Saturday, May 31, 2008

Show & Tell with Mel Sunday

This is my wedding dress. The reason I am sharing it is because I made it. I designed it and made it. The creative process I love. The making it process - well, not all the time. I would love to just be able to figure it out in my brain, push print and voila! Finished product. I have made other dresses and other things - but this is one of the biggest projects I ever undertook and the first project of its magnitude I ever did. I did have a bit of help (see below photo.) It wasn't until I started making this dress that I fully understood the need for a sewing dummy.

Sssshhhhh - don't tell, he'd probably kill me for posting this picture! His roommates took one of him in it when it was done and I was hemming it. I never got a copy of that. Somewhere - someone has a photo of my dh in a full out wedding dress. I had to bribe him with a kiss to get him to put on that bodice so I could pin it and make sure I had it right. (I am dying over how skinny I use to be!) Must be true love right? Especially in front of his roomies. Not only did he willingly submit his services as a sewing dummy, but he also helped me with some of the hand sewing tasks.

Me: "Do you know how to sew on a button?"

Him: "Yeee - esssssss . . ."

Me: "Good! Here, take this, Now, sew one of these itty bitty pearls on this gimp braid every inch okay?"

Roommates: "snicker, snicker, tee hee . . ."

Sewings pearls during the NCAA Final Four helped make the sewing go down a bit easier. He didn't complain - though came close when he asked "why can't we just glue these?" Silly man - Elmer's is not for wedding dresses! Click on the photo for more detail - you might just catch sight of some of those man-sewn pearls!

Friday, May 30, 2008

The One Where I OD on Advil . . .

Lupron wearing off three weeks shy of 3 months.

Pain back. Bad.


Though - my hematocrit was actually decent for a change. Not hemorrhaging - priceless.

Next shot: June 15th or whenever the pharm gets it shipped to doc.

This is the last one - next step, talking surgery and losing another body part.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Water for Elephants" Double B Book Brigade

Apologies for the lateness of this review of the current book tour. Having just returned from an extended weekend with family for the college graduation of my baby sister, I am understandably weary. However, I am determined to get this posted as I did enjoy this book. I struggled a bit starting to read, by page 13 I was completely hooked - spellbound by the author's (Sara Gruen) vivid details of the main character's recollections of his past and this one line: "Being the survivor stinks." After struggling for so many years with recurrent pregnancy loss - yes, I agree, being the survivor does stink. You are the one who is left behind, who lives still - but due to loss, sometimes wishes to not be the one who survived and struggling to figure out how to continue on living when so much had changed. We join Jacob in his waning years . . .

(From the discussion questions at the end of the book) Looking at himself in the mirror, the old Jacob tries "to see beyond the sagging flesh." But he claims, "It's no good....I can't find myself anymore. When did I stop being me?" How would you answer that question for Jacob or for yourself?

I have noticed in the past fews years, when I look in the mirror I see more and more of my mother's skin reflected back at me. Tiny fine lines where there was once smooth skin. A bit of sag here, a crow's foot there - and it is not just the physical changes, but the emotional ones as well. Accepting these changes is difficult when you remember what there was before - before life changed you, before time changed you. I still feel like me - sometimes forget the today me, and feel like the young girl I once was - skinny, energetic, hopeful and optimistic - and yet the person I see in the mirror only distantly resembles her. I feel tired and old more and more. I am not sure you really do stop being you, though perhaps that mental perception is a bit different than that of the reality presented in the mirror. The world is constantly changing and we along with it - physically and mentally. The experiences we have in life change us and shape us. Our bodies follow the natural process bodies have been following for centuries - growing, changing, dying. Memory is a powerful thing - with it we remember what we once were and are sometimes able to forget what we are becoming.

Something that struck me about this book in particular was the rich, descriptive way the author handled Jacob as an elderly man. His frustration was so apparent, his physical manifestation so perfectly described, that of all of the elements of this book Jacob the Elderly is what stays with me. You had the sense that Jacob didn't foresee his latter years being the way they were, and his almost "ride off into the sunset" ending perhaps what he had envisaged for his end. Do you think about what's at the end of the road someday? When you think about it, what do you see for yourself?

