Winter Ghosts

I’ve been negligent. As I become more obviously pregnant, folks are so obviously and loquaciously delighted, and yes, this new baby, this unexpected girl, is a much-needed bright star in a dark year. How lovely to talk about impending birth instead of death! But it’s exhausting being so grateful all the time. I find myself staying home, avoiding the phone.

I’m a tempest of hormones and grief, and the person I most want to talk with about it is gone, the source of my pain.

I don’t need bucking up. I don’t need to be told how lucky I am. Dad was 49 when he died; he never saw his children into adulthood, never knew his grandkids. And that sucks. And it sucks that they didn’t get to grow old together. Mum was at our weddings, got to be a grammie to our kids, but she still cried in her room at night, missing her lost-too-soon husband, her life’s companion. And having had Mum for her 68 years doesn’t make her death any less of a loss to me now.

Because wonderful things and terrible things happen right alongside each other. But the wonderful things don’t “make up for” the terrible things. They’re not two sides of the same coin or balances on a scale. Life never balances out, and some days that knowledge is harder to take than others.

Kevin Prufer has a smart piece up over at About a Word on sentimentality (which is a sort of reaction to or expansion on his involvement in the Symposium on Sentiment in the new issue of Pleiades), and he says “sentimentality often involve[s] reducing an emotionally complex situation into an emotionally simple one.” And I think that’s what I’m getting at. This urge to tidy things up. It’s not just that it’s premature now, because it’s always premature.

More than that, it’s a falsification. Life is ever so much more than glass half empty/ glass half full.

It’s good to be thankful, count your blessings. But it can become simplistically reactionary, a sort of emotional shorthand that denies acknowledgment and validity to the full range of individual experience. And when that denial comes from without, from others who insist you must “accent-uate the positive, elim-inate the negative,” it feels worse than a lie. It feels like an erasure.

Ho Ho Ho!

Still pregnant.

But after 4 days of antibiotics, I feel blissfully better, enough to go to my friend Lea’s house last night for a holiday hoe-down. Great fun!

Jamming in the kitchen.
Jamming in the kitchen.
Lea & I by her Christmas tree.
Lea & I by her Christmas tree.

Lance and Vincent came, too, but left early once Vincent’s fascination with all the lit candles could no longer be distracted by butterfly crackers and cupcakes.

Gratuitous cute Vincent picture in which he dons Lea's rhinestone red reading glasses.  He cried most wretchedly when he had to leave them behind.
Gratuitous cute Vincent picture in which he dons Lea's rhinestone red reading glasses. He cried most wretchedly when he had to leave them behind.

Darn good thing Lea lives just a few blocks away — it’s still snowing! I took advantage of a small break in the storm to walk home from the party last night — there were plenty of rides to be had, but what a lovely night, and I didn’t have far to go, and the crisp winter air was refreshing after all this illness — and let’s not overlook the (remote) possibility that this little exertion could help kickstart labor.

Okay, no luck. But for the first time it truly felt like the holidays yesterday. We actually have our very first Christmas tree this year (previous dwellings were too small to accommodate anything more than a festive plant.) (But it is sparsely decorated with colored lights and a few bamboo ornaments. Perhaps Vincent & I will work on that tomorrow after we go to the prenatal appointment.)

Lance’s older sons, Cassidy & Morgan, both came over in the early afternoon and helped him put up the new baby’s sky basket — a new configuration was called for now that we live in an entirely new place since Vincent’s birth.

I doubted and worried, but Lance had a plan, and it works. (Pictures will be forthcoming once the sky basket’s new resident arrives.)

Oh, and my spoils from the Yankee Swap last night? — a tin of Lindt chocolate truffles! Who would dare take chocolate from the pregnant woman? It’s the little victories, yes?

Home. Every day. Small nuggets.

Yesterday, Vincent & I went downstairs to check the mail, and he, because he’s fun that way, locked the door behind us.  Hence I discovered how ludicrously easy it is to pick the lock of our apartment.  Good thing we own nothing worth stealing.

