National Pregnancy, Infant And Child Loss Day: Tables Missing One

Band Back Together is doing a wall of remembrance as well. Please visit if you can. We’re also calling for submissions from our pregnancy, baby, child  loss mama and daddies this month. Any issues logging in email bandbacktogether@gmail.com.

When I first started blogging, I found myself fitting in, not with the other mom bloggers, but with the fringe groups. The infertility bloggers, the baby loss bloggers, the special needs bloggers – those were people I could identify with much more so than the people I was supposed to fit in with. Maybe I hadn’t lost a child, maybe I hadn’t struggled in that very same way, but I had struggled in my own way.

We were the outsiders. The misfits. We had stories that no one wanted to hear about. Elephants sat at our tables, in corners and we were forever on the outside of normal, looking in. It’s the natural progression, I suppose, that I would create a space for us to gather. I’m proud of that. There are many of us outsiders. So many more than I’d thought.

When my daughter was born sick, it was no surprise that it was these people that came to my side with swords to help me slay my dragon, fluffy tissues to wipe the tears, and a barf bucket for when it all came to be too much.

I have an email folder that I’ve carefully saved every email I’ve gotten from that time that someday, I will print out to show my daughter. Most of the emails are from the people like me. Like most of you. The outsiders. The people who have been through hell but know how to make the ride a little…easier.

Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss day. Every year, I do a Wall of Remembrance for the people who have picked me up, dusted me off and wiped the barf off my face when I needed it most.

For that, I owe them everything.

According to the Center’s For The Disease Control’s Website, about 1 in every 100-200 births in the United States results in a stillbirth. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4 million stillbirths occur yearly worldwide. One in every four diagnosed pregnancies ends in miscarriage. The numbers for neonatal and postnatal deaths run into the tens of thousands.

Those numbers seem large to me, but even after having to take a statistics class to get through nursing school I can’t say that I’m much of a numbers person. My son, he likes numbers, which is why he’ll be off saving the world, one string of code at a time, while Your Aunt Becky sits here, mouth breathing and occasionally wondering aloud, “Is the INTERNET working?”

Numbers aren’t my thing. People are my thing. 1 in 100-200 sounds like a hell of a lot bigger number when you attach faces to those numbers. Faces, stories and names. People. My friends. My nieces, my nephews, their parents. Tables forever missing one. Lives cut short. Unlived.

Still born. Born still.

My friends. Their children.

Today, we remember.

Shale

Matthew

Charlie

Cora

Thalon

Maddie

Peyton Elizabeth

Hannah

Sarah Kay

Paige

Ashley

Hannah

Baby Morgan

Baby Twin lost at 8 wks

Kiara Jolie

Jellybean

Baby C miscarried at 12 weeks on 1/7/07

Robin

Brian

<3 speck, Peanut, and Bean <3

Mindy’s three angels

Baby Jersey Girl Gets Real

Caleb

Gabriel

Anne & Jed’s babies

Sydney

Athena Rose Moore – 24 weeks Gestation (2nd loss, only one named)

Baby 1 – 9 weeks

Baby B – Twin to my 13yo, 12 weeks

Baby 2 – 9 weeks

Baby JP

Kathlyn

Baby Cherry

Nicholas

Ellis

Tevin, Taylor & Tristen

Elijah Michael

Brenna

Kherrington Faith

Baby H and Baby Boy H

Kalila

Baby J A and Baby J B

Anna

William

Robert Alan

Isabel Grace

Maddy

William Henry

Lilee

James and Jake

Aodin

Selena- lost pregnancy at 9 weeks

Callum

Sarah

Connor

Liam

Samuel

Jacob Lane

Caden

Masyn

Olive Lucy

Seth Milton

Abigail Hlee

JoeJoe Sherman

Baby Nick

Gabriel Anton

Ryan

Jonathan

Devin Alin

Jacob and Joshua

Baby K, Gabriel Connor, Christian Elliot and Andrew

Emmerson

Baby Kuyper

Mara S.

Nathan Michael

Eva and seven additional losses

Timothy, Taea, and Thomas

Kyle S.

John Addison

Raime, Elora & Connor

Ava and Nathaniel

Rose

Micaela, Angelica, and Frankie

Donald Angus

ETW’s seven losses

Becca’s twin siblings

Piper Isabelle

Libby’s Baby

Baby Cline

Addison Hope

Ryne Moyer

Marcus Reeves

Julian Ulysses

Becky

Caleb

Sean Isaac

Clayton and Skylar

Jessica Anne

Paul James

Ashlynn Brooks

David Lee

Babies Boone

David

Olcott-Lueke angels

Baby A and Baby B twin girls

Baby Girl B and Baby Boy A

Becca’s Twin Siblings

Jackson

Kaitlyn Grace

Brennan

Ellery

Robert Daniel

Quinn

Josie Ree Smith

Isabel

Issac

Samuel and Amelia

Draven Fredrick

Baby George – stillbirth

Eva and 7 other losses

In memory of my baby girl, Kaela Alexandria, 7 months and 4 days old when she passed.

Luke – stillbirth

Baby Ari, August 21, 2000.

Baby 1, August 2004, miscarriage. Baby 2, September 2009, and little baby girl Addison, accidental suffocation, 2008.

Ethan

Iris Rose, respiratory problems, three years old, April, 2012.

MTGracie – Her two little forget-me-nots.

