Saturday, August 30, 2008

Show & Tell with Mel - Sunday, August 31, 2008

I shared the women from my father's side of the family in a previous Show & Tell; seems only fair I share the women from my mother's side also. Family is extremely important to me; knowing where/who one comes from - a genetic legacy and birthright. I have been blessed to know some remarkable women in my life and even more blessed to be related to many of them.

My Meme Tondreau and me around 2 years of age.

My mother's mother was barely out of her teens when she became pregnant with my mother. There has been some family debate whether or not she was married to my mother's father at the time - though, at some point, they were married. My mother was born on a stormy night at home in Rockland, Maine; premature and with my great-grandmother playing the role of doctor. When the actual doctor finally made it through the storm to their house, he pronounced my mother too weak and too early to survive saying "Don't waste any milk on her." My great-grandmother promptly kicked him out of the house, stoked up her wood stove and kept my mother warm in a wooden box and plied her frequently with small smounts of milk. They named my mother after the doctor - I am completely certain out of spite; it would be so like my great-grandmother to want him to have a living and long lasting memory of being so very mistaken! My grandmother struggled as a very young mother and as a consequence, my mother was raised by her grandparents. Even once she divorced my mother's father, remarried and began raising more children, my mother chose to remain with her grandparents and was raised as an only child.

My Meme

All my life we have called our grandmothers "Meme" (pronounced mem-mee). In many ways, Meme felt more like my grandmother than my actual grandmother, whom we called Meme Tondreau. My mother's mother continued to struggle through her adulthood - with alcoholism, depression. I have limited memories - our visits were often "surprises". We couldn't say ahead of time we were coming to visit - she would have reasons why it was a bad time, why we couldn't visit, etc. - we had to just show up and she would then visit with us. My step-grandfather I have many pleasant memories of. He was always genuinely happy to see us and I remember sitting in his lap and the smell of his pipe tobacco. My grandmother sometimes remembered our birthdays with cards and letters, though she died young, in her 50's - a sudden and traumatic event for her family. Her drinking and depression having caught up with her.

Of Meme though, I have so many wonderful memories. She had a large strawberry patch in her backyard. I was often dispatched with a container to fill and she would make all sorts of wonderful treats- sliced strawberries with milk or strawberry shortcake with fresh whipped cream, my favorites. Maine was a wonderful place to visit as a child - we enjoyed the beaches; my brother and I fascinated with the small tide pools. Shortly after boxing up all my belongings and leaving home for college, I opened up a small box of shells I had collected years ago. Being contained in a small space concentrated the smell of the sea that still clung to the shells and rocks I had collected. I drank in the scent and for a brief moment, I was back at the beach on a grey, windy day - wearing my windbreaker and poking at a small pool filled with all sorts of sea treasures. From my very young years I have just snatches, bits and pieces of memories - most of which are prompted back by smells, sounds, tastes or feelings. When my dh and I were looking at homes, we toured a very old farmhouse and I had such a flashback of memories I was overcome. The home had the same smells and textures (dh called it "eau de old people") I remembered from my Meme's house. The kitchen was in the back of the house and I wanted to see if there were the same white metal kitchen cabinets I remembered from my Great-grandmother's house - and there were! We didn't purchase the house - but walking through was such a treat of forgotten memories. Standing in that kitchen, thousands of miles and years after, I remembered sitting at a small table with formica top, eating a bowl of strawberries in milk. My tears when I sat on the same table after cutting my toe at the beach - her gentle and capable hands cleaning and dressing my wound. Asking her, "will it stop hurting?" and her voice saying "Ay-yah, it will." in her husky and thick New England accent. Standing on a stool with an apron tied up under my armpits next to the stove and being handed a wooden spoon and told "When those lobsters try to climb out of the pot - you smack them back down with that spoon now!" We had walked down to the docks and picked the lobsters ourselves, straight off the boat. Later they were the most amazing lobster rolls. She had told me I had the most important job. She also remembered birthdays with cards and letters. All through my childhood and while I was at college. She was extremely crafty - she and her daughter (my mother's aunt) made all sorts of crafts, even through her waning years. They often sold these crafts. I inherited this from her. For Christmas I often received yarn, pompoms, beads, chenille wire - all sorts of craft supplies and would be delighted. She was the type who would see something and say "I can make that!" and she would. I am the same way. I have the ability to see how something goes together in my head. There have been times I have been trying to figure out how to make something and will sleep on it. During the night, I will dream and "see" how to put it all together. I never got the chance to ask her if she figured out how to make things the same way - I have a feeling she likely did.

