Monday, January 13, 2014

Round and round it goes...

Eighty six moons ago I held A for the first and last time. I know because today is his yahrzeit, the anniversary on the Jewish calendar. Jewish months are lunar, starting when the new moon shows up, ending when the old moon is no more. A was born in the middle of the month, on the full moon. Almost surreally-ginormous yellow nearly-full moon accompanied me on my ride to the hospital. So surreal was it that for a while after I thought I made it up.

It's been seven Jewish years, almost seven calendar years. It's a cliche, but it seems to've been both an interminably long and an absurdly short time. The moon's been full eighty six more times since I rested my boy's head on that one spot above my heart, since I willed my body to remember the feeling of his head there. So many things are hazy now, but if I bid it, that one spot, it still responds.

Because 12 lunar months come out to less than the number of days that it takes the Earth to go around the Sun, but 13 lunar months come out to more, Jewish years are sometimes 12 months and sometimes 13. Specifically, seven out of 19 Jewish years have 13 months, and, as I learned this morning when I looked it up, there's a nifty way to know which years those will be by using the layout of a piano's octave. Of the last seven years two were these 13 months leap years. The year we're in, the one that started with the High Holidays in September, is also a leap year, but its extra month hasn't happened yet-- it's up next, after this current moon goes to naught. I also learned this morning that the Hebrew term for the leap year literally translates into "a pregnant year." Nice. Subtle.

In Israel today they've buried Ariel Sharon, a former general and a former prime minister. As Vice President Biden eulogized him today, a complex man from a complex neighborhood. He died on Saturday after eight years in a coma. He had a stroke in 2006 and was in a coma ever since. Randomly, I thought of him about a week ago, wondering idly about whether he was still alive, whether anything in his condition had changed. But I didn't remember when I was thinking of him that his stroke happened before A died. I hadn't remembered just how long he'd been suspended in that ethereal space of technically alive. Time is a strange thing.

Since A's been gone the moon's done its monthly dance eighty six times, and the year's been pregnant twice, and so have I. And the incredible, wonderful, challenging, funny, loving children that survived those pregnancies and their amazing, lovely, hilarious and somewhat-crazy-making big sister make me feel overwhelmingly lucky every day. Another cliche, but my heart and my chest do really routinely feel like they are about to burst with the love and tenderness I feel for them. And alongside all that, most days in a quiet undertone, but some days like today in a major theme, their joyful presence underscores A's absence, everything he didn't get to do. They grow, they change, they amaze. He doesn't. But damn, I miss my son. That is all.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

His name, in lights

There are precious few things that bear A's name. I mean, I could cover reams of paper with it, in different fonts and different languages. I could pay someone to sky write it. Both of these-- and many more-- seem sad and pointless to me. He's still dead, you know.

For the most part, by now I am ok with A's lack of Earthly possessions and his generally tiny material footprint. But, I recently discovered, concern over his obscurity hasn't faded into irrelevance for me. On the anniversary of his death I stumbled upon a mention of a Kickstarter campaign for a little indy movie about a couple whose first child dies and is stillborn. It is called Return to Zero, and most likely you've heard of it by now.

Sadly, Sean Hanish, writer-director of the movie, knows whereof he speaks. Or films, as the case may be-- the movie is based on Sean's and his wife's own experience of stillbirth of their first child. The clip on the Kickstarter page had me nodding with recognition, and the caliber of the cast gave me hope that they could pull off showing what life is really like on our side of the "I am really sorry, but..."

And so, for A's 6th birth day we gave ourselves a present-- we contributed to the movie's Kickstarter campaign. We've never supported any crowd sourcing projects before, even though I've been meaning to look into that for a bit. I knew the general idea-- small donors promise to support a project at various levels, project leaders promise the donors various perks in return for various levels of support, and if enough donors pledge to support a project that it reaches its goal sum in 30 days or less, everyone gets charged at once, at the end of that 30 day period. And at some point, donors get their perks.

Reading through the list of perks for the movie, I was thinking about how well thought out they seemed, and was trying to figure out whether I wanted a DVD of the movie or just the digital download, when I read all the way to the $250 level. Which is when I was suddenly willing to part with way more money than I was only a second before. Because what you get at that level of support is a credit at the end of the movie-- a "thank you" or an "in loving memory of". A's name in lights. Well, in zeroes and ones, really. But the point is, it will be there. I know it will go by fast. I know virtually nobody in the theater, if the movie is picked up for distribution, is staying to watch that part of the credits. But I am. And we will have the DVD, and we (and maybe some day A's sisters and brother) will be able to pause the thing riiiiiiight there. I am not saying I plan to stare at it for hours. But I am not saying I may not forget to turn off the TV one day. It happens, you know.

