Sunday, June 27, 2010

So it has been a while . . .

I sit here on a Sunday morning with a contented baby playing at my feet. Wow, life has changed!

He is such a happy baby. He is the proverbial "easy" baby. He has been playing this way for the past half an hour at least. He is laying on his back, in his striped "Mommy Loves Me" pajamas, reaching up and grabbing at his toys that are hanging above him. He has toys hanging from links in a little jungle gym arc contraption. There's a bee, a purple star with a reflective mirror in the middle, a rattle, a soft tiger looking thing . . . just plain links. He grasps at them and is able to hold them in his grip. He's also using them to help pull himself onto his side — he's almost ready to roll over. He kicks his legs and alternately stops grasping at his toys to put his fingers in his mouth and suck on them a bit. He is the apple of my eye — he and his older brother and sister, of course.

During his pregnancy, I was fraught with fear: Would what happened last time happen again? Probably not, my mind reasoned, since what happened last time was such a freak, hardly-ever-happens kind of a diagnosis. Would something different happen this time? I made it to 12 weeks, when we could have an initial ultrasound and measure nuchal translucency. That was normal. Stress lessened, just a bit. Then I had a CVS . . . normal chromosomes (and it's a boy!). Stress lessened even more. The AFP test came back normal — now I was feeling pretty good. One last hurdle to get over . . . the "big" ultrasound. The one that checks for anomalies, the one at which we got our bad news last time. No anomalies! All I had to do then is to sit back and get round . . . and worry a bit. That worry never went away. Would something happen during delivery? Would I still come home without a baby?

Luckily — thanks be to God and the universe! — everything turned out as I had hoped it would, and here I am with him on this quiet Sunday morning. The house is tranquil — Daddy is sleeping as T gave him a hard time last night! The other kids were at grandmas for the night — and it is just he and I. He's playing with a plush blue elephant now, trying to grasp as many things at the same time in his tiny hands as possible. It is a joy to watch.

His brother is always in my mind, though. I like to think that their spirits were together for a while, playing together, in that nethertime before T's came to join us in this world, and that M is constantly with us, with him, watching over and protecting him in a special way. Protecting all of us in a special way.

T is my caboose. He's definitely the last of our brood. I cannot go through another tension filled pregnancy again. I worried with all of my pregnancies, to some degree, but his — for obvious reasons — took the cake. I cannot mentally do that again. I passed through the eye of the needle, and I'm grateful, but don't want to tempt fate again.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I'm Scared

I know it has been a while since I wrote. Life gets busy and I think I'm a little depressed. I find it hard to get motivated to do anything I don't want to do.

I'm writing because I'm trying to purge some feelings and thoughts that are floating around in my head. For three days now I've woken at 3:45 in the morning. I cannot sleep past that. I'm facing fear and I'm trying to win, but I'm finding it difficult. My husband and I are thinking of trying again for a baby. After what's happened to us, I'm very scared of trying again and receiving a poor diagnosis (again). I don't want to get bad news. It isn't that I don't think I can handle it — I handled it when we got it the last time and I'm here now to be writing to you as I walk through it still. I just don't want to get it. And I'm assuming that I will. It is an asinine assumption. But then I get sad, and then fearful. And then angry at myself because I know I'm thinking really irrational thoughts . . . and I cannot stop this loop when it manifests itself at 3:45 in the morning.

So instead of laying there spiraling, I thought I'd get up and at least write about it and get it out of my head a bit.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Just . . . blah.

I know I haven't written in a long time. The "high" I was on in my last post at work . . . yeah I'm not on that high now! I'm tired. I want Christmas vacation. Those few days of for Thanksgiving whet my appetite for some REAL time off.

That, and the holidays always make me depressed. I hate winter. If I didn't have kids I wouldn't decorate for Christmas. Especially this year. Call me Scrooge or whatever, but I just want to crawl into bed and slip into a half-asleep, half-wakeful but totally relaxed stupor. I don't want to think. I don't want to do anything. Depressed, yes. Yes, I am depressed.

I've been on the verge of tears all day. Just missing my baby. Hating the season. Missing my baby. Worried about should we try again. [Do you know that in my latest scenario I have myself dying in childbirth and my poor DH is now left to cope with raising three children by himself while dealing with his own grief over my death? That's sick. And that's how I think.] Missing my mother-in-law. Lazy and feeling bad about it. Feeling like I should do something and be productive. Feeling needy. Missing my baby. More worry. Letting myself feel overwhelmed. Everything. UGH.

