Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Milestones after loss are never easy. For friends who have lost loved ones in recent years, I know it was hard to pass Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day, the anniversary of the death... Special days. We have recently passed a milestone, too. Yesterday was my due date for the pregnancy that we lost.

On the one hand, I am grateful that my belly is once again swelling with life, and that the date did not find me empty. I know it would have been much more painful to face the day if we still were not expecting. But it was still something. A twinge. A disappointment. An ordinary day where there would have been an exciting one. An unbirthday.

After our miscarriage, I read up a lot on how other couples, and other mothers in particular, find some closure after a miscarriage. There is no funeral, no burial, no memorial service to help you grieve, to commemorate or acknowledge your loss. There is no obituary or eulogy to write. So what did people do? I read a number of lovely ideas. Name a star. Plant a rosebush. Write a poem and frame it.

Then, I found the idea for us. A piece of memorial jewelry. A lot of women opted for necklaces with a symbol of an rosebud, a rose that never bloomed. But I knew what I wanted. A ring with a peridot, the August birthstone. Our neverbirth stone.

The miscarriage happened over late January, early February, so we bought the ring as a Valentine's Day gift. We found the perfect one - a small peridot flanked by two inset tiny diamonds, the birthstones of both my husband and myself. It is a pinky ring, on my right hand, to be worn one day next to a family ring I would like to get for my right ring finger. A family ring I will get when everyone is here. But Baby Never-was gets to go straight to the front of the line, already proudly represented on that same right hand.

Never was. Never forgotten.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Beautiful day

I put my all into my work. If I am signing my name to it, I want it to be good. And, as they say, all good things must come to an end. Because of funding restrictions, I eventually have to say goodbye to the clients I work with in the public autism therapy program where I am employed.

I get it. I do. The budget has to balance, and the money has to come from somewhere. Resources are limited. Clients can get up to six years of funding, and six years is not nothing.

But I forget that I understand when I have to say my goodbyes. Leaving a family who is losing access to services before they feel ready is a heartbreaking experience. I do everything I can, leave them with everything I can, and put on my Everything-will-be-okay face, but when I see the worry in mom's eyes, and the tears she is holding back, I can't just walk away. Instead, I hear myself switching into major pep talk mode, and let the overtime minutes overflow as I tell her, "You can do it. Believe in yourself. Never give up." Eventually, I have said all I know to say, and there is nothing left but to wish her well, and walk to my waiting car.

Today was a goodbye day. Goodbye, Mama-Warrior. Good luck.

The client I left today is far from my home, and I welcomed the drive back to the city. Prairie driving is deliciously mindless. The roads are flat and straight, and today was a clear day with little traffic. With the cruise control on, the car feels like it is practically driving itself. I have the freedom to let my mind wander.

Today, I leave the major highway for the tailgaters and semis, and find solice on the less traveled provincial road. I watch as a thousand tiny white butterflies dart in and out of the Manitoba wildflowers along the shoulder. I pass a few iconic green and yellow tractors, and watch the harvesters flip as they pull in the grain. There are cows and horses in pens to the right, with telephone poles zipping rhythmically past on my left.

The colours are too beautiful. Kelly green grass, golden field, blue sky stretching out to the level horizon... Glorious rolling clouds in the Land of the Big Sky. Bon Jovi sings me home.

I am sad. Sad for the family I left. Sad for the difficulties this thing called autism has brought to their life. Sad for how draining advocacy can be, for how hard it is too fight for your child, to get people to understand.

And then I feel a very faint and familiar wiggle in my middle. I know immediately that it is my baby, and I am feeling it move for the first time. On my own, on this sad and beautiful prairie drive, I focus on every flip and squirm. Thinking ahead, this child, too, will bring may difficult days. But today was beautiful.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The money diet

I am one of those hateful individuals that has never had a weight problem. I don't crave desserts or sweets, I eat when I get hungry, I eat until I'm full, and my weight stays within a stable 5 pound range with no real effort at all. I even lost all the weight from my first pregnancy in a little over one year, without trying. I was wondering when all that would return to bite me in the butt...

The concepts of nutrition and weight gain have always seemed simple to me. People gain weight because they are consuming more calories than their body burns. If you want to stop gaining weight, you need to consume the same number of calories you burn. If you want to lose weight, you need to consume less calories than you burn, a strategy often referred to as 'dieting'.

While these concepts have seemed obvious to me when it came to eating, I can now see how I was totally oblivious to their application in the financial realm. We were gaining debt because we were spending more dollars than we had. To stop gaining debt, we have to spend the same amount of money that we have. And to lose that debt, we have to spend less than we make. We need to go on a money diet.

To bring the comparison further, it seems like there are basically two ways to lose weight: reduce the amount you eat, or increase the amount you move. Apply that thinking to finances, and you can see that there are two basic ways to eliminate debt, as well: reduce the amount you spend, or increase the amount you make. Suddenly, I have far more compassion for people who struggle with there weight. In theory, the strategies sound easy. In practice, they are hard. No wonder everyone is looking for a quick fix gimmick.

