Thursday, March 31, 2011

About his name...

Brooke today posted a beautiful piece about her daughter Eliza's name, and it sparked a rather lengthy comment over there, but I liked writing about his name so much that I decided to repost my comment here.

If you care to, please feel free to share the story of your child/children's name in my comments - and I hope I don't offend anyone with the names we decided against.

What follows is my comment:

I apologize in advance for what is likely to be a very lengthy comment.

Otis came to his name in much the same way Eliza did.  I am a teacher, and my husband has worked with high school kids doing drama workshops on and off for about 15 we had LOTS of names ruled out for the same reasons you and D did.

Then, also, because we are some of the last of our friends to have children, many of them took some of our favorites.  My best friend and I barely recovered when she named her daughter Talulah, a name that I had called "dibs" on back in 1980 when I first saw Jody Foster in Bugsy Malone...we couldn't believe that we hadn't discussed my extreme attachment to that name. (I sometimes still think she is lying that she didn't know.)

So thank goodness we were having a boy, because there would be no Talulah problem.

But we wanted something uncommon, but not crazy-California hippy style (I was also a yoga teacher, so I couldn't do something so predictable as Shanti or Rain or River or Blyss -- not that I EVER would, but still...)  I also grew up in Berkeley with a fair share of Rainbows, Sunshines, Miracles, even a Rapunzel and a Vahjeena (seriously.)

So we were at a standstill for a long time.  Otis jumped out very early on as a favorite for both of us, but we were kind of surprised that we both loved it so much.

But it held up under all our tests - just like you did for Eliza...We could see him being a rock star or a professor at Yale.  Being a very cute toddler and an equally handsome groom at his wedding.  Smart, funny, quirky, but also old fashioned.  With some soul.  We joked about naming him Otis Redding N___ [our last name] but instead settled on giving him my dad's name as his middle name: Allen.  My dad passed away three years earlier and I very much wanted to honor him as I named my firstborn.

It was awkward because both of our dogs have O names - Oliver and Oswald - and we never ever wanted to be *that* family with matching initials - and we almost didn't name Otis Otis for that reason - but in the end, we loved it too much.

I listened to lots of Otis Redding through my pregnancy and fell more in love with the name.  Every time we got in an elevator and saw the name Otis we smiled.

I have had some of the same sadness, knowing that I never get to have a LIVE Otis.  I never get to see his name on a business card, on a diploma, on a speeding ticket, on a mother's day card.  I don't get to hear his friends calling for him on the playground.  I don't get to hear a girl calling for him on the phone for the first time, giggles in the background, "May I speak to Otis?"

It breaks my heart.  I love his name so much.  And at the same time, I love that HE has that name.  He is none other than Otis.

Now of course as we face the possibility of a second, we are stupefied.  How could we ever pick a name as perfect as Otis?  (Not to mention that Milo has also always been a favorite of mine, but Milo and Otis?  Geez, it makes me gag just thinking about it.)

We have a chalkboard painted onto one of the walls in our home.  During my pregnancy with Otis, we kept a running tally of names that we liked, along with some clear joke names as well, in bright colored chalk.  All the names are still there: Blaze, Peregrine, Nutello, (all jokes, btw) and right across the middle of the board, in big capital letters, stands OTIS.  I don't know that we'll ever erase that board.  We have photos of my pregnant belly silhouetted alongside the chalkboard, the biggest spot lining perfectly up with the O in his name.

Brooke, thanks for letting me write this all here, so much of what you wrote resonated perfectly  - our perfect children really did have the most perfect names.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


The bulbs we planted last November, after our meeting at the hospital where we discussed Otis's autopsy as well as our future in the land of conception, have started to pop through the muddy ground.  Today the weather is supposed to hit 80 degrees out here.  The sun is bright and shining and spring feels like it's finally here.  We had a most miserable winter (duh, obviously, but I'm talking weather-wise mostly) - so many straight days of rain, backyard flooding, mudslides close to home...dark, gray days.  It felt fitting, in so many ways, it matched my mood perfectly.  And yet, at the same time, my body longs for spring, it does so every year, and this year was no different.  The effect of the sun on my mood has always been tangible.  When I was a child, my mom used to say that if the sun was out, she wasn't afraid to come in my room in the morning to get me up for school...but if the sun wasn't out, she had to tiptoe in and it was never pretty.

