This Is As Close As I Can Get- Monday August 29th

A few years ago I worked on a political campaign that was very near and dear to my heart. My candidate was the most qualified, the smartest, the most experienced, and was in it for all the right reasons. There was no logical reason for him not to win.

Everyone on the team worked hard and felt confident that even more than our efforts, his qualifications would make the election a sure thing.

The evening after the polls closed we all went to a local bar to eat and drink and wait for the results to come in. I don’t think there was a doubter in the bunch. I don’t think it crossed anyone’s mind that the election might even be close.

I can’t remember if the local news covered the results, or if we just watched them on our iPhones, but I remember at one point things went from total land slide to getting a little too close to comfort. I remember one of my teammates giving me the raised eyebrows, and passing the phone to me under the table. I remember the sinking feeling as the numbers crept closer and closer together.

Despite two or three glasses of wine, those numbers made me feel icily sober. I went into the bathroom, closed the door, turned the lock, and hit the cold tiles hard enough to evoke a protest of pain from my knee caps. The sweet stench of disinfectant surrounded me, and the toilet sweated cool drops of water in the artificially heated air. I raised my eyes to the water stained ceiling, squeezed them shut, and prayed.

“Dear God, Dear Universe, Dear Grama, Dear Whoever is in Charge, please PLEASE let us win this. We deserve it, and we all need it to believe that the system works…” I prayed until some one knocked on the door, then I brushed the dust off the knees of my tights and walked back to our table.

Twenty minutes later the count was over. We had lost.

I was 30 years old, heartbroken, and done praying. If a thoughtful, hopeful, faithful prayer didn’t swing an election that had no business going the wrong way, then I wasn’t going to waste my time anymore.

Since then, I have found myself pleading with the universe many times. Of course in the NICU, where there are no atheists, and when we were stuck in that blizzard in Arizona, and when we had decided to get pregnant again, and even sometimes when I really want something to go my way at work. I tell myself that it’s not prayer, that it’s just releasing good energy into the universe. But really it’s just an admission that I have no control over some things.

When we were in the hospital with Tommy Jr, I didn’t even know what to pray for. I just kept thinking- “Please make it be OK” without letting myself imagine what OK would look like. It wasn’t like the election: OK was a win for my candidate. But once Tommy arrived in the world, so tiny and unfinished and pained, OK was harder to fathom. I still don’t know what OK is.

Now everyday I feel my little girl squirming around in my belly. I want her to be healthy and happy, I want Tom and I to figure out what we’re going to do with our careers, I want everything to be OK. But my instinct to pray, or put out good energy, or whatever, is gone. I don’t know if years of insisting I’m a non-believer has finally set in, or if I’m too afraid to ask for something that might not be possible. Or maybe it’s possible, but not probable, or maybe I’m not capable.

I think I miss prayer, and miss believing that there is someone somewhere who is listening to my pleadings. I can’t get it back though, I think I lost it when I stopped practicing. Right after my Grama died and for a long time after Tommy Jr died I thought they’d stick around to look after me. Now I can’t feel them anymore, and they certainly aren’t bending any rules for us.

Atheism is only a comfort when you’ve run out of hope. But when you’re still feeling optimistic, and still want the universe to hear you, not believing kind of sucks. I’m going to try and get back into practice, and be mindful of the things I hope for. And in the meantime I’ll take these little kicks and rolls as a sign that there is something much bigger out there, even if I can’t tell it what to do.

More Move – Thursday August 25th

Our tiny downtown apartment has become a jungle of brown moving boxes and suitcases. Ramona Quimby is in a constant state of anxiety thinking that every night we’re packing for a vacation. I am in a constant state of anxiety over not being able to lift anything over 10 pounds. Tom G is not in a state of anxiety as far as I can tell.

The preparation has been a real family affair. Every time I reached for a heavy suitcase or pile of books, Baby Girl gave me a kick in the guts (or bladder). I feel like she and I have gotten to know each other now, and she’s looking out for me. For us really.

But it’s almost over now- the movers arrive at 8:30am tomorrow. We have to be fully out by Wednesday the 31st. I feel like I’m in high school again and I have a term paper due next week and I just have to keep waiting until I get freaked out enough to DO IT.

The anticipation is always worst then the event.

