Don’t call us, we’ll call you

September 29, 2009

Brought to you by the imagination of Neal

Filed under: Neal's writing, Personal, Pregnancy — Tags: , , , , , , — llcall @ 2:41 am

I’ve got a HUGE stats test going on right now–and by huge, I mean, a take-home portion (which our professor said would take between 4 and 30 hours), a testing center portion, AND an in-class portion.  But can I get myself to think about statistics?  Not when I have a little girl to think about and pictures to boot!  Neal is about to crack down and ban me from discussing, contemplating, and viewing our baby girl.  But before he does I wanted to post the note that Neal wrote on Facebook announcing our daughter to his friends.  If you don’t know Neal or don’t know him well, it is so Neal and gives you a little window into how I fell in love with him (which was actually via some of his writing that was published online).  I just cherish knowing that someday our daughter will hear from both our perspectives just how much we loved her from the first moment we saw her.

“So, we’ve got a little girl on the way. And also, I’m on a quest for a $100 grocery month”

Lindsay thinks one of these topics is more important than the other, but why choose one when you can have both?

Lindsay and I went to her 20 week ultrasound on Friday, and watched our baby girl twist and writhe like something awesome and beautiful that twists and writhes. It was very cool. Lindsay cried (all the way through), and I might have had something in my own eye as well. The due date is February 11, and it seems so far away – now that we have actual video footage of a tiny person shaking her booty in very adult fashion. How can it be still so far away? Lindsay’s been way sick, and still is, so it was nice to have that sweet reward for all her suffering. And now we wait for the next ultrasound in 8 weeks. And we wait 4 months for the final countdown. I wish I could fast-forward time for Lindsay’s sake.

In the meantime, we thank every night Lindsay is able to sleep. And when she doesn’t sleep, we don’t thank the night. That’s just the way it’s got to be. Sorry night. Luckily, Lindsay has the heart of a champion. I think she’ll go the distance, maybe catch the final touchdown pass of a highly anticipated football game. In slow motion, with sappy music playing. And then she’ll point to the stands, and there I’ll be, in an oversized jersey that spells out Lindsay’s name, crying and clapping and mouthing silently (this is still slow motion, so you can’t hear the words, just lips moving) “I love you!” and maybe “Olive oil,” so that after the fact, I can ask her if from her vantage point she could tell when I started referencing an essential cooking ingredient. And sitting on my shoulders will be our little girl, and Lindsay (the slow motion is over now – back to regular motion) will whisper to herself, and the camera will cut to an extreme close-up, and she’ll say “I did it for you. I did it all for you.” Somehow we’re all still able to hear what she says over the screaming of the crowds, ’cause that’s how it works in movies. Amazing sound equipment they’ve got these days. You can pick up anything. And everyone watching the heartwarming movie is bawling and Lindsay, sitting next to us on the couch cradling her newborn baby shrugs her shoulders and says “Yeah, well, that’s what it was like. They hit it right on the head. Just multiply it by 100.”

If you’ve read Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, you may be able to tell that I’m coming down hard. I finished it a few days ago. Well, that’s what I would daydream about if I was in Lindsay’s place. So, really, you’ll have to ask her what’s in her movie. Maybe it’s something about an artist struggling to survive or a social worker who changes the lives of the people around her. But for both of us, we can’t wait to get to the end of the movie, just past the part where things are at their lowest, and to the next scene where suddenly everything seems possible, and everything that happened in the past is okay because the present is so wonderful. So, day-of-birth, we await you with eager anticipation! Don’t dawdle. But please keep our girl safe until then. We’d give the world for that.

engagement pic

*Neal has only allowed me to post this on the condition that I eventually post the second half of his note on his grocery-budgeting quest . . . so stay tuned 🙂

September 27, 2009

We interrupt our regularly-scheduled, depressing programming…

Filed under: Family, Lindsay loves Neal, Personal, Pregnancy — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 12:12 am

To bring you unparalleled joy!  Yes, I owe my loyal readership a happy post and this is it (and believe it or not, I have another two or three up my sleeve when I get around to our summer vacation photos).

I really wasn’t sure if the ultrasound day would be good or bad, but it was without a doubt one of the best days of my life.  I’ve worried so much for our little boy (fairly assured that it was a boy since the health problems I’ve been having are far more common in boy births), who turned out to be a girl…

Anybody else creeped out by this shot?! Seriously weirds me out--what's with the little leg nubbins???

Anybody else creeped out by this shot?! Seriously weirds me out--what's with the little leg nubbins???

But we got the happy news that against all odds, she is thriving, healthy, and right on track developmentally.  The perinatologist (a doctor specializing in high-risk pregnancies) is still very cautious about the situation; she offered yet another possible diagnosis (this is #6, coming from 7 different doctors) that, while not bleak, was also not hopeful.  But after I had seen this beauty,

profile4

nothing was spoiling my mood.

