Wednesday, August 31, 2011

End of August odds & ends



  • PNDGS/D is late. He/she was due late last week, but still hasn't put in an appearance. Drs will induce, but not until late NEXT week, by which time his/her mom will be two weeks overdue. Can I tell you how very, very nervous this makes me?? Please send all your prayers, positive thoughts, good vibes, etc., for a healthy delivery for both mom & baby.

  • Tash had a post today about dealing with clueless relatives that reminded me of an incident a couple of weeks ago. A few days after Katie's anniversary, we attended a memorial mass for dh's uncle, who passed away last month. On this side of the family, all of dh's cousins (including dh & his brother) have now lost one parent, and after the service, several of us were standing outside, talking about the importance of pre-planning funerals and making your wishes known. Dh said, "Well, we've bought a niche," and one of his cousins said, "Oh, at (cemetery where dh's mother is buried)?" "No," said dh, "(suburban cemetery where Katie's ashes are interred)." The cousin looked completely puzzled -- "why there?" Another cousin -- who is a Facebook "friend" of mine and had seen & commented on the photo I'd posted of Katie's niche at the cemetery on her anniversary -- said gently, "They already have someone there." Another completely blank look. In Italian, the one cousin said to the other, "Their daughter -- the baby!" "OHHHHH...." To her credit, the clueless cousin looked quite embarrassed. I jumped in with a comment that we don't intend to use it for awhile, but we decided that if we wanted to be there, we'd better get a spot, & the conversation went on. Dh & I chuckled, ruefully, about it later.

  • In an unprecedented (and uncharacteristically generous) move by our prime minister, Jack Layton received a state funeral last Saturday in Toronto. The music was fabulous, albeit not your standard funeral fare -- beginning with a saxophone rendition of Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic;" Leonard Cohen's "Hallellujah," as sung by Steven Page, ex-Barenaked Ladies; the Parachute Club's anthem "Rise Up," as sung by original member Lorraine Segato; and wrapping up with a church choir singing an old 1960s hippie anthem, "Get Together." ("Come on, people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now"... only they changed the lyrics to the more politically correct/gender neutral "smile on each other")(!).

  • Before entering federal politics, Layton was a well known Toronto city councillor and, after his casket lay in state at the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, it was brought to City Hall in Toronto. Outside, a makeshift "shrine" sprang up of flowers, photos and cans of orange Crush (orange being the colour of the NDP). And then, someone wrote a message on the pavement, in chalk, and left a bucket of chalk behind. People started writing their own messages. Within hours, the huge expanse of Nathan Phillips Square was covered in chalk tributes. There was a a wicked thunderstorm that washed them all away on Monday night, but by Tuesday morning, they were more. I work not far from City Hall, and while I didn't think I had time to stand in line and pay my respects, I did walk up to the square on my Friday lunchhour to view the chalk tributes (& leave one of my own). It was an extraordinary, moving sight. This Flickr photo by Jackson Chiu gives you an idea of what the scene was like (although there were a lot more people walking around, reading the messages, when I was there).





Friday, August 26, 2011

When real life meets blogging life

Last week, I met my first blogger "in real life." I've met online friends before, from both the ALI & scrapbooking worlds -- and, when I was in high school, long before the Internet, I had actual penpals that I wrote letters to and met face to face (including one I am still in touch with today) -- but never a blogger.

It's always a slightly unnerving feeling, meeting someone you've never actually met face to face, but who has also been privy to some of your innermost thoughts & feelings, wondering if you're going to live up to the picture in their mind they have of you. And then there's the whole "stranger from the Internet thing," which I still get lectured about by dh from time to time. Fortunately, aside from the occasional awkward pause, the vast majority of my Internet friends have turned out to be just as delightful "in real life" as they have been onscreen.

(And I know dh is not the only skeptical husband out there. The very first Internet friend I met was a woman from a pregnancy e-mail list we both belonged to. I noticed some references in one of her posts that sounded local, & contacted her off list. Not only was she from the same general vicinity as me, she was about the same age as me, AND we both happened to work for the same company, albeit in different locations. I had mentioned a Christmas ornament I had bought for Katie & she expressed an interest in getting one for her stillborn son. So I got her one, & we agreed to meet at a local coffee shop. Dh came with me, & while we were there, she got a cellphone call from HER husband. "No, they're not axe murderers," she said, rolling her eyes at me in conspiratorial fashion while dh looked embarrassed & I stifled a giggle. I haven't seen or heard from her in a long time, but I did have coffee with her again a year or two after our initial meeting, when I was visiting her location on business.)

*** *** ***

If I remember correctly, I found Deathstar through her comments on Pamela's first blog, Coming2Terms. I loved Deathstar's sassy comments & followed her back to her own kickass blog, A Woman My Age. Deathstar writes with honesty and humour about her ongoing struggles to balance parenting after infertility & adoption with home, husband, dog, aging mother, faith (Buddhism) and an acting career.

