Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Other Worlds

I had an incredibly vivid dream last night.

I was sitting in the kitchen with this fat, bald, round-headed baby on my lap, wiggling her and being silly, and she said something.  I don't remember what, but I said "Ohmigosh, Psalm just said a full sentence!  And she's only thirteen months!"

And then I woke up.  And realized what I'd said there in the dream, and that it had thrown me completely out of sleep.

In some other world, some other universe that's happening alongside this one, Psalm is OK.  I don't really put much credit in multiverse theories, but something about that dream was just so real.  And it shook me.

It is one thing to know consciously that grief sparks up at odd times.  It is quite another to experience it.

Last week, I was lying awake in bed in the early dawn, when there was just enough light coming in through the window to see things.  And I had Doug with me, curled up with his back to me, and I was looking at the back of his little head and it hit me like a brick that the back of Psalm's head had looked much the same, and that she should be more than a year old and be the one cuddled up next to me.  And it hurt, so I just held him a little closer and went back to sleep...

Thursday, October 1, 2015


It was a year ago I managed to write about Psalm's birth and death, so I suppose it's fitting that, a week after her first birthday, I am just now able to write about it.

The day kind of came out of nowhere and loomed over everything all at once.  Like, I knew it was coming but I didn't really want to face it.

I was afraid all along last year that I would forget what it was like to hold her, would forget what she looked like, would forget the feel of her hair on my fingers and of her skin and of her beauty.  And I kind of did but kind of didn't.  It's not something that comes out of nowhere but if I concentrate I can remember all of these things.

Facebook's On This Day feature reminded me of how fucking horrible it was to wake up the morning of the 25th and not have her with me and realize she was beyond my reach for the rest of my time on this earth.  And the truth is it wasn't much easier on day 365 of that than it was on day one.  I've gotten to where I cannot easily picture her as a living baby, and that makes me sad.  There are too many unknowns now.  Marie had dark hair and then it fell out and she had blonde hair and then it darkened to brown.  She had blue eyes that darkened to storm-tossed gray and then to brown.  Would Psalm have followed the same path?  Or would she have kept her brown hair?  There's just no way to know, and it's the unknowns that get you.

All these other moms seem to do these awesome things on their baby's birthday.  They do shit like release butterflies and balloons or light candles or do random acts of kindness.  And I am not that sort of person; I don't do big over-the-top stuff with my living kids.  So I was thinking I'd just kind of hold her in my heart but I'd like to light a candle but it turns out it's a bitch to find non-scented candles these days.

So the day before her birthday I got the brilliant idea of asking the kids what they wanted to do.  It ended pretty much as I should have expected, with Bobbie being insensitive and Esther in tears.  There was also an odd bit of time where I had to explain to the toddlers that, yes, Psalm is in our closet but no, you cannot see her because it's just her ashes.  She doesn't look exactly the same.  Still, it pleases me that the toddlers do think of her and do realize she's their sister.

Anyway, Esther said she wanted a cake and Marie said she wanted a balloon, so the next day Erik and I went to HEB and I picked out a small cake from the bakery and a small balloon and then bought a birthday card and a candle and totally forgot to buy a lighter for the candle because I was hoping no one decided to ask me whose birthday it was so I wouldn't have to explain that it was my dead daughter's birthday.

I'd had a dream the night before where we did all this and I bought her a card as well, so for some reason I had to go and do that.  There's not much of a selection at that store, and it's mostly Disney crap for first birthdays, so I went and looked in the bargain section, and that's when I found this:

And I had to have it the second I read it.  I didn't even read the inside until today, but it talks about people thinking of you.  Which I guess, with Psalm, is all we can really do.

And so a year has passed, and I am lost as before.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


My senior year of high school,  a friend of mine was killed in a car wreck, along with his girlfriend Melissa, and his best friend's girlfriend.  (The best friend survived with serious injuries, but that is neither here nor there.)

Some months after the wreck--which happened in September--I came out of Journalism class and saw a ghost.  Melissa, coming out of the Art classroom across the hall.

Naturally, I knew it *wasn't* Melissa.  It was her little sister, whose name I don't recall.  They looked almost exactly alike, and I remembered thinking how difficult it must be for everyone involved to have a surviving child who looked just like the tragically lost one.  (Not in the least for the girl herself, who was probably upset by reactions like mine, which were undoubtedly frequent at that school.)

Now I find myself in a similar position.

I joke all the time that all my kids look alike.  This is because they really do; they all look like me.  (And all of my dad's family look alike.)

Before Psalm, Marie was my only dark-haired baby.  Which is weird given I have dark hair, but it's just the way the genes worked out.  You can kind of tell in that picture who is who, because Psalm's color just was never good, but they still look incredibly alike.

Another thing is that all my kids are pretty hairy, but again since most of them are light-haired, it's nearly impossible to tell.  Marie and Psalm are the only ones with dark enough hair for their back fuzz to be visible.

They really both had a lot of hair even at birth.  I think Psalm had even more than Marie; it was long enough it was starting to curl.

Of course, there is a slightly different dynamic in play when the surviving sibling is the older one.  I have no way of knowing, for instance, whether Psalm would have had brown eyes like Marie, or blue ones like her father, brother, & sisters.  And of course we could never know her personality, though the way she survived so long in utero makes me think she would have been another firecracker had she not had LBWC.

But still.  I have this little girl who lives in my mind, and my mind makes her look like Marie did, because who else would she look like?  So with Marie, she is a reminder sometimes that there should be a second dark-haired girl in my family.  Someone else for her to fight and play with.

And that makes me sad.

Friday, May 29, 2015

You know what gets me?

This gets me.

Not this room in particular; it's just a photo I found using GIS.  It's birthing rooms that get me.  Pictures of birthing rooms.

