Thursday, April 22, 2010

One day in kindergarten, I decided to tackle the monkey bars. I had enviously watched the previous day while Courtney Macintire hung upside-down, and swung gracefully back and forth. Determined to master this feat, I sized up the bars, and looked down at the fluffy pink dress my mother had stuffed my unwilling self into that morning. If I hung upside-down from the monkey bars, my dress would fall down, exposing my ruffled white underpants to the playground. My brilliant 5-year-old solution to this was to promptly tuck my dress into my underpants, thereby preventing my dress from falling down. I marched determinedly towards the monkey bars. In the 25 years since this date, I've found that many of my life's decisions have echoed this scheme in both intelligence and outcome.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Morning Wake-Up Call

After a week, Scott still reaches over when he's just waking up to rub my belly. You can tell he's still surprised when he realizes there's nothing there, and he moves his hand to my breast or arm, trying to pretend he wasn't saying good morning to our dead baby. I can't bring myself to tell him to stop, it's also my own little morning reminder - you're no longer pregnant, now put on a brave face, get up and face the day.

I can't watch TV anymore. I never realized how often babies and pregnant women are featured in commercials. If I try to watch TV to zone out for a while, an image of a preggo or a baby snaps me right back into myself, where I actually have to think about what happened and try not to cry about it. Reading's marginally better, but I can't read any new books - what if there's a baby in the book? I've been re-reading all the books I know for sure don't have any mention of the things I'm cowardly avoiding. I get bored with re-reading, so I try to work more on painting the house (we're on second coat of primer), but my leg still hurts from surgery, and every time I have to step up onto a chair to paint near the ceiling it twinges, and my mind goes right to the reason.

This is impossible to avoid, when all I want to do is get on with my life, stop being such a wreck. I wish I could force myself not to think about it most of the time, and allow myself grieving time in the shower, where no one can hear me cry.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Two Strikes, I'm Out

This seemed to help the last time, so I guess it's time to start writing again. Six months and 3 days after I delivered my stillborn baby girl, a baby boy followed. He only made it to 19 weeks, but his growth was at 17 weeks, so it seems to be a recurring problem. Scott and I decided a while ago that this would be our last try - I'm not strong enough to do this again. So now in addition to grieving for my baby, I'm grieving because I know I will never have a biological child. I think the pain is worse this time. Which is weird - I didn't think it was possible to be more sad than I was last June. I wish someone had told me it was - I wouldn't have tried to get pregnant again. At least if I had never gotten pregnant again, I could have deluded myself into thinking I could potentially bring a baby to term. Now I have to realize - my body is broken, defective, rotten.

I don't understand why this happened - no one in Scott's or my family seems to have trouble having children. Why do my babies die? Why is my body not good enough, not nurturing enough? I feel guilty I ever tried to get pregnant in the first place - I think all the time about whether or not my babies were in pain when they were dying, and I can't bear the thought that they were.

I keep thinking of the things I was looking forward to - Scott painting my pregnancy silhouette portrait, breastfeeding, even labor and giving birth - I'll never have these things. Adoption can give me a baby, but it can't give me back what I've lost, and it can't make me feel like a real woman, a woman capable of bringing life into the world.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Guilty Conscience

I go to see a therapist – not really sure why I decided this will be helpful, but it seems like it might be a good idea and insurance pays for it so what the hell. The therapist is interesting (read: weirdish), until she tells me all about the stages of grief. How cliché. Yes, I know, anger, denial, bargaining, all that shit. I get it, I’m going through them all, trying to make my way to that acceptance finish line. One question though – where does "guilt" fit into all this? It’s not a part of the grieving cheat sheet she gives me. That’s a whole different area of fucked up apparently. Not that I think I’m the only person ever to feel guilty over a loss, but it’s becoming a burden I have to work constantly to shed myself of.

I have to force myself to recognize that guilt is not applicable to my situation. Yeah, like that’s supposed to keep me from feeling guilty – fault needs to be assigned somewhere (don't ask me why, it just does), so naturally I blame myself. I blame the couple of cigarettes I had before I knew I was pregnant; I blame the paint fumes I breathed on a job; I blame the vending machine food I ate during thesis; the construction adhesive I got on my fingers by accident; the massive quantities of peanut butter I consumed; the caffiene habit I couldn't quite kick; the myriad of other things I did wrong that probably didn’t mean shit but that I wish I could take back anyway.

You wouldn’t believe the idiotic rationale I find floating around in my brain – like this gem I thought up today: I’ve broken a lot of hearts in my life, never really had my heart broken by anyone. I was always the relationship-ender, always the one to make the boy cry. So I’ve racked up a truckload of bad karma in the past 14 years, and my account finally got audited. Certainly I’ve never had a broken heart like this.

There are a lot of little things that I don’t realize will cause me pain, and I have to wonder if they’ll ever not hurt anymore. Like how when I was pregnant and Phoenix was playing on the radio the baby seemed to kick me harder, and Scott and I would joke that baby had good taste in music already. Now I hear Phoenix and realize I’m not getting kicked, and it’s a fresh scratch on a healing wound.