The summer my husband and I moved to Missouri, my mother called and said she was headed to Maine to visit Meme - her health was deteriorating. I wanted to believe she would live forever - she had already survived so much - breast cancer, diabetes, constant medical issues, the loss of her daughter, a grandson, her husband. We had just moved, still had a home we were trying to sell, I had just several months earlier given birth to a baby who was premature and spent time in the NICU and then again in the PICU with RSV. We had medical bills, moving bills - so many things that made a trip seem impossible. I made the practical and realistic decision not to go. I wanted to take my daughter back there - to get a picture of all of us, five generations. Just a few days after making this decision, I was standing in my kitchen cleaning and cutting up strawberries to make into jam. I was overcome with a sense of sadness, knowing that if I did not take the opportunity to go, there would not be another one. My mother went, I did not. Shortly afterward, my Meme passed away on August 26th, 1997.

My mother and I 2004

I never got my 5 generation photo. My premature daughter is now an amazing 11 year old who looks remarkably like my mother when she was younger. My daughter is also very crafty and very creative. She makes most of the gifts she bestows upon her friends and family - I have a choker she made me that when I wear it, people always ask about it. The other day she was looking through a magazine and saw something she liked - I overheard her say "I could make that!" I had to smile when I had a sudden craving for Strawberry Shortcake.

For more of this weekend's Circle Time Show & Tell with Mel - see here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Thanks to CLC of "Please Give Me Back My Heart" I have been tagged for the very first time!

For this game of blogger tag:

Mention six quirky, yet boring, unspectacular details about yourself. Tag six other bloggers by linking to them. Go to each person’s blog and leave a comment that lets them know they’ve been tagged. If you participate, let the person know who tagged you you’ve posted your quirks!

Quirk #1 - I have this thing about doors. I cannot stand open doors - closets, cupboards, etc. I will go around shutting doors. If you want to drive me slowly buggy, leave a door ever so slightly ajar. I may be at your home and I will shut your doors for you . . .

Quirk #2 - I have to sleep in pajamas. No matter how hot it gets (temp wise - minds out of the gutter people!) I must be appropriately attired for sleeping. The reasons are not so much prudishness (or even religious) as practical and paranoid. I have to wear pajamas in the event of a fire. Yes, in the event of a fire, because I do not want to be standing sans accoutrements outside my house when the firemen show up. I know I would die trying to find clothing and I have a few other things (people perhaps) I would much rather grab on my way out. I wouldn't want to waste precious escape time on trying to find a pair of pants and a matching clean shirt . . .

Quirk #3 - (Boy, this is harder than I thought!) As Mrs. Spit will attest, I have a propensity for overuse of ellipses . . . (and if that isn't spectacularly boring, I don't know what is!)

Quirk #4 - I could carry on a conversation with a rock. Don't ask; just use your imagination and you would probably get it right. I would say it is a gift, but some people would just call it "talking to hear myself talk." (Hey, at least the rock never interrupts . . .)

Quirk #5 - I will wash and fix my hair before going to the hair salon to have it - ahem - washed, cut and styled. Similarly, I could be at death's door and I will shower, fix up and dress nice to visit the doctor when I am sick and supposed to look awful. If I have not done this as preparation prior to my appointment, I am probably deceased.

Quirk #6 - No matter how comfy they might be, I just cannot bring myself to wear sweatpants outside of the house for errand running - even if not planning to get out of the car. Sweatpants are for exercise, gym class or for sleeping in - on the off chance there might be a fire.

Tagging: Kristin (An Ordinary Life); Judy (I Just Can't Keep My Mouth Shut!); Just Me; Kim (OB Nurse); Searching; & Kathy (Three of a Kind Working on a full house)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sticks and Stones

For my 6th grade Science Fair project I studied the effect of sound/music on plants. I had three plants that I started from seed. I gave them equal parts sun each day and equal parts water. During the evening, they retired to their respective beds. Plant A received a nightly dose of classical music; Plant B listened to Top 40 all night; Plant C was subjected to a barrage of Talk Radio.

