Friday, 4 September 2015

Eating my words and exiting stage left

'While infertility and loss will always be a part of who I am and are crucial to my parenting journey, the version of me residing in these posts doesn't reflect where I am with life right now'.
'This space has become like any other mommy blog, and that's not who I am/the world doesn't really need another one of those'.

'I always felt compelled to write from a place of sadness/grief/anger/<fill-in-the-negative-emotion>, and with things going well, I struggle to find the motivation to record meaningful thoughts'.

'Life is so full, busy and happy, that I simply don't find the time to write, and even if I do, I worry that my posts are trite or frivolous'. 

'I'm not sure how maintaining this space can be a source of support to others still actively pursuing treatment/living children/resolution'.

'I feel like almost everyone from my 'cohort' of ALI folks, those who supported me in the depths of my struggle, has (happily!) graduated to parenting living children'.

In two year of lurking on ALI blogs, and nearly three (!) of keeping this space myself, I have heard variations of all the above, the inevitable soul-searching and musing on wither the ALI blog after living kids.

And here's a confession: reading any of those, in days past, used to make my stomach constrict and then lurch. I felt abandoned, betrayed even. Left behind. When I was stuck knee deep in my own misery, I wanted only the company referenced in that the old chestnut. I needed an invite to the grand pity party. I didn't want and wasn't able to hear about your full lives, your happy babies and growing children, your peace with your current selves.

But now? Now, I get it. In the cycle of things that sees us all pass through numerous seasons, I've become that blogger who used to make me cringe with pain to behold.

And so, this blog has reached (some while ago, in truth) the end of its natural existence, or perhaps it's fair to say I've grown beyond this blog. That growing was hard, it was often horrible, it was some of the most arduous emotional work of my adult life. In fact, only a fraction of that devastation even made it onto the blog.

But now, here we are. I'm ready to eat my words and bow out gracefully, happily, if belatedly.


There's another point, a small vanity that has kept me from this space in recent months: while I began writing simply to pour out the emotions that roiled within me, quite soon it allowed me to experience the catharsis that came with a well-worded description. When I found a resonant or beautiful phrase to describe my pain, when I landed on an apt analogy to articulate my emotions, it calmed and healed me. When others said that my writing gave them that catharsis, resonated, or validated what they were experiencing, I felt a sense of pride in my ability to abide with you. Pride and accomplishment in the person that this admittedly often shitty journey forced me to become.

Right now, I simply don't have the time or headspace to write in a way that gives me that sense of calm or pride or accomplishment. (I've written exactly one post in all of 2015 that I feel meets these standards.) And truth be told, maybe I derive those things elsewhere right now.

So yeah, things have gotten quiet here, not only in terms of my posting, but also with visitor traffic. I can't blame you; what reason is there to visit, really?

I still have many things to say - about motherhood after loss, about what Girl Wonder is teaching me every day, about parenting, disability, and advocacy, but also, again, about things which fired my passions long before babies were a blip on my radar: politics and social justice and travel and global living. And of course, tea and Star Trek and finding my bliss. But I think all that's for another day and another space. (If you'd like to keep following my meanderings on that journey, or just want to keep in touch, leave a comment or drop me an email. I'd hate to lose these connections!)


After S died, I remember reading somewhere that the two most comforting words in the English language are me too.

Blogging showed me the truth of that sentiment. Like a beacon in the darkest of hours, you reached out to me. You were there too. You understood. And so we commiserated, simultaneously drinking in, from the tiniest, far-flung corners of the earth, our respective cups of tea/wine/tears. Our paths crossed and diverged and crossed again. 

Blogging, reaching out to others and having them reciprocate, made me feel less alone. It - and you - helped me to laugh and cry and remember and forget. Made me brave. Made me grateful. Made me smile. Made me, in part, the woman I am right now.

To all the sentiments you've shared; all the pieces of your hearts; your deepest secrets; your inner crazy and your outer coping; your anger, your fear, your hope; your gestures of friendship and compassion; the lessons you've learned; your insecurities and affirmations; the resilience you've built and the joys you've discovered; your love.

To all these things you've shared, I say only this: Thank you friends. Me too.

Monday, 3 August 2015

#Microblog Mondays: La dolce vita

We recently what already seems like far too long ago returned from a family holiday in Italy. I've always thought that it's pretty much impossible not to have a wonderful time in Italy and this visit was no exception.

It was special for the very important reason that it was our first family holiday of course, but  after the craziness of the last year it was also wonderful just to shut off, spend lots of time surrounded by nature and just lolling the days away.

We hiked through olive groves and vineyards to alpine lakes of impossible turquoise waters. We sat on terraces overlooking heavenly scenery, sipping Hugos. We bobbed along the Grand Canal with the throngs, gawping at the Venetian splendor. We meandered through markets concocting the perfect picnic of fruits and wines and salami. (Well, the abundance of pictures - too hard to choose! - below can show you better than I can...)

