Sad but tan

Last night I finally cried again. I cried until I felt human, until I felt like a mother. I had to trust myself when it started, because it felt like I was never going to get control back. But once it was over I was glad, and I felt like myself again. Not my old self, but the new person I’m becoming.


Also of note: I have started my annual fake tan debacle. In case you couldn’t figure it out, that’s when every year I try and use sunless tanner to save people from having to hide their eyes from my bluish-white legs when I wear a skirt.


Many sunless tanners claim to be “easy to use” or “streak free” or “so easy even a monkey could use it” but my experience has been mixed to bad. Having only the energy to slather up my arms and legs, but none of the precision to do my feet or hands, I just end up looking like I rolled in dirt. There are swirls of rust color all along my body, including my neck (I itched myself and forgot to wipe the lotion off) my boobs (I must have rubbed an arm against a boob at some point) and my cuticles.


The good news about the self-tanning extravaganza is that I have not lost interest in my appearance. The bad news is that my interest in my appearance isn’t high enough to pull off actually looking good. Or even decent.


I finally caved in and ordered jeans and a couple shirts that would fit me. They arrived yesterday. Pulling on the non-maternity jeans, zipping them up, buttoning them, feeling the denim waistband against my stomach. It pulled at my heart. I knew I had to stop wearing the maternity jeans, but I realized that giving them up was like another nail in my heart.


Tom and I are starting to feel normal for longer stretches of time, and it turns out I hate feeling normal. I want to ache and rage. I want to feel close to Tommy Jr. Moving on with my life makes me feel far from him, and far from being pregnant. Wearing normal clothes and being able to exercise and drink wine all make me feel far away.


May 10 was a lifetime ago. I feel like I’m backsliding, even though I should feel like I’m healing. I don’t know what I need anymore.


Today is my first day alone at work again. My throat is tight and my stomach feels hot and unsettled. I keep thinking about that day. I keep feeling like I’m standing at the edge of my sanity and not wanting to hold on to anything or anyone but Tom Sr and Tommy Jr. But Tom Sr is at his own job. And Tommy Jr isn’t in my belly, or in the NICU, or with a nanny, or at a daycare. I can’t feel him near me. I can’t sleep at night, I just want to lay awake and wait to feel him again.


I want to pound the walls and stomp my feet and scream. I want pain and blood and bruises. Anything but this emptiness.

My Birthday

Today is my 32nd birthday. All I could think all weekend in anticipation is: “What am I supposed to do now?” I haven’t cried in days, and I’m afraid the raw pain is turning into something else. It’s panic.


When your idea of the future gets pulled out from under you, it’s hard to turn to what soothed you in the past. Things are too different now.


Yes, as it turns out Tom Sr and I are going to survive this. We are moving forward- sometimes it seems like we’re moving too fast. But I’ve got to find something. “Loss” is such a complete description when someone you love dies. I’m at a loss, I feel lost, I’ve lost my sense of control, I’m losing interest in the things that used to drive me.


So I’m going to give myself an assignment. I have to write everyday. I have to finish the art projects lying around my apartment. These two things I must commit to until August 30th. Then I’ll reevaluate. Maybe I’ll take singing lessons.


I filled the prescription I was carrying around for a while- a week or two I think- I can’t keep track of time that well. Maybe it was just a few days. I feel torn about having the pills again. I took them when I was younger, but the last few years I’ve changed a lot. I tried to have more perspective and empathy. I learned to ride the ups and downs more gracefully. I’m still moody but I directed my moodiness by writing and volunteering and exercising. I liked my life without the pills. I painted, I wrote furiously, I took improv classes.


Now I’ve been on the pills for about a week, and I feel clogged up. I can’t just cry. When I’m talking with someone and should be crying I get this weird smile on my face. It’s like a frozen grimace, and I can’t squeeze out any tears. I’m going to give the pills another week and see how I feel, but I’m not sure I’m going to stick with it. Is dulling the pain worth the sacrifices of not being able to write easily, and not being able to relieve myself with tears. Now instead of being filled with sawdust I feel like I have cotton in my tears ducts and my ears and stuffed in the spaces around my heart.


In the beginning I was so amazed by my own pain. Sometimes I felt like I was stepping back and watching it overcome me, like you’d watch a thunderstorm roll in. But I’m less impressed now, and less afraid. Maybe I don’t need the pills after all. It’s hard to tell how I’m feeling anymore.


I went to my book club last night for the first time since Tommy Jr was born. The women in the group are so wonderful and supportive and smart and compassionate. It felt so good to be with them again and drink wine and just be girls. They let me talk about Tommy as much as I wanted, and they never acted uncomfortable or impatient. I feel so lucky to have the friends and family and spouse that I do. Throughtout this ordeal I have felt pretty understood, which I know is a rarity.


I wrote the other day that I felt like myself again. But really I think I’m becoming more comfortable with my new self. And I can tell that my new self isn’t that far off from my old self.


What This Was

The clock keeps pushing the minutes forward. My Grama used to say this funny little rhyme about a doll filled with sawdust. Thats how I feel some days, like I’m full of sawdust.