I am also not saying I am obsessed with this or anything, but I did leave a tab of the Kickstarter page opened in my browser. Make of that what you will-- I am ok with it, I own my crazy. The campaign was originally for $50K, and they got there last week. So the project is definitely getting funded, which means the movie will be shown at some festivals this year, and, hopefully, will be picked up for distribution at one of them. But the campaign clock still has 3 days on it, and the filmmakers have set a new goal-- they would really like to get to $70K. That will increase the quality of the editing they are able to do, and so should increase the chance of the movie being picked up.

So if you want to, if you are able, go take a look at the campaign. And, if you are inclined, join us and-- as on right now-- 335 other donors in giving this movie a little push towards the big screen. And hey, if you have and are inclined to spend the kind of coin that gets you that private screening in your home perk, can I count as your friend? Or family-- I am not picky.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

From time to time

(Those of you who still visit, thank you. Thank you for your comments and your clicks. I need to tell you about the Cub and about the anniversary, and I will. But I have to say this first.)

A died on a Tuesday, the last Tuesday in January. In 2007, that was January 30th. This year, the last Tuesday in January was the 29th. Two weeks ago today. A year has 52 weeks, give or take. So it was (52 x 6) + 2 = 314 weeks ago that my son died.

The President shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.

That's from the Constitution. Article II, Section 3, as you undoubtedly heard or read in the last couple of days, if you've had electricity and had a news source on for any length of time. Even with the Pope news, and the storm news, and the madman in LA news, I am sure someone somewhere has quoted to you the Constitutional authority of what is about to transpire in the Washington, DC in mere hours. I will watch it, as I watch every one of these, whether delivered by the guy I voted for or not.

It takes conviction to deliver a speech like that well. It takes preparation and planning, but it also takes a backbone. But tonight, it is possible that the person with the strongest backbone in the room will be one of the 25 guests of the First Lady. Though, I imagine, to her, that backbone might feel more like a pulsating column of raw pain and anguish.

I heard her voice before I even knew her name, though not before I knew her daughter's name. “You don’t how hard this really is,” Cleopatra Cowley said out of my radio this weekend. “And those of you that do know how hard this is, I am sorry.”

I heard her in the way we sometimes hear each other, in the way where I could've finished her sentence. Ms. Cowley was on my radio because 312 weeks after my son died, mere two weeks ago, someone mistook a bunch of teenagers seeking cover from a rainstorm for members of a rival gang and opened fire. Cleopatra Cowley's beautiful fifteen year old daughter, Hadiya Pendleton, was shot and killed.

Hadiya had performed at the inauguration just 8 days before, and she was killed barely a mile from the President's Chicago home, details that called national media's attention to one of what is likely to be many hundreds of murders in Chicago this year. The First Lady attended Hadiya's funeral, which is why my radio was covering it.

And today, just two weeks after her daughter's death, Cleopatra Cowley will sit with the First Lady for the speech. Could you do it? Two weeks out? Two weeks out I was barely able to follow a plot of a TV episode, let alone a speech. Could I really get dressed and put on makeup and walk into a room understanding that TV cameras would be there? I am not sure. But I think that even if I don't exactly grasp how she will do it, I have a good idea of why she is doing it.

Two weeks out, and for much time after, the thing that bothered me more than pretty much anything (except for the central fact of A being dead) was that nobody knew him. Nobody knew him and nobody needed to know. At the time I thought this to be a unique thing about babyloss-- that because others haven't met our babies, they can safely go about their business, unaffected by the world missing the light of our lives. Now I see it differently. Most people are not known to most of us, and so the passing of most people does not affect most of us. But when the pain is yours, you just might want everyone to suddenly realize that even if they didn't know it before, they too have been robbed by the death of your loved one, that their world, too, has been made smaller and poorer by the passing. Looking at Hadiya's smile, it is hard to disagree.

So presumptuous as it may be of me to think so, I think I understand the why of Cleopatra Cowley's evening. And, maybe, after all, I understand the how too. Perhaps it is another oldie but goodie of the grief experience-- one foot in front of the other, and try to remember to breathe.

Today is also Maddy's sixth birth day. Please stop by and remember with Tash.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Number sense

Apparently, there is a famous experiment that demonstrates our innate (lack of) number sense. You take a two year old and a bunch of pennies. I suppose it can be a bunch of quarters too, but pennies are comfortable for little fingers to pick up. So you spread the pennies on a table and you sit the two year old nearby. And then you ask the two year old whether they could please hand you a penny. And they usually do, and it is usually one penny. Then you ask them whether you could please have two pennies. Sure, says a two year old. And happily hands you a handful of pennies. See, they don't really get two yet. They understand one, and the rest is not one.

