New Goal: I Will Sew a Traveling Red Dress

There is a magic dress. A magic dress that is usually red and travels to women who are struggling with illness (including mental illness), weight, low self-image in general. When a woman receives a traveling red dress, she puts it on and the magic helps her remember who she really is, the woman who has not and will not truly be defeated, the woman capable of love, the woman who deserves to feel beautiful and to do something that helps her feel beautiful. The Red Dress need not be red, but it must be stunning, impractical, eye-catching–a ball gown, literally or metaphorically. Then, someone take beautiful photographs of her in her stunning gown, so that she can always remember the magic of self-care.

The lovely and hilarious The Bloggess explains this better than I can, because she has experienced the magic first-hand–twice. Once in 2010 and again very recently. The traveling dresses she wears in her photos would not fit me, but having seen dresses I would die to wear on vintage patterns sold on Etsy, it occurred to me that there might be another kind of therapy in the crafting of such a gown.

Ball gowns are not as difficult to sew as you might think, or so my reading tells me. I want to make it, wear it and send it on to someone else. They can be, certainly, but the primary hurdle is fabric and the cost of fabric. I am about to do something I feel shy about doing and, well, frankly, terrified will upset you, dear readers. Before I do, I must show you how well I have researched this and the beautiful things that I’ve found for the project:

First, the pattern:

My dream dress. The pattern fits my measurements exactly, which is just further proof that I must make it. In red taffeta.

Taffeta is a fabric best made out of silk, and perfect for fancy dresses. My own wedding dress was made from silk taffeta. It’s not very heavy, but is “crisp” as they say in the sewing world. It’s the fabric the artist used as a model for drawing the dresses on the envelope of the pattern. I found the perfect shade of red taffeta at Mood fabrics (Project Runway uses Mood for a good reason–they have everything you could ever want).

Now, can you see the detail around the neckline of the dress in the picture? It has an accent that I believe is beaded. Which inspired me: the dress must have sparkles or shinies of some kind. And then I found this:

Isn't this perfect?

Since I can’t manage all of this on my own and because it is for a good cause, I am asking for your help in buying supplies to make the New Traveling Red Dress. I’m doing it officially and anonymously, using a website called WePay specifically for this purpose. If you do give a little something, thank you in advance. If you do not, I will never say a word about it to you, cross my heart. You can donate to the New Traveling Red Dress Project here. The $300 total goal is high–I can get away with less–but the more I have to work with, the better the supplies, and the longer the dress will last. I’ve also set a six-week deadline, so that in case I do get pregnant I can hurry up and finish the dress before I’m too big to wear it!

What do you think? Do you have other fabric suggestions? A better idea for the trim? Sewing tips? Would you rather donate your services as a photographer or help with the sewing? Do you have a dress form I could borrow? Any and all thoughts are welcome! I am worried about this: is it inappropriate for me to ask for monetary aid if I’m going to wear the dress myself? If so, I am perfectly happy to feel absolute joy in making it, in working with such gorgeous fabric and immediately passing it on to someone else who needs it. Do please help me organize this in the best possible way! I have the best possible intentions.

The Treatment Plan: Finally Approved By All

I got on a train before dawn this morning in order to make it to my appointment with Dr. P at 8:30 am. It was worth it. We had an awesome chat (we always do) and made each other laugh (we always do). We talked about why I am against the idea of tapering my Effexor dose or trying to switch to a better-researched, more-often-prescribed SSRI:

“I have accidentally lied to everyone every time we have made changes to my meds. I will say ‘I’m fine! I’m fine!’ And then ‘OOPS I lost my job because I was so anxious I couldn’t leave the house. Maybe I’m not fine.’ I am terrified that if we do it again, that will happen again. I don’t want to do it again. I can’t afford to lose this new job.”

