Saturday, May 29, 2010

Voices Carry

I know my voice has changed over the years somewhat. And yet I feel as though the foundation of my voice is still visible, and it's what's getting me through the roughest patch of my life.

I have a post up today at Glow In the Woods.

It's a few days late. Sue me.

(And for Pete's sake, INDOOR VOICE, please!)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

(Extremely) Random Thoughts

(mostly typed with one hand)

(over the space of about three weeks)

I only just called Children's to let them know. Part of this was because I was tired and busy, part because I didn't want to jinx anything by calling with good news -- and then have to call back the next day with a problem. I waited over a week, and through the second pediatric appointment.


Last week, at some point in a 45-90 minute stretch of heavy sleep, I had a dream that Bella was obnoxiously and very purposefully keeping me up at night. He's here, and he's still not in my dreams.


File under signs that my IRL personality is not so different from blog voice -- in case you were wondering:

(Midwife waves off anesthisiologist who apparently poked his head in the room too late to do anything, and says to no-one in particular but looking in the direction of my husband, "It's too late.")

Mr. ABF: YOU tell her.

(At some point following my involuntarily unmedicated labor and delivery)

Mr. ABF: I'm so proud of you . . . you didn't swear out a single person! You didn't even drop an F-bomb! I can't believe you made it through that without profanity. There is no way I could've done that without dropping an F-bomb.


Why yes, he does nap fairly consistently every day at 10:00 a.m. Whaddaya know.


My neighbors were overwhelmingly amazing after Maddy died, I think especially since we had only lived here six months. And so it is extremely satisfying to see just how happy they are for us now. The woman who brought us chicken dinners and dedicated a church service to Maddy, last week brought us dinner and begged me to now let her throw us a party. Another neighbor who wasn't here during the Maddy debacle but knows the whole mess, took a pajama-clad Bella at 6:00 a.m. last Monday brought me chocolate and visited me in the hospital (and then followed up with a dinner as well). The UPS man set down packages yesterday to hug Mr. ABF . . . twice. My fridge is full, there are homemade muffins by the coffee pot, but coming from people who not only provided for us once before but put up with my emotional distance then and for the last nine months . . . well, it's just all-consuming how lovely this place is. It takes a village, and I live in one of the best.


I wondered if I would be a hypochondriac and to some degree I suppose I am; we're far more nervous about his swaddle encroaching on his mouth, and we both randomly wake and check him -- I caught Mr. ABF holding an iPhone for light over him the other night, just checking. And yet . . . perhaps after a healthy baby and a NICU stint gone to hell, we've seen it all. I caught myself the other day quickly strolling through the kitchen to let the dog in the back door with a six day old infant on my breast. Last night he suffered his first two hour crying jag and we both reminisced about Bella's first where we were sent into a full-blown panic. Last night we simply turned up the sound on the movie and took turns walking around so the other wouldn't get too tired. It passed, I'm sure it was gas.


And yet. I was ordering summertime PJ's for Bella on an online sale, and promptly added a hoodie for the little guy a size or two up so it will be good for Fall. And I was flooded with that forboding, what if . . . should I really do this? Plan ahead like this? Jeebus, here I am introducing him to all these people, what if something happens . . . My finger hovered above the "Put In Cart!" button, as if it was Death himself standing there with his scythe proclaiming judgment right next to the "You Might Also Like" pictures of little swimsuits and sunhats.

No, not over it yet. It will be a while.


I think I got breast milk on my iPhone.


Mr. ABF wondered the other day if he, this little screaming creature (we got us a fussy one), changed how I thought about Maddy. That is to say, are the two children under our roof now the 3:4 roulette winners? Or was Maddy just doomed by something else shitty from the get-go? This guy's pregnancy tracked almost in every way with Bella's, which is to say: Normal. Maddy's was a trauma from the get go, with me bleeding out thinking I had miscarried about one week in. It went south from there. This healthy boy has been added to the file at Children's, no doubt a cute little male symbol extending downward from the symbols that represent us, right next to the female symbol with the line through it. He has been recorded on her tree, Children's will continue to look into it if opportunities present themselves, and we? Will likely never know.


Sitting outside on a warm spring afternoon, Mr. ABF had just finished mowing the grass -- it smelled like early summer, and our house looked divine surrounded by late-blooming iris and dark purple veronica and the new shoots of lavender and the seedlings that finally got placed in the planter beds last week. The neighbor's drive was filled with contractors (new kitchen), cars puttered down the street, the dog went ape-shit over a squirrel.

It was perfect.

But it wasn't.

It was as if I had entered a time-warp -- this was the scene I dreamed of three years ago, new to my neighborhood but already loving the surroundings, sitting outside with a baby on my chest. It finally happened! The time was here!

But oh, what a cost.

I wonder if one could accordion those three years, not just the horror and grief and ashes in a box and depression and heartbreak, but the loss of hope and expectations, the year I zombie-walked through Bella's life, the destruction of relationships red-flagged by the people who have not contacted us, nor us them. Is it possible to fold this up, and imagine a smooth time line leading me here? Unlikely. I'll have to take what I can get.


