7 Weeks and 1 Day Later

Our neighbor came over recently for a glass of wine. It was the first friend I had seen since the twins’ funeral. Truth be told, I don’t really feel like being around people. I told her about having finally called the doctor to set up the 6-week after appointment. It is something that I kept pushing off. I didn’t want to acknowledge that it was going to be six weeks. I didn’t want to be back in the office where everything was different and still OK. I didn’t want to have the conversation with the doctor about what happened, only to find out there are no answers…again. Or to talk about options, next steps or the idea of trying one more time. Yet I knew that this check up is important to make sure my body is healing properly. So I made the call, and through tears left a message, and then cried my way through a conversation with the nurse to schedule the appointment. That appointment is today. 7 weeks and 1 day later. And I’m terrified.

There’s the anticipation of going to the office. This was a weekly routine that Double A and I had down pat. While we had sworn off superstitions this time around, one thing we did every time was park on Bing Crosby. It was the 6th level of the parking garage, and after finding a space there during our initial appointments where we had received good news, Bing, singing Sweet Georgia Brown, brought us some comfort when we were scared or unsure as to what was happening as we moved forward. Now our memory of Bing is that of me doubled over in a wheelchair faced with the intense pain of contractions and the panic of if our babies were alright.

In speaking with the nurse, I made sure to take some precautionary and protective measures for us. We’re scheduled to go today when there won’t be any blissfully happy pregnant ladies in the waiting room. And I specifically asked her to let the ladies at the front desk know what happened so we aren’t faced with having to answer any awkward questions. Yet I know that walking those halls, and being in that space will bring back a flood of memories and new waves of grief.

But back to my neighbor. She told me about how months after her father passed away, her mother was trying to get back to her “normal” routine. Part of this routine included a 5-mile walk she once did every day. When she finally was up for it, she found she couldn’t get through it. Not the physical aspect of it, but the mental. Her friend told her that she had to change her routine, which in this case, meant changing the route she walked. That was now the route from her previous life. A life that still existed, but now in memory only. Life now was different.

I realized that I’ve been craving to change our routine. Only it isn’t anything specific, rather various aspects of life overall. First it was clothing. One of the initial things I did was of course to give back all borrowed maternity clothes, and push all that I had purchased to the back of my closet. But I felt this urge to clear out my closet and start fresh. I guess like I said in this post, maybe if I didn’t look like myself, I don’t have to be me. Too bad our bank account wouldn’t support this complete overhaul.

I find that I want to change other things too. I look around the house and ask Double A if we should paint the second bedroom. If we should get a new duvet cover for our room? How about we change out the shower curtain and towels in the bathroom? I’ve changed my music and what I can watch on TV or movies. We talk about moving, either locally or someplace far away, but we know running away isn’t the answer. That said, there’s something about the idea of changing out the old, of what our life once was, with things that don’t remind us of what our life has become.

I realize that none of these changes will actually change what has happened. None of these changes will bring back our babies, wipe out the hurt or actually make us feel better. Yet at the same time, I know that incorporating some changes and new routines are going to be what is going to enable us to move forward and carry on.

So today we will take my friend’s advice and change up our doctor’s office routine as best we can. There will be no Bing, rather a cold walk from my work parking space. We will still have to enter the hospital and walk those halls, but as Double A reminds me, we will do so, together. Today, we will be forced to face the realities of what was, what is, and what may not be. But that’s a post for later. For right now, we have to find the strength, courage and determination to walk out the door.

Emotions of A Minute

We are sad. We are mad.
We are angry. We are tired.
We are beat down. We are supportive.
We are weak. We are strong.
We are together. We are alone.
We are hurting. We are pained.
We are tired. We are scared.
We are anxious. We are broken.
We are fearful. We are worried.
We are missing. We are longing.
We are confused. We are unsettled.
We are lonely. We are panicked.
We are crying. We are numb.
We are heartbroken. We are dumb-founded.
We are wondering. We are exhausted.
We are pissed-off. We are sorry.
We are spent. We are questioning.
We are unsure. We are breathless.
We are shocked. We are supported.
We are worn down.

We are here. We are.