Friday, July 17, 2009

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Autopsy results today – drove all the way down to Camden to wait for 2 hours for an appointment with the doctor. All morning long (as well as most of this last week) I’ve made a career out of being anxious. Scott thinks they’ll bring us all the way down to Camden to tell us they don’t know what happened, they don’t know what would happen if we tried again, so good luck. I think there’s gotta be something in the autopsy or pathology to tell us something about why everything happened.

Scott turns out to be right. Doctor doesn’t know what happened, but says the chances of our getting a healthy kid next time are “greater than 50%”, whatever that means. I mean, 51% is greater than 50%, but I don’t like them odds.

I’m flatter myself I’m under no delusions of imagining life to be full of meaning, but honestly, is that it? So there’s no reason this all happened? No reason that my first born child died in my toxic womb, no reason I went through being bedridden, no reason I have ashes instead of an infant? Really? It’s maddening, I expected to be ecstatic if the doctor told us our chances of bearing a healthy child the second time around were probably decent, but instead I’m just angry that there are no real answers. Also sad, for some reason I can’t put my finger on. Scott thinks I just don’t want to give up my grief yet, but that doesn’t ring true in my heart. I understand the anger, but the sadness? It almost feels like the meaninglessness of the loss translates into worthlessness, like my baby’s existence didn’t mean anything and so was worthless.

I want what happened to have some reason, some cause, if only so I can avoid future heartache. Doctor says there’s no way I could have prevented everything that happened, but I feel like I should have been able to. Shouldn’t a mother always be able to protect her child? I wish there had been a way I could have told my body to work better, keep that baby alive, screw the consequences. I’m starting to realize that one of the most horrible things about this whole situation was the feeling of helplessness, the knowing what parts of my body needed to work better, and yet not being able to force them to do so.

So I get to try again anyway. That’s good news, even if I know I’ll be terrified all through the next pregnancy (assuming I’m still as fertile as ever, and Scott’s still shooting live rounds). Even through the anger and sadness I’m still completely sure I want to try again, and soon. I’m going for a gynocology appointment on Tuesday, and if I get the ok from him I’m flushing my birth control pills that night.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Afraid to Try Again

I’m getting a little more worked up about returning to work than I thought I would. Been so anxious to get back in the game, to do something meaningful, to make money to ease the burden off Scott as sole breadwinner. Now, the day before I go back, I’m sad about it. I should have missed work because of maternity leave, and should be going back to work with pictures of a baby. This is all so fucked up, it shouldn’t have fucking happened like this! It’s so not fair. Like fairness matters, I know. But still, I can’t help thinking that. I did everything I could, I tried so hard to be healthy and not stressed out, and it all amounts to shit.

I realize today that I am breathlessly afraid of getting pregnant again (guess why), and also desperately wanting to get pregnant. The conflict is annoying. Wanting to get pregnant again wins hands down, but that landslide vote doesn’t abate the fear in the least. I understand the risks of trying again, more than I did the first time around. I know in my heart I can deal with another loss, it wouldn’t kill me. It would hurt like hell but it wouldn’t kill me.

Monday, July 6, 2009

My Fingernails

Dammit dammit dammit! All these tragic little tidbits keep occurring to me at random times. Today’s sad thought: looking at my fingernails. Remembering how I was taking such good care of them when I was pregnant. Pregnancy made my nails strong and thick for the first time ever. I had them filed and painted professionally. Never before was I into such a feminine thing. I figured after the delivery I would have to cut them short so I wouldn’t scratch the baby. Didn’t care, just was happy to be expecting to hold a baby. Who gives a shit about perfectly manicured nails when you can cuddle with your very own baby?

Tomorrow the doctor is supposed to call to tell us when to come in to hear the autopsy results. Scott and I go for a long walk in the park tonight, discuss what our response will be to each possible scenario. It feels pointless to prepare – I thought I was prepared for any outcome of pregnancy – turns out losing this baby hurts me more than I could ever have imagined.

Why does it hurt so much? I never got to know her, or even hold her once. I have no idea what color her eyes were, let alone how she liked to be held or when she liked to be fed. The only things I knew about her were sleep patterns, because of the frequency of her kicks. I know nothing about whether she had birthmarks or any resemblance to me or Scott. I don’t know what it would have felt like to kiss her. How am I hurting so much over a baby I never even saw?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Phantom Kicks

I notice I’ve been using Scott as my shield to protect me from anything to do with babies. He screens telephone calls for me, and tells me when to leave the room so he can make cremation arrangements. If he sees something on TV that he knows will bother me, he quickly changes the channel. In the store today, a baby being held by his mother in line in front of us was smiling and gesturing at us; Scott made sure I had room to stand behind him, where he became a literal shield so I didn’t have to look at the baby. In accepting his help, I wonder if I’m sacrificing a part of my independent nature. I no longer feel the need to handle everything, to be in control of everything. I want to hide from responsibility – who is this person I’ve become?

