“Dreams are both the love letters and hate mail of the subconscious” – Prince of Tides
I read this sentence this evening, and it rang of truth. My dreams are haunting, troublesome, sometimes seemingly insignificant, a jumbled mess. I dream of my mother alive and dead, my marriage, babies alive and dead, ex-boyfriends, and people I haven’t thought of in years. The subconscious digs them out, brings them to life, and reintroduces them with a vengeance. Waking up, it takes a moment to reorient, put the past back where it belongs and shake the remnants off before swinging my feet over the side of the bed.
I’m wearing a very old shirt right now – it’s navy blue with “PENTAGON” emblazoned across the front. It’s from a family vacation, the only real vacation that our family ever had. We went to Washington, DC during the summer of 2001 – just the five little country bumpkins making our way through our nation’s capital. I took it as an opportunity to jam-pack as many events, tours, excursions, sights into our week as possible. Each night, we passed the Advil bottle and fell into bed. Up again at 7am the next morning to continue the precisely planned “vacation.” My sisters hated me, Daddy endured, Mama loved it. One morning, we went on a tour of the Pentagon, and we each got shirts. When digging through boxes for our yard sale, I unearthed this shirt and set it aside. I tucked it away in my closet and I wear it only sometimes… it smells distinctly of Mama. I won’t wash it until the smell fades completely. Even now, sitting here, I can smell her drifting out of my shirt.
This afternoon, Bobby and I went to Marlena & Tim’s for the Clemson game and dinner. It was the most comfortable, the most myself, I’ve felt with them in… oh, maybe two years? We watched football and talked. Talked about silly things and real things – the things you talk about with friends that you truly know and who truly know you. Their two-yr-old, Emma, is a ray of light – her eyes sparkle, her little arms and legs pump with exuberance, she wears tiaras and high heels and screams “Touchdown!!” whenever the Tigers score. She’s a joy, and she likes me. I know that she probably likes everyone – she’s the type of child that probably rarely meets a stranger – but it thrills me when she climbs into my lap and says “I wike you, Sawah.” When I was in middle school, I yearned for the acceptance of the scary, popular girls. Now, I yearn for the acceptance of a two-yr-old. Somehow, irrational as it may be, her acceptance proves to me on some small level that I AM mother material. That I WILL be a good mother.
Just get through it. That’s the goal. Yesterday was Sept 15th. Today is Sept 16th. Tomorrow is Sept 17th.
I feel an urge to pick off the scab and make it bleed – to gouge into the wounds – to go through last year day by day and remember each shattering little detail. But I’m not going to. I’m not going to allow myself to do that… while I’m awake, at least. Last night’s dreams were f-ed up… lots of bits & pieces, some that I remember, some I don’t. Mama was still alive for the most of the night, insisting that she wasn’t going to die. But I knew better, I knew what was coming, and I didn’t know whether I should tell her the truth, or how. Tonight I’ll be dipping back into a pill bottle… whatever it takes to not relive all night what I’ve been avoiding all day.
We are all doing our own thing right now. Like we’ve all gone into our individual shells, withdrawn into our own coping mechanisms. Jennifer’s rearranging the furniture in Townville, making the house look different than it did a year ago. Daddy’s cutting the grass in the dark. Sue’s not discussing it. And I’m watching home movies. Yes, I finally got the home movies out.
It’s not easy to watch. I sit and gasp with sobs, the kind where it hurts so badly that it’s hard to believe that the heartbreak is figurative and my heart’s not actually, physically ripping into pieces. But I’ve had a fear that I’ll allow the last year with Mama to become more vivid than the 29 before that. And that’s just wrong. It’s not fair to me, or Mama, and it’s not accurate. Mama was a lovely, vivacious, passionate, loving, irreverent woman, mother, wife, daughter, teacher, friend. She wasn’t a cancer victim, a cancer survivor, a cancer anything… cancer had nothing to do with who she really was. She played her cancer role with style and strength and amazing determination… but ultimately, cancer was something that happened to her, not that defined her.
