19 October 2007

The Fight

You know how I wrote, mid-summer, about us agreeing to put the discussion of another child on hold until January? How I claimed it gave me some peace, some space to worry about school and other things, how it was kind of a relief? My theory now is that the relief was only that we didn't have to specifically fight about it.

It's been hanging over both of our heads, a feverish obsession, fueling our responses to each other, making things that were never problems into problems. We've been substituting our baby angst for our otherwise reasonable positions on a variety of unrelated questions. It all came spewing out the other day, when I gave my husband an ultimatum (which is probably never a good idea) about another issue. In fairness, it's an issue that has been an intermittently unresolved problem since the beginning of our relationship, so it's not as though it's not a problem that needs some tough solving. But as we discussed the gravity of that situation, all the underlying hurts we've each been carrying from our differences on the issue of another child - or really, another pregnancy - came bubbling up, eroding the moratorium.

Ouch, ouch, ouch. There's no aspect of the topic that doesn't hurt. For us, the prospect of another pregnancy means considering not just what one would hope prudent people would consider, such as, how will we provide for two children compared to one, and, how would another child impact our plans and dreams. We also have to consider the chances of another miscarriage, another stillbirth, more birth defects, having to decide whether to voluntarily terminate. And then there's what any of these possibilities would mean to my mental health, to his mental health, to the health of our relationship, to our living son's mental health, to our ability to maintain our external relationships. And don't forget the gd gd: it would be highly likely, it would accelerate my chances of full-blown diabetes later, it would complicate a pregnancy, and in my husband's mind it accelerates the probability of my demise. Oy. Talking hurts.

We've also had to discuss whether my motivation is the need to prove something (choose one or more of the following: (a) overall womanliness; (b) increased proportion of live births to losses; (c) the fabulousness of Little Z is not a fluke; (d) I can produce enough milk, dammit, I can). In the several months of silence, I've had plenty of time alone in my head to consider this question, and I have to acknowledge that there is still a small place in me that feels humiliation. But it is not the only thing, or even the main thing. I want to have another child because it is how I feel, in every cell of my body.

I'm still not ready to adopt. I want to know another child the way I knew the first boy, the way I knew Z (the proof of my knowing being that he is exactly the way I knew him to be before he was born). I won't lie to you - I love having that connection to Z. I pity my husband because he will never know that link, no matter how great his relationship to Z (which is phenomenal now, but still).

I am also vain enough to love seeing myself in my son, seeing my husband in him, seeing his grandparents and great grandparents in him. I love seeing my first son in him. The pictures we took after delivering our first son look more like Z now than Z's own newborn pictures do. I want to see that connection to my first son and to us and to our families. Adoption is a beautiful thing, but an adopted child will not carry us with him. I still feel like I have the luxury of at least trying to have another biological child.

I also think that Z needs a living sibling, for companionship now, for cross-support in dealing with us when we're old, for relief of the psychological burden of being the boy who lived. I recognize that this reason doesn't contraindicate adoption, but I don't care. Adoption doesn't feel right to me now. If we had another loss, I might feel differently, but I'm not there yet.

Those reasons are just auxiliary reasons, anyway, in the same category as having something to prove. The biggest part of it can't be explained. It just is. It can't be quantified. This aspect gives my desire a halo of mystery and magic, but it also causes the rub between my husband and me, because how does one explain what can't be explained? I guess it's not impossible; consider the last two millennia of Christianity - what has that whole exercise been about if not people being persuaded by the inexplicable? I don't think I should have to resort to wars or crusades or philosophical councils or indoctrination, though, in my interactions with my own husband. But I don't have any other answers, either.

I do take my husband's fears seriously. It would be a special challenge if we had a girl, making room-sharing impossible after a certain age, which would affect our finances, not to mention certain aspects of our great plan, considerably. Another loss would be unquestionably devastating. The whole proposition is risky, risky, and still riskier. But I think that where we are fundamentally different in our outlooks makes a difference in our respective appetites for risk: where my husband worries about where the money would come from, I see that families almost always find a way to make another child okay. He sees where our plan wouldn't work; I see how our plan can be tweaked to make it work. He sees the potential for mental breakdown, while I am open to the roller-coaster ride in the cause of recognizing this dream. And anyway, I think that we're strong enough to weather at least a miscarriage. I also think our relationship, imperfect though it is, is strong enough to weather what might be individually devastating, and we have our history to thank for it.