I used to write a funny advice column here. It started as an outlet for my frustration, then turned into a practice space for my writing, then a place I was proud of: a compilation of my hopefulness, my faith in being lighthearted and forgiving. Sometimes my moodiness crept in, but for the most part I was my best self here. Even when I was joking around about being lazy or a bad worker I always wanted to be true to my belief that life is wonderful.


This blog has come so far from what I meant it to be. I guess I feel like so many things in my life are so different from what I meant them to be. I still think life is wonderful, I’m just sometimes consumed with grief.


Now what? As I sit at this tiny desk scattered with sympathy cards and insurance bills I am finally realizing that it’s time to adjust. I have to adjust my plans, my dreams, my expectations.


Maybe I have to adjust this blog- just the layout to start. I’m probably just grasping at the few things I do have control over. My stomach is rumbling satisfactorily. Maybe I’ll become one of those women who uses food to assert control over my life. I wish I could start by cleaning up this fucking desk. I just lifted a few sympathy cards to find several drafts of Tom’s and my speeches from the memorial service. I can’t seem to throw them away. I can’t seem to do anything that would help me restore a sense of order in my life.


What I just wrote is misleading- there was never a lot of order in my life. I never liked cleaning or making decisions or doing paperwork. But now it’s like all my bad habits are on rocket fuel. And I can’t stop complaining about not being able to act out. I wish I could get it through my heart that acting out isn’t going to get me anywhere. I know I’m doing this right (right for me anyway). My brain knows I am getting somewhere, that my grief isn’t going to destroy me.


Still, the way I cry is so remarkable. Big fat tears pour out of my eyes until they sting like I’ve been swimming with my eyes open. I sob until I can’t breathe.


It’s getting close to the time…the time I’ve been dreading since the shock of Tommy’s death started to fade and reality set in.  Soon people will be impatient with our grief.  Already I try to tuck myself out of the way when I cry.  I don’t want anyone to be exasperated, even fleetingly.  For as many times as I’ve heard the well-intentioned “take your time” I know better.  So few people understand the hollow ache.  It’s not the right thing to say because it’s another miserable aspect of loss, but it’s the truth: it’s getting close to the time.


This weekend Tom Sr. graduated. Watching him walk across the stage in his purple robe and his cum laude tassels was so moving. I am so proud of Tom’s hard work and accomplishments. After the ceremony we celebrated and for a few hours I felt like myself again. I was a little bit heavier hearted, but I recognized myself and it was a relief.


Maybe it’s not a coincidence that these two events are coinciding. I suppose that as we speed into the future, fewer and fewer people can tolerate me trying to linger in the past. I have to remember that Tommy Jr is part of my present. That’s the only way I can continue to breathe.

Family Memories

It’s hard to cope with Tommy’s death when I haven’t really come to terms with the fact that I’m not pregnant anymore. I should be 30 weeks now. That’s still far far from August 25th, my due date. So sometimes I’m crying about just not being pregnant anymore. It’s all tied up together, but sometimes that sadness is very acute.


My newest coping method idea is to travel as much as possible to speed up the summer (the summer I imagined I’d be all fat and hugely pregnant and swollen and hot) and just face that due date head on. And by head on I mean taking the day off of work and lying in bed with my husband/ mom (they’ll probably have to take shifts) and crying.


Tom Sr and I were talking about our upcoming travel plans last night. We realized that we felt like a family very early on while I was pregnant. And all these adventures we had while I was pregnant were family memories. We feel like Tommy Jr was with us when we went to the Opera. He was surely the most appreciative and best behaved baby ever to see The Marriage of Figaro. And he came with me and my friend Robin on a business trip to Detroit, where he got a lot of attention. He and I also went to New York City with my boss, and had pizza with Unkie Kev. He helped mom work on her writing. We went as a family to visit Tommy’s Grandparents in Michigan for Easter. Tom Sr, Tommy Jr and I went to a spectacular wedding and we all danced together. We took a family trip to Florida and drove in a convertible and put our feet in the ocean and played mini golf. We even saw an armadillo.


I guess what I’m trying to say is that I realized the traveling doesn’t just have to be an escape. It’s just more family adventures. We are a family now, me Tom Sr and Tom Jr. And we’re going to make more family memories.


When I bend over to take off my shoes I can feel a little pinch of soreness on my spine. It’s the site where the doctors gave me a spinal. Having a shot in my spinal cord was one of the biggest worries I had while I was pregnant. I fretted so much about it, in fact, that I was considering natural childbirth. What a silly little thing I was…but now I understand why I had been so afraid. By the time I was in the operating room, being pulled and prodded at like a cow, having tubes pushed in my veins and urethra, the terror of the shot in my spinal cord was just part of a nightmare coming true.


But I’m getting ahead of myself. I wanted to try and write specifically about the surgery. I have been avoiding writing about the C-Section because it’s difficult to relive, and it’s difficult for people to understand. My sadness and anger and fear about it have been the hardest thing to relay to my friends and family.


The surgery was traumatic. I guess no one ever imagines a scenario where they’re being held down and operated on while awake.  I know it would have been different if there had been more time- I know not everyone’s experience is like mine.  But I can’t reflect on that surgery without getting teared up or anxious.