So of course this winter could be considered "the worst one" but in many ways it felt entirely appropriate that the weather was cooperating with my need for the world to be sad, to grieve, to stay indoors and shake their fists at the sky.

And now, as spring is springing, I look outside the windows and see the daffodils shining their bright yellow faces in the sunshine, the tulips beginning to open their delicate petals in the breeze...and I smile.  I *hate* that I am not looking at my boy's smiling face, that instead I am looking at his garden, but it does still bring me a sense of peace to see these spots of beauty that we've brought into the world in his honor.

**Subsequent pregnancy discussion to follow**

Yesterday I went in for the CVS.  It was terrifying, first having to lie there for ultrasound, fearing that they wouldn't find a heartbeat, I was already in tears, but they did, right away, and then we got to watch the baby for a good twenty minutes or so before the procedure...I can't believe how much the baby has grown since our visit just two short weeks ago - we now have limbs, and digits, and we watched as that little being stretched and wiggled and crossed and uncrossed his/her legs, and rested his/her hands over his/her face, and behind his/her head....E says he could see the exact moment that my heart let go and I fell in love while watching that screen.  And it's true - and terrifying - I felt myself cross over from the sense of "there's a little blob of cells in my uterus that is making me tired and nauseous" to "oh no, oh no, oh no, I am in love with that little baby in there, and that terrifies me, please please stay here baby, please grow strong and healthy, please stick around with us and please come home with us in October..."

I had a momentary panic of "what am I thinking, having a risky procedure done?" and E and I talked about how we could leave, we didn't have to stay...Then the doctor came in and we had a good talk with him, he knew our history and reassured us that if he felt anything about the test wasn't "textbook" that he wouldn't proceed; he was reassuring throughout the procedure, as were the nurses and the u/s tech.

The procedure itself hurt, and I couldn't watch on the screen, but E did and said the baby was oblivious to the huge needle poking into my placenta...and I haven't had any signs of complications so far (thank goodness) and have been pretty much just lying on the sofa since the appointment.  We will get results in a very very long two weeks.  I don't know what I'll do if we get a poor diagnosis; but I keep having to reassure myself that knowing bad news now would be better than learning bad news in 10, 20 or 28 weeks from now...And E keeps reminding me that the last (almost 7) months are showing us that we can make it through anything, together, even through our very worst nightmare.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


So this post is likely to be a lot about pregnancy after loss, so those of you wanting to click away now can do so....

We had two more prenatal appointments (one with a regular OB and one with the high risk doc) on Thursday and all continues to look healthy with the bubs.  I am just past nine weeks now.  CVS scheduled for March 29.  Doctors are speaking with me like this baby might actually make it through the pregnancy, we are discussing c-sections and dates and the future and all that and I just find myself in such disbelief anytime anyone speaks as if pregnancy actually leads to a baby...And at the same time, I think I would be horribly terrified if every doctor I met spoke about the pregnancy with the level of skepticism I feel...At the paperwork prenatal appointment, in the stuff I was filling out, there was a question, "Do you plan to breastfeed this child?" and I just burst into tears.  It seems such a huge assumption, and I was so taken aback by the question. I wanted to write across the page, "I no longer believe in making plans."

I've been floating about on due date and pregnancy forums and the like and I so don't belong it's not even funny.  I read along as these women discuss birth plans and what they are most looking forward to about their babies, one of the questions listed recently was "what are you most anxious about?" and I was shocked at how many women were talking about things like breastfeeding and sleeping and even labor or delivery.  I was like "YOU DAMN PRESUMPTUOUS LADIES! AREN'T ANY OF YOU ANXIOUS ABOUT GETTING THROUGH THE NEXT FOUR MINUTES WITHOUT MISCARRYING?" Because, well, basically, that's as far into the future as I can see.

Today it hit me again.

I was pregnant.  For 41 weeks.  I carried a son.  I birthed a son.  It took me 72 hours of hard labor.  Nobody suspected there was anything wrong, except for me, about 35 hours in, but I was told I was just being an anxious-in-labor-mama.  We all thought he was just taking his time.  I was pregnant.  I was in labor. I had a son.  I gave birth.  I was pregnant.  I was in labor.  I gave birth. I was pregnant.  I was in labor.  I gave birth.  I was pregnant. I was in labor. I had a son.  

But I don't have a baby here at home now.

It just makes my brain hurt. (Not to mention my heart.)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Collateral Damage

6 months.

A half of a year.

