My dear acquaintance, it’s so good to know you…

…for strength of your hand, that is loving, and giving; and Happy New Year, with love overflowing, with joy in our hearts for a blessed new year… — Regina Spektor

Happy 2019, blogosphere! I know I’ve been MIA for essentially two months, and I’ll get to that. But first, I just want to shout out into the void that having this space where I can share (often unfiltered) with all of you, some of you, or none of you, has been so important to my psychological well-being as I weathered the shit-storm that 2018 wrought upon my heart.

Yesterday, for the first time in quite awhile, I got out Charlie’s memory box. As the year came to a close, I felt like I needed to revisit it. As you all know, there is never a moment when Charlie isn’t in my heart, but it was important to me to go through the tangible reminders. And lordy-be as soon as I opened that box the emotions overwhelmed me and the crying started; but strangely, I kind of appreciated that — y’know? I went through the sonograms, pregnancy announcement and congrats cards, the lone onesie and the baby boots, and then the┬ácondolence cards and gifts. One pendant stood out to me, just like it had when I received it; it says, “I carry you in my heart”. It’s from an ee cummings poem that I’ve always liked, though until Charlie it held different meaning for me. When I read those words again yesterday, they just seemed extra poignant. Because I do — I carry Charlie in my heart. As much as I wanted to, for reasons I’ll never quite know, I couldn’t carry him in my body. So, my heart is where he’ll stay.

It’s kind of odd, because the closer we get to bringing our Birdy baby into the world, the more I think about how she wouldn’t be here if not for Charlie. I struggle with that sometimes, because if I had been given a choice, if any maybe-mama like me had had an actual choice — how the hell would we have decided which child we lost? Every now and then I ponder if that’s why the choice wasn’t ours to make.

And then I think too, about how we’ll tell Birdy about Charlie someday. I wonder how you go about that, because Hubs and I decided pretty immediately that Charlie isn’t a secret we would be keeping from any other children we may have. I keep coming back to this: “Before you, there was another child. He helped to give us you.” I mean, hopefully by the time we share this story with her I’ll have something better prepared, but that’s where I’m at right now.

Speaking of Birdy, here’s her update: With the fear hanging over our heads about what the low amniotic fluid levels might mean for her and the pregnancy, we were referred to a maternal fetal specialist, who did manage to take the edge of the worry — a bit. A week before Christmas, at a follow-up appointment with them, we got the good news that the levels had reached the “average” range, and were no longer considered low! At the same time, we learned that I had failed the glucose test spectacularly and now had gestational diabetes. Trading one worry for another.

Holy crap, can I tell you how awful I felt? Emotionally, not physically. I was shocked when they told me about the GD because I hadn’t felt “off” in any way, had barely gained five pounds the entire pregnancy, and never experienced the swelling everyone kept saying would come at the end of the second trimester. Oh, but emotionally, I was an absolute mess. I felt immensely guilty, even though I hadn’t done anything wrong — I felt like I couldn’t do anything right no matter how hard I tried, like my body was letting me down once again, like there were a mass litany of things that were just wrong with me and I couldn’t do anything about it.

I went to a class to gain more information and learn how to control the GD with a very strict diet (oh my God, there are carbs in EVERYTHING — no longer are fruits and veggies just considered “healthy”, now you can’t have them before X-time and then only if you eat X kind, etc.). The grocery store became a minefield that could easily start a meltdown on my end because I was trying so hard to follow all of the rules to control the GD but I was so overwhelmed! But I just kept telling myself that if I followed the rules, my blood sugar levels would be fine and everything else would be fine. I mean, that’s the way things are supposed to work! Except it wasn’t because no matter what I did my morning fasting and ketone levels where high. So then they put me on medicine to help those stabilize (which they are and I’m grateful for) but it just felt like one more damn thing I’d failed at.

[I know I’m complaining; I know others have it so much worse; but that doesn’t mean this isn’t still hard for me.]

Here comes the sun though — The doctors said despite all of this, Birdy is doing fine. She’s right where she should be growth and development-wise. As she’s growing and getting stronger, I’ve finally been able to feel her move around, which is such a blessing because it lets me know she still kicking in there (get it?). Last night, Hubs even got to feel her move, which was so great, because she’s been a bit contrary about that every time we’ve tried before!

