Using his name

We had a boy name picked out during our first pregnancy. When we didn’t need it we kept it filed away, just in case, and when we found out our second child would be a boy, we immediately knew we’d use that name.

Of course everyone has been asking if we have a name picked out and we haven’t felt the need to keep it secret. So now every knows. And the thing is, everyone is already using it to refer to our unborn son.

And I have to admit, that makes me nervous.

I mostly call this baby-to-be Little Man or Baby Brother. Ben calls him Regalito. But everyone else refers to him by his name and so I’ve started thinking of him with that name as well. Sometimes I even call him that.

The thing is, using the name we intend to give him scares me… because what if something happens to him and then we can never use that name again? I guess in my mind we had that name ready for him, and hadn’t really given it to him yet, and if something happened to him, we could give him some other name and keep this boy’s name for another son… a living son.

Maybe that is horrible and insensitive. I don’t know. Maybe it was just one of the ways I coped.

Except now that coping mechanism has been stripped away. So many people use my son’s name that I could never give him any other, even if he were taken away from us. And that scares me for some reason I can’t quite articulate.

I try to tell myself that nothing will happen, or that if it does, I’ll ultimately be thankful we gave our son this name we so love. I even remind myself that if something happens to our son, we will most likely not have another child, so “saving” his name would be like wasting it; giving it to a dead son is better than giving it to no son at all.

I’m sorry, I know this is morbid, and possibly comes across as unfeeling. More than anything it’s inspired by fear, a very real fear that I consciously fight back every single day. More than anything I just want October to come, so my baby boy can join us safely. I still harbor so much terror that he will just silently pass away inside me, and I won’t know until it’s too late.

I know I have zero reason to believe this will happen to me, to him, to us. I suppose I’ve been profoundly scarred by each and every loss of a sibling; their stories haunt my family building experience in ways I don’t really understand. My mother was marked by loss and I, through association, was marked as well.

Truly, I’m doing a good job keeping the fear at bay. It may not seem that way when I write a post like this one, but I am not wallowing in anxiety or panic. Every once in a while I just need to voice these unspoken fears, to help get them out, to take away their power. So that I can more fully enjoy every moment of this incredibly miracle.

So that I can call my son by his name, the one we intend to give him, no matter what place he hold’s in our lives and hearts.

I love you Monito*.

To Whom It May Concern

Recently–and this is directly related to my iPod being stolen from my car–I discovered The Civil Wars. They are pretty cool. And one of their songs? Well, I swear everyone in the ALI community, especially those still waiting to be united with their much-wanted children, needs to hear it. So here it is.

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

Joy Williams and John Paul White

Why are you so far from me?
In my arms is where you ought to be
How long will you make me wait?
I don’t know much more I can take

I’ve missed you
But I haven’t met you
Oh how I want to
How I do

Slowly counting down the days
Till I finally know your name
The way your hand feels round my waist
The way you laugh, the way your kisses taste

I’ve missed you
But I haven’t met you
Oh how I want to
How I do
How I do

I’ve missed you
But I haven’t met you
Oh I’ve missed you
But I haven’t met you
Oh but I want to
Oh how I want to

Dear whoever you might be
I’m still waiting patiently

Grief Appropriation?

Before I write this I want to assure you all that I am in no way trying to co-opt Mo’s tragedy and make it my own. I am not trying to make her pain about me and how it affects me. Mo’s is enduring a loss more devastating than I could ever imagine. My heart breaks for her but I know that my sorrow could never touch her own. Please know that in writing this I’m just trying to make sense of my own experience. I’m sorry if that offends anyone close to Mo. That is no my intent at all.

Last night I got a text from a very good friend, informing me of Mo’s loss. At first I was in shock. I texted back all the sentiments one would expect in a time like this but it hadn’t really hit me yet. Later, when I told Mi.Vida and he came over to hold me, the enormity of my friend’s loss hit me and I broke down into great, heaving sobs. You know, that kind of ugly crying that literally steals your breath and contorts your body beyond recognition.

The rest of the night I was in a daze, communicating with a few mutual friends of Mo’s, trying to determine what we could do to show our love and support. It’s so hard to know what to do when you feel so helpless, when you realize that ultimately you are so helpless and that there is not one thing you can do to actually ease your friend’s suffering.

