One More to Mark.

On January 25th of 2005, I knew for certain that I was pregnant. A few weeks later, the saints at our church worshipped without us as the emergency room doctor offered congratulations, and after she left the room, I tentatively stroked my belly and whispered a hesitant "I love you, baby mine." I'd arrived via ambulance, after collapsing in the bathroom of the bloodwork office early Sunday morning, whisked away without giving the blood that was intended to confirm the state of my pregnancy. When the pain returned that night, I called the on-call doctor as I'd been instructed, and when I asked about the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy, he glibly assured me that the ultrasound showed the baby in the right place.

I tried to suppress the rise of excitement, the knowledge of life within, those surges that pierce through everyday tasks to fill one's heart. I'd been bleeding since the day I knew I was pregnant, but even so, those little thrills kept rising up, and I'd shove them down again. At the first appointment weeks later, my new doctor reviewed my charts and learned that the emergency room ultrasound had actually shown a bare womb, common in early pregnancy; she ordered another ultrasound and discovered that the baby was growing, unaware of any error, inside a fallopian tube. I told her I didn't want the "abnormal pregnancy removed" and for the next ten minutes muttered a constant refrain: yes, I know what ectopic pregnancies are, yes, I know the baby has no chance of survival, yes, I know the tube will eventually rupture, filling my spaces with blood that will kill the baby and without surgery, me, too; yes, I know, I know, I know.

I walked outside to close my eyes in the cold car, eventually breaking the silence to call John and to ask my mother, a nurse, for advice. In God's providence, results showed that the baby was not alive, though the remains continued to grow, so that same day, John, the girls, and I drove to pick up the antimetabolite drug. We immediately delivered it to the doctor, in whose room I then stood, pale and shivering, awkward, as she emptied the needle into my backside. Minutes later, I listened with half an ear as she explained the dry and matter-of-fact, and surrounded by the static of silence, I gave the appropriate "of course" when she paused.

Two weeks later, nearly two months after the first red appeared and with that red still constant-- a sign not of life's sustainment nor life beginning but of a life already ended-- I understood the tiniest glimmer of the woman's desperation who grasped the edge of Jesus's garment. Her mysterious ailment caused her to live cut off and alone for twelve long years with no change in sight and with no hope until He came.

The methotrexate was unsuccessful in coaxing my body to shed our child's shell. On March 17th, St. Patrick's Day, I again curled on an emergency room bed, waiting for news of surgery. A nurse wearing green scrubs and a green headband, all green glitter with impossibly unsteady antennae, wheeled me to the operating room where I handed over my wedding ring, breathed deeply, and fell asleep while they took the baby's remains.

Thankfully, the baby's placement didn't require my tube to be removed, and one of the last statements the surgeon made after examining me the next morning was a jaunty, "I was able to do it with just a few, small scars. You're still a bikini babe!" I truly was thankful that he was a skilled and competent surgeon.
I wanted to cry or punch him but did neither.

What is the moral choice? I ask this wanting no answer, as we spent enough time during those months and the following explaining, defending, and occasionally agreeing with others about this difficult issue. In our bones, we have no doubt that even if God allowed my death, it would have been wrong to end our baby's life-- a baby with a certain, brief reach of days-- even through a "secondary effect" death caused by removing the compromised tube. If we were in this situation again, nothing would change.

I've always been reticent to allow others too much knowledge of the more vulnerable aspects of living when it comes to my own life. Though I babble like nobody's business and have always been overmuch of a loudmouth, I've also always been an extremely private person in certain areas, close-mouthed about both the highest and lowest points. This may sound self-important, but I don't mean it to be, because lots of us are like that.

I didn't share all this on my blog then and didn't plan to. In fact, I didn't write about it at all, so why the sudden openness? Two years have passed, and today I sat thinking of lives whose earthly span is contained entirely within the world of their mother's body-- lives that end here so quickly after they've begun-- of those mothers and children and love and loss. Nearly all mothers have experienced or will experience the loss of a child, and I thought of mothers who lose babies before they even know a baby is within them to lose, after two weeks, after two months, mothers who lose children big enough to cradle and cry over, and mothers who lose children grown too big to hold in any place but their heart. Our family's moment of grief was so small and even tender compared to those latter, but because life is shot through with the results of Sin and Grace, we can expect greater griefs (and joys) to come and probably more heavenborn children, too.

I talk here about Mildred, Annika, and Susannah constantly, marking their steps, no matter how insignificant, with wordstones. I thought that this child of God, whom I will greet as a no-longer-stranger in Heaven, deserved a bit of the same, and today seemed as appropriate a day as any in which to give it.

I love you, baby mine.

This is last week's laundromatting. The proof of our visit favors Susannah because she's not as swift as the other two and can't escape the snapshots as handily as they do. And, yes, she wears fuzzies lots of places, and it's perfectly appropriate, not to mention warm!

We were out and about yesterday, so I went to the laundromat alone while the tuckered girls napped. Becky kept her ear tuned to the baby moniter, and I thought of how nice it is to have a sister a doorway away. You can see in my bleak mug shot below, though, how depressed I was doing laundry without the attendent tired (and weepy) girls.

