Pregnancy and Infant Loss

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(Image via drjessicazucker.com*)

I have said some truly insensitive things to people. In all walks of life, in all situations. Most notably (right now), to people I love who have suffered a miscarriage. It is only in the last few years that I have even begun to understand the weight of my words and thoughts.

Before now, if I have not actually spoken asinine bullshit platitudes like “it happened for a reason” (with a follow-up of “it probably means there was something wrong with the baby”), or “at least it happened early,” or “at least you can get pregnant,” I can tell you that I have thought them.

But, instead of spiraling into an abyss of guilt and shame, I’m going to tell you that I’ve learned. I know better. I truly had no idea. It’s not an excuse, I agree. It has taken me years of life and experience to get where I am and be who I am now. Not all of that life or that experience is shiny. Some of it is tarnished and stained and ugly. It has to be.

What I am going to say is that I’m sorry. I know you’ve forgiven me. I know you love me. I know you understand that my intentions were good and I just fell into the societal norm of discomfort. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say. I just knew that you were hurt and I did not understand even the lick of the waves on the sand of the ocean of the depth of your devastation and loss.

I still don’t. That story is always different. But I do understand what it is to be a parent. I understand what it is to be a pregnant woman. I understand what it is to fear for the safety and comfort of your child every damn day.

I love you. I love you and I honour you and I respect you. Your children matter to me. The ones I can hug and the ones I can’t. They matter to me and I love and respect them. I always have, I just didn’t know how to express that. I’ve learned that, as with so many things, honesty is the best policy.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It is also, coincidentally, the month when I started studying to become a bereavement doula. These stories are important to me. The lives of the families who face these stories are important to me. You need support. You need shoulders to cry on, arms to lean into, chests to sob against. You need ears to moan, scream, cry, whisper, or be silent into. You need space to be held and silence to be comfortable. You need for the names of your children to be spoken with love and joy and admiration. You need to be recognized as parents, now and forever. You need someone to know. You need someone to hear you and to see you, all of you.

You need exactly what you need.

I love you. I love your family. I love your children. I love your love. I love that, while it hurts you to hear or read, you forgive us our platitude blunders because you know that we’re trying, we just haven’t quite made it to where we ought to be yet. I love what you accept and what you don’t. I love where you put your passion. I love you when you’re strong and I love you when you’re at the end of your rope on your very worst day. I love your beautiful, joyful, optimistic days, and I love your dark, dreary, soul-crushing days. I love you. Straight up.

Thank you. Thank you for trusting me with your story. Thank you for trusting me with the names of the children you lost. Thank you for sharing their pictures and their stories. Thank you for letting me be a part of your life and their lives. Thank you for your humble, beautiful, gentle patience and understanding. We’re learning together. Thank you for letting me learn from you and with you – about life and love.

Disturbed – The Sound of Silence

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*Dr. Zucker is outstanding. Visit her shop (here: http://shop.drjessicazucker.com/). Buy the things. All of them. (I have.)

Goodnight sweetheart, rest well.

buttercups

My friend died last night.

She was a thoroughly beautiful person. Generous, thoughtful, kind, sassy, considerate, bright, cheerful, patient, graceful, charming, creative, talented, loving, supportive, encouraging. The kind of person who makes you want to be a better you.

A tragic, senseless accident took her life (and the lives of two others – I am so sorry for your families and loved ones. So, so sorry) while she was en route to a community function (with a van full of children, who, blessedly, walked away from the scene with minor abrasions and wounds).

She left a loving husband and three stunning children behind.

I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to lay tribute to her and her family. Not properly. Not adequately.

I never actually met Rhoda. Not in person. I was never that lucky. I have known her for years though, more than a decade. We met on a message board for a fantasy author whose works we both enjoyed. Somewhere along the way, in one thread or another, we crossed paths. Through a few of those threads and posts, we became acquainted. After several shared private messages, and then years and years and years of instant messages, texts, Facebook updates, tweets, Instagram photos, and hand written letters, we grew really very close.

We also drifted. Life happens and I understand. I have grown and changed in ways I had not anticipated. Rhoda grew and changed in ways I had not anticipated, too. She moved away from what I had known of her and that was difficult for me, at first. But to look at her now, to see where life had taken her. Folks, it is exquisite. Here is a woman living her joy and her passion. She found a path, her proper, perfect, magnificent path, and she walked it with confidence. She was so calmly, quietly, bravely sure of herself and her family and their community.

