Saturday, June 30, 2007

Mute

When I open my mouth,
what do you hear?

Are my words as mangled and
torn

as the heart
from which they come?

Do they sound as distant and
shallow

as the soul
or the mind
or the senses

that project them?

Tell me,
is my sentiment as thin
as my translucent skin

as wavering
as my softened spine

can you even tell
that I am crying
out
below the surface
steeping my lungs
slipping into the murky
shadows
deep
beyond
reach?

Litterbug

I am not a confrontational person.

My husband would disagree with that, but in general, I do not like getting into face-to-face arguments or debates. I do much better at proving my point on paper than in person. I tend to withhold comments, often lacking the "right" witty thing to say in retort or as a snide aside.

Today I saw something that struck me so fiercely I was moved to "speak."

I waiting in a left turn lane to enter the parking lot of the library so I could return a book. The man driving the blue Kia in front of me lowered his window and tossed a couple of used paper napkins out the window. Now, being a little bit of a conservationist (or wishing that I really was), I was annoyed, aggravated and incensed at this man's disregard for the planet. We both turned into the parking lot and I struggled with the urge to stop him and say something, versus the nervous fear of confronting him. The fear won, I entered the library, put my book in the slot and thought that if I passed him outside I would say something cutting and witty.

He was too quick for me, and had entered through another door.

Disappointed, I went back to my van. I pulled out of my parking space and looked at his car, debating on the idea of leaving a note (much easier than making eye contact). Then I noticed it.

An empty fast-food bag shoved under his little car.

I pulled into the next parking space, whipped out my pen and notepad from my purse, shakingly scribbled a note, got out of my car, grabbed that Taco Bell bag, and put the note and the bag under his windshield wiper.

That ought to teach him.

Except my note was nasty. I wrote, "Do you think this world is your trash can? Next time put your trash in the bin, you lazy, filthy slob."

Am I a bad person? No really, am I?

I think my karma is tarnished with this one.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Mending

When you're dreaming with a broken heart
The waking up is the hardest part
You roll outta bed and down on your knees
And for the moment you can hardly breathe
Wondering was she really here?
Is she standing in my room?
No she's not, 'cause she's gone, gone, gone, gone, gone....

--John Mayer


I've always known exactly what sex my children will be. Even those that I lost early, their gender was clear and known to me. Hubby and I never wanted to know the baby's sex ahead of time, so during the ultrasounds we asked the technicians to not reveal anything. With both of my girls (the only ones to grow large enough in the womb to have the mid-pregnancy ultrasound), the tech said, "Oh, well, the legs are crossed so I can't tell anyways." Whether or not that was true, only she knew, but it was a fitting excuse to keep us from changing our minds at the moment and finding out something that we really didn't want to know.

We didn't need to know anyways. We both felt from their presence who they were, and what, though that was incidental. Neither of us has ever expressed the overwhelming desire for a boy, or a girl. We always say, "We don't care what it is, as long as it's healthy." We have been blessed with two healthy, female children. What more could we want?

My father-in-law is descended from not-too-ancient royalty, a family stripped of title and land by the Communists, yet not stripped of pride or memory. Even the family name is in dispute, unusual for its origins and yet a time capsule of each past era that has worn it, through battles, capture, prisons, victories, liberations and freedom. This family that has had many strong and notable ancestors in their part of the world has descended by generations into a present standing of four granddaughters and one grandson (who doesn't have the last name his mother--our cousin--did). My father-in-law wants nothing more in this world than to have a grandson to carry on the family name.

So what more we could want would be to have another baby, a little boy to love and teach and grow into a smart, strong, sensitive (like his father and grandfather) man.

My first child was a boy. He came to me in a dream, in the blue sky, in the rush of winds around me when I would go on walks around our condo where we lived at the time. I knew I was having a boy, without any need for confirmation from a ultrasonic window to his environment. But he left me at 9 weeks, just long enough to have bonded himself to my heart. When he left, I felt the sheet of his soul that had enveloped me, protecting me, tear away from my skin, leaving little bits behind stuck to me and taking little bits of me away with it, as it was sucked into the void. I was alone again, so so lonely for that week of pain, then the week of emptiness that followed. My son, the only one so far, was gone and I was left, drained and bleeding.

