Monday, February 28, 2011

Thank You

Sunny California has been plagued by gray skies and downpours for the past week, reflecting the mood in my spirit a little too well. Although I know the sun is still there, ever present, sometimes I need to see that tiny sliver of light peeking out from the dark to remind me this is only a storm passing through. I need that silver lining. And this week, you all stepped up to be that ray of hope for Troy and I. 

After our miscarriage, I took a chance sharing my truth about it, in hopes that it might help someone else to feel less alone. I experienced a momentary sense of panic after posting, but when my inbox began to fill up, I knew I had made the right choice.  I was overwhelmed by messages and emails from people sharing their tender stories with me. Some were friends, many were strangers (now friends). Women had lost babies in miscarriage, at birth, some had grieved for decades over babies lost to abortion or adoption, men shared their own experiences of loss after their wives miscarriages, mothers helped daughters through baby loss, some had lost children to suicide.

I was overcome. Your beautiful stories of loss and hope have transformed me forever. This confirms what I have always said about the human race- every single person has an amazing story of heart-stopping wonder, but the question is…will we ever hear them? I was privileged to hear so many of yours this week. I feel the thread that connects us at our humanity- the “common thread” as my beautiful friend Kristine Van Raden calls it, weaving through you, through me, throughout the world, showing me how we are all connected at heart. I am deeply, deeply grateful.

Troy and I thank you for holding us in a safety net of love and kindness, not only through this past week, but through all the trying times we’ve faced in the past year. It’s true that tragedy really brings out the best or the worst in people. Fortunately, in the friends we’ve chosen, it’s brought out the very best of the best. I find myself at a loss for words (I’ll bet you never thought that would happen) so I will simply say…

Thank you, every one of you, for being our silver lining in a dark sky.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You Might Want to Sit Down for This One....

This January, I somehow managed to get pregnant again, at forty-seven years old. I “felt” it, even as I went about my travels to Arizona, to Texas….but convinced myself it couldn’t be so. Surely I had missed my period because I was at that certain age. Just to assure myself, when I returned home from Texas I took a pregnancy test, and that’s when the rollercoaster ride began. Yes, as crazy as it may be, I was pregnant. Troy and I couldn’t believe it, so he went and bought another test. Still pregnant. I looked it up online. At forty-seven, a woman has a .07% of becoming pregnant naturally, and a 50% chance of carrying the pregnancy to term. Leave it to me and my crazy life to beat the odds, I thought.

At first I cried. I wasn’t ready for this. I was afraid of all the things that could go wrong at my age. I would never, ever, ever have a moment alone with my husband. I already had two grown children, a five-year old, and even a grandchild living in my house! This was insane!

But then I looked at it from a different angle. Hadn’t God just put us through one of the worst years of our lives? For all the loss and grief we had gone through, here was a little sparkle of hope and possibility. I mean, I was just as frightened when I became pregnant with Evan, and look what a miracle he turned out to be. Maybe this was a gift, a sign that our luck was turning. Troy looked at me with such warmth in his eyes. He took to calling me “Little Mama”, patting my baby bump affectionately. My husband was smiling again, and that was miracle enough for me.

I was six weeks along.

Sunday morning I woke up bleeding.

My heart sank, but I knew nature was taking care of it’s own. I got up and went to the bathroom, and that’s where everything took a turn. I was suddenly overcome with intense nausea and ringing in my ears as I began to lose consciousness. Troy ran in and held me up as I collapsed. I was dripping in sweat, soaked through. Even my socks were wet. I could feel a pushing sensation in my lower back as everything went blank. A minute or two later, when I started to come back to awareness, I knew I had passed the baby. It was over, just like that.

All I wanted was to curl up quietly in my bed to cry and let this pass. But my doctor was concerned about internal bleeding, so I was told to go to the ER. I resisted but Troy didn’t want to take any chances with my health, so we went, and that is my greatest regret.

After sitting an hour in the waiting room, my name was finally called. Just then Brahm’s Lullaby was played on the overhead speaker.

The nurse smiled at me, “Hear that? It means a baby was just born upstairs!” I was ushered into a room, “What are we seeing you for?”

I looked at the floor, tears in my eyes. “I’m having a miscarriage.”

“Oh. I’ll need you to pee in this cup.”

