"Edited to Add"....

This started as a pregnancy blog when I fell pregnant in May 2009 after four years of finding a donor, doing all the counselling / paperwork / tests and trying.

And now, thanks to a 4WD which skidded onto our side of the road, killing our baby daughter at 34w and injuring me, my partner and two of my stepdaughters on 27 December 2009, it has turned into something else. We didn't want this something else, but apparently it is all we've got to go on with.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Taking the hills

There's a bit of our ride from home to the uni that I love or hate - not sure which. 

We're coming past the playground on the gravel path.  Ali points, explains in Ali-language - I think he's rating the slide as one of his favourites.  "I know, bubba, the best slide ever!  Not this time though, love - we have to get to work.  We'll come back another day".

The path heads downhill and I avoid the gully in the middle of the path made by rain.  I touch the brakes but we are still picking up speed.  Ali flings his arms wide and inhales all that fast-moving air - there are no words, even Ali words, for this.  I scan to check if someone is coming down the path towards us (as far as I can see before the path twists off into the bush), and if it is clear, I push harder, getting the most out of the downhill before we swing up the parabola of the hill, dropping gears quickly (but not so quickly that we lose traction) while turning sharply to the right. 

If it works, we hit the hill at a decent pace, and chances are I won't have to get off and push halfway up.  I'm quickly down to first gear and pushing slower and harder as we inch up the hill. 

Ali makes an insistent point, then turns to look at me to see why I haven't responded yet. 
"We're going up a hill, bubba" I pant.  "It's hard work!" 

A part of me just wants it to end, just wants to say "stuff it" and take the car next time.  Part of me doesn't want Ali to see me struggling like this, and sometimes 'failing' and having to get off and push.  But we are here now, and there is no way to get to work this morning except up this hill.  I pull the handlebars towards me with each push of the pedals.  Already this hill is easier than it was last week, but no matter how fit I get, it will always be a slog.  I've learned now that from halfway up, I can take the path around the estate - it adds maybe half a kilometre to the ride, but at least it dilutes that hill.  There's another dip, earlier in the ride, that I skip altogether, zig-zagging through little streets to follow the ridge line.  But really, can I blame anyone for the hills, when I've chosen to ride a bike?  And while my thoughts are going in circles like this, my legs are doing the hard work, and suddenly we're there and cruising on the flat, and I can hardly remember what it felt like to be pushing uphill. 

Now that we're in our own space at last, I've been thinking a lot about the things that may have gone wrong with El Prima and I.  One of those things, I suspect, was the habit (ok, my habit) of blaming, of looking for some excuse or outward reason when things were hard.  I'm re-reading Pema Chodron, When things fall apart,  and her take on the principle, "drive all blames into one".  That doesn't mean just swapping blaming others for blaming ourselves instead - rather, Chodron suggests that the whole blaming process is an attempt to reject whatever unpleasant feelings have arisen, rather than just feeling them and letting them soften us and open us to compassion for ourselves and others.  Rather than just taking the hill and feeling what it is like to sweat and pant and work hard, and sometimes to stall and have to get off and push. 

There's no one to blame for a hill, it just is, and it is up to me to work my way up it, or to navigate another way.  And I don't really need to hate it or love it, just to take it as a hill.  This is what my new life feels like - freedom and hard work in equal measures. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Being here

Little girl

Four years strong.

Tree-climbing, conversation making
Child.  Putter-on of your own
Shoes and socks
(I'll help you with the laces,
my love)
Four years of ghost memories and
I'm still no more certain of
your hypothetical self
Had you lived to four.

But still, I feel I know
More of you
From the tiny glimpses I get
(I'll take any that come my way).

Kids tell serious stories
Using your eyebrows.
Your colours - that orangey-pink-red and the
Grassy pale green, retro light blue
Are apparently fashionable this year.
Every rose and its scent
Is yours by right.
The crush of petal to lip.
Your sleeping brother's eyelashes.
His insistence.
The new warble of young magpies.
The whole moon and your star's
Side of the darkening sky.

I piece you together from
These clues.
I want to find you nearby
To make these circles overlap:
Knowing my child is okay
and Being here.



