Monthly Archives: June 2007

I’m a narcissist, how ’bout you?

Could we please ban some words from public discourse on fertility and childbearing? My list includes narcissism. Narcissist. Narcissistic. Or any variation of the root narcissus except for the flower. These words are useless. I know that if someone uses that word, the discussion is going to take a turn that definitely can’t result in anything useful.

I’m thinking about the sex.tup.lets born in the US last week (I think it was last week – I avoided the topic until it turned up in a lot of the liberal and left political blogs I read.) I just don’t have it in me to publicly cry, “Narcissist!” over the parents’ decision not to selectively reduce in these situations. Of course I know what I think I would do if faced with that decision but I never will be, will I?

You know who else is a narcissist? A woman who aborts a child she knows will be disabled. A woman who doesn’t abort a child she knows will be disabled. A woman who postpones childbearing until her late thirties. A woman who has children when she’s not financially secure. A woman who has a child that might somehow require a special share of my paltry tax dollars. Oh and especially a woman I don’t like who has children that I think will be damaged by the curse of her personality.

And, of course, me. I have cost my insurance company so much over the past year and I continue to do so. I don’t feel even a glimmer of guilt about that at least. I feel lots of sadness though. I remember that I went into this with so much hope and I still have enough that I’m willing to start over again.

I recognized earlier than it was confirmed that there was something going wrong in my pregnancy. I sought out help. But never ever, not even in my teariest moments in the hospital did I really believe Natan wouldn’t survive until he was gone. I believed that something had to happen – I couldn’t bury a son. Things that bad don’t happen to ME and I wouldn’t recover (Wait, I’m confused. Am I supposed to be “over it” already or inconsolable, confined to my bed or an institution? Resilience and immeasurable suffering are only two of the contradictory emotions demanded of the grieving). I’d survived crazy things before. Natan would be the same as me – tough, resilient. He couldn’t die. The doctors certainly weren’t filling me with false hope. But I just couldn’t imagine myself in such a horrible situation. My life is about hard work and well-earned success, not failure and heartbreak. The challenges we might face with a premature child were graspable, but not the idea that we’d be left bereft after everything. It wasn’t some inane belief in G-d’s mercy or wisdom that made me think this – but I just don’t know how I would have survived if I’d ever given up hope.

I guess though that that does make me a narcissist – the belief that the fact that I want this enough is a reason to keep going.

Hot. Tired. Showing?

All looked good at the doctor’s today. Cervix 4cm (3cm is the bad # so I’m still really really good), baby moving around, and I had to go to the bathroom 3 times between walking in the door and seeing the doctor. So everything’s normal so far.

I haven’t gained any weight in a month. I’m not fanatically watching it – we don’t even own a scale so I don’t have that option – but since I hadn’t gotten back to my pre-pregnancy size, Dr K said it would be good for me to be on the lower end of the average weight gain range. I feel good that I’m in such a good place for the inevitable weight gain that’ll come from here on out. So good that I had ice cream on the way home.

I noticed today that despite my tugging, my shirt no longer covers the full waistband on my pants. So I guess I’m showing!

Whew that was such an optimistic post. I need to retreat now.

Knowing things

Do you ever know something, but look it up anyway? Like just now, I know perfectly well where Worcester, MA is but as I was working on a map, I looked it up on Wiki.pedia anyway, just to see what it would say about it. I constantly do that sort of thing – which is one of the reasons I know that the BBC and the Oxford English Dictionary are collaborating on a television series I wish I could watch. I’ve looked up cerclage, progesterone, and pre-term labor even after I’ve exhausted all the information – just to see if I missed anything. But usually it’s probably a waste of time, a procrastination technique I tell myself is an exercise in personal enrichment.

Among our blogs, we’ve talked many times about “the things people say,” and I think probably the most offensive comments revolve around the suggestion that “everything happens for reason,” and its related content: “G-d doesn’t give any of us more than we can handle” and bad things happen to teach us some lesson we need to learn (that’s not exactly right but I can’t come up with the correct trite phrase right now). A certain relative I’ve mentioned before made probably the most offensive statement of all after my miscarriage: “I believe that you’ll be parents when the time is right.” I could list all of the reasons why that particular phrase is offensive, but the counter examples make for just such an easy target. Unless of course G-d is more personally interested in protecting me and my children than in others….I never thought of that possibility….

Along with these statements I think of all the well-meaning advice I receive and witness about what to do during pregnancy, how we might deal with our pain or chiming in on when we’ve crossed an unhealthy line. One such example would be our jealousy of mothers of infants and pregnant women. I saw it suggested somewhere (vague citation on purpose) recently that we remember that those mothers are not the reason our babies died, and that those feelings are an indication that a person needs counseling to begin moving towards a healthy place. You don’t say? Because until you told me that I really thought other people had babies to spite me or that there was a universal baby quota I didn’t know about. It’s natural to feel this pain, even if it’s not acceptable to shout about it in public. I’m not going to wish something bad on a woman with a stroller or tell her how I feel when seeing her! Feeling bad is still a long long way from acting out.

