Dear WestJet:

Thank you for exceeding my expectations. My last flight, only a short month ago was Air Canada and American Airlines. 'Nuff said.

But honestly, when you asked me about what you could do better, I was hard pressed to not mention something about the wailing banshees small people on the plane.

Now understand, WestJet, this actually isn't because I hate children, nor is it because I have just lost a child, nor is it because of infertility. This has nothing to do with that. This has to do with the fact that there was:

Not one child
Not two children
Not three children
Not four children
But five (5) - yes FIVE children, all sitting within 4 rows of me.

There was the lovely little boy who sat in front of me. He sang 99 bottles of beer on the wall. I'm not sure if he sang all the verses, but judging by the stunned expression of the business traveller sitting in the same row, I think perhaps yes. I also think he was the one withe the, erm, flatulence problem. Maybe you could get some medical help for him? Or possibly could we have those air bags now?

There was the lovely little girl who sat across from us. We were all thankful that she was in a car seat. We did; however, wonder if the car seat would fit in the overhead bin, and if the bin was, how you say, soundproof? It's just, I had turned the volume on the new ipod alllll the way up, and I could still hear her. We also wanted to take up a collection for alcohol for this wee creature's parents, who looked, well, all done in. One got the feeling that maybe their day had not started in Edmonton, and if it didn't end soon, well, there were going to be parents eating glass in the airport lounge.

Then there was the twins, yes TWINS in front of us. Who were not screaming or farting (although, I wasn't sitting behind them, so who knows). But they, well, they had no volume control. None. And their mother had none either. You know how this goes. They raise their voice, mum raises hers, then they raise theirs. But, I did like the time out threat. I think all of us wanted one of those. Especially if we got to leave this plane to do it. We were just waiting for the threat to "turn this plane right around and go back home!"

Finally there was the earphone boy. Who was not taking off his earphones. Even after two flight attendants told him the plane would not be taking off until he did so. Seriously. We were about to start taking off, we had already taxi'd out to the runway, and he wouldn't take his ear phones off. I was glad he did. There were a lot of other adults who were willing to "help" his mother compel him too. . . .

Anyways, so if you wanted to make my flight experience better, how about some duct tape? No? Well, what about ear plugs?

PS - Loribeth: I waved out my window in your general direction.

I'm going to bed now.

Another Lesson in Knitting

Last summer I had this enormous skein of wool to knit someone a pair of socks, and rather than ask Mr. Spit for help to wind it into a ball, I tried to do it myself.

Hint: 1200 metres of wool is not an easy thing to hand wind into a ball, all by yourself. In fact, you are stupid if you try to do it yourself. Really. Either get help, use a ball winder, or ask the store to wind it into a ball for you.

So, finally, the skein was in about 600 million knots, and I was utterly incoherent with frustration and rage, cursing and howling.

Mr. Spit came up the stairs, and he just stood in the doorway to our den. And he looked at me with such compassion, and a touch of frustration, and he said:

"Why didn't you just ask me for help?"

And God bless him, he didn't say "you have a problem" or "that was dumb". Instead, he took the tangled mass from my hands, and spent several hours of his time carefully untangling it, pulling yarn through and over and around the knots, and handed me back a ball of wool already to knit into socks. It is an act of love, that, when you take something that someone has utterly screwed up and you give up your own time to fix it, and you return that which was broken, as something completely fixed.

Those words, "Why didn't you ask for help?", they are words I hear often in my adult life. I don't know exactly when I stopped asking for help. But, I'm an adult now, and I need to learn this lesson again.

I'm not sure why it should be a lesson that adults so often need to re-learn. Children tend to ask for help. They are aware that they are too short, too small, they don't understand enough of how the world works, and so they ask for help. Yet, as an adult, I rarely accept that in some sense I am too short, to small, and I still don't understand how the world works.

I am learning this lesson, slowly. Through gentle reminders that I am still broken, and others cannot help me unless I tell them that I am broken. It is fine and good to complain that others don't ask me how I'm doing, and surely, some of them don't. But, when someone does, I need to remember the lesson of the wool skein. I need to remember that grief is so large, so complex, and at times so overwhelming, it is natural I would loose my way. I need to ask for help.

And to buy a ball winder. . .

The Green Suit

I wondered, as I purchased a suit for Gabe's funeral, if I would always remember the suit and why I bought it. It was a completely ridiculous purchase, bought to fit the immediately post pregnant and still swollen me, I actually didn't need as large of a size as I bought, but I bought it a size larger than usual, perhaps as if to hide myself in it. Certainly I felt very small during those days.

I wear suits to work every day. It's just a thing with me. I have worn the suit several times since then (but, alas, it is getting too large), and it has become just a suit. The third navy blue suit, the one I wear with either the navy Ann Klein sling backs, or the Steve Madden navy pumps with the kitten heel.

This morning was bright and sunny, and even in the shadiest parts of my yard, there is no snow left. I grabbed the green suit, and threw it on the bed. I located the yellow shell I usually wear with it, and thought again that I need to purchase a few more summer-y suits.

And then I stopped. Because I remember the last time I wore this suit. Vividly. I was 9 weeks pregnant, and trying to get things organized to see a midwife. The only hiccup was a mild heart murmur I have had for every single day of my life. But, people were anxious. So, I went off to have an echo cardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) done. I flew out of the office, having been fortunate enough to get an ultrasound appointment that day. I was trying to get my ducks in a row to see the midwife that weekend. With results in hand. She was the only midwife taking clients, and I didn't want to give her any reason to refuse me. I wanted to be as easy and appealing as possible.

I remember being in the small changing room, and finally being able to breathe as I undid the button on my pants and dropped the zipper. I was frustrated when the tech told me I would have to leave my pants on. "But I like breathing, dammit". In a few more weeks (just slightly before the 12 week mark, I was in maternity clothes.)

I am back with the song lyrics in my head. I remembered listening to this song, entranced. It was right after Mr. Spit and I got engaged. His cd collection moved in before he did, and I found the Don McLean album. I was looking for American Pie, but I found this instead.

I was entranced. I had never heard anything so sweet and sad. I had never before understood that depth of emotion. But, I was ever aware that I didn't understand the longing in the song. The depth of the wanting, waiting, watching that the lyrics spoke of.

By the waters
The waters
Of Babylon.

We lay down and wept
And wept
For thee Zion.

We remember
We remember
We remember
Thee Zion

I understand now.

Dear God. . . .

I have a job interview on Friday at 2:30 MST. You know, not quite 14 hours after I get home from Toronto. (oh yes, I have to go to the Toronto Airport, for a 1 day meeting.)

I'd really like this job. I think I'd be good at it. It's government research, I'll still work for White Guys, with Blue Ties, Inc. I'll actually get paid to listen to Question Period, which, you know, I do for free.

So, if I could do well at the interview, well, that'd be nice God.

Amen and thanks,

Mrs. Spit

Furball the Number Third

Ahh, time to introduce the last member of the Spit family. Certainly not the largest, or the most cuddled, but definitely the fur ball with the highest attitude to weight ratio, yes . . . .

it's Maximus Catimus.

Also known as the cat who hates us.

And only likes the very large mastiff.

Yep, weighing in at less than 1/4 of a week's dog food, he's 10 pounds of incoherent fury and rage. And have I mentioned that he's not very fond of Mr. Spit and I, who feed him, take him to the vet, buy him treats, pet him (when he isn't sinking his teeth into our hands), and try to be very nice to him? This picture especially posted for G. who "puffy hearts mastiff's)

Mean as can be, that's Max. He was cute for a bit. For all of about 15 minutes when he was just a wee tiny kitten, that would do things like cuddle up to you, and you know, actually purr. (Yes, that's Max the kitten in Delta's food bowl. Ok, so maybe it gave Delta a few ideas. . . .)

Max's hobbies are:
  1. Sleeping

  2. Drawing blood while you pet him

  3. Sleeping snuggled up to Delta

  4. Glaring at you

  5. Sleeping snuggled up to the hot air vents

  6. Meowing to be fed

  7. Sleeping on the white poang arm chair from Ikea

  8. Running out the front door when least expected

  9. Waking owners up from a sound sleep to bite their feet and demand to be petted. (this happened at 2 am this morning. He was also covered in dog slobber. I don't want to know what he and Delta had been up to.)

  10. Beating on the dogs

  11. Sleeping curled up on my knitting wool

Yep, Max. He's a real sweet cat. Even if he totally hates us.


Mr. Spit confessed, in a teeny, tiny voice that maybe, just maybe:

he turned down the volume on my alarm clock as it went off
at an obscenely early hour on Sunday.

You will notice, he confessed in email, composed and sent from an office located several kilometers away from me, much later in the afternoon, such that I had recovered from the fearsome and horrific start that was my morning.

I suppose we will forgive him for his unkindness.

And be thankful that I don't have to learn a new alarm clock. I can see this one. And mostly, I can use it. And it's (generally, except when Mr. Spit tinkers with it) loud enough to wake the dead, which is about the volume required to rouse me out of bed of a morning.

