Birthday pass

Birthday pass

Today is their birthday, and the vision of two years ago has taunted me on continuous replay. He lies fused and lifeless, purple, swollen, covered with wires and tubes, a vision of pain and of the failure of a womb. ... I’m waiting. I’m waiting for you to screw up your face and say No. No! It was not your fault. You didn’t do anything to cause this. Stop it. You did not fail. ... ... You’re totally missing your cue. And I adore you for it.

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Waxing. Poetic?

As I sit here, at my kitchen table, typing this, my left leg is waxed below the knee. My right leg is not. (Not that you would be able to tell, since I am, as is nearly always the case these days, wearing pants. But that is a different part of this post. Be warned.) This is the way it's been ever since Saturday, when I decided to use Cub's naptime to test out one of those drugstore waxing kits. Which wasn't that bad. Actually, it was pretty good. Not like those old time home kits. Lemme tell ya-- those kits were, quite possibly, the cornerstone of the conspiracy devised and perpetrated by the salon owners with the goal of increasing revenue and tips. Because really, once you tried that at home, you were willing to pay whatever it took to have a professional do the job. I know I was.

Professional is such a stretchable term, isn't it? I sure met my share of ladies who stretched it but good before stumbling onto Vicky, the goddess of wax. Who is now, just so you know, the only one allowed down there with the hot, sticky stuff. I also don't trust anyone else near my eyebrows, or even near the insult to injury that is the PCOS-induced facial hair. In fact, nobody else is allowed to wax me anywhere. Period. Vicky is un-humanly quick, equally efficient, and she has this technique for minimizing the paaaaaain. She's also rather thorough, which means that she will make sure to get Every last one. She is nice to chat with, and just plain nice.

So why then, given unrestricted access to the gold standard herself, am I sitting here with only one leg waxed? Good question. I could say that I was trying to save money. I could. And if I did, I wouldn't even be altogether lying. But why don't you settle into an armchair, or a dimestore, or whatever metaphor for ridiculously transparent psychology you prefer, and let me tell you a story? Warning-- I may or may not restrain myself from the completely unnecessary editorializing at the end. So, the story.

I saw Vicky sometime in the first half of my pregnancy with Monkey. Eye brow wax, I think, before a fancy shmancy function. She mentioned then that a number of her clients come to see her for a bikini wax before giving birth. Makes it less messy after, they said. Uhm, thought I. Not really sure I want to try the lift your leg like so acrobatics inherent in the procedure when I am, you know, huge.

But then it turned out that I had placenta previa. And by turn out I mean I had a huge bleed in the middle of a mall, the day after my thesis defense. Better than the day before, no question. Anyway, these bleeds, they come with hospitalizations and bedpans. Fuuuuuuuun! But as my previa was partial, and as I was deemed a highly responsible and compliant patient, and as I live a short distance away from the hospital, I was allowed to go home after these episodes. And then the placenta moved, and I was cleared for a vaginal birth, but with a big red star on my folder, indicating that should things go to pot, there was a c-section with my name on it faster than you could say any of it.

These hospitalizations, though, taught me a few things. One, I hate bedpans. Hate them. Two, duuuuude, blood is messy. Especially when you can't see so well what all you are doing cleaning it up. So I started rolling that whole bikini wax idea in my head. Still wasn't too excited about it, but could now see the point. So I made a deal with myself-- if I should make it to the week of my due date, I will make an appointment for the day before said due date. I did, and I did. And I went. And Vicky, being the goddess of wax, used all kinds of tricks and table positions to minimize the awkwardness of the lift your leg like so bit.

Next day, the due date, in fact-- spontaneous labor, no real surprises (except for a little bleed at the end that made them all nervous for a bit, but turned out to have been only a long scratch courtesy of Miss Monkey), no def con anything, one gorgeous, loud baby. [If you are squeamish, skip to the next paragraph.] Ok, I warned you-- also hemorrhoids that the nurses on the post partum floor called bad. You know you are screwed when the nurses call them bad. And one haematoma, just for giggles.

