This blog is in chill-mode, but you'll still find archived posts and book updates/events.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Four Year Check-In

Hello World,

Not sure if anybody comes around here these days, but if so: HI. How the bleep are you? Nice to see you again. It's been a while. I am back to the moss-green-and-charcoal-blue blog-scape again for a check in. And maybe even to serve...casually a guinea pig of sorts, in case anybody is wondering or researching for a thesis project: what happens to women in the longer term future after death of a not-quite-born baby?

A little over four years ago, my sweet and dark-brown-haired boy Zachary was born in a non-living state. The year before that, a four month male "fetus" miscarried. Now, zipping around the house is a very much alive, headstrong, personality-filled and bright-eyed year-and-a-half-old toddler, also a male. A firecracker of will, guts, and determination - this one. Blond haystack of hair, light blue eyes. Not Zachary but someone else, his own person. Oh my lord; the love I have for him is like a freight train roar inside my head - but that goes without saying.

Attempting to process all of these babies and memories and baby-like entities in an organized way, I've got this sandwich of babies analogy in my head. I know that might sound disturbing, but just go with it for a minute. Male one, 2006 - this weak and fluttering ghost of an almost-person, the top piece of bread. Wonder bread, soft and feathery, white flour. Male two, 2007 - this strong and sturdy (albeit not strong enough) - the sandwich filling, potent and flavorful, coloring my life, my outlook, during several intense years and even still. Finally, male three, 2010, the strongest by Darwin's measurements, forming the sandwich base: the thick slice of hearty German-style wheat bread. Got it? That's how I thought about it, last week anyway.

Thinking about Zachary now is like looking backward through a tunnel of smoke and prisms, backward to a whole world, actually - a mental mind-scape. Being a dead baby momma is...well...a mentality, I guess. It's an identity, a way of seeing and feeling, of surviving. It puts you squarely on a certain side of multiple lines - making you part of certain groups, not a part of others. It's a unique and ancient predicament - one of experiencing triumph over extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

Now - in the four year aftermath of stillbirth (GAWD - I still hate that medieval sounding word), living and awesome child in tow:
  • Motherhood - just as magical, challenging, awe inspiring, exhausting, life-embracing, god-damned amazing as it probably is for a "normal" mom. I guess, anyway. Current kid truly has his own shit going on - he is SOOOO not Zachary, SOOOOO not a drifting relic of the past, or a replacement baby. God no. He's his own little man, and you had better not ruffle his feathers or you're in big trouble. Ka-peesh?
  • Marriage - complicated. Or maybe it's just me being complicated. That's a whole 'nother blog. I am married to a simply wonderful man. The trauma shook our relationship foundation in ways we couldn't know or predict - long term ways, even, that still affect us today. Things are cool and all, but I won't deny that we are still feeling the tremors from that. Sometimes big tremors. Anyway...
  • Self - I'm still just me - same job, same friends, same antics, same this and that. Things are good in a general sense. The past lurks, not too far away. Every 3-4 months or so, I get that hot-behind-the-face, tears-welling-up sensation. It's a memory of death, pushing upward and outward against my chest cavity and eyeballs, times - usually - when my current son does something particularly interesting, or when I see Zachary's photo propped up in the bedroom and really pause to look at it. There he is. Was. It's not the need for a warm, wiggling ball of baby-ness in my arms, as it used to be. I've got that now. It's just a sadness, I suppose, a whoosh-feeling memory of the wind knocked out of me, and a melancholy yearning to know who that child would have been.

OK - that's all for now. If you're new to this blog, if you've lost a baby recently, I guess I would say: you survive, you move on, because you have to. Things suck, and get better. Better in most ways, complicated in others. If you're a seasoned "old hand" at all this, then I say: carry on, and thanks for reading my words again. I have to say, I miss writing. Just...thinking of stuff and putting it out there in the form of words, on the off chance that those words strike someone in a meaningful way. Coming up with snarky and borderline inappropriate things to say about the trauma of losing a baby. Stillbirth is so...confusing. Writing, connecting with the world, got me through so much of it. Still does. :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Washington D.C. Readings November 4-5 (And a Bit More)

Greetings, Y'all...

Holy smokes, an insomnia-tinged night.

A few sleepy-surreal ramblings below, but a quick invite first: I'll be doing a couple of informal readings from Knocked Up, Knocked Down in the Washington D.C. area just a few weeks from now, and it would be really cool to have some company from the KuKd/IF crew. So if you're on the east coast and happen to be free, I encourage you to attend. It's not as though I've been running rampant around the country on "book tour" like a glammed-out rock star, so don't expect me to have spiked Elvira hair. Really I'm just going to be in D.C. anyway and decided what the heck - why not put myself out there once or twice. I'll reading a couple of favorite chapters out loud with my most entertaining vocal intonations, perhaps even coupled with a live performance of the stillbirth folk song if I can get my guitar tuned in time. Here are the deets:

1) Thursday Nov. 4th, 6:30pm - Arlington Rock Bottom Brewery, Level 1 of Ballston Commons Mall

2) Friday Nov. 5th, 7:30pm - Westin Hotel Alexandria, The Bell Room

I hope to see you there.


Moving on...

What news is there to muse about? On the one hand, I wish I had some insanely juicy stories to share. But on the other hand, I'm glad I don't.

I have a living son who just turned six months old. I'd post a photo but really he just looks like a round, wide-eyed, extremely curious baby who's engaged with the entire world. To me, his existence is an extremely juicy fact - but nobody ever thinks your child is as amazng as you do, so that's that.

I've been asked more than once how past losses affect my current motherhood, or "what it's like to have a child after stillbirth," or some such thing. I think it's a legitimate and interesting question, but surprisingly hard to answer. It's hard to answer because I honestly don't know what kind of mother I would have been if I could reverse the clock, undo the events of the last several years.

For example:

*I have a green leather journal with "Letters to Sean, 2010" inscribed on the cover in hardpressed ballpoint pen. Inside are little frenzied bursts of writing dated every week or two, addressed to Sean himself. I write them for him as an adult, when I imagine him accidentally finding them buried inside an old trunk. They're about him: what he's doing now, the impressions he gives to me and others. They're about me: my feelings and perceptions as his mother, because of course those feelings are complex and multi-layered. Then they always go back to him, these little notes: back to describing in great detail the numerous ways he makes me laugh and glow inside every goddamned day. I imagine a lot of mothers have a journal-ish thing like this.

*I write letters to my husband and leave them on the counter when I head off for work, folded up with a fake postmark and everything. Not all the time; just every few weeks or so. They're kinda love letters kinda, but kinda not. Just rambling-friend letters. It feels important to remain focused on us, our relationship, even as Sean occasionally eclipses that focus.

*At the same time, I have occasional bouts of anxiety over Sean's heart and health, fears that he won't in fact reach adulthood, and need to be reminded by gentle doctors (and kick-ass husband) that he checks out fine. The fear gets really dark and overwhelming sometimes, but I deal. Would a non-KuKd mom have freak-out moments? I imagine so.

*And all the while, I find myself weirdly lax about certain things, knowing there's so much I really can't control. Things like Sean eating dirt, sucking on dirt, tipping over from sitting position and bonking his head. Things like what he eats. I mean, it's not that I don't care what he eats. I just don't fret about it as much as I could or should.


Oh, the one thing Sean still does is remind me of potential, of miracles, of what a living baby really is and means. I don't think I knew this even in the throes of my KuKd experience - I just pretended I understood because the sadness would otherwise be so mysterious and confusing. Sean makes me read blogs like this one, about a baby born at 26 weeks, with a hopeful and anxious heart, because I realize now what's at stake. (By the way, that's a friend-of-a-friend's blog, not just some random blog that I found scouring Google for dramatic stories).

OK, onward and upward. And I hope to see you in D.C.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Three Years, and Where's the Hair?

Not sure if anyone still reads this, but here we go:

Sean is nearly five months old. A couple of days ago, I gave him my traditional morning greeting: scooped him up and french-kissed the folds of his neck. Kind of obnoxious to do to someone first thing in the morning, but it makes him smile so hard I can hear his cheeks crackling - so I do it anyway. Then without warning - in the midst of my snarfling his neck - I suddenly got a dull stomach-knot feeling.

I haven't had a stomach-knot in a while, so this one caught me a wee bit off guard. It was there all morning, just a vague unsettledness. A mild one, mind you; not enough to shut myself in the bathroom and bawl into the sink with the water running, but enough to feel myself grinding my molars together. It was an unusually cloudy day, too; kind of chilly and Englandy-feeling, perfect fuel for brooding thoughts.