I should also acknowledge that I am not without any anxiety, and that my husband is not a complete doomsayer; he is at least hopeful enough to have been thinking about names and to discuss them. We've actually agreed on both a boy's name and a girl's name - for a child we cannot even agree to conceive. All the history that has made us stronger has also make us more than a little warped.

The deepest hurt about this question, whatever happens, is that as long as we don't agree, there's a loser. Either I will feel cheated, or he will feel coerced. As long as we maintain our current positions, one of us will not be getting what we want. We're no spring chickens, but we should have long lives still ahead of us. The rest of those lives is a long time to feel that way.

08 September 2007

Shallow Thoughts

I know, I know - I haven't blogged in an eternity, at least not for myself. I've written TONS of posts, honest - it's just that they're all in my head. So why have I surfaced today? Is it because I have thoughts of such wisdom, such profundity, such bittersweetness, that to keep them in my noggin would be to deprive the universe? Uh, no. I just got my parental funny bone tickled a couple of times today, and in the rotavirus-infected environment in which I find myself, a sense of humor is imperative.

And on the subject of rotavirus, if your child is going to have the kind of poo that pours down his leg, I've learned that the ideal place for it to happen is the grocery store; as long as he is safely secured in the child seat up front, you can keep him contained until you get to the parking lot, at which time you can allow the liquid poo to pour out onto the asphalt and not your brand new area rug or the tyke's crib sheet (yet again) . Also, a grocery cart is much easier to swab with diaper wipes than the car seat (the upholstery of which cannot be completely removed from the frame and which still reeks a bit of the projectile vomit said child projected about the backseat of your car earlier in the week at the onset of the aforementioned rotavirus infection).

So what tickled me today, besides the liquid fart my child blew on my leg while I was changing him on the bathroom floor to make cleanup easier? A "real parenting" moment, the kind parents of all living broods have. My son did something all siblings do at some point: he pushed his brother aside to get something he wanted.

We have this credenza opposite our front door to stow keys and sunglasses and parking meter/public transit change and diaper bags and computer bags and overdue library books that really should be taken back by the next person going that way and diaper coupons - you get the idea. On top of it is a lamp to illuminate all these organizational tasks, and opposite the lamp are pictures of our family, to welcome you (aren't we all hospitable and shit!). There's my husband and me, in one of our more informal wedding portraits, laughing at some joke that passed between us and the hieroglyphic columns amongst which we were posing at the local museum. Just to the right, a little in front, is the living boy, smiling, crawling toward the camera, with his wacky hair and black-and-white hipness. On the left side of the arrangement is a tile, framed in wood, that one of the grandmothers had personalized for the first son, the one who resides in a little white box on the shelf above the stereo components. It's blue delft, and it has his name and birthday and height and weight on it; it stands on a metal easel, and it's our way of making a statement about who our family is without forcing people to look at a picture of his sweet but decaying face as they pass through to the kitchen for drinks and hors d'oeuvres (pizza bagels, anyone?).

I barely made it home in one piece from taking the living boy to the pediatrician yesterday afternoon and then to the grocery store (site of the liquid poo incident) for the apple-flavored fluid-replacer (since the fruit punch flavor, when vomited, leaves the white sheets stained pink), and so my sunglass case had been chucked on top of the credenza and not put in its proper place in the top drawer, and there it was, tempting my son, on his first cruise around the living room after 24 hours of confinement (due to the unpredictable nature of his emissions). The boy loves my sunglass case, which is bright orange and makes a neat -snap!- when closed. He only gets to play with it on special occasions, such as when he is screaming at the top of his lungs in the endless airport security line, so he lit up when he saw it within reach. The only thing standing between him and the case was his brother's tile, and with typical toddler self-centeredness, he shoved that tile to the side without any reservations. And that's when I had my little moment.

The other thing that got me today was my son's baby horoscope on babble:

leoLeo (July 22-Aug. 22)
Things are starting to settle down for you. Your house is back in some recognizable rhythms and the chaos of summer is starting to fade. Be happy for the stability — it's linked to less time on the couch when you're older. That said, rigid schedules bring about rigid mindsets. Want to hop off the track? Suggest that you skip French lessons in favor of cooking crepes and watching Madeleine. If every Friday is pizza night, it's okay to let them know you want sushi. Keeping them on their toes is okay. It even builds balance (and stronger calves).

