Monthly Archives: October 2007

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Still going

Another fine doctor’s appointment. Dr. K just measured my uterus, checked the baby’s heart rate, and confirmed that the ache right under my rib cage was indeed a firmly planted pair of feet. If all goes well I won’t get another cervix check before the cerclage removal – she said she wanted to “give [my] vagina a break.” I’m fine with that. While it might be cool to hear another 3cm measurement, really there’s nothing to be done if it’s not and if it becomes a problem I should get a sign. Today was also my last progesterone shot. I suppose that was a milestone but honestly they hadn’t bothered me terribly.

I cannot believe I am a mere 3 weeks away from reaching the point of having the cerclage removed. That I am scared about, but no matter how much it hurts it won’t take long and it can’t hurt more than anything I’ve already experienced.

I’m excited, fairly optimistic, and yet still apprehensive. Not only because there are no promises still. We’re coming up on ten months since Natan died and I still feel like our grief is very fresh. On the one hand I know the safe birth of this baby will be healing, and that I cannot even comprehend how happy I will feel at that event, if it goes well and safely. These months have been ridiculously fast and terribly slow. And yet the idea that I may greet his first birthday with his baby brother safely in my arms still feels impossible, utterly incomprehensible.

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The past, and thank you Mrs. Weas.ley

I still owe two answers from Bon’s interview questions. This rambling post will be my attempt to answer one of them and summarize my mood for the past few days.

Here’s the question, a very good one, thanks.
4. you observe or acknowledge the Jewish holidays through your year of
consolation, as you make your way around the calendar.  what role does
faith play in your life and identity, and what impact has Natan’s death
had on your relationship with belief and the spiritual?

I can’t answer this very well. Every statement would require so much qualification, so much background. But I’ll try. I am very much a believing Jew. For me, mitzvahs are my obligations, not the colloquial good deed. Certainly that provides a core part of my identity. I have an excellent memory and if we were to engage in real & significant conversation, it probably wouldn’t be long before something about Judaism and text came up. That said, I am not at this point observing mitzvot as well as I’d like. I don’t believe that I’ll be punished for my recent lapses even if they are technically sins. It’s not an obvious system of reward and punishment. The word for sin in Hebrew is more correctly translated as missing the mark and I am very much missing the mark right now in my relationship with G-d. But that will not shake my belief, because my belief itself already has been shaped and shaken by prior trauma and years of introspection. Faith didn’t come easily or naturally to me in the first place.

In the weeks and months following Natan’s death, Judaism provided a great comfort for me. I was fortunate to be in a congregation and among friends and faculty who acknowledged the enormity of our loss. Josh and I said the mourner’s kaddish, a mourner’s prayer, although not technically obligated, at appropriate times because it comforted us. I adopted the custom of lighting three candles for the start of Shabbat (the Sabbath) on Fridays because I knew a woman in Israel who lit the traditional two candles plus one for each of her children.

A few weeks or months ago now, I can’t remember, I went to say prayers as I went to sleep and couldn’t do it. I felt angry. I don’t feel angry at G-d for taking Natan – I don’t believe in that engaged of a deity, at least in the present. But still I felt angry when trying to say words of praise and thankfulness. I didn’t feel much like praising the world or thanking G-d for it. The feeling passed, although it returns sometimes. It’s not going to become a dominant feeling for me. It is an extremely foreign one, however, as no previous trauma has ever produced the feeling within me that I would rather just forsake the world than be thankful for it.

I was tired. I am tired. I don’t usually take inspiration from movies, but something in a movie struck me this weekend. We watched, Driving Lessons, an English movie starring two actors from the Harry Potter films, Rupert Grint (Ron) and Julie Walters (Molly Weasley). I enjoyed the movie very much overall, but one scene from it really resonated. Grint’s character is telling Walter’s character, “G-d loves you. G-d forgives you!” Walters’ character shouts at him to shut up and says, “G-d doesn’t forgive. I forgive.” I don’t know the scriptwriter’s theology or his intent with that line. I do know Walters’ character had lost her only son when he was two years old. And I certainly felt the absurdity and insult her character would have felt at being “taught” about her relationship with G-d by a teenage boy.