It took a few hours and several glances at Sean's hair, of all things, to finally pinpoint the source of the knot: Zachary's three-year dirthday. It was, I'm pretty sure, the day he was delivered, the day that Kevin and I held our child wrapped in a blanket and wondered how and why we got dealt this particular bad hand.

First, I should say that I stare at Sean's hair a lot. Not just his hair, but his fingers and toes, his tummy, shoulder blades, nutsack, everything. Sean's aliveness amazes me constantly, and I melt into a smitten schoolgirl gazing at the new cute boy in the front row of class. I can't stop staring. An old story, I know: parents being amazed by their children (good thing it works that way, or our entire species would die out). It transcends words, this feeling, and it's really why I can't bring myself to write a new blog about motherhood, or even discuss it much with my friends.

I mean, gawd. Not to sound biased in any way, but isn't he delicious, even with a droodle coming from his mouth? Don't you want to just slurp it right up? This deliciousness means I can't sit around and think about the past all day, not when the present is so...alive (who would snarfle Sean's neckfolds if I were too busy pondering the past? Well, his daddy-o and grandparents certainly would/do, but I'd like to think that mommy-snarfles are the best kind). And not thinking about the past means that the hurtful things - including of course the biggest, baddest hurt - get tucked waaaayyyyy deep into the hidden folds of my heart.

But they resurface sometimes, as in the case of the hair.

Sean's hair is light and fuzzy, the color of straw (aside from the darker tuft of mullet-action at the nape of his neck). And his hair happens to be one of the only daily reminders I have that Sean is, in fact, not Zachary. Zachary's was, after all, superdark brown and thick. So it was the sight of Sean's hair that reminded me, again, that I've got this past, and that there was once another different and separate child. Which accounted, I'm pretty sure, for the dirthday-stomach-knot.

Death doesn't ever die, it turns out, even when awesomely amazing life pours in and eclipses most gloomy things. As I looked at Sean's hair, it felt briefly like the wind was knocked out of me, and I swallowed hard. Right then I really, really, really, really wanted to see Zachary's hair again, just to... I dunno. Hold it in my hand? Rub it between my fingers? Hold it up to the light and examine its follicles? Hold it next to Sean's hair to see how different they really are? Set it on the kitchen counter and think deep thoughts about it?

Didn't matter. I just wanted it. So I set Sean down on his play-mat-thing, and began digging my way into our wreck of a bedroom closet. It took several minutes of groveling around on my hands and knees, yanking out shoeboxes of old CDs and dusty books and other random junk that gets tossed into that dark and scary space, but I finally found a light blue, satin-covered box that ties shut with a ribbon. Zachary's box of Zachary-stuff.

Sean was, at this point, crossing over into grumpyland for whatever reason. But I let him lie there and squawk for a couple of minutes while I untied that box and peeked inside. There were some odds and ends, Zach's "cremation identification tag" (so they wouldn't mix up his ashes with that random dead lady who happened to be there at the same time, I guess). His footprints in ink on a piece of parchment paper. My hospital ID band. But the ONE THING that I really wanted, the most real piece of his body that still exists on this planet, I couldn't find: his locks of very, very, very dark brown hair in a zip-lock bag.

I still can't find it. Fucker. We probably accidentally filed it with our tax returns, or it fell behind the refrigerator, or got used as a bookmark and is now stuck inside that trashy romance novel from last summer. Either way, Kevin's been right all along: "good lord, this house needs to be cleaned!" Maybe now is the time to bust out the Windex and Pledge duster and give this small wooden home a good scrub-down. Time to get organized. Re-file stuff. Clean out that bedroom closet.

Maybe next week. :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

A New Blog, Kinda

Update to this post - I started a new blog. Got tired of it fast, so I knocked it off. That's where all these comments are coming from. Sorry, folks! :-)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Coming Events

Howdy Folks,

For those of you just stopping in, here's the scoop on this blog: I rambled here for a couple of years, and those ramblings are still posted if you care to look around.

If you happen to be in the Seattle, Phoenix, or Washington D.C. area, I'll be doing book-readings at the following locations. I'd love to see you there and hear your story in person, or just exchange a silent knowing hug or a handshake. I'll update this list from time to time.

Tuesday, July 13th @ 7pm, Seattle, WA
Reading/Signing at Ravenna Third Place Books

Saturday, July 17th @ 2pm, Seattle, WA

Reading/Signing at Elliott Bay Book Company

Saturday, August 14th @ 2pm, Woodinville, WA

"Bottles, Books and Babes" Reading and Free Wine-Tasting at Edmonds Winery

September 2-4, Tempe, AZ
Reading and Bookselling at the 2010 Annual M.I.S.S. Foundation Conference,"Exploring Mindful Grief: A Journey for Families and Professionals"

November 4-7, Washington D.C.

Reading and Bookselling at the 2010 International Conference on Perinatal and Infant Death

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Hi, World!

Book launch and a short string of random readings in Seattle are done, ahhhh. Now I'm on hiatus from all things book-related, and hot DAMN, it feels good to be just chilling and breathing for a while. It's been fun, standing up there and talking about stillbirth, miscarriage, and boners (among other things) in the same five-minute time span.

The public speaking element isn't hard for me; I've never had a problem making a fool of myself on stage. The much more nervewracking part is the act of reading something so personal and dear to me, carved up from the darkest part of my life and spewed out into words (even while my heart is really now fixated on the present and future), while attempting to do so in a way that doesn't leave audiences feeling awkward. What's to keep people (especially people who don't know me) from writhing uncomfortably in their seats at the mere notion of such heartrending subject matter as dead babies? It's not exactly a popular conversation starter. Then again, isn't that one of the things that literature is all about? To bring a (potentially widely misunderstood and/or shitty) experience to a greater mainstream audience, making it accessible to them, something they can connect with even having not gone through it themselves? I believe so. Hope so, anyway.

Nothing book-related is scheduled in the foreseeable future, which gives me some much needed time to kick back and marvel at living-son Sean Murf's ever-changing face and mannerisms as he approaches his eight-week birthday. Each day, I love him more fiercely, more than I ever thought possible. Confession: he fuses with Zachary sometimes, and they become like one boy inside my mind, a reincarnation of each other. Somebody would probably tell me that's due to unresolved grief-issues from past losses, but anyway. Sean surprises and delights me in ways that nobody else's child can. There isn't any feeling like putting my face close to his, saying some random word like "banana!" and seeing a smile spread across his face. I resist the urge to talk about such moments to my non-kid-having friends, because I know it would only bore them after about five minutes. That's okay; I'm cool with just keeping such intimate little baby moments to myself, babbling about them to Kevin as we experience it together, wishing I could just suck on those moments forever like never-dissolving candy. I've been told that Sean won't be a baby forever, and that's hard to fathom.

Anyway. I could go on and on about him, but I won't.

One last thing - if you're coming here as a new or new-ish reader, note that this blog isn't really a blog anymore ( what I'm doing right now considered blogging??? gah!). Actually, I'll probably post occasional thoughts as they hit me, but I reserve the right to be totally sporadic and random about that. I needed to stop my KuKd-related musings once Sean was born, out of fairness to him if nothing else. Really, what this space is now is a holding place for my past two-some-odd-years of postings about my lost son Zachary, male fetus before him, and "blighted ovum" after him - as well as occasional updates and information about my new memoir: Knocked Up, Knocked Down.

...Until later! -m

Monday, May 3, 2010

She Said: Women's Lives Through Poetry and Prose

Another Seattle-only event (the next and only one planned thus far)...sorry you non-Seattle-ers!

Join me and six other Seattle-area authors/poets this Wednesday, May 5th at 7:00pm for She Said: Women's Lives Through Poetry and Prose, a FREE earthy/sexy/funny (I hope!) literary performance at Hugo House. There will be a cash bar for getting your mind and body lubed up with booze, and I'll be reading a book excerpt: "How a Boner Saved My Life."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

If You're In Seattle...

Hey Rainy-City-and-Thereabouts Readers!

Come over and down some drinks with me and my homegirl Corbin Lewars at our BITCHIN' BOOK LAUNCH PARTY - 7:00pm on Wednesdsay, April 28th. I would be so honored to have you there. We will be celebrating our respective first books, both released by Catalyst Book Press: Knocked Up, Knocked Down and Creating a Life.