Baby Roessler, miscarriage, 7 weeks gestation

Noah Issac (9/1999) and Angel Faith (6/2005)

Lidia Faith and Ronnie Jo aged 7 and 3 at time of death on 12/2/2010. They passed away in a house fire.

Our sweet baby Ava Rose, miscarried at 13 weeks on Oct 3, 2007. I will never forget. <3

Mackenzie. She’d have been 19 this year.

Patrick and Anthony, born at 22 weeks gestation. They would be 19 1/2, if they had lived.

Isabella Joy (miscarried in April 2003).

Thaddeus and Clara

Zephyrus Atiyyah

———–

I’ll add any names to this list so if you’d like me to add a name, please don’t hesitate to email me at becky.harks@gmail.com or leave a comment.

At Band Back Together, we have a Wall of Remembrance as well. Remembering, loving these lost souls is so very important to me.

At 7 pm tonight, October 15th, A Day To Remember, I will burn a candle in memorium.

Dona nobis pacem.

(give us peace) Lord, give us peace.

Four

My Girl,

Today at 4:3…uh, erms, *mumbles incoherently* you will be four years old.

robin waits on the sidewalk

The squishy maternal part of me wants to throw you back into a onesie and one of those wee diapers that nearly engulfs your tiny bum and turn back the clock four years to the time when my youngest baby was actually a baby. The other part of me wonders how it’s only been four years since you rocketed into this chaotic world.

I still have to pinch myself to make sure that I’m not dreaming – I have a daughter. Me! A daughter! I’d always expected my household to be full of boys, stinky socks, and fart jokes (I’d also planned to name house plants after my television husbands, which, frankly, is neither here nor there). I never expected to be lucky enough to become the mother of a daughter.

But here we are, four years into it, and I can’t imagine my life without you by my side.

I wanted to start this letter to you, my Sweet Girl, by telling you how sorry I am. I wish that things between your Dad and I had managed to work themselves out. I know it’s confusing right now and I know it well, but I have to believe that this is what’s best for everyone. My hope is that you’ll learn from this experience that you should never settle for anything less than what you deserve out of life, out of a partner, and that you won’t be afraid to say “no, this isn’t working,” and change your life.

Because you, me, everyone – we all deserve the very best. That’s why you’ve got to take life by the balls, make it your bitch and never let anything get in your way. Ever.

You’re more like me than simply the way we look. We both share the opinion that glitter is mandatory for something to be truly beautiful, you happily wear a pair of ridiculously adorable and incredibly uncomfortable shoes just because they’re pretty, and you don’t sway your opinion, once your mind has been made up. You’re a spitfire of a person, and you’re going to be one hell of a lady. Surviving the insurmountable odds that you did, well, I can’t help but wonder what you’ve been put on this planet to do.

I can hardly wait to find out.

My Girl, I hope that you learn to stand tall and stand proud, knowing that what you do is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. Don’t let anyone else tell you different. Take criticism as a sign to do more, be better, and show people what you’re made of. Don’t stoop to spreading rumors, calling names, or lying to make a point  – it’s unbecoming and it’s tacky. Knowing that you’re in the right, well, that is enough.

Never let anyone tell you how you’re “supposed” to look or feel – your feelings are your own, looks change, and if someone thinks that you’re “supposed” to be doing something different, well, it’s clear that they don’t know you. Truly their loss.

Loves in your life may come and go, sort of like busboys filling your water in a crowded restaurant, but the greatest love, and the one person you matter to most, well, she’s not going anywhere. That would be you, Lovie. You don’t need the love of anyone but yourself to make it through the day, and if someone makes you feel otherwise, he or she isn’t worth your time or energy.

Accept that your journey may never be easy, and if it’s not, don’t fight it. This is your life, your story, and you can be the victim or you can be the hero – your call. Use your experiences to help others; to be better, rather than wallowing in your story. Grieve your losses, nurse your wounds, and come back to the world better and stronger than ever.

Be kind to those you meet, even if they are unkind to you. You never will know how that spot of kindness will affect those around you. No act of kindness is too small.

Don’t take people at who they say they are; their actions will speak volumes while their words are just those: words. Accept one unalienable truth: most people are good, and no matter how angry you are at them, know that they were simply doing the best they could. Same as anyone else.

Speaking of choices, don’t put too much stock in the wrong ones you make. Mistakes are your way of learning what works and what does not, and what you learn from the wrong choices you make is often volumes larger than you do from the right ones.

Never be too proud to apologize when you’ve hurt someone. You don’t need to crawl to the Alter of Your Wrongness, but you should always own up to what you’ve done and how you’ve hurt someone. They can choose to accept your apology or ignore it, but either way, you’ve done your best to make things right.

And when you’re done, my sweet thing, changing the world, don’t forget to call your Mom. She loves you so.

Love always,

Mama

Week Four: And Even Though It All Went Wrong

“Hey,” Dave asked me on Thursday of last week, “I want to take the kids to the pumpkin patch on Sunday.” Our annual pilgrimage to the pumpkin patch was always something I’d looked forward to, but I’d assumed that he meant he wanted to take the kids with someone else. Fair play, I shrugged, and agreed. Can’t have it all ways, right?

When Saturday turned out to be a bust – the kids were happily ensconced on my couch playing with their new capes and jumping around like a couple of monkeys, Dave suggested Sunday as the day we’d go to the pumpkin patch. Still certain he didn’t mean, “how ’bout we BOTH take them to the pumpkin patch,” I agreed. The kids were going back to his house; what he chose to do with them and with whom wasn’t something I really had any say in – and frankly, it wasn’t exactly something I was upset about. Next year, I comforted myself, I’d be able to take them to the pumpkin patch.

