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by Two Busy
The light refracts softly through the glass, casting quiet ghosts against the walls in muted reds and hushed greens, the colors gently throbbing and pulsing in unseen rhythms as though we are witnesses to the faint memory of an aurora borealis—a thing once glorious and brilliant beyond all reckoning, capable of filling an entire sky, left by the thinning of time and memory to this quiet haunting. Outside, beyond the lights, the night flexes and grows strong, deepening and stretching and filling the world in ways we cannot see and will not understand.
She sits on my lap, her small hands holding my hand, the back of her head resting against my chest. We watch the lights and ride together through these long hours, so very far from the sun.
There is so much that she wishes for. That she has asked for, in letters and soft language, to fill that space beneath the gentle bristles of Fraser fir and the balls of brittle glass and the climbing spiral of clean white lights that step gently, steadily, between the branches and up along the thick axis of trunk as it reaches from that pool of crisp water through a maze of butterflies with tiny glass wings and snowflakes captured in mid-flight and all creatures, great and small, and the shoes of those who were once infants, cast in metal, but who now look together up and up and up toward the crown of a single, distant star ...
She says his name, as if whispering the name of God, and asks if she has been good enough. If he will know.
He knows, I say. He knows because I know, and because there are no words big enough to capture or define the enormity of what I feel, I do not say more but let it swell my lungs full and heavy beneath the weight of her head and the aurora of her hair, and I close my eyes and try not to think of anything other than this moment, here, with her, and how I wish only for it to stretch on and on to forever.
Her fingers climb the length of my fingers, tiny step by tiny step. "I'm pretending I'm a mouse," she says. "So my presents will be bigger when I come downstairs." Her fingertips are warm, and I do my best to absorb the impact with the grace and solemnity of a forest floor beneath padded feet. "It's going to take a long time to get to the tree, because I'm so small." I cannot see her face, but in her voice I hear a smile growing broader with each word.
Tiny step by tiny step, she pretends her way through the long night. "Maybe I'll be so small he won't even see me."
My teeth press sharp and tight against the insides of my cheeks, trapping the words. Keeping them from escaping. Of how even the unseen and unknowable can become visible to careful eyes.
If we do not say the words, they are not real.
It is four hours since they told me to come back. Since they had not called, and I was in the building, and I came by to ask. The results of a CT scan, reading the world behind my eyes. Probing for an answer to two months of pain and questions.
Their smiles vanishing, voices suddenly growing somber and low-toned. "The doctor will need to see you." Their eyes meeting mine, steady and unblinking. "Tomorrow." My surprise, and unease, and waiting for them to say something to let me know that ...
That it would be OK.
And the drive home afterwards, and the phone calls to my wife, and the rationalizations and the counter-rationalizations and the way their smiles vanished and their voices changed and ...
The trees and thick bushes and steady-toothed fences alight with color and celebration and the anticipation of the days ahead, the countdown to the moment when they would come downstairs and all that was hidden would finally be revealed and ...
The anticipation of those long days, counting them down, one by one by one, each one feeling like it would stretch on to forever and ...
The things that grow in darkness, warped and misshapen, paler than the moon, and ...
My daughter, resting her head against the frail cage of my chest, her fingertips dancing against my skin, the room so softly alight with color, and her hair, fanning out gold like the rays of some small and precious sun and ...
This night, this longest night, as we wished our way through the dark and I tried not to hold her too tightly.
TwoBusy was raised by wolves. He now lives outside of Boston. His writing appears sporadically at twobusy.typepad.com and DadCentric.com.
Follow Two Busy on Twitter: @TwoBusy.
By Angie Kinghorn
Angie Kinghorn: Life, with Artistic License
The song still makes me tremble.
I've tried playing it in small doses to get used to it, musical allergy shots if you will, but the violin pulls my heartstrings out and flays them bloody every time.
It was playing on my iPod when my mind and body, already bruised and fragile, cracked wide open like an egg.
No part of me was whole as I sat there rocking back and forth in the darkened nursery, letting the music pull every dark thing out of the deepest recesses of my head. The memory of the traumatic birth was fresh, and I was literally being held together by threads. The experience of birth brought forth thoughts of its twin, death, and the music unleashed images of my father in pain, coming to the hospital to meet his grandbabies the day before he started a clinical trial he hoped would buy him a few more months. I was paralyzed with fear that his inevitable death would be as painful as my grandfather's. The babies were sleeping, and over the music in my earbuds I could hear the whooshing of the hospital-grade breast pump as it sucked milk and life and joy itself from my cracked nipples.