I regret not pestering her more often. I regret not knowing her now the way I knew her then. I regret not knowing more about her beautiful children and her life with her husband. I regret letting so much time pass before beginning to get to know her all over again. And I deeply regret not stalking, and, subsequently, hugging her.

I can’t change that, but I can learn from it. I have to learn from it. I have to learn from it, because I am absolutely one of those “that which doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger” people. I have to be. If I wasn’t, this would be meaningless. This can’t be meaningless, it just really simply can’t be. Rhoda was too big to be meaningless. Too important. Her loss is too monumental to not mean something. To not leave something behind. So I’m going to hold onto it this way: I’m going to live. I’m going to remember, because my friend lost her life far too soon, that I have no idea when I’m going to die. No idea. So all of those plans I have that I push forward for one more day? They need to start becoming my today. It’s not always going to be realistic, I understand that, but I need to start trusting myself and not being afraid to step forward and actually live.

I need to look to Rhoda and her beautiful life and remember how much faith she had every day. I need to remember how fiercely she loved her family, her community, and her life. I need to remember how important life was to her. Not just hers, but the lives of others, too. I need to remember how gracefully she walked through life. I just always need to remember her.

A friend of ours, another beautiful soul, summed all of this up so much more succinctly than I can:

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(Names have been edited for privacy)

So. There’s really only one thing left that needs to be said here….

Rhoda,

You’re going to get to hug him first. Make it a good one. Then hug him again for me.

I love you, Beautiful. To the edges of forever, I truly love you.

Rest well.

 

I’m an exceptional quitter.

Aug 26.16

My @reallyactuallyapoet friend sent me information this evening. Information I was excited about. Jazzed. Really. I was pumped to spend my evening (with cake and ice cream and tea – because I can’t self medicate with liquor just yet) going through old flash fiction to find something to work with for a lit mag looking for submissions.

Then I sat down, tea and sugar close at hand, to survey and I became increasingly more uncomfortable. Uncomfortable to the point of considering retreat, of damn near turning the laptop off and going to bed.

Why?

Is it that I truly hate re-reading and editing old pieces, or is it that I would prefer to listen to the husky drawl of my Inner Critic? I kind of think it’s the latter. I don’t love editing, and, to be honest, I’m not really very good at it (and never have been). But that’s a shit excuse not to try, isn’t it?

I think the reason I want to tuck tail and run is because I’m afraid I might actually succeed some day. I’m completely prepared for rejection, because that’s a song and dance I know by heart. I’m okay to be told no. I want to be told no. If I’m told no, I can breathe a sigh of “I told you so” relief and just quit.

I’m an exceptional quitter.

But what if that voice is wrong? What if what I’ve been told my whole life is wrong? What if what I’ve been telling myself my whole life is wrong?

What if I did it? What if I picked something, worked it up, submitted it and was accepted for publication? Shit, what if I picked something, worked it up, submitted it and was rejected? At least I would have tried. Even assuming that I’d fail, at least I would have tried.

I don’t try. I’ve never tried. I just sit here, fidget nervously with this goal of writing, and do sweet fuck all with it. I blog here, I blog there, and I’m trying to break ground on a big project, but I take exactly none of it seriously. I was sourced out and asked to blog there due wholly because of what I’ve written here, but I still can’t call myself a writer. (Shit folks, I have a paid gig writing promotional material for a local indie and I can’t call myself a writer.)

I think I need to try. I need to stop with this whiny, self-deprecating “I can’t write” shit and try. Maybe I’m right, maybe I’ll fail miserably. Maybe I’m wrong and they’re right, maybe I’ll get a yes or two. Can’t know until I’ve put myself out there, right.

Fuck. I may have just talked myself into editing.

Goddammit @reallyactuallyapoet. Look at the time I’ve wasted trying to figure it out via blogging. If ever there was a day* I needed a rye/rum/gin….

Lupe Fiasco – Superstar

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*Seriously though. You should have seen the tantrums I witnessed today. Epic. Like, biblical shit. I’m exhausted having watched that.

 

 

A minor rant.

Anne Lamott

I don’t have a Masters degree. (Yet.) You wouldn’t think this would make me less of a human. Apparently it does.

Why do we choose to attempt to maintain relationships we shouldn’t? Why do I choose to do this? Even fucking nostalgia isn’t worth this shit.

It has gone from my (goddamn management) job being sniffed at haughtily – …because I don’t work in health care or education? (Except I do work in education…. ) – to being informed that my Masters degree of choice (yup) won’t land me a lucrative position of employment (a thing that has never been my driving force).