Yes, it has been yonks.  So many yonks that here we are again, back at Z's time of year.  Divorce, selling the house, working again, being mama have all kept me in a constant path of motion, so it is good and also scary to have a little pause.  I am thankful.  It all could have been so much worse.  The break-up nastiness was shortlived and we're both so delighted to be out of the relationship (and to have sold the house for more than expected) that there is actually goodwill between us, as well as huge love and concern for Ali and Snazzy.  It's hard to know what I feel, though, while everything is still in boxes, awaiting removal from the old house, storage, and unpacking in my new space.  We've been in some state of renovation or divorce induced transit since february.  Why do I need physical possessions in order to feel my feelings?  I don't know.  That's not quite it - it's more the energy that managing possessions across three places and in various states of packed / unpacked requires.  I aspire to own less

I had decided back in July that I wanted to start marking the 28th as Z's birthday, which it actually is - but our accident was on the evening of the 27th, and because there was no sleep that night, and because of that confusing death and birth in the wrong order thing, I had always marked it as the 27th.  A big mashed-up birthday, deathday, accident anniversary sadfest.  This year is the first time I have actually been able to start distinguishing between the grief and the trauma, and I think I optimistically thought I was 'over' the trauma.  But these last few weeks it has come back to bite me with nightmares and feeling triggered and hypervigilant while driving.  So I think I need to mark the 27th as well - even if just to keep it firmly in my gaze because I don't trust it enough to be an ordinary day. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Back

I am redirecting my mail online.  The mouse hovers between "temporary" and "permanent".  The Australia Post site tells me,  "For a permanent move, you are not planning to return to your old address".  The truth is, I don't know, but at the moment I have no plans to ever return, except to pack up more fully and prepare the house and garden for sale. 

El Prima and I are separating.  It is sad, but my heart is lighter than it has been in years.  I know this is the right thing.  I spent so long closing off this possibility from myself, telling myself I couldn't follow in my parents' footsteps and have a marriage fail, subject my children to divorce.  But fear of the messiness of separation can't in itself hold a relationship together - not without centring our whole lives on fear, resignation, bitterness.  We tried really hard.  We cleaned the slate again and again but each time my heart was less willing to trust, it had to be cajoled, it grew weary and more skeptical.  And despite all the things I love about El Prima, I was not willing to live like that.  I didn't want Z's legacy in our lives to be relationship breakdown.  But I know now that none of this was her fault, and that she sings in our hearts when we are happy - she deserves more of that.  We deserve more of that. 

It feels appropriate that this is happening in winter.  I'm not sleeping very well at the moment and have been waking up early, doing quiet yoga in the dark on our friend's carpet where Ali and I are staying.  In those quiet dark hours, I meditate.  I make lists.  I remember what it is like to be myself.

We will make it amicable.  We will put the kids first.  We'll have to figure out what to do with Z's little pomegranite tree in our front yard. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Three years

Oh, I feel so sheepish to have been so quiet on here.  I have all kinds of good excuses - Christmas, my brother's wedding, a dose of gastro, and most of all, a hilarious baby boy whose laugh makes a room full of strangers smile. 
He is lovely.  We feel impossibly blessed.  He really is a cheery little soul and it blows my mind how much I love him.  I have to pinch myself on a regular basis to remind myself this is actually happening.  The blocks of time for writing are much harder to find, but it's not just that.  So many of the things which I relied on post-accident to make sense of our loss and to keep myself on an even keel have fallen by the way side - yoga, writing, meditation etc.  Somehow it seems so hard to keep up with all the baby / house / renovation / christmas stuff while also wanting to enjoy my time with Ali.  I'd really like to find ways to claw back a bit of time for restorative practices.  In a way I don't need them as desperately as I once did, but I really could do with a little more of the calmness and reflection they gave me.  Am I kidding myself to think that these things are compatible with caring for a small child?  Or do I just need to organise myself better?  It doesn't help that we're also renovating at the moment, so that there is a constant list of decisions to be made, bricks to be cleaned, bills to be paid, calls to be made etc. 

It feels like Z is with us enjoying Ali's babyhood.  She's here in her pomegranate tree in the front yard, in the roses I inhale as I walk up our street, in the few items of her baby clothes that Ali still sometimes wears, in her blanket I use for Ali when we travel, in the stars when I hang the washing in the summer night, in the extra tight cuddles I give Ali when I soothe him to sleep.  The grief still hits me now and then, but it is like a sneeze - I sense it coming, it shakes me, and then it moves on.  I look at Ali's face and wonder what she would have looked like at his age, or as a three-year-old. 