So, we won't mention the excess stress he caused me, and the fact that sleeping in late on this morning of all mornings probably caused me to loose 2 years off my life, and almost certainly gave rise to the improbable but true blood pressure reading of 105/100 this am.

I am wondering though, is it possible to have a blood pressure of 100/105?

And we will make clear, such confession is only granted because of the victorious feeling received from loosing five. whole. pounds. from my body. (Alas, not in my chest!)


I am supposed to be publishing cat pictures. Unfortunately, my alarm clock has died the death of a thousand smacks to the snooze button.

Thankfully, Mr. Spit awoke me. Unfortunately, I was awoken a mere 25 minutes before I had to leave. Have I mentioned that we have a new manager in our department? Today was not going to be the best day to be late.

So, no cat pictures. But, recommendations for alarm clocks with huge numbers I can see without my glasses on, gratefully accepted.

Mother's Day

"There must be a baby in there." She said.

"There is. Just hit my fifth month today" Said I.

"Your first?" She said, looking around at Mr. Spit and I, as we came out of the restaurant on a crisp end of October day. One of those Alberta days when you realize that the best of summer and even fall are behind you, and you begin to anxiously await the snow to cover up the brown and grey world.

"Yes, I said. Due at the end of March. I can't wait".

"That's wonderful. You positively glow. I saw you rubbing your belly, and I thought, a baby is the only reason I know of, that women do that."

It was my first tangible inclusion into the world of mother's. We talked about her children. 30 and 28, she could hardly believe it, the time had gone by so quickly. We talked about hopes and dreams, cloth diapers, not knowing the sex and about the fact that I was still barfing most of the time. It had gotten so there was a Sunday routine. I would sit in church, just off the aisle. Around about the time that the worship music started and the kids were heading off to Sunday School, I would excuse myself from the service and go and loose what little breakfast I had managed to choke down into the church washroom. Occasionally a voice would come in -

"Are you ok dear?"

"Oh yes", I would assure them, between retching. "I just a bit sick. I'm used to it." I would always assure them, remind them, after two years of infertility I would barf from now until the day the baby was born, if that's what it took. It seemed such a small price to pay for a child to carry.

That Sunday was a rare day, in which I lost 'first breakfast' and I could bear the thought of 'second breakfast' as we had come to call it. A rare day in which I could easily identify what I wanted to eat.

I thought about this little interchange as we walked into that same restaurant. Probably on the same circuit of restaurant, library, running errands on a Sunday that we had been on that fall day.

I thought about what was supposed to be - a baby in a bassinet and me exhausted from near constant nursing. I thought about a baby that should have been a month and screaming for dinner as I lay awake last night. I thought about how tired I should have been, and how mournful I am now, at 3 am.

I awoke - thinking of Mother's Day. So Dear and Yet So Far asked how we will do Mother's Day this year. And my answer is stark, but not simple.

I am not.

I am not doing Mother's Day. I am not thinking about it, I'm not going to a restaurant, a card shop, I'm not expecting a gift, I'm not preparing for it, I'm not going to church that day.

This was my year. After years of infertility, a body that wouldn't behave, friends who got pregnant at the drop of a hat, who sail through 40 week soap opera pregnancies, and don't even have the decency to suffer even a tiny bit during the process: this was my year. This year I would join the ranks of women who lugged a baby into church. This year I would prove my worth at being a woman.

Last year, for Mother's day I wound up giving a presentation at a gardening show. Already in the process to conceive Gabriel, we assured ourselves, 'God willing and the creek don't rise', we were going to have a baby for the Mother's Day, Father's day season. And we could actually make plans for this year - we decided we weren't actually going to celebrate Mother's day or Father's day with the child to be.

I've actually never liked anything about it. The dogs bought a card and a gift for each of us (Yes, we are "those kinds of people".) But, honestly, it was a place marker, perhaps a hope marker. A thing we did to remind ourselves that the present wasn't the future, and there would be a child, one day.

Indeed, it is a fitting irony. I hadn't planned to celebrate this day I want to pretend doesn't exist. No, that's not quite honest. I don't want to pretend, I don't want to hide. I want to ban the day. I want to prevent the sun from rising. I want to move time and space past this wretched day, and brush off my hands and proclaim myself done.

"What is the meaning of this?" I want to scream. "Why? Have I not undergone enough pain this year? Was it not enough to give a miserable pregnancy to a woman who was overjoyed? Was I in some way ungrateful?"

"Was I, in some way, not thankful enough? Was it not enough that I vomited every single day, with a smile of my face? Was seven years of marriage not long enough to live without a child? Was it not enough that our friends have not one child, but two or even three? What about this do I have to get right, such that I should not have to suffer this one day?"

Is it not enough that Gabriel is dead, that I should have to suffer through a day all about Motherhood?

It was enough pain to be admitted to the club, but fail to pass it's only entrance test. I'm not doing Mother's Day this year. I didn't get to join that club. Mr. Spit and I joined the dead baby parent's club. We get to celebrate on December 10th. We get to celebrate on June 28th. We get to celebrate on March 21st. We get to celebrate when we remember, suddenly, as we walk up to a restaurant, that we were parents, once.

Weekends are for Quotes

After a while...

After a while you learn the subtle difference between

holding a hand and chaining a soul

and you learn that love doesn't mean possession

and company doesn't mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts

and presents aren't promises

and you begin to accept your defeats

with your head up and your eyes ahead

with the grace of an adult not the grief of a child.

And you learn to build your roads today

because tomorrows ground is too uncertain for plans

and futures have ways of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn that even sunshine burns

if you get too much

so you plant your own garden

and decorate your own soul

instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure

that you really are strong

and you really do have worth

and you learn

and you learn...

Veronica A. Shoffstall

All Tapped Out

Have I told you about the sad tale of woe that is my bathroom taps?

Ah, Dear Reader, pull up a chair, grab a coffee and let Mrs. Spit tell you all about it. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wonder if you should be holding your nose.

So, Chez Spit is a grand old house. Well, she's old and a house, and I think she's grand. (Mr. Spit is perhaps less convinced of this. Silly man wants to spend his weekends doing something other than destructing and reconstructing the house) Part of this grand old house is a claw foot tub with a shower attachment. (Other parts include an original front door that lets every breath of the North East Wind in, and a hot water tank that is, shall we say, fickle). Please note, I said "a bath tub and shower". Singular. There is only one. One bathing spot in the entire house. This fact shall become strangely important.

Said claw foot tub has required re-finishing for all the time we have lived in the house (a shade over 3 years), but we never quite got around to doing it. We came very close to doing it last year, but in a fit of pique, Canada's tax man said "no tax refund for you!" and that was the end of that. Perhaps, amidst all the renovations, the bathroom felt left out. We did paint it as soon as we moved in, and gave it some lovely wainscoting, and a new towel holder and shower curtain rods, attempting to make this room feel loved and cared for. Alas, the bathtub does continue to scream that it is ugly, and perhaps, it feels left out of the constant repairs.

Three Saturday's ago, I got home from the horrible torture chamber gym, and was rushing to have a shower before going to another event. I turned on the hot water tap, (the part of it that remains, half was broken off before we ever bought the place) and then I turned on the cold water tap. And nothing came out. There was a weird shrieking sort of noise, then the noise of a thousand flatulent dogs, then . . . nothing. No water, nothing.

"Oh Mr. Spit" called I. "Could you come up here? We have got a challenge."

And so, Mr. Spit in that time honoured tradition of not actually believing a person that says something is broken, moved past me and turned the tap off, and on again. Unsurprisingly, it still didn't work.

"It's broken", said he.

"Uh huh. Can you fix it?", said I.

"I'm not sure", said he. "I'm not a plumber".

Thought I: I think you'd better go find that Reader's Digest book and learn really fast. I need to be at my scrap booking thing in 20 minutes, and I need a shower.

I didn't get the shower. Tools started coming out. Thoughts of a completed bookshelf fled the collective minds of the Spit's. Must Fix Shower became our mantra.

Well, ok, it was Mr. Spit's Mantra. I went scrap booking. I came home some several hours later, and, alas, the shower was not fixed. Nay, it was more broken than before. The tap was irrevocably altered past any reasonable sense of the words "use and working" and the shower was in 4 parts. And Mr. Spit?

Mr. Spit was broken too. A defeated shell of himself, full of bile and hatred for the perfidy that is 1911 plumbing. He had called my uncle the plumber, and other wholesale places, and even visited his place of home handy man bliss, and the water gods that control the fates of such unimportant things as, you know, personal hygiene, continued to respond with a clipped and brisk:


No assistance, no help, no quarter given. Do not pass go. Do not expect help. Perhaps most importantly, do not shower.

My uncle the plumber drove up to our fair home. He looked at the bathtub. He looked at the hot water tank. The hot water tank he pronounced "too small to be of much use".

"Not so", say I.

Why every night that tank keeps me guessing, in a state of constant and total suspense:

"Will tonight be the night I get to have a hot bath? Or shall it be merely tepid, like our fair Premier, sticking firmly to his script while being grilled on the question of campaign donations from big oil, during the last election. Or shall it be shockingly cold? Where I put the very tips of my toes in, and shriek at the icy cold that runs up my leg and pools in the centre of my back, like that feeling I get when that creepy guy from works keeps looking at my chest and not my face? "

Indeed, our hot water tank is of much use. The taps on the other hand, they were:

"Completely busted and not worth fixing."