Over the course of several weeks, I made these observations: Plants A and B, classical music and Top 40 respectively, were plants that were fairly equal in growth and overall healthy appearance. Plant C, the Talk Radio plant, was limp and pale - not nearly as vigorous as his siblings A and B. Conclusions: Music hath charms, but words can slowly suck the life out of you and impede your growth.

I have heard a great many words over the almost 40 years I have spent on this planet. There were words of love - words that made me feel good, special and important. There were words that hurt - words that made me feel dumb, unworthy and sad. When I started losing babies, there were lots of words. People respond to the tragedy of others in various ways: There are the "first responders" - the ones there, right at the scene - with words at the ready, casseroles and sometimes listening ears. There are the "rubberneckers" - the ones who cannot turn away from the tragedy, but do not or cannot participate in the rescue. While they were the ones who were 'there', sometimes those first responders with their words at the ready, did more harm than good. (You don't move a person with a possible spinal cord injury!) I didn't need the platitudes they spouted at me (or splatting poutitudes as I sometimes called it). Let's face it, there are really no words in this world that were ever going to take the hurt away, or lessen the pain. Oftentimes, those words began with "at least", a phrase I wish could be stricken from our language. Never is there anything more dismissive or belittling than a sentence that begins with "at least". You start with (a) an awful event, add (b)"at least" and follow it with a (c) supposedly worse scenario. Yes, you are in pain (a) BUT (b) this would be worse (c). In all the times I heard a sentence with "at least" in it, never once did my tears instantly dry up, and I thought or said, "You're right! This is so not that bad - I feel ever so much better now because my hurt is little compared to that!" I just felt guilty for hurting over something that, comparatively speaking, was supposedly little in significance. I cannot hurt, because it is not bad enough. Why do we do this? Why do we say things, though meaning to help someone feel better, that only attempt to diminish their pain? Why can't we just recognize the pain for what it is? Pain. Why do we also do this to ourselves? Out of some hope that making the comparisons will actually make the hurt feel less, go away? If I dropped a jug of milk on the floor, it would create a bigger puddle to clean up than just a glass of milk, however, I would still have to clean up the spill. In other words, a big pile of doo doo or a little pile - doesn't matter, it still all just stinks! Maybe less energy to expend in the clean-up, but there is still clean-up to be done.

The puddle of milk theory applies to words sometimes - the more words you use, the bigger the mess to clean up. Less is definitely more in some cases.

"I'm sorry"

"I'm here"

And then the practical: Hugs, listening ears, a shoulder to lean upon . . .

While it doesn't make the hurt go away - just like a kiss can't really make a boo boo all better - it does help a person know that someone cares that they have a hurt, with no judgments as to how valid a hurt it is. When you tell me "at least" it wasn't something else - it almost feels like you are saying you would care more if it was something worse and because it isn't, you care less. While I am certain that people don't intend to come across like this, theory and practical application are often two entirely different things.

For this reason, I never buy sympathy cards to give to people. I buy a blank card and keep it simple. I'm sorry. I'm here. I'm wishing you better days. No comparisons, no at least, no poutitudes. [sic]

Woefully inadequate words, but they are all we have to say; love we should have in abundance to give.


I read once of some villagers in the South Pacific who topple trees by yelling at them for a month. They just yell at the tree, no axe, yell and scream at it for a month and it just dies and falls over. They believe that doing this kills the tree's spirit and it then falls down. If yelling and screaming kills the spirit of a living thing in a month - what can months or years of quiet negative words do?


Regardless of if it has been a week, a month or years, don't forget the follow-up to I'm sorry: "I had you on my mind . . . ", because it's really saying, I had you in my heart.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Double B Book Brigade - Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

1. In one passage, Gilbert describes the typical life experience: "first you are a child, then you are a teenager, then you are a young married person, then you are a parent, then you are retired, they you are a grandparent--at every stage you know who you are, you know what your duty is and you know where to sit at the reunion...watching over your progeny with satisfaction. Who are you? No problem--you're the person who created all this...If I have done nothing else in this life, then at least I have raised my children well." If you're an infertile person, possibly or definitively unable to have children, how did this passage make you feel? What emotions or conflicts did it evoke?

