Divorced With Kids

When I was in the hospital, having just popped a small creature who looked shockingly like a garden gnome out of my delicate girl bits, I held him for a spell in the quiet, darkened room as the doctor finished delivering the placenta and doing whatever it is that doctor’s do to your crotchal region after a baby is born. I held my second son to my breast and looked up at his father, stars in my eyes (okay, it was painkillers, but who’s counting?) and said, “I won’t ever have to give this one back.” He nodded, a smile twitching the corners of his mouth, his labor-long headache long since dissipated.

“No,” he replied, “we won’t.”

We were referring to, of course, the weekenders our eldest son had occasionally with the other OTHER side of his family. While we both knew that these were not only necessary, but important for our firstborn, it was heartbreaking to watch him leave each Friday and return overstimulated and exhausted on Sunday. Those days in which he was gone, it felt as though part of our hearts had gone with him – probably because they had.

When the divorce card got played, the first thing my mind jumped to was not “I’m going to have to find a real job,” nor was it, “will anyone ever love me again?” No. It was “what about the kids? I can’t leave my kids again – some days, they’re all that keeps me going forward.”

I knew that moving out; being unable to pay the mortgage, these had implications that were far-reaching – I’d have to, as previously stated, get a real job and learn to be alone after spending my entire life with another person around. I’d have to scrimp and save and cut coupons and figure out one makes “Ramen Bake,” I’d have to spend nights in an apartment so quiet that the on-switch on the heater would make me jump half-out of my skin. But most importantly – I’d have to leave my kids some of the time.

Now it’s not like I planned to be all thwap-thwap-thwap INCOMING helicopter parent once my second son popped out. I’d briefly considered attending college with him, but that’s mostly because I figured he’d never properly become potty trained, and frankly, someone had to teach the kid how to do keg stands, and his father, well, he was a Normal Rockwell painting, while I sat in the very back of the classroom, playing games on my phone, figuring out how many days, exactly, I could ditch before my grades dropped.

But I never really thought about the possibility of being separated from my children before it was the right time. I mean, I wouldn’t go to prom with the kid (PROBABLY), but I did expect that I’d see them most (read: all) days until they hit THAT point.

I was, of course, as I am so often, wrong.

I can accept that my nine year union dissolved – we both deserve our happy, neither of us is “at fault” because, well, as my therapist says, “divorce requires two people, just like marriage,” and Dave and I are more than amicable – we’re friends. We owe that to our children.

This weekend marked the end of the dreaded first week, the week that found me sobbing like a whiny baby on the couch as I watched and re-watched episodes of trashy television, which, Pranksters, I’m going to tell you, should be a prescription for all that ails you. And shit, it’s better trashy television than my wedding video, of which, I have to say, I don’t own, because I refused to spring for a video no one would ever choose to watch willingly. I didn’t want to be that newlywed that showed every single person who came to my home the wedding video, pointing out “the good” parts. Because hello, boring.

Amelia, thrilled out of her wee mind, came by on Friday, forgoing her normal McDonald’s dinner with her brothers, and spent the night. Alex came over on Saturday, proclaiming that this would be “the best day ever,” because he got to *gasp* sleep at Mama’s house. And as the children predicted, those were the two very best days I’ve had in a long time.

Yesterday, they returned to Dad’s house, and I was left, sitting alone with my trashy television, the silence of my empty apartment thumping in my ears.

I looked around, tears in my eyes, at all of the things in my big girl apartment. The bed and the couches. The end table and lamps. The zombie gnomes in the bathroom, sandwiched between a mushroom nightlight.

And I realized, for the millionth time that week, that my house, my house without children, it is not a home – it’s just the place where I live.

And that sort of sadness, it’s nearly impossible to shake.

The Face That Only A Mother Would Love Saves The Planet

The first thing my mother said about me after I was born was that I had a “face only a mother would love.” According to the doctor, I’d been in some really awkward birthing position, shoved up against some bone or another, and that lead to my black eyes and nose so swollen it took up damn near half of my face.