One of the benefits of working in the heart of downtown Toronto is that I'm close to many of the most popular hotels & tourist spots -- which is great for meetups with friends & relatives who are passing through. Deathstar happened to be planning a visit to Toronto, & I commented that if she needed a break, she should look me up for lunch or coffee.

Much to my delight, she took me up on the invitation. We arranged to meet at a pub close to my office. There was a bit of a comedy of errors -- I was waiting outside on the street while she had arrived early & was already waiting inside, with no cellphone signal. Just as I was asking the waitress on the outside patio if she could check the reservation list to see if my party had already arrived, Deathstar emerged & enveloped me in a huge hug.

We spent the next hour (OK, two hours, lol -- fortunately it was a slow day at the office...!) talking and laughing and wiping away tears, and talking some more and eating fish & chips (if that was a half portion, I'd hate to see the full.) It felt like being with an old friend -- because, of course, we were, even though we had never seen each other before in our lives. (Or maybe we have. As it turns out, Deathstar actually used to work in my office tower, a couple of floors above mine. We've probably been in the same elevator together dozens of times & never even knew it. The world is much smaller than we think it is sometimes.)

There's blogging life, and there's real life. And sometimes they intersect. I'm so glad that, in this case, they did. : )

Monday, August 22, 2011

Goodbye, Jack :(


Jack Layton died today from cancer at the too-young age of 61 -- and all across Canada, people of all political stripes are sharing their sadness. (Mohammar Gaddhafi who?)

For those of you outside Canada, Jack Layton was the leader of the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) -- left-wing/socialist in leaning and perennially in third place behind the Liberals and Conservatives.

Until the election earlier this spring, when Layton led his party into second place, thanks to a breakthrough in his home province in Quebec, which gave the party enough seats to become the Official Opposition. It was a great triumph. Even people who would never vote NDP voted him the leader they'd most like to sit down with over a beer.

He had recently battled prostate cancer -- the same disease that killed his father (also a politician) -- campaigned with a pronounced limp and walked with a cane -- yet nothing seemed to slow him down, nor erase the smile from his face.

That's why it was such a shock when, only a month ago, he showed up at a news conference looking pale and gaunt, announcing that he was taking a leave of absence to battle a new cancer. He said he was looking forward to leading his caucus when Parliament resumed in September. I was on vacation at my parents' house and saw the press conference live. We all gasped when we saw him. We knew it didn't look good, but I don't think anyone expected that he would be gone just a few weeks later.

Before he went into federal politics, Jack Layton -- although born & raised in Quebec -- was a very well known municipal politician in Toronto. He never saw a TV camera or a microphone he didn't love. I used to see him now & then as we walked through Union Station in the morning, en route to work, promoting one of his pet causes -- for example, handing out white ribbons on Dec. 6th to show his support for stopping violence against women. Dh & I would both roll our eyes. (ETA: not because of the cause itself, but "there's Jack, at it again.") But like many other Canadians in recent years, he won our respect and our affection (if not our votes) with his determination, his cheerfulness, and his dedication to his principles.

Tonight, I'm thinking about his wife, fellow member of Parliament and constant companion, Olivia Chow. Whatever you thought about their politics, there was no doubt they absolutely adored each other. They went everywhere together, even rode a bicycle built for two. They didn't have any children together (although Jack had two adult children from his first marriage, and a granddaughter, Beatrice, whom he adored). They kind of reminded me of another couple I know. ; )

Before he died, he wrote a letter that he gave to Olivia to be released in the event of his death. Its closing words read:

"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world."

Amen.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer reading

One of the things I love about going on vacation is having oodles of free time (&, admittedly, less time on the computer, erk...) to read... not just the daily papers & magazines, but books. I can usually read about two books in a week at my mom & dad's, so I brought five with me for our recent two-week vacation, & got through four & a bit. I also finished one just before vacation, and two since then = 8 this summer. They were all great reads, and (while I didn't intend it this way) almost all included at least some passing reference to grief/loss, perinatal loss &/or infertility.



William and Kate by Christopher Anderson tells the story of the world's most famous newlyweds. I found it a pretty easy read, and while I've read a LOT on the royals over the years, I actually learned some stuff I hadn't known before. It was interesting to learn more about Kate & her family too.

From an ALI angle, the loss of William's mother, Diana, and its ongoing impact on his life, is examined. And of course, Kate's stomach, or lack thereof, has become tabloid fodder, even before the wedding.



About a year ago at Christmastime, I finally got to read a novel I had been hearing good things about, called The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by a Canadian author named Alan Bradley. I loved it, and while I was on vacation, I read the second book in what is going to be an ongoing series, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag. And I've just finished reading the third book in the series, A Red Herring Without Mustard. (A fourth is to be released in November.)