I owe you pictures, and I'm frequently too wasted to get them and then transfer them from camera to computer. We've been doing a lot of phone pictures, which I suppose is the degradation that befalls the subsequent child along with hand-me-downs and a casual attitude toward just about everything baby. Also? This child is a fuss-pot: His channels are: Sleep, eat, and cry. (Thank goodness for Bella, because most mornings I look at her eating breakfast at the counter after having dressed herself and think, well it won't always be like this. Except for yesterday morning when she pitched a fit because I made her use the toilet before heading off to T-ball. "I always have to do EVERYTHING!" she scream-cried. Phases people, phases.) Ergo, I haven't been terrific about pictures, and especially pictures when his eyes are open and he's not asking to be picked up and held by someone who directly contributed to his DNA. But here's a nice eyes closed one (he is alive, trust me on this) that we've been using to figure out who he looks like, exactly.

We've decided he looks like Harold, you know, of the Purple Crayon.

I also still owe you a name. Which isn't so much me being squeamish over internet privacy, but me being squeamish about certain relatives wondering if we've hidden a cache of pictures somewhere online without telling them and entering my children's names into google and winding up here in the land of cynicism and bitch-slapping. I am still pondering. I will tell you that it is Italian, and lovely.

Friday, May 7, 2010


You'd think the picture in my head that I'd take away from all of this would be one of the classics: Baby swadled and lying sweetly (and may I just say I'm now a bit weirded out by pictures of live babies with their eyes closed. They look dead. And this has nothing to do squeamishness over looking at deceased children -- I just now assume any baby with closed eyes is dead. I recently looked at a bunch of Bella's infant photos and got a little unsettled); baby being placed on my stomach after delivery; mom holding baby in delivery room while midwife looks on proudly.

Instead the image that resonates in my head is passing through the hospital's revolving door into a bright, warm day with a baby in my arms. I didn't leave anyone behind. This time, we escaped.


Early Monday morning, on the way to the hospital in a torrential thundershower, I told Mr. ABF I was glad I was in labor and wouldn't be induced. Turns out I had been a bit nervous about birth -- not the actual activity thereof, but the deja vu element. The whole waking up and calling the hospital early to check the induction schedule, saying goodbye to Bella, the anticipation of the first contractions, the probable wait through stages where my anxiety about the outcome could only increase. Instead, here I was timing contractions that had only just dropped from 20 to 15 minutes about two hours after a small leak of water.

Except they weren't. Turns out they were four to five minutes apart, but my body -- so used to giving birth by now -- wasn't even registering the tremors between the earthquakes. Until I got there, and perhaps psychosomatically after being told, they began to ramp up in speed, quantity, and intensity.

And suddenly . . . well, suddenly. It was as if a bizarre dream I had lingered over for nine months quickly morphed into a nightmare complete with dark skies and buckets from the heavens. Everything went so fast, there was nothing left but panic and sheer terror -- and honestly, for a number of moments, enough to distract me from what lay ahead. There was enough fear in the present tense to keep me well occupied from anxiety over the near future.

And maybe that's a good thing, that his entrance was so rushed, that nine months of anticipation boiled down to a horrific space of what turned out to be less than an hour. Suddenly, the nightmare stopped and the silence was punctuated by a baby's cry.

He was immediately plopped on my chest and under the small weight I did not feel love, or joy. I did not cry. I did however let go the mightiest exhale of unadulterated relief, for present and future and all the spaces in between.


I've been having a tough go of getting the concept of time back under my feet this week. He was born 37w6d, a week and a day in advance of his planned induction, and two weeks ahead of his due date. I thought this week would be spent throwing things into the garden, making one last grocery run, and doing one last load of laundry.

I've been living a fair amount on Maddy time. Even right after delivery, there came a point when Mr. ABF and I looked at each other, looked at the clock, and said, by this point they knew something was wrong, that she would not be rooming with me. And here he was, still in our arms breathing room air, not yet taken away for his obligatory testing. It wasn't until Monday night when I decided to turn on "24" to keep me awake and occupied for half and hour until I knew someone was coming to run a few more tests that it hit me -- Maddy was also born on a Monday, and that Monday night I also turned on "24" in my hospital room for a distraction. We've done a walk through the week: Wednesday, the morning of Maddy's heart failure, I was this time instead discharged into a beautiful spring day. Today, I ambled around the yard with the baby in my arms, inspecting the iris that bloomed this week and contemplating how it was today, Friday, that Maddy was bundled up into her tin-foil microwave and transfered to Children's. Undoubtedly my checks on his breathing and temperature will only increase as we approach Sunday.


The senior pediatrician came to give him one last check early Wednesday morning as she does with all the babies, and after reviewing his file asked about Maddy -- specifically, she used the term "etiology." I launched into the clinical story, stripped of emotion and full of medical terminology, for what seemed the thousandth time in just the hospital stay alone (nothing like a dead baby in your records to launch the "10 signs of depression" checklist discussion) and suddenly, in the middle of the spiel, grew weary.

I was finished with this. Not with Maddy mind you, but with this part of her. The medical is really her identity and though I'm happy to discuss it, I feel as though I've done nothing but for nine-plus months. And right now, what I want is to simply think of her as my daughter. I want to revel in her beauty, her strength, her promise. I wanted in that moment, talking with that doctor, to simply go home and study her pictures to see if her brother had her nose. If their hair was the same color. If what I remembered about their chins was indeed the same.

I want right now to bathe in all that is lovely and ugly, joyful and sorrowful, of being a mother to three.



We do have a name for the little guy and I'm trying to decide if I want to nickname him obviously or not so very on the blog. We are home, he is under my roof and this morning after eyeballing Bella as she left for school, we went to inspect Maddy's lilac -- which needs deadheaded this week.