In the bathroom, I slumped against the door and cried. I couldn’t believe the irony of the moment I was living. Upstairs a young woman was crying tears of joy, holding her newborn baby. Downstairs a middle-aged woman was weeping in the ER bathroom after losing her baby in a toilet.

Ten minutes later a young doctor with a blonde bouncy ponytail burst into our room. She grabbed my limp hand and shook it vigorously.

“Congratulations!” she said, smiling.

I was shocked, speechless.

“Your urine test just came back. You’re going to have a baby!”

I felt like I had been punched in the gut.

“I’m losing my baby...” I barely squeaked out.

She pulled her hand back. “Oh.” She fumbled with my chart, mumbled something about hormone levels, and cheerily insisted I could still be pregnant, you never know.

They sent me for ultrasound in another department where the technician called me “Dude” repeatedly while poking and prodding my tender, bleeding insides with an ultrasound wand and asking me what I thought of American Idol this season. Troy held his head close to mine, squeezed my hand and wiped the tears away that were now soaking my hair.

They sent me into another room to have five vials of blood drawn. Then to another room to have yet another pelvic violation by an obstetrician with a stunning lack of bedside manner. For five hours I was passed from doctor to technician to specialist, as my body emptied itself of the life that was thriving only hours before.

What all these people had in common was complete lack of empathy for what I was experiencing, treating me as someone with a routine “condition” that had to be handled.

I guess I can consider myself fortunate that this was my first (and only) miscarriage. Although my heart has broken for friends who have been through this kind of loss, I had never felt it myself. Now I’m in the awful club.

You may be wondering why I chose to put such private moments of my life on display for all to read. This is why. Because so many women out there have lost a baby to miscarriage or abortion, and have done so in silence. How many women have hidden their first three months of pregnancy just in case they should suffer a miscarriage? How many have carried that grief and loss all their lives, the pain, the shame, the feelings of failure and guilt, tucked away inside them, and why?

We aren’t private about losing a parent, a friend or a spouse. In times of grief, our community of friends and neighbors surround us with support and love. They make the phone calls for us, notifying every person in our phone books. They show up with meals, help take care of our kids. So why do women go underground with the loss of a baby?

Having gone through the myriad of emotions I think I know why.

I sobbed for two days. I felt like a failure. I lost the baby. It was something I did, or didn’t do. Something I ate, or didn’t eat, or something I thought. I didn’t pray enough. I’m too old, I’m defective, I am the reason the baby died…I felt shame, guilt, worthlessness. The hormonal storm brewing inside didn’t help either.

Part of the reason I wanted to stay private with this is because I didn’t want to hear comments like these:

“It’s for the best.”

“You’re lucky you already have three other children.”

“It’s nature’s way.”

“Did you really want a baby at forty-seven anyway?”

Yes, all the above are true, but I still lost a baby and I need my time to grieve. I don’t want my loss minimized or judged, and as a society we tend to do just that. What I’m left trying to figure out is why? Why is there such a lack of support for the women who are going through this? Why are there ten thousand websites telling you how to eat, sleep, exercise when you’re pregnant, but not ONE telling you how to take care of yourself when you’re going through a miscarriage or post-abortion? Should I stay off my feet? Eat more protein? Should I exercise? Silence….It’s up to you to figure out how to care for yourself physically in the throes of baby loss.

This is a very real part of life for women. It has happened to more of your friends and family members than you know. This really needs to change. We need to be able to talk about it, and to support each other through this.

On Monday, I stripped the bed, I washed everything, I threw things away. I lit candles everywhere. I took all the bloody remnants of the day before and burned them in my yard, letting the smoke wash over me. I put the ashes in a silver box, along with the EPT which had once said “Pregnant” but now was strangely blank, and buried it under my orange tree, placing a heavy concrete angel statue on top. I sat there on my knees under the orange tree, and in that moment I realized how lucky I was that nature decided this for me. This pregnancy was defective, and by the grace of God I was not forced to decide whether I could handle carrying that pregnancy to term. My dog Stitch nestled against me as I cried and said a prayer of gratitude. Just then I heard a hummingbird above me. It flew down in front of me, hovering, closer, then closer again, until it was inches in front of my face and I could see it’s tiny black bead eyes staring at me. We stayed like that, still, for a few seconds. Even my dog didn’t move. And then just as quickly it flew away, and somehow I knew…everything was as it should be.