Granted, I am on the other side of the fence from Gilbert in that I have become a parent – but I see something missing from this – the fact that many of us fight “losing ourselves” along this pathway – losing that sense of self and “who am I” and even “where do I fit iin my family?”. While there were many points and ideas in the book that I enjoyed and were touched by – some of it I really just could not relate to, this part in particular. In fact, I was a little bit rankled by the generality of it. I am not knocking parenthood in any way shape or form – this was a choice I made for myself and even though there were struggles along the way there, I did attain that goal and I wanted to be here. However – just saying “if nothing else, I am my kid’s mom” is not as satisfying as she makes it sound. I am so much more than that as an individual too – I think, I feel, I have goals and aspirations that don’t all revolve entirely around parenthood.

2. Have you had a breakdown like Elizabeth Gilbert's scene on the bathroom floor (near the beginning of the book)? How did you come out of your crisis? Did you adjust yourself to the situation, did you change your situation, or did you find a third alternative?

Yes – my breakdown came in the shower. Bathrooms must be some sort of catalyst for emotional meltdowns I guess! I sat in our shower and the hot water ran out, still I sat huddled in the corner of the shower, shivering, sobbing and felt worse than I had ever felt before in my life. Interestingly enough, I did the same thing Gilbert did, I prayed. Probably one of the most honest and basic prayers I have ever said and pretty much along the lines of just “help me”. Though, I think I actually said “uncle”. I came to a realization – I could let this destroy me completely or I could make something better, give in or fight. Did I want to become bitter and angry and eaten up inside or did I want to be the person who rose above? This was my angels’ legacy – did I want it to be the absolute destruction of their mother or to become the kind of person they would have been proud to call “mom”?

3. When my IRL (in real life) book club discussed this we had widely differing opinions on the tone of the book. Some thought it was "all about me, poor, poor me!" and "whiny" while others saw Gilbert's self-focus in as a fascinating journey to becoming a better person. What would you say?

Okay, I have to admit there were points in the book where I would shake my head and think “how self-serving is all of this?” I mean really – how many of us get or could even take the chance to pack up and leave it all for a year? I would love to spend four months in Italy and learn Italian and mostly just eat some of that food she talked about. I can’t though – I have personal responsibilities and beyond that, a financial situation that doesn’t make that feasible. Later when some of that will change – I may be too old or infirmed to enjoy it. Running away from it all to find myself, sounds pretty selfish given what I would have to do to make that possible. Though, it does occur to me that blogging is a somewhat self-serving activity in and of itself as well. There is nothing wrong with personal enlightenment and seeking to improve upon ourselves. Given that this is Gilbert’s personal journey, much of what she conveys is going to be relevant and pertinent to her journey. I think it is possible to find your own spiritual enlightenment without needing a passport. I found the book an interesting read, I didn’t necessarily agree with some of it and sometimes thought “gee, there but for the real world, go I . . .”

4. On page 92 of the book, the author says "Not all the reasons to have children are the same, and not all of them are necessarily unselfish. Not all the reason not to have children are the same either, though. Nor all those reason necessarily selfish." In the IF community we are bound by the same desire - to have a child, our child, and endure much physical, psychological, emotional, and oftentimes financial, duress to achieve that. What are/were your reasons? Do you think they were selfish, unselfish or a combination of both?

This was my question, and honestly – I kind of felt this was Gilbert’s justification for her decision not to have children and not wanting children, an attempt at making a honest feeling she had sound more noble. Whether this was because she felt society looks at this as selfishness or she had her own deep-rooted sense of maybe it was, I couldn’t ascertain. I had no problems with her choice – because it was her choice. Without turning this into a debate on selfish vs. unselfish – I will go on record and state that I never once considered having children to be a selfish thing. In retrospect however, I can see a selfish aspect to it and especially in light of the obsessive energies I put into procreating. I wish she would have said that there is an unselfish component to having children as well as selfish, because I do believe that there is both – in either decision, to have or to have not. Either choice isn’t always clearly one or the other. Otherwise, I almost felt like this part of the book was a subtly stated opinion that having children is selfish, not having is more noble, more enlightened. Wanting to have a child does sound selfish – because of that “wanting” aspect. I want – therefore I must have. However, once you have children – selfishness is not an easy thing to maintain.

