Thursday, January 28, 2010

Defending the pee stick

Yesterday I came across two blogs of ladies who had stillborn babies and have just recently miscarried in their subsequent pregnancies. As I type this, these two ladies (and who knows how many others) are living out one of my greatest fears. My heart goes out to them and I grieve for them.

One of them said something interesting on her blog:
"BLM's would you agree with me when I say that through gritted teeth you can send love and best wishes to fellow BLM's announcing their rainbow baby pregnancies, but that an 'obligatory' pee stick photo is like a kick in the stomach?"

BLM = babylost moms for those of you fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with this macabre terminology that seems to invade your life once you're in that very unfortunate club.

I think that perhaps this lady has a point, but for my part as one who has lost a child and has recently posted my own pee stick pic, I'd like to put my thoughts on the matter out there.

There are a few things here.
First of all, I started this blog 4 years ago for the pure and simple joy of writing. Life was simple and the blog was a place to express myself in my own quirky, uninhibited way. I think my writing was fun and entertaining back then. Lighthearted. Funny. Hell, it was downright Marian Keyes-ish (minus the Irish family, the friend named Clodagh, the career in publishing, the tragic break-up, the weight loss that happens without our hero even realising it - come on!! - and the inevitable perfect man who was, in fact, right under our hero's nose all along).

When "everything happened" I had an overwhelming compulsion to write. Writing is not only a joy for me, but a therapy. I am far, far more likely to pour out feelings in writing then to speak them out loud - even to The Band or The Best Friend. And so, this is my place. If others find it and are comforted or entertained or whatever as a result, that is wonderful, but I'd be lying if i said that was the reason for this blog.

I also had an overwhelming compulsion to read. I devoured the blogs of people who've lost a child and found hope in the stories of those who went on to eventually fall pregnant again and have healthy children. On many days these stories kept me going.

I don't remember if I posted the pregnancy test pic with Sophia, I don't think I did. But with The Kernel, pure joy is not something I feel. It is not something I have felt in nearly 5 months and perhaps it is not something I will feel again in this lifetime. With Sophia, life remained simple, it was easy to assume that come September we'd have a beautiful baby in our arms (the assumption was true, but the reality was coupled with tragedy and was all too fleeting). With The Kernel I have no such surety. I have no such naivete. I have no such carefree hope. Approximately a million times a day I pray for this baby to be protected, kept safe. Celebrating this baby, when I am terrified of losing him/her, when my heart remains broken for Sophia, is not a simple matter. It is something I consciously choose to do, it is something I will myself to do. Everything in me wants to guard my heart, to not get attached until The Kernel is safely born. But that's not fair on The Kernel, is it?

And so I will post pee stick pics. I will post cheesy belly photos and scan pics. I will make every effort to celebrate this pregnancy, despite my fear, despite my human defence mechanisms cautioning against it. I need people around me to have hope when I'm too scared to, to celebrate The Kernel when I am too sad to. The Kernel deserves as much.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pink or blue?

With a bit of luck we'll find out tomorrow circa 4pm.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Annoying ex-pats!

I can’t stand ex-pats who leave the country and then consistently moan about SA. Who are they trying to convince????

Case in point is my cousin who has emigrated to New Zealand. Her Facebook status is always some little chirp about how superior her new country is. The latest is this:
“To all Saffas needing to renew your driver's license shame!!!! here in NZ Zip Zap 1/2 hr and finished & Klaar!!!!”

Needless to say, I commented “Only took me 20mins to renew mine”
Hee hee hee

Thanks to Tamara for this link (love it!)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Where to start on this one??

There is so much to communicate in this post. I've anticipated writing this for so long and yet, here I sit, struggling for words.

First off, I guess, for any reader who has lost a baby... I hope that this post doesn't cause you any pain. I hope it brings you hope.
For any reader struggling with infertility, my heart breaks with you, I hope that those around you continue to pray for your miracle when you no longer can.
And to those who've read this blog since back when life was normal and my biggest concern was the endless goading of those infernal rain spiders: thanks for sticking with me :)

Today is a happy day... mostly. There are a bunch of other emotions floating around there too, of course, but high on the list is happiness.

Here's why...

