Hope, Loss, and Five Years

2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.  Four years. I have been pregnant in all of them. I have one daughter.

I got pregnant with Fiona in ’08 and she was born in ’09.

In the summer of 2010, I got pregnant, while on the pill, and was possessed by the idea that something was wrong. I was so insistent, that the doctors scheduled me for an early ultrasound. They found nothing in my uterus. They took blood samples. They ran more ultrasounds.

Three days later, I let Jeff take me to the ER with a strong feeling of pressure on my lower right side that turned to pain anytime I moved.  My pregnancy was ectopic and my fallopian tube ruptured during surgery.  The surgeon looked unbelievably stressed and tired when he spoke to us afterwards.

At the end of last year, 2011, I got pregnant again.  We aren’t actually trying, but pretty much all forms of birth control are out for us at this point, except the permanent kind, which we’re not ready for, yet.  An early, six week, ultrasound showed a heart beat. I was thrilled.

Three days before we moved 700 miles from Washington to California, we went in for a second ultrasound. They couldn’t find a heartbeat. I stopped breathing. I felt shattered.  Because we were changing jobs and insurance I had no further follow up care. I finished miscarrying near the end of January.

Each time we have a loss, I tell myself not to get attached. It’s not a baby, yet. It’s just potential. It’s just hope. It’s not real.

It’s so much heartbreak to have losses. To have that hope and then have it go away. It makes things so much more scary.

When we got pregnant with Fiona, we were fearless. We told our friends right away and all of us went out for dinner. People brought presents. It was magical and amazing.

I want to be that girl again. That fearless woman who was so thrilled that she didn’t wait to share. Couldn’t wait to share. That woman knew it was all okay.

I don’t think I can be. It’s too hard. It’s too hard to have people ask. It’s too hard to be asked two months later by that one person who didn’t hear.

So, with all that in mind, it’s way too early to talk about it, but I want to.  No one can know whether this one will stick or not. I’m not ready to talk about it and I’ll want to write about it if I lose it, and if I don’t, so…

I’m pregnant.

The positive was faint and I’m hopeful, but not convinced it will stick. We’ll see.  We’ll hope. Cross your fingers for us, okay?

Identify Yourself

“Fiona, please stop jumping on me. Mommy doesn’t want to be jumped on right now.”

“It fun!” She resumes jumping on and off of my back as I lay on my bed trying to read the last five pages of my book.

“I know it’s fun, Baby.” I reread the same paragraph for the third time.”But, I’m not having fun. Mommy isn’t a toy. Mommy is a person. So sometimes Mommy doesn’t want to do what you want to do.”

“No.” She stops and grins at me.

“What do you mean, No?” I ask her feeling as though she must not be understanding what I’m telling her.

“No. Mommy not a person. Mommy a mama.” She smiles at me beautifully.

I bury my head in the bed and laugh. I feel like crying at the same time. It’s so true. Sometimes I feel like all of my time is spent on one thing then the next and all of it is about who I am to someone else.

When people ask her who I am, she smiles and says, “Mama [Lastnamehere].” I start to feel like that is my whole identity. Between certain hours I’m a wife. Between others I’m a mother. There is so precious little time that I get to just be me.

There’s a lot of me to be, too.

I paint. I garden. I knit. I make a mean omelet and can bake bread without a recipe. I can do differential calculus and have a degree in physics. I know what happens to an electron inside a particle accelerator, beyond the obvious – “it goes faster”, and why. I have a minor in psychology and can describe the exact shade of green that is the summer magic of sunlight through green maple leaves.

My most recent painting. Done from inside a coffee table book on Seattle.

Finding the time to be all of those things is hard though. It’s work to find the motivation to do more than just collapse on the couch and stare at my toes when I do find a minute alone.

And, the truth is, I know that this is just a phase. It’s just a tiny stretch of time in a vast lifetime of experience. And just like everything else, good and bad, this too will pass. And I know I should be holding on to it with both hands.

It’s easy to forget that this is also a part of my identity. I can nurse a baby, and cook dinner. I can change a diaper in the dark. I can tell the difference between coughing and choking from two rooms away by the sound. I know how to love through a tantrum and how to be a dinosaur-butterfly.

I know the exact way to treat my husband when he’s sad, tired, cranky, or restless. I know that you don’t fight when you’re hungry and that some fights are worth having. I know that you ask once and leave it alone. I know that I love and am loved.

And, it would be easy, in the sense of injustice about not being able to be all of who I am at all times, to lose sight of all that I really am.

I am a person. I am a wife. I am a mother.

“Use your words.”

I think I say this at least a hundred times a day, “It’s okay. Take a deep breath. Use your words.”

Usually, I say it as toys go flying, and a wordless scream of frustration erupts from her lips. Sometimes, I say it as she’s screaming at me in total nuclear melt-down because she doesn’t want to do what I’m insisting on. And, sometimes, it comes through when she’s crying for no discernible reason. Most often, though, it’s directed at myself.