In all though – the book was an engaging read. I don’t have to agree with the author to enjoy the book, particularly her descriptions of the food she ate, people she met and places she visited. I especially enjoyed her sister’s visit while in Italy and the historical odds and ends that she brought out.

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens ( You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Baby Trail by Sinead Moriarty (with author participation).

The Double B Book Brigade Book Review Coming Soon!

The computer ate my review - honest!

Rewriting furiously . . . . .

Reposting hopefully soon!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Show & Tell With Mel - August 17, 2008

When you've faced recurrent pregnancy loss, making the decision to try again isn't as simple as deciding "Hey, I think I'll try and get pregnant!" Throw in some fertility issues and the decision becomes more complicated - requiring much talking yourself into it and courage.

I collected my talismans - my objects of deeper meaning, assigning my hope to them - holding on to them because I could see them , touch them, hold them - using them as a base to draw strength and hope from.

The day I came across this plate I had recently lost my 5th baby, started a complete fertility workup for the second time and endured a painful and humiliating HSG. I was bruised, weary and in desperate need of hope.

I was not coping well and headed out in the car just to "get away". I needed some alone time - to drive, to think, to just get away. Why I decided to stop at a particular cluster of shops I can't say for sure. They were out of town, by themselves along the windy river road that I was on. There was a candy shop, a wine shop, restaurant, a Christmas shop and others. I wandered into the Christmas shop and began to feel even lower than I had before walking in there. Even though Christmas was months away - the store was decorated as if the holiday were right upon us. Brightly lit, sparkly, cheery - all the things I wasn't feeling. With a sigh I turned to leave when a "clearance" sign caught my eye and I stopped, something in me wanting to look and most of me just wanting to leave. I started toward the exit again and something steered me back towards the little room they had set up with all their clearance items. I figured "why not?" and gave up fighting. Sitting amidst the Santas and snowmen and reindeer was this plate - set up on its box a bit above the rest of the reduced price Christmas flotsam and jetsam. Somewhat curious, I picked it up with a thought that it was somewhat pretty, then noticed around the edges there were five little angels - just like my five little angels at the time. The thought made me sad so I moved to put the plate back in its spot and just as I began to set it back into its holder, noticed that the woman in the middle held a baby in her arms. This was my hope - that I would have a baby to hold in my arms. I took the plate home with me and it sat in our bookcase year round. I went through thirteen months of solid fertility drugs - Clomid, more and more Clomid, and finally Follistim, before conceiving again. The pregnancy was a struggle and more than once I wondered if I would have a baby in my arms or another angel. In the end though - even though he was only 36 weeks and dealing with a bit of lung immaturity, I held that baby, and after a week in the SCU, I got to bring him home.

Now, I know that it is a Christmas plate and who the woman and the baby in her arms is supposed to represent. I am sure the artist who created this plate never intended nor expected that someone would find a different meaning. Then again, Christmas is supposed to be about hope.

For more of this weekend's Circle Time Show & Tell with Mel - see here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Alas Poor Lupron - I hardly Knew Ye

After increasing pain for the last week, excessive irritability/short-temperedness and now a most unwelcome guest beating down the door screaming "Heeeeerrrrreee's Johnny!", it has become clear to me that the last shot has started to wear off - only a month and a half earlier than it should have, just like the last one.

Bit of a whine coming . . . . wait for it . . . . . .

here it is . . .. I really, truly, completely and absolutely hate this!

Today the Ibuprofen isn't even coming close and I have more than a month left before they hopefully can fix this. Adeno and endo - two nasty little creatures I could have lived quite merrily without.

There, whine over. Off to find some cheese flavored ibuprofen caplets now.

ETA: Someone asked if af showing up conjured up images of Jack Nicholson looking decidedly maniacal wielding a large kitchen knife . . . Funny you should mention that, why yes, yes it does . . .

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Color My World

Today Busted has a post over at Bridges that had me nodding my head in agreement. I have actually been working on a post for a while about post traumatic stress disorder and loss, and this kind of goes along with that. In her post, Busted makes this statement, "What they don't tell, however, is how much the things completely unrelated to loss, pregnancy and babies will hurt."