The books are all mysteries, set in early 1950s postwar England, featuring a precocious 11-year-old heroine with a passion for poison named Flavia de Luce. Young Flavia lives with her absent-minded stamp collecting father and her two mean older sisters in a crumbling mansion in the English countryside. As The Globe and Mail's review describes, "She’s Harriet the Spy by way of Agatha Christie, with a dash of Lemony Snicket and the Addams Family. Who could resist?" I couldn't help but think these books would make great Masterpiece Theatre Mystery movies on PBS.

From an ALI angle, "The Weed That Strings" features a pregnancy subplot and the tragic death of a child. All three books feature the haunting (almost literally) presence of the young heroine's mother, who died when Flavia was a baby.



I finally got around to reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett while I was on vacation, which has been in my "to read" pile for more than a year. I knew the movie was coming out in August and I was determined to have the book read before I went to see it.

I know there has been controversy in some circles about the historic improbability of the plot, not to mention the structure of the story (should a white woman be appropriating black women's voices and stories? -- both Stockett and her white heroine, Skeeter). I did think, as I read, "HIGHLY unlikely" (that this would have happened in early 1960s Mississippi).

But I was able to overcome that and take the story at face value, on its own merits. It's fiction, all right, but it's a story that's well told with wonderful characters. It's got people thinking and talking about that time in U.S. history again, and about a part of black history and race relations that hasn't received much attention before, and from the often-neglected female perspective. What's so bad about that?

Dh & I went to see the movie last week and both of us enjoyed it hugely. To my relief, it was mostly faithful to the book and was extremely well acted all round, with more great parts for more female actors than I've seen in a long time. The two actresses who played the maids, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, in particular, were absolutely wonderful, and I hope Oscar will remember them when nomination time rolls around.

ALI angle: One of the characters has a history of multiple miscarriages.



The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot was the next book I read after "The Help," and was an interesting companion piece to that story. The immortal cells grown from a tissue sample taken from Lacks -- a poor black woman from the South, who died of cervical cancer in the early 1950s -- paved the way for some of the most important medical developments of the last half of the 20th century, including a polio vaccine and (from an ALI viewpoint) cloning and IVF. (Lacks's doctor went on to become one of the pioneers of IVF in the United States.)

The questions of medical and scientific ethics raised by the book echo the questions raised by ARTs -- and I was moved by the Lacks's family's ongoing struggle to learn more about the mother they barely remember and what happened to her cells -- and to ensure her legacy is recognized and honoured --a disenfranchised form of grief not entirely unlike the disenfranchised grief experienced by perinatally bereaved parents. This book seems like a highly unlikely subject for a bestseller, but it's a fascinating story, well told, and I think it deserves all the critical praise it has received.



Next on my reading list was One Day by David Nicholl, the story of Emma & Dex, who meet on their university graduation day in Edinburgh, Scotland, July 15, 1988. The "gimmick" of the book is that each chapter features Emma &/or Dex on one day, July 15, every year for the next 20 years. Grief and loss of various types are woven throughout the book, and infertility also makes an appearance.

I enjoyed the book overall, although it dragged a little, and the climax had me exclaiming out loud, "Awww, you've GOT to be kidding!!" It does end on a sadly sweet note, however.

The movie adaptation, starring Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway, was just released, to lukewarm reviews. I think we might still go see it anyway. ; )



I'd been hearing alot of buzz about The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. It's a quick read, not too long, and quirky. Written from a first-person perspective, it has Ronson examining the whole concept of psychopathy. How can we tell whether someone is a psychopath? Who decides? Is it possible to cure a psychopath? These are some of the questions the book poses. It's interesting and even entertaining stuff -- although I found myself questioning the wisdom of using it as bedtime reading as I lay awake with some disturbing images and questions running through my head (be forewarned!). Not really any ALI angles -- BUT, one of the featured cases involves a blogger and the commenters who make her life miserable.



Right now, I am just finishing reading Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher. Fisher's one-woman show of the same name has just finished a brief run in Toronto. I had hoped to get to see it (which is why the book was in my pile), but the show ends tomorrow -- sooner than I had thought. Oh well. :(

As I've admitted previously on this blog, I have a weakness for Hollywood biographies & memoirs, and I'm familiar with the story of Fisher's life and those of her parents, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. Still, it's fun to read from Fisher's perspective. Not for nothing is she known as one of Hollywood's best comedy script doctors.

So what have you been reading this summer?

