Altered Perceptions

I found this Google ad, and it’s so cute and sweet it made me tear up the whole time. Happy tears. But then it gave me the creeps.

It’s the way the babies stop crying and there’s silence and then the dad types “How soon can we try again?”

I know it’s just supposed to be sweet and happy, and that having these babies makes him so happy he just wants more. I know, I get it.

But seriously, the first time I saw it I thought the babies died.

This shit kind of stays with you, doesn’t it.

Birthdays and Honeymoons.

So I feel like a terrible mother to you. I didn’t have anything to write on your birthday. I haven’t had anything to write since then either. It isn’t like I don’t think of you, or don’t care. It’s just…I don’t even know what to say. Your brother is taking up more and more space in my body, and the farther along we get with him, the more he is moving to the center of our world.

And I feel vaguely like I’m failing you, even though I know that my time mothering you has past already. You feel farther and farther away…I can’t think about where I was a year ago right now. That horrible empty ache that was my constant companion.

Your brother has been with me longer than you were. He is big enough now to distort the (increasingly enormous) roundness of my belly. Strong enough now that the impact of his kicks can be painful as well as startling. He kicks in places you never could reach. His presence is constant now.

Daddy and I took our honeymoon last week. I kind of expected to have moments of really missing you–I mean, we were meant to take almost this exact trip exactly one year ago. And yet…though you came up in conversation and certainly were not forgotten, it was like this trip was just for your daddy and brother and me.

I guess that’s how life is supposed to go on. You stay the same and we keep walking. But it’s hard to grasp. I feel at least as though I should feel more upset by it.

Time can be kind.

Getting It

I had kind of a revelation lately. Perhaps it would better be described as a crystallization of thoughts. I finally feel like I understand why your Daddy didn’t want to see you when you were born, and still doesn’t want to see the pictures.

He was always up front. He didn’t want to see. We made absolutely certain his wishes were clear and respected. When you were born, he was standing next to my head, holding my hand and looking into my eyes with total intensity. There was a drape over my knees to block the view. Your grandmothers went with the nurses that took you away and not long after your Daddy left so that I could hold you and see you. For those few hours (and only for those hours) we were apart, while I held you and kissed you and memorized your tiny, perfect face.

After, I never pushed him to see the pictures we took. I told him that I was sad that he didn’t want to see and that I would be pleased if he ever changed his mind, but I did my best to accept it and let him grieve in his way.

But it did hurt. It hurt because in this whole world of people only we were your parents. No one else shared you the way we did. We loved each other so much we had to make you to hold some of it–and it hurt, knowing that he couldn’t, wouldn’t even look at you. That he didn’t ache for you the way I did, that he didn’t really feel that he’d lost a son the way I did. I sort of intellectually knew that he couldn’t feel as much for you as I did because, to him, you were a few blurry, grainy images, a bulge in my middle that moved a little under his hand, some wishes and half-formed plans, and me being a total bitch to him for three months straight while whining that I was nauseous.

Of course he loved you. Of course he wanted you. Of course he lost when you died. None of that is really in question. But in my heart it was. Name a way to feel about his choice and I felt it, intensely, at least once. Anger that he wouldn’t acknowledge you the way I wished he would. Frustration that I can’t have a picture of you out in our house. Pride that he knows himself well enough that he can look out for his needs. Gratitude for his calm and steady presence as I clung to him in the middle of my hurricane. Pity that he had never smelled your scent, or seen for himself that your foot was his in perfect miniature, or seen the dark rose color of your lips.

But the one thing I never really felt was understanding. I didn’t really get why he didn’t, even though I thought I knew. It was talking to a guy friend about his wife’s pregnancies. He was talking about the moment he really felt connected to his kids; really felt like a dad, felt that amazing, overpowering tie. It was the first moment they made eye contact. He said he loved them and dreamed about them and was excited for them, but he still didn’t really feel like he was a father. Not until he met them. And somehow that supplied a kind of missing piece.

For me, holding you brought tremendous relief. For that little cocoon of time I just marveled at this tiny being I had created. Like any mother. I reveled in those short hours between when I could only see you in my imagination and when you’d exist only in my memory. They were what reward and joy and validation I could gather to try and salve my shattered heart. The only flaw in those moments of peace was that your Daddy wasn’t sharing them with me.