She completely agreed with my reasoning. She told me that she had just finished a frustrating and unsuccessful attempt to switch another patient to Zoloft. This was a huge relief, because honestly, I would have doubted myself if she had questioned my decision. In fact, while I was talking, I was thinking “Maybe I’m just not being tough enough?” That’s not a thought I need. It’s also not an accurate thought. I am one tough lady.

At the end of our session, I heard the most wonderful words I have heard ever during this entire process:

“I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Phew!

I have officially done everything I could possibly do. Including all of this:

I hope not to add any prescriptions to my daily regimen of pills, but I have acquired quite a collection of vitamins and supplements. I’ve replaced prescriptions meant to help with migraines and insomnia. Recent blood work revealed that I have almost no Vitamin D in my body; without Vitamin D, I’m not going to even get pregnant, let alone give a fetus enough Vitamin D to grow bones and other important things. The weird thing is that I’ve been taking quite a bit of D since I first learned I was deficient last summer. And yet… nothing! So I added some more of that. There are other vitamins and supplements to prepare my body for pregnancy, too.

It’s starting to make me laugh, because there so many bottles. I had a drawer for them. They don’t fit anymore. I tried to take a picture for you, but they didn’t all fit in the frame. I have a very large pill organizer like the ones old people use. Seriously. I made these collages so you could see all the bottles, though:

 

Clockwise: Calcium, Prenatal, Fish Oil, Vitamin D

Clockwise: Effexor XR 150 mg, Effexor XR 37.5 mg, Klonopin, CoQ10, Vitamin B2, Passion Flower tincture, Magnesium Citrate

What are they all for? Well, here’s a list, excluding the prescriptions:

  • New Chapter Bone Strength Take Care Supplement (calcium) & New Chapter Organics Perfect Prenatal: These two are for the pregnancy. Most people take one prenatal vitamin per day after they find out about a pregnancy. The problem with this is that most prenatals have lots of iron and lots of calcium, but our bodies can’t absorb both at the same time. “Calcium inhibits iron absorption from non-meat sources. Wait at least 2 hours before taking an iron supplement following a calcium supplement or vice versa” (MIT). The coolest thing about the New Chapter prenatal is that it’s made from food and includes probiotics; you take three small pills a day instead of one huge pill, and it’s so easy on the stomach that you can take it on an empty stomach. [New Chapter has not asked me to praise their products, nor have they paid me. For the record.]
  • Nordic Naturals Arctic D: Cod Liver Oil (liquid): Fish oil contains Omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, key elements for, well, life in general, but especially for pregnancy. “DHA is an essential fatty acid—we must get it from diet or supplements, because our bodies don’t make it—and consuming enough DHA is critical for normal and healthy development of infant brain, eyes, and nervous system.” And… “Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function. In fact, infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems.” My nutritionist recommends this brand for several reasons, but it comes down to this: “…fresh and pure raw material: fish low on the food chain, which naturally contain low levels of impurities (and are also ideal for long-term sustainability, given their short reproductive cycles). All of our products are made exclusively from four types of fish, none of which is endangered: wild-caught Arctic cod (Skrei)…” Do you know what’s in the fish oil pill in on the drug store shelf? Mean neither. Also, it really does taste like lemon, and there’s no burping. Watch the expiration date, if you use this: three months after you open it, it’s done. And I mean done. I learned this the hard way. (The Arctic D has extra Vitamin D in it–to help with my deficiency.)
  • Vitamin Code RAW D3 is made from food and other stuff found in nature, like the New Chapter products, but it’s got 5,000 mg of D3 in each pill. I’m hoping that between the sheer amount of D in the supplement and the “RAW” part, my body will start absorbing and retaining some of the stuff.
  • CoQ10 and B2 are supposed to help prevent migraines. My neurologist recommended this. The suggested dosage varies, but I take 400 mg. The migraine treatment with B2 is 400 mg as well. I’m not taking that much for now, at least until I can find out if it’s safe during pregnancy. Note: I took another brand of CoQ10 (I think it was NatureMade) and it had all sorts of artificial colors in it, so I threw it out. Read the labels! Why put artificial colors in a nutritional supplement? I don’t understand it at all. Apparently because it’s good for the heart and blood it should be colored bright red? So strange.
  • Passion Flower is the extract of said flower, and I put some of this tincture in a glass of water before bed. I’m really hoping that traditional medicine is right, and passion flower helps with sleep and anxiety.
  • Magnesium Citrate is helping my body handle all the iron in the prenatal, aid digestion in general and is also good for anxiety. Ever seen that Natural Calm powder stuff? It’s mostly magnesium. It’s just easier for me to remember pills than powders (because of the old lady pill organizer…)

