems somehow true in the way that while it may not be your truth, not all the time, you recognize as a truth worth knowing is out there. In my youth it seemed romantic (doesn't everything?), a call to bravery and valiance, because really, can you afford to waste your instant on anything else? Now it just seems comforting in the way that allowed me yesterday afternoon to take in and imprint in myself the moment- JD singing, me dancing with Monkey, and my mom watching-- as it was happening, poignant, at least to me, in both what was there and who was missing. Comforting also in the way that assured me many have been where I am, and, sadly, many will be still, in the way that connected our moments, our instants, through time and space.

I may have been overthinking this, or overemoting, or oversomething, but for the next nearly 24 hours I was all about translating the song. (I started by looking for a translation on the internets, and found one, but didn't like it.) Here it is*, probably not perfect, but with some lines I am very happy with, and apparently good enough that I am no longer obsessively looking for just the right sentence structure and just the right rhyme.

Ephemeral shades make up world ever turbulent,
Future and past, with one moment inside.
Hold on to it, to this instant of in-between
For that is the thing that we know as life.

Eternal peace will not gladden my heart at all
Eternal peace onto monuments shines,
Yet for a star that lost grip and, in shooting, falls
There's only an instant, but an instant that blinds.

Let this blue world onward fly through millennia
We may not always agree on the route.
What do I risk? What's the prize I am cherishing?
Only an instant, of that there's no doubt.

What still awaits me? What joys and what sorrows?
Future and past, with one moment inside.
Hold on to it, to this instant we borrow
For that is the thing that we know as life.

Monkey wanted to dance, for the song is slow-ish, and so we danced, me doing the male partner thing, twirling, and dipping, and pulling her in, her giggling, JD singing, me thinking about the instants of our lives, remembering wistfully the overwhelming happiness I felt when I was doing something like this, or just snuggling, with Monkey while I was carrying A-- the happiness of knowing I have my children with me, and knowing that I can't feel that now, can never feel that again, not fully. And yet, feeling joy, some joy, for being in that moment.

The song ended and my coughing began, because apparently even a slowish dance is too much when you have bronchitis.

*If you speak the Old Country language, and know this song, I would love to hear your honest opinion on this version. No offense will be taken, I promise.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The last box

Last week I picked up my last box of progesterone suppositories for this pregnancy. One way or another, there is a conclusion to at least part of this process that is becoming visible. Clearly visible, countable now, two at a time, if I would count, in the ever-diminishing number of suppositories left in the little white box. Dr.Best thinks I could've halved the dose starting this week, but the extent to which I am apparently willing to live dangerously is skipping this morning's dose. I am going back to two doses a day tomorrow, but will skip a dose here and there if it's more convenient from now on.

What is weird is that this may be the calmest, or most detached, I have ever been during a pregnancy. I can actually go for long stretches of time without thinking about it, without even being aware of it. Every time before this time there was always this soundtrack, this awareness, due, I think, to the brief roller coaster ride that was my first pregnancy. This time, there are long stretches without.

It's not like I go on for days without remembering. I am not even sure there are stretches of uninterrupted hours. I know every time I go to the bathroom, and I check the toilet paper, yes I do. I know when I am getting dressed, although all of the pants I was wearing in December still fit, and am I ever grateful for that. I know, too, obviously, when it's progesterone time. I know when I am hungry, and oftentimes when I am otherwise inexplicably tired. Or nauseous. I started bringing a lemon to work for if I need to suck on it. But the last one I brought has been sitting on my desk for three days, perfectly whole-- I haven't been nauseous enough to need its services. But I remember when I see it. I don't always remember when I see obviously pregnant women, at least not right away.

When I first realized the difference in how I am moving through this pregnancy, my first instinct was to pat myself on the back-- way to go in holding off teh crazy. My second was to call it a detachment and to wonder how healthy it was, and to promptly decide that I cared more about surviving than about healthy right at the moment. But then it occurred to me that the place of the constant soundtrack, constant awareness? That place is taken by the one about how my son is dead. Truthfully, I can probably find moments when I am not consciously aware of that soundtrack either, but these are rare and far between, and they have to require my full mental capacity. So the times I am actually teaching, in front of the class, I am mostly fully in the moment (mostly because the time we were talking about that miscarriage paper from a few weeks back clearly doesn't count). Will it always be like this? I seem used to this soundtrack now, and am not so sure I want to hear that it goes away.