There were dozens of people in the room and only three who would acknowledge me or talk to me.  Those three people will always have a special place in my heart- their compassion was the only thing that kept me from having a complete nervous breakdown in the operating room.  I kept saying “Stop, please stop touching me” and “What are you doing?” but most of my pleas were ignored.  


The type of C-Section I had prevents me from ever having a vaginal birth.  They had to do a more aggressive surgery because Tommy Jr was so small.  So going into labor in the future could compromise my uterus- it’s not considered safe.  I wish I had known I was in labor that day, I wish I had understood that what I was feeling, and that it was probably the last time I would ever feel it.  I feel like I was robbed of something I didn’t even know was so important to me.  Sometimes when I try and confide this feeling to other women, they try and cheer me up by saying “you’re lucky”, or that “vaginal birth isn’t a vacation” or some other quip.  The truth is that I had the option taken away from me without anything being explained, without me being reassured, without anyone considering my dreams of motherhood.  Giving birth to a baby was very much a part of my dream.  Violent surgery was not.


If I have another child maybe I’ll be able to carry him or her to term and my scheduled C-Section will be a breeze.  The terror and violation I feel every time I look at my scar will probably fade with time.  But some of that memory will never go away.  The blood on the sheet that shielded me from viewing what they were doing to my body, the doctor shouting to hold me down, the pressure I felt while they rearranged my guts and uterus- those memories are burned in my brain.  I will forever remember the feeling that they tore my heart out that day and put it in a little incubator on the 10th floor.


This weekend was difficult. As soon as I met Tom after work on Friday I was a wreck. Even when I wasn’t crying I was sullen or worse, surly. I think the surliness is from the tranquillizers. I don’t take them very often anymore- we’re even weening ourselves off them to sleep. But this weekend I had to make an exception.


I just couldn’t get above water. I felt emotionally and physically wrecked. I kept announcing loudly “My throat hurts” and scattering my shoes and clothes all over the apartment.


Even Saturday night, we went to the movies early then to dinner. I laughed and laughed at the movies, then morphed into a teenager at dinner. I played annoyingly with my chop sticks, I stared at the ceiling.


I thought about the last time we had eaten at the restaurant and how thrilled I was that they had “fake” sushi- sushi with cooked fish. I was pregnant then and craving sushi like crazy. I couldn’t stop thinking about it throughout the whole dinner. I kept touching my belly to remind myself that it really was over…that I hadn’t just woken up from a horrible nightmare.


I’m trying to be kind to myself, and patient. I’m finally realizing that this grief is so much a part of me now, that I can’t avoid it or expect it to soften anytime soon. But I feel wedged in too. Like I can’t smoke- physically it made me want to barf and socially I got a half a dozen distressed emails and text messages about it. I can’t move away because we have concrete plans to stay. So many things I want to do to manage my grief come under scrutiny by people who don’t have any idea what I’m going through. And I don’t have the energy to stand up for myself. I’ve become such a mouse. It’s frustrating and I’m afraid of what happens when the lid finally blows off.

Happy Birthday Tommy Jr

Tommy Jr was born a month ago yesterday.  A small black “29″ is written on my calendar this week.  Tommy would be one month old if he were still with us on earth, but would be 29 weeks old if he were still in my belly.


I took the last 8 surgical stickers off my c-section incision yesterday and had a bit of a meltdown.  I was crying and crying in the shower and I could suddenly feel Tommy’s presence.  He was reassuring me, urging me not to cry.  Having him near me is such a comfort, it has stopped the hopelessness I was feeling.


A friend wrote me an email yesterday explaining his belief that Tommy Jr is not “gone forever” as I have written a couple times here.  He is a religious man but couched his beliefs in a way that an ex-cynic like myself couldn’t deny.  I do believe that Tommy is still with me, and that he always will be.  I believe that Tom Sr and I will be with our baby again, in another life, on another plane of energy.  I have to believe that to honor what Tommy taught us, and because I feel it as a truth.


But I’m being my best self as I write this.  I’m being my most loving, hopeful, optimistic self.  When I’m being my worst self, my fearful bitter self, I can’t stand not having my boy with me physically.  When I walk to and from work I keep finding myself walking behind families with young children, or mothers with babies.  Sometimes I cry, right there on the street.  I cry because I feel lonely and scared and lost.  I cry because I won’t see Tommy grow up.  Other times I smile and feel my baby with me too.   And I smile because I’m a mother, and Tom Sr is a father, and we always will be.


Tom Sr and I are committed to honoring our son.  He came to us to remind us how special our love for each other is, and how special we are as individuals.  I think Tommy Jr. knew he would only have a short time on earth and he chose to come to us.  He chose us because we could access the joy and love for each other and for him, despite the heartache we’ve suffered since he left.


Happy Birthday sweet baby.  Thank you for being our son.  We miss your little body, your sweet skin (remember how I called you my little hot dog baby?), your big hands and feet, your reaching out to us, your perfect little ears and nose and beautiful face.  But we are so happy to have your loving, strong spirit with us now.

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