"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.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


here's what I've caught and dragged home this time.

This from Catherine, a poem from her daughter Olivia's memorial service:

The End

It is time for me to go, mother; I am going.
When in the paling darkness of the lonely dawn
you stretch out your arms for your baby in the bed,
I shall say, “Baby is not there!”–mother, I am going.

I shall become a delicate draught of air and caress you;
and I shall be ripples in the water when you bathe,
and kiss you and kiss you again.

In the gusty night when the rain patters on the leaves
you will hear my whisper in your bed,
and my laughter will flash with the lightning
through the open window into your room.

If you lie awake, thinking of your baby till late into the night,
I shall sing to you from the stars, “Sleep mother, sleep.”

On the straying moonbeams I shall steal over your bed,
and lie upon your bosom while you sleep.

I shall become a dream,
and through the little opening of your eyelids
I shall slip into the depths of your sleep;
and when you wake up and look round startled,
like a twinkling firefly I shall flit out into the darkness.

When, on the great festival of puja,
the neighbours’ children come and play about the house,
I shall melt into the music of the flute and throb in your heart all day.

Dear auntie will come with puja-presents and will ask,
“Where is our baby, sister?”
Mother, you will tell her softly,
“He is in the pupils of my eyes, he is in my body and in my soul.”

~ Rabindranath Tagore

And then this, from Zan:

To Impatience

Don't wish your life away
my mother said and I saw
past her words that same day
suddenly not there
nor the days after
even the ones I remember

and though hands held back the hounds
on the way to the hunt
now the fleet deer are gone
that bounded before them
all too soon overtaken
as she knew they would be

and well as she warned me
always calling me home
to the moment around me
that was taking its good time
and willingly though I
heeded her words to me
once again waking me
to the breath that was there

you too kept whispering
up close to my ear
the secrets of hunger
for some prize not yet there
sight of face touch of skin
light in another valley
labor triumphant or
last word of a story
without which you insisted
the world would not be complete
soon soon you repeated
it cannot be too soon

yet you know it can
and you know it would be
the end of you too only
if ever it arrives
you find something else missing
and I know I must thank you
for your faithful discontent
and what it has led me to
yes yes you have guided me
but what is hard now to see
is the mortal hurry

– W.S. Merwin, from Present Company, 2005, Copper Canyon Press

I feel odd, asking a little question into the quiet space of this blog, but let me experiment. Which poems do it for you? (and what is it they do?)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Little Sister Lionheart

Two hospital rooms, twenty six years apart. In one, I learned to read. Not to spell out letters or say the words - I'd learnt how to do that at school. But to read - to breathe in a story, to weave your own dreams from its dangling threads, to leap wholeheartedly and without realising you've leapt into another person's world.

The book was The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren - it still rates as my favorite book of all time.

It didn't strike me until a few years ago that perhaps a book that starts with two little boys dying might be considered slightly morose reading for seven year-old in hospital. But it wasn't morose, not in the least, because dying was just the kicking-off point for marvellous adventures for these boys in a world where they could fight dragons, and lead revolutions, and learn that sometimes, even people you loved failed you. This wasn't "heaven" and it certainly wasn't a cushy affair with clouds, harps and eternal life. In my pink pajamas and with my seven-year old certainty, I wasn't scared of dying then, and I didn't find out until years later what a close thing it had been for a moment there. But when my grandparents died, I thought of them as there, in Nangijala, going on with their slightly more adventurous lives and sending us a dove every now and then.

I hit a snag, though, in that second hospital room twenty-six years later, when the buzz of medical people doing things to various remote parts of me had stopped at last and I was left alone and with-it enough to think for the first time since the accident. My belly was still so swollen, but not with her - so where was she? We'd just farewelled her cold little face, so where was she - my moving, hiccoughing baby? Z was too small for adventures, too small for riding horses and fighting dragons. She was still too small to be away from me and my heartbeat, or to even know how the whole communication-via-doves thing works.