And the home movies show that. Through that amateur videography, I’ve been able to relive her interaction with each of us – Mama & Jennifer. Mama & Susanna. Mama & Daddy. Mama & David Lee. Mama & Bobby. And Mama & me. Each of our relationships with her were different, and each will be forgotten if we let cancer take it away from us. I’ve watched her warble “Some Day My Prince Will Come” at the top of her lungs. I’ve heard her call Daddy “Johnny,” me “Queenie,” and David “Davey-Gravy.” I’ve watched her roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving Day, 2001. And I’ve even heard her make joking comments about how “we can watch this when she’s dead and gone.” She cackled with laughter when she said it, but it wasn’t so funny to me…. then or now.
So the videos have become my most cherished possession. Thank you, sweet Bobby, for taking me shopping for a video camera seven years ago. We weren’t even “officially” dating yet, but you somehow managed to give me the gift of my mother’s laugh and smile and who she really, REALLY was. I miss her so. But having it on tape beats the shit out of not having it at all.
So sleepy I can barely keep my eyes open. Maybe psychological, maybe Percocet-related… maybe both. Straightened the house today with Bobby’s help. He was able to work from home, which I was oh so grateful for. It was good to not be here alone – the house was still a disaster from this past weekend, so we neatened each room. I removed all remaining baby items – ultrasound pictures from the fridge, pregnancy books from the bedroom, numbered weeks from the calendar. Regretted writing the weeks in ink – pencil was my first instinct and I should have listened. Still doesn’t quite seem real – so many of my thoughts each day were consumed by that tiny being, and now, there’s a void. “Void” – that is quite a small word for something that is so damn overwhelming.
The follow-up exam and pre-op appt are scheduled for Thursday at 10:40am. I pleaded for a D&C appt on Thursday as well – just get it over with – but Dr Hearn only does surgeries on Fridays. So 8:30am Friday it is. Will have the day to recover, then Mama’s family from Virginia arrives Friday night (I think… maybe, hopefully, Saturday morning?). I never told them about my pregnancy – was going to wait until the 8-week heartbeat was confirmed. Am not sure how to spin the surgery… don’t want them to know I’ve miscarried again. I don’t want to deal with their comments – “God has a reason for everything.” “God never gives us more than we can handle.” And my personal favorite: “God needed another rose for his garden.” I feel like stabbing someone with the nearest sharp object when I hear my grandmother repeating that inane, empty bullshit again and again and again. It comforts her – I know it does. But it makes me feel homicidal, which I don’t think is quite what she’s going for. So I’m going to give some vague description of a fertility-related procedure… they already think that something’s “wrong” with me, so I’m sure that’ll work just fine. After all, something HAS to be wrong with any female in our family who’s having problems fulfilling her sole purpose – to marry and replenish the earth. Bitter much?… perhaps sleep wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Was steamrolled this afternoon by the realization that Mama won’t be there on Friday. How do I continue to be crushed by the same fact, the same set of circumstances, again and again? She’s been gone a year – and yet her absence this coming Friday seems as tragic as if she just left yesterday. It hit when Bobby suggested that his mom stay with me after the procedure while he’s teaching his Clemson class… I started crying and said that I wanted MY mother, not his. I know it’s a relatively common procedure, but not for me… and I want Mama here. I can imagine her sitting next to me, patting my hand and saying “It’s ok, sweetie, it’s gonna be ok.” I’m 30 years old, a grown woman, but there’s still a scared little girl in there who really, really wants her mama. Just need to put my mind in neutral and go through the motions. It is what it is. All the crying and pity-parties in the world won’t fix it… I know that.
Tomorrow, assuming that my lower half is still connected and not hanging by a shredded abdominal muscle (which seems to be an imminent possibility every time the Percocet wears off), I’m going to do things. Going to exchange my maternity clothes, which I had the forethought to leave the tags on, for a few basic work essentials that actually fit. Am going to apply for a part-time job at a charming little shop in historic downtown Anderson called the Berry House. I may even get my hair done if Lisa Wonder-Woman can work me in – my roots are shocking. Don’t know if I’ll actually accomplish any of these things… but the mere act of planning something gives me something to think about besides the fact that I’m still storing a dead baby. Makes me want to vomit. Yes, some sort of action is definitely necessary.