I realized I am sometimes very angry still. But angry at who and what? Myself, sometimes. My old doctor’s office, sometimes. The nurse who took care of me the last night in the hospital, sometimes. But mostly it’s an undirected anger. Because all of those people I named, including myself, are imperfect. Mistakes may or may not have been made in my care, but no one did it on purpose. So then who’s left to be angry at but the designer of imperfect people and our imperfect world?

It is hard to escape the feeling that Natan’s death was a punishment. But that’s ultimately narcissistic. He was not an expendable little soul that G-d let grow inside of me and then killed to teach me some lesson or make me repent. What could I have done to deserve that? I regret well enough my mistakes but there’s nothing back there so bad it could sentence our son to death. Even still, I need to forgive myself in terms of learning to accept that I am limited. Furthermore, I need to forgive G-d for creating an imperfect world, and to learn how to live in it again without resentment.

I can enjoy a beautiful day, love and be thankful for my husband and family, and be so grateful that I am so close to bringing home a living child. Yet I still feel like there’s been a terrible injustice done, to me, my family, my son, and even my friends. It doesn’t matter that G-d didn’t specifically hand that pain down to me. If I believe G-d created everything, I believe He created the possibility of this happening to anyone. I don’t have to know why, but I have to learn to live with it. I don’t have a choice. And that requires my forgiveness.

I haven’t been entirely ready to do that. I’ve stepped away from the practices that brought me comfort in the first few weeks because they would inevitably lead up to needing to confront my anger. Slowly, but in forward and backward steps, I am moving toward them again.

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Another week, another trip to the hospital

Unable to get to sleep until past midnight last night because the baby was kicking so much, I then woke up at a little past one with a series of contractions, the full-on strangling kind, about 4-8 minutes apart. At 3am, I decided I’d had enough to justify a trip to L&D – less than 12 hours before my next doctor’s appointment. I had been so excited yesterday to be able to tell Dr. K there’d been no trips to the hospital since last we saw each other. Oh well. Not only were the contractions close together, I felt horrible in between them. I called to say we’d be coming since they are nicer when you do that at Old Hospital. The woman on the phone kept saying, “And if your doctor is at New Hospital why are you calling here?” I was getting annoyed, she said, “You don’t sound good,” to which I responded, “Because I feel like crap.” At that she finally granted me permission to drive over.

We get there, get a few lovely ones measured on the machine, and the nurse-midwife on duty comes to do an exam. She says I’m a finger dilated and that she feels some pressure on the cerclage. I remain calm. The doctor comes in, tells me, “Honestly, I don’t know what that means since I didn’t do the exam.” And then proceeds to do her own exam and cervical measurement with an ultrasound. I’m not sure what that means exactly, and what was the point then to the midwife’s exam other than doubling the misery for me. Because a cervical exam when you’re contracting? And the cervix is soft? It freaking hurts.

Oh, and before I forget, I should mention that I had to answer the question, “How is your preterm baby born in January doing?” twice. Whoops. Wish I’d had the mind to answer, “You’ll have to ask G-d that question, thanks.” Really, I mean, I trust nurses and doctors. I like them. I’d understand these questions from other people in other places, but I gave birth in that hospital. Read a little closer folks. And for Josh’s sake, and others I’m sure, employees need to stop saying congratulations to every visitor on his/her way to L&D.

In the meantime, I had my nifedipine a bit early and a bag of IV fluids. The contractions slowed. The ultrasound showed the cervix nice and long – almost 3cm – with no funnel. So it’s holding up. Ultimately, as Josh said, “we won again.” Especially with a negative fetal fibronectin result, ptl is not on the horizon. I will almost definitely make it to 34 weeks.

Of course the doc tells me to stay hydrated, which leads us up to my preparation for this afternoon’s doctor’s appointment. I am hydrated. I am drinking roughly 300 ounces of fluid a day – but not over-hydrating myself. That’s what I need to keep my urine of the desired color and to keep myself safe from a headache and incredible thirst. That’s a lot more water than most people need. So did the contractions start again because I can’t very well drink a thermos of water an hour while asleep? The doctors at the Old Hospital seemed uninterested in that question. Thanks to Aurelia and Julia though, I’m going to push it at the doctor’s office today. It’s possibly a form of diabetes not tested for with basic tests. Which would give me a possible reason for all of this. I’m not excited to have diabetes, but I would like to have some idea of a reason.