Both the magnesium and the passion flower were given to me by the latest addition to my team, a naturopath, acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner. We’re mostly going to use acupuncture to help with my sleep issues, since we don’t want to add a bunch of herbal stuff that might not be so safe for pregnancy (natural is not the same as safe!). The passion flower has been approved by an herbalist she trusts, and that’s good enough for me–the dose is tiny.

If you haven’t tried acupuncture, no matter who you are or whether you are perfectly healthy, DO IT. It feels so good. I rarely ever feel any of the needles themselves, if I do it’s like a tiny pinch, and after a session, I feel like five pounds have just evaporated out of my muscles.

So that makes nine kinds of pills and two liquids, but it’s actually a total of 15 pills I swallow every day. And two liquids. I guess that’s why I’m so careful about what’s in each one of them.

Where I’ve Been…

I hit the big time, readers! Well, okay, the unpaid blogger big time…

I have been “hired” by Psychology Today to blog for their website! I know, right? It’s so exciting I can hardly stand it. They even like my title, so the blog over there is also called Do Not Faint, heretofore known as Do Not Faint: Psychology Today.

Okay, so I wasn’t exactly hired as much as I was given a tryout. Which means that I need all of you to go visit there. And leave comments. Please? I’ll get to keep the semi-professional blog only if people read it. And since I’m not modest, I’ll just go ahead and tell you that in the first twenty-four hours of my first post, I got over 500 page views. (That means just what it sounds like it means: it’s blogger speak for “people looked at the webpage that has the post on it, so they probably read at least part of what I wrote.”) To give you a rough idea of why that’s so exciting for me, I will admit that the busiest day this blog has ever seen got around 100 page views. So even though approximately 50 of the count at Do Not Faint: Psychology Today were me looking at the site to reassure myself that it actually existed, that still leaves 450 from readers.

Ladies and gentlemen, I feel like a writer. And it feels good.

I’m not just reposting whatever I write here on the new site; I’m going to recycle some old posts there, but for the most part, I’m putting my more general anxiety disorder/preconception/advice stuff at “DNF: PT” and saving the personal stuff for this blog. Stick around and read both, because this one is not only prettier to look at but will contain updates about how my appointments have gone, the meds I’m taking, how my new job is going, etc. In other words, this right here is my “personal blog.” Over there, I’m aiming for a Mental Health Blogger title. It’s also been really exciting to find posts by my “colleagues,” particularly Mark White, Ph.D., philosophy professor, writer, and the lovely person who brought me to the attention of his editor. Okay, so Avi asked him to, but he did, and I am grateful.

Now, what are you waiting for? Go on, have a look!

Mental Illness, Medication and Pregnancy in The News: “Mary Moe” of Massachusetts

Since I discovered how to set up Google Alerts while researching my article on preparing for a medicated pregnancy, Google has lit up my inbox with articles about a recent event: the horrific treatment of a mentally ill pregnant woman in a Massachusetts courtroom. To quote vitals.msnbc.com, “A 32-year-old pregnant woman from Massachusetts, known only as Mary Moe, is at the center of a heated battle over abortion and sterilization, in a case so complex you could use it to teach an entire course on bioethics.” Why? Not because when the whole thing went to a judge, Ms. Moe’s parents requested that the court order that their daughter undergo an abortion, a step they believe necessary to her health and wellbeing. Oh, no. The problem here is that the judge took a truly unbelievable step over The Line without even holding a hearing, first.