So, that’s what I’m trying to focus on the most — she is okay, and that’s the most important thing. As Hubs reminded my tear-stained self yesterday when I was flipping 2018 the bird, it was a really difficult year of loss and grief and storm weathering — but 2018 also gave us two-thirds of Birdy. And there’s no arguing with the blessing of that!

Happy New Year, and better times ahead for us all!

Hummingbird baby

We’ve already chosen a name for March baby, but I think you can grasp that we’d like to keep that a little closer to home than the whole internet :-). However, we now know March baby is a little girl, so I’d like to call her something on here that leans more towards a name. As such, on here, I’ll call her Birdy. Short for hummingbird, because they’ve kind of been my spirit animal since we lost Charlie. My touch stone, in a way. They’ve been my symbol for hope for something beautiful coming after our loss.

I keep in mind that quote, the one I referenced in my “About Me” section. The one that starts like this: “Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration…”

I have hummingbird wall stickers in our now-nursery. I put them there before we know Birdy existed. Before I had faith in hope again. I have a hummingbird pendant I wear to most doctor’s appointments. And so, here baby girl will be Birdy.

She is stubborn. We knew she would be. Hubs and I both are, so there’s no getting around that one! But she showed it at the ultrasound! Or maybe she just showed being shy. She would not cooperate much with the technician. Though we (and the tech) saw all the “big” things — namely that she was a healthy growth, organs seemed on target, there were bones growing, and that she was a she — we never got a clear look at her face, and the tech didn’t get as many exact bone measurements as she wanted. So, we’ve got another ultrasound in a little over a week, which I’m glad for because we’ll be able to check in on her again.

There are time I think I might feel her moving, but it’s pretty faint and I’m never totally sure. However, we also learned from the ultrasound that the placenta is in front of her, which is why I might not feel movement as soon or as clearly as others who are as far along as I am. The placenta could also be playing a part in why it seems more difficult for the doppler to pick up her heartbeat right away (which was a relief to have an explanation for).

We bought a glider (on sale!) for her nursery, and we ordered a crib as well. Decided one that could be converted into a full-sized bed eventually would be worth the cost and would pay for itself over the next twenty years. And we’ve ordered some prints for her walls. I’ve always been a nester, always wanted the space where I lived to feel right, to feel like a home. So feeling that way about my daughter’s room (!!!) really isn’t something different. And I’m fully aware that she won’t care what’s on the walls or what her bed looks like. Not for awhile, anyway. But it’s important to me. I want it to be a safe, calm, completely lovely space for her.

We really haven’t bought any clothing, but have been reading that so many people get you clothes for the baby shower regardless of what you need…so maybe we should hold off until after that? We’re dipping our toe into figuring out childcare, too. Holy guacamole. Hubs calls it a second mortgage. I’d love it if we could find an in-home family daycare, but so far it seems kind of difficult to get a read on those in our area. I know we’ve got time, but I’m hoping these next months will go pretty fast, and we want to be prepared.

My best friend from North Carolina is planning on coming up over her spring break to meet Birdy, and one of my cousins is so excited about planning the baby shower. My mom is making her a Christmas stocking, buying fabric and sketching patterns, even though she won’t need it just yet. And my dad — my play-it-super-close-to-the-vest dad — asked if he could pick out her Christmas dresses when she’s little, like he did for me and for my sister. My brother is planning on flying up in the spring, too.

And hubs talks to Birdy in my belly. He says, “I hope you hear when I make your mom laugh, because I try to do that a lot.” And he sends me pictures for treehouse ideas. And I’m so grateful he’s her dad.

She’s so loved, so rooted for, already.

The st(ring) theory — brought to you by the old wives

Yesterday hubs and I went to visit at my mom’s apartment, because we were having a family lunch with cousins who were in town and other cousins that live much closer but we still don’t see a lot. Along for the ride were the new generation (as it currently stands), which is weird and beautiful at the same time. Six grown women, three babies, one second grader, and my husband as the lone grown man (he handles it well though — to be honest, the men are typically outnumbered in my family). And we were happy to be together, to play with the kids, to coo over the newest baby, to speculate over the baby-to-be that I’m growing at the moment.