Monday, August 15, 2011

25 years at work (long post)

I learned to write around the same time that I learned how to read -- early, when I was about 4 years old. My dad would bring home paper, pens & scotch tape for us from the office, and we always had plenty of crayons & colouring books in the house. I wrote stories, letters (to Santa and my grandma), drew pictures & made cards. Some of these pieces still survive, preserved in my mother's basement all these years (and some of them are pretty frickin' hilarious to read as an adult). When I was 7, I started my first journal in a little green coil-bound notebook, and have continued to write about my life, on & off, on paper and online (in e-mails, on message boards and in this blog), ever since then.

I loved my books, and I can remember wanting to "be an author" when I grew up from at least the time I was in grade school. But, as I got older, I began to realize that not many people actually made money, a living, writing books. And, this being the '70s, I accepted the idea that women could (& maybe even should) have a career, make a living, contribute to the family economically, support themselves, if they had to. I don't remember when the concept of "journalism" entered my life, but we always had newspapers around the house, and I read them from the time I was in grade school. Gradually, I realized that I could make a living writing for a newspaper.

Not just any paper, of course. The newspaper of choice for my family was the Winnipeg Tribune, and to be a reporter for the Tribune seemed like the pinnacle of achievement for me at that time, careerwise. (I also envisioned being married -- to a doctor or lawyer, of course -- having a family, and living in a lovely house, in Tuxedo or Charleswood -- the most affluent suburbs of the city, of course.)

I wasn't quite sure how I would obtain all these goals (nevermind do all these things at once). Thinking about it now, it strikes me about how unfocused & unsure I was about how to turn my dreams into reality -- especially when I think about my own teenage years compared to today's teenagers --- focused, driven by ambition (and their ambitious parents), with so much information at their fingertips with the Internet...! I did the usual things that seemed conducive to a career in journalism career -- I wrote for the high school newsletter (such as it was), and worked on the yearbook. I also had the brilliant idea of writing to the editor of the Tribune, who just happened to be a woman -- one of the very few in the field at that time. She wrote me a very kind letter back (which I know is still tucked away in the depths of my closet at my parents' house), answering my questions, nurturing my ambitions and offering advice. I was thrilled.

I also had a guidance counsellor who, bless him, took my ambitions seriously, and showed me the catalog (paper at that time, of course) for Carleton University in Ottawa, which boasted the country's most famous journalism program. At that time & place, however, Ottawa might as well have been Timbuktu. Like most of my classmates, I just couldn't fathom going somewhere so far away from home -- even if I could afford to. Getting together enough money to go to a local university seemed daunting enough.

And so, in the fall of 1979, I enrolled in the arts program at the University of Manitoba. The following year, my father was transferred to another town. There was very little available in the way of housing, and eventually he and my mother decided to build a house. The furniture went into storage, my father lived in the town's lone motel, my mother (not even 40 years old yet) spent several months bouncing around from the motel to my grandparents' house to visiting friends, until the house was (barely) finished just before Christmas -- and my sister & I went into separate residences at the university.

As my mother, sister & I supervised the movers who were packing up our house in the dwindling days of August 1980, the axe fell on the Winnipeg Tribune and several others across Canada on the same day. The closing was a shock to me, a wake-up call to the brutalities of real life and the business world. I felt like my world was falling apart: no home, no future.

Anyway. I finished my undergrad degree & applied for post-graduate programs -- a one year program at Carleton, a one-year program at Ryerson in Toronto and a one-year master of arts program at the University of Western Ontario (which was my first choice, since I would get a master's degree out of the deal). I was initially turned down, but asked if I wanted to stay on the waiting list. I said yes, and a few weeks later, I got the call: I was in.

*** *** ***

"Corporate communications" was only just beginning to be recognized as a legitimate career choice. These days you can actually get a certificate in it at some community colleges. Most of my J-school classmates & I still thought in terms of getting jobs at newspapers and magazines, radio and television stations. We were the first class to abandon typewriters for computers (black screens with glowing green type and a continuous form dot-matrix printer shared by 35 people), and some of my classmates participated in an experimental computer news service for farmers. When I graduated, I managed to wangle a job on the weekly newspaper in the town where my parents now lived -- a way to gain experience, earn some money (at barely above minimum wage) & bide my time until dh & I got married the following year.

I had very few contacts in Toronto when I moved here after our wedding, and we scraped by on my unemployment insurance cheques for awhile (which would never happen these days; the eligibility rules have gotten much tighter). When those ran out, I signed up with a temp agency doing clerical work.

Then I saw a newspaper ad for for a writer/editor position at one of the two banks my father had worked for when I was growing up. I hesitated: my sister and I DESPISED the bank when we were growing up. The bank was the reason why we had to move and leave our friends behind every three to five years, interrupting the family vacation plans we had already made. We both swore that we would never, ever marry bankers.

But it was a job in my field, and a pretty good one. I applied, I went for some interviews. I got the job. (Ironically, my sister wound up working for many years at the other bank my dad had worked for. I have often quipped that, to paraphrase Gloria Steinem, we became the men we didn't want to marry.)