*

Being home so much is very odd, but now we’re both sick I haven’t had much of an opportunity to use this time well.  I’m measuring my days in balled-up tissues and cold cups of tea.

*

It does, however, give me far too much time to dwell on all my overdue submissions, and where the heck are they, and why won’t anyone respond to my emails.  Not altogether helpful, but I don’t currently have the brain capacity to actually write, as evidenced by this feeble post, so I’m giving myself permission to obsess.

*

For those of you who care & are keeping track of such things, I’m now 38 weeks, and the baby has dropped.  So there’s progress, at least!

Dream at 35 weeks.

In general I haven’t written much here about my pregnancy, but some stories just demand telling.

I don’t know if this sort of thing will begin occurring more frequently as labor approaches, but I had a birth-dream last night:

As now, I’m at 35 weeks. But, unlike real life, in the dream, I’m in labor prematurely, having twins.

https://i1.wp.com/danielandemily.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/hpim2597.jpgSo they rush me to the OR to perform a c-section. And my new babies are born.

They are bananas.

And naturally, being premature…

they are green bananas.

Eternal object of my desire:

Filters. Verbal filters. As in, I wish customers weren’t taking advantage of this unsettling time to speak their thoughts at the exact moment they think them. Example par excellence:

//wordwacky.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/new-yorker-6-9.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Middle-aged male customer enters store after reading large sign outside, looks around, then says to me with what has become the usual note of suspicion, “Everything is 60% off?”

“Yes.”

He then wanders around for a few minutes, picks up a couple books, returns to the counter.

“So you’re closing, then?”

“Yes.”

He nods, goes on shopping, and then comes back to the counter.

“So you’re losing your job?”

“Yes.”

Nod, shop, shop, shop, then there he is again at the counter. He points at my belly.

“So what, you must be at least 9 months, huh? What’re you, post-date?”

An utterly harmless & well-meaning man, but my inner-Austen was bristling: “Insupportable!”

Wandering Middle-of-the-Night Thoughts.

A week gone, textbook rush is half-way through…

*

It was about 3 a.m.. I was sitting up in bed against a mound of pillows, in the dark, unable to sleep due to a bout of heartburn (thank you, pregnancy!), and bad dreams (ditto!). Driving home from the store last night, I heard a Geico commercial on the radio, the first I’d heard in a while featuring the Gecko. I am very fond of the Gecko. I have not done anything so silly as change my insurance provider as a result of this fondness, but hearing that cockney Gecko’s voice on the radio pleases me to no end.

So the Gecko is who kept my thoughts company early this morning — Lance and I call him “Mr. Guppy”, after Burn Gorman’s portrayal of that character in the Masterpiece Theater production of Bleak House:

Burn Gorman as Guppy. BBC picture.
Burn Gorman as Guppy. BBC picture.

I have a fondness for Mr. Guppy, too. And that entire BBC production — it aired on PBS during the last weeks of my pregnancy with Vincent and the first weeks after his birth. The two, Mr. Guppy and the Gecko, are inextricably linked to my memories of that time.

*

This poem, though it says nothing of seasons, puts me in mind of the seashore in September. September is a melancholy month for me, a bridge between the summer I’m unwilling to let go of, and the autumn I’m not ready for yet. By Helen Farish, this is from her collection, Intimates (Jonathan Cape, 2005):

The Lighthouse of Nauset


was removed to a field.
Visitors wonder

does it miss the tides, living on the edge
of emptiness then fullness?

Here there is only the tickle of a cricket,
an out-of-the-way dusk.

The lighthouse says, Listen.
I thought I had no limits,

could look indefinitely at the longing
light lays on water.

Now I want boundaries;
a hedge, plums, more than enough.

And we’re having…[Warning: Baby Spoiler Ahead]

18 weeks & 3 days.
18 weeks & 3 days.

Vincent looks mostly like his dad, except for around his eyes. This baby seems to have my profile, poor dear. You might scoff, but you actually can tell quite a lot from an ultrasound.

The ultrasound went much swifter than I expected — when I was pregnant with Vincent I remember it taking upwards of an hour. Vincent was fascinated and only slightly restless, and what a show the baby put on for us, wriggling around like a fish. Everything looks great and normal, so I’ve opted not to have the amnio.