That weird thing has still been happening – I’ve been getting phantom kicks. I know they must be just little twinges in my uterus, but they feel like a baby kicking me. I look it up online, and sure enough, other women who have had stillbirths report feeling the phantom kicks, too. Of course, after feeling one, there is the conflicting feelings – the flutter of joy that must just be a Pavlovian response, and the subsequent sadness at remembering that there’s nothing inside to kick me.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Belly Fat

I’ve been having conflicting thoughts about whether to try to lose that last bit of belly fat, or just leave my body alone. Looking down at even that slight bulge hurts my heart, but I don’t want to lose that hurt to what seems to be vanity. Same old same old with me – vanity and body issues versus real life. I’ve avoided and kicked addictions – pot, cigarettes, alcohol – and pregnancy actually cured the one addiction I thought would be with me forever – my eating disorder. There was no room in my brain to worry about caloric intake versus energy expenditure, all my thoughts were about being healthy and eating enough for baby. So it’s mildly surprising to me to have a vague desire to lose weight. Like, who the hell am I to worry about a little belly fat? I need to be concentrating on not getting depressed, or on making sure my marriage is still good, or on staying healthy so that we can try for another baby.

I’ve always had addictive behaviors, even when I was little. What do I do now? I’ve got nothing, no cigs, no bulimia, no obsessive reading of pregnancy books. Is this what most people feel like most of the time? I just feel kind of bored. I need an addiction, but I don’t want it to be a bad one, I’ve worked too hard to get rid of the bad ones. Maybe obsessive behavior is a better term than addiction. I need to be obsessive about something, but something constructive, maybe like throwing clay or organizing my photo collection. Trouble is, everything seems kind of meaningless right now. I should be fighting that feeling. I know I should believe that being pregnant didn’t give my life meaning, my talents and achievements and goals did. My brain says, that’s the right way to think, but my heart says bullshit, you amount to nothing until you prove you can have a baby like a normal woman. Continuing to stuggle with irrational thoughts.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Back From Vacation

I’m just back from two weeks vacation; I had to get away from all the sympathetic looks. I’m too much of a loner to be able to appreciate all this attention – if it had been attention given to a healthy baby I had just given birth to, I could tolerate it because I would be joining in on it, but the distance from my friends and the sympathetic looks from neighbors are grating on me. I pretend to read the cards sent to me, and throw them away as soon as the person is gone. The flowers go right in the trash – they’re dead to begin with anyway.

So during vacation I did a lot of shower crying. The mentality behind that being that I don’t have to control my sobs for another person’s sake. I can just cry myself out and go on with my day. When I stop crying too early, all the uncried tears build up into this unbearably heavy thing that gets carried around with me for the rest of the day, provoking tears when I least want them.

Some of my sporatic writings during vacation:

It’s the fact that I feel inadequate as a woman that pisses me off the most. I’m a rational person, but there’s still that part of me that thinks I suck as a woman. Don’t even take into account the fact that I totally respect women who never have children, as much as stay-at-home moms and working mothers. In my crazy brain, I’m not a real woman because my body rejected a baby. I guess anger is a legitimate emotion, but it just adds to the bi-polar-esque past few weeks. I’d just really like to even out right now.

There’s the guilt, too. Before I knew there was a problem with the baby, I kept getting comments on what a tiny pregnant belly I had. People commented that I looked four months pregnant, not six. Most people said it in a complimentary way, and I wavered back and forth between admiring my little pregnant belly and wishing for a huge belly. I feel so stupid. If I ever get pregnant again, I hope I gain 50 pounds, my belly sticks out so far it becomes one giant stretch mark, if it means I have a big fat healthy baby at 40 weeks.

Before I married Scott, I didn’t even want children. I was never good with kids, babies scared the crap out of me, couldn’t even imagine dealing with a bratty teenager without resorting to violence. Scott told me he would stay with me either way, but I knew how much he wanted to be a dad, so I told him we could be parents. When we were first trying to get pregnant (which took all of 12 seconds), I remember feeling completely indifferent to whether or not I got knocked up. Then I get the positive pregnancy test. After that came the hormones, the mom fantasies, the sudden and surprising love for the baby growing inside me. Wasn’t exoecting that at all. Now I feel like a total shit for not caring enough in the beginning, as if the baby could somehow sense my indifference and decided not to be born to a mother didn’t used to want kids. That’s so crazy to type, to read back, but so are a lot of emotions so fuck it.

And now, after all that indifference, then ambivalence, now I have this visceral desire to have a baby. Like, right now. I want a baby right now, but not just any baby. I want my baby, the baby that shouldn’t have died, the baby that kicked me, the baby whose ultrasound picture is still in my purse. That one was MY baby girl, my daughter. I should still be fucking pregnant, painting the nursery and nesting in general. August is going to be so hard, passing my due date with a flat belly.

I buy sleeping pills for the first time in years. I don’t know if I’m going to take them or not, I’m afraid if I do I won’t be able to wake up from the nightmares. The lure is that maybe I won’t dream at all, or I won’t remember my dreams. I resist buying them as long as I can, but Scott notices how little sleep I’ve been getting, so finally I give in. It’s the nightmares; falling asleep is the easy part. Then an hour later I wake up crying, or sweating, or – this is the worst – thinking I’m still pregnant and rubbing my stomach, and then realizing all over again that I’m not.