We spent her day and a few days either side of it down the coast, near the bush chapel where her ashes are buried.  We played her some music, we sang her a lullaby, my mum sat next to me and squeezed my hand.  A part of me feels guilty that our grief has mellowed - in some strange way I miss the clean intensity of the early days.  But this is now a grief that is woven in with our lives. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Both my babies

Ali has changed so much already since he was born.  Even within 24 hours of his birth, his head was no longer the soft squished newborn head, and the cord which was so plump and pulsing at his birth was quickly drying up and turning into a belly button.  Too many tiny changes to catalogue - new skills, new habits, growth in every direction.  He's now over a month old - and yet his birth still feels so close - the surprise of having a living baby hasn't worn off yet for me. 

And it hit me that this is what being a parent is - to bear witness and care for another human being through their most intense period of growth and change - where their existing self is constantly slipping like mercury through your fingers, becoming a new baby, a new little person everyday as they grow and change.  As much as I want to grasp onto who Ali is this very minute, I know that this current version of him is just a snapshot - that he is the process rather than the minute by minute product of himself.  

When I had that thought, it made me cry because I'm only just starting to grasp how much we missed out on with Zainab.  Does that mean I completely missed parenting her - because, by the time I held her in my arms, she was still - she was not going to grow or move any more? I felt lost for a moment as her mother.  But not only did I love her through the constant transitions and growth of pregnancy - from a tiny cellular possibility to a kicking, hiccoughing, nearly six pound baby, but I also loved her and held her through that other big transition - from life to death.  I was there surrounding her as her heart slowed and then stopped as we sat in the wreckage, but I was also there after she was born, holding her as the living warmth ebbed away from her body and her little soul stretched away to begin its travels. 

I asked El Prima the other day whether she thought Zainab could hear my dad singing her a lullaby when he held her after she was born, and she said, "Yes - the soul hangs around for a while - at least a day - that's why we stay with someone who has died, with their body for the first day."  That second transition - from someone you love whose heart has just stopped beating, to a cold body - has always frightened me a bit. thanks to all those cultural phobias of dead bodies and deterioration.  There was a moment on the day we spent with her, when I had slept briefly and I woke and asked to hold her again, and the cold on her cheeks was noticeable.  I knew we didn't have much time with her - that the little baby soul we loved so much was mingling back into the atmosphere and gradually relinquishing the atoms of her body back to the elements. 

I look at all the beautiful cards and gifts that family and friends have sent congratulating us on Ali's birth, and it feels so unfair that Zainab got condolences instead.  It will always be unfair.  But I feel now that she exists in a state beyond fair and unfair.  And that having held her as she crossed into death and to love her even all the way into death was all I could do as her mama.  

 *               *             *

I dreamt last night that I was out shopping with El Prima and the girls – we were in a toyshop, and Zainab was with us – she was a curly-headed toddler about fifteen months old.  One moment she was looking at toys in our aisle, and the next I asked El Prima where she’d gone – and we couldn’t see her anywhere.  We were searching all over the shop – calling out her name, and when it was clear she wasn’t there, we ran out to the street and were looking for her.  I saw El Prima run across the road and I was so scared that I’d see her pick up Zainab from the road – I wanted to find her but please god, not on the road, not hurt or killed.
Then a tram came, and I realised it was our tram home.  I felt compelled to get on – in my head all sorts of arguments were tested and rejected – maybe she would know it was our tram, maybe someone took her on it – I had no idea, but I just knew I had to get on that tram.  Somehow we were now looking for both Ali and Zainab.  I stepped up onto the tram and searched up and down, and there was Zainab, running into y arms.  I hugged her to me and breathed her in, simultaneously looking around for Ali.  “Who found her?” I asked “Was there a little boy with her?” I asked.  Some sulky-looking teenagers waved at me to indicate it was them who had found her who had found her.  They pointed, and there was Ali – himself, but a toddler only a few months younger than Zainab.  I drew him to me and held both my babies – a solid little person in each arm.  “Oh my babies”, I cried, “I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry I took my eyes off you!”

I woke to my own crying, and find my arms around someone warm – El Prima.  I listen for Ali’s snuffling breath in the co-sleeper next to our bed, and when I hear him, I exhale, grateful for him, grateful for Zainab visiting my dreams (it's been a while my darling girl), and so so grateful for that feeling, however brief, of holding both my babies in my arms.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Right Where I Am 2012: Two years and five months

I'm glad Angie has decided to put on the Right Where I am Now project again -  my god it feels like so much has changed in a year.

