I need a little break from my sorrow. You do, too.
Time for a favorite amusement of mine around this time of the year.
I think I might just post this Every.Single.Year.
Perfect gifting solution for today’s economy, right?
You’ve got less than a week now, fellahs. So buy that box and get out yer scissors.
Late at night on Sunday, December 7th, I wrote this article, for Deep South Moms Blog, about what it feels like to face the holiday season with the first instance of the due date of my miscarried baby looming. When I miscarried back in April, I knew Christmas Eve would never be the same. That is when that first lost baby was due.
As I wrote the piece, I was reflecting on how far I’ve come since those first few days after losing the baby back in April. The utter hopelessness. The anger. The confusion and pain. I realized that the pain is so deep, it’s as if it will never go away completely… but over time, it somehow becomes easier to live with, and serves to remind me to be more thankful of the loved ones I still have in my life.
It has been almost 8 months since that first miscarriage, and I was just feeling like I had come out on the other side of the deepest of the immediate grief. And I knew that it was in part due to the passage of time, and the love and kindness of family and friends. In part it has been due to my being lucky enough to be able to write about my feelings and emotions here, and receive support from all of you. (Have I said thank you? Really. Thank you so much.)
I was feeling something I haven’t felt for awhile.
But what’s really bitter now is that a large part of my renewed hope came from the fact that I had a new life within me. A life that was crossing into the second trimester of a pregnancy that I had not even expected, but that I was starting to believe was meant to help me heal.
I spent weeks upon weeks feeling tense. I spent almost 3 months checking my underwear multiple times a day, and staring at the toilet paper every single time I wiped.
Slowly, so so slowly, the tension had just started to recede.
I had seen and heard his tiny heart beating, quickly, with vigor. He was healthy, and moving. He was ALIVE. He was going to make it, damnit. He really was.
Surely, so so surely, the tension has just started to recede.
I found myself leaving the restroom and realizing, after the fact, that I hadn’t looked at my underwear. I hadn’t checked my toilet paper.
I believed. I wasn’t just saying I believed. I really did.
It felt so good.
And then on Tuesday morning, December 9th, everything fell apart around me (us).
It was as if I’d been walking carefully on a thin sheet of glass suspended over a black abyss for months, but somehow, I’d just started to believe it was cement, and I started tap-dancing. The bottom fell out – the floor exploded, and all I had to grab for as I fell were shards of glass that cut my hands as I dropped into the abyss.
No heartbeat on the fetal doppler for us to hear.
No little, pulsing muscle in his tiny chest for me to see on mini-ultrasound.
My lovely doctor trying so hard over and over to find it. My lovely doctor getting visibly frustrated, upset, but still trying and trying. My lovely doctor giving up and telling me she was so so sorry.
Ohhh, my inability to believe this was happening… and ohhhh, my immense guilt over believing for so long that it would end this way, anyway.
And Oh, my Anger that it actually did.
My hope? Gone.
No heartbeat on a full blown ultrasound.
I stared at the screen, at his tiny body inside of me.
People, he looked beautiful and perfect on that high-tech ultrasound screen. I saw his little body facing me, as if he was looking at me to say goodbye. His tiny little arms and legs were there, framing the perfect little body in the middle.
Framing the perfect, little, middle part, where everything was silent and still.
Not really so perfect at all.
Every night since then, I’ve stayed up late, so late, doing ridiculous things like working on my website redesign. Things that I can blur my mind with. I’ve stayed up until my eyes just couldn’t see straight anymore, until I just couldn’t hold them open anymore, so that when I did lay down in bed, I’d fall right asleep.
I’m not ready for the thoughts that will come in the quiet darkness.
Every morning when I’ve awoken, I’ve had that horrible moment when I realize that, Yes, this reality is my reality. There is still a dead baby in my womb.
And when they take him from me on this Tuesday morning, I don’t know what I’ll have left to do but start to move on.
And that is the saddest thing of all.
And I’m sorry about that.
No heartbeat at yesterday’s prenatal appointment.
Based on size, Fuzzball made it to 11 weeks, 4 days.
In a sense, there’s nothing more to say.
And still, there’s so much more to say.
So little desire.
Yesterday’s post is an illustration of the Seasonal Cycle I’ve identified in myself. It’s a literary painting, in extreme, of the way I almost always feel the worst during the bleak months. I have never been diagnosed by a professional, so I am loathe to apply any kind of disorder or condition by name (and I really dislike it when other people do that, with all manner of psychological disorders).