In 1986, there was an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Soviet Union. (See Wikipedia) The radioactive fallout was 30-40 times greater than that of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thirty people died in the initial explosion, but the greatest loss of life was attributed to the massive fallout that affected most of Western Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated. Thousands upon thousands of people dealing since with radioactive fallout that eats into their bodies and lives for years to come. People who were living their lives as normal until one day, this catastrophic event happened and things changed. Even once things returned to "normal", things were not entirely normal - because now they were living in an environment no longer like the one they had lived in before; one where they had to worry about their water, their soil, the very air they breathed. Something they couldn't even see could slowly be killing them, was killing them. This changes you - having to cope and live with some awful thing that you never had to live or cope with before.

Those who experience loss also undergo a type of fallout - a fallout that eats into their soul and makes them feel like dying, that changes everything - life as they knew it; an emotional fallout that colors your life and makes everything relative.

No one will deny that loss of a child(ren) changes you. I am a different person than the one who started down that path to parenthood and ran into recurrent pregnancy loss. Naive, bright-eyed, optimistic - I had no idea what lay ahead and how it would completely rock my world, repeatedly. Under the constant stormy onslaught - I became weathered. In many ways I have become stronger and more compassionate; in other ways - I am weaker, more fragile in a sense and afraid. An oxymoron if there ever was - fragile strength. The simple and mundane things became more simple, more mundane - and other times they were almost unbearable, if only for their simplistic nature. I cry far more easily, frequently than I ever did before and my heart hurts with the slightest provocation - tender, anxious, emotional, resilient. Even in those days when the hurt was so fierce and I wished I could just die - I somehow survived. I woke up in the morning, breathed in and out and then put one foot in front of the other and kept walking. Though, some days, that was all I could do. Then, there came a day where I could do more - where the hurt didn't consume me, where I realized that I felt better. And yet, it is still there - I feel better, and yet, it can still ache when the weather changes or the winds shift.

I check each of their beds - the ones who made it, watching, looking for the gentle rise and fall of their chests, straining to hear the sound of their breathing. Sending them outside to play, away from me is hard sometimes. I don't want to let go - I want to be able to see them and hold on to them and make sure they don't slip away. They make me absolutely crazy sometimes - days where I wonder what I was thinking, wondering if it really was worth all the chaos and mess and difficulty, and still I check every night when they are asleep; when the house is so quiet that it no longer distracts and the fear creeps in. When my dh is late from work and doesn't call - I fear the worst - my rational mind no match for a reactive heart. During the initial fallout from my first three miscarriages I worked up a "contingency plan" in the event I was left alone, widowed. I had to have a plan because in a perverse way it gave me comfort listing precisely what I would do if dh died - a guideline, a how-to. For a long time, I didn't think of it in terms of "if it happened" but "when it happened." I knew also, that if I had to endure another catastrophic event, I would need that list - I wouldn't be able to function and "do" otherwise. I haven't forgotten the list - but I no longer review it as frequently as I once did when a timely arrival was not forthcoming. Then there are the nightmares - more frequent initially, only occasional now. I am not surprised by the anxiety and propensity for panic attacks. This is the life that I live now. In a sense it has been like relearning how to live. Learning how to say, it's okay, I'm okay, and reminding myself there are some things I can let go and not have to hold everything so tight until it gets easier and easier - learning to live anyway despite the fear and memories and past wounds. Remind myself and relearn how to enjoy all the other colors too - smile, laugh - enjoy even the simplest things again, even if they aren't big things, even if frivolous; because sometimes these frivolous and simple things become the big things later on - the things I will also miss if they go undone.

As I looked for a rainbow picture for this post - I learned something new: When a double rainbow appears, the second order bow will show the same colors as the first order bow but in reverse - coming back to end with the color with which the first bow starts. Higher order bows can also exist, triple, quadruple or more - rainbow upon rainbow, color after color. Those higher order bows are also found in the direction you'd least expect them to be. To find a higher order bow - you have to look towards the sun.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Heart Never Forgets

“You’d think I’d be use to this by now.”