I hope that in going public with our personal story, someone else’s burden became a little bit lighter today. If you have lost a baby, no matter what the reason, please don’t carry it in silence any longer. Your grief deserves recognition, and none of us should ever suffer alone. I’m holding you all in my circle of healing, sharing your pain, honoring your loss.

In memory of every little bird that flew away…

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Mid-life Resume

When I was young, toiling away at corporate jobs, I always felt my big break was just ahead. I had big ideas, creativity, talent. Someday, one of those things was gonna pay off. Someday. I guess I wasn’t clear enough in my hazy future expectations. I assumed I’d have it all together at this age, that I’d have a solid grip on money, of course would have plenty of it, and would be traveling, writing, teaching…finally carefree after a youth spent in indentured servitude. After all, I’d earned it by now, right? All the hardships I’d endured, all I’d sacrificed, all I’d given. Now it would be life on my terms, right?
But here I am edging closer to the half-century mark, realizing that the nebulous “Someday” mark most likely passed by one night as I was sleeping, and now I am saddled with the reality of “Today”. Today, I am reeling from the bad luck and financial blows dealt in 2010, and sitting on a book that so far, no one knows how to sell. And Bristol Palin just got a book deal, which means the publishing world actually is coming to an end (the Mayans had it half-right). So what do I do?
I hit the jobs section on Craig’s list.
To merely say that this is depressing would be a colossal understatement.
I have several years of college under my belt, but no degree, which means that although I’ve owned a national business, founded two non-profit organizations, and written a book, apparently the only things I’m “qualified” for are telemarketer or middle-aged dance hostess. Okay, just telemarketer.
Not that I ever enjoyed writing a resume, but doing it at mid-life is a real suckfest. Knowing your resume will be competing against all those fresh-faced, eager college grads is daunting. Sifting through the myriad of job postings makes me feel like a giant LOSER because I don’t understand what half of them are, but I do understand the requirements and clearly I don’t possess them.
Here is what I do possess.
My Mid-life Resume:

Hollye Dexter

A highly motivated self-starter with the following midlife attributes: Experience, wisdom, patience, self-assurance, kindness, truthiness, and blogging.
I’ve raised children, so I am a Team builder.
I’ve made it twenty-one years in a marriage, which makes me a Mediation Specialist.
Bachelor’s degree in psychology? Ha! I spent more time in therapy than you ever spent in school.
Degrees? I’ll tell you about degrees! I survived being trapped in a housefire- my body blistered from the heat. How’s that for degrees? So yeah, I have a Housefire Degree.
Hollye Dexter, Hd.
Surely there is a place in the world where these attributes are of value? And I mean the kind of value that pays the mortgage.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m praying, hoping, and putting my best foot forward. I doubt my solution will be found on Craig’s List, but I don’t have any other ideas at this point.
So, I ask you dear reader-friends…what do we do when our expectations fall short of reality, and Someday is Today?
Please share your stories…

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy New Year Everybunny!