To be more detailed about what it’s like for me – it’s not as though Spring and Summer are magically free of any sadness. In fact, I ride a roller coaster all year long… but when the sun is high I’m on the Kiddie Coaster. During Fall, I transition and climb the peak to the Mega Drop-Off of Winter’s Coaster of Malcontent and Despair.
I’m also not so deep in depression during my Winter Lows that John has to hide my razors. I am, for lack of a better term, a functioning depressive. I can smile, laugh, and force myself to do what it takes to get by from day to day. I can even fake it hard enough to make people fairly unaware. And beyond that, I have moments where I am content. They seem to flit by, and they are fewer and shorter than during the warm months, but they are there.
It’s the core of me that changes. It’s the ability to keep things flowing regularly. It’s the feeling inside my heart. It’s the blank stretches inside my head. It’s the drowning desire to lock myself in a closet and close my eyes more often than not. It’s a lack of motivation that was there before, an inability to care as much about myself and others. It’s having to force action rather than being propelled from within with ease.
At some point after Fall has begun, I just wake up one day and realize that I don’t care about anything in the same way as I did the day before.
And I have no desire to care, either.
This year, that happened to me last Thursday. I got up with Braden and came downstairs. Before we had breakfast, I opened the blinds in the living room and looked out at the leafless trees. Standing close to the glass that separated me from the icy chill outside, I felt the cold leaching through. It nipped at my arms, it taunted me. And my head just… went numb.
I blinked, staring out at the gray.
And I didn’t care. I didn’t want breakfast, I didn’t want to look at my computer, I didn’t want to sing songs with Braden, or call my husband. I didn’t want to want to and I didn’t care.
And my realization of the lack of motivation in my heart just sunk me. I think that every year, I hope as I climb the ladder that there will be an escalator at the top this time. Or an elevator. Or a jet-pack. Anything to keep me from sliding down again.
After breakfast, I got on my computer anyway, out of a sense of obligation (and because it is here that I search for something to buoy me, so often). And I did something I haven’t taken the time to do much at all in a long while – I actually opened my blog reader. (Yes, I’m a crappy blog reader when I get too wrapped up in deadlines. Which is always nowadays.)
And right around the same time I was hitting the top of that ladder, waiting for that icy push on the small of my back, I found something better than an escalator, an elevator, or a jet-pack.
Sometimes it’s inspiring enough to watch someone else beat The Slide that you start thinking maybe you can, too.
I may not grow wings of my own, but here’s to never giving up on the possibility.
All spring and summer long (but for bouts of the bitchiness I’m cursed with, both by Nature and Nurture) I spend my time climbing the ladder.
I kick my feet back into the air after each step up, with a little grinning head toss and a shimmying booty shake, as I climb up, and up and up. Is that a spicy little theme song playing?
I hum a song as I let the sun shine on my face, feeling that warmth.
I look up and see myself getting closer to the top as time passes, but mostly, the peak holds no meaning for me. Sometimes a memory tickles buttons in my mind, but the sun has permeated even there, and its rays push those memories into corners unreachable for now.
The smile on my face keeps spreading.
I still shake my booty and kick out my feet as I step up, up, up the ladder.
By the time it’s bleak and cold outside, I reach the top. There’s nowhere left to go.
I look down at the sleek, cold, metal of the slide and I shiver.
My smile starts to fade. I’m cold. The corners of my mind come alive with recognition of what’s happening.
As the wind blows through me, rattling my bones, I look around and can no longer find the light of the sun.
My teeth chatter.
Before long, a sudden gust of wind slaps a strong, icy hand into the small of my back and gives a malicious PUSH, and with a gasp, I tumble into the metal.
There are no sides to hold. There is no amount of scrambling that can stop my descent.
As if it matters… for as soon as my flesh makes contact with that metal, the cold seems to leach out of my very soul all desire to fight the obvious.
As my face falls slack, I quickly begin the long slide down for The Winter.
About a year ago, I was sitting at the dinner table, finishing some food and watching Braden’s antics as he played in the living room. Suddenly, there was some weird, shiny blob (Yes, “weird, shiny blob” is the technical, clinical term for the phenomenon) floating in the middle of my field of vision.
When this happens to you and you have NOT just dropped acid, it causes some amount of alarm.