She ordered that this woman be sterilized.

No, I didn’t know that that was possible, either. And I’m not the only one. A representative of an organization I know and trust told the Boston Herald that he, too, believes that the very idea of court-imposed sterilization is terrifying:

“I didn’t realize that forced sterilizations were going on anywhere,” said Howard Trachtman of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Massachusetts. “If a precedent were set for that, then you could see a whole slew of people filing for it, or trying to get judges to order it … I don’t see how people should be sterilized against their will for any reason.”

It has taken me an entire afternoon just to figure out what the heck went on, here. Finally, I came across the official record of the appellate court decision, as provided by MSNBC. From here on out, this document is my source for whatever I write happened in the course of the court cases.

The facts are undisputed. Moe, thirty-two years old, is mentally ill, suffering from schizophrenia and/or schizoaffective disorder and bipolar mood disorder. Moe is pregnant, although the record is unclear how long she has been pregnant. She has been pregnant twice before. On the first occasion she had an abortion, and on the second she gave birth to a boy who is in the custody of her parents. At some point in the time period between her abortion and the birth of her son, Moe suffered a psychotic break, and has been hospitalized numerous times for mental illness.

The Department of Mental Health … filed a petition seeking to have Moe’s parents appointed as temporary guardians for purposes of consenting to an abortion.

In case it’s confusing to you why Ms. Moe’s parents could be appointed guardians to her, despite the fact that she is thirty-two, I’ll explain about mental illness and “competency.” My father once called me to have a difficult conversation about this very concept;  he is mentally ill and, if he is ever unable to make safe decisions for himself, wants his wife to be able to do this for him. If, under some sort of delusion that doctors were part of a sinister plot against him, he refused surgery for appendicitis, my step-mother could then get a judge to order that he have the surgery. This one is clear-cut, because it would be obvious to everyone else that the doctors were not evil and it would also be obvious that without the surgery, he’d probably die. We do not anticipate this happening, obviously. But a formal conversation about it is important because in the event that my father becomes incompetent, which is unlikely but conceivable, everyone needs to be clear that he would want his wife to be in charge. There are formal papers with their lawyer, but telling his daughters sort of makes sure that we’re all on board with the idea. No surprises. Unfortunately, Ms. Moe did not tell her family what she wanted to happen should she ever suffered a psychotic break. Now that she has, it’s up to the courts to decide what she would have wanted. And here’s where it gets more complicated. Massachusetts law asks the court to decide not only competency, but also what the incompetent person will be ordered to do. (In most states, the court appoints a guardian, who then decides what will be done.) A recent article in The Boston Globe explains competency and guardianship and the responsibility of the court to substitute its judgment for that of the person deemed incompetent:

[This] line of reasoning, known as “substituted judgment,’’ is required under Massachusetts law in guardianship cases involving “extraordinary treatment,’’ such as abortion, removing life support, and administering antipsychotic medication.

It applies to people who are deemed incapacitated for reasons that include mental illness, developmental disabilities, and dementia. … In a common scenario, patients who resist medication are often ordered to take it.

Sounds like a tough job to me. But even though this case sounds like one of the toughest possible decisions for a judge I still do not understand where sterilization came in. More on that later.

Ready for some more complicating facts? Mary Moe showed up in an emergency room in October, 2011, where doctors diagnosed a pregnancy, decided that she should take medication for her mental illness, even though it might harm the fetus, because the risk of stopping the meds was greater than the risk of continuing the treatment; the Department of Mental Health entered the picture, requested guardianship be given to Ms. Moe’s parents, who then decided that it would be in their daughter’s best interest to have an abortion, because she had already given birth to a son who is already in the care of her parents. Oh, and before her “psychotic break,” Mary Moe had one abortion. There’s plenty of documentation for all of this. Moe, however, insists that she has a daughter, does not believe that she has a son and does not believe that she is pregnant.