Mi.Vida kept checking in on me, as I would randomly start crying here or there, for seemingly no reason at all. I could tell he was alternating between bewilderment, worry, and frustration. Before bed we talked a little bit about how both of us were feeling. I told him that I was heartsick, despondent, just so overwhelmingly sad for my friend. The magnitude of what she was losing, what she has already lost in her life, it’s just unfathomable. It’s so fucking unfair. I am afraid for her, for what she will have to endure. I can never know how it feels to lose what she has, simply contemplating it was more than I can bare. How will she possibly bare the reality of it?

Mi.Vida said he was worried about me. He didn’t want to see me taking on someone else’s grief. He didn’t want me giving into the fear that what was happening to her might happen to me one day. I understood his concern; he has seen me react poorly to the sad stories of many a blogger I hardly knew, he’s watched me internalize their tragedy and grief, twisting it into fear of the uncertainty of my own life.

I had a hard time convincing him that this was different. I wasn’t grieving for Mo because what happened to her might happen to me, I was grieving for Mo because she’s my friend and she is losing the most important thing in her life. She is losing something that just a week ago she acknowledged she could not survive losing. I am sad because a wonderful woman, who reached out to me when I felt the tendrils of depression grabbing hold of me again, who sent me Israeli chocolates to make me feel better, who accepted me and my feelings no matter what, is being made to endure a mother’s greatest nightmare, after already having done so three times before.

It isn’t about me, it’s about her, I tried to assure him.

The line between the two is very thin, he countered. I don’t think you realize.

Today I’ve walked around in a daze, unsure how to steady myself. I’m brittle to the touch, I snap easily and find myself staring into the unknowable distance. It’s not that I’m thinking constantly about Mo but the sadness is there, under the surface, always. I can tell Mi.Vida is becoming increasingly frustrated. We’ve talked more about whether or not my grief is appropriate. And if it is, does being a part of this community, which is welded together by loss and grief and struggle, ultimately offer enough light to make up for the darkness?

The truth is, sometimes I don’t know. What I do know is that my heart breaks for a woman I consider a friend, despite never having met her. What I do know is I am inspired by the love and support I see others willing, eager, desperate to give. What I do know is I feel honored to include my own efforts with theirs, to reach out to someone when she feels unreachable and alone.

What I do know is that the women in this community are stronger than I ever thought possible, that they persevere despite insurmountable odds, that they not only survive but thrive in the face of unimaginable loss. What I do know is that I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this community and that I am comforted knowing that they would be there for me if the unthinkable were to mark my own life.

How appropriate is the grief we feel for our fellow bloggers? Should there be a limit to that grief? Is the line between grieving for someone and making their grief our own as thin as Mi.Vida believes? If so, how do we stay on the right side of it? Is a community welded together by loss worth being a part of, or are the costs ultimately too high?

Trying to Conceive When You Already Have

Yesterday I had my first TTC-related panic attack. At least the first one in a while. It came out of nowhere, I don’t remember even thinking about TTC before it happened but suddenly I was drenched in a cold sweat, absolutely sure that our attempts to have another baby would be fraught with struggle and loss. I felt sure I wouldn’t buckle under the weight of whatever was in store.

When I relayed all this to Mi.Vida later that night, during our 10 minute check in, he held me close and assured me that we’d be okay, that we are strong, that we can get through anything.

And besides, we have Isa, as if that were that.

It’s true. We do have Isa. And while I can tell having her means something different for him than it does for me, I wonder how she will change things this time around. What will it be like to try to conceive when I already have. Will it be easier? Harder? Less nerve wracking? More difficult to manage? The truth is I’m not sure, at this point, on the eve of our TTC start date, I can only guess.

In some ways I reckon it will be a better, more positive experience. I want that very much and am going to put a huge amount of effort into assuring that I handle things more positively. Our first attempt at TTC was wrought with anxiety and conflict; it exacted a considerable amount of damage on our relationship, damage we’re just now repairing. Much of the negativity surrounding our first TTC experience originated with me and I intend to do everything I can to approach this situation differently.

I can already feel that some things are different. There is no longer that wild, untamed dread roiling inside me, I am no longer paralyzed by the fear that I will never be a mother. That fear, harbored my entire life, grew exponentially in the years leading up to our attempt at TTC until it became an uncontrollable force, frantic and furious, unyielding, wrecking devastation on my mental health and my relationship. There are few things I’m more ashamed of than the ways in which I let that fear overtake me. I was wholly consumed and what was left of me was only a shell of who I really was, of the woman my partner loved.

