Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Another Kind of Anniversary

"When can we start?" Joseph asks, shifting back and forth in his chair.

"How about right now?"

We drop small colored tablets that look like candy into five gray coffee mugs filled with water, and watch as the liquid is transformed-- brilliant red, deep purple, bold blue, bright yellow, and a warm orange.

We're ready to dip the eggs.

This is a tradition for us, decorating hard-boiled eggs on the Friday before Easter.

But next year will be different-- he'll be in kindergarten, instead of here at home in the early afternoon, decorating eggs.

And next year, the baby will be here.

"Mom, can I do the first one?"

"You betcha, sweetie."

I watch him place a cold, white egg on a wire holder and carefully lower it into one of the mugs.

All the while, I'm ansy. I've been feeling this way for two weeks-- like something's not right. Reflexively, I place my hand on my low abdomen.

Please be okay.

I'd been journaling since I first found out I was pregnant-- trying to work through the fear. Thinking that maybe if I wrote it down, it couldn't happen again.

But I haven't written anything in nearly two weeks.

This isn't like last time, I tell myself. I'm twelve weeks-- way past that eight-week mark.

No. We're fine. Just fine.

But then, I turn away from my son, from the unfinished Easter eggs, and pick up the phone.

Despite having no physical symptoms, I've convinced my doctor to see me this afternoon.

Ryan comes home from work and takes Joseph to the park.

"Are you sure you're okay going alone?"

"Yeah, I'll be all right. The doc is pretty confident we'll hear the heartbeat-- that's all I want, is to hear that heartbeat. Then I'll really be fine."

Soon after my arrival, I'm sitting in an exam room, shaking.

Why am I such a freak? Everything is fine. Dammit, I'm twelve weeks!

The doctor comes in, we make small talk, and finally, she pulls out the doppler.

She rubs a glob of clear, cold gel onto my low abdomen, and places the end of the device against my skin, sliding it back and forth, then in small circles-- applying more and more pressure.

For a long time, all we hear is static, and then a faint, rapid heartbeat-- but the doc tells me it's mine.

"Now Sandra, don't panic," she says, noting the look on my face. "It's still early, and this is an older doppler. I'd like to send you over to the hospital this evening for an ultrasound. You're obviously very worried, and given your history, I think you'll feel a whole lot better if we have a look."

My history. I'm glad she didn't say it. If I heard the word "miscarriage" out loud, then yes, I definitely would have lost it.

Ryan is still out with Joseph when I arrive home, so I drive by the park to tell him the plan.

"Why don't we get someone to watch Joseph?" he asks, looking worried.

"It's fine, really. The doc just doesn't want me to go all nuts over the holiday weekend. And besides, I'm not bleeding, I don't have any symptoms. I just don't feel right. It's probably because I'm so damn paranoid."

Half an hour later, I'm sitting on a table in a dark room -- a white sheet draped across my lap -- answering the questions of a very chatty, very young, ultrasound tech.

"So when was your last period? Oh, wait!" she says, after glancing in my folder, "You're twelve weeks today. That's so exciting! Is this your first?"

"No," I tell her. "I have a five-year-old son, too."

"That's so great!" she exclaims with a broad smile, "I'm sure he'll love having a little brother or sister!"

Finally, she switches on the monitor, reaches under the sheet and inserts a 'wand-like' device, called a '"transducer." As she moves the device, it begins to hurt. I wonder if it hurts the baby, too.

But then, I see him.


For a moment, I can't breathe.

Over the next several minutes, the only sounds in the room are the clicks coming from her mouse and keyboard-- and me, gasping quietly at views of his spine, his head, his legs...

But why is she so quiet?

I finally get the nerve to ask if everything looks all right.

"Well, we'll have to wait for the radiologist to have a look," she says-- suddenly sounding a lot less chipper than a few moments ago.

Immediately, she turns off the monitor and says, "I'm going to get these images to the radiologist. I'll be right back."

Now she sounds a little nervous.

It's just me. More paranoia.

I lay back on the table and close my eyes, seeing his image all over again.

It's okay. He looked fine.

I tell myself this over and over . . .

After twenty insanely long minutes, the tech returns.

"The radiologist would like to have a look himself-- he'll be right in." Without waiting for a response, she switches on the monitor, and quickly places the transducer in position.

And before I can even think about what's going on, he's here-- a short, thin, bald man, wearing large black-rimmed eyeglasses and a serious expression.

He says nothing-- just looks intently at the image on the screen for about two minutes.

Then he looks at my face for the first time.