We should be celebrating a milestone today.  Instead, I just miss him more than ever.

Such a short time, such a lifetime, such a timeless half of a year this has been.

It feels like recently I have been mourning all the losses that came in the aftermath of losing Otis.

I no longer practice yoga.   Find my breath? Why?  I don't believe it will do anything to steady my nerves, to calm me, to bring me peace or to help ease my suffering.  My heart is not open.  It is wrapped in layers of barbed wire and electrical fencing, cinderblock walls built up around it.   I don't want it unwrapped, I don't want it out there vulnerable again.  (I realize even as I write this that this is not true.  I *do* want an open heart, I *do* want to feel the vulnerability of loving something so intensely.  But I am so scared.  So instead, I cower in corners rather than let my heart be open to the joys (and pains) of this world.)

I no longer go to the animal shelter to volunteer.  This was a part of my life that was so important to me prior to Otis's death.  I have volunteered there for three years.  I continued to go there through my ninth month of pregnancy with Otis; I could no longer walk the big dogs but I would sit and snuggle with the little dogs and the puppies and bathe the little ones and bottle feed the uber-little puppies.  I've tried to go back and I just feel lost there.  All I see is the desperation and sadness there.  I can no longer find hope in being there.  I used to feel like I made a difference...that feeling is so gone.

I have lost friendships in these six months.  Friendships that were near and dear to me, friendships that I thought could transcend anything.  I don't have a lot of energy to put into my friendships right now.  I am horribly ashamed of this fact.  I don't return phone calls, I don't return emails, for the most part, I don't have room to hear about what's going on in my friends' lives.  I am embarrassed to say that this is even more true when it's good news.  I am so selfish.  I don't want these friendships to wither away, but I am not able to tend to them right now, so I watch as they disappear.

I understand why this is happening.  I do. Life goes on, whether we like it or not.  In the moments that I feel like my life is going on, I am grateful.  In the moments where I actually feel alive and not like a shell of my former self, I am thankful that time is passing and that life is returning towards some semblance of normal.  So life is also going on for all of our friends.  And we don't really fit into their lives, at least not very well these days.

And yet as I write that, I am mad.  There are friends who stood up at Otis's funeral and promised to stand by us, who swore that they understood that we weren't suddenly going to be "fixed" in 4 months, who promised to do the hard work because they knew E and I wouldn't be able to.  A friend who spoke at Otis's funeral spoke directly to this fact - that we needed AT LEAST a solid year of support, that we needed them to remember, to show up, to force us out of the house and to remind us again and again how important we are.  People came up to me at the funeral or wrote me notes afterwards speaking specifically to this fact, "I will not forget. I will not go away. I will remember and I will be here through it all."  And now, 6 months in, they have all but disappeared back into their lives, their regular lives of raising kids and going to work and laughing and dancing and paying taxes and Living.  That is not to say that I think our friends don't think of me and E and Otis often, this is not to say that I don't think they care - I just think they don't know what to do or how to do it anymore.

6 months in and I feel so lost, so left behind. I feel like every day that passes I recognize more and more the multiple layers of loss that Otis's death has brought upon my life.

I miss you, sweet baby boy.  I wish I could tell you in person how much I love you.  I wish I could nuzzle into your neck and kiss you and smell you and whisper and tell you how you are my greatest joy, my greatest gift, my truest love.  Instead, I will light candles for you today and tend to your garden and kiss the dogs and kiss your papa and remember you, with every single cell in my body and every single part of me.

Friday, March 11, 2011


So the last post was titled "Muted" and this one is "Wordless" - I'm going to have to hit up the online thesaurus pretty soon. I'm still finding a lot of reluctance toward sitting down and writing.

I'm having more moments of emotion, which I suppose is good, it does feel good to access the emotion and be able to cry.  Yesterday, it was the sensory memory, of feeling Otis's face and skin and hair with my hands and my face - snuggling into him, smelling him, kissing him - I am glad that I haven't forgotten how soft he was, I am grateful that I can still find that sensory memory of touching him.  I know, broken record here - but, gah, I wish he was here with me.  I wish I was watching him grow up.  I wish I could know what his hair would feel like today, what his eyes would look like, what his smile would look like, how his toes could wiggle....