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I feel so loved

I’ve started to receive worried emails so I guess I better post. I’m doing well, still lying on my side with only the occasional strangling contraction. One way the doctors and nurse gauge contractions is to ask, “what’s your pain level on a scale of 1 to 10. Can you talk through it?” Well, my question now is, “If it doesn’t hurt but I can’t talk through it because the nausea is so overwhelming and I’m being strangled, is that significant?” And of course, some will say yes and some will say no. But in any case, the infrequency of that feeling is the significant part. And it’s not frequent at all now. Something mild 1-2 times an hour, strangling 1-2 times a day, strangling plus nausea every few days. No pattern. Just practice I guess.

I’m not bored. That’s a good thing. I don’t care that I’m not doing any work. That’s another good thing. I could write about how bed rest is giving me the chance to read books and watch movies I’ve been meaning to for years. But that’s not true. I could say it’s my first real chance to relax in a long time. Or that it’s given me the chance to step back and reflect. But those things would also not be true. I’m constantly reflecting anyway.

Thing is, I don’t mind just lying here looking at the ceiling, or staring at my cat. For now. I can contemplate the staples in my ceiling multiple times a day without concern. I’m certainly not one to decorate with staples, so I wonder what tenant did so and how long ago. If I hadn’t been pregnant or grieving the entire 14 months we’ve lived here, those staples would have been gone long ago. But instead I’ve left them there to either annoy or be ignored by the next residents.

I am bored, however, by academia. I’m not making any big decisions now. And the dissertation will get done. It would be ridiculous to quit having completed 5 years of work and 1/3 of the writing. It’s the path afterwards that concerns me. I have been incomparably annoyed by the process of writing my dissertation. Granted too much of it has been done under stress – a difficult pregnancy, the death of my son, and then another difficult pregnancy. The chapter you all heard about for months? The one I turned in about 5 months late (which in retrospect doesn’t seem like an unreasonable delay….)? It was a difficult thing to write intellectually and emotionally. The chapter I wrote before, and turned in the first draft of almost a year ago? And the second draft over the summer? It was less difficult, on both counts. Both of the chapters were good. The feedback I got was largely annoying, aggravating, and petty. Not all of it, but enough of it. As I wondered if certain members of the readership had actually read and tried to digest what I’d written or simply skimmed and decided to pontificate on irrelevant points at random, I also wondered why the hell I labored over the syntax of every sentence when apparently no one is paying attention.

I’m not in crisis over whether academic history matters, over whether it matters that we’re a tiny crowd speaking only to each other. That’s true of so many other fields, and what we write will have impact. But I’m not having fun with it anymore. I’m not finding the intellectual community that I want. I’m not interested enough in the books I read, the journals I peruse. I don’t feel like they’re talking to and building off one another so much as using and competing with one another.

I want to talk to people who want to learn too. I miss being around students – at least, students without enormous egos. Sittting at home, with so much time to consider the books and articles historians admire, I’m sad that I don’t get more out of them.

For years I’ve been annoyed by the condescending voice people use when they ask, “What can you do with that? Teach?” But more and more, I think that is just what I want to do. Not to prioritize research. Not even to balance teaching with research. But mostly to just teach. Maybe in a classroom, or maybe I really do want to pursue a goal I let fade a long time ago: to work in educational media. I don’t know. But I know I don’t find life alone in front of a blank word document so appealing anymore.

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Reprieve and two posts in one

Great news from the doctor’s office – no appreciable change in the past 10 days. I can’t tell you the relief I feel. As if I’ve gotten a bonus 10 days of pregnancy. 34 weeks looks ever more possible.

Welcome to the world of grief and pregnancy. I flit easily between sadness, despair and hope. Last night as I went to sleep, I felt sad as I often do, and tried to remember details about Natan. I suddenly felt unsure about whose feet his had resembled more, mine or Josh’s. Meaning, was his second toe long, much longer than the first like mine, or short like his father’s? I got up to look at the plaster-of-paris impression of his feet. They were like mine. A long second toe. I’ll never know how much like mine, though. Would he have cultivated this trait? Learned to type with his odd toe? Would he have been embarrassed by it as a teenager, or never cared about it whatsoever? As I’ve said before, he looked like a perfect little combination of Josh and me. He had two of my signature traits – both of which I got from my dad – an upturned nose and long toe.