One of my cousins brought up the ring trick and swore that every time she did it, it gave her the same results and she was certain it was right. Like me, she went through a miscarriage before her baby boy was born last January and she said that prior to the miscarriage the results for her were girl-boy-girl, and that after the miscarriage the results changed to boy-girl. So she did this trick to one of my other cousins who has two-under-two, and the results were girl-boy, which is indeed the order of her children. Then she did it to herself to further demonstrate, and then of course it was my turn.

It was explained like this: If the ring on a string goes circular, it means you’re having a boy. If it swings side to side, it means you’re having a girl. If either movement is very large in execution, it means twins. If it doesn’t really move, it means no more babies. And the idea is you can keep doing until the ring-on-a-string says no more.

I didn’t really buy into it, but it seemed quirky and fun so I let her do it. As she began, my aunt walked in and asked what was happening, to which hubs deadpanned, “Some sort of satanic Wiccan ritual.” Ha!

The first time it went circular and they all crowed “boy!”. The second time it stopped, which my cousin proclaimed meant I would only have one child. I know it may seem stupid and illogical, but my heart skipped a little at that. I have always planned on more than one child. At least two, so my children had a “person”. And I know, that after March baby is born, eventually we will start trying for another. So to hear her say the stars and fates or whatever only give me one child, my thoughts immediately went to — Oh, God. All my other babies will die. All this processing and these thoughts happened maybe within a 15 second time span, and I tried to outwardly laugh it off and said, “Well, we’ll just adopt a second one then!”

But it bothered me. And I was very uncomfortable that it bothered me, because I knew it was just an old wives’ tale. A ring on a string cannot accurately predict anything! But it rankled me enough that later that night I did it to myself. Now, I should tell you; before I did it, I looked up the tale to be sure I have the results right. Here’s the thing. Different articles/posts/experiences contradicted what meant what as far as ring movement and where to suspend the string. Some said circle = boy/lateral = girl, others said the completed opposite. Some said you had to hold it over a hand, others said over the pregnant belly, others said they were interchangeable. Which made me feel marginally better, since it was so inconsistent.

But I still tried it anyway. First time was circular, just like before. Second time, it initially stopped, like before as well. But I held the string over my hand longer, and eventually it started to move again — lateral. (To which I thought, of course! I mean gravity and laws of physics have to be exerting some force on this experiment.) The third time, it was still, and it stayed still no matter how long I continued to hold it.

I was partially satisfied with my little foray into the ritual, but it still bothered me that it bothered me in the first place.

In the After

Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but After started four months ago.

School started back up for me this past Monday. Just professional development this week, the kids come tomorrow. This week I did test runs with what to pack so I can have quick, small, protein-packed edibles throughout the day to keep the almost-nausea and lightheadedness at bay. Tried to figure out at what points throughout the day I need to make sure I’m ingesting something.

I’m feeling very out of place, lacking a group. As the school’s ESL instructor I’m an island unto myself. Which generally I’m completely fine with, but during PD week it’s like being the new kid in a high school cafeteria. Even though I’m not actually new. And I’m grappling a bit with the differences in this position versus my usual general education classroom role. I’m used to have 25 littles constantly surrounding me all day. Though I still believe this teaching move will be a good one, it’s difficult adapting.

And being back at school, I find I feel a bit like a leper again. Like I’ve got a scarlet M on my chest for miscarriage. The teacher whose pregnancy matched my own is of course in her third trimester. Seeing her is still difficult, but not paralyzing. I even made myself ask if they’d chosen a name and said how lovely the name was. But I got the vibe she didn’t really want to talk to me. Now, of course, there’s my second baby, but no one there (except one) knows about that yet.

We had an appointment for March baby on Monday. Thankfully, the midwife we met with this time was so much better than the nurse practitioner I had at six weeks. More compassionate, less put-out by my mere presence. She swung us an ultrasound, which we were grateful for. We were able to see March baby, watch it wiggle around and wave its tiny appendages. We were told the heartbeat and growth were where they should be.

We were relieved, and a bit elated. But for me, the twelve week scan is the Big One. The first major hurdle we need to get through. We need March baby to still be alive at twelve weeks. But to be honest, with each week that passes I’m letting myself hope a little more and fear a little less. Which is good, that’s what I want. Hubs has started asking more about telling people, which is also positive.