And for her part, Girl Wonder loooved Italy. The gelato and swimming in the lake, sure, but really it was the Italian people who my daughter, shameless flirt outgoing little soul that she is, held as the true object of her affection. And Italy loved her right back. Italian is a beautiful language to begin with, but the excess of flowery epithets they reserve for the description of beautiful babies is stunning.

Mia cara! They would throw open their arms to her in exaggerated awe.

Bella piccolina!

Che dolce bambina!

Bellissima piccola signorina!

Mia cuore! And so on...Waiters and hotel clerks and bus drivers and old ladies walking their dogs; they would descend on her with kisses and caresses and an endless list of gushing superlatives. (It made a change from the environment in these parts.) And Girl Wonder lapped it right up. And yes, that last one translates as 'my heart'. I said gushing, didn't I? They rolled out the red carpet for us her.
It's a country that not only defines la dolce vita, but really includes families and children in what is often viewed as a very adult concept; and I think it's this that makes the culture seem so exuberant and happy. Seriously, if you're looking for a baby-friendly family destination...just go. Unless you're one of those people with (what I always think of as very North American) personal space issues, especially surrounding your offspring being hijacked by enamoured waiters and paraded around the terrace. Then you might find it all a bit over the top.  


Monday, 8 June 2015

#Microblog Mondays: Body image

It's been blazing hot here and so this morning we decided to take Girl Wonder off for her first taste of the local outdoor swimming pool.

Sitting on the lawn surrounded by women of all ages, many with kids and grandkids, lots on their own or in groups, it struck me how at ease the women here are with their bodies. They look comfortable in their own skins. I think it has a lot to do with generally more relaxed attitudes towards nudity and sexuality in this culture, (all family-friendly pools here, including the one we frequent, have nude bathing sections), and it's wonderful and liberating to be around.

The women (and men) here seem unencumbered by the tiresome body image issues that characterize women's attitudes to their appearance where I come from; the perception of body parts as too fat, too thin, too round, too pointy, too fair, too dark, too freckly, too hairy, too wrinkly. It's something I admire, and it's a good environment in which to raise a daughter.

Speaking of said daughter, here are some gratuitous Girl Wonder shots from today, just because.

Monday, 11 May 2015

#Microblog Mondays: Many worlds

I'm no physicist (despite occasional appearances to the contrary), and so I can't speak to its plausibility, but I've always found the Many Worlds theory compelling stuff. In addition to seeking an explanation for the wonkiness of quantum mechanics, it suggests that with the existence of these alternate worlds that branch off from ours as time expands at different rates in different places, 'all possibilities are realized'.

Think about that for a second: do you realize what it means? It means (my social scientist brain is extrapolating here; allow me the poetic licence) that anything you've imagined as possible has actually occurred.

It means that someplace I'm still tramping through the island jungles of Oceania. Someplace I'm a CEO of something or other, wearing tailored suits and doing whatever it is CEOs do all day. Someplace I'm living out my fascination with carpentry, slowly turning wooden spindles to soft, delicate curves. Someplace I never set out to see the world at all. Someplace I'm a 40 year old woman who owns Hello Kitty soap she considers too adorable to actually use (Oh wait, that actually happened here...)

It also means someplace my 4.5 year old son is playing amiably with my one year old daughter. Someplace S is alive and growing and laughing in something other than the breeze that sways the trees.

Someplace, when people ask 'Is this your first?', I don't stutter, or meekly voice a 'yes' while silently thinking 'the fourth I've carried in my womb, the second I've birthed, but only the first I've held pink and screaming and alive'.

And then today, on a beautiful summer's day walking through the park, delighting in my daughter's discovery of bugs and bare feet in grass and the exploratory eating of said grass, I also realize that if this Many Worlds theory is true, there is someplace I never had life lessons that taught me not only how precious and fleeting these delights are, but that they, or the sight of a swollen belly, might pierce the heart of a passing stranger, someone less lucky than I. Someone who I was not so long ago. It's hard to know that in my very joy lies someone else's pain; for I too have felt that heartache.

And wearily, I wonder why it seems to be the inevitable way of the world that only with the painful, been-there-done-that knowledge of direct experience can we truly achieve such compassion and sensitivity for others. But then, maybe there's another world where that's different too.

Full of possibility

Written as part of Mel's Microblog Mondays. Check it out here to participate.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

On Mother's Day

Wherever you are in your parenting journey, whether in the depths of new grief, mourning losses long ago, missing the children you will never have, parenting after infertility, actively trying with or without assistance, pursuing adoption, ambivalent or resolved or a combination of the above, today I honour you.


Monday, 27 April 2015

#Microblog Mondays: One!

Girl Wonder turned one this past weekend. Happy happy! Joy joy! (And still so surreal. In a good way.)