I started work on August 11, 1986.

Last week was my 25th anniversary, not only with the bank, but with the department.

*** *** ***

Others in my department have been with the bank longer, coming from other areas -- but nobody has been with the department longer than me. I've outlasted everyone I started working with, by more at least five years if not more.

I know sometimes people find this incredible (myself included, sometimes). Everyone has heard the prevailing wisdom that loyalty & longevity with one employer is dead; that we will have multiple employers during our working life. Even within my company, anyone who has ambitions to climb the corporate ladder these days is encouraged to cross business lines in search of broad experience rather than specializing. The current head of our department, who came up through the business lines rather than journalism or communications, is very much a proponent of that thinking. As a result, turnover in our department has increased exponentially over the past few years.

But I'm still there. And I'm fine with that.

Today, there are many more opportunities for communicators, generally, and at my company (it seems like every department has at least one). But the truth is, I've never really wanted to work for another company, or even another department. I am a creature of habit, of course. I don't like to rock the boat unnecessarily.

Moreover, I have never really wanted to climb the corporate ladder. It didn't take me long to look at the headaches my bosses had to deal with and decide I didn't want or need that; I have enough stress in my own job as it is. Managing budgets and people has never interested me as much as the words, as the writing itself, as telling a story (even if it is only about a new account or executive appointment). And, as one of my bosses once observed, noting the growing numbers of management-level employees in our department at that time, "Too many chiefs, not enough Indians." -- i.e., you can plan & strategize and create business cases and project plans & dashboards and budgets till the cows come home -- but eventually, someone has to do the actual work.

Sometimes it's hard being the person who stays while everyone else moves on, eventually. You start to feel like part of the furniture, and sometimes, taken a little for granted. It's hard when new people come in and make changes and don't really seem interested in what was done in the past and WHY, even if the lessons learned 10 years ago might still be valid.

But longevity also gives you perspective, I think. I've had the really good fortune of working for, and with, some really great people, for the most part. There have been a few jerks along the way, of course (they're unavoidable, wherever you work), including some who made me question whether I should start polishing up my resume. But time and time again, the jerks eventually either moved on (or were asked to move on). The pendulum might swing too far one way or another for awhile, but I've been around long enough to know that, eventually, it will start moving back toward the centre again.

And there are material benefits to longevity. I've built up a pretty nice pension, or will have by the time I'm ready to retire -- assuming I don't get pinkslipped first. :p I know no job is certain these days, nor pension plans, it seems (although mine is one of the country's better funded ones).

I suppose some people might think that, being childless, I would be more career focused than I am. Isn't that the stereotype? But infertility and stillbirth have given me a different perspective on work and its place in my life.

Work is important, of course. Without children, my expenses might be lower in some respects than those of parents, but I still need to keep a roof over my head & food on the table, the same as anyone else. Moreover, I won't have any children to take care of me in my old age -- I have to have money saved to hire the help I will need. And, for the most part, I like what I do, and I like the people I work with (which is hugely important). I always wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and while I could never have envisioned writing letters and speeches for executives and copy for the annual report when I was 12, the fact is, I AM writing for a living. And I think I'm reasonably good at it, if I do say so myself. There are far worse ways to be making a living, and although I sometimes grumble, I work for a pretty good company when all is said & done.

But I work to live -- I don't live to work. There's nothing like losing a child to make you re-examine your priorities in life, and while I wasn't wildly ambitious pre-Katie, losing her certainly didn't make me any nore so. Dh, home, family -- those things come first. I may not have kids, but I do have a life, and I don't want to spend any more of it at the office than I absolutely have to.

I often wondered how I would manage to juggle work and family. I didn't think I could afford to be a stay-at-home mom, & part of me didn't think I would be able to hack it. I've always thought part-time was the way to go, so long as you could afford it, and my office best friend/coworker & I tentatively explored the idea of sharing a job as she wound her way down to retirement. But I never did get pregnant again, and her stock portfolio took a hit after the dot-com boom went bust. So we both kept working full-time -- she retired five years ago, and I'm still there, for another few years (minimum 5, maximum 15), if all goes well.

*** *** ***

Earlier last week, my senior manager e-mailed me. We had missed our regular "touchbase" and she suggested we do it over lunch last Thursday. Ummm, yeah, right, OK. ; ) I e-mailed dh, "Do you think it's JUST a coincidence...??!" So I wasn't entirely surprised to walk into the restaurant to find our entire immediate team there -- along with my retired coworker. It was the perfect way to celebrate.

A few weeks ago, I received my official anniversary gift from the company, which I had chosen a few weeks before that -- a lovely watch. In September, dh & I will be attending a banquet for all the long-service employees from our head office who are celebrating significant anniversaries this year.