For weeks after that, as I stumbled around with my little blue donut pillow, the one that made it possible for me to sit, I praised the wisdom and skill of Vicky, the goddess of wax, at least once daily. Because she clearly spared me some major post partum hassle. And I vowed that I would totally get a wax next time. Like no duh.

Of course next time was different, in so many ways. The baby, he was gorgeous, but not loud. Silent, forever. The labor, induced and weeks before due date. So among these big things, it didn't bother me that I didn't get that wax. But the added mess in the weeks after-- it stang a bit every time I was dealing with it, taunted me in its small way with how hugely not to plan the whole thing went.

You know what was worse? Needing to go see Vicky right around my actual due date. Because I had, without considering all the logistical implications, agreed to go on a cruise vacation shortly after the due date. JD made a pitch centered around the tragic truth we all know only too well-- everything around us was the same, everyone else's lives were the same. It was only our world that crashed. Let's not sit around looking at that, let's go somewhere else and try to make new memories. Sounded reasonable, and so, despite feeling a bit overwhelmed by the prospect, I agreed. Forgot to consider the whole will need to wax thing. In fact, forgot to consider any of the self-care things that go into an undertaking like this.

Result? Surreal and agonizing few days, as I packed, got a pedicure, got a wax, packed some more. And talked to friends about how I was terrified of happy people trying to engage me in a conversation. In the middle of all that, I had to call to make the appointment for that wax. And then I had to go to said appointment. With Vicky, who's known me for years. Years. I was facing the prospect of not only having to get a not-pregnant wax, but also, and this was gonna be FUN, having to tell yet another person that my baby died. In the end, my sister went the day before I was scheduled to go. Ostensibly to get an eyebrow wax. But really, to tell. To make it less of a horror show for me. I love my sister.

I also love Vicky, who was instinctively wonderful when I came. Not intrusive. Not spouting platitudes. Gentle, kind, on the ball. She did all she could do, and yet, it was not enough. Not because there was anything else she could've done. Simply because nothing, then, could've been enough. It was my mistake-- doing things that used to make me happy when nothing could make me happy. I poisoned the well.

And so this is principly why my left leg is waxed below the knee while my right one is not. I was using the home kit, and then the virus I contracted sometime Friday really went to town, and so I didn't have the lung capacity to deal with the other leg. Maybe this weekend. But I was using the home kit largely because the activation energy for making an appointment with Vicky has grown for me since A died. Oh, I still go. I am not suicidal enough to attempt bikini waxing by myself. (I went before the Cub was born, for example-- guessed the right week in my modified bedrest saga and everything. Made for a much easier self-care while living on the NICU couch afterwards, let me tell you.) And I take my face to Vicky once in a while too. But I used to go more frequently, I think. At least it feels like I did. Once I am there, I am good. It's just there is a higher and steeper wall to climb in picking up the phone to call for an appointment.

Well, since we are being this honest, there's likely another reason I am not eager to see Vicky these days. I am huge, again. And this time, there is no excuse in progress. I am trying to be nice to my body. I understand that most of these offending pounds tell the story of pregnancies and hormonal upheavals they bring with and leave behind. But it doesn't make me happy to see it. And so I wear mostly pants. And I avoid putting myself in a position where I have to face the heft unnecessarily. Which is, of course, a very debatable point. What is unnecessarily? And I don't really know how much of what I put into this word is just the heft, just my discomfort at being this large, at being this uncomfortable in my body, and how much is the bereavement, still.

photo by Meredith_Farmer

What about you? What are your habits of self-care? Have they changed in your bereavement? What do you miss? What is new, in the after?


This post is a part of The Body Shop at Glow in the Woods -- a month of themed reflections and memes that explore what we do in an effort to occupy these physical selves with grace after babyloss.

losing it. perhaps literally.

“She’s got such a pretty face. It’s too bad she can’t do something about her weight.”

This remark can be attributed to a member of my own family. One I’ve secretly never forgiven.

My love/hate relationship with my physical self started very early. I have a crystal clear memory of being on the school playground in the third grade being called fat by a friend who was angry with me for one reason or another.