And therapy might or might not help. For me, this blog helps far more than individual or group therapy. I have not historically done well with therapists. Our values and intellectual interests tend to clash – they want to analyze my feelings and I want to discern the historiography of their approach or talk about how what they’ve just said is so clearly culturally determined. I’m sure it’s possible to find someone with whom I mesh well, but the search for a compatible one would certainly just exhaust me and our insurance. I tend to think the therapy suggestion (but not the act of going) more often indicates that the adviser is uncomfortable rather than that the advisee needs professional help. And the suggestion itself reflects a broad discomfort with grief.*

Fairy tales and 16th and 17th-century witch trials include a familiar figure – the old haggard witch jealous of the young woman. Her hostility leads her to act, to try to destroy that woman. We all know what has to happen to the witch – she has to be destroyed. Those of us who are still or always will be childless are not the old haggard witches who desire to destroy fertile happiness, but in a way, the world treats us as if we are. I could carry this allusion very far & develop it into a far more sophisticated discussion if I did some more research rather than just think onscreen. But look at the hysteria around the very rare (but undeniably horrific) cases where a pregnant woman is murdered for her baby. The stories always explain the act via the example of infertility, or a miscarried or stillborn child. Yes, these stories happened. But no they cannot be explained so easily. Murder and kidnapping are not normal acts of a grieving woman. The connection there is too literal to be entirely useful. I know no one expects these acts of any of us and we won’t be literally banished to the town edges or suspected of possessing the mothers around us. But why do we latch onto the explanation that a woman who is not a mother of living children will go insane? And why do people sometimes suggest they know better than we do how we should feel? It’s the jealous old hag again. It happens for a reason. G-d only gives us what we can handle. There’s a time for everything. What happened to us tells something about us. We did something to make it happen, or we questioned G-d, or we needed a cosmic lesson. It was about us.

That’s not saying I’m not learning something through this pain. But I’ve also gained wisdom by having friends, being married, teaching, listening to the people walk by my house. I didn’t need this.

* That’s not an attack on psychology or psychiatry in general, just on how we tend to use and view it – as a place for people to go when we’re not coping well – and that’s judgment – not the purpose of the fields. I think everyone can benefit from a good therapeutic relationship if they have access to it.

Details of My Cerclage

I’ve been avoiding you all. My last post was so upbeat and positive and I’m afraid to ruin things with more hopefulness. I’m afraid that if I post about the cerclage going well – it will suddenly turn into a disaster. I say this because only two or three weeks after I finally got around to telling long-distance friends I rarely see or talk to that I was pregnant with Natan, I went into preterm labor. And because with our first pregnancy, when I finally allowed my husband to tell his father that I was pregnant, well, within a day or so that ended. It’s like the universe was kicking me for my optimism and pretension (no I don’t really believe that, I just feel it sometimes….). But here goes….

So we got up early Friday morning, to be at the hospital by 7am. I slept alright the night before, but our cat T. decided to announce loudly that he was bringing his most pathetic toy to bed at 5am. He never plays with this toy. He only offers it as a gift. That’s its (no apostrophe needed) function in the world. So you can appreciate T’s love and generosity, here’s a picture of the Bird with 9 Million Lives:

But this morning, unlike all the others, I was getting up in 45 minutes anyway. T’s a good kitty, but when he brings us a gift, he wants a thank you.

Prep for the cerclage was uneventful beyond the blown vein on my left wrist. Fortunately, the right worked fine. I couldn’t drink any water after midnight, so surprise surprise, I was horribly dehydrated and my veins weren’t very cooperative.

So then came the move to the operating room and the spinal. The spinal, after all my worries, was nothing. It hurt a little. I kept thinking I could feel my legs until I realized the catheter had gone in and I hadn’t felt a thing. It took about 30 minutes, and Dr. K put in only one stitch, high up. Afterwards, in the recovery room, it took a long time for the feeling to come back in my legs. About an hour longer than expected. I kept thinking I could feel or move my legs, until Josh would tickle me and I felt nothing. Or I’d think I was lifting my legs but wasn’t. After I got feeling and movement back, it still took a few more hours until I could empty my bladder. That kind of sucked, and the nurses were beginning to worry about it.

On Friday, I felt fine. Very little pain, no cramping, very little bleeding. Saturday, some pain, no bleeding. Sunday, some discharge, less pain. Today, some discharge, almost no pain. So all in all, not bad. The worst of the pain, I think, actually came from the awkward position during the procedure.

Not bad at all

The cerclage went fine. Not nearly as difficult as I expected. I’ll write more later but I’m worn out right now.