“Well,” I said, “why don’t you come over and have breakfast with us before you go? The kids made cinnamon rolls and will be happy to see you.”

“Oh,” he said, confused. “I thought we were going to the pumpkin patch…”

“Wait,” I said. “You want ME to go, too? Okay!” I happily agreed. I love the pumpkin patch NEARLY as much as I love the color blue and finding eclectic artwork.

We decided, after noshing on cinnamon rolls, that we’d simply pick up some pumpkins at the store and go over to The House Formerly Known As Mine to decorate them. Thoughtfully, Dave asked if that was okay with me. Considering I’d had my garage door opener – my one way into the house to collect my things – taken away, I was thrilled to go over there, decorate pumpkins and collect the things that were mine. I hadn’t taken much of the stuff from the house when I moved – the plan had been to keep The House Formerly Known As Mine “Switzerland,” so I figured leaving some furniture behind was okay.

We pulled up to The House Formerly Known as Mine and I noted the peonies, which I’d carefully planted many years ago, were preparing for winter, shedding leaves and turning an unsightly shade of green. I blinked the tears from my eyes before anyone could notice, wondering if anyone would be taking care of them as I once had – with unabashed joy.

As the kids got settled inside with their pumpkins, I began the arduous process of dissecting the pile of things that had been left in the garage – presumably my own stuffs – and moving the items I needed into the back of the van so that I could transport them to my own home. It only took a few minutes, but I wasn’t quite ready to enter the home that had once been mine – my forever home. It’s been extraordinarily difficult to see the places I once haunted; to realize that it is, in fact, all over now.

Without making eye contact, I grabbed a cup of coffee and went back into the garage, only this time, it was to sit and let the tears flow without fear of repercussion. I sat myself on the cooler we’d once bought together for this or that and stared around the garage, the sun shining merrily, my neighbors all working in their yards or on their cars in the same way they’d always done. While I’m not narcissistic to assume that life will not go on without me, it did dawn on me that it had and that inexplicably hurt.

I looked around the garage, which seemed a glaring reminder of what had come before.

There’s that rake up there, the one that’s made to look like a bumblebee that we bought for the kids to “help” in the yard after the trees had dumped their leaves. It had to be five or six years old, but there it was – still intact and still working.

And over there, the matching pink and red Red Ryder Big Wheels I’d bought on two separate Black Friday’s off Amazon: one for Alex and one for Mimi. I smiled, recalling how happy I’d been to find such a good deal on them; how much I’d loved riding my own and how I just knew that someday, these would be treasured toys.

Right there, in front of me was the adorable Power Wheels I’d bought Alex that March, well before I knew that I’d soon be moving.

To my left were a couple of buckets leftover from Easter. I’d moved them outside so that the kids could “garden” (read: dig holes in the dirt) with me, a favorite activity for the four of us. I wondered briefly if we’d be able to do that again someday; how joyful it would make me if we could.

On that shelf, the one we’d bought when we first moved in, I saw all of the sprays I’d bought to save my roses from the dreaded black spot, carefully applying it every other week so that their blooms would smell of heaven and their leaves wouldn’t turn an unsightly shade of yellow. I remembered how many hours I’d spent in that rose garden, lovingly tending to the plants, releasing my stress and watching something beautiful come from a small, innocuous plant.

And there, hanging up, the Baby swing that had fit both Alex and Amelia at one time or another, allowing them to swing alongside their older siblings until they both grew out of it. I remember carefully choosing a playset for the kids so that they’d have a backyard playground, Dave and I in agreement that it made our house feel like a home.

Tears rolled down my cheek as I wondered how it had all come to this.

I couldn’t answer that, so I swiped at my eyes and took a deep breath.

It was time to watch my babies decorate their pumpkins before I returned to my empty apartment, armed with stuff I’d left behind, leaving those things that were never mine to take.

Grief and Grieving In STC

When my friend Stef passed away several years ago – cause of death: cirrhosis of the liver (PSA: DON’T DRINK, KIDS) – leaving behind her two young sons and a funeral so full that it was standing room only, I remember being completely rooted the spot, my grief making the decision “do I have to pee?” as challenging as “Can you repeat the Fibonacci sequence in under 10 seconds?” I couldn’t make a decision to save myself and I could barely function for weeks (if you can call what I do “functioning.” Her death was so sudden, so unexpected, a gigantic piece missing, I could hardly handle brushing my teeth without bursting into tears.

I’d like to say that it’s different now, that I don’t still think of her and tear up, but it’d be a lie: she’s gone and she’s not coming back. So why can’t I delete a phone number she’ll never again answer? I suppose my best guess would be that it’s too final, too real, and it closes a door that can never be reopened. If I deleted the number, I could put it back, but then I’d be the creepy chick putting my dead friend’s phone number in my phone.

I’ve been thinking about her death a lot lately, since the book in which I was a contributor was published. In it, I told the story of Stef in words I could barely choke out; words that weren’t enough because there will never be enough words to capture who she was.

After she died, someone said to me (Dr. Phil? Maury? Oprah? Jerry Springer?) that we don’t lose people in one fell swoop; we lose them over a long period of time, and pop-psych as it is, it’s true.

Maybe it’s a whiff of their deodorant caught on someone walking by in the store. Maybe it’s the way their hair is adorably mussed each morning before a shower. Maybe it’s that one restaurant you went to and laughed for hours over the absurdity of life. Maybe it’s a smile seen in the crowd, so similar, or a turn of phrase you both once used, an inside joke that kept you chortling for hours.