"Well", said we. "We are intrepid Internet shoppers. And this uncle in the plumbing business, surely he can get us a deal on new fixtures". In our famous home renovation last words, which, each and every time we carelessly throw around, we pledge to remove our tongues if we ever say again, we said:

"How hard can this be?".

Indeed, dear reader. Let us consider the question of purchasing new taps. Let us look at websites and look at costs, and look at the fact that the mere thought of replacing these taps shall cause you to sweat blood, as you contemplate the exorbitant cost of replacement and the meager sum in your pathetic bank account (And you thought that you were upper middle class!) And then let us contemplate the fact that you need a bloody Ph.D. in molecular biology with a specialty in astro physics as they apply to the planet Uranus, to install the wretched things. . .

Given the fickleness of the hot water tank, I only need use the hot water tap to fill the bath tub up. And so, every night, I play the bath lottery. On those sad, yet frequent, occasions where the bath lottery fails me, I go to the gym. (I'm not actually allowed to exercise, what with the sky high blood pressure), but I go to the gym. There I shower in a tiny little enclosure with a shower curtain that doesn't quite fit across it. Struggling with water that is decidedly not hot, coming out at the rate of a rhino with a bladder problem, such that I am almost blown out of the tiny enclosure, wearing nothing but a pair of flip flops with green frogs on them. I watch women breeze in and out, coming for a quick rinse off. I am strangely envious of these women, as I struggle to shave my legs in a 2 foot square space that I can't quite turn around in.

And the taps? Well, let us just say we are still trying to find a set. We are concerned about the gush, nay flood of funds from our account. We have a sinking feeling about our ability to stop the flow of money in this matter. You might say that we are drowning in the idea of spending $700 for a set of taps. We are showering websites with queries about lower priced options. We are drained of options. We are bathed in hope that someone can sell us a set of wall mounted taps for a claw foot tub for less than a month's worth of mortgage payments. We are . . . .

All tapped out.

So, you had your baby

In a country like Canada, where we have year long maternity leave, I have to confess, I'm surprised that this comes up all. Obviously I left pregnant. When you saw me on the 1st of December I was 6 months along. I looked pregnant. Just 4 months later, I am clearly not pregnant. Tell me, is there any way this could have ended well? How many women do you know that don't take at least 6 months of leave?

And then, I have to tell them. Yes, I had our baby. He was born 15 weeks premature. He didn't survive. And there's this awful silence. And no one quite knows what to say. What do you say to the mother of a dead baby? Mostly they say "I'm sorry" Or "That's sad", and I don't know what to say to them. Do I say thank you? It's not like it's a compliment. I tend to say, "Yes, we are too"

I have a friend who suggests that I had out business cards. One side with the basic facts, the other side with pre-eclampsia facts. Like the most important one. Don't tell me that this was just a fluke, and it won't happen again. Because statistically, I have a 60% chance of recurrence. Babies die, and sometimes the very best medical minds don't know why, and everyone thinks they can offer a quick fix.

We pretend in pregnancy that we control everything. If I take no drugs, eat 15 servings of vegetables and take Folic Acid, everything will be ok. And so we have ultrasounds, to find any possible problem. We go to doctors, we have blood tests, we medically manage childbirth. We account for weight gain. We go to special exercise classes, everyone has the epidural. We control every step of the pregnancy and delivery. At least when things go well.

And I did this too. I am no different than women who did every medical thing. I didn't follow standard medical protocol, but I did believe that I was insuring myself against a bad outcome for pregnancy, because I was staying away from those officious bad medical doctor's, who are always tinkering with pregnancy. I was going with a midwife, and I was going to have a great, non invasive pregnancy. Cause women knew so much more than all those stupid male doctor's!

What about when things don't work? When there is no control? My very best friend is emphatic that I will see a doctor in my next pregnancy. She and her partner are quite willing to drag me kicking and screaming. And I understand. She witnessed the pain. She saw me the morning of Gabriel's funeral. She saw my pain, the anguish, the bereftness. And there's that hope - the doctor's will solve this. They will make sure this doesn't happen.

But that's what I have learned - there is no control. And you make the best decisions you can, as you go through the process. All of this is a round about post in response to a comment in my This I believe post. Someone suggested that I was going to hurt my baby next time, if I had ultrasounds. And the comment has weighed on my mind. Because there was me, loosing weight and not taking diclectin. And for the record, I probably would do the same thing next time. Obviously I care passionately about not hurting my child.

I'll directly answer the comment by saying this: Vaccines, computers, pesticides, preservatives in our food and hormones in our meat are blamed for the rise in autism. I don't know, maybe ultrasound plays a role. I'm not a huge fan of them. And until I developed pre-e, I would have only had one.

Life is always about risk and managing risk. Some days Mr. Spit and I think we are crazy to try again at all. Some days it seems like a huge risk. But, we manage risk in the best ways we can. Ultrasound plays a part in managing a high risk pregnancy. It's one of the best ways we have to tell that a baby is still growing. And that matters a whole lot in pre-e. So does lab work, so do blood pressure trends, so does medication, and so does something as old fashioned as a kick count. All of those things will help to reassure me that we are doing absolutely everything we can to help this pregnancy result in a live, screaming baby. And like I said before, once you are there, how you got there doesn't matter much. Maybe you need to have lost a baby to understand this. It's always easy to insist that everyone should do pregnancy in a particular way, when you have had 40 weeks of bliss.

I'll spend the rest of a next pregnancy working with my midwife to keep things as low key as possible, in a high risk situation. I'll pray for the best, and the strength to handle the worst. But, I suspect there will be ultrasounds. And in the end, I'm not going to loose much sleep about it, because there is little I can do to control what's going to be a high risk pregnancy. When faced against the risk of having another baby die, trust me, some minuscule risk of autism really doesn't register on my risk management radar screen. Again, I have learned this: I will have the birth I will have. There's not all that much I can do about it, save pray.

Somehow, I'll manage. And God willing I'll answer yes! when someone asks if I had my next baby.

Mother Nature

Is an unhappy woman. Would someone please find her and give her some chocolate, and a double martini, and anything else you can think of to keep her happy?

How do I know she's unhappy?

If you look very closely, you'll notice snow
falling. We've had 30 cm's (12 inches for you
Americans out there.) in 4 days.

What a great view of my neighbourhood, from
outside of my window. Nope, no spring here!

My car, dangerously close to stuck. The
very wonderful Mr. Spit shovelled it off
for me. He's a good man.

Oh look, a wizard coleus grown from seed. All ready
to go in the garden. Except, the garden is covered. In nasty
freezing white snow.

But Mrs. Spit, remember our promise to think of our favourite things: perhaps spring is just around the corner. Ah, Environment Canada and your severe weather meteorologist, what do you predict in your crystal ball:

Oh yes, that's right.

More snow. Tomorrow and Friday. And possibly another big dump on the weekend. Minus 20 (-4F for the American's).

Everybody with me:

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
bright copper kettles, and warm woolen mittens (no kidding Julie!)
Brown paper packages tied up with string,
These are a few of my favourite things.

When in Doubt . . . .

One of the wise women I mentioned earlier taught me a valuable coping lesson, waaaaaay back when I was a shiny, smart, had the world by the tail, 18 year old, in her last year of high school.

There will come a time when you are in doubt. When in doubt,
  1. Close your eyes
  2. Go shopping (Her mother had said make tea, but let's face it, buying shoes is a whole lot better than making a lousy cuppa!)
  3. Take a nap

I tried number 1, it didn't do much good, so I tried number 2, and bought a couple of necklaces to accessorize.

Accessorizing, for those of you who are interested is grown up goal number 3. Number one was wearing suits to work(they're like a uniform, I love them). Grown up goal number 2 was having nice hair and makeup every day (thanks, Patti!), and grown up goal number three is accessorizing. Elapsed time to grown up goal number 3: 8 years.

Number 2 was a not that expensive method of cheering myself up. (Ugh, I'm a Magpie. Shiny things to buy, all better now.) Then I came home to have a nap.

I'm feeling better now. I went to the Dr's. He took my blood pressure. It was, unsurprisingly, still high, at 164/118. These numbers got his attention. I'm not a big drug person, but then again I'm not a really big fan of having a stroke, so I have my new friend, Mr. Atacand. I have apparently broken all ties with my old friend Ms. Alesse, as she is suspected by the Doctor of causing this unfortunate "Blip". ( I have my doubts about this fact, but we'll see what the internal medicine specialist has to say about it in a month. I'm highly suspicious that my birth control pills, which are known for raising blood pressure, just suddenly started to raise my bp)

The very instant I hit publish on failing, a dear friend from work emailed to ask how I was doing, really. (Hi Anna, wave to the nice people on the internets, would you?) I sent her off to the blog, and realized that was somewhat unfair. Here I whine and complain about people not really asking how we are doing, as she's sending me an email about how I'm doing, really. And to suggest that I don't need the fight to educate people about how to deal with grieving people, but what can she do to help. And I don't know. I have some ideas of talking to a supervisor, who wants to know why I don't smile.