This is a test taken in early December and today, somehow, marks that first major milestone of 12 weeks.
I know I know I know. How could I possibly not have told you about this? I have felt very guilty if it's any consolation!! The Band and I really wanted to keep this on the down low at least until we made it to the 12 week scan. We knew for more than 3 weeks before we even told our parents! (told them at Christmas) so I hope you don't feel too betrayed.

I am very grateful now, that we made that choice. Against all odds the first trimester sped by and I think it's because noone knew and so it was barely spoken of. Once you are showing, people ask you how far you are basically daily so you are constantly aware of time, this way we could almost not think about it and while that may sound awful, it's been a blessing. I am terrified. I have been anticipating this week's scan for so long now that I had completely freaked myself out by the time I got to the doctor. I have had barely any "symptoms", you see - immune system was low and blood pressure was low but that has really been it - and in some ways I was beginning to think the whole thing was in my head. To finally see a little person on the screen almost surprised me. Then I freaked out because it seemed so still, but wonderful New Gynae pointed to the heart galloping along and I could finally breathe again.

Here's what I saw:

Introducing The Kernel

So far everything is fine... on monday baby was just over 4cm from head to bum and now the real growth begins.

At this stage we have named him/her The Kernel. This was because baby was heading for the size of a popcorn kernel when we found out, but with time we are hoping baby will graduate to The Colonel and take on The Guv!! (surely a Colonel outranks a Governer??)

So where are we at? I am an emotional basket case mostly. My first emotion when I found out was a massive sense of gratitude. Too many people struggle to fall pregnant and I've read of their pain and feared it. A pregnancy is not something I could ever take for granted. It is not a given, it is an absolute blessing and privilege and not one we take lightly. Pretty soon after we found out we had our first appointment and there was some "free fluid" hanging around. We were told it could mean nothing or it could indicate an ectopic pregnancy. Three endless days of waiting for blood test results. I was already in love with this little one and going through that so early on sucked a lot of the joy out and replaced it with cold dark fear. Finally we heard back that everything was fine, but in a way we felt a bit scarred by that. After that I was scared - any little ache or pain would worry me and I was constantly bracing myself for blood. I think in my mind I set the next scan as a deadline to myself... if everything was fine there then it would be time to suck it up - all the fears and worries (haha.. ok, perhaps that's a bit ambitious) but to make a conscious decision to celebrate this pregnancy and believe that perhaps there might just be a living, breathing baby at the end of it.

The reality is that I am deemed "high risk" now. Placental abruption has a 15% recurrence rate - unless it was caused by a fall, which it may have been, but I will never know. And so there'll be a few precautions - for one I had to take additional folic acid (on top of the preg vits) for the first 12 weeks, from now on I have to have 1/4 aspirin a day... something to do with promoting placental growth. I will have more frequent scans and I will be induced a month early (somewhere around the 9th of July!!). But there are no guarantees, and this is the part that makes my heart pound and my breathing shallow.

Next Thursday we are off to the foetal assessment clinic and we will more than likely find out the gender. Any guesses? The Band and I think it's a boy.

We are starting to tell people now and I am nervous... worried about their reactions. This doesn't solve everything, this doesn't stop us mourning Sophia, everything's not magically fixed now, BUT this baby does bring his/her own joy. This baby does deserve to be celebrated and loved.

Keep me in your prayers guys... it's a terrifying road we're on but we're very grateful to be on it!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A poem for the grieving

I saw this beautiful poem on the blog of Molly Piper - daughter-in-law of John Piper. Molly's daughter, Felicity, was also born sleeping.

from The Seaside and the Fireside
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

There is no flock, however watched and tended,
But one dead lamb is there!
There is no fireside, howsoe’er defended,
But has one vacant chair!

The air is full of farewells to the dying,
And mournings for the dead;
The heart of Rachel, for her children crying,
Will not be comforted!

Let us be patient! These severe afflictions
Not from the ground arise,
But oftentimes celestial benedictions
Assume this dark disguise.

We see but dimly through the mists and vapors;
Amid these earthly damps
What seem to us but sad, funereal tapers
May be heaven’s distant lamps.

There is no Death! What seems so is transition;
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life elysian,
Whose portal we call Death.