I felt better after looking at the impressions of his tiny feet. But not completely satisfied. I apparently am not at peace with having to open a drawer and a box and pull out a piece of plaster to inspect my son’s feet.

Afterwards, I had a dream that my parents’ labrador retriever chewed up Natan’s box and broke the mold. The anguish I felt at discovering it was incredible, just thinking of it now makes my chest ache. I took the remaining pieces to a Mexican restaurant to show Josh (inexplicable detail for you) and sat there trying to fit the little pieces together inside the little shell we picked up during our trip to Florida in February and put in his box. The shell was broken too though. I couldn’t figure out whether we had all the pieces. I sat there for a long time after everyone had left, unsuccessfully trying to convince myself that I could be satisfied with the little bits that had survived.

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I need to call a friend back who learned on Friday that her twelve week pregnancy had really ended at 6 weeks. We talked Friday for an hour or so and she sounded okay, very much in the “this is common it means nothing” mood, but I know that only lasts so long. She’s having a D&C on Tuesday. She sounded uncertain about the procedure, but I think 6 weeks sounds like a long time to have it not pass on its own. I told her about the pain of mine – so she’d be prepared just in case it started sooner – but thought she should follow the medical advice. My doc was comfortable with waiting two weeks – or a full month after the “fetal demise.”

I want to call her back today but I feel on the edge of collapse myself. She said that after what happened to us, she feels like a miscarriage is no big deal. Although I clearly mourn Natan much more than my miscarriage, we’re not in a pain Olympics and there’s nothing to feel good about with her loss. She said they’d been trying a while. Despite my own personal hell, I felt like a heel responding that we’d gotten pregnant 3 times over 3 unprotected months when she asked. Goodness knows no one would begrudge me my fertility but there are just so many different brands of suffering in this baby-making race.

I say race not because we’re competing with anyone else, but because time feels so precious with pregnancy. I’m struck this mourning [huh, I’ll leave be that interesting typo] that I went off birth control 2 years ago this month – cycle-time not calendar time. Josh was leaving in early November and we were going to begin trying as soon as he got back or I went to see him. I thought it was very convenient that I’d have a few months to clean the pill out of my system and be on prenatals and folic acid – one small comfort for the forced separation. [Lest we think pregnancy is the only arena where people make idiot comments, no fewer than two relatives expressed worry about our marriage surviving his time abroad! It took great restraint not to comment that theirs probably couldn’t.]

My sister, her best friend, and an old high school friend announced pregnancies in the interim. I admit that, even as I couldn’t have become pregnant in those months, I did feel a bit of sadness that I wanted to be pregnant and had to wait out those months. The very moment Josh said he was ready, I wanted to be pregnant. But I didn’t want to be pregnant alone and in retrospect, thank goodness I wasn’t except for about 6 weeks (I got pregnant while visiting him, he returned 7 weeks later) .

My first due date was in December. Natan was born in January. If this baby makes it, he’ll arrive a bit short of one year after I first expected to bring home a baby. I’ve been waiting even longer. In the world of fertility challenges, that’s not so long. But it has been horrible. It has been more than a lifetime.

I think I’ll cry for awhile now, and then try to compose myself and call my friend. You’d think I’d be a good person to talk to, but I’m fresh out of comfort.

Oh so productive

Wow. It’s 3:34pm and I have done nothing today. I’ve chatted with friends, played a card game with Josh and read blogs. Consequently perhaps, I have nothing to say. Two days ago I wrote a “teaching philo.sophy” for the one job for which I still intend to apply (because it’s in a location we’d like to be near and it specifically says it will take apps from ABD’s (all but dissertation)). I don’t really know what it means to have and to write a “teaching philo.sophy” but I looked at some examples and gave it my best shot. Yesterday I made a few edits to that philosophy. Today I haven’t even managed that much.