Boy do I think about this one. I wouldn't consider 40 really all that old, and yet it seems to be getting up there. So I turn 40 later this year and I feel all sorts of aches and pains that just weren't there before. I can't lose weight like I use to and I am certainly not as skinny as I once was. The energy is lagging and the skin is sagging. My brain is foggy much of the time and sometimes that clarity of thought that I use to enjoy so readily is difficult to find. (Not to mention the ability to speak intelligibly) I certified as a nurse's assistant over 11 years ago. My clinicals were done in a Transitional and Long Term Care Unit - or more commonly known as a "home". Many of the patients I cared for seemed to just be waiting to die and it was very depressing. The patients who had regular and frequent visitors seemed to be much happier overall and to have at least a small something to continue to look forward to. Many of the difficulties some of the patients faced were a terrifying prospect of advanced age. After a stint on the Alzheimer's wing, I was terrified of the thought of myself or any one close to me going through such a devastating disease. This weekend I spent several hours in the car with my parents, both in their 60's. We drove to attend my youngest sister's college graduation. On more than one occasion my sister and I commiserated - worrying that we may be looking at ourselves age progressed a couple/few decades. Don't get me wrong - my parents are lovely wonderful people - just they are different from the parents I remember; and therein may lie the real point - they are my parents, but they are no longer raising me. They are behaving more like contemporaries, while my siblings and I expect to see our parents. I am having a difficult time accepting they are getting older - I worry about them a great deal now. Between the two of them they amass an impressive array of pharmaceuticals. I dislike that their advancing age means that mine is also advancing onward as well. I dislike the physical things that are cropping up. I worry that I am going to be a batty old lady who makes everyone else crazy or offended, the one you hear about on the news who dies under a mountain of decades old newspapers and has a very large collection of some kind of furry animals - hopefully not rats. My kids are under strict edict to take away the car keys once I begin displaying a serious lack of attention to driving details.

Originally forced to share quarters, Kinko (Walter) seems to have an intense dislike for Jacob. One day, Jacob helps Kinko's dog Queenie and Kinko becomes his friend because of this small act of kindness. Has someone performed a simple act of kindness that changed your feelings toward them? How did this small act affect you? Can just a small and simple thing have a profound effect?

Ironically (as you will see very shortly), I am the author of this question. On this past weekend we found ourselves stuck by the side of the road during our road trip. We had about 2.5 hours left to our destination and ran out of gas. On that subject, I will only say I was not the one behind the wheel. At any rate, being stuck in the middle of nowhere Indiana by the side of the road adjacent to a very large and lovely smelling cow pasture was not a thrilling prospect. We literally stalled in front of a road sign that clearly proclaimed the nearest town to be at least 18 miles away, uphill. My parents are members of AARP and phoned them for assistance. My father was connected with a lady whose first language was not English, nor did it appear to be her second language either and my father spent a good 45 minutes trying to tell her where we were while the ambient traffic noise also made communication a bit iffy at best. Finally we seemed to help her pinpoint our location and she told us she could procure help for us which would arrive in about 3 hours. There were 3 adults and 3 small children in our group and 3 hours in a hot car next to a stinky field praying we would not get creamed by the traffic whizzing by at high speeds while waiting for rescue was not a cheery thought. (Notwithstanding the fact that while standing by the side of the road I also found a rather scary rusty knife laying on the ground - did I mention I am prone to panic/anxiety attacks?) I started calling information on my cell phone and procured the number for a towing/emergancy service business in the nearest town. I got the answering machine. (holiday weekend) I tried again for the next nearest town and was given the same number. OY! Finally, a passing motorist (out of the literal dozens, including - yes! one police cruiser, that didn't even bother to move over to the further lane out of courtesy and safety - just blew right past us) pulled over and offered assistance. This was a man who had lived in the area most of his life and knew there was a small town with a gas station just a couple miles down a rural road not marked by the interstate signs. He and my father went and procured gas and a funnel and filled our tank enough to get us to the nearest gas station to fill up entirely. I did not care that we ended up paying $4.42 a gallon. Just as I had been ready to give up on the state of Indiana as a completely callous and inhospitable place to get stuck (not to mention kind of creepy what with the knife and all . . .) , this angel of a man stopped with his wife and two small grandkids and helped us, complete strangers not even from the same state, on our way. I had been close to tears trying to figure out what to do when all my smugness at having a cellphone and relatively decent command of the English language had not offered us any real solutions either. We arrived in Kentucky, later than we expected, but did arrive in time. This man refused all insistance of any monetary retribution for his kindness - despite gas being at a premium and his time out of his way. It may have been just merely pulling a small thorn out for him, but for us - it was an end to an absolute agony!

If you would like to join along, you can read more about this tour and upcoming book tours here.

