A few housekeeping things before the post for today.
You’ll notice that today’s post is a little different than what I normally write. If you’ve followed my blog in it’s many manifestations, you’ve seen something like this maybe a few times, but not often.
I’ve decided to take part in a free-writing project called Just Write which encourages people to write when smacked by inspiration about what is happening or has happened in the moment. More details can be found at The Extraordinary-Ordinary if you want to take part.
Second, I don’t like it here at WordPress. I’m packing up my toys and heading back to Blogger. If you link to me from Facebook or Twitter you won’t notice a change in anything accept how my blog looks. The way you navigate to it will remain unchanged. If you are one of the handful of subscribers, please please please come with me to The Chrysalis Home on Blogger and subscribe there! I’ll be posting this entry in both places, but starting with the next entry, it’s strictly Blogger.
And so without further ado, I give you:
Just Write ~1
I’m sitting here, on the floor, in the dark, because M is still sleeping and I don’t like to go too far. I like to keep him close. Even here, in the safety of home, I worry and I wait. I can’t take him for granted. So many things that I’ve taken for granted have been taken from me, I won’t risk it again.
So I sit here in the dark, three feet from him, drinking my coffee, doing my yoga, trying to meditate but being swept away by negative thoughts when I close my eyes. Yesterday was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance day and I am remembering. But I remember everyday, not just one. I don’t have the luxury of only thinking about it once a year and then moving on. It’s always there, reminding me not to get complacent in my love, not to take for granted what can so, so easily and so, so permanently be snatched away.
So I sit here in the dark and I watch him. I watch how he stretches and moans in his sleep. I watch how his eyelids flutter and his lips curl into a smile when he dreams. I watch how the light plays on his cheeks when the sun rises. I watch how he opens his eyes and searches for me, smiling when his eyes finally find me. And my heart bursts.
I’m never far from him. I don’t want his eyes to search me out in the morning and not find me. I don’t want his first thought upon waking to be one of loneliness or abandonment. I want him to see mama and know she is always close, will always be close when he needs her.
So I sit here in the dark, on the floor.
I’m kind of a self-improvement junkie. But only kind of. It’s not uncommon for me to find something that resonates with me, latch on to it with the fervor of a zealot for about a week and then go right back to my old, self-unimproved ways. It happens at least once or twice a year. Nothing ever comes of it except a new journal with like three entries and a renewed sense of failure, which is exactly what you don’t want from your self-improvements, am I right?
I never actually stick with any of these systems long enough to IMPROVE anything and then in a year or so, I find something new, some new way to become the best, most fearless, most centered, most zen me I can be.
And I am not the only one. Self-improvement is BIG BUSINESS. People make mad cash off of other people’s feelings of insecurity and lack of self-worth and desire to be happy. From Dr. Phil and Oprah to The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to intensive weekend training courses in the art of building popsicle stick houses as meditation, someone is always trying to make a buck from making you feel pretty or smart or self-assured. Some of it is legit, don’t get me wrong. And some people really do have an honest desire to help. But they all also want to make money, which to me kind of sullies the whole thing.
That there are so many millions and millions and millions of people out there who feel that they need Oprah to tell them how to be a better version of themselves is the truly troubling part though. America is a nation of harsh critics. Our society is so judgy and just shitty that everyone thinks there is something fundamentally wrong with them, that they are so broken they need to pay someone else whom they have never met to tell them how to get fixed. It’s pretty fucked up.
We shouldn’t need a “system” for better mental health or better self-image or to stand up for ourselves. This goes back to that village I was talking about in my last post. It goes back to community and taking care of one another because that’s the kind thing to do. That’s the human thing to do. We should all just stop being assholes and realize that EVERYONE is struggling with something. Help people instead of tear them down. Be nice instead of mean. Don’t be a dick.
It’s really is as simple as that. If you stop being a dick, then that guy that you were a dick to won’t get upset and act like a dick to the girl at the coffee shop and she won’t get upset and be a dick to her kid who won’t develop some fucked up emotional pathology because mom was verbally abusive and nobody needs Dr. Phil.
Just be nice to people.
You know what’s hard? Having a kid. Not the birthing part, which, yeah, it was hard. But the home-from-the-hospital-now-you-have-a-kid kind of having a kid. The kind of having a kid where you’re responsible for another persons physical and emotional well-being. The kind of having a kid where it feels like every decision you make is going to have long term ramifications. The kind of having a kid where you wonder endlessly if your fucked-upedness is having an impact on his delicate baby psyche. Having a kid is hard. And really scary.
It’s the hardest, scariest thing I have ever done. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I am CONSTANTLY worried that I’m fucking him up. If B and I get in a fight, is that gonna mess him up? If I get impatient while he’s NOT GOING TO SLEEP is that gonna mess him up? Is the fact that he HATES GOING TO SLEEP my fault? Have I done something to give him some heinous, negative sleep association? Every little thing, every single aspect of how I lived my life before has been rethought and over-examined and dissected until I have no idea who I am or what kind of person I am or was or will be.