Clearly, this woman not in great shape to be taking care of a child and my heart goes out to both her and her parents, who must be having an awful time watching their daughter in such an awful place. I have no idea how to even begin thinking about what I would do if a relative refused to accept prenatal care because she didn’t believe the doctors that she was pregnant in the first place. But the decisions regarding the pregnancy and the guardianship haven’t been made, yet. An appellate court can either reverse or not reverse or not decide either way about an earlier ruling. In this case, the abortion and the guardianship decisions will go to another court, where there will be an actual hearing. Oh, and about that order for sterilization? (Just typing the word sends chills down my spine.) The appellate court judge used language that is, apparently, the judge equivalent of a bitch slap.

We reverse that portion of the order requiring sterilization of Moe. No party requested this measure, none of the attendant procedural requirements has been met, and the judge appears to have simply produced the requirement out of thin air.

And he goes even further to insult his clearly incompetent colleague. The record from that decision also sums up the previous judgement like this:

The judge ordered that Moe’s parents be appointed as coguardians and that Moe could be “coaxed, bribed, or even enticed … by ruse” into a hospital where she would be sedated and an abortion performed.

Additionally, sua sponte, and without notice, the judge directed that any medical facility that performed the abortion also sterilize Moe at the same time “to avoid this painful situation from recurring in the future.”

Judge Grainer, the appellate court judge (the good guy)

Sua sponte” is the legal equivalent of “because she just felt like it.” This is not about the right to choose whether or not this woman is going to have this baby and what should be done since she is unable to make that choice. A court of law in the United States of America decided that a person should not ever have the right to have a child for the rest of her life.

This particular case has a lot of details in it that make it unique; what terrifies me about its implications, however, is the idea that there are people who have a lot of power who want to choose who can to have children and who cannot. Thank God Moe’s lawyer appealed this case, thank God that a sane judge reversed an inhuman decision, and thank God that the original judge retired on Jan 11.

 

Update: Officially Back to Klonopin

Despite everyone’s best efforts, the Ativan experiment failed. It worked fine during the holidays, but when the stress of this month hit (insomnia while completely obsessing over possible pregnancy and TTC), the drug failed me. Since I was already on a pretty high dose (2mg, three times a day = 6mg total every day), there just wasn’t much room to tweak it. I’m transitioning back to Klonopin.

I’ve come to terms with it. I’m on the same meds and the same dosage that I was on when we started this whole journey. But I tried everything I could safely try. No one has ever tried harder, as my oh-so-patient husband will testify. So, I did what it took for me to know that these meds at these doses are necessary to keep me healthy and (more or less) happy.

I met with my regular psychiatrist last week to put a plan in place for the “cross taper.” I’ll meet with Dr. P, perinatal mental health expert, on Friday to talk it all over with her.

Speaking of, well, this, I am sharing my story on another website! The Feminist Breeder has published an article I wrote called Preparing for a Medicated Pregnancy: Psychiatric Medication and My Preconception Journey on her brand new Resource Guide. Go! Read! Leave a comment! Debates get wonderfully lively over there!

And, to anyone who is visiting from over there, you can read more about me, my family and our journey in these posts:

My thoughts about childcare, in case you ever wanted to know what a babysitter/nanny/childcare provider thinks:

 

Why I Still Hate Valentine’s Day

See? It's always been silly!

Before I rant, I have to say something. DARNIT! I almost made it all of January posting every day! But yesterday was a hard day. By the time I realized I hadn’t posted yet, I was very, very tired. I guess the first day of being-awake-at-normal-human-times threw me off, too. That’s right, I am sleeping through the night again! Mostly thanks to the behavioral changes I made. Those cognitive-behavioral techniques really work, let me tell you. I’ll do another post later today, to make up for it. Sort of. And with that, here are my thoughts on Valentine’s Day. In January. Because I can’t escape it, even in January.

