Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Here it is, boys and girls.  We're in the home stretch.  According to the cute little app on my phone, baby should be arriving in (give or take) 42 days.

And I'm feeling all the expected emotions: excitement, anxiety, impatience, fear, joy, concern, delight, marvel, worry...

...and guilt.

When my track record included nothing but miscarriages, I remember telling pretty much anyone who would listen (including God) that I would prefer the most painful, complicated pregnancy - so long as it produced a healthy, full-term baby - to remaining childless.  When my friends suffered through their pregnancies (ending up dehydrated, bed-ridden and/or fatigued to the point of hospitalization), I considered that preferable to having my children die within my womb.  That's not to say I was flippant and disregarded my friends' pain.  It was just something that, in a strange way, I envied.  It was a pain I hadn't been able to experience.  With that pain came a promise that I'd been denied this far.  It was like I was more than willing to trudge through the desert to get to the Promised Land; I just hadn't been liberated from Egypt yet.  (I wanted to make a Charlton Heston reference and a Moses one seemed appropriate.)

So why am I feeling guilty?

Because, other than the very scary subchorionic hematoma that haunted my first trimester, I've had a relatively easy pregnancy.  Instead of the acne explosion I was dreading, my face actually cleared up and became less sensitive.  Instead of day-long morning sickness, I had maybe a dozen bouts with mild nausea - I never threw up.  Instead of being battered all night long by tiny legs kicking nonstop, I've found that the baby actually has "quiet time" when I'm sleeping and is rarely active after 11:00 PM.  In fact, other than my weight gain (which has admittedly been a little excessive, although my doctor is not concerned), I've had practically zero issues.  Some back pain here, minor swelling there, and an insatiable desire for peanut butter in all forms, but really - nothing to write home about.

But...I'm done.  I'm tired of being a human incubator.  I want my figure back.  I want to wear cute clothes again.  I want to wear my impractical, beautiful four-inch snakeskin-print heels!  I want to hold my baby in my arms and not my belly.  I want to be able to sleep on my back again.  AND OH MY GOSH I WANT TO EAT SUSHI AGAIN!

So, I'm feeling guilty because I'm also feeling like I don't have the right to be totally over being pregnant.

These thoughts are probably not so different from any other lady's, six weeks from her due date, and yet they make me feel selfish.  I'm the one who swore a hellish pregnancy was still better than a lifetime of miscarriages, and I'm STILL complaining about my fairly symptom-less eight-month stretch.

I still have friends who cannot have children, or who struggle to get pregnant.  Even in these past few months, I've been contacted by friends who recently miscarried and wanted to tell me even before their own families, simply because they knew I'd been there and wanted my take on things.  It broke my heart to see them go through loss - sometimes more than once - but I was truly honored that they trusted me with their grief.

Which seems to complicate my frustration with this pregnancy.  I'm so very torn between keeping my mouth shut about the discomfort because I feel guilty sharing it, knowing there are people who would do quite a lot to be in my position - and being swept, via my experience, into the ranks of fierce, fabulous women who wear their stretch-marks like tiger stripes and who have no shame in being mothers.

Of course, worrying adds neither days to my life nor health to my baby.  I'm just going to have to go with what I know - keep things honest - and diplomatic - and public.  That seems to work for me.  

So, to summarize: it's the Final Countdown and, even if I'm not emotionally ready for baby - my body most definitely is.  Let's do this, Baby Godlove.  Not too early, but please don't be tardy, either!  Making people wait for you is soooooo rude!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Pink Ribbons and a Brown-Eyed Girl

I wish I were lacing up my hot pink Nikes to run in this weekend's Race for the Cure.  Having been involved only from a spectator's perspective, I know it's a huge and epic event.  Well - let's be honest.  I wasn't actually spectator, my first time around.  I was working as the manager-on-duty in the Oakland Starbucks and we were understaffed and Oh God It Was Terrifying.  Seemingly endless waves and waves of pink-clad men and women splashed into the store, wanting little more than a bottle of water or a quick bagel to snack on as they walked and ran in honor of victims and survivors.  Although I remember being overwhelmed to the point of numbness, I don't recall any customers being rude or impatient.  They were all there because they saw the Bigger Picture.

Which I can see, too, since I now count breast cancer survivors among my closest friends.  And I would have no issue with squeezing my seven-month-pregnant belly into a pair of yoga pants and a support belt, ready to walk among those brave woman and thousands of others, but my pregnancy has caused several asthma flare-ups and some pretty scary (though normal, I'm told) episodes of breathlessness lately.  Not wise to go tempting fate and power-walking with the Pink Brigade, I'm afraid.  Next year.

Not being able to participate is a definite downer, but the hardest part of Mother's Day weekend will surely be the fact that my mother is gone.  Last May, I was still in a cocoon of shock, having lost her a mere two months prior.  I didn't feel much, and it didn't register too clearly that she was gone.  This time around, I've had over a year to process, to rant, to weep, to rage, to mourn, to contemplate, to accept, and to adjust to my mother's passing.  