I must remember balance. I must remember that the dark, awful moment I am in, at just this point, is not a permanent condition. Things will get slightly better. Nothing in the situation will change, but I can grieve and smile. When I post that I'm failing, lots of people out here on the internets will cheer me on, and remind me to hang in there, and tell me that I'm doing ok. There will be a million tiny points of light.

Today's funny:

As Mr. Spit and I are sitting in the Doctor's office ( I wasn't sure what the cut off was for going to the hospital, but I was close, so I figured I'd better make him come along)

Mr. Spit looks at the Doctor and me, as the Doctor updates my chart, and says "So, she's not going to die any time soon."

Doctor: Nope.

Me: Well, at least I paid the life insurance bill this month.

Doctor: don't joke about things like this.

Mr. Spit: we did it in the hospital too.

Me: Yep, I pointed out that if I died, at least he could go be sad and lost on a nice, sunny beach somewhere. There isn't a lot of humor when your baby dies. You have to take it where you can find it.


There have been three reports of new babies abandoned in Edmonton in the last two months. All three have died. Or, more accurately, been found dead.

And I am ever aware of the news stories. I tell myself not to look. I tell myself to turn the radio off. I tell myself that these poor women must have been frightened, that maybe something went wrong, that maybe they didn't know what to do, they were scared and alone and made a bad decision.

But I come back to memories of holding Gabe. Wanting to hold him ever so tightly to me, to hold him here on earth by my shear force of will. Of wanting to demand of God to spare my son, to take someone elses.

So, here I am, thinking of these babies and I'm struggling. Struggling to understand how someone could ever do this. Struggling to understand how they couldn't at least drop their baby off on some one's door step, in a fire station. Something. And I'm failing. I don't want an increased social safety net for these women, I don't want more social assistance for unwed mothers, I want them to go to jail. I want them to be charged with and tried for murder. I want to stop feeling sorry for them and just let myself be angry with them, for so callously throwing away a baby. I am failing at trying to walk in the shoes of these mothers, I just can't quite seem to leave my shoes behind to step in theirs. It's a symptom of a larger problem.

Saturday was just a horrible day. It's still snowing (has been since Friday night). I felt like I accomplished nothing. It was a blah day, and Mr. Spit and I didn't get our act together about doing something fun that night, and the whole night just came off the rails. We didn't go to church again on Sunday, and again no one called.

Our friends call, when they need something. Never just to say "how are you?". Only when they need to know if we borrowed a book, or if I started their seeds or if I will bring the tablecloths back to the Carrot. They expect me to be smiling, to be organized, to be cheerful. To be like I always was.

Half the reason I dumped my mother (who lost several children before me) is that whenever I would say "I'm not doing well today". She would say, "tell me about it". But her 'tell me about it' never means that. It's always that sarcastic, snide, "let me use this as an opportunity to tell you everything that is wrong in my life" kind of voice. Or she would say things like "You have to get on with your life. You are carrying on too much. You can't tell me I don't know how you feel, I do, and you are being selfish. Get over it."

And I'm frustrated. If our friends ask how we are doing at all, they do it in a way that is clenched teeth, hesitant, head ducked, eye's closed "I hope she says "ok" kind of way. It's the sudden realization, I'm talking to the mother of a dead baby, and I should ask how she is. No one just asks, wanting to know. No one asks deeper questions. No one says tell me how you feel. What are you thinking? How are you doing, really?

And so, we say things like "trudging along", or "day by day" or "good days and bad days". And we aren't truthful. Because we aren't good, or ok, or even handling things day by day.

So here Mr. Spit and I are trying to hold each other up. We have a support group we go to, have been to some counselling, but honestly, I'm wondering: how do I tell people, what do I say?

We don't say things like:
  • "We aren't sure if we fit in at church. We still aren't sure that we are welcome, and we sure don't feel like anyone cares how we are doing".
  • We don't say "our baby should have been a month old now, and we miss him, and we hurt."
  • We don't say "Mrs. Spit's blood pressure is still to high, and she's having panic like attacks and she wakes up screaming, and we don't know what to do or how to fix it".
  • We don't say "Mr. Spit still can't concentrate on work, and he's thinking about taking another job, so that if we have another baby and another high risk pregnancy he can be home. Because if he's out of town and the baby dies, he'd never see it."
  • We don't say "we are so completely broken that we don't know how we could ever be whole again, and the thought of being this sad and this lost and this broken for the rest of our lives is overwhelming".

And so, if I had to sum up today, in which I am going back to the doctor with a blood pressure of 150/117, and I can't breathe and I feel like something is sitting my chest and I have head aches, I would say

I am failing.

This I believe

Beth at The Natural Mommy (pregnancy/parenting blog that isn't part of the IF or PL blogosphere) has an interesting post about What I believe - about parenting. (Her post on natural childbirth - in normal pregnancies - is here, and it's pretty good)

The idea intrigued me, because in early December 2007, I could have told you exactly what I believed about pregnancy. There was me, used infertility drugs, but never had beta's done, didn't have an 8 week ultrasound to check for a fetal pole. In fact, the last conversation I had with my Gyne's office was to confirm that the day 21 blood test said I ovulated that month.

So, I went through 24 weeks of pregnancy, planning to birth at home, in the water. With Mr. Spit and my best friend and my amazing midwife. I wasn't going to do the drugs, I didn't need the 18 week fetal anatomy scan, I didn't want to know what the sex of the baby was. I think the antibiotics for group B strep are sometimes over prescribed, and I wasn't going to be tested, never taking drugs. And you would give my baby erythomycin to prevent blindness in the case of gonorrhea over my dead body. I came from a midwifery practice that was quite relaxed, and non invasive. My midwife doesn't even test for Gestational Diabetes. (Before you think she's out to lunch, the Canadian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists doesn't recommend routine testing either.)

I should say: my plans aren't out of the ordinary, they aren't odd for the community of women I move within, IRL. There are more women in my community who have birthed with a midwife at home, or birthed with a midwife in a birthing centre than who have had babies in the hospital. It's strange to see women in my circle of friends who don't carry their children in a sling, and who don't cloth diaper, and who don't breastfeed for at least a year, if not more. I was in the company of women who were well educated about pregnancy and birth. I'm quite ashamed to admit, I was pretty darn militant about natural birth, and I disparaged women who insisted that birth was a medical event, and had to take place in the hospital.

I could have told you all about how hospitals set women up to have epidurals and c-sections and episiotomies, and how I believed that women's bodies were meant to do the work of birthing babies. Leave our bodies alone, and we would do just fine. (To be clear, I think the "free birth" movement is a really, really, really dumb idea. I just don't think we should define child birth as a medical event that needs tinkering to get it right.)

And then came pre-eclampsia and my baby died.

You will have the kind of birth you are destined to have. Birth for me was a medical event. That medical event saved my life.

Educate yourself? Absolutely. Yes, there are some things that some women can do to prevent having a c-section. You should know what's going to happen and why. You should know the pro's and con's of various medical protocols. No, we don't have to tell all women that they will be begging for the epidural. We can teach women that it's going to be painful, and here are some things that they can do to cope with the pain. Knowledge really is power.

We humans control very little of the process of conception, pregnancy and birth. Ask anyone with infertility and they will tell you, so much of conception is a mystery. Ask someone like me who lost her baby during pregnancy to disease with no known cause, and no cure, and I will tell you that so much of the mechanics of pregnancy are hidden from us. Ask anyone who has ever had an emergency c-section, who has torn badly, who has hemorrhaged, and she will tell you, many things can change during birth, in an instant.

I wanted to control my pregnancy. I believed in an equation that said if I just trusted in my body, I would be ok. My body was designed to give birth. As long as I didn't interfere with the process, I would have a great pregnancy, a great birth and a healthy baby. I have learned that what I believe really doesn't count for all that much in the real world.

There was me, who hadn't taken Tylenol for a head ache, who had refused diclectin for nausea that caused me to loose 10 pounds. Next to me was a mother who wasn't quite sure how pregnant she was, had no prenatal care, obviously hadn't planned to be pregnant, was still smoking, had been drinking, and she was going to have a happy, healthy baby.

This I have learned: what I do doesn't matter very much. The end goal is a living baby, and how you get there is how you get there. My pregnancy is designed to give life to a baby, it's really not about me, and it's not about how I feel or the way I think things should be.

Every part of conception, pregnancy and birth is a miracle, that I am allowed to take part in. None of the process is a personal growth opportunity, none of the process is under my direction, none of the process can be managed or controlled. At the end, there is no one handing out badges because you did any part of it the "right way".

My next pregnancy will be a high risk pregnancy. All of the medical trappings will be a feature. One ultrasound? I'll have one a week until I give birth. No drugs? The very least I'll likely have is baby aspirin, and blood pressure medication. No medication for the baby? I'll be getting steroids at 24 weeks. No poking or prodding? I truly hope that I can spend months at home on bed rest, and not in the hospital on bed rest.