Its a Sunday the 27th again, which makes it two years and five months exactly since I was strapped to a trolley in the emergency department, hand on my 34w pregnant belly, still hoping that we might hear Haloumi's heartbeat.  I'm back in hospital now - this time in the adjoining maternity hospital, but things are so, so different - and I am acutely grateful for that.  This time, it's our six day old baby boy, Ali, who is a patient in the special care nursery, but his outlook is the complete opposite to Haloumi's.  He's alive, to start with, and in rude health, but needs phototherapy for jaundice due to ABO incompatibility.  I'm sleeping on a recliner next to his isolette so that we can continue breastfeeding.  I'm still in a state of disbelief that we have a living baby who I can breastfeed, who gives me serious looks with his dark eyes, whose noises I wake up to in the night, thinking, "A baby is crying... oh, that is *our* baby". 

In the family lounge I talk to the grandmother of a baby girl born at 27 weeks, and I send out a silent thank you to all available deities for our chubby, healthy, full term little boy who looks so much like his older sister.  But where we only got still glimpses of her, he is here in real time - moving, making faces, clearly enunciating his "Waaaa" cry and drinking my milk - all the things I longed for so much  with Zainab.  I know now that all those possibilities are gone for her.  What she (and we) missed out on still makes me cry, but there's now an ocean of experiences which mothering her has given me.  If I had to choose, I would always choose for her to live, but none of us get the luxury of that choice, so I have to take what I can from being her mama.  And even if it isn't what I would have chosen, that is still a lot. 

It feels corny to try to enumerate what exactly to that is - to be honest, it feels as though my whole personality and belief system has re-shaped around being mama to Zainab.  It isn't that I've "found religion" or anything like that.  It's more that being mother to a dead child has meant that my love follows her into death, so I've had to think about what death entails - where is it exactly, and can I still connect with her while she's there?  I've come to realise that, if I thought of death as some separate, alien place that I needed to get to in order to be close to her, then being comfortable in the land of the living was just not possible. I didn't want to choose between being close to her and living - so I had to find her here - to inhale her softness with the rose petals, to wear her memory in my choices of jewellery, to let death sit comfortably at our table - feeling her existence each time we missed her.  And now, to notice all the resemblances between her and her brother. 

I feel like she is built into our lives now - we have our small rituals for her, and family and friends (mostly) acknowledge her as a significant part of our family.  The blanket my mum knitted for her - which she was wrapped in for much of the time we held her, is here wrapping Ali - especially on car trips, and exerting a protective warmth.  I like to think that they know one another - that her cells watched over his as he grew within me, maybe bossing him around a little like the big sister she is.  He's still in that newborn place where he seems to be in two worlds at once - staring at things just beyond my shoulder, making inexplicable but beautiful facial expressions.  I whisper in his ear, "tell your sister we love her".

Just as I refuse to choose between living and being close to Z, I've also realised that I don't need to choose between feeling the sadness when it comes, and enjoying pure joy when that arrives - even if they both tumble in the door at the same time.  It doesn't make sense, but I've now given up on trying to make sense of emotions - just feeling them honestly and genuinely is big enough. 

Looking back, my post last year touched on similar ground, but while I'd started to make friends with the intensity of losing Z, I was still so so sad, so much of the time.  I feel like my life has recovered a lightness since then. There really was a cruel little part of me that felt like I would never have a living child, that mocked me for wanting one so badly.  And yet here he is - soft-snoring, velvet-cheeked proof that the universe can be unimaginably good as well as unimaginably cruel.  I am so grateful that the odds favoured us this time. 

















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Thursday, May 31, 2012

Our boy

Just a quick post to put up a photo of Ali looking suave (I think!).  He's had to spend some time under UV lights in the special care nursery for jaundice due to ABO incompatibility, but we're home now and he is feeding beautifully and charming us completely.  We are feeling so so lucky.  He looks a lot like his sister - everytime I kiss him I get another little reminder of how soft her skin was too.  I've written something for Angie's Where I am right now project, but it'll take me a while to sit down and type it up. Thank you so much for your congratulations - I really wasn't sure whether we would ever get to this point.  xxxxxxxxx h

Friday, May 25, 2012

Ali John is here!