With each verse another of the tiny fissures I'd sensed in my head since late pregnancy burst. Darkness, terror, panic, dread, and despair flooded from them, covering me.
I didn't understand. This was why I started taking Wellbutrin again three weeks before the babies were born. This wasn't supposed to happen. How could I fail motherhood as a novice when I had a safety net in place?
My body poured out more tears than milk, so many that my hands-free pump bra was soaked and I didn't even bother to reach for a Kleenex. I sat rocking in a stupor, letting the pump run long after my breasts were emptied. The mental and physical pain melted together into something so red-hot, heavy, and sharp that it was all I could do to breathe.
Mark came in some time later, and that's how he found me. In pieces.
He couldn't put me back together.
I'm not sure you can ever put all the pieces back in the right place after postpartum depression. Even if you eventually look whole from the outside, you're forever changed by the damage.
Putting me back together took a psychiatrist using 450 milligrams of Wellbutrin XL and 300 milligrams of Zoloft, as well as Valium. Then, when the panic attacks started, Xanax. I went to one support group meeting for mothers of multiples with postpartum depression. We talked about our meds. Most of them were only on about 50 milligrams of Zoloft. When I shared my medication regimen with them, they stared at me in mute horror, as if I would burst into a murderous or suicidal rage any minute. I was the outcast in a group of broken women who all felt like outcasts.
I never went back again.
That meeting taught me that if any activity were causing me to crack further, it would only make things worse. It was vital for my family and for me that I put myself back together.
What else did that take? Weekly visits to my therapist and countless calls he was kind enough to take off-duty, plus a husband who had known postpartum depression was a big risk but wanted to have children with me anyway. A husband who knows I'm broken but loves me anyway.
Angie Kinghorn is a twin mom, recovering lawyer, PPD survivor, and writer. When her nose isn't buried in a book, she writes at angiekinghorn.com.
Follow Angie Kinghorn on Twitter: @angiekinghorn.
Sound Bites from a Miscarriage Journey
by Charise Rohm Nulsen
I Thought I Knew Mama
"What if something is wrong??"
I forgive my intuition for hijacking this short-lived pregnancy.
The stark chill of SILENCE.
I forgive the ultrasound technician for avoiding my gaze and not answering my questions as she passed the wand over my expectant body.
"It looks like there is no heartbeat. We can schedule you for a D&E right away."
I forgive the doctor for his utter lack of basic emotion.
Raw, uncontrolled SOBBING.
I forgive my body for breaking down.
"It's only been a few weeks ..."
I forgive God/life/fate for positioning this loss right after the devastating loss of my too young and too beautiful cousin.
"You've just woken up from your anesthesia. It's all over."
I forgive Time for not gifting me with enough of itself to know this baby.
The CH-CH-CHATTER of my teeth as I took myself to the emergency room in a highly febrile state three days later.
I forgive the various people in the hospital who couldn't seem to help me get help when I so desperately needed it.
"An infection has spread throughout your body due to products of conception remaining from your D&E procedure."
I forgive my ob-gyn for making me her seemingly one-in-a-million statistic for a common surgery gone wrong.
"You will get through this."
I am thankful for the nurse who gave me excellent care, but more importantly, the warmth of empathy and perspective over the course of my days in the hospital.
The quiet footsteps of my husband moving around my hospital room in the middle of the night.
I am thankful for my husband who never left my side.
My determined footsteps as I put one foot in front of the other.
I am thankful for my body's ability to heal.
"When you finally become a mama, this will all have been worth it."
I am thankful for my mind's ability to focus on what is most important.
"I see two lines! I'm pregnant!"
I am thankful for God/life/fate's gift of second chances.
The indelible sweetness of Baby's first cry in this world.
I am thankful for the powerful realization that I would go through all of this one million more times, as long as it led me to this moment.
I forgive whomever made miscarriage a taboo subject.
I am thankful for not believing in making a subject taboo.
This post is dedicated to all of the mamas who have been here—those who have their babies—and those mamas who are still waiting to meet their babies.
Charise Rohm Nulsen is the proud mama of two little ones and is living what she believes to be the ultimate life—one centered around mothering and writing. Charise is also the author ofI Thought I Knew Mama, a blog providing a window into the adventures of stay-at-home mamahood, natural parenting, and green and healthy living.
Follow Charise Rohm Nulsen on Twitter: @ithoughtiknewma.
And So We Traveled, Part One
by Dalene Heck
For many months now, we have shared some very intimate details of our life. In a lot of ways, we don't consider our website a typical travel blog—it has become as much about our personal story as it is about the places we visit.