I thought a lot about grief and grieving this weekend.

It’s taken me awhile to began owning up to the idea that I’d soon be moving from my home, and as such, I’d need to find those small inconsequential items; the things I’d never considered needing yet again.

That would be why I found myself stuck in place at Goodwill, looking at silverware organizers, while people desperate for a bargain I! might! steal! from! them! pushed their carts into the back of my ankles trying (nearly successfully!) to mow me down.

I nearly cried, not out of pain or the indignity that someone would actually consider that I’d want a Precious Moments knock-off, standing there and holding someone’s old silverware container, examining scuff marks and wondering – for a good long while – if this was something I should purchase new or not. It was then that it hit me what I’d be losing.

Sometimes, a cheap silverware container is more than that. Sometimes, it’s a reminder of the doors we close and the doors that are closed for us – some shut for good, others left ajar. (go ahead make the joke, I’ll wait here)

….

….

….

That’s when a door isn’t a door.

(when it’s ajar)

I’ll wait while you groan and roll your eyes wildly at my awesome joke.

….

….

….

Done? Good. On to more of my pithy (and low-calorie!) tripe.

I’m sure I’m not the first or last person to burst into tears in Goodwill, which helps a little with the embarrassment of crying in public (being an ugly crier means that public crying makes passers-by look at my wrists for the restraint marks – as if I’ve escaped from the local mental hospital, if there were such a facility close by. Plenty of Pantera’s but no psych facilities. We yuppies need our deliciously overpriced sandwiches on ARTISAN motherfucking BREAD more than we need proper mental health care, but alas, once again, I digress), because if I want to wail on and on like a psychopath about Justin Beaver having a girlfriend, I’d prefer to do so in the privacy of my own home.

HE’S JUST SO DREAMY.

It was there in that dusty store, being jostled from all sides by bargain hunters looking for that perfect tchotchke (or used candle, as the case may be), that I felt the pieces of my old life gradually begin slipping away. I’m not mired in grief muck the way I was after Stef passed. Her death was sudden phone call interrupting an otherwise cold, beautiful February morning in Chicago, whereas I’d watched the slow disintegration of our union once we’d decided to separate over a year and a half ago. I was reminded, standing there holding someone’s grimy old fork holder of grief, of grieving, and of loss.

However right for both parties a situation like divorce is doesn’t make it easier.

I know (some of) the challenges that starting over will bring. The losses I won’t feel until I’m out of the house; an interloper in a life formerly known as mine, someone starting over again. There will be times I’ll have to talk myself through a single moment at a time, reminding myself that it will, in fact, be okay – maybe not this moment or the next, maybe not this year or the next, but someday, I’ll wake up and realize that it is okay.

Because it is. Or, I should properly say, it will be.

There’s not a doubt in my pea-brain that will take a long time to process the complicated emotions (turns out I have an emotion beyond: “I’m hungry.”) associated with the dissolution of a union, I know this. There will be reminders of the good times and the bad that hurt anywhere from:

<->being punched in the armpit<->prick<->wasp sting<->arm tattoo<->natural childbirth and back again, while raging confusion will wind from:

how can orange be a color and a flavor?<->what kind of cell phone plan should I buy?<->who the hell reads tea leaves anyway?<->how can I survive the next three minutes?<->is this REALLY my life?

There will be tears and triumphs in this new life of mine, of this I can be certain. There will be the things that blindside me and leave me gasping for breaths while other things, things I’ve feared, will be as smooth as a baby’s dimply ass. Such is the nature of grief

Such is the nature of life.

———–

Howdy Pranksters! How was your long weekend? Do you do shit for Labor Day? I want to be the person who’s all, I DID AWESOME SHIT, but really, it was a nice simple weekend with friends, antics and a healthy dose of debauchery.

Do please forgive these occasional things inside the posts – I’m simply trying something out (also kinda coveting those shoes)(I DON’T NEED MORE SHOES, BAD AB, BAD!), which I’ll explain sometime when we’re all very, VERY bored.


grief and grieving

ALSO THIS:

(Um. I have a new addiction. It’s right there)

Swan Song

My Dave:

The ancient Greeks believed that the Mute Swan, the Cynus olar, who remained silent throughout her lifetime, in the moments before her death, sang at last, a hauntingly beautiful song.

My darling, the father of my children, and my biggest supporter: this is my swan song for you.

swan song divorce

I’d never planned to be married. The very notion of marriage made me heave and hide in the nearest closet – I’d seen Heartburn (one of my mother’s favorite movies) too many times to ever believe that marriage could actually work. I equated marriage with loss of self, and I, all 120 pounds of me – soaking wet with a backpack on, well, I had big plans for my life, and really, I’d had always figured I was destined to roam the world on my own, my young son by my side, making mischief and learning as we went. It’s something I both expected and wanted.

Inexplicably, I met you. While I told you blithely on the train, the first time we hung out that, “being set up never works,” I should’ve known better. By the end of our first non-date, I scampered out of the car, before we could do the awkward “are we going to kiss?” moment. I knew then that I liked you. I simply didn’t know how much – but it didn’t take long to find out.

You were the first person that didn’t look at me as a 22-year old unwed mother still in school, trying her hardest to make her son proud: you saw me as I was – someone almost entirely unlike you, but someone who cared deeply for you; about you. In turn, you refused to let what others would call “baggage” as anything less than wonderful.