With a little apprehension (okay, a lot) and lots of placating reassurrances ("don't worry, it won't happen again, it was a fluke"), I got pregnant again two months later and met my first daughter on her due date. Textbook. She was there to show me, "This is how it is supposed to happen, Mom." My beautiful, my sweet, my sensitive daughter who lets everyone into her heart and cries uncontrollably at sad movies, she is my rock and my roots. She revealed herself to me in a sunset the week after we passed the earlier milestone that had me holding my breath for almost two months. One evening as I got home from work, a reflection in the second-floor condo window caught my eye and I turned to the west. Pink-lemonade stratus clouds shot from the horizon to over and above my head. The ribbons of light seemed to reach towards me, stretching out their gentle and airy fingers to touch me. She was there, safe inside me and yet speaking to me from the outside. My girl, my girl.

My stubborn second came wished for, wanted, but not obediently or easily. The positive test was elating, but the memory of the boy weighed me to the ground. At six weeks, when I started spotting, it was as if my heart had leapt into my throat and jumped out onto the floor. I was nauseous, and didn't know if it was from the hormones or the fear. I went to the doctor the next day, and they confirmed a heartbeat and admonished me to rest for a few days in the hopes that the bleeding would pass. It did. She was resolute and stayed. She also deceived me. She told me of herself in a dream, but my waking feelings were conflicted. I allowed myself to listen to the family members who examined my belly for its shape, pointiness, height, breadth and announced it to be a boy. Instead of convincing me, she led a tease inside. She let me vaccillate between convictions, and finally she wrote her birth story as a lesson in extremes. Born on the day of the worst storm of 2003, she is a tempest and a jester, a confidante and a lunatic. I love her with a love that I have never felt for anyone else, ever.

Last summer, I let myself feel things that did (and still do) give me shame. We weren't careful, we weren't planning, and I missed my period. For the first time in my life, after eighteen years of careful birth control and even more careful conception, I was unexpectedly pregnant. The timing was bad. The situation was bad. That my husband was working out of state and we didn't know what was going to happen with our future was bad. I was happy, hopeful and overwhelmingly, distraughtingly, scared. I had a hard time bonding. The voice inside was small and quiet. "It will be okay. We'll figure it out." My girls, unknowning yet full of intuition, one day tossed pennies into a fountain and wished for a baby sister. It was to be. I was shocked. They told me what we were having, without having even been told that another was coming. Another girl. The fourtune teller was right.

But not.

One morning I woke up feeling strange. Not feeling pregnant anymore. The day before, I told a close friend, finally ready to start sharing the news and facing the questions, like "How will you do it with two kids at home and a husband out of town?" After telling her that day, I felt my stomach ease and attributed it to relaxing of the nerves. By the next day, I knew that it was over.

When you're dreaming with a broken heart
The giving up is the hardest part
She takes you in with your crying eyes
Then all at once you have to say goodbye
Wondering could you stay my love?
Will you wake up by my side?
No she can't, 'cause she's gone, gone, gone, gone, gone....


If I hadn't taken a test last month, I wouldn't have known I was pregnant. If I had been only relying on morning temps, I would have seen my luteal phase temp drop on the day of my period and have thought that the strange signs of the last few days were PMS. But I did test, three times in fact. I did know. And I did miscarry, again.

Where there is defeat, there is also solace. At least it was early and I didn't experience the pain that I had before, last year and seven years before that. But the solace is meager and shallow. Now there are more losses than gains. More angels than children. More fear than confidence. Less time. Less time. Less time.

Mortality is a really hard concept for me to grasp. To accept. I worry too much about dying before I've served my purpose. But I try to be a good Catholic. I say my Hail Marys from the deepest parts of my heart. My soul loves Jesus. The parts of me that are empty, are filled with the words of the bible. One of yesterdays readings at Mass was Psalm 139:

You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb.
I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew;
my bones were not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes foresaw my actions; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.
How precious to me are your designs, O God; how vast the sum of them!

I have always loved this psalm. It first touched and filled me at a retreat after my first miscarriage. It is the beacon sent out by God's lighthouse when I am on the sea of uncertainty. More than anyone else, He is the one who knows me and guides me.

The Gospel was Luke's story of the birth of John the Baptist. Elizabeth named him, and by a miracle at that moment, his mute father regained his speech and confirmed his name. It is an amazing passage, full of wonder and foreshadowing. You can read all of yesterday's readings here: http://www.usccb.org/nab/062407b.shtml

The homily is what really got me. The visiting priest spoke of knowing yourself, who you are in this family of the church. He gave us an acronym: J.O.Y. "Jesus first; Others second; Yourself, third." Who have I been thinking of so much lately? Myself. Jesus first, others second. Hard to do.