Anxiety wins again

First off – every thing’s fine. No one panic.

Yesterday I was just sitting here happily working away on a map depicting population density in the US in 1840 (I know you’re all dying to see that), when at about noon a teeny tiny bit of blood made an appearance. It was really a very very small dot. I told myself it was probably old and shaken off by a violent morning sickness episode in the late morning, but after waiting out the office’s lunch hour (I didn’t think it necessary to call the doctor-on-call directly during her or his lunch hour) I realized my nerves wouldn’t be calmed unless I called. The nurse said it was probably fine but that I should come in when it was convenient just to check things out. Right then was fine so off we went.

Dr. K wasn’t in the office so we saw Dr. P, who was perfectly nice, but Dr. K is even nicer. He checked everything out, baby looks great, cervix is closed and long, he saw no blood whatsoever. So it’s all fine. Nothing to worry about.

This ultrasound the baby actually looked like a baby – a head not so remarkably larger than the body, two arms, two legs, a hint of a face. Someone will ask, so I’ll tell you we’re still weeks away from seeing if we have a boy or a girl.

Now I can breathe again until early Friday….

I could only laugh

Friday afternoon, after letting a “master student” at Av.eda take 7 inches off my hair* and managing to save $24.50 off the usual price of $37, I went off to spend some of that savings on a sandwich. Would you believe that I had no sooner sat down than eight hugely pregnant women arrived to enjoy lunch together? All of them well-dressed and attractive in high heels? Who were they? Maternity models on break? Or a torture squad sent out to terrorize infertile and/or tentatively pregnant women? Mine was not the only stricken face in the room. I was so bemused I hardly had time to be jealous.

* 7 inches gone and my hair is still below my shoulders? When did it get so long?

5 months

I’ve been in such a foul mood these past couple of weeks. Not every moment or every day, but certainly often. It makes it hard to write, because really how often can I restate how sad and angry I am that Natan died? How often will anyone want to listen as I complain that sadness overtook me as I went to sleep, or because my apartment is too silent, or because heavily pregnant women and babies make me painfully jealous? When will I forgive the relative who told my husband two months after Natan died that he expected we “must feel all better by now” and chided him for being slow with his work? And who wrote to assure me that his doctor friend told what happened “means nothing” about my ability to have children? Or the other one, who visited but never mentioned Natan or what happened to him? I don’t fixate on these two, or think of them often, but we can’t avoid them and certainly, absolutely cannot discuss it with them.

Yesterday marked 5 months since Natan was born and died, according to the Gregorian calendar. In the beginning, though I thought of time as passing in weeks. Wednesday would arrive and I’d think about how we’d made it through yet another week. For months I was thinking if he were alive, we’d be visiting him in the NICU. Now I think about how if he’d survived, we’d probably have him home by now.

I am not sure exactly how being pregnant again helps, but I think it does. My anxiety level is through the roof, of course, and I feel bad for this baby that I’m still very much grieving Natan. And I feel guilty when I feel happy to be pregnant, because it complicates my pain over losing him. And I worry, of course, that my body wasn’t ready because it happened so fast. Dr. K has assured me that’s not a concern, that I’d healed physically, was overall very healthy and should be fine. While I wish I could have had a c-section to save our son’s life, I’m strangely grateful that at least I didn’t have to lose him and be sliced open. I’d hardly give the section another thought, I’m sure, had he’d just survived. We’ll never know though, I suppose, what would have happened had I not gone into distress. It’s surreal to be wishing for lesser stages of trauma. Oh, if I’d only gone into preterm labor but not almost died….Why don’t I spend time wishing I’d never been in that terrible position in the first place?

None of that, obviously, relates to how being pregnant again helps. Of course being told I can always have other children wouldn’t help. Of course I don’t think of this baby as a replacement for Natan. As impossible as it would be, I want them both. But there is a part of this pain that will be relieved if I can have other, living children. There is a part of this pain that would have been relieved had we had other children before. The pain that is the terrible and complete silence in our house, that is the fear that not only will we never see Natan grow up, but that we might not see any children of our own grow up.

I knew women without children when I was a child, and while they might have been perfectly happy, I knew I didn’t want to be them. I wanted to be a mother. And I want it soon – I don’t want to have to wait until we’re “stable” and able to pay all the costs and satisfy the requirements of an adoption agency. Being pregnant again gives me some hope that none of those fears and concerns will come to be. Even as it adds the perhaps worse fear that we’ll have buried two children by the time this year is out.

No Undergrad Left Behind

Oh, this blog is such a brilliant reminder of what we have to look forward to for the rest of our lives.

Left Behind At the Fishbowl

The “Fishbowl,” in case you aren’t from around here, is the largest computer lab at the university where Sara and I attend graduate school. Take a look at the post about garages, in particular.