There will be music, booze (of course!), snacky snacks, a few short readings, cool people, and - if I can get my nerve up - possibly even a live performance of the Stillbirth Theme Song (don't hold me to that, though - I type this on caffeine). And of course, if you're there, I fully want-hope-expect you to come up and say hello so we can exchange a gigantic KuKd/TTC sister-to-sister hug. Kapeesh?

Cool. Contact me to RSVP and get the full location and deets. I promise it's not in a dark forest or strip club.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Time for Goodbye

Howdy, KuKd/TTC'ers and Inquisitive Guests,

Last year, I made big, bitchin' promise to myself, my husband, and the ball of babe-age in my tummy: that I would end this blog once Sean came into the world. Well, here he is - so that time has come.

(eyes watering, gawd)

I'm sure you can understand my reasons for this. Mainly, I knew that my own focus would shift to the present child and away from the past, which it has; that this particular space wouldn't be the most appropriate place to document Sean's life and my experience as his mom; and that - ultimately - this blog's shelf-life would have ended by that time. I sure as heck wasn't going to turn this into a mom-diary sort of thing. There are about eight gadzillion of those blogs out there already - many of which are funny as hell and awesomely written - so why duplicate what others are doing so well.

I thought of this cool image of the KuKd/TTC world while I was up at 2am this morning: all of us on our own individual journeys on a labyrinth of dirt paths in a huge forest (can ya picture it?). Sometimes we bump into each other on the same path and walk together for a while, arm-n-arm, clinging to each other for companionship. Just as we get used to one another as comrads, one of our paths suddenly branches off in a separate direction - like when one of us has or loses a baby, for example, or gets pregnant. And then BOOM - we're alone again in the forest. But even when that happens, I'd like to think we never drift too far from each other - because we all have this same intense shared experience that bonds us together. I can see it in the amazing compassion and ongoing support that I've seen right here on this very blog, time and time again during my own KuKd ups and downs over the last few years. Even as my own path branched off abruptly, I could hear the supportive shouts of others, echoing through the forest.

(end crunchy-Zenlike forest euphemism)

I want to issue a humongous THANKS-A-ROO to the many long-time readers and supporters of this space (y'all know who you are) and occasional dabblers, as well as our respective Knocked-Down Hunks. It's you who have made this blog what it is, and inspired me to keep coming back to spew out thoughts, knowing I could be honest without being judged. I've learned so much from your insight, learned what compassion really means, and acquired this awesome and unexpected sense of KuKd/TTC community just from coming back and seeing the same familiar voices and faces piping in each week. Isn't that weird and cool how that happens, how supported one can feel just from virtual chatter? If there were a way to do a big group hug over the Internet, I'd do it now - a hug for all of the folks in various stages of the KuKd/TTC journey, voices and faces I've come to "know" over the past few years here.

And of course, an ultra-huge shout out to ALL of our loved children up in the MTV Realworld Penthouse for Bitchin' Stillborn Babes. I look at infant Sean's face, and I see - finally - what Zachary would have been, what we lost, why it sucked so horrifically. And I see, finally, the untapped potential of all miscarried and stillborn and died-after-born babes in the entire world, the could-haves and would-haves.

(eyes watering again, gawd)

* * *

Although my posts will stop, the blog itself will stick around in one form or another - probably as a holding place for information about my new book, occasional related updates, and archives of earlier stuff posted here. The hunks will stay; why deprive the world of that eye candy. If you're really interested in the Sean-updates that my physical-world friends and family receive, feel free to connect with me on Facebook, or shoot me an e-mail.

I'd like to end with a few last photos. I'll call this gallery: Death, Life, and Dog Poop.

Zachary, where it all began (holy goodness, I loved him so!):

Lil' Sean Murf, new seed of life (holy goodness, I love him so!):

Tebow the dog, getting used to little bro:

My Knocked-Down Hunk with baby hunk-o-babyness:

Bath time:

Last but not least - and totally unrelated to anything: here's Tebow's bag-o-shit clamped in the car window on the way back from the lake because we couldn't find a trash can (hee hee!):


Adios, amigos.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Second Baby

Howdy, Guests-n-Regulars!

Baby numero dos, second to baby numero uno (that ball of cute babe-age, Sean Murf), landed on my doorstep a few days ago:

Waahhhhhh! Can you hear it crying a-la-just-born-baby? Mommy, look at me! Here I am!

Why, hello sweetie! Yes, I'm glad you're here, after more than two years of working and waiting and gestating!

Unlike Sean, produced in a heated moment of intercourse, this second baby started out differently (and if you've seen little ditty before, scroll down and ignore):

One night in Ecuador, 2007
I sat on a wall with a hot guy named Kevin,
Sipping a beer while I bitched about life.
And then Kevin said, "Hey, my sad little wife!
Take all those thoughts swirling 'round in your head,
and spin them into something funny instead!"
"But what's so damned funny?" I asked with a frown.
He said "you won't know if you don't write it down."

So I did.

Now after two-and-a-half years of typing,
of adding, deleting, hoping and griping,
of family and friends pushing me hard,
of whining to Kevin that "writing is hard!"
Finally it's here: my very first book!
It would sure mean a lot if you'd go take a look.
It might make you chuckle, or find yourself crying,
but in Kevin's words: you won't know without trying!

It would mean so much to me, really and truly a lot, if you'd give this book a read and help me spread the word about it - particularly to newly KuKd or TTC mommas/daddas who might be feeling like crap. It's hard for me to say that here without sounding really slimy and self-promotional to my own ears, blegh. Rest assured, my goal is not to make a million bucks off it (as I recently told a friend, I hardly get a dime off each copy sold - so I'll consider myself lucky if this book buys me a couple of Coronas and a new laser ink cartridge). ]

Really, I want it to be read by you and others because I'm hoping that readers will connect with some of the feelings and thoughts expressed on its pages. The book - not so much a literary classic story with a beginning and end, but rather a series of snapshots of surreal KuKd life - is the product of my own feeling weirded out and isolated over the past few years. And it's got drawings, too - which I did on the #174 bus on route to work. Things like:

Me, pretty sure there's a tumor in my brain slowly killing me (see it making my face melt?)

Me versus Mammary Glands: realizing in horror that my boobs think there's a real-life baby to feed.

And of course, Zachary. The Zachary of my imagination, what he would have looked like in his teens.

I'm also hoping that a fellow KuKd'er might tell me something like: "OH YEAH - I totally felt that exact same way!" And hey: if you live in the Seattle area, why not come to my happy little BOOK LAUNCH PARTY - 7pm on April 28th? E-mail me if you'd like the deets -

ANYWAY. You can find the book at Amazon.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Birth versus Dirth: Chode Stitches

Greetings, KuKd/TTC'ers and Inquisitive Guests!

This post is about chodes.

But first of all, a quick prelude: huge and huggy thanks for the outpouring of support and loving words. Baby Sean Murphy felt the love. I briefly held him up to the laptop screen and read some comments out loud to him, stopping only upon hearing a telltale train-rumbling sound from his butt-region. A poop spurred by joy, no doubt (quickly followed by an abrupt, 5-foot arc of pee that spritzed the ceiling, my & Sean's forhead, and the opposite wall...he really must have been in a spirited mood).

Coming from my fellow KuKd folk, and eSPECially those fighting the TTC/IF battle, those loving words carry extra weight, strength, and complexity, like bars of quartz dug up from the earth. Dude, I've been there. Perhaps it's that personal history that leads to my current urge to start every post from now on with the mantra: "I am thankful for this child." I'm not really going to do that, because that would be borderline annoying, but the thought is there. I am thankful for this child.

Moving on...

Where to go from here? Don't worry. This blog is not about to become a minute-by-minute account of my surreal new parenthood or Sean's spitting-up patterns, of what it's like to subsist on four broken-up hours of sleep per night for eight days in a row. In a later post, I'll add a few more Sean-pics and and a brief blurb about Sean's birth for people who are interested. The most important detail to me is that it was a birth, and not a dirth.

Speaking of dirth (which, correct me if I'm wrong, we decided is the verb to describe what happens to a stillborn baby: death + birth), that's a nice segue into what's on my mind this afternoon:


Specifically: chode stitches in birth versus chode stitches in dirth.

Okay, hold your horses, you linguistic perfectionists. I have no idea if it's spelled "chode" or "choad," or if that's even a universal term for the ridge of flesh between one's anus and one's vaginal opening (or penis). It's just what Kevin and I call the damn thing. I've also heard it called a "taint" - but of course, these terms came from my old Peace Corps buddy J, who notoriously smoked way too much weed. So I wouldn't trust what he says.