I politely, respectfully disagree.

Not with the whole “face only a mother would love” because obviously I found someone who if he doesn’t LOVE me, at least tolerates me and my face, but with the “awkward birthing position.”

No, I’m pretty sure that Baby Aunt Becky had lost her way while trying to get out of the womb and was desperately battling to exit THE WRONG WAY. Or maybe I slipped and fell, cracking gnomish my face open. That’s probably more like it.

With genetics like mine it’s a wonder I ever learned to properly walk.

I suppose the term “walk” is debatable since I have tripped over lines in my Pergo floor, routinely fall UP the stairs and just last summer fell through the screen door. All stone-cold sober as a matter of fact.

My father, tasked with teaching me to ride a bike, swears I didn’t learn until I was close to 11 but I think that it was probably closer to 14 by which time many of my friends had cars, so I didn’t ever really get a chance to hone my sweet-ass bike riding skills.

The problem with being a Super Klutz, Overachiever is this (besides those pesky ER co-pays) you have to explain to people how you sustained injuries like these:

*Twisting your ankle while walking–NOT running–down stairs

*Breaking a toe while making a sandwich

Or, maybe even THIS:

Das BOOT

Das BOOT.

This would be what I got to wear during most of my pregnancy with Mimi, thanks to a miscalculation on my part where I slipped on a rogue BABY GATE and broke some tendons in my fucking foot.

No, there was no fire. I wasn’t saving cuddly kittens from a burning building or curing world hunger. I was simply walking down stairs and made a misstep that cost me a whole hell of a lot of pain, suffering and dignity (what dignity?).

(As a side note, people who wear walking casts are not retarded. Just because I was wearing Das Boot does not mean that I was any stupider than I was before. It did not require that you speak to me in slow small sentences.

“Dooooooooo yooouuuuuu haaaavvveeee annnyyyy queeesstttiiiiooonnnss?”

The only question I have, mother fucker, is how far up my ass I can shove my boot before I hit your small intestine.

Also? People with disabilities don’t deserve to be STARED at. Just because I was pregnant and crippled did not mean that I was any more of a freak show than I was before. So take a picture, motherfucker, I fucking dare you. I’ll shove that camera so far down your throat you’ll be flashing people for months.

ASS.

So to you people with disabilities that don’t go away after months in a walking cast? I am sorry. Genuinely. People treat you like a fucking freak show and seriously, wow, that fucking sucks.)

Anyway. Coming up with new and inventive ways to explain away dumb ass injuries is always really tricky because you can only say, “I broke my toe making a sandwich” and get the standard blink, blink, blink response before you realize that you have to come up with something more…heroic.

Like, “I broke my toe making a sandwich in a third world country for a starving kid!” Said with just the right amount of conviction, you could pull it off, because it would be pretty hard to question that! What kind of assbag would LIE about flying to a third world country to make a sandwich for a starving kid!?!

Or even, “I twisted my ankle running down the stairs of a burning building trying to save a basket of orphaned puppies!” Everyone loves a feel-good story about adorable fluffy puppies or kitties. Just watch the news!

Now I’m just going to have to teach Amelia to carefully explain that this:

Mimi Head

Is from a wicked bar fight. When people question how a baby got into a bar fight, she’ll have to carefully say, “You should SEE the other baby…” And then, BAM! the scar will be easily explained away. No one can question a kid with a scar that takes up half of her head (it’s, well, stretched since this picture was taken).

Twitter informed me last night that I’m not the only one with really ridiculous injuries which sent me to bed laughing my ASS off. Especially the conversation in which I was planning to sue the sandwich for breaking my toe and appear on both the People’s Court and Maury (paternity testing)(duh) for it.

THIS is why I adore Twitter. The mix of the absurd and the sublime.

So gather ’round Das Boot, The Internet, and tell Your Aunt Becky if you’ve had any wacky injuries.

Now It Seems About 100 Years Ago

“What tender days, we had no secrets hid away
Well, it seemed about a hundred years ago.”