There really are no words to describe those moments.  Neal and I holding hands, squeezing them back and forth whenever our baby girl squirmed or changed positions.  Our awe and amazement at seeing how much she already looks and moves like a “real” baby–putting her little hand on her head, seemingly perplexed by so much poking and prodding:

fingers

and then kicking her little feet furiously (maybe she runs from cameras like her daddy):

foot

All the while, I was crying tears of love/joy/excitement/relief–all of those.  Even hours later, I was still overcome.  I didn’t want to go to sleep because I just wanted this day where our daughter is perfect and healthy to last forever.

And even though, it’s the next day and some of the worry and trepidation is starting to come back to me, I feel buoyed by two realizations that yesterday brought to us.  First, this girl is already a survivor . . . and maybe she can keep it up for a few more months.  And second, even if she can’t, and we don’t get to have her here and now in the flesh, I know she is ours forever.  God promised that to us when our little family was sealed together for eternity and I know His promises transcend this mortal life.

September 21, 2009

“O then, if I have seen so great things…”

I almost wrote a crazy, ranting blog post at 4 a.m. yesterday (since Nikki assured me that she would not leave any life-affirming comments afterward 🙂 ).  But you were all saved by the fact that I was ridiculously tired because it was FREAKING 4 A.M.!!! (Okay, I guess I had to get in a mini-rant…)

If you read my blog with any regularity, you know that I have spent way (way way way) too many middle of the night hours awake over the last 4-5 months.  It does crazy things to the mind.  Sometimes those crazy things are really funny: like the night I woke up, skin painfully on fire, thinking that Neal had intentionally let thousands of little bugs into my room and they were eating my flesh.  I have never been more furious with Neal (except maybe once when he disturbed my rhythm while I was on a roll in Super Mario Bros. 3–he made me lose the cute froggie suit and I could never get it back [I may have just discovered that I’m still mad about that day 3.5 years ago, yet another thing to work out in therapy perhaps :)]).  Or then there was the time I thought Neal had let some strangers into my room to drape a suffocating canopy over my bed.  Now you know, I tend to blame Neal when I wake up suddenly (thank heavens for the separate bedrooms!).

Unfortunately, most of the other crazy things are not funny at all.  I cry A LOT.  I get mad at the world.  I get mad at myself for getting mad at the world (repeat, again and again and again).  I want to feel sorry for myself.  I do feel sorry for myself.  I think how weak and ungrateful I am to feel sorry for myself (repeat…).  I think, an itch seems so stupid and trivial…why is it ruining my life and my sanity?  I think, this is the worst experience of my life.  Then I think I have no accurate way of assessing that (and go back over all these thoughts on the relativity of suffering).  Mostly I just grieve for things lost.

You’ve heard about one of those big things, the miscarriage, and it turned out to be therapeutic in ways that I hadn’t expected (thanks to those who shared thoughts, experiences, and good vibes), and so I decided to share a few more in the hopes of finding some similar sense of meaning and comfort.

So I’m pregnant again.  I thought this would be a happy time.  I thought that I would be ecstatic to tell people (I had a whole plan for how we would announce it involving my uber-talented, animating friend Lindsay).  I thought I would take pictures of my belly growing and we would spend a lot of time debating names (let’s face it, I’m a girl, I’ve had a list since I was like 11).  I even naively thought I might feel better than I do normally, since some people with fibromyalgia find that the pregnancy hormones decrease their usual pain.  But things haven’t gone as planned.  It’s been a messy business from the start with the midwife telling us at 8 weeks that we should prepare for the possibility of another miscarriage.  I just don’t have the energy or willpower to give a play-by-play of all that’s gone on and the attached anxiety, but suffice it to say that my body does not “do” pregnancy well.

I know that if come February we have a healthy baby and I am okay, so many of these thoughts will fade into the background.  I know, too, that we don’t know how things will play out in the long run.  But I’m still grieving…the fact that motherhood will not come the way I hoped; that whatever the outcome, this may well be our last journey down the path to biological parenthood; this very imperfect body that has shaped my life in so many important ways, but I just hoped so much would not exert its influence in the area of child-bearing.

Despite how hard it’s been to do much of anything, I have felt impressed to go to the temple more often (in addition, to the Saturday shift we work).  During one of those visits last week, I read this scripture from The Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 4: 26:

O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?

It just spoke to me because truly I have seen great things in my life.  I have been visited in so much mercy on so many occasions.  I have literally been delivered…from the captivity of a broken body and a troubled mind.  And so I ask myself, why do I linger in this valley of sorrow?

I thank God for 30 years and so many experiences that have taught me that this too shall pass.  And I’ve recently learned to pray for something more fundamental than understanding: that my heart and mind will stay open and teachable so that someday I’ll understand why things were meant to happen the way they are.