I am not sure whether the upshot of the above is still me bragging about how I am rocking the unawareness thing, or just some musings. But if I was bragging, I should've really done it sometime before today. Because today, right around the time I was supposed to be leaving my office to go teach my section, I got hit with some nasty gastrointestinal distress. I was late to my class, and on the way I recalled similarly thorough episodes shortly before the onset of labor with both of my children as well as right before my miscarriage started to make itself noticed. And so it began-- working myself into frenzy over whether this pregnancy was going to prove another fool's errand.

Remarkable thing was that I still managed to not think about the pregnancy for the duration of my class. After it was over, though, and after I nearly gave myself whiplash thinking about whether to call or not, I called and asked to come in for the first doppler listen of this go-round. Result: audible heart beat heard, somewhere between 160 and 170, and one symptom of doom and gloom, now with much less predictive value. The nice nurse practitioner working triage today freaked me right out by talking about "[my] baby." I didn't correct her, but let me tell you I was not exactly on board with that designation.

It has not escaped my attention that the freakout followed fairly closely my experimental no morning progesterone protocol. I am, however, tempted to declare any connection between the two events to be purely coincidental and in no way causal.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Late (very late) one evening a few days ago I was sitting in my office writing and editing a problem set for my students. Actually, maybe I should start earlier. Like a couple of months earlier when I interviewed for and got the only job I even applied for this fall. Perhaps it should have occurred to me back then that a moment like the one I had the other night is inevitable, that it has to come. What with one of the courses I would be working with called, ever so conveniently, "________ and human disease"* how could it not come?

The moment. The moment when my two worlds collided, spectacularly, with one another. The world where I am extremely good at what I do, able to find just the right setting for the question, and just the right way to ask it, to craft a question that gets my students to think about the deeper concepts, to connect the dots, to find a more complete view of whatever subject matter we are working on at the moment. And my other world, the one where my baby died, and my heart breaks for any parent who knows this pain, for anyone who even comes close enough to catch a glimpse of what lies over this particular precipice.

So the problem set. The last question was on a topic that is not really my strong suit, in that I mostly know it in broad strokes. Having ascertained from the lecture notes the extent of molecular mechanism to which the guest faculty wanted to go, I had to then figure out where to go with the question. A good way to ask a question, nearly always, is to ask about a system in which some part is not functional. Unsurprisingly, in the context of this particular course, that means asking about a disease. So I found a very nice web page listing for my convenience all the diseases associated with the subject matter in question. The educator in me, she was pretty excited-- surely with this many I will be able to find one that will let me write a perfect question. And she started to click through. The first few were duds-- nothing interesting. The next bunch seemed to be something I could work with. But there was more than half the page still left, and I so I kept clicking.

Suddenly I was seeing description after description that included words like "manifestation in infancy" and "death usually occurs before age N," where N is impossibly small. See, if you are untouched by personal experience, you might keep plowing along, thinking of which of these diseases offers you a best shot at writing a good question, or you might stop to think about how sad this must be. But if you are a mother of a dead baby, well, you might just get hit with a realization that every single one of these descriptions means somebody's child died that way. The realization might come with a vision, of an incubator in a NICU somewhere, and of a mother, bent over the incubator. You might just start shivering, your ears might start to ring and your hands may tremble a bit. Because to you, to me, this wouldn't be, wasn't, just a sad story, and this mother wouldn't be, wasn't, a fuzzy outline. To me she has a face, even if I have never seen it, even if we have never met. So perhaps it is more accurate to say that to me she has a voice. And maybe it is because the voice is so full and so true that I feel that I would recognize the face anywhere.

For fifteen or twenty minutes a couple of nights ago I couldn't separate my worlds, and that meant I couldn't do my job. Eventually I found a friend online and talked to her. And collected my thoughts. And went back to the cluster of diseases I could work with. And wrote a very good question.


On Tuesday it will be a year since Maddy came, and a start of six very hard days for Tash. If you can, stop by and say something kind.