Because if anyone should be worried about more "time on the couch" down the road, it's a kid with a dead older sibling.

31 July 2007


A year ago, right this very moment, I was...well, I think maybe I was in the car, coming home from breakfast with a girlfriend and her son and then a manicure and pedicure, which resulted in the last time my nails were painted. Kinda sad. I got home, took a long shower, shaved my legs (another last-time-for-a-long-time event), got dressed, and sat directly in front of the air conditioner watching the last two episodes of the first season of Gilmore Girls, trying to stay cool (in both ways), waiting to leave for the hospital.

My mother-in-law picked me up and took me in for the amnio. I still remember vividly the imbecile playing on a drum machine in the L&D waiting room. It still seems just as absurd. I remember my husband arriving unexpectedly, after not being able to take the torture of waiting to leave work until we had the official go-ahead for the induction. I remember my son taking a good long nap, prolonging the time I had to be hooked up to the monitors, until finally, finally, the perinatologist gave up and started the amnio. My OB was there, too, and a student, who was given the honors of sticking me with the gigantic needle - which my son batted out of the way before a good sample could be taken. After three horrific sticks, the sample was obtained, and we held our breath until we finally got the good news that the induction could begin. From there, it was an easy coast until the next morning when my fabulous son peed on my chest.

While said son took his morning nap today, my husband and I started looking at his earliest pictures. He was so beautiful when he was born, and then he gradually turned orange and baggy as he slowly starved on my insufficient milk supply. I'm glad I didn't realize then how bad he looked - I was still so starstruck that I thought he was the most beautiful thing in the world. I cringe now when I see those pictures, but I'm also so thankful to be able to compare them now to this robust, beautiful (really!) boy who's sitting on my husband's chest and bonking my leg with a 25-year-old wind-up Smurf radio that was my brother's.

I read old blog posts this morning, too, from that other blog, the one started after my first son's stillbirth. I meant to just see what was going on this time a year ago, but I ended up reading through several months of posts after my second son's births, and it made me so sad to read all the fabulous, supportive, joyful comments left by my fellow bloggers - sad because I have lost touch, for the most part. I miss being a part of that community, even if my reason for belonging sucked ultimate ass. I have a million excuses for it, but they all boil down to life - life keeps happening, and priorities reordering. To keep up with my old blog life would require a near shutdown of my non-virtual life. But I still think about the old days, the lovely people, wondering how those subsequent pregnancies and TTCs are coming along. My participation in the loss-blog community was the pure silver lining of the worst time of my life.

Tomorrow my living son will be one. His official party won't be for a couple more weeks, due to scheduling nonsense, but he has a planned birthday tour for tomorrow: stopping by his great-grandmother's to say hi as well as visits to both of his grandmothers' workplaces, a one-year-old checkup, and a celebratory frozen custard with one of his little friends. Who would have thought it? Not me.

10 July 2007


We were on quite the roller coaster this weekend. I've been experiencing a laundry list of pregnancy symptoms for a while, and Friday and Saturday they were overwhelming, so we stopped at the drugstore on the way home from dinner and got a 2-pack digital test. I plugged the test trip into the digital reader and, you know, let it fly, but I had been holding it for a while and the force was so strong that I couldn't keep some whiz from getting into the reader, resulting in an error result. I disgustedly ejected the test strip - and saw two lines on it.

I've been conflicted about having another child - and going through another pregnancy - since about the time my living son began to sleep through the night. Faced with a seemingly positive test, I wasn't thrilled, because (1) I have an IUD and (2) my husband has been strongly opposed to another pregnancy. I sat on the throne and cried a little, and my husband came and hugged my head (because I was still sitting down), and we started thinking. I started doing the online search for what would happen with an IUD pregnancy - I had assumed it meant automatic abortion, whether spontaneous or induced, but I found much anecdotal evidence that it was possible to deliver a healthy child. The next morning, my husband found the same material, and we both kept thinking. In the mean time, I peed on the other test strip and got two lines again.

