What the f*ck is my problem anyway?

Laying in bed this morning marveling at the smiling face of my baby daughter, my thoughts turned grim. Rocket man should wait for a vasectomy until we know FOR 100% certain that we won’t have more children. In other words, god forbid something should happen to one or more of our children, we might then want to have another baby. So we should wait, for the vasectomy, until we are too old to have more children.

I wondered what it could be that could take one of our children? A year ago we went to a funeral for a little girl who was almost four. One day her pee looked discolored. Eighteen months later she succumbed to cancer, having already lost yards of intestine, her bladder, and her uterus. During her dad’s eulogy of his little girl he was smiling as he told us her last words, “I so totally love you forever.”

How are any of us supposed to be parents knowing that this is possible?

Happy Sunday morning. So after thinking of this family, who are doing incredibly well with their 2 year-old daughter and five month old baby girl, what do I do? Naturally, I head further down memory lane in a vague effort to discover the source of the negativity that nags at me day in and day out.

Why am I such a pessimist? Why do I live in fear of the other shoe dropping? Let’s see. Because it’s in my blood? In my crazy family? Parents losing children. As long as I can remember I’ve known about my dad’s baby brother. The baby was around two when his mom left him with my raging alcoholic grandfather, my dad, and his younger brother (who went on to have a full-on schizophrenic break in college). She went to get a part for their broken stove. Too late. Before she returned the stove exploded. With the baby in the kitchen. He died. I saw pictures of him, shrouded in bandages. You couldn’t even see his eyes. Why my parents let me see these pictures, I have no idea. I grew up knowing that such horrors are possible.

I didn’t bear witness to any horror like that until I was 13 or so. We drove to my grandma’s house to take her to her brother’s funeral. He’d been sick for a long time. When she answered the door, she was hysterical. My Stoic grandmother. She was wailing her sister’s name. Her sister? Turns out, as her sister was leaving the morning’s wake for their brother, she was hit by a car. She was holding her husband’s hand as they stepped from behind a van into the street. A police car was speeding with sirens and lights off. She was killed instantly. Her husband was mangled but he survived. He was about to retire. They had tickets for a trip to Hawaii. Ahhh the golden years.

I’ll never forget the shock of seeing my grandmother wailing her sister’s name over and over. Now will I forget seeing my uncle on a stretcher being carefully maneuvered near her gravesite as he watched his beloved lowered into the ground. He never came close to recovering. He died recently, enduring twenty years without his rose.

I skirted death for 10 years. Well my dad’s parents died but nothing dramatic. At 24, I got a phone call. Doesn’t everybody hate “the phone call?” It can make a girl afraid to answer the phone. My uncle this time. My beloved uncle. The only member of my small, strange family that I ever really related to. I was a year away from moving to the city where he lived, far away from the rest of the family. I LOVED him fiercely for as long as I could remember. We had things in common. He was 51. Prime of his life. He traveled the world, climbed mountains, worked on a cure for AIDS. He was even known to poach a fish now and then.

A tree fell on him while he slept under the blanket my stoic grandma crocheted for him. I know about the blanket because of the picture that appeared in the newspaper. With his arm hanging down. A visual I could do without for sure. I made the mistake of being there when his coffin was briefly opened.

I’ll never forget how my grandma clutched my hand as she steeled herself to walk into the room with her beloved son’s coffin. He was the favored child, the golden boy. My grandparents existed for his Sunday phone calls.

I’ll never forget how my big, strong pop pop collapsed into a heap as he tried to follow his son’s coffin out of the church. He crumpled up again at his grave.

Six months later my previously healthy pop pop died. From grief I think. (While I was at a six-hour course learning to make better choices about alcohol, particularly where driving was concerned. Routine roadblock, .08%, more on that later.)

Then I met rocket man. My blue-eyed grandma died a year or so after my grandpa. She and I always adored each other. I spoke to her on the phone from far away shortly before she passed. She told me she loved me. My mom heard her. She had never told my mom that she loved her. Ever. I come from a long line of “complicated women”.

Two years after I met rocket man we were happily living in sin when we got a phone call. His mom. His 51 year-old, recovery room nurse who had worked her ass off raising her four boys. The youngest was a freshman in college. I had come to know and adore her in the two years since I stole the heart of her firstborn son.

She ignored her headaches for a while but then went to her friend in the radiology department of the hospital where she worked. She had a mass in her brain. We got on a plane, hoping with our new vocabulary that the mass was on a stalk and not at all like fingers. By the time we got there she had undergone emergency surgery to relieve the pressure. Before that could happen she had a massive stroke and she flatlined. She went into a coma that lasted months. She regained consciousness but was left blind, paralyzed, obese, and without a short-term memory. We believe that when she was in the coma she was working her way back to her boys having decided to make one final sacrifice for them. She lived one pretty awful year before she died from stroke complications. But her boys each got to say goodbye to her. She was 51.

So far she has missed seeing three of her boys get married. She has missed having the daughters that she always wanted. At least one of us daughters-in-law has missed terribly the chance to see the possibilities for love between a daughter and a mom. She has missed the births of a grandson and four granddaughters. It’s such an understatement to say she would have loved that.

The visuals I wish I didn’t have: one is way too horrifying but the other is simple. A lone, mournful bagpipe, on a hill in the graveyard.

Then came a live baby, our son. Then came the dead babies. Each of them was a shock like no other. The deadbabyultrasound at 11 weeks that showed our baby that had died three weeks before. Three weeks during which I had a vague trust in the universe that my baby was alive because I had seen its heart beating.

A year later, our daughter arrived safely despite months of terrifying spotting.