I should do some grading tonight. But I'm not. I'm going to go downstairs and curl up with my True Crime: An American Anthology book and fall alseep on the couch (because I'm sick with a cold and am snoring and keeping the DH from sleeping). And I'm going to wake up and hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

At least I get to see my psychologist this week (Friday appointments). I missed last week because it was the Friday after Thanksgiving and no one was working who didn't have to. Including me. I was in bed in that stupor I so crave. Because then I don't have to feel. I hate feelings.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Work, Part III

I've been on a total high at work lately. AND, I'm waiting for it to all come crashing down.

That's sick, but it is the way I am. Instead of playing the "Work What IF" Game, my psychologist said that I need to start making up a list of things I can think about should I find myself venturing into a seedy neighborhood in my head.
Here's what's on the list so far:

1. Generate the (infinite) list of Fibonacci Numbers in my head one right after the other as far as I can go.

Mmm . . . yeah, that's as far as I got.

Do you know what the Fibonacci Numbers are? It is a number sequence that goes like this:
1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 . . . The next number is the sum of the two previous numbers. It continues infinitely, and the really cool thing is how it relates to the arts, science, and nature. I'll elaborate: If you take a number and divide it by the number previous, you'll get a number that is around 1.6 . . . the further out in the sequence one is, the more precisely it will approach 1.6. This figure is known as the Golden Mean. The Greeks and the Romans really liked this ratio for engineering and architecture. One can see Fibonacci numbers at work in terms of how many leaves are on a stem, or how many spirals appear in a Nautilus shell, or how many seeds are on a seed head. Amazing, really. Visit this site if you want to read an exhaustive summary of it all. I don't teach math anymore, but it is a personal love. (And maybe I will teach it again some day . . . )

But as I said, work has been going swimmingly. I've been feeling uber organized and on top of everything. I astound my coworkers in my department with my techie skills and everything I do. They've told me, "You're amazing," and it gives me these brief moments of elation. I have a "to do" list two pages long, but it's keeping me on top of my game. I feel like I've been teaching some really great lessons and like the content is truly getting into my students' brains. Like we read this AWESOMELY great spooky thriller this week, "Three Skeleton Key" by George Toudouze, and they seemed to love it as much as I do. (Maybe they're just picking up on my enthusiasm, but whatever, I'm going with it.) Their parents report their kids like my class, which is a good thing. I'm making parent phone calls to help get students who aren't performing in gear, and the parents are appreciative. I'm earning mega brownie points by creating this super deluxe PowerPoint-ish presentation for the school bored, ahem I mean, board, for my principal. (It's not PowerPoint, but Apple's version of it, Keynote.) It is pretty damn awesome, if I say so myself, and it gives me a good reason to procrastinate grading writing (which I hate to do). Even Bitch Mom has had nothing to complain about and smiles when she sees me.

(I met Bitch Mom three years ago when she was, well, a BITCH to me. [See Work, Part II post for a total wrap up.] She was horrible and rude and I was new to the school and didn't know better but to LET HER be that way. Even though I had started my tenth year teaching that year and I should have said to myself, "been there, done that, Dulce, there are parents like this and you've had them before," I lapped up every criticism she had of me and thought, deep down, she must be right. I must NOT be the teacher I thought I was. It was actually so bad that I had to start up therapy again because I could NOT handle her [and a few of her cronies]. I had panic attacks and lost a bunch of weight and couldn't sleep . . . it was horrible. I took personally everything she said about me . . . and even now, as I have her younger child in my class, my immediate reaction to seeing her approach my classroom, or seeing her name in my email in-box, is to get immediately defensive and to shoot my guard up. It's like my own personal National Terror Alert status goes to RED immediately and I get this visceral feeling like I want to throw up.)
<--- can you see why Dr. Psychologist wants me to work on this? And to get back to what my coworkers think about me . . . that's nice to hear those things about how brilliant they think I am, but I don't believe it. Deep down, the perfectionist in me knows that I'm not all that and that I'm really nothing to write home about. I could (and should) be doing it better.

And actually, I'm fine to work on work issues because I have to get over this. And it's nice to focus on work, because then I can live a little bit longer in Purposeful Denial, that place where I pretend nothing bad has happened to me, you know, like baby loss. I know Dr. Psychologist and I are coming to that neighborhood soon, and I'll be forced to vacate, but until then, I'm waiting for my Three Day Notice to Quit. I'm going to have to forcibly evicted.