He really truly is here - making little faces in his sleep as he naps on my lap after a big feed. Ali John - born at 3:44pm on Monday 21 May, weighing in at 4.26kg. His birth story will take me a little while, but I'm going to paste in my post from over at glow in the woods which explains a bit: (I'm having trouble posting a photo using blogger on my phone - will add one once I get laptop up & going) Hi everyone - I cannot thank you enough for providing kind & wise words & a safe space to think all this through and I credit it with helping me go into labor (almost) spontaneously. We did have the VBAC we were after, but ironically, only after El Prima and I had a big weepy discussion about it and I accepted that we needed to have him sooner rather than later - and if that meant another caesar, then I was okay with that. Two other things helped - one was realising that we did have another medical induction option open to us that didn't increase the risk of rupture, namely breaking my waters, and the other was listening to my own body and realising that, of all the hippy non-medical induction techniques we were trying (Accupuncture, aromatherapy, curry, orgasm, walking etc) the one thing that consistently brought on strong BH contractions was nipple stimulation. After El Prima and I resolved that we needed to have this baby ASAP, we spoke to our midwife, Jan, about it on Sunday morning. She completely understood why, and gave us a practical plan to make it happen - that she would come that afternoon, do a stretch and sweep, hoping that would kickstart things, then we would go into the hospital first thing Monday morning asking to have my waters broken, knowing that if that didnt then result in natural labour, we'd have to go for a c section. With that plan agreed, el Prima and Snazzy & I went for a big walk, and with a big scarf to keep it discreet, I kept up the nipple stimulation all the way there & back. Part way to the bakery, I realised that the BH contractions were now coming regularly and getting more painful (sorry, "better" to use Jan's phrase), so El Prima started timing them. I'm going to hav to write up the full birth story soon, but the upshot was, I was 3cm dilated by 10pm that night, we went to hosp at 7am the next morning, they broke my waters when I was 5cm dilated at about 2pm that day, surprised everyone by being fully dilated 12 minutes later (!?!?) and pushed out our 9 pound son by 3:45pm. If I sound a bit excited by it, I still am - it was the craziest, most painful, most mind-bending thing that has ever happened to me, perhaps with the exception of being mama to z. I feel so lucky to have had the support, and the good outcome that we did - i keep looking st hin to check he's really alive and ok. Getting a chance to experience this birth with him was a bonus - I'm so glad el Prima was willing to take the leap of faith with me, and that we had such an experiences midwife & medical team who could make it happen in the safest possible way for our baby. I also realised that my dream of a completely natural spontaneous birth was something I lost along with losing Z, and it was okay to grieve that, and to accept that my reality was now different. Thank you everyone who commented here for helping me get to that place. Xxxxxxxx

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Nesting with a vengeance (or, Grief is grotty)

To be honest, I was really a bit scared to start nesting.  But then our dear friends S and C offered as their baby gift a whole day of spring cleaning to help get our place in lovely shape for Adzuki to come home to.  And somehow, having someone to work alongside, and who were really imagining a living breathing baby in our house, unleashed the nesting monster.  All the nesting we never got to do for Z, because we were moving interstate and she died before we moved into the new house - and a whole lot of new nesting for this baby.  For so long, we had just been in survival mode.  We'd unpacked in such a random way - I was discharged directly from the rehab hospital to our new house, and friends and family had unpacked all our furniture the day before. 

El Prima and I were never the biggest fans of housework to start with, but grief sucked much of the remaining house pride out of us.  Just getting back into work, getting the girls to school, dinner on the table, bills paid, laundry done, and then starting IVF took all our energy.  And when you've been given an acute appreciation of how the people you love can be gone in an instant, well, dusting just really doesn't come very high on your priority list.  And El Prima and I really didn't need another thing to argue over.  Oh look, we had all kinds of good excuses, but essentially we'd given up on the notion of having a lovely clean house - it was all just too overwhelming.  Somehow, having S come and clean broke that pattern - and as the one day of spring cleaning turned into about three and a half, and El Prima and I started getting into it, I  realised I could start caring about this house again - that looking after it didn't have to be an act of drudgery but could be an act of love and care - for ourselves and for Adzuki.