As I woke up in your bed, the morning after our second date, I looked into the living room, while you snored softly behind me, and it hit me like a punch to the gut. My Eye said, without question or hesitation:

I was going to marry this man.

A year and a half later, I did.

I won’t say that it was the “happiest day of my life,” primarily because it was 190 degrees out and I had pneumonia, but I do remember that the entire church wept as you said your vows first to our son, then to me. While I may not have been a happy bride, I was a tremendously proud wife.

In those early days, back before the chasm, I tried to cook – to much shock, dismay and horror to the rest of our condo building, until your schedule became unpredictable enough that I could never expect you home at a certain hour. Our first Christmas in our new home, lovingly, I put together ornaments with our then-four year old son, Benjamin. Carefully, I wrapped each package, in the way only someone who deeply cares can. And I did care – so very deeply.

I didn’t know that someone like me could be; deserved to be so lucky.

Soon, we were expecting our first son, a boy, who we named Alexander Joseph, after my father. My pregnancy was fraught with prenatal depression – something I didn’t recognize until I found myself, one day, weeping over our broken ice-maker. When it came time to birth our second son, you were so nervous in the delivery room that you vomited while I lay in labor, trying to watch the tiny wall-mounted television that appeared to get reception only if the moon was half a degree to the right on a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of January (it was March).

But once your second son was born, you grabbed that baby on up and twirled him around. I’ve never seen a prouder father. For all of the discomfort and sadness I dealt with during my pregnancy, I was, at long last, happy. I’d spent the years before hoping, planning, wanting another child; a sibling for our firstborn. This was my dream come true – I don’t recall a moment happier than that day, March 30, 2007.

What came next was a series of unfortunate and ill-timed events.

Unprepared for a life that didn’t resemble as a Norman Rockwell painting, you began to turn yourself off emotionally –  you worked more, harder, and better to try and “fix” the “unfixible.” Alex, being the colicky sort, while he has grown into a wonderful child, he was no easy child. While our firstborn would rather fix his gaze upon his mobile than be touched, our second son wanted nothing… but me. For a whole year, I fed that baby, twirled him, loved him, and got up every 1-3 hours with him, before he began to allow you to care for him.

This became the beginning of the chasm.

We lost our ability to be a couple, between our autistic firstborn and our difficult newborn, the chasm, which began as a few cracks in the foundation, began to show. I was exhausted, depressed and trapped with a baby to my breast while you were exhausted, depressed, and trapped with a job that hung as an albatross around your neck.

Still, we soldiered on. It was the thing to do, and still, we loved.

Shortly after Alexander turned one, I found out that I was unexpectedly expecting. It took a couple of hours for us to get over the shock of a positive pregnancy test, but by nightfall, we were elated. I knew that if I didn’t have another baby – and soon – I’d remember the nightmare of a baby Alex was and decide to remove my uterus with a butter knife before reproducing again.

The following morning, I awoke to blood. Lots of blood. Immediately, I called my OB and hurried to his office to get a shot of Rho-GAM and to see what was up with my uterus. Labs showed that I was experiencing a chemical pregnancy. While the doctor apologized profusely for the loss, I was, for the most part, okay. Until the hormones dropped precipitously and I began weeping. I don’t think I stopped for a breath for weeks.

Inexplicably, though, we managed to fight through the tears and the following month, I was, again, pregnant. For a couple of days. I didn’t even get to tell my Pranksters that I was expecting before, once again, I had another chemical pregnancy. This one hit me harder than the first, so it was a huge shock to learn that, for the third month in a row, I was expecting.

Rather than FedEx you a silver baby rattle from Tiffany & Co or hire a singing telegram (as if they’d be able to get through the security in your former place of employment), I simply called you and said flatly – “I’m pregnant. Again.” Rather than jump around with joy, you replied, “I’m training someone right now. I’ll call you back!” Since I hadn’t expected the pregnancy to last, I made a quick announcement on my blog – I wanted to hear “congrats!” before I heard, “I’m so sorry,” again.

I began waiting to bleed. After two consecutive miscarriages, who wouldn’t?

It didn’t begin until approximately six weeks into the pregnancy, when we learned that, a) I was, indeed, pregnant with something that appeared to look like a gummy bear and 2) my progesterone level was at a six, which, according to the doctor, was very, very bad. It was then that I began to use progesterone suppositories, which made the pregnancy hormones even worse.

My prenatal depression was intolerable, I know, and I’m sorry for the mood swings. You, darling, are one of those people who remains fairly stable day after day. Before the pregnancies, I had been too, and I know I bewildered you. I bewildered myself. The cracks widened – your once-stable wife had turned into someone who spent her days consumed by fear. For nine months.

Concurrently, after much discussion, you’d accepted a management role at your workplace, which we’d assumed meant a boost in pay. Instead, it meant longer hours, the same pay, and greater responsibilities. You were home less, and when you were home, you were on call 24/7. And because you’re a “fixer,” you dove headfirst into work, knowing that while working, you could solve the problem. I, on the other hand, was a whole different breed of wife; the sort you had no idea how to handle. Hell, I could barely handle her.

Finally, on January 30, 2009, we drove to the hospital nervously, ready to meet our last-born, a daughter, whom we’d chosen to name Amelia. I’d spent most of the pregnancy terrified that there was something wrong with the baby, but ultrasound after ultrasound showed nothing beyond a daughter who liked to grab her junk in utero. I don’t know how many times you reassured me that she was fine; perfect, but it had to have been somewhere in the thousands.