(On Acid, it’s just funny. And then the elves come out and the party really starts! Ok. Just kidding. I have never dropped acid. Now, on mushrooms… )
The Blob grew and grew, and as it did, it moved off to the left side. By the time it reached its peak, it was covering my entire left field of vision, and I couldn’t focus on anything very well.
Frankly, it was beautiful. It was a shimmery circle with a large C-Shaped leading edge. Geometrical patterns of all types danced and twhirled within it – all of them lovely, shimmering rainbow colors.
It’s hard to appreciate the beauty of something like that when you’re wondering things like, “Is this indicative of a brain tumor in my occipital lobe?”
I was scared, and I talked to John on the phone while it was happening. It played out and went away after somewhere between 20-40 minutes.
I did some Googling (of course) and determined that what I was experiencing was “scintillating scotoma” a symptom of “ocular migraine.” It’s basically the “migraine aura” without the follow-up headache – so I counted myself lucky and moved on. It didn’t happen again until about a month ago. When it did, I just thought, “Oh, well… that hasn’t happened in a while, but I can handle it.” And just like the first time, it shimmered and danced, but I was a bit more able to appreciate it. Again, it resolved completely after about 30 minutes.
It happened again on Wednesday afternoon, while I was outside trying to shoot some weeds and other random things while Braden was sleeping.
Just as I was taking the shot above, the now familiar Blob showed up in the center of my visual field. I decided to shoot a little more until I felt I had to stop. After about 10 minutes, I gave up and went inside.
I tried looking at my computer screen, but i could only see parts of words, the C-Shape was becoming increasingly dominant, and I was starting to feel… funny.
It was just as beautiful, visually, as ever.
That is where my appreciation of the event ends. And where the pain started.
I’ll remind you, the “aura” always moves off to the left. The pain was on the right side of my brain. It started off heavy in my temple and towards the base of the skull. Soon the pain spread to cover the entire right side of the brain. Along with the pain came a strange, muddled feeling. It wasn’t dizziness… more like a mild drunk feeling – maybe that of a heavy buzz (but not pleasant).
It was hanging on, so I decided to rest. Braden was still napping, so I went to sleep.
I slept fitfully, dreaming of discomfort and children in pain.
Over an hour later, Braden woke me, and I went to his room to get him. The first thing I registered on waking was that my head was still hurting. The next was that there was still a streak of “aura” in my left visual field.
The Panic Switch was officially thrown. I tried to stay calm and get Braden occupied with something.
Then I noticed the pain and tenderness in my neck surrounding my left carotid artery. And it was getting worse. Over 5 minutes, it increased such that all I had to do was turn my head to the left and my carotid would sing the song of pain directly into my left ear in a shrieking Soprano wail.
My heart was beating the rhythm to a furious and heavy dance that was getting faster and faster… it was like evil jungle music in my veins.
The next few hours after that are a blur. I Googled. I spoke with different people on the phone… John, Becky, Lea… I am thankful to each of them for spending time with me and giving me advice. I worried. I hemmed and hawed about going to the ER with no health insurance.
I worried about getting someone to drive me because a) I am moderately night blind, so driving at night is BLEH for me, and b) I was afraid of another aura while driving.
I watched Braden running around playing, making silly faces at me, and doing little dances, and it struck me that for all I knew, if I didn’t go to the ER, I could be on very limited time with my son.
It doesn’t take much more than a thought like that.
I got on GTalk and told Alli I might be MIA from Photo Bliss for a day or so. She came to my rescue – virtually grabbed Karla and pulled her into chat.
Karla lives just a bit south of us. And she was willing to come get me, drive me to a hospital, and watch Braden. AKA = She is an Angel of God.
I ran around getting a bag together for Braden, putting on jeans, and readying the house for me to leave. Karla arrived and we headed to the hospital. It was all so very surreal. I was leaving the house with a girlfriend and my son just before 9pm at night on a random Wednesday.
To go to the ER, worried about my brain.
Was it the right choice? Was I being silly?
At the hospital, I explained to the doctor about the previous ocular migraines and what I had experienced that day.
When I was done he smirked at me and said, “Okay, you’re saying things to me like, “visual field,” “right hemisphere,” and “carotid artery.” It sounds like you’ve been reading way too much. What have you been up to?”
As he was looking into my right ear, I laughed and said, “Well, I have a BA and an MA – I’m pretty well educated and I have access to Google so I’m probably your worst nightmare.”