Today out walking the dogs we ran into a neighbor who I suppose we haven't seen in 6 months.  He asked how the baby was.  "You handled that really well," E told me when we were walking away.  I guess I have gotten to the point where I have previously screwed up how I wanted to talk about him enough that now I know how I want to speak of Otis and his death.  And I feel like I do his memory justice, I don't mince words, but I also don't break into tears, I don't overshare and I don't protect the person I am speaking with.  It feels okay.

I am nervous that if indeed this current pregnancy is a healthy one and I progress to the point of being an obvious pregnant woman that I am going to have to deal with a whole new slew of stupid comments.  I have already envisioned a clueless neighbor, seeing me pregnant, walking the dogs, making some comment to the effect of, "Wait, deja vu! Didn't you just do this?" Or something to that effect.  And me, grasping for a response.  E told me today I should just say, "Well, yeah, when your baby dies the first time around and you're my age there really isn't time to sit around and not try..."

I am also reeling from a conversation I had the other night.  One of E's dear friends has a 3 month old baby boy.  Born healthy, natural childbirth, all the things I envisioned for myself in my pregnancy with Otis...She was talking with E and he shared that I was pregnant again.  At some point in the conversation she shared all the things she did to "insure" her pregnancy was healthy - the vitamins she took, what she ate/didn't eat, how she exercised, with what frequency, yadda yadda.  E later tried to share this with me.  He also told me that she had told him that when her midwives looked over her placenta they commented that it was one of the healthiest, most robust placentas they had ever seen.  This is when it felt like I had just been shot.  Because one of the reasons they think Otis died is that he was beginning to outgrow my placenta.  And somehow it felt to me like E's friend was making an implication of the "if only you had done what I had done, you would have a healthy baby like I do!" variety.

For better or for worse, there is absolutely NO ROOM for anyone trying to tell me what I "should" do in this pregnancy - as if, somehow, because their baby didn't die they are suddenly experts on how to prevent neonatal death.  I don't care if they have my best interest at heart.  I don't care if they feel that they know best and have to share their knowledge.  There is no room for it.  Call me stubborn, maybe I am.  But unless you are a doctor and you have looked over my records of my labor, Otis's delivery, and his subsequent autopsy and pathology report, you have NO BUSINESS telling me how to "do" this pregnancy.

And therein lies a problem.  Because I remember when I was pregnant last time, I got so much unsolicited advice...from strangers...everywhere...and it was hard enough THEN to bite my tongue and just allow them to spout the BS that I didn't agree with.  But this time around?  What do I do?  Pull out a picture of Otis?  "This is my son.  He died 36 hours after he was born, at 41 weeks.  I have consulted with many specialists. I am now seeing the best of the best high risk doctors who I trust completely, and unless you want to consult with him first, kindly shut the hell up."

Bah.  Of course even as I write this I worry that I am cursing myself by thinking too far ahead into the future and thinking that I might actually get to a point in the pregnancy where I am showing again...I spoke with my therapist a bunch last week about how having hope does not automatically doom one to a negative outcome.  I get it intellectually, in my brain, but my heart doesn't really believe it.  I am so scared to plan for this pregnancy, to think that I might actually get to future benchmarks.  I worry that by thinking positive or optimistically that I am tempting the gods to knock me down.

Case in point, we had to schedule a doctors appointment for CVS, testing to be done between 10 and 13 weeks....and I could barely bring myself to let the genetics counselor we met with schedule the appointment because I felt like by scheduling something "that far in advance" it most certainly means that I won't get to make it that far.  But ultimately I did.  March 29.  Of course I still have to make it through next week's appointments - two prenatal appts on the 17th - and then make it another 12 days past then...But we did schedule the appointment.

We were in Tar.get earlier this week and E told me they had some cute maternity dresses.  I guess I was a bit on autopilot, but I walked over to look at them.  All of a sudden, it all came flooding back to me, all the giddy shopping trips through maternity departments, outgrowing old clothes and buying new ones, all with such hope and optimism and a sense of sureness that indeed that Otis was coming home with us....I had to run out of the department, I grabbed E, practically fell over, crying there in the middle of Tar.get.  How dare I even imagine that I'll even GET to a point of needing maternity clothes this time around?  How dare I step foot in that department?   The gods are now on high-alert, dare I get hopeful, they are ready to strike me down.

Oh please, baby, please stick around.  Grow healthy, and strong, and come join our family in a little over 7 months, please?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I'm pregnant.