I'll have multiple appointments each month. I'll spend lots of time at labs. I'll see a high risk OB, I'll see a perinatologist, NICU, an internal medicine specialist, ultrasound techs, and yes, I'll see the amazing midwife too.

And I'll keep reminding myself, the goal is a living brother or sister for Gabriel. The goal is a baby in our arms. And how we get there? It's how we get there. It doesn't matter if the baby arrives vaginally or by c-section. It doesn't matter if I have an epidural. What matters is that the baby comes alive.

God willing, by the time our next child goes to kindergarten, no one will know or care how he or she got here.

This I believe: how you got there doesn't matter all that much when you have arrived.

Furball the Number 2

So, it's time to introduce you to the second furball - Maggie's little, err, smaller, err younger sister.

Here she is. This is Delta.

And wow, your questions have started already:

  1. Why yes, you might call her a "big dog". She's an English mastiff.

  2. Well, we don't ask how much you weigh, but about 180 pounds the last time we measured. (We have to take her to the Vet to weigh her, she doesn't quiiiite fit on the scale at home)

So, here she is with her legs out. She takes up a good 4 feet of space.

And more answers.

  1. Yes, her head comes up to my waist. . . .

  2. She's 29 inches at the shoulder.

  3. Why yes, she does make a good foot rest.

  4. No, she doesn't eat as much as you might think. We feed raw food, and she gets between 2 and 3 pounds a day (She's watching her waistline grow, we're wanting it to shrink).

  5. Well, how do you define expensive? The food and treat and cat litter and vet and toy bill for the month is probably about $280 a month.

And even more answers.

  1. Why yes, she does drool. It's a thing that Mastiff's are known for. You get used to wiping her off. Hint: all the red dish cloths here at Chez Spit, they are "drool rags", don't use them. But, just look at that tongue.

  2. Yes, Mastiffs are house dogs. They bond very strongly to humans, and they can't be outside dogs. They get neurotic. That's a problem in Mastiff's.

  3. Yes, they are quite good with kids. They knock them over sometimes, but the children seem to get back up again. Delta gets anxious about kids once they start walking. She likes them to stay in one place.

  4. Yes, Mastiff's are generally quite smart. Delta's a bit of an exception. But she's sweet and loveable. Except for her thrice weekly accidents in the bathroom.

  5. No, they aren't the easiest to train. But Delta's very, shall we say, food motivated?

  6. No, we don't let her on furniture. Are you crazy? There'd be no room for us. We are luck that Maggie and the cat let us sleep on their bed.

    This is Delta's best buddy, Maximus Catimus. He's next week.

Invincible Spring

In the midst of winter,

I discovered that there was within me

an invincible spring.

Albert Camus

Which is a good discovery.

This is the view from my front porch,

here in lovely Alberta,

on April 20th.

Yep, that invincible spring, it's a good thing.

Weekends Are for Quotes

Clothes make the man.

Naked people have little or no influence in society.

Mark Twain

quoted in More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927

The Virtue of a Moral Imagination

This Issue about an "art experiment" has been making it's way through the IF and PL blogoshpere, and I commented a little bit about it yesterday on the mothership.

I was laying in bed, and I was turning over what in the story was so objectionable. What hit me in the very pit of my stomach and left this horrible bitter feeling in my mouth? I think part of it is this:

We lack moral imagination in our society - we are unable to identify, to understand, to empathize, to demonstrate compassion for others, unless we have walked in their shoes. We, foolishly and childishly insist, that unless we have experienced a thing, we cannot fully know anything about it. We must drag every painful, sordid or angst laden detail out, and then we need to hold them up, and examine them closely, and then, only then, are we able to say - "Yes, I agree that this is painful". This is how you become a certified "expert".

I am willing to chalk this horrible art experiment as a natural consequence of our fallen condition. We, who are so alienated from each other, from God, from our families, from creation, from our communities, from our natural world. And if we are this alienated from what we should be so connected to, is it any wonder that we have lost a bit of our collective imagination, our collective ability to feel sorrow or empathy for others?

I begin to understand Mr. Hobbes' assertion that "Life is nasty, solitary, brutish and short". What I'm not so willing to do is say this is ok. I'm not so sure that we shouldn't aspire to more. The gut reaction isn't empathy, it's aversion. It's the mental equivalent of throwing your hands in front of your face and retching. I don't think art like this connects us, it makes us run from each other.

I don't wonder that Ms. Shvarts feels isolated, empty, and maybe disconnected from other women. Perhaps the "art experiment" is a way to feel, to be connected to the world around her? In a world that glorifies raw brutality, demands the right to view naked pain, is it any wonder that none of the project would give her pause? That, in her mind, the only legitimate way to understand the pain of loss would be to undergo one?

I set up such rules and labels. I assume that everyone is so terribly different from me. I often lack of ability to leave myself behind when I attempt to understand the motives and reasoning of others. I cannot look at Ms. Shvarts' work around miscarriage and abortion without walking through my own experiences. I read her comments, and I carry my dead son into the conversation. I hold him in my arms. I think of the blood in her art work, and I think of my blood on the hospital room floor, on my son. I say "This is the pain you would understand? Why? How would you ever think you could?".

In my stubbornness, I maintain that no one can understand my pain. I hold it to myself, a cloak that is only mine, and I deny any attempt to share this cloak, or to even let others look closely at it. This is mine, mine, mine, I proclaim. I remove myself from my community, marking myself as different.

I read the blog of an Anglican Parish Priest in my own diocese. Joe's second daughter has Downs. I thought of Joe and his wife and his daughter as they gave us the news about Gabriel. I wondered, questioned myself intensely, did we not save Gabriel because there was no way he could have been perfect? I so admired the decision they made to have their little girl. In a place where we didn't know quite which way was up, we struggled to know what to do. I thought, very briefly of phoning Joe, but it was late, and there was no time.

We want experts, that person who has the knowledge that I lack. A person who has walked this same road before us. We have those terrible media interviews, when one child is killed, we search out the parent of another child who died, and we ask, we poke, we prod. Society says, "Tell us Mrs. Smith, what do you think the other family is feeling". And here's the astounding thing: when I hear those interviews, I am never surprised by what Mrs. Smith says. I am never perplexed, and if I allow moral imagination some place in my life, I can at least get a good enough picture to imagine what this family must feel.

And this is the problem with Ms. Shvarts. This is what gives rise to the bitter taste in my mouth, the twisting in my stomach. It doesn't take much moral imagination to understand what the death of a child must be like. You don't have to wallow in blood, you can simply close your eyes and imagine. I can imagine what Joe might have said to us that night. He's a kind and compassionate man. And I can imagine that he would respond that our situations were really quite different. And that he could give me direction on "Anglican Morality" but that we would have to make our own decisions. And others would have to close their eyes, and imagine our circumstances.

But, there's a trick to that statement. I must accept the moral imaginations of others. When someone says sorry, or attempts to provide comfort through whatever failing words they have, I must allow that they understand my pain, and share a tiny bit of the cloak. I must not hold on to it so tightly. I must not allow the garments of mourning to so define me, that I am unwilling to allow any portion of the fabric to go. And this is hard.

And so, Ms. Shvart, in all humility, I do so wish that you had never decided that this was a pain you needed to experience. I suspect you could have imagined everything you needed to. That's what left this awful taste in my mouth, and the twisting feeling in my tummy - we live in a society that requires us to roll in the agony of others to understand pain.

edited: I'm sorry, apparently my ability to write clear, coherent prose with no typo's or missed words is lacking on Saturday's. I've made a few changes to make sure that the sentances flow and there aren't random workds left out.

Grocery List's

Are visible signs of progress:
  1. This one has no Kleenex on it. We still have some in the dungeon basement.
  2. There is actual real food on the list. I will never forget standing in Costco in January, throwing every single packed, preservative laden, full of ingredients I couldn't pronounce, overpriced prepared meal in my cart. I bought tourtiere! I make tourtiere. It's really good.
  3. I am actually making a grocery list. Which means that I have cooked. And used real food. And I have the brain power to consider what I might want to cook, and what we are out of.

Progress my friends and compatriots, progress!

Having said that, today was a sick day, I woke up screaming from nightmares 3 times again last night. I'm awfully glad that Mr. Spit is coming home today. This part of grieving I could live without. (What am I saying, I haven't found a part of grieving I can live with!)

Illegitimi Non Carborundum

In certain trying circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity furnishes a relief denied even to prayer.

Mark Twain

Some of you may have noticed that I work in a, well, dysfunctional work environment. White Guys with Blue Ties, Inc. is actually a pretty good place to work. My team, however, is a minefield of seething ambition, astounding inadequacy and stunning levels of stupidity.

I am on my soon to be fourth manager, in 2 years. Manager the Last beat a hasty retreat to another team, and we are presently dredging the bottom of the barrel for the next stellar candidate. There is a faint hope on the horizon, however; there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it is an oncoming train, and it piloted by a man named re-org.