All I could think of was her howling, in a rustic-looking basket on someone's stone doorstep, and her little hands reaching up searching, and rustling the swaddling clothes. Someone would come, of course - but who? Some anonymous pre-modern wet-nurse? This was why I had to invent the idea of godparents, to populate her world with people we loved, who knew us and who could tell her how much we loved her, who could sort out doves for her. It kind of works, but it still feels like an invention. I've got nothing against delusions, if they work to make things feel okay, but perhaps this one of mine needs some finetuning. Maybe it needs to rest in my palm until the rough edges wear off and it becomes smooth and true.

Darling girl, we'd hoped your amazing beginning would be here with us, but since that time was so short, I love the idea that you are having an amazing beginning somewhere else, growing and learning, just like lhasa desela.

(thanks Kate for this post)

But really, I'm sure it isn't death that is such a difficult thing (she's through it, she's there, waving at me from the other side). It's the living without that is hard. Obvious, I'm sure, but true.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Irrefutable proof that I have already turned into my grandma

In an act of pure, leafy generosity, our camellia bush has burst into flower just as things have been extra rough. When everything else in the garden is doing its best dead stick impression, the camellia is relishing the cold and lavishing us with its pinky goodness.

El Prima has been sending me photos through the day at work just to cheer me up. I couldn't resist sneaking out in the cold morning and taking some photos. I don't think this counts as showing-off as we did absolutely nothing to deserve such a display - clearly she thrives on neglect.

I know! What is this - four posts within 24 hours? Unheard of. I think, though, it is a good sign. And thank you to A for pestering me about updating more regularly. You know who you are! Enjoy it while it lasts. xxxxh

Trying to make a baby by doing paperwork and having blood tests, part the three hundred and forty-one-th

Did I mention we're leaping onto that great roundabout again? Woo (excitedly restrained and slightly worried) hoo! We're discovering that the Victorian roundabout is a much more expensive and paperwork-bound one than the NSW one we left behind.

Oh how we long for the simple times of a 7am visit to our friends the vampire bees (aka fertility unit nurses at RPA - they take my blood and pollinate such blossoms as me who need help in the pollination department, you see). The NSW process did take an awfully long time, and wasn't terribly effective in the end (Halloumi was the result of our lovely donor collaborating in a sneaky home insemination, with El Prima doing the honours, after 8 months of unsuccessful frozen insems). But it didn't cost the multiple arms and legs that the Melbourne clinic seeks to relieve us of, and didn't require:
- a police check;
- a child welfare record check;
- an application for approval to a qango (if that is indeed what VARTA is);
- blood tests for El Prima (slightly odd, given that she's not undergoing fertility treatment); and
- enough forms to make a forest weep.

In addition, despite having been through a counselling process with our lovely donor back in Syd, we had to do it again, and have him come and give his consent *in person*, because Victorian ART law doesn't recognise NSW donor consents... The counselors and medical staff we've come across are all very apologetic, but there is no get-out-of-paperwork-free card just because we've already been through the process in NSW and lost our first baby.

But we do get a fancy booklet* explaining how my reproductive system works - so that makes it all worthwhile. I was wondering what that uterus was for... Cross fingers we get to put it to good use soon.

** PS
Dear Organon Generic Fertility Drug Company,

How kind of you to make us a little booklet about IUI (intrauterine insemination)! With diagrams! I was so excited to receive it, I didn't even care that all the pictures on the front, and back are of hetero couples looking hopeful and sly at the same time.

How helpful of you to tell us "which couples benefit" - listing the main indications for IUI as unexplained infertility, anti-sperm antibodies and mild endometriosis.
But I think you are missing a key indication for IUI here - how about: partner has no sperm-shooting penis, because she is a WOMAN? Certainly, most of the people I know using IUI would fit into this category.