We had parent conferences this past week, and they went well. Amazingly well. And I can't wait to show my principal this Keynote tomorrow. I know she'll love it, and I'll get those little positive strokes for my bruised ego that I so desperately need, all the while hating that I like to get them so much . . . ach!

Ah well, a few things to do before bed and then the race begins again.

Dressed In Black and in a Black Mood

So two of my students asked me the other day, "Mrs. ___, is your favorite color black?" In a socratic way, I answered back with a question: "Why do you ask?" They told me that all they ever see me wear, with little exception, is black. Again, a la Socrates, I query, "So you're noticing a pattern, is that it?" Then they tried a different tact . . . "Are you emo, Mrs. ___?" I rolled my eyes. "Ah, no," I replied. Not wanting to tell them the REAL reason I wear black this year, I opted for the following "cover" . . . that even though as junior high students, I know that a school uniform (even the idea of it) is a fate they do not want to consider, my "uniform" is my black outfits. (Which are very cute, by the way.)

The last thing I want to do in the morning, I told them, is agonize over what I want to wear. I have two kids and myself to get ready in the morning. I don't want to spend the extra time and coordinate. So, to that end, I bought Eileen Fisher dresses and skirts to wear from Nordstrom before school started. I found a few extra things on sale at and some black leggings from Banana Republic. Everything is washable; nothing has to be dry cleaned. (Which I am also getting sick of.) And everything matches with the black pairs of Eccos that I have, Mary-Janes (two pairs, different styles), and a pair of sandals. Okay, so yeah, Eileen Fisher is more expensive than Ann Taylor Loft or regular Ann Taylor, but its also more comfortable and the money I'm saving in dry cleaning . . . well, it was added in advance onto the price of the clothes. And I love them. They're loose and drape my body so well. Very flattering. And, to be honest, there's room to grow in them should DH and I conceive, as we're going to try to do as soon as I get the okay. So for hiding a bump and keeping things on the down-low for as long as I can (instead of blabbing to the world as soon as I found out in past pregnancies) . . . anyways, her clothes are good for that. I'm gun shy and don't want to tell anyone (if I don't have to) until after that 20 week ultrasound, if I can hold out until then. [Even though I know that even that is no guarantee of anything either.]

But there's that other reason I wear black: mourning. It is, in my way, a means of honoring my lost son and acknowledging his loss in a public way without talking about it. (No one who knows about our loss wants to bring it up to me anyway.) As I put on my (awesome) black outfits in the morning, I think of him, though. It is my way of keeping his presence with me throughout my day and all its tasks. My colleagues and others I encounter don't know the specific reason for my monotonous hue choice this year, and maybe if they asked, I'd tell them the same "excuse" I told my students. It is, after all, partly true--about the dry cleaning and stuff. But it is also true that I miss my baby. And maybe it is very old fashioned and Scarlett O'Hara of me to dress in black as they did in once past to mourn a passing, but I like the idea of it. There's comfort in rituals, and this just happens to be one I like right now. And it isn't just my clothes. I even, at my last salon visit, had my stylist dye my hair black. (Okay, it's also got funky blond chunky streaks put in it, too, but you get the idea.) When I pass his Angel Day in the spring, after a full year has passed, then maybe I'll don my colorful clothes again and embrace the world. (Or maybe I'll shuck those because -- damn it -- they're the dry clean ones, and buy the colorful Eileen Fisher line instead of the black one.)

But for right now, I just need to sit in my cave -- go out and do what I need to do to function in the world -- but I need to sit at home and grieve. I know I need to live, too, but I need to grieve. So I go out into the world and live and take care of all of my responsibilities, which include being a mother to my two living children and a wife to my DH, but I do it while keeping the spirit of my son ever present in my mind -- call me "two face" if you will. At the very least, I look chic while doing all of this.

Did I also mention I'm in purposeful denial? I love it there. I don't have to feel anything. But that's for another post . . .

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dearest Michael . . .

Today's the day you would have been born. The doctor scheduled your C-section for today, except that it didn't happen as we had all planned.