*You didn't really think I was going to give the whole name of the course, complete and unedited, did you?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Not clear on the concept-- a post of comic relief

Monkey's school (a non-denominational Jewish day school, if you haven't been reading long) had a big program in preparation for MLK day. For a week kindergartners read stories about MLK, civil rights, Jackie Robinson, protest marches, separate drinking fountains, and probably other things Monkey forgot to mention. For most of the week preceding MLK day she went around singing "If you miss me from the back of the bus..." and our dinner conversations were often about segregation and injustice. Last day of the week before the holiday, the whole school had an event-- all classes came together and made large banners with their hand prints and words like justice, equality, kindness, and fairness written on them. The banners hanged in the school hallway when I came for pickup that day, so that was pretty self-evident. What I didn't realize is that they had a sort of a civil rights march recreation in there, with all kids making their own signs to bring to the event. Monkey's came home a few days ago with a bunch of her other school work from recent weeks.


If you are not great at reading "guess and go" spelling, it says "Please change the rules!!!" What a polite little protester I have there. I think we might have to talk about the concepts of righteous indignation and demanding what's right at some point in the future.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Today was a gray, wet day. A busy, crazy day. A year ago the day was bright and windy. Very windy, except for the short time we were at the cemetery-- the air was still and crisp for the duration of the short graveside service and the little extra time JD and I spent there.

JD is out of town on business. Consequently, today was too busy to allow for deep thoughts or much dwelling. But when I did think about it, what came to mind were these pictures I took last time JD was gone and we got snowed in.

This is our deck, and our deck furniture that we never got around to moving inside this fall (or any fall, to be honest). And a tree that got bent rather seriously out of shape by that storm. I was convinced it would break and take the deck with it. I suppose it would be cliche to tell you that after the snow melted the tree stood back up. But it did. I heard it creak very ominously as it bent under the weight that day, creak as if its trunk was snapping or the roots were about to come out of the ground. The tree is on the incline behind the house, with its bottom part not easily visible from the house, so I don't suppose we will really know what the storm did to it until the spring.


Sunday, February 3, 2008


First, thank you, all, so very much for your kindness and support in the last several weeks. The idea that nobody knows our babies, that for most people they didn't exist and don't matter is apparently one of the common crazy-making ideas of this experience. So it is incredibly helpful to know that so many people know A, remember him, and think of him and of us. Thank you.


I had been spotting most of the week. Red both anniversary days, but not much. Then brown and black on Friday. I had to go into work very early Friday morning to finish preparing my first mini-lecture of the semester. So I headed home a little after the class was over, figuring I would put in my "morning" progesterone suppository (since I didn't have time for it before I took off for work in the still-thorough darkness of winter predawn) and get in a short nap before going to get Monkey from school. I called my OB's practice on the way home, hoping to get an ultrasound before Tuesday's appointment, to check on the continuing spotting. They called me back after I put in suppository but before I fell asleep for my nap-- Dr.Best, who supervises ultrasounds for the practice on Fridays, wanted me to come in right away, without waiting for Tuesday.

So this is how come JD and I ended up at the hospital a year to the day after leaving it with our memory box and no baby. I thought how lucky it was that I got to drive in from home rather than take a shuttle from work, since walking from the shuttle to the offices takes me down the hallways we had to take to leave the place last year. Coming in in my car I was able to park in the garage under the building where the offices are and never enter main the hospital complex.

The news was also much better this year. Good strong heartbeat, measurements on target. The technician didn't find anything in terms of the source either, but Dr.Best did-- a small subchorionic hematoma. At first I was actually relieved to see it-- there was an actual explanation for the week of spotting, and I know how common it is. I even said something like "oh, there it is." Of course now that I have had time to think about it, I am a little more freaked out. It can, of course, suffocate the fetbryo. And it does increase the odds of abruption later on in pregnancy. But it seems small. That's what it looked like to me, and that's what Dr.Best said. And this is what I am holding on to-- it seems small. The smaller it is, the less likely it is to cause trouble. No spotting in the last day either, so taking it as a good sign. Not enjoying a thought of a blood clot sitting under the still-forming placenta though. Not even a little bit.

Dr.Best also found what looks like a corpus luteum, which I wasn't sure was there from the previous ultrasounds, so I feel a little better about the progesterone issue-- I no longer feel like maybe the suppositories I shove in morning and evening are the only things keeping the fetbryo in there. I will also ask for a progesterone blood test on Tuesday, to see how much the placenta is kicking in these days. Suppositories are a pain in the ass. Actually, more like a pain in the lower back (from lying with my ass elevated), plus they make me sleepy and make it hard to concentrate. But I will take all that over wondering whether I did all I could. Not an original thought in any way, I realize. And neither is the hematoma story. I could do without that drama, but I suppose I have to settle for low grade drama.