Around noon, we started talking - we agreed that if the pregnancy was viable, we wouldn't terminate. We had both been thinking about how to stay in our house a little longer with two kids, and my husband had been thinking about what name would go with our living son's name. And then, just to be sure, since the result lines on those two pee strips had been on the light side, we stopped at the drugstore and picked up another 2-pack of tests, but the non-digital kind, and in another brand. We got home, I sat down, did the routine - and got a negative result.

So while we had been talking about what to name another child, it seemed I was already in the process of miscarrying. I took the other test - negative again. So - no extra-risk IUD pregnancy. But no pregnancy, either. Is there a word for when you're thrilled and sorrowful at the same time?

I went back online to assess the light-positive-turned-negative results and stumbled on the revelation that two lines on a digital test strip is not a positive but rather an ovulation indicator; apparently, the manufacturer uses the same strip - and patent - for both kinds of tests. The ratio of thrill to sorrow got a little better.

Of course, there was still the issue of the pregnancy symptoms, but I think we've narrowed them down to being the result of two factors: (1) the presence of prolactin [due to still breastfeeding] and (2) my clarified desire to shake and bake another child. There it is: there are problems, but I want to do it.

Factor 1 won't be an issue much longer. While I'd be fine with breastfeeding my son until he weans himself, I'm not willing to do it at the expense of my sanity, so we're tapering off from three feedings to two, and today we're trying one. My son will be 1 in less than 3 weeks; it will be okay. I'll miss the bond, but I won't miss the biting every time another tooth is coming in or the constant picking and scratching he does for comfort or the way in which he wiggles as though his diaper is on fire while he's going at it.

Factor 2 is tougher. My husband has long wanted to adopt; in fact, he would have been fine if we had never gone down this road at all and just adopted from the start. I had long wanted to adopt, but I don't want to any more, at least not an older child, which we had planned. I would be willing to consider a baby, but I'm leery of not getting to start from scratch with a child, of inheriting problems with which I'm not equipped to deal. As I state these things, I realize they don't represent the most evolved point of view. In theory, I think adoption is great, and that older children are the ones who really need the help. But right here in my, uh, bathroom (from whence I'm posting), it's not what I want.

There's also the high risk nature of another pregnancy. My husband views pregnancy as hazardous to my health, and with the introduction of the gd gd last time, I have to concede there is some merit to his concerns. As to mental health, the question is: Would it be any different - any better - a fourth time around? Could I go at it with lowered expectations and less drama? I like to think so. I felt much more zen about the second pregnancy than the first - although that peace was soon disrupted by out of control nausea and the fecal incontinence that accompanied the remedy, followed by bleeding and miscarriage. And after striking out both late and early, the third pregnancy just felt like a minefield from beginning to end. But I have this beautiful, living boy, and he will be more than enough if need be, so I wouldn't have as much at stake. And I would be able to draw on the toughness the last few years have given me.

Yesterday, we sat down and talked about it, as well as considering several educational avenues, given my newly-acquired crush on cell division, and it came down to: (1) we want different things, reproductively, (2) it's vitally important that I determine my educational path and that I not put off finishing it, and (3) we want to pursue all these various plans together. So our agreement is that we will put aside the reproductive conversation until January, when we plan to do some foreign travel - we seem to have more mental space for working things out when we're on the road - and for the next five months we'll concentrate on my education decision and on my husband's new position in his company and on loving the bejeezus out of our son.

It feels good, to have some space in what was a crowded mental field, and to not have the weight of worrying about our conflict. It's not gone, but I don't have to carry it around for a while, and I like it. It gives me time to think about my health, and about losing weight, and about our son's love of the water and tentative attempts at swimming and interest in walking like the big people do. It gives me the chance to more fully enjoy spending time with my husband without the big maybe-baby wedge between us, which hasn't been the case for too long. It gives me clarity and let's me sleep at night without waking up a billion times. I'm going to be all right.

25 June 2007

Teen Angst

I'm having a crisis. I don't know what I want to do when I grow up. When I was actually a teen, I actually wanted to be a social worker, and now I'm going back to school to be one. Yea for me. Except that my program requires me to go back and take a biology class - I had the choice of Reproduction and Genetics or Diseases and Public Health, and I chose the former, since it would be more relevant to my goal of working with parents with reproductive issues. I didn't want to take it, mind you: I'm a girl, and girls aren't good at science, or rather, girls weren't thought to be much good at science 20 years ago when I was taking science classes last, but I figured I'd take it in the summer, and it would be abbreviated in the shorter term and I'd get it over with.