Someone on Twitter today told me that I don’t have to be a perfect mom to be the perfect mom for him. It’s a wonderful sentiment, it really is. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and like I can actually pull this off and end up with a kid who isn’t a sociopath. And I know I don’t have to be perfect, that nobody is perfect, and that expecting perfection is just dumb…but how much imperfection is ok? That’s really the question, isn’t it?
How much can I take advantage of the learning curve before it screws him up? I put him down in front of the TV today…and yesterday…and day before. He’s 5 months old and I’m already using the television as a babysitter. I swore he would have ZERO TV until he was two years old. Less than a quarter of the way to that goal, I gave up. Now, I take full advantage of the ol boob tube. Am I proud? Nope. Is it ok that I do it? All science points to no, it is not ok. But you know what? I would lose my damn mind if I didn’t. It distracts him long enough for me to collect my wits and regroup. Then we start over with whatever I was failing at before I began to lose my shit. Usually naptime. I hate naptime.
So, yeah, you don’t have to be perfect. You shouldn’t try. But where do you draw the line and what do you do when you feel like you’ve crossed it? That’s where I am. I’ve thrown up my hands trying to figure it out honestly. I’m just going from one day to the next, trying not to fuck him up too much. He’s gonna be fucked up. Everyone’s parents fucked them up somehow. I get that now. I just have to try not to fuck him up TOO badly. That’s the goal.
Thank you all so much for the support from yesterday’s post. Not here, but on FB my shit blew up. You guys are awesome and I love each and every one of you. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.
Yesterday’s post was one I had needed to write for a long time. It’s been a year and a half since we lost Elijah and he sits heavy on our hearts. Immediately following his death, B and I handled our grief in very different ways. He threw himself into work, back into the mundanity of every day life. I drank. And cried. And smoked a lot of cigarettes. And listened to sad music. And cried. I cancelled my Facebook page, I withdrew from my friends. I didn’t talk to anyone for months. I blew off my family, ignoring calls and texts. I just hid from everything.
Then I got pissed. I turned into a bitter, bitter girl. Anytime anyone complained about any aspect of their life, I had this inner monologue that pretty much cursed them for a petty, sniveling bitch who had no idea about real pain. They hadn’t lost a child so their pain was trivial. I won at the pain contest. And who were they to complain to ME in the first place? Did they think I could really give one fuck about the fight they had with their boyfriend or that they were broke or that their car needed work? Because my pain was absolute and trumped EVERYTHING.
I would see pregnant women or women with new babies and I would rip them apart in my mind. I wondered if they knew how lucky they were. If, in between their complaints of swollen ankles or a sour stomach or a case of heartburn, if they really understood just how fucking lucky they were to be where they were. Did they know that just down the aisle from them or just across the room was a woman whose baby had been stolen? I wanted to run up and grab them by the shoulders and scream my rage and my jealousy and my bitterness in their faces. Instead, I just cried when I saw them. I cried and hated them. I hated EVERYONE. That’s when I cancelled my Facebook. It seemed like EVERYONE was pregnant. And I COULD NOT DEAL.
I was such a bitch. Man. Such a bitch.
And then, slowly, I came out the other side. I think. I’m pretty sure I did. I might still be in the grief tunnel, but I don’t think so. I think I moved into acceptance last summer. When I found out I was pregnant with Max. I mean, I kind of had to come to grips with a lot of shit at that point. I HAD to accept that my baby died. I HAD to accept that I was pregnant with an entirely different baby. This was not the same baby. This would not be the same family. This was a new little person growing inside me who was not Elijah.
So that was the beginning of healing. I had to stop drinking and stop smoking and take care of myself for the baby I was carrying and stop hurting myself and mourning the baby I lost. I had to get healthy in the head and in the body.
Max saved me.
And as I watch him, squirming around there on the floor, learning and experiencing (grokking, for those of you who are Heinlein fans), I am almost overcome with gratitude. I am so thankful to be a mother. So thankful to have a son. So thankful that he arrived into this world healthy and whole and that he had enough time inside my body to grow strong.
That doesn’t mean I’ve made sense of it. There is no sense in it, no rhyme or reason. I used to believe that everything happened for a reason, but I gave up on that. I had to. There is NO reason my baby died other than that the Universe is a fickle bitch. I’ve accepted it but I still don’t understand it. It’s not fair and it will never be OK. But. It is what it is. I have a healthy beautiful boy. But I will never forget that I should have more than one.
Trigger warning. This post discusses preterm labor, miscarriage, pregnancy loss, death, and grief. Please be aware that this is my story. If you know B or me personally or are members of our family, this might be very hard to read.