I hated Valentine’s Day when I was single. I hated Valentine’s Day when I was dating. You have to go on an awesome date tonight and fall in LOVE, but no pressure! ::eyeroll::

One would think that, now that I’m married, I would love Valetine’s Day. And excuse to go on a date with my husband! Gifts! Flowers! In reality, Nathan and I don’t need an excuse. We do just fine, thank you. And I don’t appreciate the pressure. On real holidays, when we’re really supposed to feel things like gratitude for family, for the things that we have, we do really awesome gifts. I don’t mean to brag, but we are really good at finding little things that go straight to the heart. We do not buy each other pink and red stuff just because it’s everywhere in stores.

I do love chocolate. I won’t pretend otherwise. But I’ll eat it any day I choose, thank you very much. The one thing I admit is that I love flowers, no matter what the occasion. They’re expensive, so if it’s just a few times a year, that’s lovely. Valentine’s Day can be one of those days. That does actually make me happy.

What has annoyed me lately is the nonsense that fills my inbox. For most of the year, I appreciate knowing when sales are happening at certain online stores. Let’s just say that I wear a size that’s difficult to find in the mall. As soon as Christmas is over, though, I am inundated with emails insisting that I need to spend money not on undergarments that function, but on expensive lingerie that is bright red just for the sake of Valentine’s Day. Maybe I’m just too poor to think this is cute. But, more than that, I simply dislike being told what is romantic. If there’s anything marriage (and real intimacy, in the emotional sense) has taught me, it’s that romance is rarely made of mass-produced, cliched undergarments. Forgive me if I sound old-fashioned. I’m as big a fan of lace as any girl, but I prefer to purchase such items unbidden by marketers’ made-up holidays.

In sum, I would prefer to go on a spontaneous date with my husband, or to celebrate a happy event of some kind. On these nights, our favorite restaurant is not over-crowded. Prices are not pumped up for a busy “holiday.” We can dress up or not, as we choose. Valentine’s Day is still a silly holiday and seems to rely on marketer’s insistence that you will feel guilty or inadequate or lonely or whatever if you do not participate. I don’t like being coerced and manipulated into faux romance. Do you?

Daddy’s Ghost

My dad is alive, for the record. But living alone with him from age fourteen to age eighteen and watching him slide into a debilitating and enigmatic mental illness scared me so thoroughly that I jumped, just now, when I thought I heard his voice outside my window. I know that he lives in Minnesota and doesn’t like going to the grocery store, let alone visiting Connecticut. There is enough fear in me left born of that relationship, however, that it can take me awhile to realize that this can’t possibly be Dad.

My father never hit me. He didn’t belittle me or act like a Big Scary Abusive Father. It’s more that I absorbed his genuine fear. Of everything. The paranoia I would only later recognize as an early sign of his illness included my mother (his ex-wife by the time I was fifteen), his co-workers (they were also my teachers at the public high school), his friends (often the parents of my friends), my friends themselves and, of course, any boy I might ever get involved with or think about for more than two seconds. Even my sister. What were they all after? It varied. My mother was plotting to kidnap me, he promised, and I should be sure to lock all doors and windows when I was alone in the house. Why? Because she was Evil, or because she wanted the child support he would have to pay if they shared custody. That one still gets me. Because it never even occurred to him that I was fourteen-years-old, heavier than my mother, not easy to kidnap and, well, that if you kidnap your child, your ex doesn’t have to pay you child support! The police find you and take the kid away from you! But what really gets me is that I didn’t think of any of those clear objections, at the time. I faithfully locked the windows and doors.

A few times a year, I will see or hear a middle-aged man who reminds me so much of my dad that I will jump, like I jumped today, and sit stunned. If I am out and about, seeing his ghost will stop me from speaking, mid-sentence. He doesn’t appear out of the fog to talk to me, or anything like that. I’m not Hamlet. And my dad’s not dead.