That doesn't mean that our place is now spotless, but it is so so much cleaner before, and with this new energy, we've been able to let go of lots of stuff we don't need, and to re-arrange and tidy up the stuff we do need. Who knows if our hearts will be broken again, but I figure - we're already so in love with Adzuki -  holding out on preparing for him to come home living and breathing wouldn't make things any easier if he didn't make it.  If we're jinxed, we're jinxed already by loving him so much.  The first thing I bought for him back in November was this vintage kimono - it is now hanging on the wall near his drawers and change table, hot pink with hope.  We're now at 38 and a half weeks - ready when you are, little one!



Monday, April 16, 2012

Archaelogy

There is a back corner of our garage where baby things accumulate.  It's where we hid away the little red suitcase of things we'd bought or been given for Zainab when it became clear she wasn't ever going to use them, along with the pram and carseat.  Over the last six months or so of this pregnancy it is where pre-loved baby things have washed up as dear friends have pressed them upon us.  Yesterday was a clear sunny day, impossibly warm for Autumn but a good washing day, so El Prima and I started our excavations.

We worked through boxes of baby clothes - washing and sorting them by size.  Tiny jumpsuits hung from our washing line like a cloud of white fluffy bats.  And we tried to imagine Adzuki's little feet - those little heels sliding regularly across the inside of my belly and giving El Prima well-timed kicks in the back - wearing some of these clothes.  It all feels quite unreal at this stage, but now that we've gotten past the same stage as our accident last time, some of the fear has lifted.  We're doing that crazy unbelievable thing - preparing for this baby to come home with us, and getting ready all the things we'll need to care for him as a living, breathing baby.  The part of my brain which tells me that I'm tempting fate, I'm hearing but not heeding.  Who knows what will happen, but I want to enjoy this bit of anticipation while we can.  

We started with the most recently stashed away things from friends, and then gradually dug deeper into the pile, finding the pram we'd bought second-hand for Zainab and pumping up the tyres, along with all the bits and pieces for it.  And finally we took a deep breath and turned to the little red suitcase.  I had imagined this as a little time capsule of all our hopes for Zainab - that we could open it, and while it might be sad, there might also be something bittersweet about her little brother wearing her hand-me-downs - a connection between the two.  I should have known from the weight of it that something was up, but the moment I unzipped it, we could smell what had happened - somehow water had got in and everything inside was mouldy and mildewy.  At first I just took a deep breath and started separating out the irretrievable things from the ones that might come good with a good soak, but as the extent of the damage became clear, we stopped and I wept.  That time, when we had felt Z kicking, and had bought these small things in anticipation - was well and truly gone - the new clothes we had bought then are no longer new but decaying.  The little gold sequined mardi gras shoes were still wrapped in plastic, so they smelt musty, but were mostly okay - the blue and orange overalls were so badly mildewed that the fabric fell apart as I pulled them out. The irretrievable things I packed back into the little red suitcase - it will have to go in the bin soon, but for now I needed some means of disposal that reflects the love and sadness we have for these mouldy little scraps and the baby who was supposed to wear them.

The other things, I soaked and washed and pegged out on the line - hoping that sunshine will help get rid of the smell, and that Adzuki won't mind if some of his clothes look slightly the worse for wear because they come from his sister.  Wednesday will be 36 weeks, so chances are, we'll be meeting him in the next month or so.  As scary as it is, we're putting faith in that thought. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Holding onto the handrail

I'm sorry I went quiet there for a bit.  Just keeping up with full-time work, and staying sane, and safely gestating is using up most of my time and energy at the moment.  

Adzuki is 33 weeks today, and I can't help but replay where we were at this gestation with Zainab.  They were our last days with her, and we had no idea.  We were in the midst of packing up our house and moving interstate, and then the busy noisy chaos of Christmas and family.  This is why I linger in bed in the mornings when Adzuki starts moving - because we had so few opportunities to do that with Z in those last days.  I'm grateful that he seems to be a very active baby - whenever I start getting worried about him, I tune in to my belly and have been able to feel him move or hiccough. I'm trying to balance the fears - doing what I can to hang onto the handrail and stay as safe as possible - with the moment to moment experience of having this small person dancing in my belly.  I'm avoiding car trips wherever possible, and using a special seat that keeps the seatbelt away from my belly.  I know it's unlikely that the same thing would happen, but I also know how common car accidents are, and that even a less serious bingle could harm Adzuki.

