Friday, October 26, 2007

Absence makes the heart grow fonder (and brings the babies out the woodwork)...

First things first, Woody is much better. It seems he was suffering from a "rare, but serious, side effect" to his cholesterol medicine. Who knew? He also has a bulging disk in his neck, so his problems aren't all solved. But at least he can hold a pencil!

So I spent last weekend in Baltimore for a conference. I was able to leave with the knowledge that although we didn't yet know what was causing Woody's problems, the MRI showed it wasn't anything truly terrible. Miss B is old enough to understand what was going on and to think nothing of it. Sister Goldenhair, on the other hand, was probably confused as to why her mommy got a little teary-eyed dropping her off that day.

This was the first time I'd ever been away from her for so long or such a distance. And while some people are able to put their parent side away for a time, I have no such ability. I thought about the girls constantly. I tried to enjoy my time away, but I found myself thinking about home and wondering what Miss B was doing in school or if SG was asking for me.

Baltimore has spent a lot of money trying to beautify the inner harbor area. At first it seemed quite picturesque. But then my inner mom took a good look and was properly horrified. Here is a picture taken in that area. Can you see the problem?

If you said, "Oh it's actually quite lovely." You probably don't have a small child, or at least if you have a small child you are likely not from a totally landlocked area.

If you said, "Holy crap! There's no railing! What in the world is supposed to keep kids from falling in the harbor and drowning?!"... Ah, welcome friend. Welcome to the world of panicked parenting! You're just one newscast away from a MRSA-induced panic attack. So the prospect of taking your child to a large, brown body of water unguarded by even a slight barrier is horrifying to say the least (I mean come on, not even a curb to keep strollers from rolling in? They're killing me!).

So while I am glad I did not have to worry about my kids taking a dunk in the harbor, I still missed them a great deal. And just when my longing was most acute, God would have a little fun with me. Cute babies were suddenly everywhere. Adorable toddlers abounded. Even beautiful little girls seemed to be coming from everywhere.

Even when I didn't see them, I heard them. Delicious giggles and sweet little voices floated in the air. Even frustrated cries in the shops were given a rosy tone. Happy or sad, those voices were music to my deprived ears. Like a homesick child at summer camp, I longed for the routine chaos of home.

It was hardest first thing in the morning and last thing at night. My evenings at home are spent snuggling with the girls and getting them ready for bed. SG and I have been singing "Baby Mine" together lately as I rock her to sleep (*sigh*). And mornings around here are pure magic to me. The girls end up snuggled in bed with Woody and I, dozing and tickling and just relaxing and playing before the day really starts. Oh how I missed this.

Despite all this I am planning to go to next year's conference in Chicago already. I did enjoy the opportunities to gain some professional knowledge and to get to know some coworkers better, and I do believe that it was good for the girls to have me go and come back. Maybe I will do a bit better next time around. But then again...

Monday, October 15, 2007

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me speaking words of wisdom, "Let it be"

I know, I know. Long title.

But it's a song that is stuck in my head today. I think it's trying to speak to me, and I know it is a message I need to hear.

In case it isn't obvious from my other posts, I am a worrier. It is an irresistible force to me; if there is a potential problem, I *must* worry.

Do I hear one of the girls coughing? What does the whooping cough and croup sound like anyway? Are there any active cases of TB around here? What exactly are the symptoms of the plague?

I'm flying to a conference for work this week in Baltimore (home to one of the highest rising murder rates in the country). And as you can see, nothing is ever easy with me. That's not entirely true, but you get the idea. My worries of late had centered on this trip. It will be my first real separation from Sister Goldenhair, and I will miss Miss B's field trip to the pumpkin patch. I have worried about making sure they have someone to watch them while Woody's at work on the weekend. I've worried about packing their clothes early, because Woody doesn't always check what Miss B packs (temps last week lingered around 60 degrees and she took shorts and a tank top to wear at Granny and Papaw's house).

But today things changed.

Woody had been having some pain and was diagnosed last week with an infection. He took a dose of meds and woke up the next morning feeling completely relaxed. We thought that the cramping he'd had must have left his muscles spent and weak. But Sunday saw no improvement, and Monday brought more problems. He arrived at work with no memory of the trip and couldn't grip a pencil. A trip back to the family doctor resulted in a same day appointment with a neurologist, which resulted in a Wednesday night MRI appointment. Words such as "quadriplegia" and "paresis" have been bandied about.