Now I am off to catch up on my NaComLeavMo (and hopefully some sleep . . .)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

You Like Me! You Really Like Me!

A heartfelt thank you to Loribeth for this award and especially for her kind words! I have known her for several years initially through emails when we were both on SPALS, some snail mail and now through our respective blogs - 9 years this fall I do believe. In an area where it is understandably easy to get caught up in the "pain olympics", she never made me feel like my losses were any less valid because they were "just" miscarriages or didn't count as much because my pregnancies were often so short. She was never any less thoughtful or kind when I had my successes than when I had my failures. If I were asked to compile a list of people I thought epitomized the word "grace" - she would be on that list.

Those I have chosen to pass this award along to are:

  • CLC from Please Give Me Back My Heart who is navigating life after the recent stillbirth of her beautiful daughter Hannah
  • Working Girl from Barren By the Bay - newly pregnant after an early loss and IVF; I love the Albert Camus quote she has on her sidebar
  • Mrs. Newt from Dear Gherkin - who knows recurrent loss all too well and totally slays me with her irreverent sense of humor
  • Searching from Searching for Hope - her tales as a NICU nurse completely captivate me and I am awestruck by her strength enduring all she goes through with her health
and lastly
  • Schatzi from From the Peanut Gallery - starting out with 5 (Five!) babies, sadly losing 2 and now halfway there with 3. Given how much bedrest she is facing she definitely deserves lots and lots of flowers . . .
I struggled keeping the list short - it could've gone on forever with the many women I have come across in the blogging world who have impressed and touched me so much.

The rules are as follows:
1. On your blog, copy and paste the award, these rules, a link back to the person who selected you, and a link to this post. You will find the story behind the Pink Rose Award and other graphics to choose from there.
2. Select as many award recipients as you would like, link to their blogs (if they have one), and explain why you have chosen them.
3. Let them know that you have selected them for an award by commenting on one of their posts.
4. If you are selected, pass it on by giving the Pink Rose Award to others.
5. If you find that someone you want to nominate has already been selected by someone else, you can still honor them by posting a comment on their award post stating your reasons for wishing to grant them the award.
6. You do not have to wait until someone nominates you to nominate someone else

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Show and Tell With Mel

I have always been a daddy's girl.

There was a lot more to this post - how my dad can fix anything. How I use to sit in the car when I was 3 and he was working on it and tell my mom "I'm fixing the car with daddy!". That he gave me my first record player that he fixed up and my first record - Elvis "Pure Gold". He was the one who gave me the "birds & the bees" talk because my mom was too nervous to (I was their firstborn). He put together a laptop for me from several different ones so that I could have place all my own to write - just for me. There was when I was 10 he started having seizures right about the time he went back to school to get his degree; graduated from college the same year I graduated from high school and then had brain surgery later the same year. How when I was just a toddler he was sent overseas to Vietnam and when he returned I wouldn't speak to him for a year - because I was so hurt he had left me - his bestest girl! We mended things when I was 4 and finally broke the silence by running to him with arms outstretched, pained expression on face and said "daddy, I wanna hold you". I haven't stopped speaking to him since. That when I was a teenager and surly and snotty he only had to show up with a bag of Doritos (that he had already eaten half of) and say he wanted to share and I would soon be pouring my heart out. That I raced home after school everyday to record on the VCR all 72 episodes of Star Trek because it was his favorite and he was at work or school and couldn't do it himself. That he watched M*A*S*H* reruns every night at 10:30 after the news and never sent me back to bed, but let me crawl into his lap and watch it with him.

There was and IS a lot more to this post - but I started crying the second I put up this picture of him and me. He had just started flight training in the Marine Corps when my mom took this picture of us. So many many more things I could and wanted to say - but in the end, really, even at staring 40 right in the face, I am, always have been and always will be, my daddy's girl.

Show and Tell Sunday

Friday, May 16, 2008

"Men get tired of everything, of heaven no less than of hell; and that all history is nothing but a record of the oscillations of the world between these two extremes. An epoch is but a swing of the pendulum; and each generation thinks the world is progressing because it is always moving."
George Bernard Shaw "Man and Superman"