ANYWAY. The point is this: with Sean's BIRTH, as with Zachary's DIRTH, I've got stitches down there in the "chodal/taintal" region -compounded by the elephantitis-like swelling of the crotch, and some lovely token hemorrhoids (I opted to spare you of photos). (insert: I am thankful for this baby). Looking only at these physical aftermaths of baby-delivery, one might think that BIRTH and DIRTH are exactly the same.

But they're not! Here's my experience.

With Zachary's DIRTH, the physical aftermath - the pain, the swelling, the chode stitches, the everything - was an oddly welcome, temporary centerpiece in my world. Everyone was fixated on it: Kevin, me, the doctors and nurses, our parents. We were coached endlessly in how to care of my battered post-delivery body, sent home with printed-out instructions. I could recite to anyone exACTly how many stitches I had, and where. Upon getting home, it was all about my physical recovery. Me, lying around in bed, airing out my bloody crotch (how's that for visual imagery?). Kevin running errands to and from the drugstore, picking up Tylenol and things to make me more comfortable. Me, taking drawn-out sitz baths and relaying the details to Kevin. Man, we thrived on that shit! And when the pain finally began to subside...that's when real bitch-ass sadness sank in.

Looking back in hindsight, now I get it. The pain was, I'm pretty sure in my detailed psychoanalysis, was something for everyone to focus on other than the real horror: the missing baby.

Now, fast-forward to Sean's BIRTH. Different story. Nobody at the hospital really talked about my chode, my stitches, my bruised post-delivery body. To this day, I'm still not totally sure what the hell went on down there - I've got stitches and it hurts, that much I know. The pain, eclipsed by the baby himself, has become more like this annoyance in the background, an afterthought. So, it's really taking me longer to heal than last time - just because I keep jumping out of bed and roaming around (hard not to do when there's a fussy kiddo clawing for my booby). I wish I could just bat it away like a gnat in my face.

* * *

So, chodes.

I just think it's weird: how physical pain can be welcome one moment, and not so welcome the next.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The World Just Got Tiny

Greetings from the graveyard shift!

Everything has shrunken, for now, to revolve around the astonishing new creature who arrived (alive!!!!!!!!) on March 26th. And as you know, aliveness is the ultra-high standard that we strive for in the land of KuKd.

Introducing Sean One-Week-Late Murphy LeMoine, formerly known as Fetus:

Flushed and awestruck as a newborn infant is placed on my chest, right after delivery. Wait - that's Sean! I wonder how on earth my five-foot-one frame managed to carry an 8-pound-10-oz baby (!!!):

Here we are, a nuclear family in the traditional, non-knocked-down sense. Feels kinda weird, in a good way:

Eh bien sur, les grandparents. Producing a live baby is a family affair, after all. Touch your computer screen... can you feel the grandparental joy emanating from this picture?

* * *

I swear I've got more coherent thoughts to share, and will do so in my next post. For now, even stringing together coherent thoughts is mildly difficult. I'm exhausted. Happy. Astounded. Afraid. Ecstatic. Concerned. Amazed. Exhausted. Did I mention exhausted?

Signing off at 5:22am, west coast time. I've been up since 1am, working the graveyard shift, and sleep is coming like an opaque cloak falling over my eyes. Nighty night, and back in a few days!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

5 Stages of KuKd Momma with a 4-Day Overdue Baby


Stage 1: So What's it To Ya?

"You really wanna know when he's due? I'll tell ya: FOUR DAYS AGO! Yeah, you heard me right. And yeah, my gangster gear don't fit no more. And yeah, he could drop out right here and now in Seven Eleven, next to the doughnut case - and you'd have to help. You gotta problem widdat? Hey, where ya going with that horrified look on your face?"

* * *

Stage 2: C'mon, Baby! Bring it!

(Later, private conversation): "Dude, WTF?! What'cha doin, embarassin' ya mama like that! Hurry up -n- getcha butt over here! And not in Seven Eleven, fa gawd's sake!"

* * *

Stage 3: Mild Desperation

"So what if eating this whole thing gives me a serious case of watery shits and a mouthful of canker sores? Someone on Yahoo Answers said it can also cause labor! They sounded like they knew what they were talking about (except for all the misspelled words)."

* * *

Stage 4: Acute Desperation

----- Message -----
Sent: 3/22/2010 8:21 AM
To: Office of Susan Warwick, MD
Subject: castor oil with a shot of vodka??

Hi Dr. Warwick - I've gotten a bunch of friends telling me that I should drink a few spoonfuls of castor oil with either a shot of hard liquor or milk of magnesia. Everyone says it works - I mean, causes lots of pooping and maybe some barfing, but ultimately induces labor. I'm intrigued but sort of scared at the thought of explosive diarrhea and drinking this medieval-sounding elixir..have you ever heard of this? Any thoughts on whether it's OK to try?


RE: castor oil with a shot of vodka??
To: Monica M Lemoine
From: KC, LPN
Received: 3/22/10 8:36 AM

Unfortunately this option is not recommended as a way to induce labor. You should try to relax and embrace this last week of pregnancy. If you have more concerns or problems before Thursday certainly let us know and we can try to find an appt to have you seen sooner.


* * *

Stage 5: Chilling Out


"I guess I'll just try to relax revel in the pregnant pregnantness of the impregnation for a while."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Update-less Update

Howdy Folks,

Baby LeMoine is 48 long-ass hours overdue. He's still alive, I'm pretty sure - which is the biological state we're going for. Every once in a while my stomach moves up and down on its own like a self-activating trampoline, which I take as a sign of life. I have to wonder, though, if the Great Being Above purposely does this to people who have been waiting a long time for a baby: makes our babies come late. KuKd people, infertility-fighting people and the like. Is it some final test of patience, of endurance?

(By the way, don't bother suggesting holistic strategies for making labor happen. No matter what it is, I guarantee you that I've seen it, done it, gotten the t-shirt. Eating pineapple? Yup. Eggplant? Yup. Oatmeal stout? Yup. Walking? Yup. Dancing to rap music in the living room? Yup. Sex? Um....not so much. But hey, if your body resembled that of a sore-breasted manatee, you wouldn't exactly feel like a temple of passion either.)


Not that I'm complaining. Bitching a little bit, I guess, but that's just because I'm impatient. I really, really need and want for this thing to become reality and not just a dream, so I can finally relax and believe it's going to happen. I feel fine overall, walking and working, socializing and going to movies, taking showers, doing girl-push-ups in the living room, eating dark chocolate from Kevin's "secret" stash (yes, he's one of those skinny bastards that can eat one teensy-weensy square of chocolate each day and be satisfied with that, just that, and nothing more). I'm grateful that body didn't get the urge to release this baby early, all thin and jaundiced and frail. Nope: this little guy's got to already be in the 8-9 pound range, if the size and feel of my whopping belly are any indication.

What's more, at least you're pregnant. I can hear the message bubbling through the atmosphere, having now lived with one foot inside of the KuKd/TTC/IF world for several years now. It's funny the messages that you hear as you go through life and have different experiences, messages that would've otherwise landed on deaf ears. I wouldn't have heard this message before. I would have taken pregnancy for granted, taken positive outcome as a given, been utterly unaware of the painful glass wall through which other mommas and wannabe-mommas might view my current circumstance. But I get it now.

Which leads me to the big, huge, huggy, lovey ball of emotion I want to hurl at anyone reading this wants a baby but doesn't have one (by the way, I classify myself in that category still, for now). I want to say thanks, first, for the outpouring of support for me and for Sean sparked by my last post. It means everything, that support, especially coming from KuKd/IF/TTC mommas who - through their own pure grace and compasssion - manage to still have room in their huge hearts to celebrate someone else's pending motherhood, someone else's pending baby. That's a LOT of space in your heart, more than I imagine most people having.

It makes me wonder if I, too, am one of those big-hearted people. I know I haven't always been. If I had, I wouldn't have balked at the idea of going to my friend C's daughter's first birthday, a year after Zachary's stillbirth. I wouldn't have pulled the stillbirth-card right then, but put it aside to support my friend.

But I feel inspired now to be a better person, someone who gives more and takes less. I feel like loss and death have turned me into such a taker over the years, a needer, and less of a giver. Shit; I can't even be bothered to donate five bucks to NPR, even though I listen to it every day on my way to work. I should really try to cough up some change where change is due.