That fear is gone and, as you can imagine, the effect is remarkable. Surely this experience will be better if only for that. With that wild, uncontainable beast at bay, I have faith I can manage my trepidation and dominate my doubt.

Yes, being a mother will help my cause greatly, as I assume will the actual act of mothering. My previous months TTC were exacerbated by my irascible impatience. I had been ready to start mothering for years and any further delay was more than I could bare. Now I have a daughter on which to dote and I hope that her presence will serve as a distraction, taming my once irrepressible impatience.

I also must admit that having my daughter has taught me that motherhood is not all rainbows and unicorn flatulence. And while I can’t accurately fathom how challenging caring for two children will be, I’m aware of the fact that it will be exponentially harder than I’m expecting it to be. Reminding myself of the ordeals we are sure to face with two children will probably do as much to temper my impatience as my daughter will be.

Yes, I believe for me, this experience will be different from the first. The fact that I was able to handle pushing our TTC date back by six months without totally losing my mind (as I would have done the first time around) is a testament to how things have changed. With my desperation subjugated and my impatience muted, I hope to weather the storm of TTC with considerably more style and grace. In fact, I hope not to look on it as inclement weather at all.

Of course, not all the pressure is gone. While I am unequivocally a mother, I don’t consider my family complete. I want very much to have two children and I’ll admit there is an age gap I consider desirable. Even if I succeed in evicting these qualifiers from my mind, I will see them all around me. Almost every child that Isa teeters up to at the playground will have a waddling mother in tow. I will be reading of other bloggers completing their families in much the way I hope mine will be completed. Despite my best efforts comparisons will be made, months will be counted, and panic will begin to creep in.

Honestly, the months of timed sex and BBT charts stacking themselves up indefinitely isn’t want sets my teeth on edge – the thing that sends me reeling is contemplating another loss. Because the truth is, losing another pregnancy is something I’m not sure I can handle, at least not with any measure of competency. And if I’m thrown by pregnancy loss into the immeasurable depths of despair, it’s not just my partner that suffers, buy my daughter as well. The idea that I might not be able, or willing, to care for my daughter during a time, or multiple times, of loss, is truly terrifying. And when the fear of TTC comes over me, it’s the fear of loss that is able to sink it’s teeth in and not let go.

Uncertainty is something I strive (and fail) to accept in my life. The first time we were TTC the uncertainty of the outcome overwhelmed me. My entire identity was at stake and not knowing what would happen took me to the brink and I thought many times of just stepping over the edge. Trying to have a second child I feel faced with less uncertainty, but uncertainty all the same. I’m no longer unsure I’ll ever be a mother. I am not as distrustful of my body’s ability to carry and birth a child. But I’m still not sure I will have the second child my heart so desperately craves. The shape and size of my family is yet to be determined. And of course the path I will journey to reach that family is completely unknown. My trepidation is understandable, especially considering the journey of my mother, and those of other women in this community, that I look to as guides. I just have to keep reminding myself that my story has not been written and if I spend my time filling the blank pages with tragedies that haven’t happened, I’m only setting myself up for unnecessary suffering. Life’s filled wth enough hardship already, there is no need to conjure misfortune when it hasn’t happened yet.

So I will wait. And wonder. And hope. And keep taking my B6 vitamins.

What was felt and not said

Mel just published a truly moving post on her blog. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you do.

It really hit a nerve with me, what she wrote, and inspired me to finally tackle something that I had before been too scared to say. The waters were too murky, the depths unknown; I couldn’t see where I was standing, wasn’t sure what I would encounter if I took a step. Writing about it felt like a futile exercise, one that would only stir up more pain, anguish, confusion and shame.

I read Mel’s post. I let my own words spew forth on the page. I didn’t pause to ponder if I should press publish there, in that space but then a strange thought crept into my head. Should I post it on my own page? My first response was an all encompassing, gut wrenching assertion of, no, you must not. And that is what I knew that I had to.

My miscarriage is still the most painful loss I have endured. Experiencing that loss, compounded by the absence of validation, was the most harrowing struggle I’ve ever undertaken. I was fortunate enough to get pregnant, and have a healthy child, quickly after my ectopic. With distance, and a live child between us, I felt cushioned from the devastation but I still wanted to fight for those who remained in the trenches, whose wounds were still fresh. I wrote Miscarriages are Real Losses and, for the first time, knew I had made a difference.

