Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Gathering strength

Some of you may be wondering why I haven't been writing more about progress on my letterpress project and my arts grant. That's because there has been no progress. Why?

Ok. Get comfortable. This has taken me a few days to write, and I'm going to break it down a bit.


The day that I got the envelope containing my good news about the grant, I also peed on a pregnancy test and got two blue lines. I have to admit, I cried. And oddly enough, not with joy.


I don't know how much you've read back over my archives; I've got a bit of a history of reproductive problems. I gave a quick linkfest a couple of posts ago, on my wedding anniversary. This pregnancy is around the same timing as the last one, give or take a few weeks. This is the 9th week, whereas this time two years ago it was the 7th week.

I'm ambivalent about having another child. On the one hand, there's my lovely man, who would make such a fantastic father, and who is already a fantastic stepfather and uncle. On the other hand, I'm 39, and I've just managed to get to a point in my life when the next 12 months will allow me to achieve something to be proud of professionally, rather than helping other people achieve their goals.

But hey? When nature calls, even at an inopportune time, it's probably best to accept what is happening and make the most of it. Especially when everyone around you gets so excited and happy for you.


For the first few weeks I really had to fight off depression. I felt cranky that the only way we could add to our family involved my body, and my time and energy. I kept wishing that Best Beloved could be the pregnant one (nice thought, but I tell you this, in a classic female way, that if men ever worked out how to have babies I'd be first in line to protest about it). All I could think about was the lousy timing, and how I was poised to start printing, but then it all had to stop.

And everything HAD to stop; I'm really bad at pregnancy, and luckily had my name down with a specialist who started giving me blood tests every few days and hormone supplements. He told me I can't travel more than 2 hours, which put the kybosh on going to Woodford, and advised against riding my bike and walking too much. Printing, with its physical demands and reliance on solvents for cleanup, is definitely OUT. I've spent the last few weeks driving (oh, the petrol prices!) and sitting in front of the computer, sulking. Your blogs have kept me sane, truly.


Last week I started coming to terms with the thought of being pregnant. I realised that I can use the grant money, buy all the materials and get the artists involved working on their images, make the polymer plates (it's a pretty harmless technology), and then have everything in place to print later next year. I'm sure the Arts Board wouldn't mind granting me a slight extension.

I talked to my boss at the art school, and she was very supportive about a change of plans for the BookStud next year. And I could always work on my bookbinding skills, which don't involve a lot of standing up.

Best Beloved and I started talking about what to do about our tiny house: do we extend or move? We made an appointment with a nice real estate agent we'd bumped into to discuss how much our house would be worth, to help us decide. I know it's early days, but I know people who have their babies in amongst the builders' dust, or amidst packing boxes; it pays to plan ahead.

Actually, I started to feel quite jolly. Morning sickness was kicking in, and my boobs felt like bursting, but that's just the fun of sprogging.


And then I had an ultrasound last Friday, and encountered a familiar worried look on the face of the technician. Are you sure about your dates? is a question that makes your heart sink, especially when you've been there before. And yes, I was very sure of my dates.

From that moment everything went poo-shaped. It's amazing how fast you can go from feeling like you you're doing something special with your body to feeling like your body is just a mutant visitor from Planet Defect. It took moments. Suddenly you're not a fertile goddess, you're a failure. There was the black blobby sac floating on the screen, tucked in a nice safe place between three ravenous fibroids, but there was nothing happening inside it. Well, there was, but it wasn't alive. In fact, it had stopped about three weeks before, but my body was convinced it was still pregnant. It still is. But instead of feeling nauseous in the morning and knowing that it's for a purpose, now I wake up and feel nauseous and then feel nauseous about feeling nauseous. Just like last time.


Since Friday I've been pretty numb, apart from some pretty full-on crying in the car. I find the car is the best place to be a watery tart, probably for the same reasons that men like to talk sideways about serious issues -- you know, while they're gardening, or washing up. I can sob but stay in control, and that feels valid. Until you stop at the traffic lights and look sideways and realise that the people next to you can see you with snot and tears all over you. And they are always looking, probably because I have a wildly-painted car. Bugger. Lying on a bed crying just feels like I'm indulging myself too much. I know, go figure. It's not like I don't indulge myself in other ways.


Things I've done in the past few days to escape reality and feel better:

Videos: The Razor's Edge (1946 version, of course); the second series of Extras; Catching up on West Wing; Hairspray.
Music: Tim Buckley, new mashups by Arty Fufkin (great timing, thanks), Johnny Cash's American III.
Reading: Jasper Fforde, trash magazines, blogs, Anne Tyler.
Imbibing: wine, cider, chocolate, salami, soft cheese.

Have I ever told you how much I like Anne Tyler's fiction? Her books have a certain emotional space in them, and are peopled by characters who have been emotionally damaged in different ways; they tend to live quietly within themselves until she finds them a reason to come alive again. Each novel is a gentle lesson in internal survival and renewed hope. I go through phases of needing to read them. Now is one of those times. If you haven't read one, I recommend starting with either The Clock Winder or Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. Or The Accidental Tourist, but read it before you see the movie version.


I'm not telling this tale to get your sympathy, because I'm getting weary of casting myself as a person needing pity. I'm really starting to understand (although really, universe, I got the lesson at least 20 years ago. RLY.) that there is no quota for painful experiences. I know that there are many women out there who go through this, and go through it over and over in their quest for children. I saw many of them at the fertility clinic I was visiting for my blood tests, and I felt so sorry for them, with their looks of quiet, dignified and painful optimism. One day I went in and the place was full to standing-room only, and that air of suspense was palpable. When I asked about the crowd, I was told it was 'embryo implantation day'. Sigh. Poor girls.

