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birthdays

Twelve Years Since the Blue Moon

Once again, I beg the forbearance of my long-time readers with this post, as it’s a re-run (but I’ve added new pictures at the end!). However, because it’s a personal favorite, I hope you’ll hang in there for a re-read…or perhaps for a first-time through.
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“Twelve Years Since the Blue Moon”

I got engaged and pregnant on the same day.

Even better, it was “Buck Night” at the local ball park, so I also got to drink eleventy dollars of watery beer on a humid July evening while feigning interest in an All-American sport.

You might be trying to forge a connection between all that cheap beer and my getting knocked up. Damn your clever mind. Does it never rest?

Suffice it to say, though, that pretty much all of my days since then have been anticlimactic. They’re all “go to work, read to the kids, sweat through a run, fold some laundry” and ever-so-rarely are they “get engaged, drink beer, get pregnant” kinds of days. I suppose, though, that a girl can only have so many splendid Whopper Days; otherwise, I’d have a whole lot of husbands, hangovers, and kids. And frankly, one or two of each is about all I can handle. Ask both my husbands. They’ll attest to my treating them with an air of benign neglect. Fortunately, they are a comfort to each other.

So, yes, from that sticky July day came good things. I still dote on my groom, and the issue of that pregnancy is just cresting twelve years old (since I, personally, remember a lot from Age 12, this implies to me that I should start being nicer to Girl, now that the threat of lifetime recall is firmly in place).

It’s all good now, but the growth and arrival of our Girl weren’t as straightforward as her conception. In fact, Girl started out as two.

All I knew was that I was pregnant, and the hospital in our town would confirm that but would not have me see a doctor or midwife until the end of the first trimester. So I took some vitamins, ate a lot of Ben and Jerry’s, exercised, and dreamed an entire life for the child inside of me.

Until one night–the last night of that first trimester–when I got off the couch after watching some bad reality tv and went to the bathroom. After pulling down my shorts, I discovered the pregnant woman’s nightmare: blood. Lots of it. And when I sat down on the toilet, there was an explosion of more blood, along with many miscellaneous floating bits…of tissue.

My brain reeled, of course, and all I could think was, “This can’t be good. I’m pregnant, so this should stop.” At the time, Groom and I weren’t yet married, and he lived almost six hours away. I called him; he lurched out the door and into his car; then I called a Best Girlfriend, and she was at my house in minutes.

We went to the emergency room, where I spent a long, long time with my feet in stirrups. I heard words like “she’s dilated” and “tissue in the cervix” and “no heartbeat.” My friend stood by my side, crying quietly into a Kleenex. My own tears ran down my cheeks into my ears.

After some time, I was told that it looked as though I’d miscarried. But, they told me, I was young, so future pregnancy could happen. And, they told me, a miscarriage is Nature’s way of ending a non-viable pregnancy. It happened, they told me, all the time.

But here’s the thing: it hadn’t happened to me before, and so I was ill-equipped to handle the absolute, immediate grief of losing a life I had already planned. Sure, I’d heard of women having miscarriages, but no one had actually ever brought that experience alive for me; no one had shared their experience publicly–and if there’s one thing I do, it’s find ways to process the world by touching the experiences of others. Yet miscarriage proved to be one of those last female taboos, one of the hidden subjects that no one acknowledged. So all I really knew was that I was in significant physical pain (I didn’t even know enough to realize a miscarriage is actually a mini-labor, with a contracting uterus and everything) and in even more profound emotional pain.

When, at 4 a.m., Groom finally got to me, we just cried. And the next day, and the day after that, we cried. A baby isn’t real to the world until it’s born, but it had become real to us from the minute that stick turned pink.  Even more, the promise of a life we’d made together confirmed our rightness of being.

Some days later, we went to see the midwife at the hospital, to have her check my uterus to see if all the tissue had been expelled that night in the emergency room, or if I’d need to undergo a D & C, to “clean things up.”

As I lay there, again on a table, she palpated my uterus, noting, “There’s still a fair amount of tissue in here. If you don’t mind, I’m going to roll over the mobile ultrasound machine to see how much we’re dealing with.”