He talked about abortion and NFP. How contraception and birth control are examples of putting yourself first. How if we put Jesus first, NFP is easy and normal. How children are to be welcomed and God's will allowed to be done.

Well, HERE I AM, DO YOUR WILL!

It was another moment where that diseased thought comes up. That double-edged question, "Why me? Why not me?" The one where I can't help wonder, "Why are so many babies being born to people who don't want them, and why can't someone like me who wants one, have one?"

The priest challenged the congregation to pray on these words before they challenged him with their opinions on abortion and birth control. He said he knew there were people who disagreed. I wanted to stand up in church and shout, "I AGREE. HERE IS SOMEONE WHO AGREES! WE WANT A BABY! WE ARE TRYING NATURALLY!"

I kept my seat. And listened. As he spoke, I watched this family two pews in front of us. The mother was there with her four children, one who I taught as a sub in the religious education program and two who I have baby-sat in the church nursery. I noticed them, recognized them, smiled and waved when they recognized me. The youngest, a two-year-old boy named Randy, patted his mother and lifted his arms in the "uppy" sign, and she lifted him in her arms. He laid his head on her shoulder and gave me the most contented smile, blissfully happy and calm to be in his mother's arms.

I melted from that smile. And suddenly, something opened up in my heart. A feeling entered, and I realized that what was holding me back from really grasping this desire, from letting go of my worries (do I really want another needy baby? what if it's not healthy? what if I'm too old? what will happen to my doula business?), that my biggest obstacle was that I was set upon having another girl. I have been wanting another girl. I have been afraid to be the mother of a boy. It has been easy to claim to have had a son, even though he was lost yet feel his presence around me, and be somehow, strangely satisfied with that.

I am a girly mom. I love their clothes and shoes and toys and sassiness and spunk and sensitivity and joy. I love how they come to me and I can tell them how to grow up a girl. I have always wondering how I would handle having a boy. Boys are so hard. Boys grow up and get into trouble and forget important things like birthdays and calling their mothers. Boys are rough and endless mysteries to me. I am married to a man who I love, yet to have a son like him? I wouldn't know what to do.

So my epiphany yesterday, after all this angst, is that to open myself to having another baby, I have to open myself to having a son, and mothering a son, and giving my heart out again. Little Randy's smile told me that he loves his mama more than anything in the world. I had forgotten about that, that boys are mama's boys. That no matter how many moody fights you get into with your daughters, that boys will always honor their mothers.

I have to let go of my expectations. Of conditions. Of saying, "As long as the baby is healthy. As long as it's..." What would it matter what the gender? Or if we have a baby with Down's? What is the point of saying "As long as" when it doesn't matter what happens? Everything else--gender, chromosomal makeup, whatever--doesn't matter. So what if I have six years worth of girl clothes in the garage saved for the next girl. We get rid of them. Oh well. No more conditions, no more asking for specifics.

Maybe this was what God was waiting for me to realize. Maybe not. But hopefully, this little bit might be enough.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Rim

How far?

How far is it to the top,
a small voice asked.

This canyon is deep, we have descended
as far as we can
go.

It is as far up as down,
the other voice answered.

But farther is the way you must go,
the closer is
unscalable.

Grief can not make you any lower

than lying down
flat.

I am prostrate in
the sand
the walls rise
above
stretching
craning
the edge out of my reach.

I do not want to climb.

Carry me out. Pour me down.
I am out of trying.
Time is the enemy.

deceitful
spiteful
teasing
callous

The lover waits patiently,
spends the hour
watching the shadows bend,
her paramour
comes late,
exalts her for
waiting.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

My Beast

How do you not compare yourself to others?

In reading Shape of a Mother today, I found a recent entry from a woman at 37 weeks bearing her third child, from twelve pregnancies. Nine lost children. Nine. She certainly deserves a lot more pity than me. Yet I wanted to weep, and not for her.

Nine. I can barely handle three, and those weren't as bad as for my niece, who lost two, including a stillborn at 23 weeks and a molar pregnancy at 10 weeks. She nearly had to go through chemotherapy for the resulting tumor, but it resolved in time. She now has a two-year-old daughter and no more plans for children. She's not even thirty yet.

Since last August's miscarriage, two feelings compete within me about having another child--the desperate fear of another loss, and the desperate want of another pregnancy. The second has been winning, the voices inside saying, I need to grow another child. I need a homebirth, MY homebirth. My children NEED to number three. My girls need another sibling--one each is not enough.