I miss you terribly. I wish we could have met today, and I could have held you in my arms and looked into your eyes as I did with your older brother and sister. Right after your brother and sister were born, after they calmed down a bit (because they cried when they were first born), there was a period of alertness, where they looked all around. We just stared into each other's eyes; I wanted that moment with you. I cried for you in the shower this morning, and I made sure to get your sister up early enough and ready for school so that we could make the 6:30 mass. I said prayers for you there, and I begged God to continue to hold you in his arms and to give me strength to make it through the day. I love that part in the mass, right before communion, where the priest is praying and he says, "Protect us from all anxiety and grant us peace in our day . . . " because that's what I want more than anything. I'm waiting for the grief to get less raw; it's slow going.

It comforts me greatly to know that you are there with Meema, and that she is there to take care of you for me until we meet again. I know she wasn't the Meema that liked to babysit, but I'm sure hangin' together in heaven is a lot different than babysitting down on Earth. 

I wonder what your personality would have been like, and how similar you would look to your brother and sister. Would you have been easy going, like your brother? Or, would you have been more spirited and sometimes stubborn, like your sister? Would you have been spoiled, being the baby of the family? Probably! You would have been Meema's 18th grandchild . . . well, you still were. You just got to meet her up there with God rather than down here with us. She's a lot of fun -- ask her to sing for you!

Dearest Michael, you are never far from me. My mind thinks about you constantly. When I put my earrings on in the morning, I do it in tribute to you. I make myself look as becoming as possible in tribute to you. I have more compassion for my fellow citizen now than I have ever had in my life, thanks to you. You have made me such a better person in a myriad of ways: a better mother, a better spouse, a more patient and understanding teacher; more genuine and honest with my friends, sibling, and parents. I am more apt to give the common person I encounter on the street the benefit of the doubt--what pain do they carry? What burden do they seek to hide from the world? Because, as I have found, everyone has something that grieves them. My grief is the loss of you. I'm a little bit lost right now. I'm not the same person, nor will I ever be again.

I heard said that the greatest loss an adult could face was the loss of a child. I used to think, "I can't imagine that." I would try to, try to wrap my head around that concept, and I would shudder at the thought, but I didn't really know how right they were until it happened to me. I think the brain subconsciously blocks the pain of the loss from one's mind, because the emotions are so damning and overwhelming that I would truly be engulfed in sadness and go mad should I have to experience the them in their full realization. 

I toasted you tonight. Daddy and I went out to dinner with Papa, since tonight is the night we would have had our usual Monday night dinner at Meema and Papa's. Uncle M is still staying with Papa, so we took him with us. As they were taking our drink orders, I asked for a diet Coke and two shots of tequila. Not a double, two separate shots. Papa laughed and wondered what got into me, but I knew what I had planned. When the drinks arrived, I toasted Meema, and then I toasted you. After downing both, I felt much better. But I was there to celebrate you and what you brought to all of our lives in the short time you were with us. I ordered dessert, and we all shared it. For once, we ate the entire Jumper's Mud Pie at Claim Jumper. We never do that. I know you were there with us. I know you were.

Michael, I love you. I miss you. I ache and grieve for you. I almost cannot find the words to express my loss adequately, as forcefully as I want to. Rest assured that you are with me always. Always. 

Love, Mommy

Friday, September 19, 2008

Another death, and a Memoriam

We experienced another loss in our family. 

My DH's mom passed away on Thursday, Sept. 11. It was rather sudden; it wasn't as if she was sick and had been lingering on with cancer, or had just gotten out of a stay in the hospital. But it wasn't as if she was exactly healthy either. She had the usual ailments that came with being nearly 77: achy bones and a back that went out every once in a while. Problems with diverticulitis. She was on medicines for her blood, and had problems with her eyes. These things were complicated by the fact that she smoked and drank. Although she had quit smoking at one point for nearly two years, she had recently began smoking in secret. Obviously it wasn't a total secret, because I know and I am writing about it here, but it was a secret from my father-in-law. She used to drink wine in the afternoons and evenings, and had in the past few months switched over to bourbon. Let's face it: It is rough (and sometimes depressing) getting old.