This can be a two year old who can count in order way past two, by the way. Because we say the words to them, and they repeat after us. But conceptually, they are not yet what is referred to as a two-knower. It takes repetition, a lot of repetition, for them to get the concept of two. You'd think that at that point they would also get the concept of three, right? Well, if you did, you'd be wrong. A two-knower is not necessarily a three-knower. And it takes, again, a lot of repetition to turn a former into a latter.

I tell you this because the Cub, I recently discovered, is still teetering on the edge of three-knowing. We have this spacial reasoning game that we gave him for his birthday. He loves it, and over the last many months has made his way through most challenges in the booklet. Sometimes, it's me who's helping him with it, sometimes JD, and sometimes Monkey. And she can actually keep to the role of helper, letting him figure it out and only asking him leading questions if he gets stuck. The whole thing is ridiculously sweet, really. But anyway. He made his way through all but the highest, Master, level by now. And at Master level it becomes important to pay attention to how long pieces are. The Cub could, from the drawing, call a one-long piece, and a two-long piece. But the three-long one? He said it was "mmmmm... ten!" long. But he can show you three fingers no problem. So, not a confident three-knower yet.

Which helps explain a bit of Cub-hilarity. He loves dinosaurs. He's four, so that makes perfect sense. He also knows that when dinos were around, there were no people (this makes him feel better, by the way, and I can see his point, because have you seen some of those 'saurs?), and he knows that dinosaurs died out. And that it was a while after that that first people appeared. And all that warms my science educator heart and contains only trace amounts of laughter-inducing materials. The hilarity reliably ensues, however, if you ask the Cub when all of this went down. You know, the dying out of dinosaurs and the rest. I have only heard him answer that one of two ways-- he either says "seven years ago" or "six years ago." Most often, it's six. Because he is not a reliable three-knower, six must seem to him as reasonable an answer as a billion.

He understands dinosaurs dying out as a cataclysmic event, a tectonic shift. And it occurred to me one fine day not so long ago, that on the scale of one family, our family, he's kinda right. Our cataclysm, our tectonic shift, our meteorite impact, that happened six years ago. Six years ago today.

And in a sense, it is about to happen again. Tonight. Because I am an enormous chicken, and because we are human and tend to pain-avoidance. See, I always thought that any subsequent children we'd have would grow up knowing about A, that it wouldn't be scary because it would be normal. And I started out like that with the Cub, talking to him about A when he was a baby, taking him to the cemetery with me. One of those visits, when the Cub was a toddler but no older than 18 months, he was standing by the grave and I said something like "that's where your brother is," and you could see by his face that he was processing that anew, and then he looked scared, and he started to cry. I calmed him down, but never took him back again, and we've never talked to him about A since. See? Chicken.

Last year, on the birth day, the Cub was three and a half, and was a bit confused by candles (Monkey still insists) and cookies and such. But I was pregnant then, and I didn't want him to be anxious through the rest of that, seeing as he was three and seeing as finds enough to be anxious about already. So we distracted him and he let it go. He won't tomorrow. And so tonight, with no margin left, we will talk.

We saw the date from a mile away, well, from a couple of months back, but it'd always felt like we had more time. This year yahrzeit (anniversary on the Hebrew calendar) fell on last Wednesday. I thought for sure we'd talk then. But we didn't, lighting the candle with Monkey after the Cub'd gone to sleep. I thought he'd ask about the candle burning in the middle of the kitchen island the next day. But he didn't, and so, again, we didn't talk. We had my nephew (we will call him Bear around here, because, you know, his parents often do), for part of the weekend, and we were just busy for part of it. Lame, lame excuses. Otherwise known as life.

But now we are out of time and out of excuses, and even Monkey will be home tonight. And we will talk, ensuing cataclysm and all. Wish us luck.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

July bounty

The long and winding absence was almost equal parts an unbelievably silly rookie mistake and a little girl who needs to be held upright A LOT so she can take her time working out all the details of sharing her sour milk with whomever is doing the holding (hint: I go through a lot of laundry). Actually, by now it's more the latter. The former, though, did me in for the first two weeks or so of being home.

