Saturday, June 26, 2010


My brother has a condition that my family refers to as the "Luck of the Polish." Those of you who have lived in the northeastern portion of the US will be familiar with Polish jokes and will know why this is funny. T tells me that Kentuckians make these same jokes about people from Indiana who are apparently just as stupid as Polish people. Before anyone gets their feathers ruffled about this, let me assure everyone that I am 75% Polish-American. The other 25% is Italian but, aside from my utter loathing of golumpki, you'd never know it. If you plunked me down in the middle of Warsaw, tourists would ask me for directions. Thus, as a child, I had to grow a thick skin...and learn how not to fall out of a tree while raking leaves.

Anyway, back to the "Luck of the Polish." Simply put, when something crappy happens to my brother, it usually results in some sort of financial windfall. Usually the crappy thing involves a blow to his rather ample head, some stitches or staples, and a quick settlement with the restaurant owner/driver who blew the red light/employer. Bad luck morphs into cash and everyone goes home satisfied.

I'm not similarly afflicted. My mom has always said that I have more ambition than my brother and, therefore, don't need any luck. She's said that she knows I will always land on my feet.

I thought about this a lot while floundering helplessly on my back during fall of 2007 and most of 2008. Is it true? Am I without luck? Is ambition really an adequate substitute for luck? It sure feels like I could use a little luck...I wonder where I could find it.

What is luck, anyway? Some days I think I'm lucky to have C. Some days it seems like luck really has nothing to do with it. After all, surviving birth and infancy is apparently quite normal. We all managed to do it, right? Even those of us with bad luck. And it goes on from there.

Have sex--get pregnant--have a baby--raise baby into a) a functioning member of society b) a menace to society c) somewhere halfway in between. Repeat. Completely normal. Easy as pie.

Unless it isn't.

I found out a couple of weeks ago that I have a unicornate uterus and one functioning fallopian tube. In the reports, the radiologist described my uterus as "banana-shaped" (isn't there some sort of latin word for that that sounds less pathetic?). For those of you who aren't up on uterine anomalies, this means that I have roughly half of a womb and a very poor chance at another successful pregnancy.

This was not good news.

I don't think of it as strictly bad news either. T and I had already accepted that our baby-makin' days were likely over anyway and our apparent secondary infertility finally has a name. My only regret is that I won't be able to serve as a gestational carrier for a very deserving couple.

The causality isn't quite right to call this an instance of Polish luck but this news has cast the past three years in a completely different light. Most of the way to "advanced maternal age" with only half of the requisite parts, I somehow got to conceive 2 babies the old-fashioned way, carry them for 32 weeks, and witness both of their completely unlikely live births.

I feel like my entire identity has shifted. Like a smart girl who's just been called pretty. I'm considering a trip to the casinos. I'm thinking about joining a carnival and charging people a dollar to rub my belly of banana-shaped good fortune.

For the past three years I've been wishing for normalcy. Now I know that I was never normal and that I'll never be normal. But I think I have something better. I am lucky.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Weight-training for the Soul

I don't know why I even look at parenting magazines. They always end up pissing me off one way or another. But the doctor was running late and I'd left my knitting home so I ventured forth.

I was already deep into eye-rolling mode over the outrageously priced 'must-have' mommy items and serious discussions about the problems of privilege when I came across the most HI-larious piece of clever. Someone had taken the stages of grief and applied them to the loss of her pre-motherhood ass. See, it's funny because it's about mourning a less-than-perky butt...just like one might mourn the death of a loved-one or a child.

LOL...LMAO...ROTFLMAO...or whatever the kids are saying these days.

I suppose she and her editor were both absent on the day they handed out the common sense.

I'm not really one for therapy or therapy-speak. I've noted before that I firmly believe every thought that comes out of my addled little brain is neither unique nor unnatural. (This belief extends to the voice in my head that reminds me how therapy would cut into my sock yarn fund) All the same, I've watched my daughter die and I've watched my ass reach for the ground and I can assure everyone that only one of these things deserves the full five stage treatment.

The authoress behind this little gem is clueless on two counts. Firstly, obviously, death and sag are truly not in the same league. One can be giggled about over cosmos with the girls, the other is more of a drinking alone sort of experience. Second, the entire piece built up to 'acceptance' as a resting place--a cute little baby and more cushion for the pushin' ain't so bad after all, right? (sigh, smile, head-tilt).

No one's ass is really ever beyond help. Put down the Little Debbies (or Whole Foods organic chocolate truffles) and get to the gym (or call your private pilates instructor). Do some squats! Feel the burn! You'll be back to a size 2 in no time!

Loss, real loss never lets you rest. Acceptance is a lifelong isometric hold for your soul. Clench and hold! Keep holding! Until you die! Oh, and smile or at least seem stoic while you do it because it makes everyone upset when you bare your teeth like that.

Admittedly, I'm not exactly thrilled with the current state of my own ass but my soul is well on its way to an ass like carved granite--high and mighty as a high school homecoming queen, tight and right as summer's first plum.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

I really can't stand squirrels.

They have nothing to do all day but figure out ways to chew through different parts of my house. They are agents of destruction. Pretty rats with bushy least rats have the courtesy to stay out of sight.

Our neighborhood is a squirrel haven. They run around in packs waking us up with their pre-dawn chatter about the delicious plants available in our gardens. They antagonize the dogs.