I spent high school in a fog of self conscious, shirt tugging anxiety, never happy with myself. Not until someone fell in love with me did I feel remotely confident. That helped, as did the roughly 30 pounds I lost over the summer following graduation. It wasn’t a conscious effort; I simply worked on my feet and rarely stopped to take a breath. Even relatively thin I dressed conservatively for someone my age, feeling as though other people shouldn’t have to be exposed to any more of my body than necessary.

Fast forward, past more than ten years of student and office life spent largely on my arse and I was back to where I was at 15; softer around the edges and thicker around the middle than I’d like.

And pregnant.

By the time Sadie was born at 42 weeks I had gained just under 60 pounds. I was comically rotund but somehow I loved every stretch-marked inch of myself. Even though my knees creaked when I climbed the stairs and I couldn’t get out of bed without rolling out, I felt better than I had ever felt before. My mind was as clear as my skin. Months of clean eating and plenty of sleep had made what I thought would be an indelible impression on me.Within two weeks of Sadie’s birth I had lost 20 pounds. Four weeks later she was gone.

If I’m being honest, I completely lost interest in caring for myself the morning we said goodbye to her.

I’ve spent the past year eating and struggling and drinking and feeling excessively. I joined a gym and went sporadically for two months before abandoning it altogether for three. I suffered from random insomnia and popped pills in all moments of weakness: hangovers, backaches, constipation, and depression. Rest certainly hasn’t come easily for me since her death, not without some sort of help. Whether that was a glass or four of sauvignon blanc or a couple of herbal sleeping pills, it was always something. Like many parents here will understand, it’s when the lights go out and I’m left along with my thoughts and memories that is most painful.

So much for my body being a temple. At the moment it’s barely a lean-to. I can’t decide if I enjoy punishing myself or I don’t believe I deserve to feel good in the first place. Whatever the case, I feel as vulnerable now as that third grader in the schoolyard.

Less sensitive people have been asking us whether we’ll try again for months. Others have tactfully left it to us to bring up if and when we’re comfortable. I have often wondered if Sadie hadn’t been our first, would we be where we are right now. I am doubtful and terrified that my abused old body may not even be capable of making a healthy child. Am I strong enough, physically or emotionally, to try? Am I too far beyond repair to risk it?

My husband has lost more than 20 pounds since Christmas; regularly pounding out God knows how many frustrations at the gym. It wasn’t until he started annoying me with a daily ‘calories burned’ report that my latent competitive streak was roused. Then it got even worse: the bastard started shrinking (damn those men and their superior metabolism). I’ve literally had no choice but to get off the couch and pick up my sneakers.

I’m not making any promises, least of all to myself.

If I were brave I might ask myself why I’ve let the idle lifestyle go on so long. Knowing I won’t allow myself to get pregnant again without being in suitable physical shape first, I might also ask if there is a chance I’ve been using my body as an excuse to put off trying again. But I’ve never been much in the bravery area.

How has your body image changed after pregnancy, and after your loss? Have you ever knowingly punished your physical self, it be with neglect or otherwise?

This post is a part of The Body Shop at Glow in the Woods -- a month of themed reflections and memes that explore what we do in an effort to occupy these physical selves with grace after babyloss.

our bodies, grief, and healing

Today's post is an interview with my chiropractor, Dr. Jenny Dubisar. I have felt that my pregnancy with Ferdinand brought me in touch with much beauty and grace, and Jenny is one of those graceful gems. She is the sweetest soul ever, I am so lucky to have met her and be in her care. She has answered the interview questions in great detail, even when I gave her such little time and at a time when her schedule is choked full. She has really put her heart into the answers, you will find grace and compassion sparling and glittering throughout her answers.

Also, note that Jenny practises a type of chiropractic technique known as Network Spinal Analysis, or Networking. It is different from the traditional chiro technique, so much more gentler and relaxing. Jenny explains beautifully about her work and the relation between grief and chiropractic health. I am deeply thankful for the time she took to explain and share.

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My body's betrayal

One day, two summers ago, about 36 weeks pregnant with Ferdinand and after having spent the previous three days running around like a lunatic headless chicken trying to get stuff done, I thankfully laid down on my chiropractor's adjusting table, desiring relief. She inspected how my spine laid, touched me lightly, and then said, "You have been overdoing it, haven't you?"