In August of 2010, my life was awesome. My old man and I lived on our dream homestead on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t have a traditional job. My time was filled with gardening and goats and chickens and cooking and canning. I was happy. B was happy. Things were good.
We had been married for 10 years. Ten years of being voluntarily childless (child-free). We were firmly entrenched in the couples only side of life and we were content with our decision. Then one day, out of left field, I wanted a baby.
Oh my Pete, did I want a baby.
B was agreeable, so we set to work. Within 2 months, I was knocked up. In the family way. Had a bun in my oven. Great with child. October 2010. I was pregnant. And it was THE.BEST.THING.EVER. I LOVED being pregnant. I felt radiant and womanly. I felt feminine and beautiful. I wasn’t sick. I didn’t gain much weight. I reveled in my new hormonal glow. I was mama and it was what I was supposed to be. What the hell had I been thinking all these years?
Now, B and I decided while we still trying to get pregnant that I should get a job for a while so we could save up some cash. A nest egg for our egg. So I did. I was called in for an interview the day I found out I was pregnant. I was hired pretty much on the spot and started working graveyard (my preferred shift) on November 1st, 2010.
I’ll not go into detail too much, but I had some surgery years and years ago that I was told could affect my ability to carry a pregnancy to term. I told my OB and we monitored everything very carefully. I went to the doctor once every two weeks and had everything measured and checked and poked and prodded. My pregnancy was going swimmingly and during the 19th week we found out I was having a boy.
Everyone was elated. B’s parents didn’t yet have a grandson and my parents had no grandchildren at all. Everyone had given up hope over the years that B and I would ever procreate so the families were understandably stoked.
Everything was rocking along and I moved past 20 weeks and figured we were in the clear. I was at work one night, almost into my third trimester, at 22 weeks, when I started to feel a little uncomfortable. I was crampy and had a little bloody discharge, so I immediately grabbed an ultrasound probe (perk of working in my field) and checked the baby. He was fine. Kicking around, calmly oblivious. I called my OB’s office and spoke to one of his associates. I was assured that cramping during pregnancy was nothing unusual and to come in the next day. I was to go to the ER if the bleeding continued, which it did not.
I left work at 2 am and drove home. I thought about going to the ER on my way just to get checked out, but decided against it. When I got home, I took some Tylenol PM and tried to sleep.
B left for work at his usual time, 7am and I got up as he was leaving to go to the bathroom. I ran screaming from the bathroom, trying to catch him when I saw the gush of blood in the toilet. I was too late, he was pulling out of the driveway and didn’t see me.
I ran into the house and began frantically calling him. We lived in the middle of nowhere so our service was spotty at best and it took me 15 minutes to reach him. He turned around, sped home, and I met him at the driveway. We were off to the ER at the local hospital.
After what seemed like an interminable wait, filled with questions and tests and ultrasounds, the doctor (who, when asked if I was going to lose the baby, replied, “That’s in God’s hands”. WTF. Seriously? If I wanted it left in God’s hands I wouldn’t have come to the hospital. I want this in a doctor’s hands. Digress.) decided I would be better served at the larger hospital in Chattanooga and I was whisked away by ambulance, lights and sirens blaring.
I haven’t ever talked about all the things that happened next. All the decisions B and I had to make; the horrible realization that I was in labor and having contractions; the sterile and medical conversations with the multitude of doctors assigned to my case; the heart-wrenching decision to induce to progress my labor; the decision to break my water; the decision not to put my baby on a ventilator should he take a breath. I haven’t told anyone and I don’t talk about it because I’m ashamed of making those decisions. I ask myself every day if we made the right choices. If we made the right decisions. What if we had done one thing differently and he had lived? Was it selfish of to not hold him or would it have made him linger longer? We knew he was going to die. Would my holding him have prolonged his suffering or eased his passage?
At 7:18pm on February 25th, 2010 my first son was born. His name was Elijah Benjamin and he lived for three minutes. He has a birth certificate and a death certificate. I have his ashes and his footprints. I never held him and didn’t see him until we went to the funeral home to make arrangements for his cremation. I went to the hospital in labor, like so many others, and I left a grieving mother with a box of remembrances.
I’ve given birth twice. I’ve delivered two babies. I have two sons. If I hadn’t lost the first one, would the second one be here? It wouldn’t be Max, I know that. I conceived Max one month after Elijah’s due date. Max would not have been conceived. Another baby, then? Perhaps a girl? Everything would have been different.
I think about him every day. I miss him. I miss not having known my first born. I miss what our life together would have been. I miss it even though it’s imaginary.
So, as something of a continuation of my last post, I guess I need to talk about how exactly I plan to go from quivering mass in the corner to bright, beacon of hope and light for my family. I have established that it needs to happen, now I just need to hammer out the how’s and wherefore’s of it and I’m well on my way to being Best Mom Ever. Right?
