Wednesday, July 30, 2008


"Oh, oh, oooh!" shouts Big A, overcome at the sight within the box. "Oh my GAWD. It's soooo sparkly."

"Oh my goodness," I correct. But I skip the language lecture in favor of pulling out another drawer. One by one the pieces come out: Pink and blue beads, faux pearls, rhinestone bracelets, silver chains and golden bangles.

My mother's old jewelry box, guarded so well from a greedy daughter for many years. "Don't touch," she scolded when she caught me going through it. "Those are mine," she'd seethe. "You have no respect! You just break things."

Like a crow, I adore the shiny. So as a child, sometimes I snuck my mother's jewelry box into my bedroom. Sitting with my back against the door, I'd run fingers through the gold plated ID bracelets and costume gems. Once, calamity -- a stone was lost from an earring, so she knew. Whether it was the necklaces in her box or souvenirs and trinkets in the attic, she always seemed to discover my rummaging. "Stop snooping!" she'd growl, utterly frustrated.

And it was snooping. No postcard or scrapbook gone unread. I tried on every shoe, robe, and dress at the back of her closet. I knew where she stashed the Christmas presents every year. I could find the shoe box where letters she wrote to my father before their engagement were stacked. Curiously, I never found the letters he wrote to her. (Did she not bother to save them?)

To her it was all rudeness and invasion. My mother was stingy with so much more than her things. And so I went looking for some clue and trace of what I needed in dusty lockets and books instead. Then suddenly she died when I was 22, and the jewelry box was all mine.

Not quite knowing what to do, I packed it away and barely looked at those things over the past 15 years. Until yesterday, when for some reason, it just felt like it was time to take it out again.

So the girls will now enjoy my inheritance. And God willing, we will build a different one together.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Are you "out?" To everyone or a select few? And which -- or how much of your -- story do you tell?

This is the question Tash recently asked at Glow in the Woods regarding what portion of the story of our baby loss we share with the real world. For anyone who ended a pregnancy early for medical reasons, this is one of the core, lingering conundrums. You think about it hard from day one. Actually, given the nature of medical termination, you usually think about it before day one. The lead up to a second-trimester termination generally includes at least one or two days of prep, plus many tortuous phone calls with doctors and hospital or clinic staff to set up appointments. And the question gets into your head early on and clings: What in God's name can I tell people about all of this later?

Two and a half years since my termination, I still grapple with the concept of "out." I personally count four tiers of knowing my story in the real world:

Tier One: The most trusted. These people know everything about my baby's diagnosis, what went into my decision to terminate, as well as all the crazy woe that came later on. Plus, they know the horrible strain all of this put on my heart, body, psyche, and marriage.

Tier Two: The mostly trusted. These people know about the termination and probably also heard that my uterus ruptured later, but don't necessarily realize the connection between those events, or that I can't have kids anymore. Not every detail and no major emotional baggage has been shared, but I trusted these individuals enough to tell them the basic framework of the whole complicated story.

Tier Three: The suspect. Either I don't know these people well enough to gauge their philosophical stance on abortion, or I know for certain they are antichoice. I may not be close to these folks, but they are still entrenched enough in my life to require some explanation as to why I suddenly wasn't wearing maternity clothing anymore, or why my subsequent baby came so early. For them, I created an artfully edited version of the story that isn't false, but allows people to incorrectly assume that my loss was a stillbirth or miscarriage.

Tier Four: The blissfully ignorant. These are mostly people I've met since Little A's birth who have no idea of my pregnancy woes. It's not a secret, but it just hasn't come up, and I haven't volunteered it.


In the early days after my loss, Tier 3 was the group that caused me the most tension and sadness. No matter how you lose a baby, you feel flayed and exquisitely sensitive to how others perceive what happened in the aftermath. People routinely say things that they think will help but inadvertently hurt. This problem magnifies significantly if you terminate. Because in addition to the kind-hearted blunderers, there are also the shunners and the snubbers. These are the people who feel that the manner of your loss negates all rights to condolences. In fact, some people feel that a termination requires insults and condemnation. Which is bad enough on any ordinary day, but downright impossible to contemplate in the wake of your shaky new grief.

So, everyone who terminates has a Tier 3. What varies is how many people get put there, and for how long.