As he looked into my other ear and then my mouth he said, “No, you’re certainly not, but you ARE overthinking it all. You are going to be fine.”
“Yeah, I do tend to over-analyze everything.”
“What is your MA in?”
“Ah-ha. One of those.”
He nodded to himself. I chuckled.
He pulled up the legs of my pants about 5 inches or so and squeezed my ankles, saying, “No swelling.”
Then he paused and stared at them for a moment, and said quite seriously, “You’re going to need to have your pituitary gland checked.”
I just stared at him.
He continued, “There is an overgrowth of hair here…” indicating my legs.
I got myself a funny doctor.
“No, that’s what you would call a serious, clinical case of Motherhood.”
“No, no, you’re going to need to get it checked. You could grow a beard any time now.”
His official diagnosis was that I had a full blown classic migraine, and that, other than it being highly unpleasant, it was no big deal. I asked him if I could punch him in the head several times, because other than being highly unpleasant, it would really be no big deal.
Ok, I didn’t really ask him that. He was nice looking, had a wonderful bedside manner, and was doing an excellent job checking all my vitals and making me feel at ease. I didn’t suggest punching him in the head (I just thought it).
So the ending to the very long story of my Wednesday night is that I am okay. My neck is still tender, which concerns me, but I am okay for now.
That migraine was particularly ugly and I know they can be worse. They are triggered by weather changes, hormonal changes, stress… all kinds of things. The thought of doing things that would trigger another is highly unappealing to me.
I’m looking to de-stress a little bit, so you might see me let a day or two go by without a post once in awhile. My stress levels have been high for awhile, and that can cause all sorts of health problems. It’s not worth it.
Nothing on this thing we call The Interwebz is worth me looking at my precious kid and worrying about having my time cut prematurely short with him. Nothing is worth adding stress to my pregnant body and chancing never getting to spend time with that baby.
Trust me, I’m not signing off, by any means. I’ll still be around quite a lot. You guys can’t get rid of me, are you kidding? But maybe I’ll be around just a bit less every now and then.
PS: No mushrooms for me either, btw. I tend to shy away from putting things that grow under cow shit in my mouth. Yeah.
The result has been that I lost 15 lbs and FINALLY made it back to my pre-baby weight! It’s about time, considering that Braden is very, very close to his 2 year birthday.
It’s kind of hard to keep calling it “baby-weight” once your kid can walk, talk, and count.
I’ve been fitting back into clothes I haven’t worn since 2005 and I’ve been feeling pretty darn good about myself. Being back at the weight I was when I got pregnant with Braden feels really good.
And I’m glad I really enjoyed it, for the short time I got to experience it again.
Braden has another chance to be a big brother, it seems!
This past week there have been signs… tenderness, bloating (already? gee.), increased hunger (also already? great.), olfactory sensitivity. A week ago, I knew that Braden, who was on the second floor, had dirtied his diaper. I was on the first floor. Hai, Pregnancy Nose!
This past Friday morning I did the ole’ Pee On A Steek test, and it confirmed that there is a tiny life beginning a journey inside of me. It’s been about 4 weeks since first day of last period (I’m sure you wanted to know)… so the pregnancy is considered to be about 4 weeks along (though conception probably occurred about 2 weeks ago).
I know some of you are wondering why the hell I would tell everyone so early. Especially since Baby Number 2’s journey ended in miscarriage just 5 months ago. The answer is simple: it’s just not in my nature to pretend things are anything other than what they are, or to hide things that are a big deal to me.
I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t scared. Nervous. Apprehensive. A tiny bit freaked out. Periodically on the verge of tears. Gassy as hell. (Well, it’s true. I am one HORRIBLY Gassy Preggie.)
But I am also excited and hopeful. I’m choosing not to let the fear consume me. To that effect, I can’t pretend I’m not pregnant. I can’t not share it with you guys! It would be like saying I’m expecting the worst, instead of believing for the best.
Oh, and yeah, I’m going to put one of those creepy baby widgets on the sidebar again. Because I’m sure it will skeeve a few of you, and that kind of makes me smirk.
Check out my lil’ 3D stomach alien on the left sidebar, folks!
By the way, I’m super thrilled to have discovered, on the same day I found out I was pregnant, that this gorgeous woman is pregnant with me and due around the same time! Look for dueling belly updates in the future. 😉
PS: Here’s one of those semi-obnoxious tickers, too. What can I say? I’m cheesy like that.