She is not dead,–the child of our affection,–
But gone unto that school
Where she no longer needs our poor protection,
And Christ himself doth rule.

In that great cloister’s stillness and seclusion,
By guardian angels led,
Safe from temptation, safe from sin’s pollution,
She lives, whom we call dead.

Day after day we think what she is doing
In those bright realms of air;
Year after year, her tender steps pursuing,
Behold her grown more fair.

Thus do we walk with her, and keep unbroken
The bond which nature gives,
Thinking that our remembrance, though unspoken,
May reach her where she lives.

Not as a child shall we again behold her;
For when with raptures wild
In our embraces we again enfold her,
She will not be a child;

But a fair maiden, in her Father’s mansion,
Clothed with celestial grace;
And beautiful with all the soul’s expansion
Shall we behold her face.

And though at times impetuous with emotion
And anguish long suppressed,
The swelling heart heaves moaning like the ocean,
That cannot be at rest,–

We will be patient, and assuage the feeling
We may not wholly stay;
By silence sanctifying, not concealing,
The grief that must have way.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Songs of heaven

There is so much music that makes me think of Sophia. I've always been partial to sad music, even in happy times. I've generally got the "depro playlist" going strong on any given day. Music is powerful. There's something in it that floors you, that breaks down your defences, that manages to get right in there, behind the wall, to the place you try to protect.

I've been reduced to tears, running on the treadmill at gym due to the words of songs (and that's songs from my "gym mix"!!) It's incredible how words seem to talk to my precise situation and yet are no doubt simulataneously speaking to so many others.

Just a few...

Carry you home - James Blunt
And they're all born pretty in New York City tonight.
And someone's little girl was taken from the world tonight.
Under the stars and stripes.
As strong as you were, tender you go.
I'm watching you breathing for the last time.
A song for your heart, but when it is quiet I know what that means and I'll carry you home.

and even Who knew - Pink
If someone said 3 years from now
you'd be long gone
I'd stand up and punch them out
coz they're all wrong
That last kiss, I'll cherish
until we meet again
And time makes it harder
I wish I could remember
But I keep your memory
You visit me in my sleep
My darling, who knew?
My darling, I miss you, My darling, who knew?

Here without you - 3 doors down
A hundred days have made me older since the last time that i saw your pretty face

A thousand lights have made me colder and i dont think i can look at this the same.
All the miles that seperate disappear now when im dreaming of your face.
I'm here without you baby,
but you're still on my lonely mind
I think about you, baby, and I dream about you all the time.
I'm here without you, baby, but you're still with me in my dreams
and tonight, it's only you and me

One of the most beautiful things I've heard recently is a recording of Emma's Daddy playing a song for his little girl. You can hear it here. Be prepared... it'll break your heart.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A review of the decade passed

2001: little fledgling caz left the nest and moved 1100km to the other side of the country to attend Stellenbosch University. I enrolled for a BSc I stayed in residence for the first two years. Quite stretching living with a bunch of girls after growing up with 3 older brothers and no sisters. Classes in afrikaans were also challenging. Homesick caz was encouraged at every turn by my gran who wrote to me just about every week from the time I left home. I have a massive pile of blue envelopes in the cupboard next to my bed today. Played waterpolo and attended the South African Universities tournament at the end of the year, representing the Maties team.

2002: the classes were now much smaller as we had moved from general BSc subjects to subjects specific to our focus. My particular focus was only started for the first time with our class – BSc Conservation Ecology. For the most part we were only about 20 students. Adventures included weekends in Kalahari National Park. I remember on the first day looking around and thinking “Seriously, these are the freaks I have to spend the next 3 years with??”* Great year which ended with a trip to the Okavango Delta where I worked on a crocodile research project. I was annoyed when I discovered that one of my freaky classmates would be there as well. We ended up having fun together though and hitchhiked all the way back to South Africa together.
*One of these freaks was to become my husband, many of the others my lifelong best mates.