And the news that (a teeny-tiny percentage of) you have been waiting for: it’s a boy. Unquestionably. And unsurprisingly — this will be Lance’s fourth son — he only makes boys!

[End of Baby Bulletin.  Regular programming will resume presently.]

A Lost Week.

“My heart beat thick.”

I think that’s the correct quote. It’s from Jane Eyre, and I’ve never forgotten it (quite) due to Dr. Heineman’s professorial diligence back in 1990, her vehement attention to a writer’s very particular choice. (From her I also learned the proper pronunciation of “vehement” and “awry.”)

All respect to Jane, but my heart beats thick every day these days. Between the heat and the pregnancy, air feels hard to come by. And time. How did it get to be Saturday already? I don’t think I accomplished a single thing of note all week. Except for the ultrasound. And I did read Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart (which I loved, marvelously inventive, then began Inkspell a little while ago. I have an advance reading copy of the final installment of the trilogy, Inkdeath, which is why I began it — I hate to wait, I try not to begin series until all the books are available. Harry Potter is the only exception. Well, George R. R. Martin is too, but he tricked me by splitting his previous book in half…) And I also found what I hope is the perfect Father’s Day gift for Lance.

Oh, apparently there are those who were under the impression that this ultrasound would tell us the sex of our baby. You are mistaken. This is a first trimester ultrasound, undertaken because I am of “advanced maternal age” purely to check on the well-being of said baby, whose sex, at 12 weeks, is still a mystery. It’ll be another 6 weeks for that. But while the official results won’t be out until sometime next week, everything does appear to be just fine. Baby wriggled around like a healthy little tadpole, and we all squealed at the monitor.

Then we left the air-conditioned health center and wheezed in the heat. Or was that just me?

Collected Poets Series.

On Thursday, June 5th, at 7:30pm, poets Chard deNiord, author of three books of poetry including the recent Night Mowing, and Susie Patlove, the author of Quickening, will read from their most recent work at Mocha Maya’s Coffee House, 47 Bridge Street, Shelburne Falls, MA.

Chard deNiord is the author of three books of poetry, Night Mowing (The University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), Sharp Golden Thorn (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003), and Asleep in the Fire (University of Alabama Press, 1990). His poems have appeared recently in Best American Poetry, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Southern Review and The Iowa Review. His poems “The Tin Path” and “Sharp Golden Thorn” appear in the film “Beautiful Ohio,” starring William Hurt, Rita Wilson, and Juliana Margulies. Chard is an associate professor of English at Providence College and the co-founder of the low residency MFA program in poetry at New England College, where he also served as the program director from 2001 to 2007. He lives in Putney, VT with his wife Liz.

Susie Patlove‘s chapbook, Quickening, came out in 2007 from Slate Roof Press. Her poems have been published in several journals including Marlboro Review and Atlanta Review. Her work was anthologized in Crossing Paths: An Anthology of Poems by Women. Susie lives with her husband in Charlemont, MA at an intentional community founded in the early seventies where they brought up their three sons, and now raise sheep, chickens and vegetables. She took lay Buddhist vows in 1982 and continues to practice. She is the assistant librarian at the Arms Library in Shelburne Falls, MA.

*

In the background, I can hear the torturous sounds of Barney the Purple Dinosaur singing, made palatable by the accompanying warbles of Vincent. If he weren’t mine, it would still be adorable, I promise you.

10 weeks along, I met with one of the midwives at my ob/gyn’s office today, and got to hear the new baby’s heartbeat. It never fails to awe. And it’s tremendously reassuring, a heartbeat. Until now, you’re going on faith and the mere fact of a bottomless stomach that something’s growing in there. But a heartbeat, that revving shush-shush-shush — well, now it’s real!

And there was only one heartbeat, so we’re probably not having twins — I’m a twin, so that’s always a possibility. Due to my “advanced maternal age” I’m having a first trimester ultrasound next Tuesday, so that’ll give us the final word on that!

[End of pregnancy update.]