I work in a team small enough that you know everyone, but large enough to have two, diverse groups of people. Group One is smart and intelligent and savvy. Unfortunately, the few of these left are busy finding other jobs, and don't have much time for input.

Group two is largely composed of people who are buried beneath the challenge of their jobs, but have been around so long that no one can think of how to unearth them. We'd try, but their signs of life are so few and so small, we aren't sure it isn't a greater mercy to just leave them be.

In the midst of these two groups is me, trying to get through each day. Today, I am sitting, working away, and I hear Person the Profoundly Unaware complaining about purported injustice. Part of our team is in a city 3 hours south of here, and Person the Profoundly Unaware is complaining, nay she is lamenting the pure injustice. These team members attend the potlucks, but they never bring anything.
It's just not fair. . . This is, quite seriously, the end of the world. There can be no hope, and this pressing crisis will take up much of her next few days.

Indeed, a crisis! Let us stop all useful work to consider the crisis, and the fate of the travelling co-workers, because theirs is the exciting life. They drive up the highway to stay in a hotel overnight, spend all day trying to work, but realizing everything they need is in another city, they are the mother's of young children, trying to figure out how to get their kids to activities. They eat crappy hotel food, and sleep in beds not their own. And now, to end your lament, they are supposed to whip up a freaking casserole to bring to a potluck, using only the contents of their suitcases.

These are resourceful women, I can see them. "Wow, I have a hairbrush, a maxi-pad, some eyebrow tweezers, old mascara and 3 peanuts my toddler left in the bottom of my purse. Look out Martha, here I come! "

And I'm sitting here, thinking "Lady, let me tell you about unfair. Let me tell you what injustice is" Let's develop a working committee to define "unfair". Oh, and me, the deadbaby lady: I'm the Subject Matter Expert.
Unfair involves death, sadness, sorrow, tragedy, misery, extreme anguish, disaster, disease. There is no potluck involved.

I get to remember my father's phrase, and develop a new tag for the blog at the same time:

Illegetimi Non Carbonundrum. Don't let those conceived on the wrong side of the bed wear you down to a bruised, bloody pulp of stupidity.

Tell me, do you think it is maybe just possible I'm in the angry phase of grief?

A Lesson in Knitting

I am sitting here, knitting, with memories of old projects running through my mind.

For those of you who have never done it, knitting has an almost meditative quality. After a while, you find your hands know the stitches so well that they continue without your conscious mind paying attention. You are free to float along to wherever your fancy takes you, to carry on discussions with others, to go on trips in your imagination. More than a way to relax, it's a chance to leave this time and space, and move along to somewhere slightly different. I never know quite where I'll go with a simple pattern. I knit, and my mind wanders off, and the item I am knitting grows longer, and my thoughts flow more easily. I learn life's lessons in knitting.

A knitting project is nothing more than several million stitches, repeated one after another. It's essence is the same two motions, repeated, ad naseum. Knit and purl, purl and knit. Thus, knitting is not just about careful consideration: for pattern, for fit, for colour, for fibre choice; and it is not merely about my time; it is a lesson in dedication. When I continue with a project long past the time when I am interested in it, through the time that I am frustrated, and through the time when I am seemingly making no progress, through to a finished project, I am learning about devotion. Knitting is a gift of my care for another, it is a visible demonstration of my love.

And in this meditative place I am thinking of the first baby item I knit, a few years ago. One of my most dearest and oldest friends called, to tell me that his wife was expecting their first baby. The friend who inspired whiny Thursday, he's also the man who gave me away at my wedding, read the prayers at Gabriel's funeral. He's someone whom I treasure. And I could not give him my best wishes that day. I stumbled through congratulations and wished him well, and hung up the phone and wept and raged: that they, so soon married, would be expecting a wee one, while Mr. Spit and I would continue on with an office, not a nursery.

And so, I resolved to knit for this babe to be. If I couldn't give them my good wishes, I could give them knitting. And I scoured pattern books, carefully consulted the mother to be on the colours, and decided upon a baby blanket. For 8 months, I picked it up almost nightly, and knit more and more rows. 9 squares in all, each made of a 12x12 block. The same colours, the same stitches. Repeated. Then I picked up stitches on the edges, and knit the lace around the edge. Into each stitch I put what love I could. As time went on, I made my peace with this wee one. I truly did knit until I was glad for his birth, until I knew that babies are wonderful things, truly a testament to God's wonder and grace. I learned I could be happy for others amidst my own tragedy and sorrow. My hands knit the stitches, and God knit happiness into my heart. I doubt the parents were aware of my pain, or the depth of the gift, or the lessons I learned in that blanket.

The morning before my diagnosis with pre-eclampsia, I was back at the wool store. I picked out alpaca spun locally, chose a pattern of Shetland lace. I thought of the amazing woman who was guiding me through my pregnancy, and how I could thank her. I thought of the lessons in motherhood she was giving me. I found something perfect for her. The morning before the testing began, I dyed the wool a soft agate colour.

I came home from the hospital on the 12th of December, and I began knitting. For hours each day, I knit. My mind so numb with grief it was not possible to knit and speak, to knit and watch a movie, even to knit and think. I knit. Fiercely, grimly, with an all consuming fire. Into every stitch, into every yarn over, I knit my thanks, my care, my concern and my gratitude. I prayed for a woman who walked with us through our darkest hours, who held me as I wept, who caught our son in her strong and loving hands. Who stood in the valley of the shadow of death, and was not afraid to be there. And I gave back to her what I could, the only skill, the only accomplishment I had left. I knit for her. I put my chaotic and heartfelt prayers into a shawl to keep her warm. I prayed it would see healthy and happy births. I learned the lesson that when you are lost, when there are no answers, pick up what you are working on, and start on the first stitch. I don't need to see the pattern, I just need to knit each stitch as it comes.

Tonight I'm knitting for my husband. A hat of soft wool, in blues and purples and blacks. Wool he chose this last weekend. It is cashmere, hand dyed, enough to knit a hat. I want to remind him of how precious he is.

While I knit, my mind is thinking of a pattern that I found in that first search for baby patterns. Never even considered for the wee ones of others, it was held aside for my own child. As a "Maybe" - a faint hope of a dream. Not shared, not often even thought of. Captured on paper, a photocopy, tucked in a bookshelf amidst all my wool and other patterns. The someday of some day's. Made of cashmere, with cables, designed as either a dress or a cardigan sweater. Grey heathery wool, with black Scotty dogs knit in, I held it in my mind as the perfect outfit for a first birthday in March or early April.

Warm enough for a cool spring day, made of countless stitches, repeated over and over. This time the stitches wouldn't be careful hopes that I could be happy for someone else's baby, they would be joyful thanks for one of our own. A statement that my child was loved, and wanted, and his mother knit! Dedication and determination, but above all else, thankfulness for a wee soul to knit for. A child of my very own heart. A lesson in gratitude. I knew that I would need to start it early to finish it for a first birthday. I knew that knitting time would be scarce once our child was here.

Tonight, I have all the time in the world. So I'll put my head down, just for a bit, to weep for a baby that wore a hat someone else knit, a hat that a stranger made, for the child of knitter. And from deep within me come sobs, a heart wrenching lament, deep and agonizing pain, all for a pattern that sits on a shelf. For wool that remains unpurchased, for hopes of a baby sitting among wool purchased for the children of others.

Tomorrow I'll pick up Mr. Spit's hat, and I'll again revel in the softness of the wool, and in the way it stripes, a line of blue here, a line of purple there. I'll think of socks, and of shawls, and hats, and I'll be better. I'll hope and dream and be thankful for the lessons from Gabriel.

Tonight, I'll give over to memories and shattered hopes, and dreams, and a small baby wrapped in the love of God, and not his mother's knitting. God has lessons to teach us that are intensely painful, and I have more to learn.

This is the lesson of knitting: I'll knit to show Mr. Spit he is loved, to put my body and mind back together, and to learn about patience and devotion and dedication.

the support of the blogoshpere.

I was going to start this post about how my mother always said to say thank you. . .



You know

So, I'll say this: I regard it as a virtue to be appreciative. And I have appreciated your support. I have had to remind myself that I didn't make a rash decision, this problem was not new, and ending the relationship was the best thing I could ever do for myself and Mr. Spit.

But still, it's hard, and I feel guilty.

thanks for those of you who wrote about ending relationships, and how that was good. Thanks for those of you who sent good wishes, and thanks for those who sent hope for better days, and thanks for those of you who said sorry. I have held on to those wishes, and when I start thinking I must have been crazy, I remember them.

So, I appreciate it, and I want to thank you.

Everyday Ethics with Mrs. Spit

I'm at a tea place, having tea with Kuri, to knit. (And I forgot to give her the prize she won, but I digress)

I go and pay for my tea, and the samosas, which I pick out at the counter, pay for at the counter, and pick up at the counter.

I hand them my debit card, and go through the process until I come to the "tip" screen. Tip? For what? You stood at a counter and you took my order. I did all the work.

I keep wondering? Should I be tipping? When? Did Kuri tip? What should I do here?