September 10, 2009

“I will weep a while longer”

I’m weeping even now as I post this, though I wrote it days ago.  It’s some of the stuff I’m working through (or some days, not being able to work through). It’s quite lengthy, probably depressing, and I still don’t know if I even want to post it or not.  Neal and I have been debating how to work through my grief, more praying (probably never a bad idea), maybe another round of therapy (some people don’t know this about me, but that would be round #4 in my adult life), more talking about it, less talking about it.  I guess I’ll try this and see what happens and go from there.

***

I remember my first few phone calls with my mom after my roommates and I were in a big car accident in the summer of 2003.  Despite surviving what could easily have been a fatal crash, I felt no real fear.  I told her, probably too matter-of-factly, look at it this way, no one is in two crazy car accidents in their lifetime.  Now I’ve gotten it out of the way, you don’t have to worry about that anymore.  Statistically speaking, I still think I have some sort of ground to stand on because it is very unlikely that a person would be involved in two cataclysmic accidents (particularly if they are a passenger in both, as I was, meaning it has nothing to do with their driving ability).  But the older I’ve gotten the more I understand how unhelpful my “insights” were.  Probably first and foremost because this happened less than 3 years later:

(So much for a universe where you could accurately compute probability)

(So much for a universe where you could accurately compute probability)

But also because she understood better than I just how uncertain this life is, and how having children intensifies that feeling with these beings that are both part of you and separate from you.  You can’t control them, or what happens to them, and the illusion we create that we do have control over this uncertain world vanishes, sometimes over long periods of time and sometimes in these earth-shattering, life-changing moments.

This is actually a post about miscarriage; I just didn’t know how to get it rolling.  A couple of months ago, I was sitting in Sacrament Meeting and I felt this intense spiritual prompting that I needed to talk about my miscarriage during a Relief Society lesson I was teaching that day.  It was both a dramatic and traumatic experience because I had never spoken publicly about it, and really not very much privately either (at least in comparison to just how much I’ve thought about it).  I sobbed through the rest of Sacrament Meeting, and surprisingly (that’s a joke in case anyone doesn’t know that I cry pretty much every. single. day.) I still had tears left in Relief Society.  I’m honestly not sure what people heard me say because I felt like I was completely unintelligible through all the weeping.

Afterward a sister asked me about how recent the miscarriage was, thinking that it was in May (this was June).  And it struck me how out of proportion my grief must seem since it was quite a few months earlier.  I thought that some sisters who didn’t ask probably thought it happened yesterday with the way I could barely speak about it.  Since then I’ve been wondering about my grief, wondering if part of its length is just how little I’ve talked about it.  All I know for sure is that it is raw; some days I feel like it is still happening.  I’ve read a lot about other people’s experiences with miscarriage and I’ve talked to people I know, and I can’t help feeling some difference there.  I mean, most of them felt so eager to try to have another baby while for months I felt completely guilty to even consider it (of course, I also felt an opposite pull based on the fact that my body is sometimes not-so-slowly breaking down and the window for bearing children seems brief).  I’m ultimately unsure if I wanted to feel like my suffering was like theirs in order to make some sense out of it, or if I wanted it to be uniquely mine.

I remember reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl when I was 18 or 19 and beginning to wrap my mind around the fact that suffering is relative.   Thank goodness he understood this better than I do because can you imagine a therapist who survived the Holocaust not being willing to accept the truly subjective nature of the human experience—I have been in many therapy sessions in my life and thank heaven none of them included the phrase, “You think that’s bad, I remember the first day in the concentration camp . . . .”  Of course, the ultimately mind-bending part of this concept for me is that even our own suffering is relative.  It’s not just that we can’t understand other people’s subjective experience, but that from one minute to the next we can’t really accurately interpret our own.

I’ve had this internal monologue with myself at least once a day for many months now: you’ve suffered much worse than this.  This is nothing compared to, say, the whole of 1999 and 2000. And at face value, I agree; at that point I was completely lost mentally and emotionally, and physically I couldn’t really get out of bed most days.   But that’s where this whole relativity issue comes in because on many days I feel like the sorrow now is both so acute and so unending that I could never possibly have felt worse.  So am I really suffering more now than I ever have before, or do I just feel this now and so it feels worse even though it isn’t?  And here’s that uncertainty again because I’ll really never know.  It’s entirely possible that even though my life was demonstrably worse back then, my capacity for feeling has grown to such an extent that both joy and sorrow are deeper now.

I suspect that most mothers would agree that our capacity for feeling actually does grow, at least that seems to be what many are trying to articulate when they first have a child and feel internal changes taking place.  Of course, that comes back to part of the rub: to the world I am not a mother.  This doesn’t really bother me because it is the only rational way to view my current situation, but it does underscore why I think it’s so difficult to communicate what I’ve been feeling and experiencing for many months.  The way I’ve sometimes articulated it is that I feel like I’m walking around a totally different person than I was a year ago, but no one can see it.