Thanksgiving Makeup

Thanksgiving Day 1986 was a big deal for me. I had just turned 13, and I remember coming bounding down the stairs to tell my parents that I was ready to go. My dad looked at me and asked if I was missing something. I don’t remember what the outfit was, but I’m sure I gave myself the once over, thought I was rocking a, like, totally tubular 80s style, and told him that I was all set. When he shook his head, I asked what I was missing. “Your makeup?” he asked. REEEALLY!?! I shouted over my shoulder as I ran back upstairs to raid my mom’s supply. It was something that I had been bugging them about for months (if not longer). And something that I hadn’t prepared for because I was too much of a goody-goody to try and sneak makeup behind their backs.

I remember going to my cousin’s house that day (it was back when Thanksgiving was a huge celebration filled with tons of extended family) and asking everyone if they noticed anything different about me. I think the man on the moon probably saw my makeup that day. It’s true, I didn’t know how to apply it back then. In fact, an old friend of mine’s Mom, to this day when I bump into her, will laugh about how I looked like a clown in those early days. But I didn’t care. I finally got to wear makeup and all was right in the world.

I eventually learned how to apply my makeup properly…or at least in a way where I don’t look like a clown. But these days, I feel once again like that makeup novice, without a clue as to what I’m doing. Only this time, practice, trials and tribulations aren’t teaching me and getting me to the right place. Although I guess that’s not entirely true. I suppose going through so many miscarriages and losses has taught Double A and me that we need to take care of ourselves first. That it’s OK to put our needs first, and to not worry about what others want or may think.

I long for the days were life was simpler. But here I sit, some 26 years later, when all is not right with our world. This Thanksgiving has had a much different look and feel. Today we have chosen to protect ourselves. To not get together at the big family gathering for our favorite holiday. To not have to deal with the looks, the questions or the silence. And to not be surrounded by the little ones whom we love, yet serve as painful reminders of who, and what we’re missing. There will be no movies like last year. No family pictures to avoid. No faking our way through. Today, we did what we needed to and what felt right to us.

This Thanksgiving was not traditional. And it’s not one that I’d like to repeat. But the day is almost done, and we made it through. And for that, I’m thankful.

Old Lady Veiny Hands

This week was my 39th birthday. Truth be told, Worst. Birthday. Ever. (think Simpson’s comic book store guy). I knew it was going to be rough, I just didn’t think it was going to be SO hard. Each voice mail, email or text that came in wishing me a happy, fun-filled day and wonderful year sent me into tears. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to think about my birthday or be reminded that I was supposed to be happy. I wanted to ignore the day.

I know that everyone means well, I just wish that they would stop and think about what they’re saying. Just like I said around our anniversary, there is nothing happy about right now. And while I understand that people wanted to acknowledge the day, for me, that should have been a simple, I’m thinking about you.

The thing is, every other year, I love my birthday. I love the attention, the cake and the celebrating. I’ve never been one of those people who worries about, or thought much about aging. Maybe it is because my birthday is on the late end of the spectrum, so by the time I turn another year older, I’ve already gone through it with my friends. I’ve never been one to pull back my skin, ponder elective surgeries or whine about the number of candles. Yet this year, I look in the mirror and see a tired, hardened, older woman. I see hallowed, puffy eyes, veiny hands, and lines and wrinkles. I see a woman I often don’t recognize. And I know that these are all factors that I don’t think would matter (or at least matter much) if I was where I knew I was supposed to be in life.

When I was graduating college, I had my life planned out. I wasn’t going to get married until 27 because I wanted time to myself and to establish my career. And then I’d have kids at 30 because I wanted my husband and I to be able to enjoy each other before welcoming our family. Well, suffice it to say, that didn’t happen. After all, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

The past couple of years have been about realizing expectations that were unmet. Expectations that should have been part of life’s natural progression. But I guess there is nothing natural about life. Without my knowing it, over these past five years, I’ve been forced to look at all of my expectations, and I’ve realized that pretty much nothing in my life has worked out as I thought it would. And the thing is, for the most part, that’s OK. For example, I never would have imagined that I would’ve met my husband online. But I did. I remember being at the happy hour where someone said, “I mean who DOESN’T have profile on J.Date.” Um, me. So onto the online scene I went. And for that, I’m forever grateful.

On some levels, it is OK, and actually a good thing that nothing I planned for worked out in the way I had planned, or if at all. Meeting Double A online is just one example of many times that things worked out for the better. But it’s a double edged sword—while I could definitely do without so much heartache and pain, there’s something to be said about the unknown. And through all of this unknown and changing expectations, here I am. Still standing, but desperately trying to find my way.