And I've been forewarned to be ready to say a few words at our all-department meeting later this week. Other coworkers have already been dropping by cubicle since the luncheon to congratulate me. The younger ones have been helpfully adding stuff like, "Gee, *I* just turned 25!" Ummm, I don't need to hear that, lol. But it's the thought that counts, right...?? (Someday, they will understand...!)


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Finally...

A columnist who's speaking (writing?) positively on our behalf.

No comments yet... but I'm sure they are coming (and I'm also sure they won't be pretty...).

A healthy choice: funding in-vitro

Monday, August 8, 2011

Aftermath, & hope for the future

Thank you for all your good wishes these last few days. The rest of the weekend was much better, thankfully. : )

For starters, one of my oldest ( = time I've known her, not necessarily age, lol) & dearest online friends, JuliaS., who lost her daughter Carena the same day I lost Katie, was the first to message me, as she always is.

Sunday, dh took our traditional bouquet of pink roses to the cemetery. I took a photo & posted it on Facebook -- only the second time I've done something like that. So far, I've had six "likes" and 26 comments. The majority are from online & support group friends, but there are some others too, which is nice to see. : )

Then, this morning, I discovered that another dear online friend -- from the childless living board I've blogged about -- (who has since moved on to adopt two beautiful children) had written a blog post about Katie, and what Katie means to her. I was floored, and dh is still raving about it tonight. Thank you so much (again), Karen! We will treasure your words always.

*** *** ***

One of the harder parts about childless/free living -- particularly for someone like me, who is into family history and treasures every photo and attaches meaning to all kinds of things associated with the people I love -- is the sadness I feel when I think that there will be nobody to pass these things along to, nobody who will appreciate them in the way that I hoped my own children would

Six years ago, when my one cousin's daughter graduated from high school, I decided (after much inner debate -- it is hard for me to let go of things like this that mean so much to me) that she should have my grandmother's high school ring as a gift. As I blogged here, three years ago, I was disappointed that the gift was never acknowledged.

Nevertheless, my other cousin's daughter graduated this year, & I felt that, to be fair, I should think of an equivalent gift to give to her.

Around the time I went to grad school, in the early 1980s, the "preppy" look was very "in," particularly at the school I was attending, which has a reputation as one of the more "American/Ivy League" universities in Canada. Pearls were back in fashion, & somehow, they came up in a conversation withe my grandmother.

"Oh, I have some pearls you can have," she said, and the next time I saw her, she gave them to me. She didn't remember how or where she got them, but said she never wore them & they were just collecting dust in one of her drawers. I don't believe they're real pearls -- my family didn't and doesn't have that kind of money -- but they were still nice, slightly yellowed with age. The string looked a little fragile in places, so I took them to a jeweller & had them restrung, knotted (so that if the string broke, they wouldn't all slide off) & a new clasp added. I wore them a lot over the next few years, including as the "something old" on my wedding day. But I haven't worn them in awhile, and I do have another, newer pearl necklace to wear if I want to.

So I packaged them up & sent them to my cousin's daughter with a card and a handwritten note, explaining the story behind the pearls & expressing my hope that she would likewise give them to her daughter or niece or cousin someday. This morning, her mom messaged me on Facebook -- the package had arrived, and her daughter loved it. She noted what a special gift it was, and added, "So glad we have someone like you to pass along family history and heirlooms."

Well, as you can imagine, that made my day. (I still hope that she'll eventually contact me herself with her own thank you, whether in a written note or online -- but this time, at least I know she got it!)

In a similar vein, we celebrated our nephew's 19th birthday on Saturday night, nephew's birthday. This fall, he'll be starting his second year of university and -- as we did last year on his high school graduation -- we presented him with a cheque to help defray some of his expenses. "THANK YOU!" he said, giving each of us a big hug. We are so happy that we're in a position to help him out a bit -- and his brother too, if/when he ever returns to school (or buys a house or some other such life goal).
Doing things like this -- and getting these kinds of reactions -- gives me hope for the future -- that maybe we'll actually have visitors at the old folks home now & then ; ) & people who will listen to (and actually be interested in) our stories -- who will know and value the meanings behind some of the things we give to them, and remember us when we are gone.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Words are flowing... pools of sorrow

I thought I was going to be all right today.

And then a coworker whose cubicle is near mine started showing off her adult daughter's ultrasound -- i.e., her expected grandchild -- to her team.

"That's my grandbaby," she said in (understandable) delight. "They said the baby was moving all over the place," she added, as a chorus of female "Awwww!"s went up -- and I -- who endured an ultrasound 13 years ago today that confirmed that my baby was going to be born silent & still -- couldn't help overhear.

She said the due date is Feb. 7th. My LMP date with Katie was Feb. 8th.