Because of that, because of who I once was, I’ve never written what I’m about to post here, though I have felt it. I think you’ll quickly understand why.

My comment on Mel’s post:

Wow. I can’t quite put into words what this post meant for me. The confusing swell of emotions it inspired that din inside of me, a storm I must endure until it fades into a quiet calm.

I was thinking the other day of my miscarriage, marveling at how it didn’t hurt so much any more. The reality is, sometimes I think about it and it hardly hurts at all. Sometimes I don’t feel it, the area is numb to the touch, like the place where a dog bit me once and even though it was one of the most heinous wounds I ever had, it never caused me pain because the dog had dug out the nerve with my flesh. That is what looking back on my miscarriage is like. I know it was a heinous wound and that it should hurt but it just doesn’t, not anymore.

It doesn’t hurt so much because of my daughter.

My first pregnancy was due in March and my daughter was born in June. My daughter would not exist if that pregnancy had thrived. And the thought of not knowing, as you said, my particular little girl, is something I just can’t fathom.

It’s not just my daughter though. The first March after she was born it still hurt to touch that loss, to speak of it, to return to it. It wasn’t as raw as the March I was pregnant but it was tender all the same. I suppose it’s time healing a wound. But it’s also the fact that part of the wound was in the wanting, not in what was lost. And I have now what I was wanting, it might be slightly different than what was lost but it’s also very much the same.

I think it’s also in that I didn’t have to want for very long after what I lost. The short months between my loss and my pregnancy helped it to heal faster and leave less of a scar. I wondered before but I’m sure of that now.

When I think about trying again and the fear of another miscarriage seizes me, it doesn’t seem so paralyzing. It’s not that I wouldn’t be devastated, because it would be, it’s just that I know I can survive it now. Not because I have survived it before, but because the wanting of it is no longer a raw and savage thing whose undying power sends me reeling. The strength of that wanting has been tamed, by my daughter, by my years here, by a new expectation that I will probably be able to have another child and by a knowledge, based on prior experience, that if I do have another child, the wound will heal and scar and some day stop hurting so much, will as you say, “reframe it.”

After my ectopic I took to devouring miscarriage and loss books. Every book validated my feelings of devastation but they also spoke of those for whom early losses were not all that painful. I remember wondering, incredulous, how a woman could not feel as I did, that her entire being were bleeding out of her. Such a distinct memory of being sure that I would never, NEVER feel that way about my own loss. It would never be something small and inconsequential, a comma signaling a brief pause in one sentence of my life.

And it’s not that I feel that way now, but I feel closer to it, and even the movement in that direction feels traitorous, to what I lost, to who I was before, to what I have written. I still haven’t reconciled those feelings.

I also wonder if it makes me cold.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

Instead of writing about how I’m thinking of all the lost little ones of my friends on Twitter or in the blogosphere (which I am); instead of writing about how important it is to validate the grief of those who have suffered a lost pregnancy or child (as others have today and as I have before) I am going to share a little piece of my first pregnancy. In doing so I hope to make what was lost a little more tangible for those who have never experienced it themselves.

I found out I was pregnant June 22, 2009. I was in New York City. It was a Monday. The day before was Father’s Day. On my way home I bought Mi.Vida his first Father’s Day Card.

It was one of the kinds where you can record something to play when the card is opened.

I guess the battery hasn’t worn out. When I opened the card today I could hear what I knew was my voice, except it wasn’t. It was the voice of a woman who’d never lost a pregnancy; it was the voice of a woman who didn’t yet know loss. It was the voice of a woman who was so excited for the life she was carrying inside her, even though she knew that any day, it might be gone.

I’m sorry I didn’t have this for you on Father’s Day but I didn’t know that I needed it because I didn’t know yet that you were going to be a father my love.

But I know now.

On July 5th, 2009, my partner wasn’t a father anymore. At least not in the eyes of anyone but me.

Sending love and support to anyone who’s ever lost a child today, no matter how big or small.

The Shift

Thank you all for your kinds words on my last rambling post. I know I need to go easier on myself but it’s so hard. I worry that if I’m always easy on myself I’ll lose sight of my values, of what is important to me, and become a person I don’t want to be. It’s such a fine line to walk and something I struggle with every day. How do I both live my values and give myself permission to make mistakes, to “let it go,” to not do that which I think I should be doing? I think most women struggle with that.