We drove to that hospital at the ass-crack of dawn, the big fat snowflakes peppering the window of our SUV as we drove grimly through the night. There wasn’t much to say – we were both terrified, bewildered and exhausted. The tears that fell from my eyes plopped down onto my jacket, as I stared out the window, marveling at the beauty of the morning, trying to keep my anxiety at a normal level.

It was daybreak when we reached the hospital; the sunrise on the horizon, dripping as soft as honey, coating the freshly-fallen snow with a thick layer of honey-colored sun. I waited for you in that tiny vestibule while you parked the car, knowing, in my heart of hearts – just as I’d known I was to marry you, no question – that things would never again be the same, the next time my footfalls, once-again, echoed these hallowed halls. I simply did not know why.

Silently, I grabbed your hand like a drowning person as we made our way to the maternity unit, as we had when Alex was born. Same drill: up the elevator and into the bustling maternity ward, where I was checked in, given some Pitocin, and told to stay in bed – the baby was still “too high” in my womb, and (the unspoken truth) they didn’t want a prolapsed cord. Unhappily, I obliged. When the nurse left the room, I began to weep softly, as I bore through the contractions, wiping my face occasionally on my gown, occasionally rubbing my eyes with the hospital-grade sandpaper tissues. Gently, sweetly you stood at the head of the bed, wiping away my tears and reassuring me that “everything was going to be okay.”

It wasn’t. No matter how I wished it had been, it wasn’t.

Several hours later, our daughter was born with a previously undiagnosed neural tube defect; an encephalocele, which protruded mightily out the back of her head. While the NICU whirled and twirled about our daughter, I laid in the bed, delivering the placenta and weeping, the precipitous drop in hormones not helping an already-terrifying situation. You remained with our daughter, as I’d begged you to, as I was still mired in the bed.

The chasm, something that could’ve been mended during this crisis, only widened further, as you approached our daughter’s (soon-to-be-diagnosed) encephalocele with an analytical mind while I was an emotional wreck.

The following weeks are a blur.

Weeping, I sat on the couch, holding my poor daughter; the girl smaller than the Turkey we’d roasted the previous Thanksgiving, who’d have to undergo neurosurgery at a whopping 27 days old. While I come from a medical family, you, darling, do not. Which means that I knew the risks we were taking; I understood that this wasn’t a “blip on the radar” but something far more sinister.

The one and only thing I can recall during those days, is the memory of you, love, holding our new daughter, singing and twirling her around. When I asked what you were doing, you simply said: “she can’t dance – so I’m her legs.”

I cried. This time because it was beautiful.

While our daughter, our warrior girl, the one with curls like a halo, went on to kick neurosurgery in the balls, I sunk. I developed post-traumatic stress disorder and was unable to leave the home without panicking. I relied too heavily upon you to be my support, even as you yourself floundered. I didn’t seek the care I so desperately needed – determined that I, myself, would be able to “fix it” on my own. I deeply regret not seeking help sooner, maybe then our marriage could’ve been saved.

The cracks turned into chasms we could barely walk over without the fear that we’d be sucked into the nothingness below.

The daily migraines made it all the more dire – I could no longer drive if I had a migraine – it wasn’t safe. I spent day after day alone in the home, terrified to go outside my own doors and live my life. I was stuck. We were stuck. You turned to work. I turned to writing.

Here we sit today, the chasm between us so wide neither can yell across to the other. While I’d once hoped that “where the sidewalk ends” a “road would begin,” it became evident that “where the sidewalk ends,” became “where two separate roads began.”

While I know that this is the very best thing for us – for our family – it doesn’t make the hurt go away. I’m so very lucky to have known you for ten wonderful years. I’m fortunate that I was once able to call myself, “your wife.” You’ve taught me so much over the years; about myself, about the world, and about myself.

If I’d never known you, I’d never have the two bundles of joy currently wrestling about in the other room, like two adorable puppies. Our eldest would never have had the structure he so desperately needed to thrive. Without you, we’d never have had a home.

Without you, I’d never have thought of myself as a “writer;” this blog wouldn’t exist, I wouldn’t have found the courage to take my internal pain and turn it into a safe place for others – it simply wouldn’t have occurred to me. Without your encouragement and countless hours of technical dedication, I wouldn’t have founded The Band Back Together Project, a place where we kick stigmas squarely in the taco, a place that has grown so much, inspired so many, and provided comfort to so many. Without you, I wouldn’t have found my missing piece – words.

I know that we’ll both walk away from our marriage with grace and dignity, with the hope that given some time and space, we can once again travel the same road.

This time as friends.

When I am hurting most, I will look forward to those days tremendously.

Dave, you’re a wonderful person and I wish you everything. Thank you for believing in me during a time in which I didn’t believe in myself.

Love Always,

Becky

Internet Connections

I sat there, on my freshly cleaned couch (thank you o! gods of steam cleaners), in a group of my very best friends. We were eating the greasiest of greasy pizza, occasionally stopping to fetch a rogue binkie or wipe a dirty face. We laughed, talking about the times we’d shared, where our lives had randomly found us, pausing now and again to wipe tears from our eyes.

These people, my friends – my very best friends – they’d flown in from all over the country to celebrate my daughter’s birthday with me. They didn’t have to. I didn’t have to threaten them with a tube sock full of quarters. They did it because they wanted to be there with me, with us, together.

I’d never felt quite so at home in my living room.