Back to the subject of babies...part of me wants to say...sorry. Sorry? Sorry for being pregnant? That's not quite the right word, but what IS the right word to describe this feeling, the feeling of compassion toward others who don't have the thing I have at this exact moment? If I could wave a magical spooge-propelling wand to give others lasting, thriving pregnancies, I would? Like my friend B, for instance, who made Sean the paper origami-crane mobile. She's been wanting a baby for some time. I know it's a source of pain for her. And yet, she's genuinely happy for me, for Kevin, for Sean. I've got this weird urge to say Hey B, I'm sorry. I'm sorry my cervix sucked up spooge. I wish I could pass along some of this spooge-sucking energy to you. But that just seems like a damn strange thing to say.

Anyway. Everybody should look at the IF/TTC/KuKd community and feel instanteously inspired to do good in the world and show genuine compassion for others, even in the face of your own personal struggles. I wish everybody would.

Those are the thoughts de jour, this strange purgatory-day in Seattle, where K and I are floating between parenthood world and non-parenthood world, neither here nor there. Thank you, again, for the glowing well wishes. I'll certainly post an update here once something update-worthy occurs.

Peace, world!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dear Fetus

Dear Fetus,

Can I still call you that? Fetus? Or have you graduated to the level of "baby" by now? Why don't I just break all societal rules for a moment, and call you what your dad and I have known you to be for some time: Sean. Sean Murphy LeMoine, that is. As in Sean Connery. Sean Penn. The late Sean P-Diddy Combs. A humble, boring, single-syllable Irish name. Not very creative, but this is the name that spoke to me and your dad the loudest, spoke of all things real and simple, outdoorsy, saltwater-scented, grounded - just like the you of our imaginations. Not the fluffy and frivilous name of someone who might disappear at any moment, like Copernicus or Octopusian or Atticus Dillwinkle.

Just plain Sean. A strong, shimmering, earthly name that seems most likely to keep you here.

Allow me introduce myself - the woman I am at this moment, eight-something PM on Monday, March 13th, 2010. I am your mother, the person inside of whom you are now floating blissfully in a cocoon of dark watery warmth. I know; isn't it weird? That's me, the sound of that heartbeat trumping yours in loudness and vibration, the whoosh of blood through vein and arteries, the shrill voice belting out songs in the car!

What's a car, you ask? Never mind. You'll figure those things out later.

Back to introductions. Monica Murphy LeMoine is the name, age 34. Pisces and proud. Irish and English descent, not that that's unique in any way. Thinker, emoter, flawed. Frequent laugher. Loud. College English instructor, wannabe writer, extrovert. Born as Monica Lee Murphy in Hollywood, California. College degrees in French and English. Coffee addict. Red-wine hater. White zinfandel-lover. Bacon-obsessor. Dance-party maniac. Studied abroad multiple times. Spent 2.5 years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Uzbekistan, known to foreign service people as "Ickistan" (and with good reason). Loved it. Married to a brilliant, quiet guy with loads of common sense, which you'll certainly inherit to make up for marked deficiencies on your maternal genetic side.

You are 39.5 weeks along today, and due to emerge any minute. That's a remarkable feat! You are, after all, the first to make it this far in this particular mother's body, the small string of siblings before you having lived too-short lives due to things we can't control. Yes, pat yourself on the back for showing such perseverance and fortitude! You kept chugging along when my own capacity to hope felt weak and shrunken, when cynicsm took over. You've kept going, kicking my insides, relentlessly optimistic about your own positive destiny - like an obnoxious little Polyanna fairy landing on the shoulder of a grumpy old scrooge who thrives on grumpiness. You've stamped out my grumpiness, and forced me to hope.

Oh, there's still plenty to be grumpy about. Pay attention to your first big life-lesson: life itself is a miracle, and nothing is ever guaranteed. I finally realize that now. Something could still happen - anything - to keep you from entering this world alive. Even after you make it through the tremendous hurdle of birth itself, you could still be snatched by the billowy, translucent arms of Mother Nature. Who knows what that old broad is up to, what plans she's brewing up for you.

But don't let that scare you, snuff out your own optimism. Because ultimately, you've become a symbol of hope - not just for me, but for the handful of eager and loving people surrounding you and awaiting your safe arrival into the "outerworld." That is, the place that I'm writing you from.

(Are you sufficiently freaked out by this conversation?)

Just a quick preview of what your new space will look like - because it sure as hell isn't going to match the dark reddish globe in which you now float. It's a room, just an ordinary room that we still use as a semi-office space. But there are some things in here that make it yours, and that - hopefully - will help connect you to the past. I thought long and hard about how to do this in a non-ghoulish way, how to create a space that's yours, yet that honors the male-this and male-that which came before you but didn't make it this far. Particularly, I want you to have a piece of Zachary with you, to know that you have brothers in some strange cosmic form. Zachary would have been a nice older brother to have, right in the midst of his terrible twos by now, probably throwing shit across the room and head-butting you at random. Wouldn't you have loved that? Of course you would.

Notice, on the walls in the pictures below: Mom's Amateur Stillbirth Art. A fish, a butterfly, and two primary-colored flowers. Everyone told me not to throw these out, so I didn't. And now they're yours. These were painted just days after Zachary's death, in a time span of ten heavily-focused hours, with hardly a break to pee or have a snack. Just paint flung furiously on canvas, powered by all the sadness and yearning building up in my heart.

Ultimately, though, they were pictures of hope - and that hope is now you.

Notice the hanging mobile of folded cranes. See that? Yes, that's a handmade gift from B, a treasured friend of our family - and one who has struggled for some time to have a baby of her own. See how compassionate, gracious, and kind she is - thinking of you even despite her own frustrations and disappointments? It's a lesson we can all learn from, one that I'm hoping you'll pick up through osmosis as you stare up at those origami cranes. Plus, they're just cool-looking.

And there's us, your dad and I - waiting for you. And Tebow, your canine family friend, already guarding your space fiercely. And books - your own personal library - all gifts from people waiting for you.

See how cool the world looks?

C'mon over.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

When a Friend Disappears

Hello, Guests and Regulars!

First, the good:

I had several great, productive days in a row - the kind that feel as though I just applied some kind of cosmic dental floss to my life and cleaned out the dark, disorganized corners. The kind that Real Simple magazine makes look so damned easy if only you follow their bulleted lists of tips-n-tricks. Check this out:

1) Got caught up, for the most part, on grading essays. Wow. That never happens.

2) Windexed the sticky, coffee-stained top of my desk at work AND filed a bunch of papers. Wow. That REALLY never happens.

3) In a spurt of love and wifey-ness, took it upon myself to do what is ALWAYS Kevin's job and not mine: paid the five or six bills that had been quietly stacking up on the table for a few weeks. And I even recorded all payment details in the checkbook register! Wow. That most DEFINITELY never happens.

4) Dutifully went into every room and watered the houseplants, which I've known for the past month are probably dying slowly of dehydration. For some reason, even with that knowledge, I couldn't bring myself to water them.

Yup - feeling organized and on top of my Martha-Stewart game.

But look: we wouldn't have "good" if we didn't have "bad," would we? Life can't all be fun-n-games, a spirited Karate Kid montage of getting inexplicably hyper-organized! Oh life, complicated knocked-down life. I am continuously amazed at the weird, long-lasting after-effects of dead-baby-motherhood, how one's dead-babyness goes away for a while, then resurfaces in the oddest and most unexpected ways. It makes me wonder how it'll manifest itself next year, five years from now, ten or twenty. Will it shrink into a lump of coal in my psyche, only to balloon out into a cloud of all-consuming gray dust every once in while, a melancholy triggered by god knows what? Will I think of Zachary while I'm old and white-haired, swinging on the porch of the elderly-folks home where nurses feed me Jello?

Case in point:

After all that joyful and twisted organizing of home and workplace, I went out with C and N - my Baby Lady friends - to our favorite pizza joint for our regular girls' night out. Then, I came home and plopped down on the cold front steps in the dark for a few minutes, rested my head on my hands, and allowed myself to feel melancholy. Not melancholy from being with them, but from being without.

I'm pretty sure I've talked a lot on this blog about the strain a pregnancy loss puts on a friendship, particularly when one co-prego friend goes on to have a healthy baby and leaves the KuKd loser behind like uglier, less coordinated one who didn't make the talent show. Your uterus, your genes, your luck, your something just wasn't good enough to make the cut - sorry, kiddo.

C and N, well, were those friends. We were a trio with due dates all within weeks of each other, back in autumn 2007. And of course, I didn't make the cut. I sort of dropped of the planet for a while after that, not really able to interact with them as I had in the past, for obvious reasons. And miraculously, simply because of their stellar character and amazing capacity to let go of me while never really letting go, we remained friends at a more-or-less distance throughout it all.