Rookie mistake you say? Ah, yes. And I will tell you what it was. Because, see, I am willing to be your cautionary tale, even though I am convinced none of you would fall for that one. The mistake was, and I really can't believe I made it the fourth time around, upon returning home from the hospital, to confuse the meds working with me actually feeling well enough to jump into the thick of it while lapsing with the taking of the aforementioned meds. You know what anti-inflammatory drugs are good for? Turns out, reducing inflammation. Who knew, right? Probably the doctors writing me the script for ibuprofen that I was sent home with. And, of course, every single one of you. And, theoretically, me. Practically though, by discharge physically I felt pretty darned good, which is likely why my brain, busy processing all the rest of everything, forgot to mention to itself that the chief reason for me feeling fine was likely that the meds were doing what they were supposed to be doing. So unnecessarily long story short, I didn't take the meds for a bit after coming home, which made the inflammation worse, which then sat me on my ass for a while. Which actually was extremely uncomfortable for most of that time due to the selfsame inflammation.   

The little girl though, is lovely, upright holding and curdled milk and all. In the picture she is holding the first cucumber of the season. Which was delicious. And a bright spot in the whole aspiring gardner saga. (Yes, a post of woe and lament on the garden blighted is forthcoming. Possibly with pictures.) What is even sadder than withering tomato plants is the fact that I took and even uploaded the picture above while the month on the calendar was still July, which means it was well over a week ago. And in that whole time I couldn't find the time to put together a post. Pathetic. What's worse is the state of my reader and a number of tabs my browser has open from, I believe, all the way back to our first week home-- I read some posts that week (primarily while breastfeeding, on a precariously balanced laptop) that I wanted to respond to thoughtfully. Like I said, the tabs are still open (long live restore all tabs feature). Hopefully, I can get that and the reader taken care of soon. Because I also have a whole lot to say. This time is very different from last time, much more different than I expected it to be, and it feels important to talk about it all.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

6:31 am

She is beautiful, we are going home in the morning, and I managed to luck out all the way until about fifteen minutes ago on changing a dirty diaper. Considering how many of those she's produced over the last 44-ish hours, I'd call that a minor miracle. 

There is much more to say. About the delivery itself, about the hospital and staff, about Dr. Best, about Monkey and the Cub, and the fierce and the tender of them towards their little sister, and about how all of that feels, knowing we are done. But I am sleepy and she is fussy, needing to be picked up every couple of minutes for the last hour and change. And so all of that will have to wait until we get home. For now, I just need to say thank you. Thank you for being there for me and with me over the last five plus years. Thank you for welcoming me back and for hanging in with me over this last stretch. Thank you or listening and for your words. I am having a hard time expressing how much your words have meant to me without sounding like a massive cliche. Oh, screw it, cliche or not, here goes. You have made me laugh, which is generally and always welcome, but is also somewhat remarkable, given the road so far. You have made me cry, with sadness, and recognition, and validation of being heard and understood. You have abided, and I am deeply, deeply grateful.

And oh, so sleepy. More from home, including pictures. We have a whole bunch, but very few made it off the camera yet.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

6 years ago this week

Six years ago last week, towards the end of it, I was frantic. Happy too, but mostly frantic. My hunch from the weekend before that, when I suddenly threw up my breakfast only to feel absolutely fine the very next moment, proved right-- I was pregnant. So I called my GYN. At my regular appointment several months before we'd discussed my history and the fact that we were planning to begin trying come summer. She'd said that while they do not routinely check progesterone levels and don't tend to prescribe progesterone supplementation, she understood why I would be nervous given my history, and so she would put a note in my file to do these things for me when the time comes. Ha! Because when I called to talk to ask her for testing and supplementation, she just flat out told me that there is no conclusive data that supplementation helps, and they just don't do that. Yes, sure, but we talked about this, and you were supposed to do this for me. The worst part was, of course, that I was relying on her and did not have anyone else I could call up on a Thursday afternoon to try to get these things straightened out. Her response was something about how she would never say that and how she thought I would probably want a doctor who would be a better match for me. No shit.

To be fair, I received a letter from her a while later where she acknowledged that she did find the notation from our visit in the file, and she even sent me a prescription for progesterone. Though she still thought I'd want a different doctor. Again, lady, no shit.

By the time I got the letter, her behavior still stung, but not nearly as much because by then, though I did not know it yet, I had already spoken on the phone to the most important medical professionals of the next six years, and maybe, not to be grandiose or anything, maybe of my entire life. And between her leaving me to fend for myself and that first phone call with Nurse Kind, there was another doctor, to whom I will be forever grateful for his kindness and professionalism, which put together helped me keep my head on through the next week.

After I hung up with the GYN of poor memory, I needed to find someone who'd help. I called my friend Natalie. I didn't really want to tell anyone yet, but I met her OB/GYN a few years before, when she and her husband asked me to come with them to her second, now planned c-section. (Not two years before that she'd labored for a day and a half, pushed for several hours, and ended up with an emergency c-section.) Dr. N radiated confidence. He was funny, and you could tell he loved his job. You could also tell he was on the ball. That morning he bent the rules for us, for my friends, because he could see just how nervous Natalie's husband was-- he allowed a second non-medical person, me, into the OR. Moral support and all that.