You don't have to make the whole booklet about us, but I'm sure we give you decent market share - how abouts we get a tiny mention in your booklet? You do have a section entitled "whose semen?" after all - it could go in there - just before you do the suggestive up-sell about how donor insemination is an "emotionally difficult procedure" and this is why it is better to go for ICSI and IVF instead.

Ta very much,

H el R

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Funeral Appreciation

It's been a season of grief. Our own grief is becoming worn and supple, though it still catches at our heels, constrains the way we walk. We limp as veteran mourners into the new fresh grief of K & N and my cousin (whose husband of 22 years died suddenly two weeks ago). I'd never been to a funeral of someone younger than 60 before (how fortunate! what lucky planet was I living on?) - but we've been to two within a week now.

I now have a new appreciation for funerals - the time that goes into them, the importance of the small details, the careful, deliberate laying-down of ritual and memory. We sit on hard wooden benches, search for tissues, give much longer than usual hugs.

How precious it is to have a festival for the lost one you treasured - to put them in the centre, include them in the party one last time. At the funeral, two incompatible realities collide: "He is gone forever, we must say goodbye" and "he will always be here with us, in our hearts". Nothing can stitch those two opposites into a cohesive story, but this is the heaving, fractal reality. Instead we have to re-stitch our hearts around it - or let them break, brittle, on the floor. It hurts to stitch our hearts like this, when the needle goes in we think we cannot bear it a moment longer. We think everything our hearts are made of will shatter. Yet the laws of physics bend once again, and so do our hearts - sore and tortured by the thread - pulled painfully back into something heart-shaped.

I wished so much I could offer some sage advice to K & N on how to survive this loss, but the truth is that I'm no closer to finding "the secret" than they are. Surely, it isn't helpful to say, "If your loss is anything like ours, you will struggle to stay sane and find meaning, you will feel broken for a long time and your loss will creep its way into everything - your work, your sexlife, your friendships, and into the minutiae of what you wear and how you cook."

It is the truth - but it is also true that we have times when things feel good, when it feels like the edges are coming together and we can laugh.

And even if we did know the secret (I'm still hopeful) it would nonetheless be our secret to our loss, and would likely be helpless in the lock of their sadness.

I was so hesitant about coming back to Sydney - to look at these "before" places where the imprint of being pregnant and pre-accident is so fresh. But once we were here, things were nowhere near as raw as I had imagined. Yes, I was here before - we drove these streets in our now-dead car, my tummy rounded and living full of our now-dead baby. But things were wound-back then, and it felt good to remember that witless hopefulness and presumption that everything would be okay. We drove past our old house and parked across the road, and I thought of the last time we pulled the front door shut behind us.

We were sweaty and gritted with the dust that emerged from behind the furniture. It had been humid since I'd woken up in the summer morning dark, still filling boxes. From 8 weeks, Haloumi had been waking me early, but that morning it was my excitement as well as hers that propelled me out of bed - this was the day - the day we moved. After so many hours, our hands papered with corrugated cardboard and the sweetness of packing tape on our teeth, the truck had left - our things packed tight like tetris blocks. We'd tiptoed across the damp-mopped floors with the real estate agent to sign off on the condition report. The electricity company man had come and read the meter, and switched off the power. We'd wiped the place clean of our existence there.

The car was loaded with all our holiday things - I took it to fill up on petrol while El Prima and the girls walked to the chicken shop, and parked it across the road, its nose pointing west to the M5, and Melbourne. And we sat there - on the naturestrip across the road from our house (no longer our house) and had an impromptu picnic on the grass - relishing for a moment all the work of packing and the relief of finishing it.

I had worked so hard, and though at times my mum or El Prima or the removalists had told me to sit down and have a break, I felt strengthened by my very-pregnant state, not weakened by it. My belly was heavy, but even in my sweaty dirty state, sitting on the naturestrip eating take-away I felt like a trailer-trash goddess - beautiful and potent. Sitting in the car nearly seven months later with a saggy belly and our baby girl reduced to ashes, I could still feel the warmth of that December afternoon on the grass - gone forever, but always here.