Tomorrow is Maggie Denise’s first birthday. One year old… so hard to believe. She’s such a gift – a perfect little specimen of how right things can be. So tomorrow night is Maggie night… amidst all the yuck, I’m truly looking forward to her little family celebration… have been hoarding her gifts in my closet for weeks. Maybe she bite me to say thank you – that’s her new favorite trick. Charming, no?
The post from earlier today may have seemed disjointed. If so, it’s because it was – I deleted several paragraphs out of the middle of it. Was afraid that writing about the feud of 602 North St would make it worse. But this evening, I walked into the kitchen to see Bobby and Sue hugging each other, and Sue crying… such an sense of relief. I know it’s going to take continual work, but there was a nice peaceful feeling that it was all going to work out.
Here are my previously deleted paragraphs:
Bobby’s been a grumpity-grump,-grump for the last couple of days. He didn’t sleep much last week, and I think that’s playing a sizable role in his funk. Very on edge, and easily offended – the slightest tone or insinuation sets him off. So that’s been fun – I know how to side-step fairly well, but Sue, not so much. She and Bobby are alike in that they’re both emotional time bombs… and it’s almost like they take some sort of obtuse pleasure in annoying the piss out of each other.
There’s been tension brewing between the two of them for a while – it’s gotten to the point that I’m seriously considering bringing them both with me to Dr Jerry’s, and making them talk to each other. I don’t feel equipped to handle the mediator role for the two of them – occasionally is ok, but it’s becoming more and more predominant in our household dynamic. I find myself defending Susanna – telling Bobby to suck it up, and reminding him of her situation (like he needs a reminder) – even when I know that she’s in the wrong.
In five years and two months of marriage, Bobby and I have lived in five places, had six jobs, endured the death of a mother, the miscarriage of a baby, and now a sister living with us for the last eight months. And Bobby has navigated this continual shit-storm with amazing agility…
So what do we do? Obviously, there needs to be increased communication. Bobby and Sue need to start respecting one another, and we all need to be more cognizant of our roles in the house, and how we affect the others living here. Bobby and I know that we want her to stay until at least next summer… and I hope that she wants to. There are things that need to be accomplished before she goes back to school in Fall 2009 – debts to be paid, financial responsibility to be developed, and emotional/mental stability to be established and nurtured.
She’s only 20 years old. I keep telling myself and Bobby and Dr Jerry and Daddy and Jennifer that. She’s only 20. She seems much older in some ways – she’s seen and experienced things that people 3 times her age haven’t seen or experienced. And because of this maturity, I think that we all find ourselves expecting her to be advanced in every area of her life. Immediately after Sue returned from California, I was horribly anxious about how to balance the role of sister and substitute mother. I’ve become more comfortable with my and Sue’s relationship – I don’t question and analyze it like I once did – but Bobby and I have come to realize our roles as her “surrogate” parents.
Welcome to the suck. I believe that Sue might have coined that phrase several months ago… funny how it still applies occasionally. Not all the time… but sometimes. And today would be one of those times.
- My head feels like there’s a little monkey in there dancing an Irish jig. I’ve taken 600mg’s of Advil, and it didn’t even touch it. As I type, I’m sitting in a dim room with my eyes squinted because the light feels like it’s shearing off brain cells. Freakin’ hurts to the point of nausea.
- Today is Daddy’s 54th birthday. Jennifer and I took him to Cracker Barrel for brunch, and we’re heading over to Townville in a few hours to make him dinner and a b-day cake. I took a picture of him and his Maggie.
A widower at 54. What the hell’s up with that?