Now, my Tier 3 is likely very tiny compared to many other women. That's because here in the Bay Area the vast majority of people are prochoice. There isn't much risk in being open with my story. The most push back I get is on this blog. And when the occasional anonymous wing nut stops by to comment, I hold the power to delete, which really takes a lot of sting out the random trolls. So my situation is much easier than someone in Topeka or in Oklahoma City. There a woman may very likely have a friend or relative call her a baby killer to her face after a medical termination. And there just isn't any magic button in real life that can erase that.

Yet even in my "safer" locale, the specter of snubbers and shunners falls over me every time I consider telling my story. I have to really think about what the long-term implications of talking with some one could be before I open my mouth. It's always a gamble, the revelation.

And as much as I try to keep it at the personal level when I talk about my baby and my decision, inevitably it's also more than that. It's where the personal, political, and religious intersect. For always, whether I like it or not.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

Run Over in the Parking Lot

Wabi: (to Big A while strapping Little A into the stroller and locking the car) Stay next to me, honey. See those cars? We're in a parking lot and you need to be careful.

Big A: So I don't get squished?

Wabi: Yep.

Big A: So I don't die?

Wabi: (Deep sucking in of breath) Exactly.

Big A: If I die, do you just start over with another new kid?

Wabi: ... No. It doesn't work that way. You are not replaceable. Besides, I can't have any more children.

Big A: Never? Why not?

Wabi: I got a little bit broken when Little A was born, sweetie. I'm ok, except that I can't have babies anymore. But even if I could have more children, you are still not replaceable in any way.

Big A: Because I'm special?

Wabi: Yeah. So please, try not to get squished, ok?

Big A: Well all right, momma!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Sisyphus Takes a Holiday

It's an odd sensation, this feeling of idleness without guilt. Usually any moment I sit staring off into space, I'm nagged by the needly pricks of my to-do list: Manuscript editing, career networking, email reading, invoice mailing, playdate booking, neighborhood volunteering, childcare swapping, tantrum soothing, lunch packing, lawn mowing, argument refereeing, pool cleaning, floor mopping, diaper changing, toy sorting, laundry folding, medication dosing, bill paying, bathroom scrubbing, asthma monitoring, grocery shopping ... wait, I'm forgetting something. Oh yeah, quality time. When the heck am I supposed to squeeze that in? Argh.

As a working mom, I have found quality time to be the very rock that Sisyphus pushes up the hill. Maybe if you have smiley, cheerful kids made out of plastic, quality time is great. Especially if Mommy takes enough uppers to be perky and patient all the way through 8:30 p.m, because then the family can bond over dinner and roll right on to the nightly bedtime routine happily. But me, I am amphetamine-deprived, and my kids, they are the normal, made-of-meat variety. We all arrive home on worknights in a precarious state. It does not take much to push three hungry and tired females into being cranky. And once cranky, it's just a little hop over to someone (everyone) becoming screechy. And there might have even been a little biting in the dinnertime mix. Because toddler Little A, she is not above taking an angry chomp out of mommy's shoulder, should that sippy cup of warm milk not fly out of the microwave fast enough. That child is silky angel hair and sweetness most of the time. But you do not screw with Little A's hunger, if you know what's good for you.

But then the summer solstice hit, and life suddenly shifted. Work started to wrap up. The crazy patchwork of childcare we'd put together for both the kids in the past year also got cut back and simplified. Plus it is July, when colds, flu, and pnuemonia take a plane to the other hemisphere. So nobody is sick, and the doctor's appointments are also fewer and farther between.

All of this has made a huge difference in our lives. That elusive quality time I have been fighting for? It now exists! Ironically, I got here by spending huge quantities of time with the kids. We've picnicked at the ocean, visited the zoo, tromped through the science museum, hit the amusement park, camped in the Sierras, gone swimming in our pool, wandered on the hill trails around our house, skipped along the bike path, watched parades and fireworks, and worn an entire extra-large box of sidewalk chalk down to the nibs. We've eaten more stone fruit, strawberries, turkey dogs, and ice cream than I fathom. Labor Day is over six weeks away, and we've already gone through two bottles of sunscreen. I'm lining up the empty coppertone tubes on my bathroom windowsill as trophies to the fun.

And the housework? It's as piled up as before. But now it doesn't vex me quite so much. There is a huge difference between trying to find the time between work phonecalls to launder your daughter's blankie quickly because she won't sleep in the hospital without it and trying to get the beach towels clean so you can head out tomorrow for another day in the sand.

Long story short, the not working for awhile thing? It's working out.

Maybe come September when Big A starts kindergarten I will again feel the tug of work and need to change things up again. But that's September, maybe. For now, I feel like I can rest, play, and breathe. Finally.