But I finally understand that, even had he been right there with us, he wouldn’t have shared that with me. For him, it would have been a sudden flood of the magnitude of that loss. Suddenly, instead of being profoundly disappointed he would have become a fully grieving father. There would have been no surcease, only ghastly, indescribable pain. The same pain that holding you eased for me. He withheld himself from meeting you not so that he could deny that he was grieving for a lost child, but so that he would not have lost a child.

And I am glad. Because he certainly did not escape feeling pain and grief. But it wasn’t as much for you as it was for me; for my pain, for the loss of the life we thought we were going to have. The awful helplessness of watching me through that hell. But because he wasn’t walking beside me he could be my shelter. He could provide for me, everything from making sure the bills were paid to making sure I ate occasionally. He could give himself completely when he held me and listened to the constant variances of why did this happen, instead of being so wrapped in his own grief that he had nothing to give.

He could not be a broken, grieving father to you, as I sometimes in my anguish wished he was. What he could be was a strong, loving and supportive husband. And that’s an important part of being a father too. I trust him more deeply because of how much he was there for me. I knew he meant it when he said “for better or worse,” because he’d already done both.

Am I doing it wrong?

Sometimes I think I’m doing this wrong.

Lately, in the weeks since your brother has become stronger and more active, as we are less and less worried about the defect that hurt you so badly, we are starting to become attached to this tiny manchild that still makes me throw up on a regular basis. This is still a very different pregnancy. I was trying to put it into words with Daddy today. It’s as if I believed the assumption that I would have a living child by Christmas, but I never actually believed you would be born (and dammit, it still doesn’t make sense). Never really feel like an actual baby would arrive, never really believed I’d be a parent. Lately, its the opposite. I actually am starting to believe that he will be here, breathing and pink and alive, but I can’t just assume it will actually happen. Even though when I was assuming you’d arrive but I couldn’t believe it.

I’m talking in circles, but I guess I’m thinking in them too.

I feel like I’m doing this wrong because I’m starting to get attached to him. Starting to love him and want him and prepare for him, in different ways than I loved you. I never had the luxury of really preparing for you to arrive. We found out you were a boy for sure the same day we found you were leaving us. I’m pragmatic and concrete, and I couldn’t plan for a baby I knew so little about. Call me sexist for needing a peek between the legs before I could get anywhere, but its true. The idea that there’s an entire person inside me is so hard to fathom that not even knowing if you were a boy or a girl was just one disembodying step too far for me to follow. Now that we know more about little E he’s becoming more of a “real” boy to us.

Aren’t I supposed to still feel all detached? Aren’t I supposed to be withholding my heart to protect myself? Aren’t I supposed to doubt until he’s safely here? I look in the mirror and I see this glowing, joyous pregnant woman. I picture him in ways I never really pictured you. Isn’t that wrong? Isn’t it too soon? Isn’t this premature celebration?

Could it be the coin toss is in our favor?

I feel like I should apologize. So much has happened and I’ve neglected this blog. I talk to you often, but I don’t sit and organize my thoughts the way I should. Plus, there’s that beautiful kitchen…
If I had “before” pictures I’d share them, but that damn kitchen was so hideous I never bothered.

But so much more than that has happened. We had the next ultrasound, and found that your little brother is doing beautifully. Thus far, he seems to have all of his parts. Unless something goes terribly awry, or some other horrible unrelated thing pops up, we are past the point of having to make any heartbreaking choices.

This has changed things for me. For one thing, I’ve finally started to connect with your brother. And to worry about him. Though he’s been kicking even more than you did, he’s still small enough that he can hide, and I’ll go hours without any little thumps and flutters. And my mind fills with terrible images of him floating limply inside me, gone cold and silent just when things seemed to be going so well.

Another thing I’ve had trouble with is his name. I usually think of him as Edward, and feel like he’s a very different little boy than you were. But sometimes your name comes to mind first and then I feel guilty twice over–once for not spending as much time talking to or thinking about you, and again for not being able to give myself fully to your brother.

Its very confusing. I’m happy and I’m guilty and I’m nervous and I’m hopeful. Hopeful! Is it really even okay to say that? Can we really say that your brother undoubtedly has fingers and toes, even if we have to wait for him to get bigger to count them all and make sure they’re in the right places? And he was a very good boy–he stretched out his hands and wiggled and squirmed and showed off.