The Psychic Strikes Again- Friday August 19th

The night before my 20 week ultrasound I had my first baby dream ever. In my dream my baby was a sweet and snugly black haired beauty, who told me calmly- Now I’m going to have a temper tantrum. When I woke up from the dream I had a big fat smile on my fat pregnancy face…and for the first time I felt like this was really happening. We are going to have a baby.

We told the ultrasound technician that we wanted to find out the gender. She happily agreed but explained that she had to take bunch of measurements and pictures first. Tom and I kept trying to spot a little wiener on the screen and making the tech laugh by our excited yelps: Are those balls?!? Then she said- “I know what the gender is now, are you ready?”

“Yes yes!” We shouted.

“You’re having a baby girl!” We couldn’t believe it. And, we knew it! Neither Tom nor I ever really doubted that we were having a girl. It was the same way when I was pregnant with Tommy Jr- we just knew there was a little boy in there. Of course the psychic was right- she said twice that we’d have a little girl, and that her big brother would help her throughout her life. I hope that Tommy Jr was with us in the ultrasound room, because I miss him even a little more with this extra joy.

I already feel close to my daughter, I already feel like she’s a part of our family. I’m not afraid to hope anymore, because she’s here, she’s a part of us, she’s ours.

The Day Before The Big Day- Wednesday August 17th

Tomorrow is our 20 week appointment and hour long ultra-sound. We get to find out who’s living in my stomach, how the little one is growing. I’m really excited, and only slightly scared. Although by tomorrow, I might be very very scared. I have noticed my sleeping patterns getting progressively worse as we’ve gotten closer to the appointment, but I might also be freaking out about the move. The move is taking up a lot of mental energy that would probably otherwise be spent worrying, so that’s good.

I’m also getting more comfortable lying about the number of children I have. Now I almost always say this is my first. I never ever thought I’d do it, but here I am- smiling and charming and lying through my teeth. I finally realized that people only ask you that question (Is this your first?) because they want to TELL you something, not because they really give a shit. I mean, what person who doesn’t know what happened would really care how many children I have? It’s not like they’re doing a survey or offering me a cash prize if I say the answer they want to hear, so why don’t I just lie and get the conversation over with? If I’m feeling really mean or crabby I might drop the dead baby bomb, but usually I say- Yes, this is my first- and then wait for them to tell me whatever they wanted to tell me in the first place.

Occasionally I can sense that it’s ok to tell the truth, but even then I usually end up doggedly reassuring the person that it’s fine, I’m fine, everything’s fine.

So really I’m lying either way.

If you’re reading this blog and you’re not a baby-loss parent or reproductively challenged, please consider this advice: If you strike up a conversation with a pregnant lady, just speak in present terms. Don’t ask about her fertility past, don’t make assumptions about the future. And if you want to talk about yourself, just do it. Don’t throw her a conversational bone just because you feel like too big of a jag talking non-stop about yourself. The lack of sincerity doesn’t de-jag you.

I never thought I’d be one of those people who had to build a wall around themselves. I thought I’d forever be this very honest, open person who tries to be self-aware and hopeful. It’s just luck and good genes that has allowed me to be this way for this long, but I think that emotional walls are a part of the human existence.

That’s enough hot air for one little blog entry. Tomorrow is a big day, no matter what happens. I love this child already, and by this time tomorrow I hope to be obsessing about something new: names!

The Great Move of ’11- Monday August 15th

We’ve started packing again. Since 2001 I’ve moved 9 times. Looking back it seems as crazy as it was annoying at the time. But I became a serial bargainer- I’d wait until the last two weeks of fall moving season and pick up great deals. Then my lease would be up after a year and the landlord would find some sucker to pay full price and kick me out. My friends would dread when I called them in September because it meant another round of hauling my furniture up and down stairs.

Sometimes I got bored apartment hunting and moved into such awful places that I had to flee as soon as the lease was up. My oldest brother still talks with sadness and stunned confusion about helping me move into an “efficiency apartment” that was not much larger than the 500,000 pound TV he carried up the stairs because I hadn’t noticed there was an elevator down the hall. Once I met Tom and moved into our first not potential-for-horror-film-set apartment, we started getting movers and honing our apartment finding skills. I mean we hired someone to do it for us, of course.

Maybe this will be our last move out of an apartment in Chicago. Likely we’ll eventually figure out a way to live in a house other than one owned by our parents, and in a few years I’ll get one of those Google cars so we can go out drinking and have the car drive the baby sitter home.