I’ve also been forced to reconsider my expectations on family. I’ve realized that just because adoption or parenting a child(ren) who isn’t genetically ours is never something as a kid or my younger self would have thought would happen or need, here I am, with that very possibility. That said, I still have a hard time giving up the expectation that I may ever be able to carry and deliver a healthy baby. But most likely, I will have to, as I just can’t imagine being in this position yet again.

Life IS what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. Expectations will continue to change. I just hope that somewhere amidst those plans and changing expectations, that our family will come to light, even if the reality looks different from the picture drawn long ago.

Songs of Silence

There’s a line in Wilco’s song Sunken Treasure that goes “music is my savior.” This is something that has always resonated with me, as music has been my go-to in life. For as long as I could remember, I could find a song for any moment and any mood. To pick me up, calm me down or let me rage. To work out, jump for joy or bring me back to a memory and a place in time. But lately, it seems like no song is right, and every song has a meaning, or connection to sadness, loss and grief.

I realize that this can’t be true, that it is actually my mind making that connection, and perhaps that’s what makes it all the worse. The thing that I could always find solace in is working against me. I turn on my i.Pod and skip song after song. The same goes for Pan.dora, Spot.ify or the radio. And the thing is, it doesn’t even have to be a sad song. It could be an upbeat tune that any other person listening to it would classify as happy and cheerful. I’ll spare you from quoting lyrics and naming names of the songs and artists who are the biggest or repeat offenders, but suffice it to say, it baffles me how one can turn so many different songs into Tearfest 2012.

I know the logical thought would be, why don’t you just turn off the music? I wish I could. But the silence and empty space is deafening. It’s like a breeding ground for my mind to race—back to what happened, to what isn’t, and to what should be. My life these days is once again a series of distractions. I’ve been here before and have muddled my way through loss-induced ADD. Music is just another way to drown the thoughts in my head and switch focus. Only that focus isn’t going to a place where I need it to be.

I won’t give up on music. I still believe in its power as described by this Oliver Sacks quote, “Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears—it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more—it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.” I’d rather you skip the neurological patient part rather than inserting some analogy to me, and just focus on the sentiment. To me, music IS a necessity.

Maybe I’ll have to turn to techno, heavy metal or hardcore rap. But I hope not, because I like my music. As I’m writing, Breathe by Alexi Murdoch just came across my Pan.dora…finally a song I can relate to as he’s reminding me “don’t forget to breathe. Keep your head above water, but don’t forget to breathe.”

Today I Feel Defeated

Our cat, Chester, started his I’ll annoy you until you get up and feed me process around 5:30 this morning. It’s an elaborate series of kneading, hitting at the blinds and knocking things over that he’s perfected over the years. Some days I’m able to ignore this, and others, when I’m most in need of sleep, I can’t. Today was one of those mornings. Today is also Sunday, the mecca of laziness and relaxation. Where coffee and the paper are the biggest tasks ahead. I gave up on getting back to sleep, but forced myself to stay in bed reading. When I finally got up—still ridiculously early for a Sunday—Chester flew down the stairs in what some may perceive as a victory lap.

All I wanted at this point was the aforementioned coffee. Instead, I found puke, or something worse, scattered in splotches throughout the back room, dining room and kitchen. Only I didn’t really find it as much as step in it, multiple times I think, until my eyes focused and I realized what was going on. (I told you I needed coffee). A half hour of cleaning carpets, floors and digging out the bottoms of my slippers, Double A woke up, came down and made the coffee.

Reading the paper these days is more like scanning the headlines as I turn through the pages. My mind too scattered to focus. My brain too numb to care. And now with the holidays coming, the ads (which literally outweighed the actual news sections) have turned into kid and baby central. Another relaxing ritual has turned into an exercise of jumping around the landmines. I got through the paper quickly and was feeling ooutsey (a phrase my mom coined for being anxious and out of sorts) and sad.

It was a beautiful day outside, sunny and 60s. A rarity for a November Chicago day. I wanted to go for a walk, or even try running again. But I knew since it was so nice out that the families would be out in droves on our neighborhood’s main drag. I felt like a prisoner in my home whose torture would actually be worse if allowed out. I could’ve hit our spin bike, but the past few times I’ve done that, my workout endorphins also released the tears. And in case you don’t know, it is really hard to have a good workout and cry at the same time.