Do men worry about these things? Somehow I doubt most guys are wondering how the state of their kitchen reflects on their character, but I know so many women who do… or maybe it’s just my mom.

Now on to more super deep, intense reflections.

Yesterday I was at the park and I saw a woman with her small child… and her burgeoning baby bump. It was funny because I saw it, and I kind of did this internal flinch, preparing myself for the flood of negative emotions, when I realized that they weren’t coming. Looking at that women with her small child, and another on the way, didn’t gut me like it has in the recent past. In fact, I didn’t feel one way or the other about her situation. It was so strange!

(Oh god, you’re probably thinking, she’s going to talk about TTC#2 AGAIN!? We’ve already heard about it 100 times this month! And you’re right, but this time’s different, I promise, and after this I’ll probably be able to put it away for a good long while, so please, hear me out – or feel free to click away. I totally understand).

I don’t know when the shift happened, I think it was happening even before I had the conversation with Mi.Vida. In fact, the shift must have allowed me to come to those conclusions and create that plan. I guess I just didn’t realize that my feelings on the subject were still settling, even after we’d determined how to move forward.

So yeah. The shift. I guess the best way to describe it is a shift from a place of anxiety and worry to a place of peace and acceptance. For the first time, I think in my life, I feel at peace with the uncertainty of our next steps. For the first time I feel ready (at least as ready as I can be) for whatever might happen as we attempt to have a second child. For the first time in my life I don’t feel scared and maybe for that simple reason, I’m no longer in a rush to “get it over with” so that if there is tragedy and loss, I can face it and move forward.

Actually I am still scared, but it’s not the crippling, paralyzing type of fear that I used to feel. It’s not panic inducing. It doesn’t drive me to make irrational decisions or expect the worst.

I have to admit, this new sense of calm is quite freeing. But more than that, it’s strange. I have literally never felt this way about family building in my entire life. From a very young age I worried that I wouldn’t be able to have the family I hoped for. Having my daughter helped lift some of that anxiety, but the uncertainty of whether we could complete our family remained. Now, for the first time, I don’t feel that anxiety anymore. Now, for some reason, I’ve come to accept that I don’t have any control over how we grow our family or any losses we might experience on the way.

On top of all that, or better said behind all of that, is a faith that we will eventually have the family we hope for. It might not look exactly as we’d imagined it: the spacing between children might be different that we’d hoped, there might be losses in between Isa and her sister or brother, heck, maybe Isa’s sibling will come to us from a different family! All I know is that we will get there, some how, some way and we will survive the journey to our family’s final destination.

I don’t know where this faith comes from. I don’t know why I suddenly feel confident that I could weather the possible devastation that may lay ahead. Maybe it’s the stories I’ve followed, of strong and resilient women who’ve survived unimaginable loss. Maybe it’s the realization that arriving at your destination does something to (at least somewhat) heal the wounds incurred in the getting there. Maybe it’s realizing that my imagined way isn’t necessarily the best way. Maybe it’s knowing that even when we have the family we’d always dreamed of, there will still be struggle.

Does loss still scare me? Yes. Do I think that losing a child wouldn’t devastate me? Absolutely not. I know that it would. I know that I’d be a different person for the rest of my life. But for some reason now I think I could survive as that person, maybe one day even thrive, despite the broken pieces inside me.

Maybe I’m being naive. Maybe I’m kidding myself. Maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up enveloped in that life-long feeling of dread once again. All I know is that right now I feel peace. I feel calm. I feel grateful for what I have and hopeful for what I will have. I feel ready to concentrate on my present life despite being unsure of my future.

Before we were TTC, when I was desperately trying to make Mi.Vida understand why I was so afraid, why we had to start NOW, I would return again and again to my mother’s story. “She lost a daughter. She suffered three still births. She lost so much! There are seven years between us! SEVEN YEARS of suffering!” Without fail Mi.Vida would always reply, “But she had you, she had your sister, she has her family. She’s happy.”

For my entire life I’ve focused on the seven years between me and my sister. I focused on the loss and the pain. I looked past my mom’s eventual family, the family that made her very happy, to focus on the struggle. Mi.Vida always saw the happy ending but I only ever saw the difficult journey. Now, finally, I have faith in the eventual destination and can accept the uncertainty how we’ll get there.