"Ms. Miller, we're going to have your doctor call you this evening with your results."

"What?!" I barely get out. "If you know something, I want to hear it now. What's going on? Is there something wrong with the baby?"

My heart feels as though it will smash right through my chest as I wait for his response.

He takes a breath.

"Well. I'm afraid that what we have here is a case of fetal demise."

Fetal demise . . . fetal demise . . . Oh God.

"Wait- what do you mean?"

This cannot be happening now. Not again! I'm Twelve weeks. TWELVE WEEKS!

"There is no cardiac activity. And given its size, growth stopped about two weeks ago. That's probably when the demise occurred."

"What? Can't we wait a couple of weeks and do another ultrasound?" I ask, desperately. "Maybe it's a mistake! My dates could be wrong or- "

"On ultrasound we can detect cardiac activity as early as five weeks. No, this is definitely fetal demise."

"But- "

"This is why I prefer having your doctor call with test results." And with those words, he switches off the monitor.

The tears are coming fast now-- over my cheeks, into my mouth. I can't stop them, I don't even try. The technician is next to me with a box of tissues. The radiologist is gone.

After sitting alone in the waiting room for what feels like hours, my doc calls to tell me that the baby probably died two weeks earlier, and that I can have a D & C or wait for the miscarriage-- which she felt would probably start this weekend. I opt to wait.

I just can't do it-- have him taken out that way. Not after seeing him.

At home, I wait for Ryan and Joseph. I'm sitting on the couch. The lights are off. My hands rest instinctively on my abdomen.

He's still here.

The sound of the front door flying open startles me. Joseph runs into the living room, flings his arms around me-- talking non-stop about a boy he'd met at the park.

Ryan is standing in the doorway, looking at me.

When Joseph finally leaves the room, Ryan sits on the edge of the couch, holding my shoulders as I tell him.

We stay on the couch a long time.

Two full weeks pass. Two more ultrasounds show that he's still there.

Still intact. Still a part of me.

Until finally, almost violently, it happens.

We end up in the ER-- there's just too much blood.

I never see him outside of me.

A positive pregnancy test, ultrasound photos, and so much pain . . . that's all that's left of him.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

An Update... and a Post about Books

After four mighty horrific days and two just so-so days, Evan is finally doing much better-- eating again, and pretty much back to her old self.

And (knocking on all of the wood in this house), none of us have come down with this truly awful virus.

Which brings me to the "book" portion of this post-- you see, because Evan's been so sick, reading has been about the only thing we've been able to do together.

So it's been loads of Seuss, Kevin Henkes (we love Chester's Way) and oh-so-many of their peers; countless stories about Nate the Great, Little Critter, Max and Ruby. . .

All terrific stuff, but quite frankly, I'm craving something a bit meatier.

And then I noticed this Book Meme circulating about the OC (thanks to Andrea, Julia, Shannon, and Nicole) -- a wonderful reminder of past favorites and some much-anticipated future reads:


- Bold the ones you've read.
- Italicize the ones you've been wanting/might like to read.
- ??Place question marks by any titles/authors you've never heard of??

(And since the choice of books by each author is a mite idiosyncratic)