I didn’t want to see the remains of the babe, so I stared at the wall as she worked, not registering her words of, “Hmmm. I see a heartbeat here.”

How cruel, I thought. Why is she taunting me?

But. Then. It. Sunk. In. A heartbeat?

My head whipped to look at the monitor, where I saw a most-contented-looking little figure, reclining in the tub of my belly, a strong and regular heartbeat emanating from its chest.

My memory of the next few minutes is the feeling of Groom’s tears hitting my face, as he stood above me, and the midwife exiting the room, saying, “I’m just going to give you guys a few minutes.”

So my grief had prayed for a miracle–for the miscarriage not to have been real, for that pregnancy to still be happening. Suddenly, it was. Gradually, we pieced together that I had been carrying twins, and one of them had not made it. This, according to one nurse, happens more frequently than we know, but it is still a “once in a blue moon” event.

For the rest of my pregnancy, we called the kid inside of me The Little Gripper; I pictured it hanging resolutely onto the walls of my uterus by its tiny, soft fingernails while its twin fell out of me. Assuredly, I will never stop missing The Kid Who Fell, but mostly I can only marvel at the child who hung in there.

Today, March 31st, it has been twelve years since The Little Gripper became our Girl, twelve years during which she has emerged as reserved, smart, sweet, wry, amiable to a fault, Love Incarnate.


The Birth Day: Groom cries some more, as Girl greets the midwife. Under the white sheets, once again relegated to laying on a table, I wonder how long it will be before I can have a bowl of Peanut Butter Cup ice cream.


Girl Was One


And Then She Was Two


Same Dress at Age Three, But the Wheels Were New

Four Was Fun


Five Became Her



She Grew to Six (Plus Two on the Lap)


Then She Was Seven, Feeling Crafty


Eight Flowed Easily


Nine Popped with Color


Ten Took Her Places

At Eleven, Ancient Landscapes Broadened Her



Twelve Promises More of the Same and the Start of Much That Is New

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As the years tick by, I love her purity of character above all else.

Even she was six, a wee first grader, her unalloyed caliber was evident. One night, at bedtime, her overtired Brother Wee Niblet (now Paco) cried in his bed, sobbing: “I don’t want to go to sleep, ever. I wake up in the night, and I am alone. I’m always alone. I’m never going to close my eyes because sleep is too lonely.”

We had already pushed the kids’ beds next to each other, strung the room with lights, played music on a CD player through the night, and tried everything to get him to appreciate sleep as an opportunity, not a burden. But no matter what I suggested that night, he cried even harder.

Then an almost-seven-year-old hand snaked its way across his bed and extended itself onto his torso. With all the compassion of two souls, Girl said, “Here, buddy. Just hold my hand while we fall asleep. And when you’re asleep, I’ll just keep holding on to you. You know I won’t ever leave you all alone.”

Happy birthday, Toots. Every single day for twelve years now, I have thanked the sky above for that blue moon.

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On My Mind

The Shape of a Girl

Bjork once described herself by saying:  “I am a fountain of blood in the shape of a girl.”  Although I like how her thinking strips away all pretense while still acknowledging the overlay of gender, I wish her words had gone on to include the importance of whimsy: “I’m a fountain of blood in the shape of a girl draped in the skin of a swan.”

At our house, we have a fountain of blood in the shape of a Girl, too.  She doesn’t own a swan dress–nor would she agree to wear a dress of any kind at this stage of her development–but she has enough playful whimsy buffeting about inside her hoodie-clad being that I hold out hope for, at the very least, a faux zebra-skin strapless number paired with a tortoise-shell cape somewhere in her future.

The blood pumping through our Girl is turning 11 today (hey: divisible by 11).  This past week, whenever I’ve been out running, or whenever I’ve been vacuuming in preparation for my mother and brand-new-step-pappy’s visit, I’ve mulled over what I might like to write in commemoration of my firstborn’s birthday.

What I’ve realized is that I have no angle on this one.  After a silly opening  salvo involving an Icelandic singer, I’ve got nothing.  Here’s the thing:  our Girl is simple, and not in the fashion of a Jethro.  She is the beautiful, pure, easy, uncomplicated kind of simple, and trying to fashion anything fancy about her would feel false and overwrought.   She’s simply, marvelously, genuinely simple.