For the record, I tip at restaurants, I tip my hairdresser, my paper boy at Christmas, taxi drivers, hotel bellpersons. . . I might even throw some coins in the jar at the local Second Cup Low Altar of Caffeine. Especially when they automatically pour my usual for me. (Not that I'm an addict, nope, not me. Nuh uh).

But really, do I need to tip, when a service person has provided essentially no service? Just doesn't make sense to me.

I keep wondering, what does everyone else do?


Furball Number One

I'm not sure what one posts about the day after breaking up with her family. Seems a tough act to follow. So, I could post about:

- the fact that Health Canada is very likely to tell me my water bottle causes cancer. or something.

- the fact that Wikkipedia is telling women that if they just breathe deeply, they can stave off pre-eclampsia. Damn, if only I had known.

- what I'm knitting at the moment.

- the fact that Mr. Spit is out of Town. (Yes, if you wanted to break into my house and kill me in my sleep, this would be a good time to do it. But honestly, wait, my mother is waaaaay ahead of you!)

- I bought this jacket at JC Penny, on sale (yes, I buy my clothes across the border and have them shipped.) I'm not sure it fits on me, or if it just looks really funny, so I wanted your opinion. I think I look a bit Quasimodo-ish in it.

But really, I thought I'd introduce you to one of the family members I'm not going to dump.

You've met Mr. Spit. So who else?

Ahh, I've got it.

Just on Sunday Mr. Spit was asking why we had dogs (The larger one had had another "accident" in the bathroom). I pointed out that there was one simple reason we had dogs. . . . .

All I have to do to make the "fur children" happy is to come home. There is no one else in the world I can say that about. Mr. Spit likes me, an awful lot, but honestly he's not always thrilled to see me.

This critter on the other hand?

I'm the greatest thing in the universe to her. And all I have to do is show up. And rub her belly. And feed her. And tell her she's a pretty girl. And love her. And rub her belly, and dress her up in bandanna's. And let her sleep wherever she wants.

Yep, this is Maggie. She's our first "fur child", we've had her for 7 years now. She's gone from being an obsessive, neurotic genius to being a sweet, well rounded dog. Hasn't eaten anything in a long time. Which is good, because the first year it was three (3!) seat belts, a coke can, a rock, a pumice stone, a kennel, several blankets, a few books, some clothing . . . We had a dog who went to daycare, she couldn't be left alone. (She turned into a barking, quivering pile of goo - a bit of separation anxiety, that)

There she is. Do you wonder why she has a fan club?

And in answer to your questions:

Border collie with some German shepherd, and maybe some whippet. Honestly, she's a generic brown dog.

Yep, weighs about 50 pounds.

No, her full name is actually Margaret Thatcher, but I have no idea why. She's about as unlike the Iron Lady as you can get.

Yes, she's very loving. Hasn't met a person she doesn't like. Except maybe the cat. And sometimes her "little" sister.

The Language of Families

Mr. Spit and I went to the 9:00 service at church yesterday, to avoid the 7(!) shiny, brand new babies that are in our church. We are struggling with children right now, and plan on banning Mother's day and Father's day from our sight.

In a triumph of God's sense of humor, a good friend showed up with her 14 month old wee one, who just loves Mr. Spit. Mr. Spit wrote, elegantly, about this. It's a good post, and it's not what I'm writing about.

Every family has their own language. They have their own rhythm's, their own cadence. And it isn't until we come into contact with others, that we begin to realize what isn't particularly normal about ours.

Perhaps what was most important about having children, to Mr. Spit and I, was the chance to do things better. To communicate better, to be unfailingly honest, to love each other, to stay married. To do better at being married, at being a family. To be emotionally healthy. Above all, to treat each other with respect, with care, to cherish our love.

And let me be clear - there are days when we fail. Days when we are less than kind to each other, and days when we are wrapped up in our own worlds, and in our own grief. We are nowhere near the perfect married couple. But we try: to treat each other with respect, to speak well of each other, to meet each other's needs. Our intents are true.

Having children for Mr. Spit and I was about having hope for the future, about passing on not just our genetic material, but about redeeming our own brokenness, about redeeming the brokenness of our families. We could consciously choose to do better. To tell our children, every day, that they were loved. To teach them to treat each other kindly, with respect. To create a family legacy that was so powerful that our children would never know that Mr. Spit and I came from broken homes, homes that were full of unhealthy behaviour.

But, hope for the future doesn't change what is. It doesn't change coming from homes that are not healthy, and it doesn't change the behaviour of our families. I have realized that I can't change my family. I can do better, I can set limits, I can allow myself to be me, but I can't change their behaviour. I can change the way they act, but I can't change how they treat me. I can stand up for my rights, to be treated with kindness, respect, dignity, but I can't make them treat me this way.

I have found women who could teach me. Strong women who taught me to fight for right, to stand up for myself, to make myself pliable enough to have a relationship. Who taught me what emotionally healthy means. Who cheer on my successes, and who sit with me in my failures. Who teach me to pick myself up, to dust myself off, and to try again. And they have tried to teach me when to stop fighting. When to say enough.

I'm a try-er. When something isn't working, I try harder, I work harder, I investigate more options, I assume it's my fault. But, sometimes, you have to call uncle. Sometimes you accept, however tragic life is, that things will never get better with a person, and you can't live with the way they treat you, and as sad and awful as it is, you can live without them.

It's hard at first, I imagine. I imagine the temptation to pick up the phone is enormous. You want to call them, not because they are supportive, or they are kind, or helpful, but because they are predictable, you know how they work, and if I am terribly honest, you know what buttons to push. I imagine the conversation of "this just isn't working, and it's not healthy" is going to be tough.

But I've learned a lot about tough things. And stuff that is hard is so often good for you. And so, I'm writing about when you break up with your family. Because I hung up on someone Saturday night. And with the click of a phone call, the relationship ended.

I could tell you why, but really, it's private, and I could tell you what she said, but really, there's no point. Yes, it was awful. She was deliberately cruel. She wanted to hurt me. She knew what buttons to push. She would know, she gave me life.

And now, I'm walking out of hers. And today, I'm sad. I am feeling a bit adrift, without anyone in my family to anchor me. I'm feeling a bit lost today, like the true, good and healthy language of a family will ever escape me.

Saturday's are for Quotes

Or poetry.

I have been thinking of this poem all week.

When I Consider how my Light is Spent

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."

John Milton, Poet


John became blind in 1651, and some have suggested that his lack of physical sight allowed his writing to become more rich, as he described the sights of the world without using his eyes.

Joy Comes in the Morning

I seem to have a thing these days about having songs run through my head, before I fall asleep. (Did I ever tell y'all about singing "row, row, row your boat" through labour?)

My Favourite Things from the Sound of Music was running through my head last night. I'll spare you the singing, 'cause you're a good friend, and I just don't want to do that to you. But it got me to thinking.

I have someone in my family, who is, shall we say, plastic-y. She's a rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens kind of girl. She sticks to the cute and the cuddly, and keeps her mind off bad things by sticking her fingers in her ears and chanting Jesus Loves Me. I can't stand talking to her. It's painful. I'm not mean, and I'm not violent, but I want to shove her, face first into the real tragedy and pain in the world.

When I was in University, it was fashionable to live in angst. To be cynical and despairing of the world. To blame a vast right wing, left wing, alien conspiracy for everything. Everything was going to hell in a hand basket.

Then there's me. I'm grumpy some times. I dwell on things that upset me. I keep reading Boundless, which makes me despair of there ever being intelligent Christian Evangelicals. I think that there are some honest politicians, that I don't pay too much in taxes (this is actually a rant of mine), that there are marriages that work, not all children in daycare turn into sociopaths, and that when given tools and skills, people often have a surprising ability to make good decisions for themselves.

There's tragedy in the world. People die for no reason, people in our world live in mind numbing, soul crushing poverty. Children die of preventable diseases. Babies die right after birth. I'm living tragedy right now. I can't make it go away. I don't want to be plastic, but I want to try to choose my attitude. I was so relieved when the therapist I saw told me that Gabriel's death would be a part of me, it would change me, but I didn't have to let it define me. It could just be part of my life. I'm broken now, I'm going to be broken for awhile, but I won't be broken forever. Jesus loves me, and joy comes in the morning. I'm in the night right now, and that's ok.

Mr. Spit and I are having some problems with our family and with the Whiny Thursday Friend. It looks very much like some friendships are going to end. Late Wednesday night I was thinking: "We have no friends. No one likes us. No one supports us. We are all alone." We stayed home from church last weekend because we didn't feel welcome, and no one cared enough to call. Before I knew it, I was in a right pout.

In actual fact, before the pout, I spent most of Wednesday night knitting with a friend. I enjoy spending time with her. I enjoy talking to her. We talk about politics, about life, a little bit about religion, about feminism. . . And I enjoy it. She's smart and funny and witty and genuine. And I look forward to seeing her.

It occurs to me: the purpose of thinking about good things is to gain some balance. It's like driving: where we look on the road is where our car is going to be. It's easy to focus entirely on the negative. Or the positive. Spend too much time in one camp, and you wind up in the ditch.