The icing was added to this decadent layer cake last week though, when it was patronizingly insinuated that I can’t write. That any non-fiction project I would ever work on would be an anecdotal farce. That because I don’t have education beyond a bachelor’s degree (which is still pretty fucking skookum, imo), I can’t research and build a network of contacts. That I don’t know shit about shit.

Please note: research and contact building are integral parts of most post-secondary degree programs. I don’t actually have a “BA in BS.” I have a BA in “lots of reading, lots of citation, lots of consulting people who know things about things, lots of putting my own goddamn ego aside, and lots of ‘I actually do know how throw a few sentences together’.”

Fuck sakes. I just can’t. Not anymore. These are “friends,” people. This is how I see myself. I think I am worth this bullshit. Fuck that. I’m done. You can look down on my job, you can assume that money is my driving force, and you can pro tip my educational choices, but you damn well cannot tell me that I can’t write.

Go fuck yourselves.

In other news: I have a beautiful human sending me writing contests and advertisements for publications accepting submissions on a weekly basis, I have been presented with a completely baller (writing) opportunity I hope to be able to gush about soon, and it was very recently suggested that I open a café in my neighbourhood. So it’s not all douchbaggary. Mostly it’s seriously wonderful people and events. But sometimes you just need to vent and drop $0.05 words in a glorious string.

Pantera – Fucking Hostile

UNT.

 

On Relationships: canine update.

So I wrote about my relationship with The Hellhound last week. (If you haven’t read it, you can find it here: On Relationships: not my best friend. In short: my dog and I need work.)

Oddly, I already have something of an update. It’s a good/bad update. Bittersweet.

We had a vet visit this morning. A regular check-up with a kennel cough vaccination and a de-worming (because the aforecalled asshole likes to eat compost at my in-laws’ house and who knows what she’s eating with it) thrown in for good measure. At the beginning of this appointment, as is customary, The Hellhound was weighed. It’s not polite to disclose her weight publicly, but it was discussed that she could stand to lose 7-10 of the pounds she currently carries. This isn’t so she looks prettier and accepts her body more graciously. She’s a dog, and a German Shepherd at that, it’s because if we don’t get this under control she could meet with any number of a laundry list of canine afflictions. (You wouldn’t think German Shepherds would be so at risk, they look – to me – like your standard dog’s dog, but they really are. Ugh.)

So! I have some pregnancy weight I’d like to shed. (You’re not allowed to comment, because it’s not your body, but this really is because I think I’ll look prettier and I will absolutely accept my body more graciously. This is something to discuss, at length, in another piece though.) Now we have even more of a reason to get our shit together and get out and moving.

This is going to be good. Nothing makes a person/dog more inclined to acquiesce to your suggestions quite like burning off their excess energy. It cuts out the bullshit and brings rationality back into play. …sometimes….

There you have it. My dog is overweight and I have some getting-into-shape that I’d like to do. Thank you, Universe.

And just because I think she’s pretty, here’s another photo of her (doing what she loves to do).

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Chris Daughtry – In The Air Tonight (Cover)

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On Relationships: not my best friend.

I have grown a number of really important relationships recently. After I became more myself, I began to take stock of my life and the relationships in it. I found new passions, I met new people, and I realized the importance of old people. Key people. I have been working on these relationships and have been blessedly successful.

That written, I do have a terrible plague of a relationship in my house.

My dog and I are not friends. We co-exist. She doesn’t listen to me and I tend to resent her.

When we brought her home, The Hellhound was my pup. She tailed me, wanted my cuddles and love, and wanted to please me. Not too long after that, as she grew into canine adolescence, she shifted her affections to my husband. That’s okay, he’s a pretty special person and I can see where she’s coming from. He also has a notoriously great relationship with dogs (German Shepherds, specifically). I didn’t resent that.

Bitter sweetly, The Hellhound is an exceptionally intelligent animal. She’s a pure bred German Shepherd from working lines with schutzhund champion blood. Even in her personality, she’s a working dog, not (ever) a family/lap dog.

Our problem, The Hellhound and I, is that she needs to be working and I don’t give her jobs. (I should note that no one does. We made promises of greatness, but after initial obedience and tracking training, we fell off the bandwagon. Hard. So while this is a group failure, I’m not going to speak for anyone else. And truth be told, Husband still has a good relationship with her. She still listens to him. …because she’s an asshole.)

This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed this, but it is the first time I’ve had a different schedule that may allow for some training/re-training and relationship re-booting, and it’s the first time that I’ve been really motivated to give this a(nother) go.

So.