So the clock is ticking…two more weeks and then we’ll have one of those huge life changes that takes about ten days to get used to. On the eleventh day you can barely remember how it was before.

Be On The Watch – Wednesday August 10th

Today I was able to THINK instead of just worry. Thinking is proactive, while worrying is just brain noise. I try and think often, but it ends up being loud, staticky anxiety. If you could record and amplify what happens in my brain when I try and imagine or plan my future, it would sound like a cat walking across a synthesizer. It would look like one of those paintings that elephants make with their trunks.

Yesterday a friend sent me a link to a commercial, and the voice over was a Charles Bukowski poem. I searched for the poem, and as I read the words I got teary eyed. I work in advertising,so it pains me a little to admit that I hadn’t known this poem until I saw the Levi’s ad that featured it. That’s how life goes sometimes though, you have to be willing to find inspiration anywhere. These were the exact words I needed to read to put my thoughts in order.

The Laughing Heart
-Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

Be on the watch. That phrase is like a kick to my heart. I can’t keep looking away from the opportunities that I’m given. I want to have the kind of life that I can tell my children I chose, I pursued, I worked and arranged. And I was able to weather the hard parts because I wanted what I was living. So I’m starting now, and I’m going to become the person I knew I could be in the third grade.

Karate….KICK – Thursday August 4th

This baby doesn’t want me to forget s/he’s in there. S/he likes to wake up from a nap in my belly, stretch those tiny arms and legs, then kickkickkickkickKICK. Sometimes the kicking comes around 4 am, and my bladder gets in the way. Other times it comes when I’m feeling really hopeless, and the little baby reminds me what I’m working so hard for…who I’m working so hard for.

I’m working hard for this baby in another way. I’m trying to get my ducks in a row so when s/he arrives, our family will have options. I can’t go into detail yet, I just want to write about it here so my loved ones and supporters keep me accountable. I’m starting to realize that my goals haven’t changed very much since I was in the third grade. Maybe now that I’m 33 I can start making some of this sh*t happen.

My second Progesterone shot is tomorrow, the nurse is coming to my office. I’m excited to be at 19 weeks, excited that the baby seems to be cooking nicely, but not excited to get another mega-dose of hormones. I had been warned that the side effects might be challenging (I think my doc said it’d be like PMS) but I didn’t really understand what that meant. It turns out that a syringe full of progesterone every week leads to clever displays of femininity such as screaming swears at taxi drivers, sneering at jay walkers, having detailed murder fantasies about bad waitresses, and having hot flashes.

The good news is that this will all be a distant memory once I have crying, pooping, demanding, wonderful little baby.

One Down – Monday August 1st

I waited all day Friday and Saturday morning to hear from the company that would administer my progesterone shot. By noon on Saturday I was going through cycles of loud crying. I was supposed to meet with my book club at two, but by the time the final confirmation came that I’d be getting my shot at five, it was too late to make my meeting. So I cried again. When the nurse finally arrived I was back in the zone: I’m the patient who’s ever-so charming and easy going and you’ll have no idea that I’ve been crying and freaking out for the past 72 hours.

She totally fell for it.

The nurse had been kind enough to have me ice my butt so by the time she jabbed me with the longest, thickest needle I’ve ever seen my bun was frozen solid. I didn’t feel a thing. She stuck around for about an hour asking questions and monitoring my reaction to the shot- everything was good.

I guess the crying and keening was because I hate being reminded that this will be an uphill battle. And it’s not just my anatomical shortcomings, it’s the a-holes at the doctor’s office, my insurance company, the constant fear that I’ll bump into someone who says exactly the wrong thing. Or worse: I’ll bump into some one who hasn’t seen me since the last time I was pregnant. That’s a tough one. Them: “Hi! You’re pregnant again! How’s your other little one?” Me: “Oh he’s dead (or some slightly easier-to-swallow-version).

I know, I know, it could be worse. That’s the other challenge- trying to be nice to people who try and cheer me up. I’m not un-cheery, I’m just living the reality. Having people try and get me to look at the bright side just depresses me more, because it reminds me how lonely this whole process is.

The good news is we’re on a roll and as of Friday, I’m at the half-way mark. The bad news is that we’re on a roll and as of Friday, I’m at the half-way mark. This pregnancy is like a freight train- it’s either going to roll into the depot nice and easy or derail with a spectacular explosion.

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