Now, being 39 weeks preggers: we've been back in full swing. Suddenly, the topic of babies is allowed to come up, the unspoken rule of "we don't talk about babies EVah" now obselete. It's like this weight lifted off all our shoulders, and as my belly gets bigger, we've been hanging at the pizza joint with correlating increased frequency, reliving - in my mind, sort of - that shared fantasy of "what's to come!" that we had back in 2007. What's to come! Parenthood, the three of us! Together! OK, I'm a bit slow to catch up, but here I am, coming into the finish line!


The melancoly: N'S MOVING HALFWAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY. And she's moving few weeks! For good reason: job opportunity for her really hot husband. Honestly, I'm happy for her. I get it, the need to move in search of better things. Kevin and I have done it countless times in our nearly 8 (!!!) years of marriage.

Oh, I know. It seems so trivial and who cares: N's moving. Big deal. She's packing up all her things, her 2.5-year-old son who was going to be Zachary's first experimental gay lover, his little baby sister who came later, all the chipped dishes and books and toys and pillows and clothes in their house. was supposed to be, finally, OUR TIME! If I were to revert to my 10-year-old self and blubber woefully to my own mom with my lower lip quivering, that's what I'd say! Now was supposed to be the time when I finally catch up to N, the time when we both have kids in unison, when the imagined future that we always talked about could finally (albeit in a slightly different form) come to fruition. These were the golden days, coming up! The N-and-Monica-special-co-mommyhood friendship I'd dreamed about!

But it really, oddly stings somehow, losing - in a geographic sense anyway - this treasured friend. She's not just a friend: she's a huge, hulking piece of my KuKd story, that black second half of 2007, the swirl of sadness and disappointment that year represents. She's a character in my life, a major player, one of the many large reasons why losing that baby hurt. It meant losing a friendship, a certain type of friendship that was loved and wanted. She and that achingly cute son of hers are so intertwined in my head with my own achingly cute son, the boy he would have been, that to have them both disappear is just...unnerving somehow.

JUST as I near the edge of this new baby-having cliff, off she goes. To Chicago, of all places!!!!!!

I really have this urge to grab her arm and beg her to stay, but what good would that do. Like I said, I'm happy for her. I wish her well.



Anyway, to bring this full circle, back to flossing junk out of my life. This weekend, perhaps I'll indulge in another uncharacteristic organizing spree. Time to channel my selfish friend-hoarding energies into something...presumably...selfless! Something like cleaning the house. Kevin will love it.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

KuKd Friend as Survival Tool

Greetings, Scouts-n-Guests!

Yup: I just called you (some of you, anyway) a scout! Hold on a sec, and I'll tell you why.

One of my favorite activities is thinking of books to write - especially when my brain is charged on artifical caffeine energy. K and I both do it, as is true for a lot of other people, I'm sure. Don't you ever find yourself in the middle of ordinary conversation and suddenly you or someone else goes: "Dude! Someone should totally write a book about that!" K and I will get really into it for a while, but nine times out of ten, the idea just sort of fizzles - as so many ideas do.

Only one of my crazy-book-writing-ideas didn't fizzle. The only reason this one didn't fizzle, I'm pretty sure, is that I was driven by such pure, raw KuKd-emotional-pissed-off energy - not to mention loads of coffee to boot - and somehow this gave me the drive to crank 75,000 words onto a laptop over the course of a year or so. It's not officially ready to go just yet, but should arrive at my doorstep in bubble-wrap packaging in a month or two looking more or less like this:

Best of all, it contains some hand-drawn sketches that I shakily produced on my #174 bus commute to work - things like g-string panties fighting with Hanes flowered bloomers, and me clutching my milk-squirting breasts with a horrified expression. Oftentimes there were sketchy old geezers looking over my shoulder as I drew with black marker in a dog-eared notebook - but it didn't bother me so much, providing a bit of eye candy.

But more on that later. For now, I'm onto a different, not-yet-fizzled idea that came to me a long time ago as I was carving my Grape Nuts cereal into a milk-soaked crescent shape. This new book, which I've probably mentioned before and which somebody really should write, would look kind of like this:

Except that instead of "U.S. Air Force Survival Handbook," it would be called "KuKd Survival Handbook." Just a thin, bare-bones guide, the kind you could tote along inside your rucksack as you navigate your way down that lonesome miscarriage/stillbirth path. Good bathroom reading, waiting-for-the-bus reading, sitting-in-the-dentist-office reading.

How cool a book would that be?

I mean, not like there aren't a million other KuKd-handbook type of books out there already. But this one, the one now lodged in my imagination, would be different, dammit! If I get my act together - that is, once I'm able to drink coffee to the fullest extent of the caffeine-while-breastfeeding law again - I'll crank it out myself this summer. I've already got loads of ideas up my sleeve.

* * *

My recent surge re-inspiration to get cracking on this KuKd Survival Handbook started at last weekend's baby shower (hold on, don't vomit on the screen just yet), where I did lots of this:

...and had a long, heartfelt hug with her:

Who's "her" and what's "this?"

Well, by "this," I mean sitting sideways in a large armchair like a knocked-up manatee, unwrapping lots of shiny new childrens' books, and smiling from ear to ear. It was a "book shower," actually; finally a baby-shower theme that I could live with, since the idea of registering for all kinds of made-in-China baby parephernelia was giving me anxiety. This event involved everyone bringing their favorite kids' book to help us get a library started for the baby on the way, with a note inscribed to explain the book's meaning. Man oh man, we got some kick-ass boooks, and man oh man, I was a happy camper.

By "her," I mean J - a buddy from the Infant Loss Retreat that I still remain strongly connected with. I knew within five minutes that she was a keeper. Smart (a lawyer! How much smarter can one possibly get?), cynical, and with a sense of humor. J's daughter Annika was born premature, lived only a few days in the hospital, and died of that horrible necro-thing where a baby's intestines stop working. J's got a 9-month-old son now, so she's been through it all: the losing, and the life after losing.

When arrived at the baby shower, my heart did a little forward flip. I think I just about attacked her, cornering her for a prolongued hug and some hardcore eye contact. There was just so much we both knew that didn't need to be said, this mutual understanding, shared history. A "how are you" from her was different from a "how are you" from anyone else - it just carried a whole new meaning. I can't explain how meaningful it was to have this person from "that life" represented at this event, how comforting it was to know that at least one other person in the room "got it" - the full-on KuKd experience, I mean.

And she made my little Zachary-connection-at-the-baby-shower easy, a little public shout-out to both Zachary AND Annika, a simple wish that they could both be here with us all to celebrate new life on the way. That was it. It felt good to say, and J's presence gave me the balls to say it.

* * *

BACK TO THE BOOK IDEA: KuKd Survival Handbook.

J's presence at the baby shower confirmed: one survival tool that I would put right up front, super high on the "camping equipment list," would be finding a KuKd friend.

No matter what it takes, where you have to go, how much effort it requires: if you've been pregnant and then lost, FIND A FRIEND who not only gets what that was like, but who is also a person you connect with on a real-friend level. It took me months to realize the importance of this, and I swear I spent the first half-year of my post-Zachary life kind of wandering around like this pale, disconnected shell of a human being - a chasm between me and my kid-having friends, another chasm between me and my non-kid-having friends. Before the Infant Loss Retreat and meeting other gals who were walking my same path, I had no damn clue about the importance of this.

I remembered this at the shower, soooooo grateful to have J around, and thought later to myself: gotta write that book. The KuKd Survival Handbook. Gotta add that to the tips-list at the front. Maybe someday!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bake Talk

Greetings, KuKd/TTC-Regulars and Inquisitive Guests,

When it comes to cooking, I've decided there are two kinds of people in this world.

First, there are people who can dig their hands into any recipe, whether from a book or website or their own free-flowing minds, and invariably spin it into something perfectly tasty and aesthetically beautiful in a seemingly effortless fashion. Take, for example, my friend C - who baked this spread of yummy goods for the baby shower (at which I did, per readers' advice, give a verbal shout-out to Zachary, and felt good doing so):

I know, I know. You don't even have to say it: f**king gorgeous. Jen, who hosted the shower, is also one of those superhuman people: everything she cooks, I mean literally and astoundingly everything, is always among the best of that thing I've ever tasted. And she does it with a shrug.