I labored for a while with Psalm, in a normal birthing room similar to where I had Esther, and Doug (Marie's wasn't half as nice).  The room was filled with the comforting sound of her heartbeat, a good 140+ BPM that never hesitated.  My little warrior.

But that was the only normal part.  I looked at that little warmer and I knew she wouldn't lie in it.  And when the word that I would indeed have a c-section came down, I knew I'd never again be in one of these rooms.

Now and again hospital photos crop up on Facebook.  Lots of pictures of babies in warmers.  And it's like a punch in the gut.  There are no longer good associations with those.  They have them in ORs, of course, but it is different when your child is removed from you versus when you push them out.

My first two births were c-sections.  And it was important to me to know that I could do things the "right" way, the normal way.  And I did, because my body really does know its shit.

But with Psalm my body failed me.  Failed to make her right.  Failed to birth her right.  And will not be allowed to birth the others right.  Her surgical birth was necessary, but it was still a failure in my lizard brain because frankly her birth could be nothing else since she would not live long after.  Trauma on top of trauma, and I will no longer be able to reclaim things.

So I see these pictures and they make me profoundly sad, but it is difficult to explain to most people.  The room and the warmer represent the trappings of normal birth.  Doug's birth was finally everything I wanted--100% unmedicated mostly hands-off.  And I thought I was going to get to build on that.  And it all went to shit.  I never expected, even when I was in that room looking at my surroundings knowing it was the last time I would be in such a place even if it was not my last birth, that in the future I would find my grief triggered by the most innocuous photos, but there you go.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Chasing rainbows.

I've kind of gone back and forth with myself whether to talk about this publicly or not, but since I've bared my soul the rest of the way, I'll throw this in as well.

Babies born after a loss are called rainbow babies.  Marie is a rainbow baby, following my miscarriage in 2007.

Two of the women I met when pregnant with Psalm, both themselves LWBC moms, are pregnant now with their rainbow babies.

Me, I wasn't entirely sure what to do about it, when to jump on the rollercoaster again, because it was guaranteed to be a scary time.  And for a good long while anyway, it was a moot point--since Doug is still nursing, I didn't get my period back until last month.

And so, fertility returned, I looked deep into the issue and said "Well, my January baby is awesome, and I'm going to be terrified no matter what, so let's go for it."

Go for it we did.

And you know what? We nailed it.  I bought a big pack of ovulation strips and pregnancy tests on Amazon, and blew the dust off my Fertility Friend account, and on the 29th of April, I got a very faint positive test that I wasn't even sure was positive.  So I held off and retested on the 3rd of this month, and got a better one.  I tested twice that day, in fact, and they were both positive.  Not, like, big dark lines or anything, but readily visible.

And here is where I fucked up, y'all.  I was happy.  Really really happy.  So I told Erik.  And then I told Linda.  And then I told the rest of the kids and the next day--buoyed by another positive--we told my mother.  And because I could not resist, we went and bought a couple of onesies for the rainbow baby, who would be born in January and who already had a name.

You can guess where I'm going with this, right?

I had a good few hours where I was nothing but happy, then the fear crept in.

I had a good ten days where I was...not really confident, because I had some early indications this would not go well, but where I could fool myself.  I was nauseous before I got the second positive test, and it was the peculiar sort of nausea I only get when I'm pregnant.  And my temps were good.  But the positive tests went negative, and though I know HCG can take a while to rise, and the tests I had weren't really good...

And then Tuesday I lost it.  The hope that had started to peek through.  The brand-new pregnancy, so new it wouldn't even have shown up on an ultrasound.

Well, shit.

Rainbows are common after storms, but sometimes...sometimes they come in a break between storms.

This is, of course, a different kind of hurt.  I have said before that I loved Psalm from the moment I knew she was on the way.  And the same was true for this pregnancy.  But this love was just a brief flicker of time, a smaller grief that might some day roll into the larger one of my girl's absence.  Sometimes when you go to stand, you fall back again.

And that sucks.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Half a year.

Man, it's been a long time since I posted here.

I've been having a hard time with this grief thing, again.

Being me, I felt guilty there for a while for not hurting enough and now it's back up to a constant dull roar.

Again, I know too well what I am missing.

Psalm should be six months old.  She should be sitting up, her perfect little belly lovely and round.  She should be babbling.  She should be crawling, or close to it.  She should be staring at the food I eat and trying to steal it from me, maybe even eating table food.

But instead she is ashes sitting in a box in my closet.

I have not been able to look too closely at that box.  We got it the day of her funeral, in a green velvet bag.  I have not opened the bag to look inside, much as I did not open her wrappings to look at the ruin of her body.  We have an urn picked out, but I've been unable to buy it, in part because the lone review mentions putting the ashes of the author's cat inside, and even though it's not a pet urn I cannot bring myself to use something that someone used for a pet for my daughter, because pets are not family members.

Or maybe that's just the excuse I am telling myself.  I don't know.  Maybe the pain is just insurmountable right now.  Maybe that's even OK.

I have a mini-crisis now and again over her name. Make no mistake, I love the name Psalm.  I loved it even when it seemed too weird a name to ever give one of my children.  But it was chosen back when it seemed we would not know whether our child was boy or girl.  Had she lived, she would have been named Susan.  Hell, even without life, had she been observably female to begin with, we would have named her Susan.  And sometimes I feel guilty for not naming her that after all.

So. Psalm should be Susan and she should be pulling her brother's hair by accident and slobbering on him.  But she is Psalm and she is a scar on my heart.  I held her for her whole life, but I did not hold her long enough.

Her heart is a river in my blood.

I haven't listened to that song in a while.  I think I outgrew the need, there for a bit.  I need it again now.