It’s not as if I have a grand answer about how the world should act differently but I just know that I am often left feeling that there is no place for dealing with miscarriage, particularly early miscarriage.  The further along you are the more people acknowledge that you have, in fact, lost a baby.  I don’t begrudge people the things they say to try to be helpful because I know it is an impossible situation to be really helpful in, but it is hard to endure the implications that there was barely the seed of a baby, not really a baby at all, almost like a wish that never materialized.  Because, at the risk of being too graphic, you are physically passing real things out of your system, and at least for me, it was truly and deeply distressing.  And then came the real surprise that those days were the easy days compared to what came after: the trying in vain to figure out how to say goodbye to someone that you just absolutely were not ready to say goodbye to.  Someone that was real to you, but didn’t exist for anyone else.  Someone that you miss everyday, but no one else will ever remember, save God himself.

It’s been many months now and I’m moving on with life (I can’t adequately express how guilty I feel when I say that.  Even though I know that’s how life works—it moves, whether we move with it or not—it still feels like a betrayal to the ones that we have to let go of, even if temporarily, in order to move forward).  I’m trying not to lie in bed watching TV and movies or surfing the internet all day long everyday (maybe someday I will try to go a full day without escaping to one of these things, although truthfully that day seems a very long way off).  I’m trying not to stay awake all night thinking and grieving (tonight is clearly not a good example of that effort).  But I guess I wanted to capture something of how I’ve felt before time passes and I forget how intense and painful it all is/was.

September 7, 2009

The death penalty

I absolutely had to share this link to a fascinating New Yorker article I read this weekend.  I have been opposed to the death penalty for as long as I can remember, long before I ever met a prisoner.  I don’t believe that it protects the sanctity of life, but rather undermines it.  My opinion was certainly strengthened by seeing firsthand the racism within the criminal justice system–this has always been a key argument for death penalty opponents, that there is an unacceptable racial disparity in the death sentence.

The interesting thing about this article by David Grann is that it is not really a polemic about the death penalty: rather, it’s one part the story of an unlikely friendship between a death row inmate and a writer/teacher; one part exploration of the science (or non-science) of arson investigation; and one part reflection on the ethics of a system which took the life of an innocent person.  It’s a bit lengthy and obviously sad (three children have died at the outset), but there is a tragic beauty in there that really moved me.

If you give it a read, let me know what you think (I thought it was amazing, but sometimes feel like I lose track of how interesting other people will find these same topics).

September 4, 2009

A few random thoughts

Filed under: Incarceration research, Personal, Pregnancy — Tags: , , , , , — llcall @ 2:30 am

1.  The rash that I introduced you to here is still with me.  It ranges from consistently annoying (during the day) to how-in-the-heck-can-I-get-this-skin-off-me (during the night).  On Tuesday, I see doctor #5 who will weigh in on the itch that keeps on giving, and likely disagree with at least doctors #1, 2, and 3.  This is the way it works, no?

2.  So obviously sleep has eluded me fairly consistently since mid-June.  And it’s given me a lot of time to think (too much if you ask Neal).  I’ve also written quite a bit in the middle of the night and then debated whether such things should see the light of day.  Some days I tell myself that this is my blog and I can post whatever I want, even if some of it comes from less-than-happy moments.  But then I think about how blogs generally work and all the life-affirming comments people would perhaps feel compelled to make, and I decide that this is not the place.  But then I think about a friend from church (that’s you, Rachel C.) and how when I shared something really sad one day in Relief Society, she said she was glad because it seems like people don’t really talk about those things.  And I just go back and forth…care to weigh in anyone?

3.  At least one of my loyal readers (that’s you, Auds) probably feels quite betrayed that I started this blog ostensibly to chronicle my thesis work and let people into the world of incarceration, and have really failed miserably at doing this for many months.  So here’s a little tidbit from one of my interviews, not so much about incarceration, but probably just about people, society, etc.

Me: How do you feel about money?

Andy: It’s the best thing.

I know I have a more ambivalent/agonizing relationship with money than a lot of people, but I just can’t get past this thought.  Perhaps it’s as much the way he said it, as the actual words.  He was such an understated, not very talkative guy.  He wasn’t making a statement, just answering my question.

I wish I could say why I’m so haunted by his answer.  Perhaps it is the exact words afterall, because they take me back to a beautiful scene from an amazingly, beautiful book (Toni Morrison’s Beloved).  A mother tortured by the loss of her child, “She was my best thing.”  And her partner’s response, “You your best thing, Sethe. You are.”  I guess I just want weightier things to be attached to words like “best thing.”

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