Everyone has their character defects, and my mother-in-law was no exception. What follows is a list of the best aspects of her character, a description of what I appreciate most about her: 
  1. She was fun. She smoked (Marlboro red box) and drank and danced and sang! She knew all the old tunes, which she would sing with her brother (who just passed away in June), or by herself as she was cooking, or with her "baby" brother if he happened to be out visiting. Recently she donned her old tap shoes to dance with one of her granddaughters, my niece. We didn't share the same taste in wine, and I don't drink bourbon, but we could enjoy a drink together. She always started, and often finished, the daily crosswords in the paper. And she loved Yahtzee.
  2. She arranged my wedding. Did I mention she gambled? She loved to gamble. Her game of choice was blackjack, and she also played the slots. I was in awe of her because she played dollar or even five-dollar slots, when I could hardly bear to part with a quarter or to even gamble at all. When DH and I were dating, Las Vegas was her destination of choice. As she got older, it was harder for her to get there, so she sometimes went to Stateline instead. Then, however, she began to opt for the Indian gaming casinos down in north San Diego County. But, she was more than willing to help arrange my wedding in Vegas, and it was an affair everyone enjoyed and still talks about. She had it all arranged within about three or four hours. She knew exactly who to call . . . I'm thankful.
  3. She was honest and upfront. Upon my marriage, over the kitchen table one night, she said to me, "You can call me (her name) or you can call me Mom, whichever you feel more comfortable with." She was honest about the fact that she didn't necessarily want to babysit our kids, because she had been there, done that. Our DS was her eleventh grandchild, and she had already raised eight children of her own (yes, eight!). But she loved our children and, as they got older and were not baby-babies, she would volunteer her and my father-in-law's time so that DH and I could go out for a Japanese dinner or two. She didn't lie about the fact that she hated to clean, and was completely honest when she said didn't care what people thought about her dusty house, either.
  4. She loved her children and family fiercely. She still attended her childrens' important functions, just as I attend the Christmas pageants and Back-to-School nights for mine. Grandma came to her grandchildren's dance recitals, soccer games, graduations, and class play performances. She indulged my children by making sure to keep their favorite flavors of ice cream (chocolate and vanilla) in the freezer, along with plenty of whipped cream and chocolate syrup in the fridge. She cooked my son's favorite meal for him nearly every Monday night, which we took to calling the "Monday Night Special." She remembered every birthday, and her refrigerator was plastered with pictures of all her seventeen grandchildren.
  5. She was a good cook. There's something, well, very comforting about basic meals consisting of the four food groups. Before the food pyramid, there were the four food groups, and that's what her meals were based upon. There was always a meat -- DH's favorite was her pork roast that she would season with garlic and salt, and sometimes tabasco. (I watched her do it the last time, so I can cook it that way now, also.) Then there was a vegetable and some kind of starch, like mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, or noodles. The mashed potatoes she hadn't been too successful with lately, but at least it provided all of us a good laugh at the dinner table. My children eat broccoli because of her and love it. She introduced me to gumbo, and the red beans and rice of New Orleans, the town where she was born and raised. When I took over cooking Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago, I got to learn how to cook her fabled turkey stuffing; it never has tasted quite like the way she made it--I remember the first time I tasted it--but pretty close, if I do say so myself. I would devour her southern style green beans, cooked with bacon and a bit of onion when she made them, which wasn't often lately. I never figured out how she perfectly seasoned her tomatoes and cucumbers with vinegar and oil, but I loved those, too.
  6. She was a great conversationalist. My DH, me, and his parents could sit for hours around the kitchen table talking about everything under the sun: old family stories, politics, work, movies or books, local news.
  7. She was supportive of our decision to terminate our pregnancy, and I did not feel judged in any way for having made that choice. She went to my first appointment with me at the clinic when my DH couldn't make it in time. She let me talk about Michael when I felt like bringing the subject up, and did not try to minimize my pain when my tears started to flow, telling me (like so many others) "that it would all be okay." She just let me cry and say what was on my mind, her quietness more a way of saying "I'm sorry," which I knew she was. She was accepting and validating, never trying to change the subject to something less emotional or safe. I love her for that.
  8. She played the violin . . . and, as her brother said at her vigil Monday night, "it is because of that violin that all of us are here." It is because of that violin, that I have the wonderful husband that I do. She taught herself how to play, and she became so proficient at it that she was offered a music scholarship at a university in Louisiana. It was there that she met my father-in-law, fell in love, and married him in 1953. They were married for 55 years. My husband was one of the wonderful products of that marriage, along with his siblings. Who knows the course life would have taken had she not determinedly decided to play, but I'm glad that she did. I now have two beautiful children of my own and an angel in heaven. In them, as well as in her own children and the other grandchildren, her legacy will live on.