I’m struggling with telling my dad. It’s beginning to feel wrong that other people know now when he still doesn’t, but it’s difficult for me. I know he didn’t mean to cause me more hurt, but when I told him about losing Charlie he first said he was sorry, then said “these things happen”, then asked if it was something I had done. Later, when I was trying to share with him how we were really doing, how talking about it was helping me cope, he seemed more concerned with how I might be making other people uncomfortable. After that, I didn’t try to talk to him about it anymore. I felt very strongly that he was one of those people who would prefer I pretend Charlie never existed. And until recently, I didn’t realize that not only was I hurt, but I was also angry with him. I want to tell him about March baby, but I don’t want to do it until I’ve made perfectly clear that Charlie existed and mattered and I won’t ever pretend otherwise. So I’m feeling pretty stuck by that. I don’t really want to tell him over the phone, because I’m pretty sure I’ll cry. I don’t want to email it, because that’s impersonal. I’m in a quandary.

I’m also trying to figure out what to get my mom for her birthday, and how to go about celebrating hub’s birthday in September since he might be out at a job site.

After is a collective oddity of consciousness sometimes.

 

March baby

I tried coming up with a name to give the baby for now. Unlike with Charlie, my friend hasn’t named this baby — probably because Charlie died. I tried on a few for-now names, ones that would be gender neutral, but nothing felt right. Then I tried a couple nicknames, but calling the baby “peanut” or “little bean” never appealed to me. I’ve finally settled on March baby, at least for now. It’s accurate, since it’s due in March, and gives it some sort of proper-noun identity. Plus, there’s a funny anecdote that ties in.

When hubs and I got engaged, I was so not interested in having a long engagement. Even a year felt ridiculous. We were thirty (well, almost, for me), we’d been living together for quite awhile, we both had steady jobs, we had usable household materials, etc. I just didn’t see the point in waiting. Anyway, initially after the engagement (which occurred in early June of that year), I posited that we get married in February. It would line up with our dating anniversary, and I have a thing for snow and thought a winter wedding would be lovely, plus it’d be out-of-season for weddings, which equals cheaper!

So that’s what we went for and we shared that idea with our families. It would be a waiting/prepping period of about 7-8 months. Totally doable. Hubs’ family came back with a “what’s the rush?” curiosity. I didn’t see it as a rush at all. I would have done it in four months if it wouldn’t have seriously crunched us for planning and executing time. But eventually, I came up with a theory that to this day I swear I’m right about: His family thought he’d gotten me pregnant out of wedlock (gasp!) and that we were trying to get married before the baby came. Laughable, at the time. Mildly sardonic now, given our last four months.

But from that, we started calling the wedding planning (and thus the wedding) “Project March Baby”. Eventually, we changed the wedding date to April — which of course answered any unofficially-asked questions about the “pregnancy”.

However, now, hubs jokes that we actually have a project March baby on our hands. And oh how I am praying that March delivers (get it?).

I did a thing

Yesterday, I went back to the pool. I went swimming, for the first time since the baby died (for more insight: The girl who stopped swimming). My mom came up and I used one of the guest passes I was given so I could have her come along. That might sound silly, that a 31-year-old woman needed her mom to restart this routine, but I needed help. I couldn’t do it on my own. Just having another person there made it less nerve-wracking. We used the indoor pool instead of the outdoor — I schemed it that way, thinking that because it was summer most families would be outside, and I was right! So it wasn’t very crowded, which meant I was less tense, and I got to swim and enjoy doing it.

One small step, right?

Be strong. And soft.

When my grandmother found out she had cancer, and that, at best, she had maybe three months to live, she looked at my mother and said, “I want you to be strong.” Then she paused, and added, “…and soft.” It was probably the truest and most profound thing she has ever said.

Out of anything one could say in that moment, I cannot thing of a single thing that would be better. She wasn’t a perfect person, but at 86 years old, at the very end of her life, all of a sudden she just got it. Came to the realization that you can be both strong and soft, and that really, you should allow yourself both.

Grammy died four days later. She was ready to go, more than any of us were ready to let her. And, oh, how I grieved. I loved her so much. We used to write letters, for years, back and forth. I miss that. I miss her. But I think about those words a lot.

Be strong. And soft.

And I try to remember to be both, that’s it’s okay to be both. That they don’t cancel each other out. That they both have importance and purpose. You can remember it too, tuck it away for when you need it.