My attitude doesn't change my circumstances. I can't make Gabriel come back, I can't remove my tragedy. I can't stop being sad. I can't keep friends and family that I'm going to have to move away from. I can ignore my sadness, and focus on kittens and roses. I can mindlessly mouth bible verses about God providing, and chant Jesus Loves Me. I can insist that Gabriel is in heaven, and I have no reason to be sad. I think that's plastic.

I suspect grief has a way of ensuring you go through it. You either turn and face it and keep walking, or you spend the rest of your life running away from it. I'd rather walk through it now, and keep the faith that there will be a morning, and joy will be in it.

My attitude changes my capacity to respond to my circumstances. I can choose to save my energy for the difficult work of grief. I can choose to grieve actively, to grieve fully, and to take what joy I can, where I find it. I can choose to try and keep my focus balanced on the good and the bad.

And in this long, dark night, I'll take what pleasure I can in my favourite things.

Here are a few of mine:

- Ann's baby has kidneys!

-knitting with friends

-how my husband makes me laugh

-a good cup of coffee in the morning

-being surrounded by smart people

-good music

-cheesecake ice cream with sour cherries and graham crackers mixed in

No prizes for sharing yours, except that maybe your perception will change, just a little bit. We'd all enjoy hearing about yours.

And go over and wish Ann well, will you? A baby with kidney's is a big prayer of many of us. A reminder to some of us that God is with us, and things go the way they should, sometimes.

Going to See a Man About a Seat

Mr. Spit and I received an invitation to go and see our MLA be sworn in at the provincial legislature. So we put on our nice clothes and our shiny faces and off we went.

The process is actually very short - we spent substantially more time waiting for the show to start than we actually did watching any sort of swearing.

Yesterday I read this article, with its awful sub text that women have no need of an expensive education, when all they will be doing is staying home to care for their babes. There are so many things wrong this article, I don't know quite what to say.

So, I sat in visitor's gallery of the Provincial Legislature and I watched 4 young girls, obviously there with their parents. I thought about men who want to limit their lives, before they are even old enough to know their options. I remembered my first time in the legislature.

My mother was working as a lobbyist, and she had a piece of legislation that was receiving third reading in the house that night. So, we went off to watch. I think my mother wanted me to learn something. On the way to the visitor's gallery, she stopped off at Pam Barrett's office, Pam was working with my mum on the legislation, and I think my mother wanted to thank Pam for her assistance.

Pam was a small woman, with an enormous personality. I was slightly overawed, sitting in the corner of her office, reading Nancy Drew. I had probably been told to be quiet, to not be a bother, and not to ask questions. Pam obviously loved politics. She loved the fight, she loved the elbows in the corner, but more than that, she loved the way a good politician can change lives, can use legislation to make life better for people. She spoke to my mum for a bit, but then she started talking to me. About what was happening in the legislature. Why it mattered. Why I should care.

I remember that night, as she showed me through the legislature. She walked along with me, and she told me the stories about the traditions of the legislature, she told me stories about politicians from history, and more than that, she taught me to love political life. A bit of the fire in her belly passed to me. I knew that I didn't need to hide in the corner, that girls could be active in politics too. That politics were a worthy place to expend your effort. That politics matter. They are important.

I have a draft post about women, and their role in society. It's a reminder that they shouldn't be exiled to their kitchen's in suburbs. Stay home and raise your kids if you want to, I don't have a problem with that. But know, it's not your only option. It's not your only role, and you have a responsibility, not just to your children, but to society as a whole. Women will spend only a small portion of their life changing diapers, and have so much more to contribute to our collective life than just the rearing of children. We need to prepare all women for that.

We need women's voices in our political system because women are different from men. Not better, not worse, but different. We look at things differently. We have different priorities, different agenda's. Even in this world, there are still women's issues. Pensions, pay inequity, domestic violence. It frightens me when the evangelical right tries to leave us education less, with no options for our future. No education so often means no voice. No ability to organize. No ability to look at the thoughts, the positions, the statements of others and discern how they will affect us.

But today, I saw a woman take the oath of office. Her name is Rachel Notley, and she comes by politics honestly - it runs in her family. And more than that, I saw four young women watch her do it. They watched Rachel stand up for her beliefs, for the right of everyone in our society to have a voice in our government, and they saw her pledge to make life better for everyone. They saw a woman take her seat in the Government, and pledge to demand change.

I was proud. Proud of Rachel, proud of all women who stand up to men who want us in the kitchen. And proud I could be there with 4 young women who will know that there are always options, and any woman can fight for all of us.

I'm still disgusted with Boundless. I'm horrified by the women who so blindly advocated that education is useless for women. I don't know what's wrong with them. I'm disgusted by them. But that's ok, because today, a group of women watched one of our own stand up and proclaim that she'd fight. In the corners. With her elbows. And we said "go for it".

And damn, I'm proud.

Life In Plastic, It's Fantastic

With thanks from Aqua. The song is called Barbie Girl. I remember it very vaguely from University or maybe even high school. I was laying awake again last night, thinking as this song ran through my head. One of the things that I struggle with these days is the loss of my privacy. I think a few of you may have noticed that I'm an extrovert. But, here's the thing about being an extrovert - you control what people see of you. I project. I'm not so much an extrovert as an actress. I use my extrovert tendencies to control what people see of me. I can define who I am, and to some extent how people respond to me, using my personality.

So, the weekend of the baptisms, when I left the sanctuary, sobbing, I was horrified. I don't cry in public. Honestly, I'm not much of a crier at all. One of the hard parts of grief is that I can't control what people see of me. I am overwhelmed by grief, and there simply is no hiding it. I am not the person who is good at her job, or is a good cook, or has red hair, I am one half of the "dead baby couple" as Mr. Spit calls us.

There is no privacy. I am visible. People I don't know, know about Gabriel. They aren't gossiping, they aren't telling rumours, but we are that couple that has had the horrible thing happen to us. We are marked. The "dead baby couple". And we are watched. I can see women look at me, as a child goes past me. I saw their pitying eyes during the baptism. I saw their looks when I first came back to work - a stomach too flat, and no explanation at hand. I see the look when I tell then. A glance at an empty womb, that doesn't quite return to my eyes. They stammer. They don't know what to say.

Now is probably more painful, because I am ever aware that Gabriel would have been here by now. So is everyone else. I was in an elevator moments ago:

"How do you like burning the candle at both ends?"
"Well, up all night with a baby, and then at work all day."
Oh, you haven't heard. My baby was born premature in December, and he died.

I tell people - "It's ok" when they apologize. I tell them that we are carrying on. I'm optimistic about trying again. I emphasize how thankful I am that Gabriel had half an hour with us. I try to change the subject when I think that people I don't know well are going to talk about Gabriel.

I see it's getting better. I believe that I am improving. I have meetings, I go to work, I volunteer, I live life. I tell people that Gabriel died, while I'm in the elevator. I do it with sadness in my eyes, but my tone is matter of fact. Short words. Carefully created sentences.

I don't tell them I would give my very life to be up all night. I don't suggest that maybe they could go ask someone else why I'm back, and leave me the hell alone. I don't scream at them about Canada's yearlong maternity leave program. I don't ask who they know that doesn't take the entire year off. I don’t ask where their brain is. And especially, I don't sit and cry in the elevator. I get off, walk into my meeting, and carry on with the business at hand.

I'm not so sure I really have any other choice.

Mostly, I think "What do you want me to tell you - my baby is still dead. My life sucked yesterday, it sucks today, and it's quite likely to suck for some time. Not forever, and it's no longer the worst sucking feeling in the world, but really, what do you expect?” And I'm not sure how much to tell people. I tell the blog everything. My reason for beginning was to write down these feelings.

The rest of the world? Do they really want to hear that I hurt? That doesn't change from day to day. There isn't any 'new' news. I still miss him. I'm still going to work, I'm still coming home. I'm still making dinner, and doing housework. Do you want to hear about how angry I am? Do you want to know what this pain is really like? Do you want me to tell you that I didn’t want to get up yesterday. I didn’t want to get up today, and tomorrow I likely won’t want to get up either.

The sadness is not all encompassing, but it's my shadow. Describe it as my great sorrow. Not great in size but great in the length of time it will be with me. I am sad. Not weeping, not wailing, not sobbing, not always visibly sad. But I am sad. And I hide some of it. It’s too hard to explain to people who don’t live in a place where they have grieved deeply the loss of something precious. I have no desire to educate people about what grief is like, I’m too busy living it. So I don’t necessarily bring everyone into it. I think, maybe they think I’m ok. Maybe they think I have bounced back.

And that isn't necessarily the impression I want to leave people. I want people to know that I am still broken. That those words in the elevator will stay with me. A thoughtless world can wound for days. The sight of a new baby can take my breath away. And the reminder that I make others uncomfortable, makes me want to curl up. Life in plastic, it's fantastic.

thanks for the many kind words yesterday - the many ways that you affirmed that anger is a normal part of grieving. I needed to hear it. There's still an angry woman inside of me, but I discovered that after a particularly bad day, Marble Slab cheesecake ice cream will soothe her just a bit.