It had been so long since I’d sat in my home, surrounded by people who know me as I am, fucked up bits and all, and laughed so hard that I was afraid I was going to whiz myself.

Seeing packages that my friends, my Pranksters, had sent for my daughter, knowing they’d cared enough to send her something for her third birthday, it reminded me of the connections. How lucky I’ve been to know so many wonderful people.

Because I am.

Lucky, that is.

Back when using the Internet cost approximately nine bucks a minute and I used it to fuck with people in chat rooms (oh, like you didn’t), I’d never really understood that there were people behind those words. Even as a blogger, back in 2003, the very notion that the words I hastily strung together would be read by another person was mind-boggling. I assumed my site was read by porn bots trying to increase my penis size, not living, breathing people (I assume that the un-dead don’t have internet access, but I could be mistaken).

I have never been so happy to be wrong. No, not about the un-dead.

When I get asked about making money blogging, after I stop laughing, I’m always a little bit…stung. Not because I don’t understand the desire to make a little cash on the side, but because to me, it’s not what it’s about.

I’ll take the friends I’ve made, the connections I’ve formed over a stack of cash any day.

A pony on roller skates, tho…well, maybe not so much.

band back together

A present from my very best friends who work with me on Band Back Together.

(if you’re a member of the Band and would like to vote for Band Back Together at the Weblog Awards, you may do so here. MWV is nominated too, which OMG, but The Band deserves the award for all of the bravery they’ve poured into our site.)

Thanksful

It’s been a weird year. Probably weirder than I’ve been able to properly impart upon you, my Pranksters, because, well, some things are not for Internet Consumption (until they are, of course).

It’s been a year of loss.

I’ve lost two beloved family members to the great big gig in the sky. I’ve lost a relationship with another. Countless friendships have been disbanded.

Some of these things are my fault. Not, of course, the dead people. I leave the killing to my Television Husband Dexter. And I SWEAR I have an alibi – just ask The Twitter.

(sidebar: you know you have good friends when they’ll tell the world that OF COURSE they were with you that one night).

But in the midst of the chaos and sadness surrounding the losses, The Universe has reminded me time and time again that from struggles come redemption. And from redemption comes new beginnings – a new life.

Perhaps I will not walk out of this year the same person who walked in, but, let’s be honest, why would I want to?

So today, on American Thanksgiving, instead of bemoaning what no longer is, I am thanksful for what has become. If we can only exist in this moment, well, this moment is pretty fucking beautiful.

Instead of stuffing myself with turkey and green bean casserole with the kids, I will instead put up the Christmas lights, warble Christmas carols, and, most of all, count my blessings.

One by motherfucking one.

0) I am thankful I do not own a Team Edward or Team Jacob shirt.

1) Likewise, I’m thankful (and slightly superior) that I’ve never seen, read, or been in the same room with one of the Twilight series.

1) I’m thankful for Strawberry Slim Fast and Uncrustables, without which I would’ve gone hungry. Or gotten scurvy. Or both.

2) I’m thankful that Britney’s new album is (quite possibly) her best. Also: she follows me on The Twitter. Along with 80,000 other people. I just KNOW she’s reading my tweets!

3) My kids, who remind me that one should never, ever take life too seriously, and that I’m never too old for a good poo joke.

5) My friends, my Pranksters, who remind me that it’s okay to be weak sometimes. Who remind me that – no matter what – they will catch me when I fall. Even if I fall hard.

8) I’m thankful that I’ve been able to write – and freelance – every single day of the year. Maybe it’s not a book (turns out, I’m kinda chickenshit about the whole book thing) , but maybe that doesn’t matter.

13) I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to know and love those who I have lost. They have each taught me something, and for that I am grateful.

21) I’m thankful to have imported someone to make me coffee. Because it’s kinda pathetic to admit to the world that you cannot make a cup of coffee. It’s much easier to take credit for someone else’s work.

34) Most of all, I’m thankful for this picture:

Happy, Happy Thanksgiving, Pranksters.

P.S. What are you thankful for?

Unbroken

I remember the tears I cried after my first son was born.

My kid hated me. I was a twenty-one year old mother. I was the approximate size and shape of a human fire hydrant or an overgrown Oompa Loompa. My friends had, thanks to aforementioned son’s screams, all but run for the hills. I barely slept. I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing – only that this wasn’t supposed to be the way of things. I had no goals. No ambitions. I barely recognized myself in the mirror.

They were bitter – these tears – because I’d spent my entire life knowing where I was going and what I was doing. There was never the slightest hint of hesitation in my step.

Finding myself lost, questioning my every decision, wondering what I was doing wrong (because clearly the problem was with me), well, these were new for me.

My life confused me.

Luckily, with a few suggestions from an old friend, I was able to figure out the What Next and Move Ahead with my life. My son was autistic – I wasn’t a rancid mother. I had to scrap medical school for nursing school. School allowed me to succeed and feel pride in myself again. Slowly, those baby pounds melted off as my son found his voice.

Once again, I was back. My steps were confident and certain, my life on a new track.

It took a lot more this time, to bring back that useless girl. Migraines. Antenatal depression. Encephaloceles. Postpartum depression. Financial instability. Workaholism. Post-traumatic stress disorder. Uncertainty. Anxiety. That purposeless feeling pervaded.

Certainly, during the day, I was fine – I had my blog, I had my Pranksters, I had three wicked cool kids, I had new friends who didn’t mind babies screaming. I had purpose then.