- Today at 2:30pm was supposed to be Baby Rettew’s first prenatal appt. We were going to hear the heartbeat and have the first ultrasound. Instead, I have a lovely little antiqued brass plaque sitting here next to me, engraved with the inscription:
Sweet Baby Rettew
June 28, 2008
Sleep, Baby, Sleep
Didn’t exactly think we’d be planning a memory garden for the first prenatal appt. Just sucks and makes me cry.
- Jennifer told me a long, involved story this morning that I’m not even going to go into… Bottom line is that my blog has been discovered by one of my illustrious relatives, and they’re “concerned about me, and think that I might really need some help.” Um, thank you for your concern… if you’ll read back just a little further, you’ll see that I’m a regular attendee of “Therapy Time with Dr Jerry.” Oh, and they also forbade their 20-something-year-old kids from reading it because of “the language.” And I haven’t even said the f-word lately!! My first impulse was to pull a card from Bobby’s bag of tricks and jump up and down and yell “fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck” over and over… yes, my husband actually did that once during a fight when I told him not to curse at me. Immature, but very effective. But then I realized that recounting “The Tale of Bobby-Stiltskin” would serve the same purpose, so I’ll consider this bullet point to be complete.
- The car saga continues. Had the BMW towed to Greenville for a second opinion, and yes, the engine is dead, dead, dead. The G-ville guy recommended that we have it rebuilt rather than replaced because of the age of the car. Quote is pending. Oh, and the Honda (which is now our primary and ONLY means of transportation except for our footsies) has some sort of issue that’s going to cost $500 to fix…. Argh.
- I’m behind on my phone calls. People who I love, and who love me have called and I haven’t called them back. I feel guilty, like a horrible, undeserving friend – and yet I still don’t just pick up the damn phone and call. In the time that I’ve spent writing this post of issues, I could have called at least one person back. Whiner.
- And last but certainly not least, Sue’s sadness is overwhelming me. And if it’s overwhelming me, I can’t imagine what it’s doing to her. I’m not going to go in-depth because it’s an invasion of her privacy. But I do know that we have to come up with a plan, because the current roller-coaster isn’t working for anyone. Lovely how the ripples from Mama’s death just keep going and going… will they ever stop? Will we ever feel “normal” again? Or is it always going to be this up-and-down-and-up-and-down existence?
The whole “Sarah really needs help” thing made me think. Maybe I really do have a problem. Sometimes I forget that other people don’t take Zoloft and have a weekly relationship with a therapist. That for some people, probably MOST people, it’s not normal or ok to do those things. This morning, Jennifer caught herself singing an operatic version of “We’re Off to See the Wizard” to Maggie, who was gazing at her, just soaking it all in. It’s not normal, I tell you. Of course, random operatic urges are definitely preferable to unexplained crying spells, which is what we have at the Rettew residence.
I’m so tired of feeling like I’m scrambling for control. Why can’t I just let go? That’s where this anxiety is coming from… the need to control things that are completely uncontrollable. What was that Serenity Prayer – something about changing the things I can, accepting the things I can’t, and wisdom to know the difference. Acceptance is what I struggle with – acceptance that things never go according to plan. Acceptance that my normal isn’t what other people perceive as normal. Acceptance that what seems to come easily to other people (financial security, pregnancy, stable family relationships) is A) probably not as “simple” as it seems; and B) isn’t how things were meant to be for us.
Sometimes I forget – or maybe just push to the back of my mind – what it means to be a “motherless daughter.” What it means that Mama is dead, gone, no longer here. What it means that she’s never coming back. And then other times, it comes crashing back in on me – this carefully constructed house of cards – and it weighs on me so heavily that I almost can’t breathe. Sits on my chest like a monster, a life-crushing hurt, and I want to beat my head against the nearest hard surface to make it stop. I’m so tired of the dreams… they left for a while when I started taking Rozerem, but then I stopped and they came back. Dreams of dead babies, and hurt babies, and babies without mothers.
Why is my head still pounding? WHY?!? Feel like screaming.
Bobby called this morning… he was at a gas station, and his little red car was refusing to start. So we had to have it towed to the nearest mechanic.