This morning I saw on the news a story about a woman named Jill Price. This is a woman who remembers everything due to a condition called "Hyperthymesia". She remembers everything - the good and the bad, the useful to the trivial - if she lived it, she recalls it. Other than making me absolutely deadly at Trivial Pursuit - having the ability to recall everything though, I imagine would be a curse. Remembering every moment of every day, everyday. The good, the bad and the not so good. In the interview, the interviewer mentioned that the woman had lost her husband and asked "so you remember this like it was yesterday?" to which Ms. Price replied she did. The thing is - this memory is so fresh, so detailed, so vivid, it literally is like it happened yesterday. This is not something I would want to face every morning upon waking for the rest of my life. Reliving the actual anguishing moments of losing my babies; feeling the fresh and overwhelming frustration from the negative hpts, the stress of the injections, the timing - any of it as if in real time, over and over again. Time has been my friend from the standpoint that it dulled my memory and took the edge off my pain. My memories now are mostly faded photographs of something that while I never will forget - you never forget something that leaves such a profound impact on you - I don't have to recall and relive repeatedly as if I were literally back in the moment. Initially, what led Ms. Price to seek medical help was the tortuous nature of her condition. Some of the scientists and doctors studying her condition are actually hoping she might help by holding the key to effectively treating Alzheimers - in the meantime however, she lives a life where she has no past, where it is always today - a 42 year long day.

I have the distinct impression most of my friends and family like me much better now that I am no longer trying to conceive, pregnant or miscarrying. When I mentioned I was likely having a hysterectomy this year - many of them seemed relieved. I guess they remember enough of what I was like - though their experience differed quite radically from mine. In a way, I am relieved too. I remember enough to know I am not up to the challenge anymore. With the dulling effect of time, things got better or easier to live with - but still painful enough and wearing enough, that to continue forward, practicality aside, is not something I could muster the energy for physically or mentally. Shortly after my second miscarriage, a woman from church stopped by with a card and plant. She told me she had lost a couple babies when she was younger (her children were all adults at this point.) and understood. I told her I only had one question for her "Will it get better?" She let out a big sigh and said that it would. I needed that - I needed to know it would get better. I needed to hear that it would get better from someone who knew - so I could truly believe those words. When I went on to have several more miscarriages, I clung to those words like a life preserver - believing, hoping that there would come a day when it would be better. This is what strikes me as tragic in the case of Jill Price, without some sort of hope for something better ahead, how do you keep on living? Does time just dull the memories and that is what takes the edge off the feelings? Or does time also dull the feelings and the two are mutually exclusive? The interviewer did point out that Ms. Price also remembers all the joys as well. I would think those are the memories she tries to keep forefront in her mind - a tightrope balance of the things she would rather forget and the things she does want to remember.

Forgetting everything or remembering it all? Today, I am grateful to be somewhere in the middle.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Day by Any Other Name

I apologize in advance for this post. Whatever literary brilliance I may have been possessed of prior seems to have deserted me these last few weeks. You cannot force profundity - believe me, I've tried desperately the last couple days! I simply could not let this weekend pass without having said something however.

I dislike Mother's Day. I cannot say I completely hate it because I was fortunately blessed with a fine mother and an equally lovely mother in law, and for this at least, the day holds true. Yes, I am one of the lucky ones - not only do I have one, but TWO amazing and wonderful maternal influences in my life. From reading around the net and comparing with friends, I see that others are not so fortunate. Because of these two women, and their mothers and mother's mothers - those whom I was blessed to know and those whom I only heard stories of, I cannot completely write the day off. In theory, I cannot fault it either. Practical application however, is what leaves me to shudder when viewing the calendar's turn to May. I have spent too many of these particular Sundays bleeding literally or figuratively with the loss of my babies and more than a few feeling the frustration of yet another failed attempt from a procreative standpoint. In this regard, the day brings the antithesis of what the greeting card juggernauts would have you believe it to entail. My mother in law lost her firstborn at birth on March 24, 1967. What was to be her very first Mother's Day with a child of her own rolled around just weeks later. She has mentioned that day - being at church and hearing them ask the mothers to stand and be recognized, and wondering if she should stand or not. I think of her. I think of my friends and family who have lost babies - my sister whose only son, my nephew, died of SIDS when he was 2 months old, my sisters in law who have also dealt with recurrent pregnancy loss; my good friend Loribeth who has had to learn to live with a double loss - not only the loss of her sweet Katie, but also the loss of the parenthood she wanted. Other women I have encountered in the IF blogosphere who have not only endured the unfairness of infertility, but had the bitter injustice of pregnancy loss and stillbirth heaped upon them as well. Because I have been in similar moments - I know that we do not need yet one more day that serves up more reminders of things gone horribly wrong - to point out our failings. We have plenty days enough that aren't nationally recognized and billboarded to death that do that for us already.