- *Put an asterisk if you've read something else by the same author.*

Allcott, Louisa May - Little Women
Allende, Isabel - The House of Spirits
Angelou, Maya - I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Atwood, Margaret Cat's Eye
*Austen, Jane - Emma* (and almost everything else)
??Bambara, Toni Cade - Salt Eaters??
??Barnes, Djuna - Nightwoodde??
Beauvoir, Simone - The Second Sex
Blume, Judy - Are You There God? It's Me Margaret
Burnett, Frances - The Secret Garden
Bronte, Charlotte - Jane Eyre
Bronte, Emily Wuthering Heights
Buck, Pearl S. - The Good Earth
Byatt, A.S. - Possession (a wonderful literary mystery)
Cather, Willa - My Antonia*
Chopin, Kate - The Awakening
Christie, Agatha - Murder on the Orient Express
Cisneros, Sandra - The House on Mango Street
Clinton, Hillary Rodham - Living History
??Cooper, Anna Julia - A Voice From the South??
??Danticat, Edwidge - Breath, Eyes, Memory??
Davis, Angela - Women, Culture, and Politics
??Desai, Anita - Clear Light of Day??
Dickinson, Emily - Collected Poems
Duncan, Lois - I Know What You Did Last Summer
DuMaurier, Daphne - Rebecca
Eliot, George - Middlemarch
*Emecheta, Buchi - Second Class Citizen* (my favorite is the very powerful The Joys of Motherhood)
*Erdrich, Louise - Tracks*
Esquivel, Laura - Like Water for Chocolate
Flagg, Fannie - Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
Friedan, Betty - The Feminine Mystique
Frank, Anne - Diary of a Young Girl
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins - The Yellow Wallpaper
Gordimer, Nadine - July's People
Grafton, Sue - S is for Silence
Hamilton, Edith Mythology
Highsmith, Patricia - The Talented Mr. Ripley
*hooks, bell - Bone Black*
Hurston, Zora Neale - Tracks on the Road
??Jacobs, Harriet - Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl??
Jackson, Helen - Hunt Ramona
*Jackson, Shirley - The Haunting of Hill House*
Jong, Erica - Fear of Flying
Keene, Carolyn - The Nancy Drew Mysteries (shockingly, not a one)
Kidd, Sue Monk - The Secret Life of Bees
??Kincaid, Jamaica - Lucy??
Kingsolver, Barbara - The Poisonwood Bible
Kingston, Maxine Hong - The Woman Warrior
??Larsen, Nella - Passing??
L'Engle, Madeleine - A Wrinkle in Time
*Le Guin, Ursula K. - The Left Hand of Darkness*
Lee, Harper - To Kill a Mockingbird (many times)
*Lessing, Doris - The Golden Notebook*
??Lively, Penelope - Moon Tiger??
Lorde, Audre - The Cancer Journals
Martin, Ann M. - The Babysitters Club Series
McCullers, Carson - The Member of the Wedding
McMillan, Terry - Disappearing Acts
??Markandaya, Kamala - Nectar in a Sieve??
??Marshall, Paule - Brown Girl, Brownstones??
Mitchell, Margaret - Gone with the Wind
Montgomery, Lucy Maudâ - Anne of Green Gables
??Morgan, Joan - When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost??
*Morrison, Toni - Song of Solomon*
??Murasaki, Lady Shikibu - The Tale of Genji??
Munro, Alice - Lives of Girls and Women
??Murdoch, Iris - Severed Head??
Naylor, Gloria - Mama Day
Niffenegger, Audrey - The Time Traveller's Wife
*Oates, Joyce Carol We Were the Mulvaneys*
O'Connor, Flannery - A Good Man is Hard to Find (if you've never read this collection, please do-- amazing stuff)
??Piercy, Marge - Woman on the Edge of Time??
Picoult, Jodi - My Sister's Keeper
*Plath, Sylvia - The Bell Jar*
*Porter, Katharine - Anne Ship of Fools*
Proulx, E. Annie - The Shipping News
*Rand, Ayn The Fountainhead* (Atlas Shrugged was plenty)
Ray, Rachel - 365: No Repeats
Rhys, Jean - Wide Sargasso Sea
??Robinson, Marilynne - Housekeeping??
Rocha, Sharon - For Laci
Sebold, Alice - The Lovely Bones
Shelley, Mary - Frankenstein
Smith, Betty - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Smith, Zadie - White Teeth
Spark, Muriel - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
??Spyri, Johanna Heidi??
Strout, Elizabeth - Amy and Isabelle
Steel, Danielle - The House
Tan, Amy - The Joy Luck Club
Tannen, Deborah - You're Wearing That?
Ulrich, Laurel - A Midwife's Tale
??Urquhart, Jane Away??
*Walker, Alice The Temple of My Familiar*
*Welty, Eudora - One Writer's Beginnings*
Wharton, Edith - Age of Innocence
Wilder, Laura Ingalls - Little House in the Big Woods
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A Vindication of the Rights of Women
Woolf, Virginia - A Room of One's Own

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Just When You Think You're Havin' A Good Day

It's pouring rain outside-- buckets.

But despite the wet weather, today is gonna be a good day.

I had a decent night's sleep, and Joseph's bg is only slightly high before he has his breakfast, and sets out for the bus stop.

Evan is in fine spirits upon waking, putting on her fabulous, sparkly pink pants and her purple shirt with the hearts on the front. She's excited about her two-hour "First Friends" class at the Y-- though it's just one day a week (Fridays), it's really nice for her.

For me too.

Today, I'm meeting a friend for coffee. Such a luxury-- a live conversation on a weekday with another adult.

So, off we go to the Y, with Evan talking about today's theme -- "the body" -- the whole way there.

"Mommy, I'll tell you all about my body after school."

"You do that, honey," I say with a smile.

At the Y, Evan joins the nine other kids in her class, and I depart for my grownup time at the coffee shop.