I finally recognize what happened to me then as trauma in part because I have these responses to reminders of my dad. I’ve never told him about this blog because I know that he would see not just this post but anything I write about the family as a dirty trick meant to ruin his reputation. He once told me that unless I shared “his history of things,” we could never be close. As much as I don’t really think it’s possible for two people in the same family to have exactly the same experience, especially when they are separated in age by thirty plus years, the point here is really that that request, and the absurdity of that request, is what finally let me break away.

There is a compartment where I keep the things from my life that my dad can share. We are planning a road trip this summer to Minnesota, in part so that my dad can see me (hopefully) pregnant. We did the same after we married. Believe it or not, he’s actually quite pleasant on the rare occasions we spend a few hours together. And he adores my husband, who gets all his jokes (mostly really obscure movie references). He will receive photographs of my family as it grows. When I call, we will continue to keep the conversation to the books we’ve read and the movie’s we’ve seen. It’s a very small compartment, sparsely populated with superficial details. And it makes me happy. Because it allows me to have some contact with my dad, the dad I have always loved so much, without letting his fear into my life.

My sister and my mother are the only two people I am still close with who know my dad at all. It would be easy to “cut him out.” To tell the story of the awful things he has said and receive the sympathy without the blame. But there was this time, when I was very small, when I came into a little room he called his office in the basement of our house to interrupt him in his work. He was going to college for the first time in his thirties and helping my mom support the family selling hand-made crafts. It must have been pretty hard to find time to study. But when I came in, about four-years-old, he was happy to see me.

I remember pointing up at a big poster on the wall that featured a black-and-white photograph of a man with a big hat and a big beard and a big smile. The background was bright pink. “Who’s that?” I asked my dad. “That’s Uncle Walt! He wrote poems!” And so, for years, I wondered where my Uncle Walt was, exactly, and why I had never met him. I love that. I love that Walt Whitman was a part of my family, in my childhood head. When my dad is crazy in a good way, it’s really great. He reads a good story. I want to see him read Winnie the Pooh to my child. That might not happen, but at least I didn’t give up on him. Even if I had, I would probably still see his ghost. But after I shake off the fear, I hear the poetry again. I remember that I love him. I remember how he cherished the art project I gave him one Christmas, a painting with the word of a poem written on it. I think of the voice in the poem that reassures the child as my own, now, reaching back to promise that, one day, there will be more starlight than fear. In fact, Whitman never makes it clear whether that narrative voice belongs to the father or to another narrator–is the father dying? Is that why the child weeps? Or is it as simple as tears for the stars being hidden by clouds? The ambiguity gives depth to the child’s grief, and this gives the poem its weight. I love it. And I’m so glad my father shared it with me.

Uncle Walt


On the Beach at Night
On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.

Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,
Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,
And night at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades.

From the beach the child holding the hand of her father,
Those burial-clouds that lower victorious soon to devour all,
Watching, silently weeps.

Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears,
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in apparition,
Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden shall shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they endure,
The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons shall again shine.

Then dearest child mournest thou only for Jupiter?
Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?

Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,)
Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,)
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter,
Longer than sun or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant sisters the Pleiades.
Walt Whitman (1819-1892) 1871

It’s Time to Change My Behavior, Too

This morning, I talked to Nathan about all the behaviors that have contributed to my anxiety. Basically, it all comes down to this: acting on an obsession with pregnancy, whether it’s taking my temperature every morning or taking a pregnancy test a full week before my period is due, is not helping. I charted my temperature and other fertility signs long enough to know that I have a pretty textbook cycle. Nothing to worry about.

I’m not saying that I won’t worry. But I am going to make sure that I have fewer things to worry over. The chart? Gone. Along with the temperature readings that “should” go up or down and the daily tracking of every possible symptom, I’m also giving away my ovulation predictor tests. I’ve said goodbye to my internet friends on the Fertility Friend message boards, those lovely and brave and strong women, because I found myself checking for new things to worry about every five minutes.