Those were the words I spoke to my doctor ten years ago when she told me she didn’t think “this baby” was going to make it. The day was Wednesday, August 5, 1998.

I was just past 10 weeks and in for a routine prenatal visit. Everything had been going well – I had increasing morning sickness; my beta hcgs looked good; my pants were getting tight. I had some crampiness – but took that to mean I was overdoing things a bit in the summer heat, perhaps dehydrated. I spent a weekend during one episode of cramping resting, drinking lots of water and that seemed to help. I had no spotting – nothing to indicate anything as being wrong.

There had been one day – just a few before that day, that I remember realizing I hadn’t thrown up that day. I felt pretty good. My first thought was “ There goes Jessi’s baby sister.” My next thought was that morning sickness, or rather: morning, noon and night sickness, sometimes was cyclical for me and it wasn’t uncommon for me to have a couple good days in the midst of the bad ones each week. In retrospect – it does feel like a bit of foreshadowing, my immediate first reaction that of losing the baby. However, given my track record at this point, that would not be an unusual reaction for me. I was in my 7th pregnancy and had only delivered 2 living children. The fact that I was sick at all, had no spotting, the good betas and seeing the flicker of a heartbeat just a few weeks prior as well as a tiny kick gave me reassurance. Later, it would feel like I had only been grasping at straws.

My OB tried with a Doppler first – though, at 10 weeks, it would not be unusual to be unable to detect the sounds of the baby’s heart beating. She shrugged it off and said she didn’t find it surprising, but to not cause me any worry and make me wait until my next visit, she offered an ultrasound. I have seen several ultrasounds before and should have realized something was different about this one. I think I did – but was unwilling to let myself process the reality. What I saw was a baby, still, arms down by its sides, head lowered and the dark hole where its heart should be beating away – but no flutter. I didn’t let myself panic. My OB muttered something about wanting another look, but with different eyes and a bigger, better machine. The fact she wanted it right then really should have sent me into an emotional state – and yet, still I sat calmly.

I was sent to the Radiology Department. The radiologist asked the nurse attending him if she knew what a fetus should measure at 10 weeks. She didn’t know – I answered, “About 3 inches long.” Still, I was calm. They were quiet. They wouldn’t show me the screen. They printed some pictures, handed them to me and told me I was to return with them to my OB’s office and she would talk to me.

I sat quietly in an exam room – waiting for my OB to return. She asked me if I had had any bleeding? Cramping? I mentioned some cramping – though no bleeding. Then she told me – the bigger, better ultrasound hadn’t changed what her little in-office piece of crap machine had shown her. I told her I should be used to this by now, and then I crumbled.

My OB left me alone – and I sat in that exam room and felt completely alone. In those few minutes I begged, I pleaded, I prayed; “Please let this be a mistake! I can’t do this again – I don’t WANT to do this again!” Then, “I need a hug. Don’t leave me alone – I can’t bear this on my own.” For the briefest moment, I felt a sense of peace, a warmth settle about my shoulders . . . and then it was gone. I composed myself and walked out to the desk to face the things I had to do next.

My doctor asked me twice if I was able to drive myself; if they needed to call someone. I declined. She handed me a piece of paper with the time and date to be at the hospital for my d&c; the do’s and don’ts; the watch-for’s and “call-us-ifs”. She said, "I would go over all this with you, but . . ."she stopped; I knew the drill. I asked for the u/s pictures. The girl at the desk looked perplexed. She looked at me and then at my OB. My OB said “Give them to her – all of them; just keep one for the file.” Those pictures were all I was going to have – all I would get.

I had started a Mother-to-be scrapbook calendar - afterward, I never started another one again, out of superstition perhaps. I wrote in it that I found out I was pregnant on June 26, 1998 and that I was "excited, happy, scared, nervous" - in that order, and that is exactly how I had reacted - initial excitement turning quickly to fear. Under health concerns I had written: "Carrying to term".

This loss, my 5th , was the catalyst for delving deeper into world of infertility. Following my d&c, I had an HSG – a horrible and painful experience that left me bleeding and sobbing in the bathroom afterward for a full 20 minutes until the nurse knocked on the door to ask if I was okay. I went through the whole infertility workup for the second time, with chromosomal analysis for dh and myself. The answers, were frustrating, because there were none – just the same suspicions from before – luteal phase defect, maybe some clotting/immunological issues – but nothing definitive. The pathology report noted a blood clot in the placenta; whether pre- or post-mortem, they could not say. Certainly it could have led to her demise – she had been termed a ‘genetically normal female’.