My friend and I talk about her recent vacation, and how it was almost spoiled when both of her kids came down with an awful stomach virus just days before their trip.

"Man, I hate those things," I said, "I remember years ago, when Ryan and I were in Portugal-- before kids, of course -- I'd gotten food poisoning our last night there.

"And I refused to throw-up. Burning up with fever, sick as a dog, but I wouldn't do it. Until Ryan bribed me with a secret-- then and only then would I let loose. I really, really don't like throwing up."

My friend just laughs and laughs.

Soon I've drained my cup of decaf, and am heading back to the Y.

As we're driving home, Evan begins telling me about her class. She's so animated, sitting in that car seat, hands emphasizing every word.

"Mommy, it was Cole's special day, today. . . he's so cute-- he's just so little, mommy! And he showed us his Teddy bear-- and I made a book about my body! You can read it to me when we get home."

"You betcha, honey." The kid is just killin' me with her enthusiasm.

At home, I begin slicing an apple for the first course of Evan's lunch, while she sits in the living room perusing her new "body book."

That's when I hear the screaming.


I run into the living room, and Evan is standing there-- arms outstretched, crying hard.

Her purple shirt and pink pants are covered in brown vomit.

Rubbing her back, I try to calm her down, but she keeps saying through cries "Mamma, my hands are all wet."

I leave her for a moment to get some old dish towels. When I return, I peel off her clothes, and -- very gently -- wipe her hands, her face, and then her feet.

Minutes after I change her into her favorite soft, purple nightgown with the butterflies-- she throws up all over the front of it.

This is the way it goes for the remainder of the afternoon, the evening.

All. Night.

We try to keep Joseph away from Evan, because -- all the time I'm holding my feverish daughter, worrying about her becoming dehydrated, about how frightening this must be for her -- I'm also thinking about her brother:

Please don't let him get this thing. Oh God, please don't. It would be so much worse for him.

So here we are, Saturday afternoon. Evan is resting, finally able to keep down a bit of flat ginger ale.

And I've got a screaming headache.

You see, last weekend, while eating a hamburger I bit down on something that felt like a small pebble.

Hurt like the dickens for a day or two, and then just a dull ache on the right side of my jaw for several days after.

Then yesterday, while Evan dozed briefly, I sat down and ate a ham sandwich (didn't have much of an appetite, but knew I really needed to eat).

And again, felt something strange in my mouth. This time, I pulled out a hard, white, piece of something. I looked at it a moment, wondering if it was part of the ham . . . while at the same time moving my tongue around the inside of my mouth, my back teeth . . .

Horrified, I suddenly realized that I was holding a small portion of one of my back molars.

Okay, this is not good.

I guess whatever was in that burger did a lot more damage than I originally thought.

(Now, this scares the heck out of me, because I've never had a problem with my teeth.)

Soooo, I called my dentist and was told they could get me in next Wednesday.

Just hope by then, I don't start vomiting, too.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Dinner Out

"I want to try something new, take on a new challenge."

That's what I tell Ryan as we sit in a booth waiting for our fabulous dinner to arrive.

We discuss what I'm thinking about. I'm hesitant, though-- it's been a long time since I've taken on anything new, and I'm just not sure that I can really do it.

"Sandra, any time you've tried to do something, you've been able to master it -- well, anything but diabetes-- but no one has mastered that."

And just like that, it's here.

Ryan seems to read my mind. "But you're right here" he says, holding an index finger and thumb less than an inch apart. "You're in this top percent of people who manage diabetes well."

The lump at the back of my throat almost prevents me from speaking.

"I can't stand this, you know? There's Joseph, and then there's diabetes, and I just can't accept that this thing is really a part of him. I have to keep it separate. I see him, and then I see the disease. It's just not him. It can't be."

"I can't do it like that." Ryan tells me. Then he looks at me with an intensely sad expression, pausing a moment before going on.

"I've accepted that diabetes is part of him. Because if I didn't, then I'd have to keep reliving it and-- " the words catch before he continues-- "I can't do that."

For a moment, I really see how hard this is for him-- how he's managed to cope.

Suddenly, I'm very conscious of the low lights, the loud mass of people that surrounds us-- of the boisterous group of four sitting next to us.

And I'm grateful for the noise, and the darkness.

Maybe no one notices the tears spilling over my cheeks, or my feeble attempts to stop them with my napkin.

We'd promised not talk about the kids, about diabetes. We were going to shoot food at each other if either of us broke that promise.

But our food hasn't arrived.