Thursday, August 21, 2014

Behind the Lens

Every now day holds differing amounts of pain and healing, progress and backsliding, acceptance and anger. However, yesterday was the day that I picked my camera back up again. It was nice to be reminded of the pleasure there was still to be found in little things that once held obvious and anticipated excitement for me. But nothing compared to the unexpected freedom that I found in the forced perspective of the tiny viewfinder, setting my sights on only what was right in front of me (and never mind the other baggage I always manage to fog up my attempts at happiness with). There are truly some beautiful things there to see.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Full Circle, Empty Arms

It's been quiet on the blog lately, quieter than ever. Somehow, I've let over two weeks go by without returning to what used to be- for me- a familiar and fulfilling spot behind my keyboard. And I could give a myriad of reasons for it, but in retrospect it seems the dates are most compelling of all.

The twentieth of July featured my most recent Mobile Moments post. I wrote it almost two weeks after finally hearing the heartbeat of my newest baby, a moment which I agonized over finally being able to experience, and one which I'd hoped would chase away the dreadful anxiety that had plagued me ever since that long-hoped-for pregnancy test finally showed a positive result. Sadly, it never did. As the weeks went on, my apprehension only grew until it clouded much of my motivation. Ultimately, I began to lose much of my creative impulse at around the time I lost my child. I squeaked out that last attempt to keep up with my once-a-week minimum about six days after the tiny little heart ceased to beat.

Not that I knew it then- not right away. This was to be a pregnancy of hope, healing, renewal, and completion. The fourth child, which we had intended to plan for at some future date, seemed destined to come upon us sooner as we struggled through the grief of our lost one, and found strength in the promise of a second chance. The timing seemed a little crazy, but right. I was getting older, as were the kids. We wanted them all close together, rather than having three so similarly aged with one straggler notably further behind. I feared, above all things, another miscarriage, of which the risks would only increase as I aged.

To some degree, I thought I was playing the numbers, and I lost horribly.  On August fourth, just five days shy of Chickpea's due date and three days after the bleeding first began, our little Jellybean was evacuated from me in the peaceful, orderly fashion of a scheduled D and C. This time, we actually made it to the procedure that was supposed to have been organized for me in the stead of the nightmare that was my terrifying miscarriage with Chickpea, but left me feeling equally (if not more) traumatized for all of its predictability.

I imagine that no experience of loss is quite the same as another, but the ways in which these two differed were quite stark, indeed. It seemed for quite some time that the greatest part of the tragedy with Chickpea was how stubbornly my body held onto the pregnancy long after the baby was gone. It was hard to reconcile the differing reports (that all led to essentially the same conclusion) of non-viability with the persistent nausea, fatigue, and abdominal growth as the weeks went on. More than that, it was difficult to stomach the knowing-while-not-knowing. I had a clear sense of impending doom but no clear answers for weeks on end.

This time, though the doom began from day one I could not immediately see it for what it was. Truthfully, had circumstances turned out differently I suppose I would have waved it away as needless but understandable worrying. Now, knowing the story's end, I wonder instead if it was truly a mother's intuition. I don't honestly know. I only know that the stubborn anxiety turned to slow-growing terror in the beginning of my tenth week, as the nausea mysteriously disappeared along with much of the fatigue and general sense of "being pregnant." Most mysterious foretelling of all, I found myself feeling profound sorrow in the presence of other pregnant mothers, rather than solidarity in the shared miraculous experience.

I would later discover that this began to happen about two weeks after we lost our Jellybean, so named in honor of his or her potential "Rainbow" status (what should have been a successful birth after a loss, the rainbow after the storm), when my HCG levels eventually dipped below some critical point. It was not until I began bleeding late on a Friday night after a long evening, however, that the reality really started to become clear.

I drove to the urgent care appointment alone, neither clinging to hope nor succumbing to despair, but firmly fixated on the route that I must take to get the answers I sought. Though I gave into fear and desperation among a string of whispered Hail Marys as I awaited an ultrasound scan in a dark, curtained corner, I can't say that I was terrifically shocked by the terrible news it held for me. My quiet protests and gasps of final understanding were muted in a deep-seated sense of defeat that I suppose had claimed me long before.

Once all was confirmed, however, the pain was no less than I had anticipated. Indeed, it was more. Where before there had been confusion and the smallest bit of relief at finally having answers, now there was anger and denial. We had a heartbeat this time. We had a less than 5% chance of loss. We should have been in the clear. This absolutely shouldn't have happened a second time in a row. Not now, not when this pregnancy was supposed to help us heal.

The tiny heart was beating swiftly at seven weeks, three days, but final measurements indicated that it continued to do so for only one week more.

Not now, not ever.

And yet...

Yet now I've come full circle, in some terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad way. What seems in retrospect to have been a half-cocked, questionable attempt to quiet the wailing in my soul has only left it feeling twice as empty. The pain of reaching the due date, which I'd hoped to counter by focusing on the new life inside of me, left me near-catatonic at moments instead, fresh as I was from being forcibly ripped out of a pregnancy once again.

Now that day, too, has passed, and I'm counting down to a different due date, one in which I can't even forsee the circumstances. Will I have found the courage to try again by then? Will I want to?

I have no answers, only questions.

But where there is sorrow, there is also joy. I need not look far for it, especially now that my littlest living one has finally been returned to my breast after the five agonizing days of potentially harmful medications that kept us apart at the most cruel of times (or so it seemed). Though I will forever wonder about the myriad iterations of my beloved Tom and myself that might have appeared in the features and personalities of my lost angels, I do still have three vibrant combinations to love and appreciate. This I know.

I try to remember that as the little things come to steal my contentment away. Glimpses in the window reflection where I used to compare my belly's growth to the day before. Fresh memories of mornings spent on the basement sofa, consumed by a nausea that proved to have been suffered for naught. Recently-used maternity pants still draped over furniture in the bedroom. Flashes of hoped-for plans. Nearly-full boxes of Zofran, with tablets set aside for those queasy days that I needed to actually function. Snatches of conversations about the future, come back to haunt me, that seem silly and irrelevant now. The terrible tangibility of the sorrow that I felt on that desolate wheelchair ride out of the surgery center, empty arms tightly clutching a purse over where a baby should have been. The sense of blasphemy that I feel when I hold a wine glass to my lips, forbidden as it still was not so very many days ago.

Blessedly, my arms do not stay empty for long around here. My heart, however, could do with some coaching. Perhaps my biggest regret of this pregnancy will always be that I feared too much to commit my love to the baby inside. It's only now that I realize how fleeting was my opportunity to give it.

It is my most fervent hope, dear Jellybean, that you can feel it now.