Seems like there a lot of BLMs making this announcement right now. I know for others who are waiting or wishing it's gotta hurt to hear all these announcements. I also know that some mamas have been hit by the Super Suck Lightning Bolt twice recently, and my heart aches for them.

I know some of you already know my news and it's not that I've been hiding it so much as I've just been unable to write about it.

It doesn't feel real, not at all.

For those wondering the nitty gritty details:

I am 6 weeks and a few days. I found out the day after we returned from Maui. The dates are sketchy (I had like five days of positive ovulation sticks) but it is quite possible/highly probable this little one was "Made on Maui" - just like it said on the onesie we saw in a shop there and were so tempted to buy, purely as an act of wishful thinking at that point. (I told E today that if this baby gets to come home with us, then I will have that onesie mailed here for us to dress him/her in. Note that this was one of the first times in the last two and a half weeks that I've even ventured into statements that are slightly hopeful that we might get to bring a baby home.)

I ate lots of sushi while I was in Maui and I got in a jacuzzi (it wasn't hot-hot, thank goodness). I had taken 2 pregnancy tests while we were there but they were almost invisibly positive and E convinced me I was seeing things, so I decided he was right and stopped testing*, until we returned and I realized I still hadn't gotten my period. (*NOTE: Ovulation predictors DO NOT WORK as pregnancy tests, despite rumors on the internet to the contrary. It worked when I was pregnant with Otis, so I assumed it would again. I didn't want to buy new pregnancy tests so I just peed on the opks, they were negative, I assumed I wasn't pregnant...hence the sushi and the jacuzzi. Big oops.)

But my numbers have been doing what they are supposed to be doing, doubling and tripling in these early days, and today we went in for an ultrasound. We got to see the heartbeat flickering away on the screen.

Yes, I started crying.

But it still doesn't feel real.

We have told a few close friends and some family, with the thought being that we will want them to know if we lose the pregnancy so we want them to know now as well. The doctor today said, "Don't start telling until 8 weeks, that is really a safer time," but, as we all know, there really isn't going to be a "safer" time for us this time around...I mean, yes, sure, I know about statistics and all that...but I've heard so many mamas say, "When you're on the wrong side of the statistics, when you are that 1 in 10,000, the rest of the statistics are no longer very comforting." I agree that getting to 8 weeks may feel like I've gotten to a milestone of sorts. Seeing the heartbeat today felt like a huge milestone. But there are so many of them, my head hurts just thinking about it.

All my emotions lately have felt like they are seriously muted. I can't really be happy about this pregnancy, not yet, as much as I want to be. It's so strange, for as much as I wanted to see a BFP...I guess hearing this from another newly pregnant BLM kind of sums it up: "I hadn't really thought about the space between the BFP and delivery." I also feel like I can't access the depths of grief that I had felt last month or the month before. I haven't been in the fetal position crying on my closet floor for at least a month. (Though I did assume that position once or twice while in Maui.) But everything just feels very muted. Maybe it's the fatigue. I am so damn exhausted, and so damn queasy, it's amazing how quickly I forgot about the first trimester. But being muted like this actually doesn't feel like a relief right now. I miss the technicolor. My therapist reminded me that while I am IN the technicolor of grief there is nothing I want more than to be out of it. But I miss it, I miss feeling that raw, that fragile, that open and vulnerable.

This is not to say that I think I'm "done" with the technicolor. I am sure it will return, and I will be as uncomfortable with it when it returns as I was when it was here before.

In the meantime, I just am trodding along, best I can, while eating saltines and taking frequent naps. I keep telling myself that I have to be 6 weeks pregnant in order to be 7 weeks pregnant. I have to be 7 weeks pregnant in order to be 8 weeks pregnant, and so on, and so on. There is no shortcut on this path.

So now the trick is to figure out a way to continue on a path, a path of healing, of learning, of growing, of LIVING IN THIS MOMENT - without getting ahead of myself. Today I am six and a half weeks pregnant. I cannot continue to spend my time googling and obsessing because that will make for a very, very, very long set of months ahead. I must continue to search out ways to live in this moment, to love the life that is here in front of me now - not a life of "when the baby comes" or even "if the baby comes" - because neither of those options are right here, right now.

My therapist keeps saying, "So the information you have right now says that everything in this pregnancy is going optimally," and I keep trying to remember this. I say it to myself about twelve times an hour, I'm pretty sure. Maybe at some point I'll start believing it.

(Probably goes without saying, but please don't mention anything on facebook.)