And in just over a week (if all goes well) Adzuki will have been in my belly longer than Z ever was.  I feel frozen, uncertain of what to do.  I find myself procrastinating with my work - I long to hibernate in bed, to wait this out until I wake one morning and go into labour. 

I think our strategy for now is to mark 34 weeks as another anniversary for Z, and then to begin in earnest the preparations for Adzuki's birth - getting his space in our room set up, listening to the birthing cds, getting my head around the prospect of a pregnancy ending with a living baby rather than trauma and grief.  At least we really hope so this time!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Slow

I'm now 26w pregnant, and it is odd to be back in this visibly, publicly pregnant state - almost as big as I was when we lost Z.  And I'm just realising that, no, I didn't imagine it - my boobs really were this big last time, my belly really was this huge.  It's almost as though, when Z died, a part of me felt that because I hadn't managed to deliver a living baby, that my pregnant and post-partum body was somehow imagined - or worse, a kind of fakery, when really - there was no baby to show for it.  As though I wasn't entitled to have all this odd bodily paraphenalia of pregnancy.  As though her death cancelled out the whole pregnancy and turned all our plans and love for her into self-delusion.  Here I was, impersonating a mother.  Back when I started this job, I thought of myself as an injured person recovering from a car accident rather than a new mother of four months.  I was so focused on getting back on track so that we could get pregnant again -  grief was an energy-sucking distraction, an indulgence.  

I look back and I'm shocked at my own cruelty to myself.  It took me quite a while, but I've now properly claimed that title of mother to Z.  While it still breaks my heart that she's not here and whole, revealing her two-year-old self to us, I'm proud of her.  And I feel like I've learned a huge amount about being a mother because of her.  That I can survive the unimaginable, that I can feel that awful and still be me - even if it is a weepier, more fragile me.  That things can be completely, irretrievably broken, and mundane or miraculous at the same time.  I'm kind of stunned that I had this depth of love within me - to love a child who isn't even here, who gives us no tangible sign of  response, and yet who makes love spill out of me in such a way that I have to lavish it upon the stars, earth, sea and air in the hope that maybe some of it will hit one of her atoms.  She has, exactly as I feared, made me into a bit of a grief-struck crazy-lady, but in a much more whole and connected way than I ever imagined.  I even have some fondness for my crazy-lady habits, because that's how I know that I'm her mama - because I'm the woman who pauses on the street to stick my nose right into the heart of the rose, and inhales, whispering, l love you, my darling girl.   

We're at the point where we are beginning to plan for all the things we'll need if Adzuki arrives safely.   It feels ridiculously foolhardy to do these things - to accept gifts of second-hand baby baths, to go to a breastfeeding preparation class, to start moving furniture so we can fit a cot in our room.  A voice in my head constantly harps, Don't you know what happened last time?  What makes you think you'll be needing these things?  And the truth is, we don't know.  Nothing can guarantee that he will come home with us, living and breathing.  But I also know now that if all the awful things conspired and he didn't come home, I would still love him and he'd still be our son.  I won't kid myself that one grief fully prepares you for another, and I am still terrified of all the possibilities for things to go wrong.  But being able to sit with those possibilities also enables me to let in the good possibilities, and to appreciate that right now things are wide open, that for now I get to feel every kick and try to be awake to it - to experience the aspects of the pregnancy that are similar to my pregnancy to Z, and also those which are completely different.

El Prima and I are getting impatient now - mid May feels so far away.  And we know from Z that it could all happen much sooner than that.  I'm trying to hold onto the realisation I had while looking at the clouds the other day - that even when it looks like nothing is moving, if you give it proper attention, you'll see the slow shift of things changing moment by moment.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2012

You know that fresh, clean bit of the new year, when it really feels like ages until you have to go back to work?  When you really do think this is the year you will get organised and do all those little things that need to be done?  Yep, well that bit is definitely gone.  And I'm afraid that all the blog posts that were on my list of things to be done have evaporated into thin air - chewed up by the busy weeks organising and then staffing at a summer camp for the girls. 

The camp was an amazing, intense week, which reminded me that actually, I can organise things, I can run a team, and I can build yoga and quiet time into even the busiest of days, and that I have a beautiful support network.  The camp is also near where Z's ashes are, so I was able to visit her everyday, which I loved.  But I'm exhausted from the 7am-11pm days and from coming home to big fights with El Prima and a chaotic house with 7 members of El Prima's family staying over - including in our bedroom.  I mean, I'm taking the fact that they now come to stay as a lovely acceptance of our relationship (at last) but seven people as well as the four of us who already live there in a three bedroom house with only one couch and very little living space is very difficult!  