There have been a lot of moments where I was filled with anger - not towards God, but towards her, since her cause of death was likely preventable, had she sought help for her hernia when she was first diagnosed.  There have been moments of laughter - when friends ask about my pregnancy and I'm able to tell them that I, mercifully, did not have "six straight months of god-awful heartburn", as my mother (repeatedly) told me she suffered with me.  There have been moments of pain - when I have wanted to reach out and ask her intimate questions about family, history, faith, and forgiveness.  There have been moments of beauty - when my husband and I finally got up the nerve and went through all of her paperwork, and found ourselves delightedly reviewing old photographs of my dad in his 80s finery (tight jeans, a feathered cowboy hat, and an elaborately embroidered top), birthday cakes from years past, and all of our long-gone pets.

Don't get me wrong, please.  I dearly love my step-mama, Deana.  She has become to me a treasure and a friend and yes, a wonderful mom.  She has been incredibly supportive during our miscarriages and has shown us the same level of support and excitement during this pregnancy.  She has taken care of my often-stubborn dad and has weathered years of mothering three daughters (two of whom possess their dad's stubbornness).  She is an all-around amazing woman, mother, Christian, teacher, friend, and businesswoman.  And I love her.

But I can't ask her the question, "What was it really like when you were pregnant with me?"  The baby pictures she has of me aren't connected to her own personal memories.  I can't trace my biological family tree through her.  I can't laugh over stories of my first taste of solid food, or riding a bike, or a grade school play.  I won't be able to show my mother these ultrasound pictures, or let her hold her sweet grandson for the first time, wondering if his eyes will darken to a beautiful brown, like hers. 

Two nights ago, I picked Ross up from work and we stopped at Giant Eagle to pick up a few things.  I wasn't in a great mood, and he thought he had done or said something wrong.  As I threw a package of raisin bread in the cart, I finally blurted out, "I miss my mom!"  He looked startled, and asked, "Why?"  He probably thought it had something to do with the bread.  Did it remind me of her?  Poor confused guy.  I fought back tears and reminded him, "It's Mother's Day weekend."  He didn't say anything, just put his arms around me and wheeled the cart to the register.  

On the way home, he gently asked, "Well, what are some of your favorite memories of your mom?"  He'd only met her once but had heard hundreds of tales from myself and my dad - some of them funny, many of them sad - about living with her.  "I don't know," I said honestly.  If I am being completely truthful, which has been my aim in having this blog, then I have to say there were a lot of awful memories.  A lot of hours of the silent treatment.  A lot of regrets because I didn't understand why I needed to respect her.  A lot of fights.  A lot of disappointment.  A lot of misunderstanding and failure to communicate.  A lot of bitterness.  Oh, so much bitterness.  

Much of that faded in the years after I had moved away from home, and, little by little, happier memories began to join the sad ones.  Memories of stopping at Arby's and then browsing at Fashion Bug (now defunct, sadly) for accessories.  Memories of text messages and phone conversations about our pets (while I was collecting my Crazy Cat Lady starter kit, she was adopting and rescuing neighborhood strays left and right).  Memories of the sweet and silly letters she liked to write, and the goofy doodles she sent me.  Memories of conversations in which she admitted to finally forgiving my father for hurting her.  

And then the memory of her passing cuts through me like a cold wind, stopping my heart.  The look in those soft black-brown eyes when they met mine for the last time, full of pain and regret and weakness and sorrow.

And sympathy.  For me, having to see her die.

Those moments stick with us, become an immovable part of who we are.  They become tinted over time with either rose-colored optimism or they fade to a shadowy sepia, but they stay with us.  In that moment, when I look back, I see her asking forgiveness.  Not for the way she raised me, or for anything she might have failed to do as a mother.  But forgiveness for having to have our final memory of her one in which she was lying prone and hemorrhaging in a hospital bed in Kentucky, unable to speak or move or breathe on her own, surrounded by gentle strangers.  For knowing that we drove five straight hours and risked countless speeding tickets, because seeing her alive was the only thing that mattered.  

For her last day alive being so dreadfully ugly.

I can't lie and say I've fully come to terms with the circumstances of her death, or even hear death itself.  I still think of her every time I pass by the greeting card section in the grocery store, fighting the urge to pick a silly holiday card to send to her.  I see her face in my reflection quite often.  I hear her voice when I scold my cats for doing something naughty, and I'm sure I'll hear it when I scold my son.

I recently told a friend of hers that I hope so much that my baby boy has her smile.  I know that I have my grandfather's smile, so remarkably so that people frequently mistake my aunt (his daughter), who also shares it, for my mother.  How beautiful it would be to get to see my mother's slightly crooked, dimpled grin again, every day for the rest of my life.