Guess what? I fucking love biology, and not just the bits relevant to reproduction. I am blown away by mitosis as much as meiosis. I am madly in love with the whole mess. And I don't just love biology, I'm pretty damn good at it. I have an A right now, and am also the holder of the highest average in the class. I imagine the instructor and the TA who oversees my lab could both do with a few less questions from me, but something happened to me on the second day of the summer term, a giant light bulb blasting on, the whole Eiffel Tower erupting in a million tiny lights at midnight kind of event in my brain, and I cannot get enough. I want to know more, more, more, and not just the biology stuff but the chemistry and the physics of it and all the associated pyrotechnics.

In short, I want to be a professional science nerd.

Of course, it's not that simple. We worked really, really hard for me to be able to take two years off from work and go to school fulltime and overtime and get through my program and maybe part of grad school without having to be burdened with a job at the same time; to switch gears now would mean more school, which we can't really afford, nevermind the fact that if time and money and family life were no object I'd want to go to medical school. Another obstacle is that to do something reproductively related with a biology degree or two - maybe genetic counseling? - would not pay what my original plan would pay, and part of our master plan was that when I was making that bank my husband would go back to school to do what he really wants.

There are some options, I think. 1. There are loans, which make me wince, since we are currently debt-free except for our mortgage. 2. There are maybe some grad programs in the hard sciences that would accept someone with a soft science degree, and I could put off the biology gooniness until after I finished my social work degree; a good friend of mine did her undergrad in English and then was accepted into a top graduate program in epidemiology and got her PhD in no time flat (of course, she's not making the kind of money I need to make, but that's another wrinkle altogether, which leads me to the next option..). 3. We could all suck it up and I could make less money in the future but love what I do. I don't want to ask it of my family, though - I want to give my living son everything possible, and I want my husband to get to pursue the field he is passionate about. Before I quit my job, we had already made the adjustment from the salary I collected when my husband and I met to half that salary at a job I didn't care about but also required nothing of me and let me be flexible with my schedule and run off to Brazil or Spain whenever I wanted. The next adjustment from half that salary to no salary is already too terrifying. I'm tired of adjusting down. I want to adjust up.

It doesn't help that in the midst of this turmoil, I am feeling crazy. I suspect it's the result of the hormones associated with my IUD, as I have been crazy for months. Those same hormones, I believe, are also making me feel pregnant half the time and sickly and half-heartedly bleedy the other half, so I am not a paragon of stability. I feel disjointed, discombobulated, overwhelmed and overwhelming at that same time. Weird re-visions of little moments associated with my first, stillborn son are coming in waves, making it so I can't get on my feet. I feel disconnected from my husband, and he from me, which sucks donkey ass. My living son is growing up at the rate of about a gazillion years per day - mind blowing. There is a mouse in my house, and I cannot stand it. It's all too much.

I'm trying to get some sanity back. I'm meeting the biology department advisor tomorrow to determine what a switch in majors would mean for me, then we'll see what I can do. I'm camping out at my brother's apartment tonight so I won't wake a million times thinking I hear a mouse climbing the stairwell walls to where my son and I sleep while my husband is out of the country. And when my husband gets home tomorrow, we're going out, just the two of us, no fabulous, flexible son in tow. It might not be tomorrow night, because I have a final the next day, but maybe the next night. Soon, anyway. And I will hope that all this inner turmoil and hormonal surging won't lead to the oily T-zone and pesky breakouts I got the last time I felt this way, two decades ago. I can only take so much.