It’s the year of The Rabbit! Anyone feel like cuddling? According to the article in the New York Times today, the year of the Rabbit is associated with tranquility. I’ve never been familiar with Chinese astrology but in the wake of 2010, I say… BRING IT!
After last year, I’m ready to believe in anything. ANYTHING. For Troy and I it was filled with jaw-dropping bad luck; restraining orders, lawsuits, betrayal, death, and outrageous home disasters. For our close friends, 2010 brought death, divorce, health issues, and five friends lost their houses. FIVE. My Japanese daughter-in-law told me that 2010 was the year of the TIGER. Yeah, that makes sense. It was mean, ferocious and downright predatory. All I can say is…Year of the Tiger, don’t let the screen door hit ya in the ass on your way out.
Crisis brings out faith in people, and also superstition. Oh sure, it’s easy to scoff at superstition when your life is running all hunky dorey. But when you had a year like many of us, you start to wonder…did I break a mirror? Is there a curse on me? Do I need to call an exorcist?
Seriously. A lady with a black cat moved in down the street and I swear to you, every time I drove home that cat would dart across the road. One time, I saw it sauntering along as I rounded the corner toward home….and the race was on. This time I was determined to pass him before he could cross me. We made eye contact. Not this time, sucka, I said under my breath as I accelerated but sure enough, he darted right in front of my car causing me to screech to a halt. Cursed yet again! Or not.
At this point, my mind is open to any and all possibilities. Chinese Astrology? Sure, why not. Year of the Rabbit sounds soft and cuddly. It’s also supposed to be prosperous. Ooooh that makes me feel really warm and fuzzy. And, I’ve just discovered, at forty-seven years old, that I am a Rabbit- who knew? The last time it was “my” year was 1999. Now that was an excellent year! We bought our dream house, we renewed our vows on our tenth wedding anniversary, we had some wonderful vacations. Happy, happy, happy. That means this is going to be one lucky year full of possibilities and new beginnings. Deal me in!
Is all this stuff true? Who cares! It makes me hopeful and optimistic. Oh and by the way, recently I got a better look at that black cat, and it turns out he has four white feet. I’m no expert in superstition, but I think the white feet cancel out the bad luck thing. So it’s all good! Yay!
Aha! I finally have an explanation for my obsession with wearing Rabbit costumes.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Book-A-Saurus

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away….bookstores and little paper books roamed the Earth. Oh, wait…that was just last year.
On Monday I went with my friend Linda to the seminar “The Future of Publishing”, hosted by Independent Writers of Southern California. There was a panel of folks ranging from booksellers to agents to self-publishing companies and internet silicon valley techies selling “vooks” (interactive online books which contain videos). Although the speakers represented different ends of the spectrum, one thing they all agreed on was the inevitable death of bookstores, and I practically had to breathe into a paper bag.
Damn you, Kindle!
No, I’m not a fan. I do not own one, and I do not want one. Don’t even try to convince me how great it is and how much you love yours.
Publishing has been a pretty consistent industry for several hundred years, but since the introduction of the Kindle…it’s changed faster that anyone could have anticipated. Even the huge conglomerates can’t keep up. Borders bookstores, as of yesterday, stopped paying rent on their stores. Mom and Pop bookstores are falling like dominoes.
This is giving me great anxiety. When I was in college and used to have panic attacks, the only thing that calmed me was to sit in the aisle of the campus bookstore. Opening a book, the smell of fresh print, the feel of the cool crisp pages against my fingers soothed me. Being surrounded by all my favorite books on the shelves in my home calms me and gives me a good feeling. How could a Kindle make me feel that way?
My husband will tell you that when I’m stressed or blue, I don’t shop for shoes, I get myself lost in a bookstore for a few hours. It’s like swimming in a sea of brilliance, ideas, theories, imagination. I peruse, gather a huge stack of books that call to me, plop myself down on the floor in a quiet aisle and plunge in. When I am filled with inspiration and curiosity, I make my final choices and purchase my books, which I will read, and re-read and keep forever. I love my books!
There’s nothing better than walking into someone’s home and seeing a room full of books. I can’t help myself from reading all the spines (a person’s library tells a lot about them). And what about all the happy times spent with my children at the library, sitting in a comfy chair, reading stories together. What could ever replace that?
What will the future hold? Will libraries even exist? Will they just be a cold empty room filled with computers?
Are paper books going the way of the vinyl record? Will it one day be a hipster, kitschy thing to have paper books, like it is now to own vinyl albums and a turntable?
I’ll never own a Kindle. I don’t want to worry about getting sand in it when I’m lazing on the beach, or having it run out of battery at the most page-turning moment. Recently my friend Amy went to Mexico with her Kindle all loaded up, only to have it break down on the first day of vacation, leaving her nothing to read all week but catalogs. No thank you! I don’t want to read Catcher In The Rye on a Kindle! I want my faded copy from the 1960s with it’s dog-eared yellow pages, it’s cover well-worn from being toted around and loaned out to friends.
So here I am, having just written my first book, and the publishing world around me is in disarray. (Good timing Holls!) There are those telling me just to self-publish in digital form. That’s the future, that’s where the money is, they say. I can’t do this. I want my book to be real, to be loved, to be well worn, to have dog-eared pages and highlighted passages, to be passed around from friend to friend. If it isn’t then I’d rather not publish it at all.
I want my dinosaur bookstores back.