Then came the biggest shock of my life. I won’t go into detail here but in a nutshell: I was eating a bowl of Christmas goulash when I got cold. 24 hours in the hospital later the announcement came that my nearly 23 weeks baby would have to be delivered so I didn’t die from the infection in my amniotic fluid. (See my posts at Trying to have a baby that lives on The Big F*cking Nightmare for details.)

One more deadbabyshock followed six months after the birth of our dead daughter. At 11 weeks I had just spent TWO HOURS talking with my trusty perinatologist about our game plan for my 12 week cerclage. We were focused on the surgery and follow-up care in the hopes that I wouldn’t, again, nearly die from an infection and end up with a baby too little to live.

I will NEVER forget him saying after our two-hour discussion, “let’s just take a quick look at the heartbeat.”


I didn’t even cry as they moved me to a different room “for a better machine” and for what turned out to be a better look at our four-day-dead baby. I still only cried a little. Mostly I cursed.

More shock followed when four days later I came to hold that dead little guy in the palm of my hand.

It felt like a true miracle when I heard my alive baby cry on May 29, 2007 at 10:32.

Sooo my conclusion is this: no f*cking wonder I am so jaded. Among many joys and gifts and riches, life has dealt me some pretty horrifying surprises and I can’t help but wonder when the next one is coming. It reminds me of the terror I felt during my last pregnancy when I didn’t know where the danger was coming from.

Will it be a car crash? I didn’t mention the crash that I somehow survived shortly after my grandfather’s death (I was sober but stupid anyway). The shock of the crunching metal (I never saw it coming) as I pulled slowly into the path of an oncoming car is stored in every cell of my body. I sometimes think that I will die in a horrific wreck. Maybe that is cell memory talking.

In some ways I live in fear of what other horrible things will happen in my lifetime. More than anything I hope to outlive each of my children.

My dad, on our wedding day, made a wish for us. He wished us happiness but qualified it with wishing for, I shit you not, “a few bumps in the road.” I have it on video. A few bumps in the road. Who wishes that for their child on their wedding day? That has bugged me ever since. I want to ask him, “So Dad have we had enough bumps yet or do you wish a few more for me? You held my dead baby girl. You sang to her. Do you have a heart beating in your chest? Am I done with bumps yet? I know I will have more but still. Could you wish me some fucking peace of mind? Maybe a little joy?”

I hate that my dad wished that for me. But then we must consider the source. This is the same man who “toughened me up” as a little girl by dunking me repeatedly under the water despite my chokes of protest. He stopped doing that when I didn’t come back up one time. He liked to play “let’s throw the softball faster and faster and see if you can still catch it.” We stopped playing that after I got a bloody nose and lip because I wasn’t fast enough. He is coming to visit on Friday.

I’m not sure what I’m getting at here and if I’ll even post this weird, self-indulgent, pity-party of a post. I guess the point is I am always trying to figure out what the hell my problem is anyway.


~ by complicatedmama on November 6, 2007.

6 Responses to “What the f*ck is my problem anyway?”

  1. complicated mama, i am not sure what to say in this reply… i just wanted to say I Hear You. thank you for sharing your losses, and fears… i have an aunt, who has lost 3 of her 6 children. 5 boys, 1 girl. her oldest son was killed – when he was 7 or 8ish, playing with matches, and the cape he had on caught fire and it was long before stop-drop-and-roll. and he ran. and ran. and it was too much burns for his little body. then her only girl, died likely of SIDS. and her youngest son died when he was around 30-ish, in a freak motorcycle accident.

    i honestly dont know how she still breathes, when i think of it. but she has a fighter’s heart and spirit, and is still able to see the beautiful things in her life and the gifts she does have. much like you. and i guess we all have these broken areas in our hearts and our spirits, and we have to just keep moving forward.

    sending you hugs and thoughts from a total stranger :}

  2. Wow, I can’t even begin to imagine. I, like gypsygrrl, do know someone that has undergone what I consider to be unimaginable horror. When my husband was a small boy (maybe 7) his friend and two of his siblings were killed in a house fire. The mom and dad were out for the night and the oldest child was supposed to be watching. She lived with the guilt, as did the only surviving child, the boy that was supposed to be watching the rest, but I just don’t know how she got through her days. Then, just a few years ago, the oldest boy was killed in a car accident, in which he was the drunk one. He just couldn’t take the guilt any more, after all those years. I don’t think I could ever get out of bed again, much less keep going with my life.

    I thought I was going to die when I got “the call” about my dad. I was only 22 years old and he was only 46. Congestive heart failure. These days I’m never shocked when I consider if I have enough life insurance on me, my husband, or Aiden. I’ve seen too many times how quickly death can touch anyone we love.

    I am so, so sorry your family has been touched by it so much.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. If the saying “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” were true…You’d be strong enough to carry the world on your shoulders. Though it probably feels like you already are. I’m sorry.

  4. Death is a common experience. But when it happens to you, commonality means very little because YOUR experience is unique to you and only you. It tends to overshadow the good stuff.

    What will happen to you and your family? Nobody knows. Nobody can predict the future. But I’d be willing to bet that it’s a long time from now and you will have many happy years filled with many happy memories. Try to remember that when the fear creeps in. {{{hugs}}}

  5. Complicated Mama, whatever you have, I have it too. It’s a lot of death. Too much for this lifetime. I have to go back and read your other blog, to find out more about your story. But it sounds like its been pretty tough.

  6. As a fellow “waiting for the other shoe to drop-er” I feel your pain. I really, really do. And I’m sorry for it. For both of us.

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