I think if I were to look back in my archives, and back at myself, there was a time when I would have rejoiced at 31 weeks. Well I’m certainly glad to still be pregnant, but I’m not ready to give it up yet. I’m all the more anxious now to make it to 32. At 32, if 32, I’ll probably not be happy when I think about how much better 34 would be.

Ten cloth diapers arrived yesterday with a moby.wrap baby carrier. Ack. I actually hugged and kissed a diaper. I’m clearly insane. More evidence for that would be that I really have to ask this question: If I’m laying on my left side and the baby starts kicking me on that side, am I squishing him? I’m neurotically afraid I will inadvertently crush him. Which is ridiculous. Of course I won’t. I just have so little to distract me from neurotic thoughts right now. There’s plenty I could be doing, but it wouldn’t distract me I’m sure. I’d just be doing things while thinking crazy thoughts.

In a burst of optimism, Josh and I cleared out a drawer in the armoire last evening and made it the diaper drawer. We have to gradually clean out that piece of baby furniture we’ve been pretending is for our stuff for too long now. But I thought it was pretty darn impressive that we took a step in that direction rather than shoving the diapers in the closet or making them live in the outside hallway.

I have a list of other things I could have done today and will have to in the coming days. Oh well. I may never have such an excuse to be lazy in my life again. That’s a wish, actually, in case anyone’s listening.

From where I sit (edited because pic didn’t show)


or lounge or lay as the case may be.

I wasn’t going to take a commenter up on the suggestion that I photograph what I see from bed rest, because well, our apartment is much more functional than attractive. The lighting is bad and it’s kind of mess. I’m too much my mom’s daughter to want to show you all the ugly white walls, the maternity pants hanging over the wine rack or the papers, nail clippers and other random things on our dresser. But not enough of her daughter to insist that Josh waste his time cleaning it up. And, no, that is not in any way an attempt to guilt him into doing it.

I took this shot because Josh and I were interrupted in a discussion by a screeching squirrel fight in our backyard. Tom reacts to animal squabbles like any good middle or high school student – immediately stops whatever he’s doing and rushes to the scene of the noise. If he can’t see it from one window, he’ll rush to every other window in the house until he finds it. Midnight enjoys a good squirrel battle as well, but she’s not about to leave a good napping spot in the living room to watch. As you can tell from the photo, our yard has and is surrounded by several very large trees. It’s thus a popular place for squirrels, birds, and neighborhood cats to gather. As the squirrels prepare for winter, the fighting will become louder and more frequent.

As the weather gets colder, I too have to acknowledge that time is moving on. I’ll be 31 weeks pregnant the day after tomorrow. Whatever happens, I have to deliver this baby. My due date is 9 weeks away. Inevitably in just over two months now we will all know, for better or worse, the conclusion of this pregnancy. We, Josh and I and our families that is, will be facing the imminent one year anniversary of Natan’s birth and death.

Thanks to a very astute commenter/reader who emailed rather than commented, I realized that my fears and concerns with labor have little to do with what can be written in a plan (not returning to that question though – I’m going to do it.) I’m anxious about the finality of labor and birth. I’m anxious because I can’t actually plan it. I don’t know when it will be, what it will be like. Will it be an emergency, or a routine? Will I end up with a live baby, or a dead one? Chances are, of course, that this baby will live. But my previous tragedy doesn’t exempt me from a new one. But the biggest thing I can’t know is how I will respond. Will my sensory memory cause me to panic? Or will I be calm? Will I be able to keep my mind focused on this new experience, or will I be trapped by recollections of the past? That’s why I’m particularly overwhelmed by this demand that I go to Old Hospital if I deliver before November 3rd. It’s not a bad hospital, it’s just not the one I chose. It adds another unknown, another element to my lack of control. Of course no woman is actually in control of her pregnancy and its outcome, but many women who haven’t suffered a loss can feel more comfortable thinking they do, at least more so than I can. On the one hand, I envy them, but on the other I don’t – because to return to that state of mind might just mean my worst loss would still be ahead, rather than behind me. If I’m grateful for anything at all, it’s that I know now how much I have to fight to stay pregnant. No matter what, I won’t have to learn that lesson from scratch again.