By 3pm, the verdict was in. The engine is kaput. The mechanic guy estimated ~$3500 to replace. Um, yeah, that would be as much or more than the car’s worth…
So we find ourselves in a predicament. I’m an unemployed slacker. We already have a monthly deficit. We now have one car that operates and one that’s almost certainly dead. Hmmmm….
Oh, and let’s not forget the baby situation.
The numbers tell me that it’s time for me to suck it up, push the “pause” button on the family (again), and go back to work. I don’t mean a random little job – I mean go back to the “real” working world. Things would be financially easy then… we would have enough to cover our month, plus resume the debt snowball, we would replace the Beamer with a more gas-efficient alternative, and we would go back to life as usual.
But everything in me knows that this is NOT what I should do. It’s just not. There has to be a way that we can do it all – be ok financially, have a family, and not put our babies in daycare. I want to be the kind of mom that my mom was. There’s a way – we just haven’t figured it out yet.
Bobby’s sitting in the office with the door closed, editing weddings that are overdue and sweating the money. Am I being selfish by not working a “corporate America” job? Am I taking advantage of my loving and supportive husband? We’re equals, partners, and I don’t feel like I’m pulling my weight. I want to be a mom… a stay-at-home mom. But I also want to be an equal, contributing partner. I don’t want all the financial responsibility and ensuing stress to be on Bobby’s shoulders. Despite all my feminist learning and education, I want my primary focus to be our children. Can you be a feminist stay-at-home mom? Is that an oxymoron?
Called Dr Hearn yesterday on his personal cell. Yes, the man gives out his personal cell. I don’t understand it, but it’s yet another bullet on my running list of “Reasons Dr Hearn Will Go To Heaven” (only sorta kidding). I don’t usually use a doctor’s personal number (unless of course, it’s a hope-crushing-pagan oncologist who just once again attempted to squelch my mother’s spirit).
Anyway, I called, he answered, and I told him that Bobby and I were ready to talk about “our options.” Sounds so foreboding. He suggested that we skip another appt with him and go straight to the reproductive endocrinologist of his choosing. So an hour later, we officially are on the calendar of Dr RE, MD. Our appt is next Monday, Jul 14th. Spoke to a nurse about what to expect… basically, Dr RE will get our medical history, and then we’ll figure out where to go from there. [Insert deep sigh of uncertainty here.]
The word “infertility” distresses me immensely. Part of it is ignorance – lack of knowledge is always frightening – so I’ve been reading like mad. Infertility is defined as not getting pregnant after a year of trying and/or getting pregnant then miscarrying. So yeah, I guess that would be us. For now at least. The anxiety I’m feeling is also fear-related… fear that this is just the beginning of a path that I don’t want to go down. Fear that there’s a problem, an issue, an unresolvable hiccup.
So I’ve been doing what any 30-yr-old does when she hears the word “infertile” cross her obgyn’s lips…. I’ve completely dismantled the kitchen. Pulled the appliances out, scrubbed them down, applied blue painter’s tape to every edge within reach, and started slapping paint on the walls. Yes, a nice coat of “gourd” is in my kitchen’s future. So far it looks like a giant mustard bottle exploded, but I’m hoping that things will improve as time goes on. And I’m not sure how I feel about the gourd and antique blue being neighbors. I thought it would be happy, uplifting, interesting. But instead it’s….. colorful. Really, really colorful. And maybe garish, obnoxious, Mediterranean-gone-wrong?
Daddy’s trying to organize a family night of Dave Ramsey-watching this evening… he has the entire Financial Peace series on DVD, and he wants us to embrace it as a group. I know, fun, right? I’m reluctant – feeling very jittery, unfocused… you know it’s bad when I’m avoiding Dave. My family makes me anxious right now. They’re still rolling along in their new normal, the one that they found after Mama died. But I feel different, altered, you know…. potentially infertile.