Then, there are who - no matter how good our intentions or how much time and effort we exert - manage to turn recipes into sloppy muck. Cakes turn into the sunken rectangle variety you find at church bake sales. Roasts turn tough. Cookies too crunchy. Or - although the flavor might be there - the food itself looks like a kindergartner made it. When something turns out, it's an accident - and oftentimes can't be replicated. You might have a small repertoire of dishes that you know turn out well - but if a NEW recipe ever works, you know deep down that it worked not due to your tremendous talent in the kitchen - but because some cosmic ray of culinary luck happened to slant its way across your kitchen at the exACT right moment in time. And those sorts of recipes - the kind that turn out brilliantly - will never be duplicated, unless that culinary ray of luck returns.

I consider myself an oft-frustrated member of the second category. Actually, "resigned" is probably a better word - for I've come to accept my propensity to screw up recipes, spill things, drop things, over/under-cook things, or - worse - get tired of a cooking project right in the middle of it, and finish it out the lazy way.

This is what happened when I tried to make these:

Who wouldn't want to produce these as a late Valentine's day treat?

It started off okay: a batch of regular old sugar cookie dough, which I dutifully chilled in the fridge. I always end up wondering why you're supposed to chill sugar cookie dough anyway, because that turns it into a miniature boulder that you practically need a steamroller to flatten. This was no exception:

Hard, rock-like fragments of stone cold dough. Already, I could sense my ambition fizzling. It was getting late, and approaching time to watch TV with my feet in K's lap. So I put away my rolling pin, as well as my awesome heart-shaped cookie cutter - the one I purchased specifically for this once-a-year occasion, and grabbed a knife instead:

So what if they weren't pristinely beautiful rolled-out hearts? Nobody would know the difference. These were more like modern abstract hearts.

After melting a bag of chocolate chips with a wee bit of shortening, I decided to try dunking the full cookies instead of just half-cookies, in order to hide their hidden ugliness and make them look more professionally abstract/modern/chic.

Alas, the full-on dunk didn't quite work, as evidenced above. You can see what happened to the one that got the full immersion: not only did it soak up half the pot of chocolate itself, but turned into what looked like a chocolate dog turd.

So I ended up doing them all in the half-dunk style.

Not exactly what I'd been aiming for, but my friends didn't act surprised, instead gobbling them up out of Zip-lock bags. That's the good thing about being in that humble second category of people: the bar is set so low that people don't expect much from ya. ;-)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Connecting Stillbirth to Life

Greetings, KuKd/TTC Guests and Regulars...

There's a baby shower coming up, and a conundrum in my head to work through. Why can't things be simple and easy, without conundrums?

Feel free to be troubled by that term: baby shower. I know it pains some readers to think about, because it pained me for the longest time. I get that. What other words could be used to describe this event?

For this one in particular, it's a small gathering of uber-high-quality, intelligent, kind and compassionate women from a range of generations - my friends and mother and mother's friends - coming together to eat crab salad on croissants. It's being organized by Jen, the incredible friend that I first called upon learning of Zachary's in-utero demise. The baby-gift-giving concept was making me vomit-worthily anxious, so I stole my friend K's idea of a participatory "book shower:" in lieu of gifts, everyone bring a favorite kids' book with a note inscribed for this unborn baby's first library, and we'll all go around and explain the meaning of the book we brought.

All of that, I'm cool with. Excited about, really. It's the conundrum of where/how the past fits in with this event, or if there's a even place at all for it, that's been on my mind lately.

* * *

A wee bit of background, of course, before returning to the conundrum at hand:

For every calamity that can happen to a person, it seems, someone has written a self-help book about it. And for miscarriage and stillbirth, that definitive book would probably have to be Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby - what's essentially known to be THE Lonely Planet Guide to the Weird, Mind-Trippy Land of Dead-Babystan. If you're like me, you've probably thumbed through pages of it. A well-meaning friend or family member might have shipped a shiny new copy to you via FedEx, or perhaps a grief counselor slid this decent-sized book across the table in your direction. And if you're like me, you probably glanced through the pages with mixed emotion.

First, you wondered crabbily what useful things a PhD-holder named Deborah Davis could possibly tell you. "Deborah Davis" was decidedly not the name of your cool, authoritative older sister who gets it - but rather one of your mother's friends who wore waist-high jeans and made casseroles with french-fried onions in the 1980s. Yet, you also felt strangely comforted by the thought of a PhD-holder named Deborah Davis standing behind you, whispering words of guidance into your ear. Even the cover of this book - sort of a light peach with soothing fonts - was nice to look at. It felt like something official and organized, giving you hope that society was with you on this strange journey, holding your hand and telling you what to do and think, warning you of what was ahead.

At least, this is how it was for me, dipping into this book.

I've pretty sure I've got a copy of it still lying around, dusty and crammed into a storage box in the sagging clapboard garage behind our house - although I've not cracked it open in a year or two. There's one chapter toward the end that I've got half a mind to read right now - and if it weren't 3:00 in the morning and drizzling outside, I might even throw on a sweatshirt over the one I'm wearing, wander out there in my socks while my dog stares at me dumbfoundedly, and dig around for it - just to get to that chapter.

It's called something like "Coping with Subsequent Pregnancies," a section I recall not only ignoring back when I was routinely skimming pages of this book, but feeling mysteriously irritated by it. How dare they include a chapter that had zero relevance in my life, that - in some dull and undefinable way - hurt to even glance at!

* * *

Now, back to the conundrum, to the reason why I feel suddenly compelled to dip into that book again - into that chapter in particular - with the dim hope for some useful insight. Being 37 weeks into what Deborah Davis would probably consider a classic example of a "subsequent pregnancy after stillbirth," I guess I'm not surprised that something as commonplace as a baby shower might trigger a bit of mental weirdness.

The conundrum, the question here, is: is there a place for remnants of the past at this baby shower? A place for the memory of Zachary, the theoretical older brother of the not-yet-born infant whose pending birth is bringing all of these amazing women, shiny new books, delicious crab salad together under one roof? He would have been two-and-a-half years old right now. What about the 4-month "male fetus" before Zachary, that abstract concept of a baby who would have been almost four years old today? Can either of them be honorably mentioned at this buoyant celebration of a new life to come, or will their memory cast a visible downer over the entire affair?

I don't know, of course, because baby-loss - and pregnancy thereafter - is like the Wild West: land without rules or conventions or rituals. You bumble along for years and years, making up rules of social etiquette as you go along - hoping you don't offend or baffle or alienate anyone in the process.

What I do know is that memories and feelings of the past, of Zachary's in-utero life in particular, of the motherhood-fantasy I'd associated with him - crop up at the oddest times nowadays, like when I'm thinking about baby showers. I feel overly reflective sometimes as I try to connect those old memories to this new stage in my life. It's cool to imagine such a thing, that our experiences in life are more than mere unrelated dots on a long line, which we pass through chronologically like unthinking robots, never looking backward or forward. Wouldn't a Zen-Buddhist guru-type advocate such a circular and reflective way of living?

So, the baby shower.

It was Jen, this very same Jen, that organized the one for Zachary two years ago - except that Zachary's, of course, was abruptly cancelled. For the past few weeks, I've had this strange urge to use this upcoming baby shower as an chance to honor and remember not just the new baby supposedly on the way, but the old baby who never got the baby shower. And not just honor the babies, but the "me" that I was back then, who never got the baby shower either. How wrecked and pathetic I was at the time, how inconsolable, how unfair life felt to me.

They're on my mind, that old injured me and the baby that didn't make it - but, as I said - it's not clear to me if there's a place for those haggard relics of the past at this sparkling and hopeful new baby shower coming up. There is, of course, the danger of turning into one of "those people" who can't stop dwelling on their own calamaties, who are always pouncing on opportunities to publicize and dramatize the woes that they cling to. God, how I fear becoming one of "those people." So I've been pondering more subtle possible ways to slip it into the baby shower:

-raise my glass of sparkling cider and bang my fork against it, and demand to make a toast "to Zachary," hoping that people don't squirm uncomfortably in their seats

-covertly write his name in the sheet-cake frosting using my index finger, licking the icing off my hand before anyone sees me do it

-duck into the bathroom by myself for a quick bawl-session on my own

-wander off and gaze pensively out the window, hoping some deep thoughts of the past just come to me naturally

That's it - I'm out of ideas.

Maybe there IS no place for that past here, at least not publicly. Maybe I should do what everyone else is doing - my parents, my in-laws, my friends: keep my eyes trained forward, focused on the current baby in my belly, and quit bringing up the cobwebby past that holds no relevancy in this new life to come. Just chillax and enjoy my baby shower - the books and the crab salad and the company - being surrounded by amazing friends and family. Revel in it for the happy little isolated "dot" that it is, and stop thinking so hard. Stop looking back at past dots and trying to make sense of it all. Maybe it would be considered bad form to do otherwise.