So when I called Natalie, frantic, from my car, I wanted to know whether she thought Dr. N would be able to help. Natalie was also at my house when I threw up the previous weekend, so she wasn't shocked when I called. She called Dr. N, then I called Dr. N, and then he ordered the tests and wrote me a script for progesterone. That test and two repeat tests later, hCG was rising like gangbusters, but progesterone was not, it was actually sliding, slowly. This is where the professionalism comes in-- after that third test, Dr. N called to say that he thought I probably needed a high risk doctor, and that he was not, and did I have someone I could call? By that time I was already planning to call the practice where I was when I had Monkey, but it was so nice to be treated with this level of care and consideration.

When I called the practice they told me that the doctor I had when I was pregnant with Monkey had left the state, and I needed to pick someone else. They also said I was in luck-- they had this new high risk doctor, he just started, and so his schedule was fairly open still. He came from Texas and was very nice. Would I like to go with him? I had no idea just how in luck I was when I ambivalently accepted this new doctor. I also said I had concerns, and they said a nurse would call. Nurse Kind called later that day, took my history, and listened to my concerns. Dr. Best called later to say he wasn't convinced by the research that progesterone supplementation actually helped, but that there is no reason not to do it, given my history. He upped my suppository dosage, but didn't want to go to injectables because of the slightly higher risk to me later on in the pregnancy that was associated with that formulation. I hadn't yet laid eyes on him, but he was already talking my kind of medical language-- evidence-based, but not dogmatic, thoughtful and considerate, but not pandering. I liked him and I knew I could trust him. When I met both him and Nurse Kind later, I only liked them more. And it didn't hurt any that he was just about the most handsome man I've ever seen in person. (Think this is why he ended up on the practice's promotional poster? Nah, probably just a coincidence...)

That pregnancy was A. Which means that Dr. Best and Nurse Kind have been there for three out of the four of my children. They have also met Monkey and ask about her all the time. They understand. Knowing they are my team made the last two pregnancies, while certainly not easy, something I could deal with. In fact, knowing they are my team is what made it possible for me to even think that I could handle another go round, given the ups and downs of the pregnancy with the Cub.

Yesterday was my last appointment for the pregnancy. If all goes according to plan, I will see Dr. Best tomorrow before my induction (he's around, though he's not officially working on the floor), and both of them at the 6 week appointment. Nurse Kind asked that I send pictures from time to time. She walked in with that oh, wow misty look, and I suspect I looked like that too. We sat there talking about 6 years ago and that first phone call. She said she'll be keeping tabs on us on Thursday. Man, I am going to miss her.

Even Dr. Best was a little misty, though with a good dose of mischievous too, joking about me joking with him and the new tech who was, I gather, just getting acclimated with the practice. She's nice, though I hope I get to see their usual tech, K, again. I am going to miss her too. Dr. Best was talking about how well he thought I was doing this time around, how from his point of view this has been a qualitatively different pregnancy, in terms of my fears and anxiety levels. I said not exactly as far as the daily normal base level, but that this time there have been far fewer actual reasons for freakouts, and so I've had fewer above that already difficult to take normal. Interestingly, his perception is that I was also more freaked out during my pregnancy with A than now. I probably was, to some degree, because I had that crazy premonition and was constantly waiting for something bad to happen.

Dr. Best was also very pleased yesterday that my cervix is getting ready to get this show on the road-- I am more than 3 cm already, anterior, and 50%. So if me make it all the way to tomorrow's scheduled induction, he thinks it will be a fairly easy process. But, he said, you know you don't have to wait. I know, I know.

I want this to be done. I hope this is the end of my reproductive phase, and I hope it's a happy end. I am also wistful. Or maybe mindful is the word. I am grateful to be here. I am grateful for the people who helped me get here. I am a little sad about what this road has looked like. I love all my children-- the two here, who despite what they sometimes say, are crazy about each other, get along better than most siblings I've seen, and who are waiting, mostly patiently, along with us; the one we are all waiting to meet, the strong baby girl who rolls more than she kicks and tends to hide her face on ultrasounds; and my beautiful first son, who I miss every day, the one who never got to be oh, so many things. I want to feel this place fully, and I want to remember what this place felt like. Which is why I am happy to see that the sun is peaking out after the gray and wet morning here-- we were planning on taking some family pictures today, and if the sun keeps, we'll be able to do that outside.

Happy July 4th, everyone!