I visited Jacksonville eleven years ago this month. I was treated to an expenses-paid trip for niche-market editors, by the Convention & Visitor's Bureau, to entice us to write about their destination in our publications. (We were publishing Latina Bride then.) They took us to a popular beach festival, Fiesta Playera. I paid a fortune-teller five bucks to read my palm. I sat in the white tent, nearly fainting in the heat, missing the girl's words (she couldn't have been older than 19) for trying to catch the breeze sneaking in through the flaps. What do I remember from that ten minutes? That I have a short life-line, broken and feathered, telling of future illness and early demise. And oh, "you will have three children, all girls."

I have lived my life since then all hung-up around those words. How silly of me.

Paranoia feeds on the littlest details. Big deals don't mean much--they are too obvious, too loud and verbose when speaking to dark minds. No--subtle trends, false starts, small aches, tiny incongruities, pale hunches, ignorant slights, these things are what feed the monster of the deep, the lurker in the dark, the hulking sulking waiting breed of fear that hides behind rational feelings with its mouth wide ready to devour them and leave just fear and the urge to flee in its place.

The easy way would be to say that I'm done. No more pregnancies. No more miscarriages. No more... tears... hope... butterflies... babies... children...

What would be left? Disappointment. Fear. Pain. Failure. Broken-ness. Regret.

So I pull together every ounce of resolve, apply a numbing salve, drop the trap over the cave, shush the voices and follow the path on my palm, to try again.


I beat my fist
on my chest

the hole made there
weeps
moans

a voice cries out through it
NO!
No more!

How could I feel my
stomach in my throat
when all inside
is empty?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Mom's closet(s)

So we came home from California with a vanload of vintage (read: 60s & 70s) clothes from my mom's closets. She has seven, yes seven (7), closets full of clothes in their three-bedroom home, and sending several big bags of clothes with me barely made a dent.

Some of the stuff is not even fit for rags. I was taking everything she pulled out just because her closets desperately needed the culling. But some.... wow. I think some vintage resale stores might be interested in authentic old school tees and shirts like Disney, Izod Lacoste, and Wonder Woman, to name a few.

Does anyone know of good, local stores to take this stuff to? I was thinking of Buffalo Exchange, not sure where else that takes funky, eclectic, vintage.

Your suggestions, please?

Friday, June 8, 2007

(un)Fair

It's the next to last day of our vacation, and the surrealism of life floating around me is starting to disapate, floating and falling on me softly like ash descending on the valley below a blazing hillside. The reality of the early miscarriage last week feels ephemeral, postponed, delayed into an entraped and suspended state of being, like a moment caught in a bubble that pops and splatters just outside your reach, denying you the sensation of the tiny, filmy spray.

But fancy descriptive words and complex similes are not enough, not real, not fitting. The real feelings are as sharp as the edges of the bits of seashells we found on Venice Beach--ragged and tricky. "It wasn't a real pregnancy." "It was over before it started." "At least you already have children." "Other people have more miscarriages and never have a child." "At least it didn't go any further if there was something wrong." "Other people have preemies who suffer pain and disability their whole lives." These voices (in my head) tell me how lucky (or unlucky) I am. I listen. I hear. I am numb, but I still hurt.

Five pregnancies. Three miscarriages. Two children. Thirty-five years. Advanced maternal age. Do I qualify as having secondary infertility? Why do I have to? What if I don't?

Monday, June 4, 2007

Venice Beach

We spent the day on Venice Beach today. The weather was about 70 degrees. I'm so glad I brought sweaters from home b/c we used them! The sky was overcast with a thick marine layer near the coast. Inland, the air was clear, hardly a hint of smog over LA. The girls went crazy running around in the sand, digging with rocks and finding shells. We spent some time chasing waves--my little Aquarius was so enamoured with the ocean that the chill of the water didn't even bother her.

After brushing off the sand and changing clothes, we headed over to the Boardwalk and strolled down Venice Pier. I told my family stories about how my dad used to spend his afternoons fishing off that pier when he was a kid. We watched surfers and wakeboarders roll around in the breakers. The girls had gotten their sweaters wet, so hubby and I gave them ours. One guy walking towards us stopped in his tracks, pointed at my little one and cried out, "She looks like E.T.!" We all got a great laugh out of that!

Without my sweater I was freezing cold. I thought of my friends at home in Phoenix and wished some of the coolness eastward. Did you feel it?