People from other areas of the department kept coming by on & off during the day to look & gush. Another coworker brought over one of HER relatives' ultrasounds for comparison. After awhile, things died down -- and then our department's senior executive dropped by, got shown the picture, gushed over it, and started talking about HER grandchild. I thought I was going to scream. Needless to say, I did NOT getting much work done, even though there was lots to do that had piled up while I was away the past two weeks.

Then I went to read the Stirrup Queen's Friday roundup (which actually wasn't a roundup this week, because of the BlogHer convention) -- and Angie at Still Life With Circles mentioned a wonderful comment that Esperanza had left her. The post was built around the Beatles song "Across the Universe," which I love.

Then I read Esperanza's beautiful comment, which mentioned the song "Somewhere Out There" from the movie "An American Tale." Dh & I saw & LOVED that movie & that song. Just thinking about the little brother & sister mice, looking out their respective windows, far away from each other, & singing to the moon in those sweet childish voices (not to mention the Linda Ronstadt & James Ingram version), would get me tearing up -- long before Katie.

Somewhere out there beneath the pale moonlight
Someone's thinking of me and loving me tonight
Somewhere out there someone's saying a prayer
That we'll find one another in that big somewhere out there
And even though I know how very far apart we are
It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star
And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby
It helps to think we're sleeping underneath the same big sky
Somewhere out there if love can see us through
Then we'll be together somewhere out there
Out where dreams come true

Needless to say, it had the same effect on me today, if not moreso. I sat in my cubicle sobbing -- not loudly enough for anyone to hear me, but enough to ruin my makeup for the day.

I used to try to take at least one of these two days off (Aug. 5th or 7th) if they didn't fall on a weekend. Aug. 7th is a Sunday this year, so I thought I'd be OK working on the 5th. And sometimes I am. But today I wasn't, & I was wishing I had taken the time off, even if I am just back from vacation. Note for future reference. :p

As I told Msfitzita in a comment about a recent post, "When the going gets tough... the tough go shopping." ; ) I took a long lunch hour & treated myself to some new CDs & lipsticks. ; ) And then some fish & chips (greasy, but comforting). And a Starbucks tea latte later. ; ) Then dh & I went home where, finally, behind closed doors, we were able to hug, & I finished off my remaining mascara, thinking about that horrible homecoming from the hospital, 13 years earlier.

As usual, the Beatles said it best. Nothing's gonna change my world. Nothing can bring her back. Pools of sorrow... but also waves of joy.

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither while they pass they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind,
Possessing and caressing me.
Jai guru deva, om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world.
Nothing's gonna change my world.
Nothing's gonna change my world.

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes,
They call me on and on across the universe,
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way
Across the universe
Jai guru deva, om,
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world.
Nothing's gonna change my world.
Nothing's gonna change my world.

Sounds of laughter shades of life are ringing
Through my opened ears inciting and inviting me
Limitless undying Love which shines around me like a
million suns, and calls me on and on
Across the universe
Jai guru deva, om,
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world.
Nothing's gonna change my world.
Nothing's gonna change my world.

Jai guru deva
Jai guru deva
Jai guru deva
Jai guru deva

13

I don't know if today will be lucky, unlucky or (most likely) something in between. But 13 years ago today, August 5th, 1998, became the worst day of my life, before or since -- the day I went for my six-month prenatal appointment, and learned that my baby girl, the baby I had hoped and waited so long for, the only baby I would ever have, was dead inside of me.

Two days later, I delivered and held her tiny, lifeless body for a few all-too-brief hours. It was the thunderbolt that split my life in two -- before and after stillbirth, the life I thought I was going to have and the life I ended up with.

One month earlier, on July 6th, dh & I had marked our 13th wedding anniversary. Well, sort of. We had to cancel our plans for dinner because I came down with a migraine. An omen, perhaps?

Had she lived, our little girl would be entering her teenage years in mid-November. I know some parents like to joke about how the teenage years are "every parent's nightmare." I want to tell them I've already lived every parent's worst nightmare, & believe me, having a teenager ain't it.

I'm writing this post in advance and, as usual, I am not sure how I am going to be feeling today or Sunday. There is so much I could say (& have already said, over the past almost-four years in this blog and, before blogging, on message boards and listservs).

I guess what I want to say, right now, is this: it's 13 years later, and yes, I've survived. I'm 50 years old, infertile and childless (in the living child sense), and know that I will remain so -- but I'm still here. Doing pretty well in many respects, actually.

But while I'm in a much better place overall than I was then, stillbirth still sucks just as much as it ever did.

And I still miss my daughter.

I will love her & miss her as long as I live.