When I gave birth to a girl, I never saw that coming.  Even before the placenta was expelled, I worried about our future clashes, about her hyper-sensitivity, about the feelings her peers would crush into little red pepper flakes, about the tears, about the emotional aches.

Based on my own life experience, I knew all too well what was coming.

To my endless delight, she is stunningly not like me.  She is simple.  She is confident.  She is brave.  She is singularly kind.  She is thoughtful.  She is nurturing.  The worst thing I can say about her is that she often cries when doing math.

When family and friends have asked, these past months, what they can send to her that would be a welcome part of a care package, her answer generally has been, “I don’t need anything.  I’m fine.”  Trying to ferret out if there really is something she’d like, I make suggestions and ask in a different way, yet the answer is always, “Nope.  I’m good.”  Even more, as she’s grown taller and taller, and her pants have all become several inches too short, I’ve told her we can make a real effort to find her some longer ones that fit.  However, knowing that we plan to leave behind as many clothes as possible when we return home, so as to save on weight in our luggage, she merely looks down, takes a gander at her peeping socks, and says, “I don’t need any new pants.  I’m good.  These are fine.”

Recalling the wellspring of need inside myself as a kid, I am bewildered by her unflappable goodness, her fineness.  Her steady responses are doing an excellent job of teaching me to shut up and back off, though.  She is good.  She is fine. 

Here in Turkey, she has no social life.  Although she adores her crowd of friends back home, she accepts that having no friends is part of the deal for her in here.  Moreover, in Turkey, she has no out-of-the-house activities.  Sometimes she takes out her viola and saws on it for me; we can’t find her a teacher here.  Other times, she kicks a soccer ball around our courtyard.  She likes helping me bake.  She reads.  She horses around with Paco.  As the slideshow below reveals, this pre-adolescent is getting through her days in a foreign country in admirable fashion.

Indeed, it’s fine.  She loves Turkey, says she’ll miss it when we leave.  Every trip we’ve taken this year has struck her as the best of adventures, and while we were in Italy, she was already planning a future trip to Norway; when we were in Antakya, she was wondering when we could go to Marden.  When we sat in the basement of our hotel in Gaziantep, eating the free meal that comes with the price of the room, she eyed the set menu of plain yogurt and lentil soup and avowed, “I can eat these things.  I want to be someone who can eat anything.”

I am grateful for this time away from home, then, for the way it’s defined her.  She doesn’t need stuff; she likes experiences.  Her face shines upon the unknown.  Maya Angelou, who said, “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass,” would need to clap hands on her buttocks to shield them from Girl’s pummeling, would need to rev up the presses to make a million copies of a Grabbing the World by the Lapels poster featuring this kid.

Speaking of being a poster girl, and to undercut every assertion I’ve just made about our fifth grader, there is something Girl wants for her birthday, and it’s not an experience.  With the lack of friends around her this year, she has forged a strong interest in a ‘tween magazine called Discovery Girls: she knows the names of all the girls in recent issues; she tracks which states were visited in which year and if they’ll be coming to Minnesota in 2012; she watches behind-the-scenes videos online; she dreams of one day being chosen as a Discovery Girl herself.  She’s a little obsessed, which is a relief.  It means she’s human.

As a result of this passion for Discovery Girls, she has a strong desire to own every back issue so that her knowledge base can be complete.  She would go nuts to have even one more issue in her hands.

She knows Grandma is bringing the two most recent issues in her suitcase, and that anticipation has caused several days of excited monologuing already.

However, this lovely Girl has no conception of is that there’s something else in store for her birthday.  She has no idea that we won a lot of 22 back issues of Discovery Girls off Ebay, that our friends Kirsten and Virginia carried them to London in their suitcases, that I then transferred them to my bags and carried them through Istanbul and Kayseri and to Ortahisar,

that they are hiding right now in our bathroom storage closet.

When she opens her gift, she will be astonished, gobsmacked, excited, overwhelmed, delighted, floored, ecstatic,

maybe a bit more than

simply fine.

[flickrslideshow acct_name=”70029074@N00″ id=”72157626366151658″]
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