The other issue I have with this day is also this - rankling at the gross commercialization aside; those we appreciate, those we love, those we admire, those important to us - should we not be telling them this already?

As a postscript - I will note that the last two years I have noticed that no longer does the church we attend ask only mother's to stand - but any woman age 18 and older. What do you think? Women's Day.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Raise a Glass and Pass the Kleenex

Next Wednesday is the 2 month anniversary of the 3 month Lupron shot. I am pleased to report that this second month has been much better than the first. If you asked me how much better - I would probably spontaneously burst into tears. That one side effect seems to linger on - extremely emotional. (I watched "P.S. I Love You" yesterday and went through an entire box of Kleenex - yeah, I've been known to be a bit of a boob, but that was a bit excessive, even for me!) However, comparing the last several weeks with the several months before the shot - so much better that I do cry just thinking about it. So, relief - this incredible relief - that I have a shot at feeling a lot better on a more permanent basis. Yeah, I could live with that. So, from a physical standpoint - if this is what I am going to feel like after the hysterectomy, book me an OR yesterday! From the mental/emotional - ummm, well, we're still working on that one. Being done and being "done" with that particular organ a bit more complicated than simple feeling better or not.

On an aside, while not a fantastic movie, "P.S. . . ." did a nice job of handling some of the loss/grief aspect.

Monday, May 5, 2008

6x6 Glow-a-Long

Joining Relaxing Doesn't Make Babies for this 6x6

(From RDMB)
Glow in the Woods 6×6 for May. Join in with me, write in your own blog and then leave a comment in GITW with a link.

1 | In a word, how would you characterize yourself before your loss, and then after?

Before: Excited After: Lost

2 | How do you feel around pregnant women?

Jealous - at times I was also angry. Then I was sad - sad for becoming this angry, jealous mess and sad for what had brought me to that point in the first place.

3 | How do you answer the ‘how many children’ question?

Depends - sometimes just how many living children, sometimes "a heart full and a home full"; Earlier on in my grief it was more important to me that people **know**, now I can live with the rest of the world not knowing the full count. In honesty - some of it is embarrassment, which I am almost ashamed to admit. I am not ashamed of my lost ones by any means, but embarrassment more along the lines of letting it happen to myself. How does one go about saying "I lost seven babies" without having to explain it all?

4 | How did you explain what happened to your lost baby to your living children? Or, if this was your first pregnancy, will you tell future children about your first?

My living children know - as much as they can know for their ages/level of current understanding - that there were other babies that grew in mommy's tummy, but didn't grow big enough to be able to live outside my body like they did. I was surprised by how much of an impression this made on some of them as well as their understanding. During my 8th and very rocky pg my oldest child was especially attentive - at the tender age of 6. Each morning he asked me if the baby grew during the night. He use to make me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches daily. It occurred to me later on that this was his way of doing what he could to **help** the pregnancy. He also named the only baby we found out a gender for and was the catalyst for naming our other lost little ones. He didn't know the baby had been a girl, nor that I had a charm specific to her on a chain with other charms representing losses and births. One day I was wearing it and having a very rough time coping with my feelings after my 5th loss and he pointed her exact charm out (the charm necklace was not something I had ever explained - just that it was my "mommy's necklace") and said "I know that baby. She's a girl - her name is Carena. I played with her before I was born." Perhaps just an imaginative child, but it was exactly what I needed at that moment - he gave me a connection that I had not been able to find to any of my lost babies before - miscarriage robbing me and leaving me with so very little to remember them by. Through naming Carena, my other babies ended up being named too. This took place over a period of several months and over a year - discovering their names, one by one, once two at a time, and always at unexpected moments, completely unbidden. I could not actively seek them out - they always seemed to have to find me and when they did - they always felt right with amazing clarity. By naming them all, I was able to acquire a level of healing I had not before this point.

5 | What would another pregnancy mean to you, and how would you get through it—or are you done with babymaking?

I use to become so obsessed with getting pregnant again and then when the hpt would turn positive would be instantly struck with overwhelming fear. What have I done?! Trying to survive the first trimester was an agony of days that never seemed to end. Feeling stronger after the first 14 weeks, but always wondering, waiting for that other shoe . . . Now though, another pregnancy? I have mixed feelings. Some days I would love more than anything to feel life within me again. Other days - I just can't find the insatiable desire that fueled my need to get pg again during my babymaking years. Some habits die harder than others I suppose.

6 | Imagine being able to step back in time and whisper into the ear of your past self the day after your baby died. What would you say?

It WILL get better.