08 June 2007

Little Life Lessons

(Note: This post will lean more toward the parenting-the-living side of this blog than the dead one.)
  1. If you are lazy enough to feed your 10-month-old microwaved mini veggie corn dogs for lunch, you should expect for him to pass gas that smells like it came from a large dog, and you should expect it to go on all afternoon. Because it will be just like that. 1a. Also expect equally stinky diapers, one for each corn dog eaten, with (ahem) product about the size of said mini corn dogs, to be produced about every 15 minutes, until all mini corn dog material has been depleted.
  2. If you are so lazy that you always let your 10-month-old eat in nothing but his diaper because you don't want to have to scrub his clothes, which always get soiled, even if your child is wearing a bib, although he's probably not, because he's figured out how to take them off in about 3.5 seconds - if that's you, at some point you are going to feel like the biggest jerk in the world when you buckle his delicate tummy flesh into the seat belt of his dining chair. If you don't feel like a jerk yet, just wait until he looks at you with shock and betrayal - you, his own mommy, hurting him. Unbelievable. If you can't trust your mommy, who can you trust???
  3. If you have resolved to raise your child as a pacifist, and he has never experienced any sort of corporal punishment, if you swat at his hands when he plunges them into his fecaliferous diaper, even if you do it guiltily, even if you do it for his own protection (because who needs a good bacterial infection?), he will laugh and dig his fingers in deeper, thinking it's a game. 3a. That same child will also think "no" or "NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!!!" is also a game, because you tried so hard to not use any negatives with him for 9.75 months that when you pull them out, he thinks no is just a funny sound, a joke, the punchline to one of those rhymes you're always trying to distract him with.
Tune in next time for "Signs It's Time To Wean Your Child, You Hippy Liberal Fruit".

30 May 2007

Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

Here i am, minding my own business (sort of), just catching up on blogs to avoid finishing a lab report due tomorrow morning, and what should I find on a friend's blog but a comment from an unfamiliar poster, chock full of angel business (and a request to publicize her website).

Angel business, monkey business. Let me just re-state (since I don't believe I've done so on this site) my feeling on higher powers: If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, then he/she/it had the foresight and ability to save my first son's life. What kind of crappy god would stand by and let my son die unnecessarily? If that was God's position on me, I have no use for him/her/it. Frankly, I'd rather believe there is no one up there/out there/under there than believe that I am subject to the whims/moods/outright hatefulness of a god who chose my son's stillbirth. Now that I've got that rant out there, the reader of this post can only imagine what I think of the whole angel terminology.

I do understand, of course, that some people find the thought of their lost child as an angel immensely comforting, and I would not want to take that comfort away from a parent-in-loss. I have great respect for anyone who has a thoughtful faith; yea, verily, I envy those people their faith. I also do not want those same people photoshopping wings on my son's picture or sending me cards with cherubs resting on clouds adorning the covers. Personally, privately, I find the whole angel thing downright icky. And I'm 99.99% sure thinking of one's lost child as an angel doesn't jive with any established Christian theology (although if I'm wrong on that point I'd be interested to hear about it).

So back to this person who posted the comment/solicitation on another loss-related blog: I went to her site (I won't post it here - I don't care to bring traffic to the site) and found much about which to feel nauseated: trite poems, appeals to anti-abortion rights believers, references to Jesus having a rocking chair. I also found some positive things: a drive to help parents (even those with no pictures) deal with their loss through scrapbooking [not for me, but it sounds like a good idea if you're into that sort of thing], and the site creator's blog, in which (despite her very different views on the result of her miscarriage) she expresses some of the exact same things I've experienced. It's not that I wish her pain, but I'm essentially relieved that she doesn't have some leg up on me, grief-wise, just because of her faith.

My personal aversion to the angelizing of dead babies aside, what really chaps my hide about the whole thing is that the site pretends to be a support for parents but what it actually is: an attempt to sell pre-assembled but vaguely customizable scrapbook pages to grieving parents for $15.00 each. I suppose if you really loved your little zygote, you'd shell out $7 more for the instructions. Would it be small of me to note that the materials appear cheap and ugly and unimaginative?

Perhaps my personal bias against the religious angle is clouding my judgement. Maybe $15 or $22 or whatever is exactly what the supplies and shipping cost this person, or maybe she sells these packages at a loss because of her devotion to fellow parents. Maybe these sums are miniscule next to the benefits derived by parents from these products. Maybe I'm just jaded and a crank. Maybe I'm jealous that she's been on TV and I have not (although I was on the news last 4th of July, because I was sitting next to the local station's cameraman at the fireworks show, so I at least have that star in my crown). Maybe it's no worse than the whole turn-your-baby-into-a-diamond scam.

All I know is that the pitch seems crass to me, unworthy of parents with genuine grief who deserve better than to be taken advantage of by someone wanting to send them a few pennies worth of blue-toned, faux-parchment paper.