–The Rolling Stones

Dear Steph,

It’s been a year now since you died, and I’m left wondering: did you wake up knowing that this day, February 9, 2008 would be the last day you lived and breathed on the planet? Did you know in your heart that your poor abused body wouldn’t be able to withstand even one more night? Or was this day simply one of many days, stretched out into weeks and yawning into years?

I guess I’ll never know.

I’m shocked, I suppose, that even a year later, my grief still feels so fresh and new. The loss of you as a soul on Earth reminds me very much of when I got my wisdom teeth out. I know you’d remember that if you were here. That day that you tried to bring me a card and flowers but ended up one street apart from my house, where, by some miracle, another Becky lived. I remember how that made us laugh over shared cigarettes and cups of endless coffee. Because, what are the chances of THAT happening?

Remember how long it took me to recover from having those four simple teeth out? Four malignant teeth that required breaking my jaw and ripping my cheeks to remove. For weeks afterwards, without thinking, I’d shove the tip of my tongue into those holes into my jaw where my teeth once were, and I was always so shocked by the sudden electric and metallic jolt that jumped through my head painfully.

It was as though my brain was painfully reminding me of something that days before had JUST BEEN THERE. Those four teeth had been there for so long that I’d come to take them for granted. Forgotten until removed. If I didn’t remember about the gaping holes in my jaw, they’d still throb dully, but to have my tongue dip in and out was sudden and exquisite pain, and it was something I couldn’t seem to stop doing.

My grief over your death reminds me of this. Dull and sharp pain that’s unable to be touched no matter how much time passes. It always hurts, but now and again something will remind me of you and it’s like chewing on tinfoil. Why NO, I can’t call you and tell you about, well, anything. I can’t call you to catch some coffee or a drink. I’ll never hear your voice again. Ever. And it hurts just as badly as it did one year ago.

I imagine that it always will. There will always be a gaping hole where you used to be.

For as guilty as I normally feel about things that I have no control over, I’m shocked that I don’t feel badly that I didn’t do more to prevent your death. It would have been pointless and I knew it then and I know it now. I’ve had enough experiences with addiction to know better than to assume that an addict will simply start to listen just because *I* said so.

What I do feel guilty about is that I never got the chance to tell you how much you meant to me. It would have been weird to try and talk to you about feelings and shit because we were SO not like that, but I wish like crazy that I’d tried. Now I can never tell you about how much I admired you. How much I wanted to be more like you. How your laugh still makes me smile and crinkle when I remember how it sounded, ringing out through the room. How proud you made me to be your friend.

Trust me when I tell you how sorry I am that I never told you any of this. It will probably be one of the biggest regrets I have in my life.

But I will remember you. Always. I’ll remember your kindness. Your ability to stick up for me when everyone else went the PC all-bullshit route, something I’ll never forget. I’ll remember celebrating good things with you while mourning the bad and laughing at everything in between. I’ll remember your fierce love of your two young sons, who will never live to know just how amazing their mother was.

Because how can you possibly capture who someone just was by words alone? It’s simple: you can’t. I can’t tell The Internet how amazing and awesome and sweet and funny you are without sounding like a trite cliche. My friend died, therefore I must sound like an ass trying to tell you why it still hurts so fucking much. I know I don’t need to justify it by telling other people what made you so special, what made you so unique, and yet I’m unable to stop myself.

If one person, if only ONE person can walk away and say “hey, now that must have been one hell of a chick,” maybe it won’t hurt so much. Maybe I can refract some of the pain.

But now I’m afraid that I’ve reached that ugly and nebulous area where I prattle on and on saying nothing while trying to say everything, a victim of too little sleep and too much stress, and I know I must wrap this up before it gets any uglier. Besides, I’ll talk to you in my dreams soon enough. I always do.

Dreams, though, don’t and never will replace having you here on Earth.