Today was also my cousin’s baby shower. I should’ve been there to help her celebrate. I should’ve been there fielding questions about my protruding belly and our upcoming twins. Just like I should have been at her wedding last year, 8 months pregnant, rather than 4 months after our fourth loss. Just another reminder, and only one of the many upcoming baby showers that I can’t bring myself to go to.

I realize that separately, none of these things should knock me down. Well, that’s not true because the whole not wanting to leave the house because I don’t know who we’ll run into or what we’ll see, and/or not being able to share in the joy of another’s pregnancy do qualify right now. It is just that these days, it is a series of daily life’s “normal” ups and downs that knock us around like those giant wind puppets. And some days you want to curl up and hide because you’re tired of wondering, “Does everything need to be this hard?”

Some days you feel defeated, which should not be confused with giving up. Just tired and sad. And tired of feeling sad. Yeah, today is definitely a some day.

Dollars and No Sense

The envelopes had been sitting on the kitchen counter for almost a week. Staring at me. Needing to be opened and dealt with. Yet I couldn’t. I made the mistake of opening one we had received a few weeks back without thinking, and was shocked, saddened and overcome with tears by what I saw: $15,374.55.

Yes, the hospital bills have started to come in.

Now I should start by saying that we don’t actually owe this amount, this was just a “friendly” notice of what was being sent to our insurance company for payment. And this crazy amount was *just* for the hospital stay and delivery of our twins (and yes, apparently you are charged more for a multiple birth), not the doctors’ and other specialty bills to come. But there it was in black and white. A clear reminder of what we went through, what we lost and that we have nothing but pain, suffering and sadness to show from it. I remember this happening after Baby #4. And this time, like last, I can’t help but to think, we have to pay all of this…for nothing?!?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the doctors and nurses were doing their jobs, there were materials used, drugs that were administered and space that was taken up. It’s just that I have a hard time having to pay for something—again—when we don’t have our healthy babies at home with us. Shouldn’t there be some sort of discount? Couldn’t the hospital write these instances off or use donor funding to take care of it? (Idea for donors: set up a fund that takes care of these billings for bereaved families so they don’t have to deal with these costs on top of their loss. You’re welcome.) Or, at the very least, couldn’t they provide a long grace period before sending notices and the bills that follow to the grieving parents so that it doesn’t feel like a bucket of salt to an already gaping wound?

I finally forced myself to open the other envelopes on Sunday, and found that they were actually bills from scans and check-ups when everything was “fine.” From when our twins were healthy and alive, and Double A and I were still happy and cautiously optimistic. In this stack, there was one bill which detailed a variety of visits, and then three bills that said they were going to collections. Mind you, the three bills saying they were going to collections were part of the main bill we had just received. So I had to call the hospital to find out what was going on. There’s a call I wanted and needed to make.

I was good at first. Hiding and choking back my tears to keep my voice from cracking. I systematically went through each one of the invoice numbers—which turned out to be all invoices that we had already paid. Apparently, I was late on getting them out after the loss, and things crossed in the mail. That’s when I lost it. Through my tears and a cracking voice, I told the woman on the other line of the loss of our twins and how we were trying to sort through things and figure out which way is up. Fortunately, and sadly, she was sympathetic and actually told me she was going through something similar and knew exactly how I felt. After that, I asked if there were any bills pending, to which I found out there were eight that are currently with the insurance company.

Great, that’s eight more slaps in the face to come. Nine actually. Monday when I got home, there was our actual bill due from the $15,374.55 statement. 250 bucks. And while I’m grateful that we have the insurance to take care of the majority of the charges, I now have to call the insurance company as I believe we’ve already hit our maximum out-of-pocket and therefore shouldn’t owe anything. Again, a conversation that I don’t want to have, especially because I’m sure that the outcomes are not noted in the file and that I’ll likely have to relive our story.

It pains me to think of everything we have spent on this pregnancy—something we would have happily paid if we knew we’d receive two beautiful, healthy returns on our investment. I can’t even allow myself to think of everything we’ve shelled out over the past five years for all of the pregnancies, doctors’ visits, fertility treatments, testing, therapy and more. That money, and those hopes are gone now. And Double A and I are left here trying to make sense of it all.