2003: I moved into a townhouse with some friends and it was great! A tumultous start to the year though... were there feelings between me and aforementioned croc hunting classmate or not? A 5 day hike along the wild coast answered that question! so the great romance between The Band and I was begun. I worked at Waterford Wine Farm. Learnt plenty about the SA wine industry and loved the job. Many adventures through the year, but finally for the South African summer, The (at this stage “future”) Band, The Josh (classmate and future bestman and current work colleague etc) and I went to the US to work at a ski resort for 2 months. New York City was awesome... Lake Placid less so... It became known as “Lake Flaccid, the town that never rose to the occasion”

2004: Our final year together as a class. Good times, good adventures. Ran my first two half marathons. The (future) Band and I began to realise that we were both in this thing for keeps. More adventures – including a trip to Madagascar - and the year was rounded off with some camping and hiking in the Drakensburg and another hike along the Wild Coast.

2005: All my friends had moved on to travel or start working but I decided to continue my studies with a Bphil Journalism degree, also through Stellenbosch University. What an intense year. 20 students I’d never met before who I now spent pretty much all my waking hours with in this little converted house. Something like 36 subjects ranging from International Journalism to Radio Broadcasting to Media Management, ethics, etc etc. We had to do the news on the local radio station at least once a week as well. I went to Madagascar with the (future) Band on a church trip in the midst of all the work. In August The (future) Band proposed. No guesses as to my answer! Finished off the year (amidst wedding planning) with a one month internship at Getaway Magazine.

2006: February 11th was the big day. A gorgeous, perfect wedding surrounded by all those nearest and dearest to us. Life after honeymoon was to be an adventure... at that stage The Band was earning about R6K (gross) a month, I was to be studying my masters degree and our rent alone was R3500 a month. Ya... Luckily we got many woolies vouchers among our wedding gifts so the poorer we were, the more Woolworths food we ate (foreigners, Woolies in SA is like Marks&Spencers in the UK). I was soon offered a job and decided to work and study at the same time. The job for awful. For the first time in my life I was spending my days doing something I was completely disinterested in. Marriage, however, was great. We were living on a farm up in the mountains. When we drove home at night we’d shine a spotlight and see genets, owls, porcupines, baboons and buck. Gorgeous.

2007: Throughout the December holiday I had nightmares about going back to work. I was truly dreading it. That told me it was high time I started to look for something else. Through a series of coincidences and chance encounters I was given a job at WWF, the conservation organisation. Brilliant. I loved it. Back in the land of adventures! Trips to game reserves, to rhino releases, to bird trails and more and more and more. Finished my masters degree which looked at how the media report on climate change – what an incredible sense of achievement after slogging away for 2 years! Spent the summer holiday doing a lot of cycling including some unforgettable cycles at the Wild Coast with brother Mark, my dad and the Band (3 of my favourite men in the world).

2008: Another good year workwise. My graduation was held early in the year and my parents and very proud gran were there for it. Rode the Argus Cycle Tour and loved it. In August we were all set to travel to East London for my dad’s 60th when (a few days before) I was woken early by a phone call. It was my dad telling me my gran had died. I was devastated. All the “she had a good innings” comments do nothing to help. Yes, I am forever grateful that we had so long with her, but that doesn’t mean I miss her any less or that losing her is any easier. She was one in a million. Heart of gold. Wicked sense of humour. My strongest supporter. But if you’ve been a reader for a while you’ll know all this. Ended the year with an incredible adventure. My gran would so have loved to hear about it – she was an adventurer herself. We (The Band, The Josh and The Harry) spent a month travelling Southern Africa – Bazaruto and the rest of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, The Victoria Falls. Incredible. Unforgettable.

2009: Just a few weeks after returning to “real life”, life was to be turned upside down again... two solid lines on a pregnancy test. A year of preparing, preparing our hearts, our home, our budget, our lives. Debating names, building and painting cots and compactums, baby shower after baby shower. Antenatal classes, hospital tours, giddy conversations. Swollen ankles. Swollen everything! Anticipation building, hearts swelling, excitement bursting. FINALLY my last day of work. Severe back ache and days later, blood. The hospital. No heartbeat. The world crashed down. We sunk. I’m still sinking. Labour. Birth. Shock. And then... silence. Our baby girl. In our arms. And then it was all over. Month and months and months only to return to the same house. Packing up the nursery. Watching the flowers wilt and fade. Endless days. The weather warming. Summer creeping up on us, without her. Time passing takes us further from her, but perhaps closer too. Despair. And then the fledgling beginnings of hope.