Cause that’ll happen. I’ll figure my shit out, get right with the universe and that will automatically make me…AWESOME. The laundry will be done AND put away, I’ll have Pinterest crafts coming out of my ass, my food will be delectable and my kitchen spotless. My family will be both well-adjusted and ridiculously goodlooking (did you see what I did there? Gave a nod to Zoolander, which, if you haven’t seen, you should. Funny, funny shit, for real). And they will love me like gangbusters. When I get right,everything else will fall into place and there will be harmony in the world once more.
See, I know that’s bullshit. I KNOW it, down in my gut, I know that things will never, ever be that way. My laundry will sit over night in the washer smell like sauerkraut, my food will never be more than mediocre, and Pinterest will remain nothing but a time-waster. My family WILL be ridiculously good-looking, but I think that’s more a B thing. He’s got great bone structure.
Thing is, I’m not trying to even get involved in any mommy-war, perfect life, angel kids bullshit. I just want to not be sad anymore. My goals are simple. I’m a simple woman.
Don’t be sad all the time.
Take Max to museums and parks and do cool shit with him.
Remember the laundry in the washer
(and don’t forget my towel)
That’s essentially it. Those are the things I need to feel as though I have a full and complete life and to feel like I haven’t failed my family in some very fundamental ways.
I mean sure, the house needs cleaning, the dishes need done, the dogs need walking, and there will always be myriad tiny things that need attention, but to be able to go through a day without being sad about things I have no control over…that would be a real triumph. To not worry about whether that stranger that I will never see again is judging me, or whether or not my husband secretly thinks I’m a horrible mother, or whether everyone around is talking about what a bad job I’m doing with my son because he won’t nap or to feel like I’ve failed at motherhood because my son won’t nap…to have ONE day without all those hateful little voices bitching in my ear all day…that would be a true blessing. And that’s what I’m going to shoot for.
Whenever I hear those voices, that awful hate speech I keep for myself, I’m just going to tell it to fuck off. Those things are not true. They’ve never been true and they never will be true. I may not be the best at all those things by dammit, I’m pretty effing good.
My life is so strange. So many random things, both horrible and wonderful, have happened to me, it becomes difficult to process and categorize them all. I look back over the last fifteen years and I know that I have seen things and done things that other people haven’t, I know that I have had experiences that I’ll treasure and think upon fondly.
And it’s not enough.
I’m not ready to be done yet. I’m not ready to settle down and live in the suburbs and cook supper and do laundry all the fucking time. But I am. I am that person and I’m afraid! I DO live in the suburbs. I don’t have adventures anymore.
I’ve become afraid of adventure.
I look at my life as it is now and I know that the person I am RIGHT NOW is not the person I want raising my son. The person I want to raise Max needs to be fearless and adventurous and vibrant. He needs a mama that can help him climb mountains and slay dragons and build forts.
I don’t feel like her.
Since he was born, I’ve become so introspective. I’ve soul-searched. I’ve looked within. I’ve lingered and thought and cried and wished and cussed. I’ve raged and hoped and faded and swelled. And I know, beyond any doubt, that it’s time for me to change. He will not have the kind of experiences I want him to have if I stay the same. I am not fearless. I am not adventurous. I am not vibrant.
I think I was, once.
But I’ve aged. And instead of aging well, I feel like I’ve wilted, become a small, gray thing. Fearful and scurrying from day to day.
This will not do! This woman I’ve become is not me!
Is it odd to have a declaration of intent for a blog? It seems like it could be either odd or the most perfectly normal thing ever. My declaration of intent is likely to be convoluted and a little muddy, somewhat like my life at present. Things are never simple, are they? And so my intent is not simple, not cut and dried. It is sloppy and it is messy and it is probably a little crazy. But it is mine.
That is my first and most important intention. This is mine. This space, this blog, this tiny unambiguous corner of the ether that is the internet is mine. It does not belong to anyone but me (and wordpress, har) and I will use it for me. Just me. I have spent far too long using my time and my thought and my spaces for other people, eschewing what I want to say for what others would have me say. Censoring myself.
As of this moment, I have given myself the freedom to use MY corner for MY words, not for the words others would have me say. But be warned, my words….are crass and base many times. My words are lies many times just as they are many times the truth. My words are rarely insightful. They are angry. They are also kind and full of love.
My words are me and I am my own.
My sencond intention is that of growth. I feel like I have stagnated as I’ve aged. When I was young I had such hopes for my creative and emotional self. I had such aspirations. But, as is often the case as we age we become mired in the mundane and forget ourselves, our younger selves, the dreams we had and the people we would become if unhindered. I hope to take steps to reclaim at least some of that vitality, that optimism.
Those are my intentions, my goals for this space. It is for me but it is also for you. I hope that my experiences will capture your imagination and you will join me for this journey.