And this online story is missing one important part: Pete and I have never fully shared our reasons for traveling. We've dropped snippets here and there in a few bullet points scattered around the web, or in response to random emails from curious readers. This is by far the number-one question asked of us.
The truth is, it is a hard story to tell.
This life that we love so much, this one that people call us "so lucky" to have, was born out of inconceivable trauma.
Thus, I have shied away from telling the story fully. Pete and I have gotten very good at condensing our story to just one or two factual sentences. We've stripped it of the emotion it is truly worthy of, emotion that we have suppressed, or at least, learned to deal with.
But with any trauma that one endures, the accompanying emotions can easily find their way back to the surface. Sometimes it's random—by chance hearing an old song, smelling a familiar perfume, or staring at scenery that reminds you of another time and another place.
Most poignantly, however, emotions rise at anniversaries of the trauma.
We are in the middle of our five-year anniversary. I say "in the middle" because it is not just one single date or event that was the catalyst to our life of travel, but instead a stretch of time where crushing blows stacked up, one after another. Where we thought that life just couldn't possibly get any worse, that we had endured all we could handle, right before the next blow came. It culminated in one final shot to the chest, one event that shredded our insides and left us gutted and gasping.
Several months after that final event, I woke up one night with a start. I grabbed a piece of paper, a pen, and I started writing frantically. I had never before in my life felt such a compulsion to write; never before did I have such an intense need to dispense of words that were exploding in my head. To do so brought an onslaught of emotion but also some instant relief; I needed to spell it out, to put on paper these unthinkable things that had occurred. It was then that I started to believe that it actually happened, that it was more than just visions of an awful movie with a ludicrous plot line.
Here is that piece of writing, mostly unchanged from when I wrote it then. I entitled it "Seven Months."
In January, I started a new job. All the usual stress of high expectations and too many tasks accompanied it.
In February, my niece and goddaughter was born to my youngest sister. Baby Katelin came out too quickly and wasn't quite "cooked enough," the doctors said. She was airlifted to another hospital that was close to my home. I housed my family for a week, and we all waited anxiously for her to pull through.
Thankfully, she did.
On a Thursday in the middle of March, I opened my doors again. This time, it was for my mother and her packed bags. After many months of struggling to make things work with my father, she needed to escape. On this very same day, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with a grapefruit-size cancerous tumor pressing against several organs. While Pete packed his bags to spend the weekend with his family, I stayed behind to comfort my mother—promising to make the trip the following weekend.
Four days later, Pete's mother died. Not unexpectedly, but definitely too suddenly. Tragically.
April, May, and June went by fast. My two sisters and I spent much of our time discussing our failing family via conference calls and group emails. It was on again, off again, on again ... too many rotations to count.
In late June, it was my father's turn to leave home. This time, it was for a new job and a new life in a new city.
Halfway through his ten-hour drive, my father abandoned his trek and drove straight to my house for comfort after an emotional phone call from my mother. I guess she was at her breaking point.
We all were.
That following week, Pete and I were due to try our first round of artificial insemination, as we had been trying to get pregnant for three and a half years. Hopped up on fertility drugs, my ovulation cycle should have been as predictable as Tuesday follows Monday. It never came. Up until that time, we had always been told it was a problem with Pete. Maybe it was stress, or maybe we had uncovered a new issue.
One week later, my older sister, Nicole, died. Unexpectedly and suddenly, she was ripped from our lives due to pulmonary emboli caused by a broken ankle.
My beloved big sis, and one of my very best friends, was gone. Just like that. Two days after her thirty-fourth birthday and many, many days too soon.
The combination of all these formidable events, as horrible and life-changing as they would be in their own time, had been amassed in a mere seven months. And starting on that fateful day in July, I felt their full impact.
Cue massive breakdown, stress leave from work, and an unending string of failed attempts at therapy. Days in my pajamas, nights spent sleepless watching TV on the couch. A ceaseless wave of messy emotion. Antidepressants and social withdrawal. Pete's ever-compassionate and kind soul waited on me patiently, left to deal with his grief on his own.
I flailed at the bottom of a deep black hole for several months, frantically thrashing to find a way out. I took my pills. I ate better. I exercised. I wrote. Nothing seemed to help, and I sunk deeper.
Something caught my eye on the way down. A small beam of light appeared—a gloriously dazzling light that at once excited and terrified me. It came from a tiny outlet, a pinpoint really, so small that it seemed improbable that someone could fit their whole being through it. But it was clear that I had to try.
Excerpted from The BlogHer Voices of the Year 2012 by BlogHer. Copyright © 2012 BlogHer. Excerpted by permission of BlogHer.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted March 13, 2014