Mother Mary? Check please!

Just how do I let this be? I mean the advice sounds great, and if you're going to take advice from a song it might as well be a Beatles song. But it's hard to embrace letting go and letting be when I haven't fully explored the realms of worry in this scenario. I mean sure, I've explored several disturbing options. WebMD? Check. Stroke symptoms? First thing that came to mind. Muscular dystrophy? There are 8 types to read more about. Could we keep our house if Woody went on disability? I warned you that I am worrier (I plan to go pro after the Olympics).

This situation reminds me of when I was pregnant with SG. We had a test performed called the quad marker screen, and we got some wonky results. My OBGYN's nurse called me at work to give me the results:

"Mrs. Indywriter, I'm sorry but your quad marker screen showed an increased likelihood of trisomy disorders such as Downs Syndrome."


"Your doctor is out of town right now, but if you like you could talk to a doctor you've never met before."


"We've scheduled a level 2 ultrasound in about 3 or 4 weeks so you can get more info."


I was insane by the time I hung up. I broke down and called Woody, crying hysterically. We managed to get an earlier ultrasound, but I was still consumed with worry the whole time. And though the results were promising, I was never able to feel complete joy during the rest of my pregnancy. That fear was always hanging over me. I've never been the lucky one before, so why should I expect it when it really mattered?

As it turns out, SG is perfectly healthy. And I have a new OBGYN.

But now it's Woody who's sick. And I can see obvious symptoms of problems. So this time it's not in my mind. It's all real. I just don't know what *it* is. How can I not worry about something like this?

I know that I shouldn't worry. I know that it won't accomplish anything. I know that it won't likely be anything nearly as bad as I imagine.

My computer is playing random music from my library right now and "Have a Little Faith in Me" is playing. I believe God speaks to us through any means necessary, and I think I know what the answer should be. My faith should be enough to give me peace in times of trouble (yep, Mother Mary is still hanging around). But doubt creeps back in with alarming frequency.

(Okay God, the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark is on now. I must admit that I don't see the connection this time. And since the theme from Jaws is next, I assume you are looking to communicate through another medium.)

And so I will wait. And no doubt I will worry. Mother Mary will continue to speak to me, and I'll try to let it be. And I will learn to accept personal failures. And not worry about them. And the Father will hold my hand whenever I lose my way.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

On joy and grief

Recently we were thrilled to hear from our dear friends that they were expecting their second child. They had always wanted to have another baby, and she had been extra responsible in working to get as healthy as possible before trying. They were waiting to share the news with family until after a long-awaited trip.

My friend and I talked about the baby and how she wanted another girl. We talked about names and clothes and breastfeeding. She was planning how to make life with a new baby work for their family.

Sunday night she called me. I felt something was different from her greeting. And when she started to talk, I knew what she was going to say. I wanted to not hear it, but I knew.

They lost the baby.

At ten weeks pregnant people say things that they think will be comforting, but they aren't. The body knows when something isn't right. Women who are much farther along lose babies and it's harder when you're farther along. You can try again soon. At least it happened now and not later.

My friend summed it up with, "No one writes a eulogy for a ten-week-old fetus."

We met for lunch this week and she is holding up well. She has a tempest of emotion though bubbling beneath the surface. She confessed that she didn't know what was the appropriate way to grieve for her situation. A close friend of hers had lost a year-old child. So does that make it wrong for her to grieve as much as her friend did?

For all of her strength and toughness, she has the tender heart of a mother. I cannot say I know how she feels to have lost a baby, but I know the love of a mother's heart. It doesn't matter to a mother how old her child is, the loss is devastating. God willing, she will never have to experience something like this again, but that is the only way any of us can know the difference.

How can anyone say whether it's harder to lose a child you have held and kissed or the baby who is still physically part of your body and sharing your blood. This unborn blessing holds all the dreams of family and friends. The potential for anything was there, but is now gone.

I tried to comfort my friend as best I could. I didn't want to offer empty platitudes and generic tidings of sympathy. So I tried to explain to her what I wrote here, that her journey is her journey. She can only know what she feels right now, and God willing, she will never have a basis for comparison. But she can't worry if her grief is appropriate to others who only saw a fetus. She is grieving for a child, a confidant for her daughter, and a dream of infinite possibilities.

As her friend, I want to comfort her. As a person, I hope it never happens to me. But as a mother I grieve too.