Another month passed without my Otis here in our arms. Without him being passed around at the Thanksgiving table, without him bundling into the mobywrap and coming on my birthday hike with me.
I'm doing fairly well* right now. (Obviously, with the asterisk. *Fairly well being totally relative. The asterisk will always be there, to differing degrees, but it will always be there.)
I made it through the holiday, and through a birthday. The rule for the day was that no one was allowed to say "Happy Birthday" - they were only allowed to say "Birthday" - an acknowledgment of the day, but, who are we fooling, the day was anything but happy.
I saw the perinatologist on my birthday. Lovely way to spend the birthday, right? He was actually really helpful, we talked about my cycle still being very messed up (he's not concerned, he wants to wait another 8 weeks before doing any type of intervention, since it would probably be a D&C and that would then run the risk of scar tissue and that would then run the risk of not being able to get pregnant yadda yadda). I still apparently have lots of stitches. I guess my episiotomy was way deeper than I knew originally. So my internal stitches are not dissolved yet. Again, he gives me another 8 weeks on those too. So basically we're looking at almost 20 weeks of physical recovery. He wants me to wait until I have had three normal cycles to even think about conceiving again, so that puts us out probably to March or later of next year. So in an ideal scenario, we could theoretically have a baby in December. But most likely, not. (And I just had a panic attack realizing that means another birthday would have passed. Fucking hell.)
He also wants me to see the RE to get hormone profiles and panels done. Not because I'm experiencing infertility yet (we have no idea, since I haven't tried to procreate for a year now, and I haven't had a normal period for a year, either. In fact, November 30 2009 was my LMP date that I gave every doctor at every prenatal appointment. Boo.) But, umm, yes, we had that talk about infertility and tests and numbers and "don't get your hopes up, but don't get depressed either..." And he thinks it would be good for me to have information from the RE, possible plans of action, information for the IF bridge if we need to cross it. He also said if I don't want to see her unless I go six months without getting pregnant, that's fine too. My decision. Right now, I am leaning towards wanting to see her. Information is power. That's been our mantra through all of this since Otis died, and I think it's true now too.
Yesterday in counseling I talked a lot about how I have at least half of me back in the hospital with Otis, birthing him, holding him, marveling at him, experiencing the ultimate horror of hearing he isn't going to live...and half of me is in the future, anxiously trying to plan a future pregnancy, a future baby, a future.
Neither part of me is here in today. I am stuck in this sort of purgatory, without Otis, yet full of hormones that tell me to attach to something, full of plans of being a mother, full of a year of preparing to be a mother...and no child. So I send myself into the future, neurotically, trying to figure out how I could possibly do it in the future.
"You want something to attach to," my therapist observed.
It makes perfect sense, I know. I can't fault myself for it. But this living half in the past and half in the future is not working for me. The grief, fine, it's inescapable. Otis is here and Otis is not here and I need to make sense of that and my body and my mind and my heart need to feel this pain, experience this loss, scream, cry, yell, smash things...and the hope for the future, totally natural too - of course I am trying to figure it out.
But I need more, I want more. And I can't get Otis back. And I can't get pregnant yet. So what does that leave me with, now, here, today, in this very moment?
I always envisioned myself as the type of mother who would not let her child be her EVERYTHING. I wanted to go on dates with my husband. Let my mom watch the baby for a night and drive up to wine country. Continue my volunteer work at the animal shelter. Keep working. Keep practicing and teaching yoga. Continue on my journey of figuring out who I am, independently of a child. Of course a child was going to enrich my life, of course a child was going to change me to my very core and things would no longer be the way they were before. But I didn't want motherhood to consume me.
And now, I'm stuck in this really odd predicament, of being consumed by motherhood and yet not being a mother to a living child.