Increasing the amount we make is tricky, much like adding more exercise to someone's already busy schedule. We have found a few ways. My husband got a small salary increase at work, and has brought in some extra sales commissions. I worked a few extra hours at my job over the summer, as the opportunity came up.

But the real doable thing for us is decreasing the amount we spend, the dieting. The same willpower, the same feelings of deprivation affect us as any other dieter, as we try to cut back. Let me share my diet-inspired strategies with you.

Custom weight plan: Friends of mine have done WeightWatchers, and told me that the first thing you do upon joining is meet with the staff to determine your 'points'. You have a set number of points you can spend everyday, and you can't go over, just like a budget. To create our budget, we sat down, looked at all of our expenses, and set spending limits in each area, keeping the total of all the spending under the amount we take in every month.

Cut out junk: High calorie foods --> high interest loans. We traded in our credit card debt, with an annual interest rate of nearly 20% for a personal loan with a rate of 3.75%. It is like switching from sugar cookies to whole grain bread, only you feel liberated, instead of deprived.

Counting calories: We track all of our spending now. One spiral bound notebook for each of us, plus one for the car, were all we needed to invest in. We also added envelopes to the front of the notebooks to store receipts for the things we buy, allowing us to take a closer look at how we are spending our money at grocery and department stores.

Weighing in: Saturday mornings are finances time now. Our budget is in a computer spreadsheet, and we enter all of our actual spending once a week, and compare it to our limits in each area. We have split our budget limits into half-month periods, so we can see if we have spent most of a limit in the first week, there is not much left for the second one, and we adjust accordingly.

Plan ahead: People seem to eat the worst food when they are under-prepared and on the run, and that is when our worst spending happened, as well. Now, we are planning meals for a whole week, and going to the grocery store once to get what we need for them. We also leave enough time in our morning routines to put together take along lunches and snacks. If we go to a restaurant now, it is because we planned to and budgeted for it, not because there was nothing to eat, or we were too exhausted to figure out what to make for supper. We also pack snacks, drinks and toys whenever we go out, so that we are prepared for the day, and don't need to make any convenience purchases.

Avoid temptation: Successful dieters don't hang out in bakeries and fast food restaurants. We are avoiding stores when we can, shopping with lists when we can't, and leaving our credit cards at home. These strategies are adding up to far less impulse shopping, the donuts of the finance world.

Like extra pounds, the debt we have racked up is unattractive, and makes it harder for us to do the things we want to do in our lives. And, along with all the other committed dieters out there, we are looking forward to our 'After' photo.

Everything we need for a Saturday morning 'weigh in'

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Knitting again

*This is a follow-up post to Knit together*

As anyone who has experienced it can attest to, the time between miscarriage and next conception passes painfully slowly. At it's worst, sex changes from a leisure activity to a science experiment, and every subsequent period feels like another miscarriage. You don't just want to be pregnant. You want to STILL be pregnant. Each day that passes brings your original due date closer, and on the darkest days you feel like you will never be pregnant again.

And then one day, you are.

We got that coveted positive result one Saturday afternoon, and my spirit soared. My hands were shaking, I couldn't stop smiling, and my husband was thrilled. We called a babysitter and went out to dinner and a movie. I happily ordered a non-alchoholic drink. But I didn't start knitting again.

I made my first doctor's appointment. I told my family. I started taking prenatal vitamins. But I didn't start knitting again. And then, about 7 weeks in, I started bleeding again.

It was a Thursday afternoon. I was home with Nik, and my husband was at work. Nik went down for a nap, and I laid down for a little while, too. When I got up, I had to go to the bathroom. When I looked into the toilet, it was full of blood.

I was frozen. I just stared at the red water, not believing what I was seeing. We hadn't even talked about the possibility of it happening again. I walked out of the bathroom, in a cloud of numbness. I went to the phone, and called my husband, my mother, and told them what I knew. I called the local health line, who told me to call my doctor. I got an appointment for the next day, and he told me to rest, and wait and see. My husband called his parents. I called my workplace. Everyone was quiet. Everyone wished us the best. Everyone knew there was nothing they could do.

I didn't cry.

I bled for 3 and a half days. It went from red to brown and stopped. I couldn't believe it stopped. My doctor said it was a good sign and scheduled an ultrasound. I went back to working, with strict instructions not to do any lifting, to take it easy. After a week back at work, I got my ultrasound, and my husband and I got to see our baby's heart beating on June 18th, 2010. But I didn't start knitting again.

Something about being let down leaves a scar, like losing a kind of innocence. I married the first man I loved. I never had to go through a heartbreak in my courtship years. I know what is it to have my heart broken now.

I didn't really talk about the way that I was feeling. I didn't even really FEEL the way I was feeling. But I could see it in the things that weren't there. No pregnancy books by the bed. No talk to Nik about the coming baby. No browsing in the baby section of stores. No knitting.

As my waistband got tighter, things started to slowly change. I dug my maternity clothes out of storage, washed them, and hung them in the closet. I dusted off the pregnancy books on my bookshelf, and put some new ones on hold at the library. We started to talk to Nik about the baby that was coming after Christmas. And, finally, I took out my knitting, and added on just a few cautious rows.

Baby steps, right?
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