See, I understand. I, too, am possessed of a temper that makes me want to scream, and yell, and throw, things when I can’t make it all work. I have a tendency to want to force things to go my way. I want to force it all into the shape I see in my mind.

All of it. My bills, my house, my husband, and my adorable little girl. And I can’t. Life throws me a curve-balls, I simply lack the time or energy to do everything, and my family doesn’t feel the need to be squished into my ideal world.

So, I tell myself, too. Stop. Breathe. Use your words.

There’s a level of control and honesty that goes with this. You have to be able to see your own emotions clearly. If your first thought is, You’re a horrible person and I hate you. The truth is probably closer to, I can’t control you, and that’s frustrating and scary to me.

How terrifying to be honest with ourselves. How horribly awful to put that honesty out into the world and allow other people to see our vulnerability and frustration. We’re learning to use our words and identify our emotions, though, my girl and I. We’re learning together.

I never learned when I was younger. Oh, I learned that it wasn’t okay to scream at people. It wasn’t okay to hit. It wasn’t okay to throw things. What I didn’t learn was how to identify or express any negative emotion. I learned to bottle those.

In my house growing up, anger wasn’t expressed. Or sadness. Or frustration. Or grief. Or fear. Or pain. I was flat out told to get over it. Life isn’t fair. “If you can’t be happy, then go to your room until you can.”

By the time I hit therapy, at the end of college, I had a deep hidden reservoir of anger, fear, resentment, confusion, frustration, helplessness, and sadness. And, I had learn to find it. I had to learn to express it.

I was so afraid. So afraid that I would drown the whole world in tears if I let out all that sadness. So afraid that I would burn my world to the ground in my anger. Afraid that I would be hurt. Afraid that I would cause pain. Afraid to draw a deep breath.

But, it didn’t. And I learned. I’m still learning. It takes practice. It takes work. It takes will-power not to sock it all down deep into the hidden layers of my heart.

Instead, I have to Stop. Breathe. Use my words.

I have to, because I have to show her how. I never want her to be the girl that I was.

The Poetry of Real – Newtons First Law

I think that there is a beauty to science that is often missed because so much of science relies on cold, unsubtle language.  Let me tell you about the most basic concepts of physics, the way that I understand it in my head.

This is the ground floor, this is fundamental. We have an object and we are placing it in space. It is perfect. It is a sphere.  It is in the frictionless, gravity free, air-free, emptiness of space. There is nothing near it. There is nothing to touch it. There is nothing to change it.

It is a gray ball in the blackness.

Why?

Because it is the simplest thing that we can imagine. Nothing. Something.

And we wait. And wait. And wait. And, as we watch nothing happens. Why?

Because we are investigating Newtons laws. We must leave our perfect sphere in the perfect vastness of space. Will it move?

You tell me. There is nothing there. It doesn’t know the pull of another object. The motion of a star. The current of atmosphere. It is perfectly alone. Perfectly still. And, as you know instinctively, if not from school, it will not move.

Ah, but why?

That is the underlying question to everything. It is the human curiosity that has brought us everything that ever was. It is a simple question that can lead you down into a rabbit warren of discover that you may never leave from.

Why?

Because it can’t.

Newton said, “An object at rest, remains at rest unless acted on by an outside force. An object in motion remains in motion, unless acted on by an outside force.” Blah! Boring language!

If there is nothing to move our object it will remain still, unchanging, perfect in the empty quietness of space. Or, as the Sound of Music put it, “Nothing comes from Nothing. Nothing ever could.”

Well, one of the fundamental tools of science is turning your question around backwards and inside out and asking again. Let’s try that.

We have a sphere sitting in the perfect vacuum of space. It begins to move. Why?

What changed?

I imagine you thinking of particles falling away from the ball, but why would they fall? What would they be drawn towards? Where would the energy for motion come from?

Ah! There in lies the rub! You can’t change something without imparting energy. Nothing comes from nothing.

That is the sum total of Newtons first law.

There sits in the blackness of nothing, something.
It has no impetus. It has no energy. It sits. It rests.
There moves through the emptiness of space something.
It will not change. It rushes on.
These things are constant.
Conservatively, something sits.
Conservatively, something moves.
But, Oh!, if they came together!
Change!

It’s Not that Bad

Last night she slept fine. As well as can be expected, at least. She needed the rest after the night before where she hacked and wheezed her way through the night and ended up getting up with me at around 4:30, because she started a barking croupy cough.

Cool air and being upright were enough to stop it in it’s tracks. Which is good, because I really don’t like taking her to doctors.  Doctors trips always go like this with us:

Me: She has croup and needs a breathing treatment.
Doctor: Well, we’ll just take a look at her. What symptoms does she have and when did she start?
Me: She had a congested nose starting yesterday afternoon. Congested breathing at bedtime, eight p.m., and started the stridor cough at 2am. It was very dry in her room, so I took her out in the rain wrapped up in a big blanket for 20 minutes but it didn’t help and she is having retractions (sucking in) between her ribs to her collarbones. Could we please start a breathing treatment?
Doctor: And you’re sure she didn’t swallow anything?
Me (frustrated): Yes. She has croup. Please, call the breathing treatment people.
Doctor: Hmmm….
(Doctor waits another 45 minutes, then walks in cheerfully as though he’s solved the problem.)
Doctor: She has croup! I’ll just give the breathing treatment guy a call…
Me (Thinking): No Shit, Sherlock! 