El Prima's eldest daughter has also come to stay - very welcome after a long absence, and she's actually been the most helpful and thoughtful of all the guests.  The rest of the family have now headed home, and we've got our house back, but there's nothing like in-laws to put a strain on things.  (There were also some unintentionally hilarious moments - El Prima's older sister seeing that I was pregnant and asking in a semi-scandalised voice, "Does your father know?"  I thought she was quite restrained, given that she's suggested on previous occasions that she could find a husband in Lebanon for me.) 

In Adzuki news, everything went well on our 20 week scan. For the benefit of my dad, and anyone else who doesn't want to know Adzuki's sex, here is a little spoiler alert image so that you have to scroll down to find out.  Just imagine some "oooooh-wah-ooooooooh" thinking music like they had on the 1980s Australian TV gameshow Perfect Match...









Image (and context, should you wish to brush up on your 1980s antipodean game show trivia) from here.





Okay, ......................................  drumroll........................................

..............................

He's a boy!


We had quite a hilarious ultrasound operator.  First, she asked, "Is there anything you'd like to know about this baby?"  And while I was temped to reel off a long list starting with, "where does this baby stand on the middle east crisis / circumcision debates / global warming?" and constantly punctuated with "will we get to bring this baby home living and breathing?", what we actually said was, "yes, can we find out the sex?"







To which she replied, "Well, there's the scrotum!" 

I'll leave the visuals up to your imagination, but let's just say there wasn't really any room for confusion on that issue.  I responded in quite bad mother fashion by immediately bursting into tears.  Distraught, sad tears, I'm ashamed to say. 

Let me try to explain this.  We are so delighted.  We are so bloody lucky to be in this position, with a healthy looking Adzuki kicking around my insides.  But one of the reasons I wanted to find out the sex despite being a big believer in surprises and non-gender specific baby clothing was that I knew that I was somehow imagining a little sister for Z, and that I had invested a huge amount of energy into the idea of having a living daughter.  I knew I needed time to work through all the emotions tied to having either a boy or a girl.  I had been so convinced I was having a boy when I was pregnant with Haloumi / Z, and was so fond of that idea, that I really associated finding out she was a girl with first seeing her face - and that amazing surprise of seeing your own baby for the first time.  Having a daughter was this amazing surprise gift from Z, that I didn't even know how much I wanted, even if she couldn't live.  I know none of this really makes sense, but I guess when you know so little about your own child, you hang onto the small bits of info that you have got, and her sex was one of those things.  And despite me knowing intellectually that Adzuki has always been a different baby to Z, that Z is irreplaceable - gone forever as the baby that we knew her - knowing that he's a boy is a clear confirmation that no, she's not coming back. 

And poor little boys - they have so much crap to deal with in this world (I know, little girls too).  But all those stereotypes about sport, and being tough and preferring trains / cars / mechanical un-empathetic shit....  I know that's not the whole picture for little boys, and I'm glad that we have such a beautiful diversity of gorgeous men in our lives - from my dad and brother, to El Prima's nephews, darling poet / engineer / loving dad friends and husbands / partners of friends and all our beloved gay boyfriends, including Z and Adzuki's donor.  But just knowing opens up a whole new field of worry for Adzuki, and how he might navigate this messed up world.   

The day after the scan was new years eve, and the kind of hot, dry day where just walking from the house to the car made you feel like every bit of moisture was being baked out of you.  El Prima and I braved the late afternoon heat to visit the local pool for its last half an hour of evening opening.   I did backstroke under the dry blue sky and wept into the chlorine.  When I looked up again, the clouds had re-formed, and directly in my line of vision was the cloud shape of a new baby's face.  Here he is, this tiny boy, completely dependent on me, and all I can do is weep because he's not a girl.  I know this sounds very flaky, but I think that was Z and Adzuki, conspiring to rearrange the water atoms in the sky to remind me of who it is here in my belly - my beautiful little son. 


(Z's day on 27 December deserves its own post and is next in line, but suffice to say that I now think it is pretty significant that one of the songs I chose for her play list (we hadn't had the scan yet at that stage) was "Here comes the Sun".)