I admire their industriousness. I want to squish their tiny, evil-doing bodies with my car tires.

And then there's Bad Ass.

Bad Ass is the decrepit old-timer that lives in the oak outside our front window. Most squirrels scurry. Bad Ass takes his time. Most squirrels get by on their looks. Bad Ass ain't much to look at.

The bushy part of his tail is missing. It may have been ripped off by a hawk or a feral cat or trapped under an errant tire. His long, scraggly, naked tail trails behind him as he strolls along. It marks him as a veteran of hard times. Someone not to be tangled with.

In my imagination he's decades old, an ancient battle-axe, a hero to his squirrely kin. They gather around him and listen to the stories that he delivers in a gravelly voice with the beady-eyed squirrel equivalent of the thousand-yard stare.

Given his obvious toughness, he's probably the one that could cause me the most trouble. But I like him. Even when I see him gnawing on my siding as I leave for work in the morning I think, "Hey, there's Bad Ass, MY squirrel."

I don't know if kinship with a squirrel is a sign that I still have a good hold on my humanity or if it's an indication that I've gone 'round the bend.


This morning I saw the crows clustered around a roadkill as I stepped out of my front door. They flew away when I approached and watched me from the opposite side of the street. I glanced down as I walked by and caught a glimpse of a long, scraggly, naked tail.

I suppose I can't feel too badly about it. Bad Ass was clearly living on borrowed time. But it seems like he deserved to go out in more of a blaze of glory--carried off by an eagle or devoured by a snake. I hope the driver at least had to swerve to get him.

Rest in peace, Bad Ass. You will be missed.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


It's such a great, round number. A go-to expression for me.

"I told you a thousand times..."

"I could sleep for a thousand years..."

"A thousand pounds of shit in a five pound bag."

And here I am, just over a thousand days into this parenting gig.

It's a long time, a thousand days. If I do the math in the opposite direction and consider what I had going a thousand days before they were born it seems like I've lived two full lifetimes since. The end of 2004 was marked by the impending arrival of my youngest niece, my Dad's final Christmas (though we didn't realize it at the time), and a trip to the emergency vet for my new puppy who was suffering from something called mega-esophagus (yes, it's completely disgusting). I bought my favorite pair of jeans.

If I think about what we might be doing a thousand days from now, it almost gives me vertigo. Kindergarten for C, 38th birthday looming, and the puppy (who made a full recovery btw) will be pushing 9 years. Assuming that we're all still here, of course.

It feels like I should take an inventory to mark the occasion. Maybe if I unpack my heart and mind and spread the contents out on the floor I'll see some sort of pattern emerge. Maybe everything will suddenly make sense. That "reason" that the Alliance of Tired Bromides keeps floating will make a special appearance and vaporize my feelings of parental failure.

We're still in the process of settling into our new life and our new house. Each box that we unpack is like a tiny Pompeii--an artifact of disaster. A box marked "dog toys, whistles, spices" taunts me from the corner of the spare room. Who were these people who bought enough whistles that they warranted their own packing label? And what kind of crazy person packs spices with dog toys and announces it to the world?

We aren't those people anymore.

I think we've learned to wear our peculiar mix of joy and despair a little more gracefully. People do less brow-furrowing when I engage them in mundane small talk...and hey, I can engage in mundane small talk! T almost electronically eviscerated an FB friend who wandered into my lane last week (she responded to my post about my early-rising dog with a complaint about her twins who won't sleep in) but we discussed and decided we shouldn't rain on her parade.

I still burn out lightbulbs when I get angry but we seem to be changing them less frequently.

Rounding the corner and heading for the three-year mark, I occasionally have the sensation that I'm exactly where and who I want to be. I'm not so sure that I would want to be the clueless FB commenter or the sharer of crazy twin-parenting hijinks. Sometimes I can even think about the upside of raising an only child without feeling like I'm killing R all over again.

My daughter is dead. I miss her and I will always love her but, my other daughter is alive and healthy. How can I look at C, knowing what I know about the slim margin between possible and impossible, and be less than thrilled about my good fortune?

A thousand days ago it felt as though every notion I'd ever had about how the world works was blasted right out of my head by the one-two punch of a dead baby and a living baby.

If I crack open the vault and take a thorough look inside, I can see that some things survived intact. I still curse like a truck driver and laugh at T's stupid jokes. I still hate beets, mummies, and TV crime/hospital dramas. I still think that voting is important and that people shouldn't own handguns. I'm still afraid of right-wing nut-jobs.

Other parts are damaged beyond recognition. The section that stored all of my high-flown ideas about the 'right' way to parent is just a steaming pile and I seem to have lost my interest in celebrity gossip (sigh).

I have a stack of shiny new things I've learned from my girls--an appreciation for the role that luck plays in our lives, the ability to ignore small problems, the patience to meet people where they are, a thorough understanding of couch cushion fort engineering.

As far as I can tell, there's no 'reason' tucked in among the jumble. I could have learned and continued to grow if R had lived...even if she was perfectly normal and healthy. This accumulated knowledge doesn't even seem particularly special. I doubt it looks significantly different than the stuff that other parents have learned.

I wish I had some grand bit of wisdom to pass along. All I can say with any certainty is that I'm hoping for a smoother ride over the next thousand days.