I’m going to try to rebuild my relationship with my dog. I’m not sure what that’s going to look like just yet, not wholly, but I am enjoying the insights I’m reading in The Dog Listener (Fennell)*. This book, more of less, describes some of the psychology of dogs (especially as it pertains to their feral wolf counterparts and their group dynamics) and how that ought to fit into our (human) lives. That is, we (again, humans) may want to stop trying to humanize dogs. They just don’t work the way we do. They have a different structure, different priorities, and a different way of communicating. I think, once I get a handle on some of that, things might start to go better.

Along with that, we’re working on walking/hiking regularly. My dog needs more exercise (and so do I). I would also like to work in some agility, as she really dug that in obedience classes and it would help to work her brain as well as her body. With that, she’s a great swimmer, enjoys the water, and also needs to think hard when she’s neck deep in, so I’d like to bring her to rivers and lakes (of which we have many in my area). I am also planning to get back into tracking, another brain and body work out (which, just like my toddler, is the most tired-making option). Shit, she might even make a liar out of me and inspire me to start running.

What I need is twofold: a) encouragement, support and to be kept honest – help keep me on track, please. And b) help. I need ideas. I need ideas for jobs, for exercise, for ways to bond with her and gain her trust and affection back. I want this to work. She’s a beautiful, motivated, intelligent creature and I don’t want to keep letting her down. And, let’s face it, it’s going to help me to be a better me. This is a great relationship to build and maintain, I need the exercise as well, and it’s great for my brain, too.

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Queen – You’re My Best Friend

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*I’m a fucking hippy in my advance age. Good grief.

A room of my own.

A room of my own.

I has one.

Okay, I don’t love Woolf (I’m willing to give her another chance, largely because she’s a baller feminist icon…and I’ve grown since I decided that she’s not my home girl), but I really like the idea of a space to work. To write, to schedule, to plan. To work. A space of my own.

For the record, Natalie Goldberg (of Writing Down the Bones), who I do love, doesn’t agree: if you want to write, you have to cut through and write.  There is no perfect atmosphere, notebook, pen, or desk, so train yourself to be flexible.

I think the two viewpoints coincide. A person needs somewhere to work, somewhere they can work. What that looks like varies. While I agree that flexibility is important and it’s great to be able to work wherever you find yourself with time to work, I think it’s nice to have a home base. So, the flexibility of coffee shop, hotel room, waiting room at the doc’s office, or in your car while the light’s red, and then you come home to your quaint little whatever-works-for-you place of your own.

Last time I considered this, I lived in an apartment. (Some six years ago, or so.) It was a two bedroom apartment, but I didn’t have my own space (the nature of that beast). I felt creatively stunted – mostly because I was not in love with our living space. When we moved into this house, I had an earmarked room. A small not-bedroom/den-ish (because it has no closet) room. An office.

It worked well enough. My desk was there, my computer was there, we put in a few shelves and set some books on them. But I didn’t use it. Not enough. On one hand, I took it for granted. On the other, I wasn’t ready.

Now? I’m not sure I’m ready, but I understand the importance of the space more now. See, I lost it. For three years. Not to anyone, but to things. To boxes and to clutter. After TLM was born, everything else moved in. (Because this: right here.) Unused things, things we didn’t need anymore, transient things that didn’t have a permanent home. The door to the office was closed for a long time, because boxes attract spiders and fuck spiders.

No more.

Now my desk faces the window, the surrounding furniture is sparse, and the spider attracting clutter and boxes have been recycled, donated, and thrown out. There’s light, there are pens and pencils and markers (oh my!), there is only one shelf (for writing and doula books – because this is an office and writing and doulaing are my business).

There is baller chi in here now. It feels cleaner, brighter, more alive. I feel cleaner, brighter…more alive…. (I’m writing this from inside said space of my own.)

Wanna see?

Office 2016

(Why yes, that IS my doula bug-out bag on the back of the door. And the yellow framed paper is a Pinterest inspired DIY white board – that used to live in my at-work office – that says: Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly. – Neil Gaiman)

How about you? Do YOU have a space of your own? Do you need a place of your own, or do you do better in coffee shops, pubs, and park benches? Are you a bit of both? (I’m a bit of both. This office is going to be great, at least that’s how I feel this week, but I still thrive in local coffee shops. A change of scene is a wonderful thing.)

Barns Courtney – Glitter and Gold

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(I wish I had a before picture to show you guys. It was a fucking mess. Dust and boxes and disorganization and spiders. OMG. Spiders. Alive spiders, dead spiders, abandoned sticky messes of old spider houses. It’s a wonder I re-organized and didn’t burn that mother down.)