I never know what to feel anymore but I seem to be feeling EVERYTHING. Often at once.

At Least I’m Getting A New Kitchen Out Of The Deal

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve completely involved myself in remodeling the kitchen. Well, remodel is probably the wrong word. Cleaning and repainting and refinishing the cupboards and adding a wallpaper border…it’s been a lot of work. For two weeks our kitchen has mostly been in the living room and the kitchen itself has been covered in newspaper, drop cloths and blue tape. It’s bewildering and somewhat unpleasant. Tough to live with pots and pans overtaking the sofa (and then covered with clean laundry, as neither Daddy nor I have the energy to put it away.

But today is better. The kitchen still has no doors or drawers, but everything else is pretty much done and most of the stuff has been put back in. Organized, too, which my pleases my slight tendencies to Obsessive-Compulsive disorder. The rest of the house still looks like it’s been bombed, but we’ll make more progress tomorrow.

Mostly I think I’m working very hard on not feeling much. The next, and possibly the biggest, ultrasound is on Tuesday. The new baby is kicking and squirming more each day. I’m still sick as a dog, but I’m still getting on.

Optimism

I am so exhausted from all of the emotion of the day that I’m not giving this a proper post here. I will. But things are looking good. We saw arms and legs and fingers and everything we should see, where it should be. The bones aren’t calcified enough to show up well, so that will be next time. But from what we could see…everything looks…normal.

Not Looking

The first big ultrasound is today.

I feel completely outside myself today. Work was normal–I was my bright, cheery self. Got everything done that I needed to, and now that I’m home I am getting housework done. (Not at the moment, obviously, but I’ll be back to it soon). And I feel like I’m just standing next to this bustling, smiley person.

I feel nothing. Barely even a stab. I can’t even really think about it–it’s like I get distracted and wander off inside my head.

This first look…we have no idea what we’re dealing with yet. None. Daddy and I can’t talk about it much. We both have been busy around the house, getting things done (sort of), and there’s this vague feeling like we are battening down for a storm. Same kind of cheerful-but-nervous kind of undercurrent like when you pick up bottled water and some extra canned foods when there’s a windstorm. (This might not make sense to people who haven’t lived on the Oregon Coast, but trust me.) Every now and then I’ll say (and it’s always me) “if things go bad on Monday, we’ll need…” such and such. I think Daddy doesn’t like being reminded that things might go bad. He frowns every time.

And on top of it he’s been sick all this week–he’s at the doctor now. Just a cold that isn’t leaving, but he wanted to get checked out in case it’s Strep or something. Because we need that to worry about too…

Only a few hours left.

Optional Finger And Toe Expansion Pack

I’m feeling anxious about the new baby today. This is the week that it’s fingers and toes should separate, assuming it has any. Next week we’ll have another ultrasound–the first one where we play Lets Count The Bones.

I’m terrified.

I don’t know why it’s upsetting me right now. Especially since fingers and toes are actually the smallest part of our worries. Weird, to live in a world where we consider fingers and toes to be luxuries. Much worse if it’s major bones or entire limbs missing. The pelvis. The risk of cleft palate (no one in the family has it, but it is associated with the general disorder). So very many bones that could get lost or stunted along the way…

And I’ve kept rough track of the baby’s development–not like I did with you, though. With you, Daddy and I were excited to read every day what exactly we were growing. I never really spared a thought that something might not grow correctly for you. And as this new baby has gone through its early development, I’ve tried to…well, I never know what to call it. “Praying” is definitely the wrong word, and “meditating” is still off the mark. Well, whatever you call it, I’ve done it while the baby is (hopefully) growing arms and legs and all its major parts.

So why the little freak-out about the fingers and toes? Such tiny details…

Every now and then the relentlessly hopeful image of ten fingers and ten toes bounces through my consciousness. I never let it get far. I don’t know if it feels like I’d jinx things or that I’d somehow be being ungrateful that thus far this has been a very healthy pregnancy (fetus-wise, that is. Been a bit rough on Mommy). Slaying that thought the instant it arises is the only way I feel “safer.” In that hollow, whistling-in-the-graveyard pretend-control way.

I’d say to keep your fingers crossed, but I can’t decide if that’s heartrendingly optimistic or horrifically dark.