While Millie splashed and swam in the tub today, Annika was wrapped up in her own world of plastic toy creatures for much of the time, making friends, enemies, and chorus lines, with semi-appropriate dialogue.

As you all know, Susannah has stupendous rolls, even though she's still almost exclusively nursed, and, most days, only eats solid food with the rest of us at supper, with the exception of solid ducks in the tub.

She's our most smushable baby yet.

She was wiping down the floor while I did dishes. I looked down and asked her if she was scouring the floor for me. I laughed and laughed when she nodded her head up and down for about a minute, spurred on by my delight.

Then she moved on to the refrigerator...

What a good baby.

Wait a minute....

If you're wondering what her sweatshirt says, wonder no longer-- she's a monster for sale or rent. When we went to buy this for Millie at a Salvation Army, the salesclerk just gave it to us, and it served Mildred Monster and Annika Monster well before they passed the torch to this new Monster.


Fits and Starts.

Life is made up of little things, but we sometimes forget.

Spring misplaced a week and a half of its days, and we found them all. The box elder bugs felt sunshine, crawled from their cracks, and crept across windowpanes, clouded by sleep but unable to resist the pull of warmth. Pretending they were lightning bugs, we collected them by the dozens in mason jars and placed them on countertops to wait for an outdoor upturning, just so they could find their way indoors to those same cracks and drowse once more.

We downed every drop of sun, but now winter has returned with a sharpness that could only come from pique, and it seems proper and right that I sit folded as I type, kindling warmth with limb against limb.

A thing I would most miss about the northeast United States if I lived elsewhere is the change of seasons, the turning of one into another in a constant cycle of end and beginning-- a flux of familiar newness. It serves as a reminder that one day I'll arrive where I started and know the place for the first time, and this is one reason why I welcome winter again.

We've been busy and lazy by turns. A sum of days can't be held stacked in hands like snapshots, but here are a few, anyway. Click on January 2007 archives for the whole shebang.

Remember this monster doodle from last year? I finally made them. Working with no pattern when one has never made a stuffed animal before, one is a mediocre seamstress, and one has a deadly combination of procrastination and impatience could have been disastrous, but I think they're cute, lumpy legs and all. Any mistakes were incorporated with great purpose to increase their abnormal monster appeal. (One arm longer? They're monsters! Cellulite-plagued legs? They're monsters! Uneven eyebrows? THEY'RE MONSTERS!) Thank goodness I wasn't making Victorian dolls. They wouldn't be nearly as forgiving.

Millie saw me sewing the arms and thought I was making them palm trees. I played along, but I shouldn't have and will be more careful in the future to speak truth to my children.

Opening the monsters. Millie was so disappointed when she realized I hadn't really made palm trees. "But you said you would sew on coconuts and flowers..." she said, her eyes welling up with tears. I deservedly felt like a cad for playing a charade and later apologized to her. John showed her all sorts of monster tricks, and she realized that though they pale in comparison to stuffed palm trees, stuffed monsters aren't all bad.

His arms are long enough for hugging.

Annie and her droopy, floppy-eared fellow. (Annie's wearing one of the designer gowns that Grandma Owen gave her and a matching Millie for Christmas. They love them, love them, love them, and wanted to wear them today while they painted thank you notes to send to Grandma. I said no. Firmly.)


After the initial disappointment wore off, Millie realized how cool monsters are, and she loves hers. She sleeps with him, gives him piggyback rides, ties his arms around her neck, makes him spin, and calls him "Mrs. Monster."


Just because her baleful stare is so nice.

This is our third eggnog competition. (We skipped two years while John was going to school.) I make mine with rum extract, and John makes his with rum. The history: first year-- John refuses to use a recipe, even as a guide, and his tastes fair. Mine tastes good. I win. Second year-- John make an absolutely scrumptious rum custard (accidentally) instead of egg nog, Mine tastes good. I win. This year.....?

I tasted both.

Annie tasted both.

Millie tasted both, and I won by unanimous vote. Three for three!

After church. Coatless, but still cold enough to turn cheeks pink. (We're facing the church building; it's not the grim place behind us...)

Like many other young families, we decorate our tree with an odd assortment of hand-me-downs and the like. My sister gave me a big bag of apple ornaments, and I was gleeful as I decorated the tree with them, using them to tie together the hodge-podge. A downside to this-- Millie and Annie went "apple-picking." After they tied their horses near their harvested pile, and I put them to bed, this little thief nibbled stolen fruit.

Funny fish.

Millie occasionally captures me in fuzzy snapshots while I'm picking up toys like a deer in the lights. (I'm thinking about giving her our old camera for her birthday next year, which she would use with supervision because it can only be turned on and off by removing the batteries....)

So, during days on loan from spring, we walked to the park.

We flaunted our pale faces in the sunlight.

We swooshed and slid.

We spun.

We lollygagged.

We wrote on fringed notepaper made by Cassie of construction paper and ingenuity.

We watched flocks of birds rise up and settle down again.

We stood and watched our shadows.

We stood, burdened down by the overmuch layering of a too-cautious mother.

We climbed.

We rode horses. Giddy-up, she shouts.

We played in the crickbed. (Creekbed. Whatever.)