And did anyone else know that they make blueprints for gardens? Why yes they do. I want to do a little nook in the back corner of our yard… a shady place to sit and ponder. I’m thinking of it as a memory garden for Baby Rettew, and a place to visit with Mama. So I search for garden how-to, and voila…. bhg.com hooks me up with a bazillion little nicely drawn-up “garden plans.” They have plans for shade gardens, dramatic gardens, easy gardens, seasonal gardens, rock gardens, gardens of all colors and sizes. Ridiculous. Anyone who’s contemplating a garden should consult the Better Homes & Gardens online bible… good god, I’ve become a domesticated freako.
Miscarriage grief is a unique kind of suffering,
mourning not memories of the past,
but dreams of the future.
I didn’t write this – don’t know who did – but it’s achingly accurate. The rational part of me has been logically analyzing why I’m feeling horribly empty….. I mean, after all, I only knew I was pregnant for FOUR DAYS before miscarrying. Surely that’s not enough time to really get attached to something.
When I saw that positive pregnancy test, and accepted that it really was so, my entire being went into overdrive. It’s hard to describe – I’ve never felt that way before. The only thing I can really compare it to is the morning after you get engaged… you’re buzzing with wedding visions and ideas and lists and venues and reservations to be made. At least I was… I know that all women probably can’t relate to even that comparison.
But the change that occurred with the positive pregnancy test was more than the morning after engagement – it was like I was finally becoming what I was meant to be. Yes, there were lists. Yes, there were hours of looking at nursery bedding online. But more than anything, there was dreaming. Dreaming of the child that this baby would become. Dreaming of the first ultrasound. Dreaming of…. everything. My mind went crazy. It leaped forward weeks, then months, then to kindergarten and middle school science projects. I managed to imagine an entire lifetime in four days, as impossible as that seems.
And then, when the first cramps began and I knew something was wrong, I felt it slipping away from me. When that tiny embryo broke loose and began its descent, there was a death. A real death – the end of all the dreams and plans and excitement and joy and pride and everything good that had taken over my entire being for four incredibly long days.
I feel, on a remote level, that I’ve regressed in my grieving process. I feel that I’m mourning Mama on a new, different level – one where Jennifer and Susanna won’t go. I’m not a motherless mother. I’m a motherless failure. Mama never miscarried. I feel that I’m flawed as a woman and as Denise’s daughter. I know that she would never say that, but I feel like I’ve let her down, that I’m a disappointment because my body is traitorous and killed that tiny life rather than nurturing it. I wonder if this is similar at all to how Mama felt – knowing that the cancer was in her body, in her blood, on the move, and not knowing where it would attack next. Her body became her enemy, a traitor that betrayed her again and again. Is this the first miscarriage of many?
I had a thought – I actually even voiced it to Michele – that maybe my purpose is to be a caretaker, not a mother. I don’t want this to be the case, but I don’t want to be a bad mother – some women just aren’t meant to be mothers, they don’t have the maternal instinct built into their psyches. My mother was the epitome of mothering – maternal, nurturing, healing, comforting, protecting. What if I’m not meant for that?… just because I want it desperately doesn’t mean that I can have it.
There have been so many, many times that I’ve begged Mama to talk to me. Like out load – not this spiritual, looking for signs, I had a feeling bullshit. No, I mean real audible words. I feel so, so alone. So lost.
I came across a website – and like the lists and handouts that we got in our Hospice grief class, there was a wave of relief and a feeling of validation when I found myself identifying with so many of these.
Why do I grieve for my lost baby? Because so many other things were lost as well…
- My dreams for this baby and the future our family would have had together
- Being able to call myself a mother
- No longer being able to trust my body because it betrayed me and my baby
- A pregnancy where fear of another miscarriage isn’t hanging over us
- My belief that Mama would protect me
- Loss of confidence in myself as a mother. I feel ashamed, guilty, like a failure.
- Loss of confidence in myself as a wife. Bobby and I always planned to have children – what if I can’t?
- Loss of trust in myself…. I’m now afraid that I’m unable to do what seems to come naturally and easily for other women