I may not be able to “just relax” or “stop thinking about it” but I can certainly cut down on the information I give myself to obsess over.

I have a feeling that once I start nannying and after we adjust my meds, it’ll be a lot easier to think about something else. But at 4:00 this morning, I would have given anything just to think about anything else for two minutes. I don’t even know how to explain how it’s possible to think about “Am I? Am I not?” for FIVE HOURS. But somehow, I did. No more.

I’ve been compiling a family history, so that I can know whether we should look out for anything heritable that might show up in my health or in our future child’s health. You would not believe how healthy these people are. Except that a lot of us are crazy, there’s hardly a sick one in the bunch! My mother is one of fifteen children and my father is one of eight children and including all these aunts and uncles and both sets of grandparents, I have not come up with one case of heart disease, one early heart attack, one diabetic, one epileptic, one woman plagued by miscarriage. We don’t even have dementia in the family, it would seem. Now, I know this makes no real true sense, but I figure that if we are blessed genetically to have avoided all the terrible predispositions to disease that are out there (Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Breast Cancer), then this mental illness thing? Not so bad. The only heritable condition that I worry about passing on to my future child in my set of DNA is a tendency towards anxiety and depression. And you know what? If that child ever experiences mental illness, I intend to be modeling healthy ways to live and function fully, no matter what hits.

I am determined to stop letting my anxiety over nothing (honestly, I can’t even put a name to a fear, it’s not miscarriage or anything–like I said, no family history of anything to indicate any risk of anything) rob me of my sleep. As lovely and loving family members have pointed out, this is a pretty normal thing to worry about. I’m giving myself some room to worry. I also want a baby like I’ve wanted nothing else, so it makes sense that I’ll be thinking a lot about it. I am going to worry and my mind will circle this topic, yes, but I am not going to obsess. I’m not going to take tests compulsively. I’m not going to count anything anymore. And that is what I can do to take control back from this stupid disorder. Take that, GAD!

Signs that I am Under-Medicated

Being under-medicated is a bit like being under-employed. Most days, you’re aware that there’s some potential out there that you could be fulfilling. But some days, some days are really and truly unbearably hard.

Yesterday, I woke up after getting a good night’s sleep. I could swear that I “felt pregnant”–nauseated, craving eggs like a crazy woman. I walked the dog. I got my hair cut, something I haven’t done since I can’t remember the last time. I gave myself a big and bright gold star for Behaving Like A Normal Person as I went to bed at a normal hour. 10:00 pm, I think.

Then, I woke up at 1:00 am. I begged my body to let me go back to sleep. I tried all kinds of things to relax. 6:00 am came around. I’m not sure when I finally fell asleep, but I tossed and turned until finally waking at 3:45 pm.

My therapy appointment had come and gone. The yoga class I had wanted to try had been over for hours. Somehow, I was suddenly convinced that I am not pregnant and heartbroken. I was suddenly convinced that I’ll never have a child.

I talked to Nathan, who helped me feel silly, rather than heartbroken. All things considered, silly is a big improvement. Tomorrow, we’ll go to New York and get me back on the meds that work, even when I’m under so much stress. I don’t know how long it will take to feel better. But we’re talking about Klonopin here, which kicks in after an hour or so, so it can’t take too long. Right?

Five Upside Down Thoughts about TTC

I know I said that I would write about TTC in the moment, but this isn’t specific to me, I swear! It’s really just observations this phase of life for so many women who want a baby. I have to laugh, because, well… you know.

  1. Yes! I’m SO glad my breasts are sore! They’re never sore in this part of my cycle!
  2. I have a low grade fever. That’s good, right? I think that’s good!
  3. I wish I felt more tired. I’m not exhausted enough!
  4. Heartburn! Score!
  5. Yes! I puked! I’m so happy I puked!

This woman is actually totally over the moon with joy!