I miss you, Steph, perhaps more than I did back then, and probably less than I one day will. I imagine that you’re happier wherever you now are, and I try like crazy to take some comfort in this. Because the real me, the SELFISH me, wants you here. Where you belong.

I’ll be seeing you, my old friend.

Love always,
Becky

Grey Matter

It took me all this time to actually log onto my blog after I posted because all of your sweet comments made me weep with appreciation. Amelia is a lucky cookie to have so many virtual friends out there, and I plan to let her know just how fortunate she really is. Because she is.

I’d offer to tongue kiss you all individually, but I’ve been crying all day long and cannot breathe out of my nose any longer so it would be gross. That said, thank you to each and every one of you who prayed for us. Believe it or not, it made today just that much more bearable. And trust me, I needed anything to make today more bearable.

So, WTF, right?

Let me back up a second so you realize how out of left field this whole situation was.

Yesterday, at 4:27 my daughter Amelia was born after about 10 minutes of pushing. Let’s not say a thing about what that means about the state of my girl bits, okay? When she was born, my OB said the words that no one really wants to hear upon pushing out a child: “Becky, it looks like she has some sort of cyst on her head.” Then she called neonatology.

Well, shit. I had an US last week and it wasn’t picked up, so that’s good, right? Her color–despite being covered in cheese–was pink and rosy, she was screaming bloody murder and moving around like no one’s business.

I didn’t catch her Apgars because I was too busy hyperventilating, but I’d assume that they were good. After she was de-cheesed somewhat, she was brought into my shaking arms where she looked around at the world for awhile. Just taking it all in. Before she dived head first into the old boobies for some delicious treats.

The neonatologists ordered a Cat Scan for today and overall seemed remarkably unimpressed by her cyst. Apparently, these things DO happen, and are typically superficial. While the prospect of sending my 10 minute old child into a tube wasn’t exactly my idea of a party, I was somewhat placated by their nonchalant attitude.

Well, Daver and I reasoned, it was a good thing she’d have some hair to cover that up, right?

No big deal.

This morning, after being up half the night in pain and the other half either nursing or throwing things at my snoring husband, my attitude was slightly more nervous. The alternative to having it be a fatty cyst was decidedly less pleasant. It could mean that there was some sort of breakdown in the formation of the skull where some of her brain could be hangin’ out.

While I have frequently been called a “boring” “idiot” by some of my blog trolls–a charge I would not deny, but would plead down to simply obnoxious–I have never exactly had my brain anywhere but firmly inside my skull. Where it belongs.

Around 10:30 this morning, my daughter who had been nursing like a champ (or her brother Alex) was wheeled away from her panicking mother and accompanied by her doting father down to get a picture of her skull. Always the way *I* want to start my day.

Afterward, since no one rushed around yelling “STAT” or even making any sort of big deal out of anything other than my overzealous use of ice packs on my aforementioned girly bits, I began to sort of calm down. She acted just like any other normal baby, and shit, it probably WAS just a fatty cyst. Good thing she’d have some hair to cover it up, right?

I’d claim that the joke was on me, but there was nothing remotely funny about what happened next: the phone rang as I nursed her for the 40th hour that afternoon, and on the other line was her doctor. Begging Dave to talk for me so as not to have to juggle my nursing daughter we got some news. Suddenly, NICU, who I’d had no contact with, was on their way up to take her down. To the NICU.

Down to the NICU for a consult with a pediatric neurosurgeon.

I’ve said before such lofty things as “xxx ranks up there with things I never wanted to say” (xxx being something like, visiting my father in the ICU, the last time I shit my pants, or my favorite Rush song), but nothing could possibly compare to the thought “my daughter’s possible brain surgeon.”

Not only was she not even 24 hours old and not only was this not detected previously, now she’s suddenly in need of a NEUROSURGEON?

F-C-U-K.

No one took the time to explain much of anything, and I was stuck juggling the needs of Alex who misses his mommy desperately and vice versa, but juggling the needs of my new daughter who needs to eat for 50 hours a day. So Dave and I did precisely what mature parents do in situations like this: we both flipped the shit out.