You can see why we don’t like visiting doctors.

Anyhow, we were lucky. She has a cold, or croup, but it hasn’t been that bad this time. She feels miserable. I feel like I’m going to fall over from exhaustion, but things have definitely been worse. It’s not a long term problem and I don’t have to convince anyone to listen to me.

She’s still sick. It still sucks. But really, it’s not that bad.

To Look with Love

It’s time to talk about something a little bit harder than usual. I usually tell you stories that are a little bit funny, and a little bit cute, and it’s all tempered with love and humor. So, even when I’m frustrated, I don’t seem all that unhappy.

I have self-image problems. I avoid mirrors like the plague. I do not have a full length mirror in my home. I hate my body to a level that I know is unrealistic and damaging.

It’s still an improvement over where I was five years ago. Five years ago I contemplated suicide because I  didn’t believe that I was worth taking up space, food, or oxygen on this planet.  Those are rare resources after all, and ought to go to someone who deserved them.

I’ve had therapy. A lot of therapy. And drugs. A lot of really well designed drugs. And time. And love. And friends who stood by me and let me call at absurd hours and who loved me even when I was so deeply depressed that I even annoyed me.  I think about them, and thank in my mind, every time I look at my daughter.

I almost didn’t have this amazing life.

Even when I decided to live, to not kill myself, it wasn’t because I had value. It was because it would hurt too many other people. I could tolerate the pain for the time being. For a while, I started to try to distance myself from everything so that people wouldn’t be as hurt when I finally fell into that abyss.

You know when I finally realized that I was worth this life?

When I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting a deer in my car.  I wasn’t thinking about my car. Or myself. I was looking at the deer and thinking, “Poor deer.”

Then I really started thinking. I slammed on the brakes for that deer, but I lived in a place with thousands of deer.  Thousands. They were, in fact, hunted every fall to thin the population to a level that they wouldn’t suffer. It didn’t matter. I still didn’t want to hit that deer.

I realized that I believed it had value. That particular deer. Just for existing. It didn’t need to justify its value. It didn’t matter that there were too many other deer. It just was. It didn’t need to feel bad that it took up resources. It was valuable. It deserved my care, my carefulness, just because it existed.

That was an “Oh!” moment for me. Because I finally got it. It was a year since I’d been in therapy, but I finally understood why I had value. It’s not because of anything I can do. It’s not because of the degree I fought for. It’s not because of sex. It’s not because of friendship. I am valuable because I exist.

Which started me on the journey of self-love. It’s an incredibly selfish journey. You have to learn to love yourself. Being passionate about yourself in our society is hard. It’s called all sorts of names narcissism, vanity, ego, and selfishness are just a few that I’ve heard.

Then just when I was starting to love myself, I was blindsided by parenthood. And the moment you think you’ve got it all figured out and under control, parenthood will prove you wrong.

Parenthood takes self-identity and shreds it. It takes selflessness. It takes courage and strength. It takes stuff that I didn’t have much of when I started all this. And, the truth of the matter is, I’m not as secure in my self-love as I was when I started.

Especially when it comes to my body. I hate my body. Especially my stomach. I won’t describe it to you, but it shows the effects of having lost fifty pounds, being stretched to accommodate an eight pound baby, and all of the stretching and pooching and softening that goes with that. And I’m overweight by about 70 pounds.

So, Fiona’s obsession with my tummy is hard. indescribably hard.

She cuddles it. She loves it. She plays pretend with it. She pats it. She exposes it.

She forces me to notice it.

And I resent it. Oh, god, how I resent it! And it makes me want to hide. It makes me feel guilty. It makes me feel like I am less worth while. Not without worth, but worth less. I won’t deny her though. The ability to touch and feel comfortable with me is worth more to me than my self-image right now.

Yesterday, she was playing with it. My belly. I hate even naming it.  And she says to me, “I love your tummy, Mama.  I love it. It so nice. It so perfect. It beautiful. I love tummy. I love you, too, Mama.”

Oh. Oh, to see myself through her eyes!

I need to learn again to love myself. Especially my body. Especially my tummy. Partially for her, but mostly for me. Because I have value. I am worth loving.

One of the things that I did learn in therapy is that, if you’re not happy, then it’s time to make changes. Changes to what you’re unhappy with. Changes to the way you think. Changes to the way you act.

I have to make all of those changes. I want to see through her eyes. I want to look at myself in a mirror and see something beautiful. That means that I’m going to have to learn to look with love.

I know this is long, but I wanted to share. Because sometimes, someone has to start. Someone has to go first. Someone has to say, I’m broken and I’m healing and I’m trying, but I’m not perfect.  I’ll do it. I’m not perfect. My body has issues and I hate my body.

But I’m going to try to learn to love it.