The party hat is actually a leftover from her costume for Fasching (or what they call Carnival in Latin America and the Caribbean, but also a big deal in this super-Catholic European country). It had a Day of the Dead theme and she wore it with a little skeleton onesie back in February.

H and I had a protracted negotiation over the type of birthday cake Girl Wonder would get. He wanted one of these sophisticated sponge cakes with a fancy fruit arrangement and layer of gelee. That's apparently traditional in Austria. To my mind though, a little kid's birthday cake isn't worth the paper plate it's served on if  it's not 1) slathered in sickly sweet icing that can be liberally smeared and 2) covered in enough fluorescent food colouring-infused sprinkles that you'll probably have to peel your kid off the ceiling later. Funny how the cross-cultural fault-lines in a marriage will emerge in the unlikeliest of places, huh? In the end, since strictly speaking Girl Wonder hasn't been introduced to gluten-based foods yet, the fancy-schmancy Viennese cake won out because that meant she could just eat the gelee with fresh fruit (which I grudgingly admit is the healthier option <cue sullen shrug>). But I'll get my smeary, food colouring fest next year; just you wait.

We wrapped a few of the hand-made (and some hand-me-down) toys that her cousins sent all the way from Canada, but otherwise didn't overdo it with presents, since I kind of hate that consumerism often trumps celebration at these things. Girl Wonder's delight is really generated from tearing the paper at this age, rather than playing with the actually contents. She happily did that for over an hour!

The grown-ups drank prosecco and toasted this amazing little being in our midst. A good day.

Written as part of Mel's Microblog Mondays. Check it out here to participate.

Monday, 13 April 2015

#Microblog Mondays: Seasons

So, April.

I've been kind of hanging suspended in this kind of slow-mo, hazy bliss the last few weeks. You know, those moments where the rays of sun slant in at an opaque angle and you can almost hear the perfection of the world in all its idiosyncrasies, thrumming around you?

That's where I am. Noticing the details. Awe-inspired by seemingly everything; the lazy buzz of a fat bumblebee; the taste of that strawberry basil gelato the cafe 'round the corner is peddling; the smell of rain as it hits the warm pavement; the fact that I am mother to a vibrant daughter. A daughter who is nearly one.


We seem to have skipped spring altogether this year. It snowed on the first day of Pesach and on Easter Sunday.

Last year during the Easter long weekend I was hospitalized in the Labour and Delivery ward with worrying symptoms of a suspected pulmonary embolism, told I could lose both my own life and that of my then-unborn daughter. I was discharged with a confirmed diagnosis of pre-eclampsia, after spending a scary, sleepless night alone. (I told you it was a crazy time, I just never found the wherewithal to explain exactly how.) I had sent H home to bank his sleep before the new parent onslaught began; that night before he left he leaned in to my belly and whispered, asking our little seedling to watch over her mama that night, our roles reversed after long months of me caring for her. She duly obliged, kicking and rolling all night inside me, keeping me company through those long, dark hours. I was struggling hard to breath, panicked, feeling like a huge weight was pressed to my chest; it was this together with elevated proteins and white blood cell count that made them suspect pulmonary embolism. Looking back, I wonder how much of the trouble breathing could have been trauma-induced: a final, terrifying chapter in a pregnancy after loss beset with worries.

With Girl Wonder somersaulting her way through the night, reminding me I wasn't alone, I finally felt settled on her name. I had been sitting on the fence about our shortlist, but H was lobbying hard already for the name we eventually chose, a very traditional one that means hope in Hebrew. 'She owns that name', he said; a kid with her back story was hope personified, he said. Through that night as she brought hope and strength to calm my fears, I couldn't help but agree. I told her so and felt a tiny thump. It was final then.


And after snowfall and temperatures that have kept us hibernating for long into this spring, it's suddenly strappy sundress weather. Summer bypassed us last year; it was a grey, English washout of a summer, not that we would have been able to enjoy it had the sun shone. We spent most of the season in sterile hospital rooms breathing stale air. I remember looking out at the leaden sky from Girl Wonder's isolation room on the 10th floor PICU. I remember poring over journal articles trying to come to grips with the CMV diagnosis that had wracked her tiny body, feeling as though we were about to become the punchline of some cruel cosmic joke, getting through that whole pregnancy only to have our longed-for child taken from us by a random infection. I remember subsisting on little sleep and bad coffee, donuts and hash browns from the hospital canteen.

This year, we are looking forward to summer holidays in Italy; to trips in Hungary and the Alps; picnics in the city's parks. With our one year old daughter.


During all those long years of loss, infertility and loneliness, I often comforted myself with the thought that life can change profoundly and unexpectedly in a single season, in the blink of an eye. 'Everything could look completely different this time next year', I told myself, hoping it might be for the better.

But even now, living in the laughter-soaked truth of that adage, I can hardly believe my luck most days. 

Written as part of Mel's Microblog Mondays. Check it out here to participate.