And continued to do so until about an hour ago when, discussing the MRI that the neurosurgeon ordered for tomorrow morning with one of the NICU nurses, it came out that the ped was being cautious (= good), that Amelia was looking awesome (=good), and that our worst case scenario (death, major brain surgery) was probably a little drastic (= extra good).

Music to our addled ears.

Whatever may or may not be in the cyst (fluid, fat OR the ever popular BRAIN) is “small” and the neuro was so unconcerned that he won’t be around until tomorrow to read the MRI/CT SCAN results.

More music to our ears.

While we’re certainly not out of any woods yet, nor do we have anything really specific as a diagnosis or treatment plan, this is certainly better than things appeared to be this afternoon. I will continue to worry, stress, and pray, but I’m feeling slightly better. So is The Daver.

Please, if I haven’t already asked enough of you all already, could you do whatever it is that you do tomorrow that my wee daughter will check out to be more fine than not? If you do, I’ll give you pictures (just as soon as I figure out how to do so on Daver’s lappy).

I’m off to try and con a sleeping pill from a nurse and hopefully conk some zzz’s before Amelia comes back for more boob time. I can’t wait to see her again. She’s just…awesome.

Capturing A Short Life

Normally, I’d apologize profusely for posting twice in a day, because, well, it’s annoying to me. But screw apologies this time. Hear that, Internet? I’M NOT SORRY.

I was alerted by a blog post by my friend Kelly at Don Mills Diva that tonight her friend Sheona McDonald has a documentary airing called “Capturing A Short Life.” It deals with the often-ignored subject of infant loss and follows several families through this journey from birth to death.

It’s airing tonight on CBC Newsworld at 10 PM but appears to be only available in Canada. I’ve been digging to see if those of us in the States can see it and I haven’t been able to determine this yet. I never claimed to be smart, did I?

I’m not certain that I’ll be able to watch it, not living in Canada and whatnot, but I wish like hell that I could. I have made so many friends here on my blog who have lost their own babies, and constantly struggle with being unable to tell their own stories outside of their blogs, and whether or not they know it, their children and their stories have shaped not only me, but many of my readers.

These little lives were not snuffed out too soon in vain. They simply can’t be. Because THESE are some of my friends’ children and they were here.

Hannah

Caleb

Baby JP

Kalila

William

Isabel Grace

Maddy

William Henry

Aodin

Callum

Sarah

Connor

Liam

Samuel

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

Emmerson

Baby Kuyper

Mara S.

If anyone knows how we State-side people can watch this as well, please let me know in the comments.

Farewell, My Concubine

While my parents did manage to instill a number of values in me, namely, a love of all things Jam Band related as well as a supreme taste for tofu (you cannot begin to tell me that tofu is not an acquired taste/texture), they neglected to teach me how to select a greeting card. I’m not sure that my parents ever, in all of my life, sent anyone a card.

It’s not necessarily a BAD thing to not have been taught at a young age where and when and why and how to send a card, really, it’s not, but it leaves me completely without a frame of reference as to the proper etiquette for such things. Do I send a Christmas Card to everyone in my address book, or just those who will send one back to me? Do I bother sending birthday cards to people who don’t send me one?

I’m simply not sure.

I suppose that part of the problem is that I really hate to shell out $4-$8 on cards that will undoubtedly be thrown out with the wrapping paper and bows, knowing that if I were in the same situation, I’d rather have a magazine or two rather than a card.

And an even bigger piece of my Problem Pie is that I’ve yet to find a line of cards that really SAYS what I mean. Sure, birthday wishes are generic, I know, but I want a card like those somecards E-Cards. I want something that says, “Happy Birthday, Your Balls Have Excess Skin,” or “Happy Birthday, Be Glad You Don’t Have Herpes” or something else.

Problem is, most people I’d send this to might be horrified by it. I’d laugh my lack of balls off if *I* got this as a card, but I’m fairly certain that I might be in some minority.