We stopped in Starbucks one block from the beach. E, in all of her friendliness, spotted the hottest guy in the coffee shop and flirted with him in her four-year-old way.

A friend from my old job met us at the beach for a quick rendez-vous, and we had dinner with another friend and her boyfriend. She's expecting a baby in August and they had all kinds of questions for me. I will miss that birth but another close friend will be there and they promise to call me right away.

It's hard to be back home in California and get such small amounts of time with friends and family. We passed by our old house and it set my older daughter off weeping. She still has memories of it. What a bittersweet trip. I both love and miss LA, yet some things quickly remind me of why I don't miss it all that much.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Full Circle

How many people find themselves being presented, at age 35, with the pink-slip to their first car, the one that they helped choose, fix up and learned to drive on almost 20 years before?

I did. Today.

We were at a party at my sister's house, a going-away party for her son's best friend who is moving to Oregon with his wife. My nephew's friend, A, had bought my old '68 Volkswagon Beetle from my dad after I abandoned it to him in college. This Bug had a leaky sunroof, a home spray-can paint job that rubbed off with every wash and a heater that never really worked. The wipers had two speeds: slow and off. The radio rarely got any stations in and the entire headliner was missing.

A had bought the car for a dollar from my dad. I thought it was cool that he was going to fix it up better than when I had tired of it. It leaked oil and ran through brake fluid. It ran, sounded and coughed like a Bug. I drove it for five years, bent the bumper, dented the fender, ran it out of gas and pushed it out of traffic myself too many times.

Unfortunately, A's plans for it never materialized, what with his busy schedule and lack of funds. So it sat for a while, sad and neglected. When my hubby had heard that A & his wife S were moving to Oregon, he planted the germ of the idea--"Sell it to me, I'll restore it."

Today was the farewell party. A & S are leaving in two weeks. We happened to be visiting SoCal this week and were glad to see them before they go, since who knows when we will see them again and they are good people.

Hubby said, "A wants to talk to you." I was surprised, then there he was with the Certificate of Title in his hand. "The Bug is yours again. Here's the pink-slip. I've already signed the back." I was flabbergasted. Completely shocked. I now re-own my first car. "How? What? Why?" They revealed hubby's suggestive questions, the day's earlier cash exchange of two dollars. With a sly smile, A boasted, "I doubled my money!"

And we paid twice as much as he did, for a car that doesn't work, no engine, replaced doors, the fenders in the front seats, and plans to restore, rejuvenate and revive an authentic gem that hopefully will be my daughter's first car in a few years, when it will be unique and cool to have a classic Bug that coughs and sputters and whirrs and skates down the road.

Errata

Latin in title of "Infectum Opus" was corrected.

Removed a comma from "Helpless."

Score: Grammatical OCD, 2. Me, 0.

Tick Tock

Mother's hands.
She always took good care of her hands.
Nails perfectly filed.
Smoothed by Yardley's,
Protected
from

dirt
grime
hard work
stubborn cans

these hands of hers never did more than
she would let them.

Shit! she cried.
I broke a nail, she
complained.
(She was standing next to me
washing a pot at the sink
in my sister's kitchen,
caressing it clean in her
compulsive way)

Do you have scissors? she inquired of
everyone at the party
To trim my nail?

My dad produced something to clip off the broken
bit.

OUCH! She screamed! You hurt me!

Pouting, she turned to
me.

Don't you have scissors?

Clippers yes, mom. I have clippers,
and I produced them.

But I need scissors!

What for? Can't you use clippers?

No, she responded
flatly
smallishly.
I've never used them. Only
scissors

(I remember her nail scissors,
I know where they lie in her
bathroom above
the toilet,
I used them yesterday to snip a tag off
a gift she gave her granddaughter,
my child.)

Here mom, let me.
I take her hand, turn it over, find the split.
Sternly I say
Now don't move!

And I trim her broken nail
in the same way
I trim my daughters',
she looks up at me,
gratitude in her eyes for the first
time
of my life and

time

moves
on.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Infectum Opus

A poem started,
rhythm considered,
rhyme pondered,
stanzas metered.

The play's first scene blocked out,
understudies rehearsed,
actors performed.

The novel's plot outlined,
the epilogue signed,
first chapter written.

A symphony's opening movement composed,
cymbals clashed,
trumpets shouted,
cellos moaned.

Then the poet rubs out the verse,
the playwright crumples the page,
the author puts down his pen,
the composer hears a different note,
leaves the work,
and starts over again.