And I thought, "Dang! How did she know?! My body must have betrayed everything!"


About two weeks after Ferdinand died, I experienced intense sensitivity in a few of my teeth. This sensitivity quickly escalated into excruciating pain. I could not eat, for the most tender contact with those teeth sent me into stabbing throes of pain. We wondered if I may have a root issue and contemplated driving back down to the valley to the dentist. But my husband called my mother-in-law and she said she sometimes have teeth sensitivity like that and suggested a couple of homeopathic remedies. I happened to have those on hand and took them, and the pain went away.

But, not for long.

About a week later, the pain in the teeth came back. This time, homeopathics did not help. We tried acupressure while I writhed about in pain on the floor. I caved and took Tylenol, something I never took. (And those freakin' did not help either.) I was so weak mentally and emotionally after Ferdinand's death, this pain was an extra hard punch in my guts. It felt as if I did not have enough pain in my life. I felt the Universe gave me more pain to mock me further. It was like being kicked down into vile dirt and then having my nose pinned down into the smelly dirt as well, my hands and legs tied.

Just take a gun and shoot me! I cannot stand this! I want to die!

I pleaded with my husband R. My two young daughters stood by and watched as tears rolled down my face and my toes curled with agony.

During such a time of intense grief, how could my body hurl me an additional insult and start causing such pain to me? How could my body betray me with pain in grief?

I went to the dentist. He took x-rays, he looked and poked and even though there was no sign of teeth damage or defects, he told me I needed a root canal. I was not going to get a root canal for nothing so I went for a second opininon. Second dentist was honest and said he was totally puzzled. "Everything looks fine!" he said. Then he noticed on my chart that I was pregnant and asked, "Maybe it is the stress from the new baby?"

I shook my head, my lips pursed. (I did not wish to discuss, or reveal.) He smiled, "Yes, yes, I know, new baby is adorable, but you could still be stressed. Lack of sleep, perhaps?"

He suggested relaxing, meditation, deep breaths.

Back home, I hopped online and consulted with my nutritionally-minded friends. Soon, research have been done for me and here's the verdict: Grief is a stress factor. It depletes the adrenals. Weak adrenals can cause person to wake up between 2-4 am (right on). It can lead to teeth grinding at night.

And get this: teeth grinding can wear down dental nerves and lead to extreme pain.

I went to a holistic dentist and he confirmed that. He could detect huge stress being put on those few teeth that were hurting me to death. That could only be caused by my grinding at night, or even during the day, he said, without being aware of it. He apologized for my son's stillbirth and recommended that I get a night-guard made and wear it while fixing other areas of my life so my stress level can go down.

"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding." ~ Kahlil Gibran


I am no longer wearing the night-guard. It made me talk real funny.

The thing is, my body was not betraying me. It was sending me alarm signals. When I overdid it, it sent me signals that my chiro could see, so she could fix me up. When the stress of grief got too much, and I was (honestly) just neglecting my health (and that of my family's), my body went on to take even more drastic measures to send extreme signals that I simply could not ignore. It caused me so much pain I had to sit up and take note of how I had been treating it. It was not going to watch me abuse my body, so it sent me a severe warning before all systems crashed and it was too late to do anything.

I wrote about that on my blog. How that crazy teeth pain that nearly caused my death was really caused by the stress of grief. Who knew?

My chiro, a sweet, beautiful and gentle soul read that and sent me an email right away. She gifted me with free adjustment sessions. Please let me offer my help, she said. I keeled with gratitude. For this Physical Healing series, I have also invited her to share with us the special chiropractic technique that she uses, and the relation of grief to physical health, especially that of chiropractic health. She gave me wonderful, detailed answers despite her busy schedule. I am eager to share this interview with you all. It will be posted here on Thursday.

How about you? Has grief caused your body to react with pain, or other unusual physical signs? What did you do about that? How did you connect the dots? How have you cared for your body then?


This post is a part ofThe Body Shop at Glow in the Woods -- a month of themed reflections and memes that explore what we do in an effort to occupy these physical selves with grace after babyloss.