Sympathy cards present an even bigger challenge to me. I went out this morning with toddler in tow to pick out a card to send to Steph’s parents, and like most things in my life, I was only half able to concentrate on what I was doing. Motherhood has definitely honed my ability to do 4,000 things at once, but not without sacrificing quality here and there.

In picking through the myriad of sympathy card hell, I was struck again by how much I fucking hate sympathy cards.

I now present to you Aunt Becky’s reasons That She Hates Sympathy Cards, Bullet Form:

*Many of them are deeply religious, and while I know that enough people do derive comfort in Biblical Verses, not everyone does. And even if people ARE religious, I can’t be sure of which way they lean, and who wants to offend someone dealing with a death in the family? Besides, I’m not uber-religious myself, so I’d feel a little wonky sending something like that.

*99% of the cards are covered with misty pastel watercolor flowers. Which is so unlike who I am and what I represent, that I couldn’t send it in good faith. Besides, it often makes the card look cheap, which I can assure you by checking the backs of the cards is not the case.

*The fonts are annoyingly cloying. It’s like the You’re Dead, So You Now Have The Taste Of A 90 Year Old Cat Lady. Sadly, most of the sympathy cards that I’ve bought are NOT for older people, so the schwoopsy-poo font is just irritating.

*The cards never, EVER say what I really want them to say. I can get by with the canned “Happy Birthday!!!!” greetings found on birthday cards without wanting to go homicidal, but the sympathy cards make me insane. Certifiable, even. They’re all “deepest condolences” and “deepest sympathy” and my favorite “only memories remain.”

And I think that’s bullshit. It doesn’t BEGIN to say how I feel about the loss of this person. Here’s a sample of what it SHOULD say, if I wrote it:

“FUCK. I’m so damn sorry for your loss. I puked when I heard the news. Shit. Fuck. I’m so fucking sorry. I want to beat someone up with the unfairness of it all. Fuck.”

Mildly inappropriate doesn’t begin to cover it, now does it? But death in general is at the very least, mildly inappropriate, and I don’t think that any misty pastel flower scene with ties-up-loose-ends Biblical verse really begins to cover that.

Until I get off my lazy butt and make my own damn inappropriate cards, I suppose I’m just going to be stuck scouring the shelves for cards that don’t begin to say what I mean and trying to make do with them.

Or maybe I just need to find somewhere else to buy better cards.

What do you, fair Internet Reader, hate about greeting cards? What would you say in one that you designed yourself?

Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye

My heart cracked as loud as a coffee mill.

Today, I learned that my second favorite cat in the world, the first being his deceased brother, has been diagnosed with liver failure. He remains alive, very frail but alive, due to the miracles of modern medicine. My mother shared the news with me over lunch today, but the details of it remain blurred. The only thing that I can recall is the sinking feeling in my gut and my heart breaking audibly over the sounds of the busy restaurant.

After lunch, in which I shoveled in the obligatory two bites tasting nothing but sand and saltwater tears, I saw him. His bones were prominent over his back and legs, and his eyes lethargic but alert and bright. I was filled with a deep sorrow and wept softly into his back, and as I shook he feebly licked my hand as he had so many times before.

The unfairness of this broke my shattered heart into even tinier pieces. How could HE try to comfort ME, especially NOW? I guess the real question now is how can I really mourn someone that isn’t yet dead? Logically, it makes no sense.

I’ve never been much of one for goodbyes, as anyone close to me will know well. I prefer to keep them at a ‘See you when I see you’ kind of level whenever possible to spare myself the very real thought that I will never again see said person/place/thing.

I dislike the permanence of death and goodbyes, the feeling that one ought to say or do anything necessary prior to the visit from the Grim Reaper, because WHAT IF I FORGET SOMETHING IMPORTANT?

I *ALWAYS* forget important stuff.

So now we play the Waiting Game, which happens to be my least favorite of all games. There’s always a possibility that he will pull through, but the likelihood of that happening is very slim. Miracles don’t happen to cats.

At least not to the great ones.