"I understand that this grief and this loss and my missing Otis will, at times, be totally inescapable and totally unavoidable and it will be All. I. Can. Do/Think/Be. I really do understand that. But, I also understand that there will be other times. Times when it is more assimilated into my being. Times when I can still function, with the grief, with the missing and longing. Times when I am obviously still Otis's mother, but times when I still want to be more than that. And I want to figure out who I am, in those other times, and what I do, in those other times," I told my therapist.
I don't know. I've had this feeling lately that it's kind of like I lost a limb. And there are times that I am still in the "Holy shit, what the fuck happened to my leg?" state of being. And there are times that I cry and scream and yell about not being able to walk, or dance, or stand comfortably. Times when I wake up in the morning and forget, and try to step out of bed and then realize, oh, my leg is gone. And I rail and flail and curse and spit and cry at the unfairness of it all, that I am now living without my leg. Times when that is all I know, that my leg is missing. And then there are times that I realize I'm starting to assimilate this information, times when I am in the world not with the view of "My right leg is missing" but rather "I live with one leg." If that makes any sense. And assimilating my identity as an amputee into how I live. And realizing I could let that be my one defining characteristic or that I could let it be one defining characteristic.
I realize there are a lot of problems with this metaphor. It is far from perfect. Please don't argue it with me. And it is also just one bit of me trying to make sense of where I am with all of this. It's what kind of makes sense to me today. Probably won't be worth jackshit to me tomorrow.
My therapist said, "So, it sounds like you're asking the questions of 'what gives my life meaning?" And yes, that's just it. Where do I find meaning, purpose, passion, when that into which I had focused all my energy, all my attention, for the last year (probably more) is now gone? How can I define myself, outside of the scope of motherhood? Because there is no certainty that I will ever get to mother a living child. It is not in my control. And it is not something I want to lose myself into, either. As much as I want it, I do not want the next six months, or more, of making love to my husband to be dictated by peeing on a stick and checking fluids and timing things just.perfectly.so. I do not want to "lose" two weeks out of every month to wishing, waiting, hoping, planning, counting, praying, begging, pleading. I do not want to spend my days googling the latest in infertility treatments, in figuring out my chances, in planning, researching, trying to control it. I do not want that to become Who I Am. I want more. I need more.
(And, please, those of you who are actively TTC or who might take offense in anything else I've written here, please, know this is simply what is true for me (and for me, right now, because, as I mention, tomorrow may be entirely different! I make no claims to knowing or presuming or even guessing what might be true or best for you.))
On a lighter note, E knew that I didn't want any birthday presents this year. He went out anyhow, and got me the perfect gift: stacks, and stacks, and stacks of dishes, bowls, cups, plates, vases, candlesticks, piggy banks, from a thrift store - all for me to smash. I have yet to decide if it's going to be one big smash fest where I break them all (and then perhaps create some art from the pieces remaining?) or where I keep a closet of "smashables" for when the urge to smash something arises. I'm kind of leaning towards the latter, because really, I don't know that I need to smash 100 things all at once, and it's not like that will clear me of my smashing urges, right? But getting to smash something everytime the urge arises, or smash three things one day and five the next - that sounds like more my style. We'll see.
And lest there be any confusion from anything I've written here today:
Otis, I miss you every single moment of every single day. Every breath I take is a breath that is incomplete because you are not here with me. You are my first thought in the morning and my last thought before I go to sleep. I do nothing without imagining you here with me, without wanting you here with me. My body longs to hold you. I miss your smell, I miss your soft skin, I miss you wiggling in my belly and dare I say it I may even miss that pain in the upper left side of my back where you seemed to have lodged a rather large elbow for the last five months of my pregnancy. You are in every tear drop that falls and in every smile that emerges. You are the rhythm in every step as I hike, as I run, as I walk. You are every flower in bloom and every bird in the trees and every twinkle of every star. You are the rain that falls relentlessly and you are the beams of sun that burst forth at the end of the storm. I miss you more than words can express. I hurt more than words can express. You are always my beautiful baby boy, and I am always your mama.