But at night, when the rest of the house was either sleeping or working, those feelings crept back in. Slowly at first. Soon, I spent my nights weeping the kind of soul-shaking cry that only comes with utter heartbreak. I suppose, looking back, I was heartbroken.

I had it all – everything I had worked for, and it simply wasn’t enough. The strings it came with had turned into a noose.

Everyone else seemed to be fine – flourishing even – so the problem, well, the problem was clearly my own. *I* was the problem. Broken beyond repair. Useless. My steps once again a shuffle.

I cannot tell you, Pranksters, how long I felt this way – convinced I was, indeed, broken. Months? Years? I’m not entirely sure.

I cannot tell you either, Pranksters, when that feeling dissipated. Because it has. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know when that empty space was filled for the first time in my life. My footfalls now echo with confidence and occasionally stupidity. My future is not a question of “if?” but a question of “when?”

I can see now that I was never useless. Never less than. Never without.

And never, ever, ever – not even for a moment – broken.

Heart. Stop.

“Mom, do I have autism?” my eldest peered at me through the eyes so dark and deep I could easily be swallowed by them.

My heart stopped a moment, my dancing cactus videos forgotten entirely, unsure of how to proceed. It was a good question. Something we had never spoken of because, well, it never mattered.

The answer was yes, yes he did have Asperger Syndrome. He’d had it since I’d pushed him out of my delicate girl parts, trying desperately to bring him to my breast on the birthing table, only to have him shriek in horror and disgust, something he did with alarming frequency for the next several years.

Clothes made him crazy, their textures too binding, the tags an endless source of frustration. Being held, something most babies (I’d heard) loved, well, he’d prefer to lay on his back, watching his mobile spin for hours upon end, the deep greens and blues soothing him in a way I never could. It broke my heart until it didn’t anymore because eventually, I stopped trying to scoop him on up, cuddle him close. I loved him from afar, my tears dotting his crib sheet as I stood above him, wishing I knew what went on in that glorious brain of his.

By age one, his love of the planets was obsessive. While he couldn’t tell me the name of the animals that lived in the house (dog, cat, for those interested), he could tell me all of the names of the moons of Jupiter – his favorite planet – and identify them from even the grainiest pictures.

Speech severely delayed, by age two, he was enrolled in both speech and occupational therapy, dutifully trucking back and forth to the Early Intervention center, day after ever-loving day. Eventually, he’d been able to touch varying textures of dry rice and beans, eat few things beyond his standard diet of oatmeal, graham crackers and cheese, and adapt his fine motor skills so that he could pinch small things, hold a crayon.

Speech therapy continued until his fourth year. He’d gone from mostly non-verbal – excepting, of course, anything related to the cosmos – to using a handful of words; more each day.

Our relationship had developed, too. While I’d still feel that scar tissue tightening up whenever he chose anyone but me to love on, I accepted that his love was different; unique. Just like his beautiful brain. It was simply different. Not wrong, not right, not better or worse, just different.

I accepted different.

Through all of this, we didn’t bother with labels. Not in my house. Ben’s Asperger Syndrome was no different than saying he’d inherited both my brown hair and long eyelashes. It was just a part of who he was. And that didn’t deserve a label or hushed meetings around the table.

I knew the slippery-slope of labeling and I wanted him to grow up as himself, not as what a syndrome may or may not dictate about him.

So when, at age ten, he asked me if he had autism, I didn’t know quite what to say.

So, with widened eyes, I spoke the truth:

“You have something called Asperger Syndrome. You have since you were a baby. You went through speech therapy to help you talk and other therapies to help you eat. Remember how your sister had speech therapy? You did too.”

His eyes opened so largely I feared they would fall from their sockets.

“But I’m okay?” he asked.

“You, like your grandfather, your uncle (my brother) and your own brother, well, you’re just quirky. You have things about you that are different than everyone else. But really, EVERYONE is different. Different is awesome. So don’t think about yourself as a “syndrome,” think of yourself as Ben. Because THAT is who you are.”

He smiled, the crooked teeth he’d gotten from his paternal grandmother peeking through, making him look like a bobble-headed jack-o-lantern.

“Yeah. You’re right. I’m just Ben.”

“I wouldn’t have you any other way.”

He then scampered off to celebrate his Ben-ness with his siblings.

[Redacted]

Pranksters, I miss you.

I feel like my life these days is one gigantic [redacted] symbol (if it’s not a symbol, it should be). Each day, I come here, sit at my computer for an hour, cursor blinking merrily on the blank page, as I try desperately to tell you something – anything. For years, writing here has been the only thing that’s kept me sane, and now, I’ve lost my words.

Day in and day out, I sit here, typing, deleting, [redacting] and eventually, publishing something that even I know is bullshit. It’s not for lack of trying, which makes me more infuriated. But my head these days is swimming, overwhelmed, full of the sads. I try to pluck words from the mush left between my ears and they don’t work together. They simply don’t fit. And I know it.

I hate living a [redacted] life. I’m not a [redacted] kind of person. I love being an open book. I’ve always loved being an open book.

But when shit gets serious, I retreat. I put myself in the [redacted] corner and pull inside. Nothing gets in or out. It’s the time I most need people and yet, I cannot even form the words to say so.

This is bullshit.

I cannot live this way. It’s become readily apparent that living a [redacted] life is more harmful to me than it is helpful. Retreating to my [redacted] corner leaves me shaky and hyperventilating.

So it’s time to un[redact] my life.

Pranksters, lock up your cupcakes and hide your vodka: Aunt Becky’s back.