The following year I joined an email support group. I was newly pregnant again and falling apart – fearful and anxious. I knew I needed to be able to talk to someone, but someone who ‘got it’. One of the ladies there became a friendly correspondent, though it wasn’t until several months later we found we had an eerily similar common bond.

On the very same day I was told my baby no longer had a heartbeat – she sat in a similar office and was told the same thing. Two days afterward – she was scheduled to be induced and I was to have my second d&c, on the same exact day: Friday, August 7, 1998. This common bond cemented a friendship that has lasted over 9 years now – through emails, letters written by hand, Christmas cards, occasional packages. Over the last couple years there was a little drifting apart. The email support group we belonged to was something my needs had moved beyond; life goes on; people get busy and sometimes you lose track of each other. And then one day, there it was, an email in my inbox from a familiar name. We had both started blogging about the same time – neither of us knowing the other had started a blog. A lucky coincidence? Perhaps. Though, I have a feeling that somewhere, there are two little girls who know that there are some people in this life who were there when we needed them, and who should never be forgotten.

In loving memory of two little girls – Her precious Katie & my sweet Carena ~i~ ~i~


Never in my arms – forever in my heart

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tread Softly, For You Tread on My Dreams

I have been pregnant thirteen times.

No, I don’t have thirteen children.

Seven of my pregnancies ended way before they were supposed to. Before my belly got large; before I really could feel them moving inside of me; before other people knew.

Nobody else saw my babies, but they saw my tears. They didn’t understand. They told me it was better I wasn’t further along. I was told that my babies weren’t really babies – just a blob of tissue and stuff. They said just get pregnant again. They didn’t see my heart was aching – they held it in their hands and squeezed it tighter – closed their fists around it and squeezed so hard it ran through their fingers and didn’t realize it. They told me at least I already had a child.

When I kept having miscarriages they said why don’t you just stop? Why don’t you just count your blessings? Maybe this is God’s way of telling you that you weren’t meant to have more children. Then they said I must be really strong - because this was happening to me, or because they thought I needed to buck it up, I often wondered.

My tears made them uncomfortable. They didn’t know what to say – so they avoided me; ignored me. Some from wishing to spare me further pain – some from their own discomfort.

The pregnant ladies at church sat far away from me – they whispered, they stared. I felt like a contagion – an infectious disease. Someone might catch what I had – recurrent pregnancy loss. Some questioned if I had even been pregnant at all. I became the sad, pathetic person to be pitied. The one they were so glad not to be.

I wanted to show them all the pictures – the u/s pictures of the baby I lost at 10 weeks. You could see her hands, the shape of her head, tiny legs that I had seen kick and the dark black hole that was her heart – no longer beating. It had been a tiny flickering thing just weeks before – fluttering away on the screen, now it was still. I was still losing my breakfast every morning. My heart an empty black hole – my chest an aching chasm. My womb contracting – bleeding what was left of life.

I wanted to show them the baby I held in the palm of my hand one night. Alone and spent, I saw her – I held her. I delivered her and brought her up out of the water. Then I put her in a Ziploc and carried her to the doctor’s office the next day in my purse. She was real – she was a baby! The tiniest, smallest baby I had ever seen. I was in awe of her and devastated by her at the same time.

I wanted to show them the bruises from the drugs I injected to conceive them. The scars from the surgeries I had to have when things went wrong. I wished sometimes they could feel the pain of overstimulated ovaries, the heaviness. The agony of a rupturing fallopian tube. All the blood. If anything – the medical bills. For “nothing” they sure did cost much.

I wanted to tell them of my dreams – the dreams I spun each time. Blond hair, brown hair? Curly? Straight? Blue eyes or my brown eyes? Long fingers and long toes like their daddy? Would they be musical and creative like me? Logical and mathematical like daddy? Tall and slender? I would read them books, sing them lullabies, rock them, hold them. I would hear them play, pick up their messes, clean them, feed them, love them.

They would call me mommy.