That's cool; I can do that - keep my own little conundrums private inside my head, and grapple with them there. I suppose that's where grief always leads a person anyways: to a place where you're left to handle lingering thoughts and feelings on your own.

But MAN OH MAH, it sure would be nice if there were another way. If I get my act together this morning, maybe I will make it out to that sagging clapboard garage afterall, and dig up old Deborah Davis' stillbirth bible. Maybe she's got some useful gems to dish out on this subject.

Monday, February 22, 2010

WTF Part Deux

Hello, Guests-n-Others!

As my belly grows outward in a craze of outlandish horizontalness, here are the top two questions coming at me this month:

1) What's your "birth plan?"
2) Have you considered a homebirth, or at least the help of a doula?

Which lead me to WTF Part Deux.

* * *

First - and it's not so much of a WTF but just a general musing: the broader question of the birth plan.

Birth plan? What's that? Is that like...a developed-country phenomenon?

OH YEAH - I remember now!

Ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to close your eyes for a minute and journey into the past with me, back to when we were all pregnant that first, wondrous, innocent time. Back when plans mattered, fairytale dreams came true. Are you following?

Like me, you may have been asked to fill out a "birth plan" in your first trimester - a sheet of official-looking paper filled with fun questions, completed by you and returned to your doctor. How did you want your labor and delivery to unfold, it asked. Who did you want in the room? Did you want music in the background? Pain drugs or au natural? What labor-positions struck your fancy? How did you want your baby handled afterward? Like a child asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, you conferred seriously with your partner and checked off answers, painting a dreamy portrait of baby-delivery day like bright oil paints on canvas.

Ahhhhhhh...weren't those the good'ol days? I remember them so fondly for knocked-uppages #1, 2, and even 3. Early 2006, and again in 2007, and even in 2009: sitting Kevin down so we could discuss this most serious subject, pressing in my answers with black pen like a responsible pre-mom, and dutifully returning my answers to the clinic.

Fast-forward to the present. I vaguely recall the nurse handing me a blank birth-plan form for this pregnancy, only for it to get tossed into trash can on my way out the door. Here's my one-sentence birth plan, I tell people when they ask (and they DO ask with astounding frequency): get my ass to the hospital when the time is right, and push out a living baby.

That's it. That's my birth plan.

I don't blame people for asking. These days, it's a normal thing to inquire about, I guess. I just wish I had something juicier to say, a list of big dreams for something greater and more noble, some stronger convictions and passions, something to show that I've really done my research and thought hard about this. Years ago, I did - I swear.

But some of you old-timers might recall this post a while back, in which I relayed my take-home message from that week's visit to a shrink: "What ARE plans anyway? They're things we make up inside our heads to give us the illusion that we're in control."

Losing a pregnancy is never a part of the plan. Right? Right. So, having your plans get burned over and over again eventually takes its toll on your psyche, this smart shrink-lady told me. I guess that's part of my personal toll: I don't make plans anymore.

At least not birth plans.

* * *

Next, the much more WTF question of homebirth - or, shall I say, what K and I have been calling the Homebirth-Amway-Salespeople (HAS): WTF is UP with that?

Before I go any further, let me say this: I happen to know that a very large handful of fine, intelligent folks reading this are homebirth enthusiasts. Which is to say: they had a plan to deliver their babies at home with the help of a midwife, and that's what they did (or tried to, anyway). I respect that. It's all good. Go homebirth. Go midwifery.

The homebirth question is similar to the birth-plan question, but with an Amway salesperson element that makes me feel like a small insect who inadvertently invited predatory company into my home.

Let me explain how this conversation usually unfolds. It starts with a fairly innocent question, a girlfriend or female who has either gone the natural-childbirth route or plans to - but has certainly researched its benefits extensively.

Her: "Where are you planning on having your baby?"

Me: "At a hospital."

Her: "Oh." Long pause. Already, I'm sensing that I've given the wrong answer, that I uttered "hospital" too quickly and self-assuredly, possibly indicating that I've not considered other options. It's as though I just told an Amway sales rep that no, I've never tried their whatever-the-fuck-they-sell, and they now have this meatball of opportunity hovering before their eyes.

Her, continuing: "Are you going with just regular doctor or a midwife? Some hospitals have midwifery programs."

Me: "Regular doctor."

Her: "Oh."

There's an even longer pause, and now I know for sure where this conversation is headed, my earlier hunch confirmed. A subtle shift in said female's demeanor, a change in the tenor of her voice to someone who now knows more than I do, and who senses a glorious chance to enlighten me, un-saved heathen that I am! Again, like an insect cringing and scurrying beneath her sympathetic scrutiny, I've proven myself part of the naive mainstream masses that have not yet learned of the soul-saving glories of midwifery, of the homebirth experience, of bloodying one's own linoleum floor, of hypnotizing oneself with fantasy images of hot naked men as a way to numb the pain instead of using drugs.

Here it comes...

Her: "Have you considered going the non-traditional route? Group Health has a great midwifery program! I can send you some links, some articles. You really should read them! There are so many great ways to give birth other than in a hospital with an epidural in your spine..."

And the conversation sort of fizzles there, because by that point I've shut down. I mean, I sort of pretend to carry on in conversation, talking and not talking, smiling and not smiling, but my brain has gone elsewhere - because the person I'm conversing with has just morphed from friend-on-equal-footing into a Homebirth Amway Salesperson in a blue suit and tie, standing at my doorstep with a clipboard in arm. And suddenly I'm too busy to talk, with WTF's swirling around inside my head.

WTF is UP with the homebirth salespeople, and W(hy)TF do does it matter to them how I choose to deliver this child? In what way does my personal choice of baby-delivery affect anyone else's life besides mine, my husband's, and my baby's? WTF is up with anyone believing in something - a religion, a product, anything - so righteously and rigidly that they feel compelled to convert others into following their so-called enlightened path?

My friend Jen explained it like this: "...but a lot of women don't know they HAVE other options besides just a routine hospital delivery." Maybe true - but so what? Let'em find out on their own! Let'em read about it, ask about it, think about it like the smart people they probably are. If I were out killing my neighbors everytime I was in a bad mood, then yeah - I could see people pulling me aside to suggest alternate ways to deal with negative emotion. But it's not as though hospital-delivery causes mass death and destruction (do they?), and therefore ought to be stopped.

As I said: if you have a midwife, awesome. If you don't, awesome. If you give birth on a Grayhound bus, awesome. At home, awesome. In a hospital, awesome.

* * *

Which leads to my final note to Dear Public.

Dear Public:

Thanks for checking in, for being concerned about my and baby's well-being, for giving advice on how you feel things ought to be done, for wanting to know about my plan.

Just know that childbirth for a KuKd momma is psychologically complicated, and there's a reason for every choice we make. Do not be alarmed by the sinister terms "hospital delivery" and "no birth plan," as these do not necessarily equate to "poor ignorant woman who needs to be saved in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord of Homebirth Wonderfulness." Relax: things will be okay.

You lose a lot of luxuries when your only experience with birth is death - and that includes the luxury of pondering ten different fairytale-ideal birth plans, of doing anything that seems inherently risky. For some of us, that risky thing might be homebirth, or getting a midwife involved. For others, it might be something else entirely. Your focus becomes on survival of the baby, survival of your family - and yes - that might mean, and in my case it certainly means, surrounding oneself with doctors and nurses and machines and fluorescent lighting when that baby is ready to come out. It means - or might mean - getting more ultrasounds than you ever thought prudent or possible.

Knowing now how little control you really have, how irrelevant your former plans and ideals have become, you now cling to the things that seem the most certain - the things that you know. And those things are oftentimes the conventional things that, to you, seem bad or outdated or unenlightened.

But, like I said: relax. Everything will be okay. Let me have the things I think I need, and don't stress yourself out with the homebirth-and/or-midwife salespitch. It's best, I think, to let a KuKd momma believe what she believes, let her do what she and KuKd-daddy-o have agreed is the surest path to a positive outcome, and trust that they - like you - has the baby's best interest in mind.

* * *

Oh, and as far as my birth plan goes - I did tell the doctor I wanted no less than Britney Spears blasting in the background, and a bacon-wrapped steak dinner with a large cold glass of Alaskan Amber Ale for my first post-delivery hospital meal. She chuckled and said she'd look into it.

(See? Who says I don't have a plan?) ;-)