Posted by: emjb | October 2, 2006

Separating wheat and chaff

First the blessings. I just wanted to pause here long enough to acknowledge all that we have been given by our friends and family over the last long year or so. Probably this isn’t a complete list, but if I remember anything else, I’ll post again.

1. The computer I’m typing this on and the monitor, keyboard, and mouse…thanks deanpence!
2. Our kitchen table and chairs, baby clothes and toys, sheets for our bed, a new food processor, room and board for several months, babysitting, general emotional support, Nathan’s car seat, our TV, and probably a whole lot more–Mom and Glenn.
3. Storage for my dresser and various other things for four years until we needed it, our TV table, equal amounts of clothes, toys, dinners, and babysitting, a really nice if underutilized breast pump, a baby rocker, a high chair, and occasional cash, and probably lots more also–my inlaws.
4. Much of what I registered for, and much that I didn’t in the way of baby clothes, toys and equipment, nearly all of which got used to pieces–my coworkers, Matt’s coworkers who hadn’t even met me, old friends I haven’t seen in 100 years who didn’t have any money either but dug into their bank accounts for a little something for the baby.
5. Help with cross-country moving (twice!) and disposing of all our abandoned New York furniture…Matt’s buddies who have become mine, namely deanpence, Smokey, Little Jack, and others.
6. Help for me, therapy-wise, after Nathan came; my friend Chris, the wonderful ladies at the ICAN mailing list (really, if you are ever pregnant, sign up there; you will learn more about real birth than you ever thought possible), my friends at MATH+1, some midwives and doctors I’ve met online, and occasional random commenters at this very blog who stopped by to let me know I was not, in fact, crazy.

I sent out my thank you cards after all the formal gift giving, and I’m pretty sure I got everyone, but it still staggers me to have received so much when we were so much in need. We’ve been poor, to put it bluntly, for awhile, and there were lots of ways we’ve wanted to help and not been able to for the last several years. I just hope we can give back as much as we’ve gotten, that we’ll have the resources to do so someday.

I guess I felt the need to post this because a) it was just right to do it, and b) it’s not been so great a week. Not money wise, this time, but I can feel the anniversary of my c/section creeping up on me. Logically, it shouldn’t matter that I am X number of days from the anniversary of a given event, but we human beings seem hung up on things like that. So it’s a struggle to think of ways to remember good things about this time last year, and not see everything that was happening in the light of bad things that came later.

I can do it, some days, but it takes a lot of strength.

Because although I was as gripey as any pregnant woman, I was happy, too. And I’m still happy, actually, that I had that pregnancy and had Nathan, regardless of how his birth went. I’m at an odd place where I can feel grief and happiness that are entirely separate, like oil and water–I’m either in one or in the other.

I am trying to find ways to associate his birthday with that happiness of the pregnancy, the excitement I felt when my water broke (and it was VERY dramatic, just like in the movies, ha), and then just….fast forward to oh, about 2-3 months in, when I was finally starting to recover physically and he was learning to smile. My water breaking was my last good memory of being pregnant (well that and sneaking food during my labor, though if I had to do it again I’d dare the midwives to stop me). The rest is a separate time that I have to deal with in a separate way…moments of goodness (seeing Nathan, the kindness of one particular intern) and many more of darkness, that didn’t lift for a long time.

I have two bad knees that crackle when I climb stairs. When a storm is coming, one of them gets sore and hurts more than usual. Old wounds do that..they ache when the weather changes, or when memories crowd in, when a certain date cycles past.

But the operative word here is “old”. I am past the point where I felt like a part of myself had been erased or cut out permanently. I’m knitted back together, however clumsily, and I function, and most of the time, I’m not grieving anymore.

I can’t say I’ll ever see Nathan’s birthday the way he will, as a lighthearted excuse to eat cake and get presents. I think I’ll always be conscious of setting aside some of my memories so that the day can be about him. And someday he’ll hear the whole story, because I believe that’s the right thing to do, but when he’s old enough, when it won’t spoil the day for him.

I don’t know about this year…we’ll probably do a little cake for him to smash, take some pictures, scare him with the singing, find out what he thinks about his first taste of chocolate. Nothing big. And in the years after, he’ll be telling us how he wants it to go, what he wants it to be like, and what things were like the actual day he was born won’t matter as much as whether he gets the particular toy he’s been craving, or whether he’s old enough to drive or vote or buy a beer.

Which, for him, is the way it should be.



  1. Makes me wonder yet again what baggage our own mothers carry from our birth, our early months, and their own expectations of motherhood.

    I wish you both a happy birthday.

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