12 (August 7, 2010)

11 (August 5, 2009)

10 (August 7, 2008)

1998 Memories: Wednesday, August 5, 1998: Gone

1998 Memories: Friday, August 7/Saturday, August 8, 1998

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Waiting for PNGD/S

My Parents' Neighbours' Daughter (PND) is in her last few weeks of pregnancy. I still tend to think of her as an adorable toddler in a pink snowsuit sometimes, so it was a surreal moment when she and her gigantic belly came through the door of my parents' house while we were on vacation there recently. Harder still to believe that the next time we see her, at Christmas, she will have a baby of her own in tow. Maybe even in a pink snowsuit. ; ) (My secret hope.)(She doesn't know yet if it's pink or blue.)

Of course, both dh & I are nervous as all get out for her, & hoping beyond hope that all goes well. PND was 14 when I lost Katie, so she knows what happened -- but I'm not sure how much she has related our story to her own pregnancy. Not much, is my guess. She is bubbling over with chatter -- about her prenatal appointments, the great stuff she's picked up for the baby at garage sales, the colour she's painting the baby's room, the baby names they've chosen, about her friends' kids and pregnancies (she says she can count more than a dozen other girls she knows who are also expecting right now) -- just like any typical young 20-something mother-to-be.

Unlike most expectant mothers (even the non-infertile/non-bereaved variety), however, she played tag football (with other girls, but still...!) earlier in her pregnancy, and went golfing while we were there, on a day when the humidex reading was something like 47C (37C is about 97F, if that gives you any idea how hot & humid it was). Needless to say, dh & I (not to mention my mother!) had fits when we heard that. Part of me envies her that youthful innocence, the sure knowledge that pregnancy = baby, and that bad things only happen to other people. :(

*** *** ***

As I've written before (almost exactly two years ago, in fact!), my mother keeps a little wooden chest in her spare bedroom (where we stay when we're there), filled with the things she bought for Katie & gifts that her friends had given her for the baby. :( I've peeked in there, but I've never gone entirely through it all. I'd like Mom to do it with me, tell me what came from who -- but I know that would be a hugely emotional hour or so, & I just haven't had the strength to bring it up. :( I know from peeking in that there is a bunting bag, some Bunnykins baby china, & a few outfits -- including one knitted by Mom's neighbour, M -- who sadly passed away about 10 years ago now, but lived next door to PND & her family as PND grew up, and treated PND & her brothers like her own grandchildren.

While we were there, Mom asked me what I thought about giving M's outfit to PND for her baby, that it might be meaningful to her since M made it.

I couldn't speak for a moment -- and I think Mom sensed that I wasn't too keen on the idea.

Frankly, I'm not.

Honestly, if I gave any of my baby things to anyone, it would be to PND.

But.

Call me selfish -- but because my pregnancy was so tentative for so long, I didn't buy a whole lot of baby stuff -- so I have very few outfits or other things that were Katie's, or supposed to be hers. I know they are just sitting there, collecting dust, while someone else could be making use of them -- but frankly, I don't want to share. ; )

I did mention to Mom that, totally aside from anything that I might feel (and while I don't think PND would ever say anything), some people might feel funny about using things that were intended for/associated with a dead baby. I don't think she had thought about it from that angle, and she let the subject drop after that.

That's one reason why I've never offered my maternity clothes or Katie's bedding set to anyone that I know. I'm not sure which would be worse -- to have someone look horrified by the thought, or to see someone walking around pregnant in MY clothes. :(

*** *** ***

Please send prayers & positive thoughts that all goes well for PND & her baby. If not for her sake, for mine & dh's. ; )

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Post-vacation odds & ends

  • Yes, I was on vacation. Did you notice I was gone??
  • One of the best things about vacation is having lots & lots of time to get lost in lots & lots of books. : ) I'll be posting separately, shortly, about some of what I read.
  • If you thought Facebook was a minefield before, get this: if you're pregnant, you can now list your expected child's name and due date under your "family members." Thanks (...I think??!) to Apron Strings Emily for bringing this one to my attention.
  • Even after being away for just two weeks, things change and take you by surprise. For example -- the newsstand in the concourse of my office tower, where I stop almost every day to buy magazines and lottery tickets and breathmints and chocolate, is closed for renovations. Like Joni Mitchell sang, sometimes you don't know what you've got till it's gone. : ( Hurry back, newsstand!
  • On a related note, I was shopping in the concourse of the next office tower over from mine yesterday, and noticed that a new maternity wear shop will be opening soon -- conveniently located right next door to Baby Gap. :p
  • On another note somewhat related to the last one: Is it just me?? I swear that every other woman I saw today was sporting a hugely pregnant belly, an infant carrier or pushing a gigantic baby stroller. :p Most weeks, I don't notice this as much, and even when I do, it doesn't bother me these days. (Much.)
  • Of course, this week is not like most. August 5 & 7 are fast approaching. :( I'm sure that has something to do with it. More on that later too.