I know that women go through miscarriages all the time. And they keep trying, which has my admiration. Or they stop, which has my utter understanding. I'm not trying again.


Actually, I'm telling this tale at this point in time because tomorrow morning at 10am I'm going under the knife to get Wellsley Giblet (see, we'd nicknamed it already!) scraped out.* And I'm scared. I want lots of blog-reading good vibes to steady that surgeon's hand and keep me safe. Last time a stupid doctor perforated me three times, and I bled for two months. This is a different hospital, a more experienced doctor, but the same soft mutant fibroid-filled womb. It should only be a day-visit, and I should feel better in a day or two. If all goes well.

Wish me luck.

*Actually, there's a tale here as well. This is the perfect situation for a drug like RU-486, when an abortion is needed and there's no live baby to kill. BUT. Because it was not available last time, I was D&C'd, roughly, and thus was perforated. It still isn't available now, but even if it was, I wouldn't be able to use it because the strong crampings might reopen the perforations from last time. GAH! Thanks, Mr Abbott. It's all your fault I'm going under the knife again. Put that in your pipe and stick it where the sun don't shine.


Anonymous said...

Very sorry to hear that, Ducky. You're a gutsy, articulate woman and I'm filled with admiration for you.

Good luck, duck.

P.S. I have no idea if this is going to make you feel better, but I'm a little desperate to help in some way:

Such was his passion
driven curiosity and confidence
he convinced me,
that embraced
by cane and feathers
and with his balletic skill
in bird movement,
he could fly.

Boysenberry said...

My heart goes out to you. I don't think anything else I could say would help.

Anonymous said...

You said you're tired of feeling like you're casting yourself as a person needing pity so I have to insist, that's not how you come over at all, to me you're just as Fyodor said, gutsy and articulate and deeply admirable and awesome in every way imaginable.

My dear friend.

flexnib said...


Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Good luck ampersand duck. And yeah, what the others said.

elaine said...

blog reading good vibes a plenty coming your way, ms duck.

This old world is a new world said...

A difficult tale, resonant with all the complexities of your situation, and full of strength and pain in equal measures. Will you accept sympathy and empathy? These are my responses, rather than pity. We are with you, not apart from you, is what I mean to say.

I see that as I'm writing, you're going under the knife. I'm having faith in your doctor to be as good a surgeon as you are a blogger and a printer.

Cozalcoatl said...

*hugs* my dear

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Good vibes and good luck to you, Duck. My heart goes out to you.

Mousicles said...

Amazing post - following the highs and lows.

Good luck with everything.

Anonymous said...

Oh my.
My heart goes out to you and yours.

And I'm sending a few poisonous thoughts to Tony Abbot on your behalf.

You can get great tea towels with a picture of him that say "Dry up Tony". I've already bought one, but now I might get a few more as Xmas presents.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Oh, Duck.

Sod that for a game of soldiers.

You should be in Recovery by now, and, one hopes, okay physically at least. And from all that you have said about your boys, I'm sure you will be well looked after.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully you are well on the way to being home now. I have my ankles crossed (I can't cross my fingers and type).

Thanks also for being honest, reproduction is so fraught and so frequently presented with a glossy veneer, whether it's trying to get pregnant or not wanting to be right now.

Destructomeg said...

ahh mz Duck. You really are quite some chicky, with your art, and your writing and your amazing strength.

Sending you much healingness.

Anonymous said...

Aww man, I feel like I travelled that a bit with you - ups and downs and all (though obviously not anything like it).

Will you accept thoughts to be with you that may contain sympathy nestled in there?

(PS - when I first saw the 'textbreak' I read it as 'textbeak' which I thought was pretty clever (given the whole duck thing and all))

Anonymous said...

so sorry to hear this - too late to wish your surgeon well, hope you are ok, and wish you a calm healing recovery time


Anonymous said...

Thinking of you Duckling.


Anonymous said...

thinking of you! and i agree with laura, i've never read anything more articulate (or more tear-to-the-eye-inducing!) hope you are doing okay... xx

Anonymous said...

I have been following your day by day life. As it flows, I sit in wonder at you wonderful thoughtful, intelegent brain and vibes of your family and friends. Also the discription of life in Canberra. The discriptions of the arty world and things I will never come across in my life. You bring more joy and understanding to my life than any other medium.You will ride over this speed hump and it will help you in thoughts on life and everyday happenings in the world. I cant put it all into words of how I feel any better than this. I wish I had more of an education in the english relms of explaing ones feelings. love to you all.

Teej Mahal said...

I'm so very sorry hon. Thinking about you constantly.

cristy said...

Thank you for your honesty and for such a beautiful post. I cannot properly expressed my admiration for your courage and inner strength.

My thoughts are with you and I hope that you have a gentle recovery. I am so glad to hear that the surgery went well.

Anonymous said...

Well, the final time I had a D&C (for exactly the same reason) I went under the anaesthetic in hysterics. And didn't feel much better subsequently. Nature is vile.
Quite how you resolve this particular type of grief I don't know. Sorry sympathies...

Mummy/Crit said...

Bugger bugger bugger. I've been out of the blog loop for a few days, sorry to hear about it all too late. Thinking of you dearie.

Anonymous said...

Been out of the loop too - very sorry to hear about this, ducky, and you really really don't come across like a person needing pity, rather as a gutsy duck.

A cyberkick up the arse to Tony Abbott.

Hug Bumblebee hard (till he squeaks and says MUM will you please STOP DOING that - that's the nine-year-old thing)

Cast Iron Balcony

Stegetronium said...

That really sucks.

Anonymous said...

I've been out of the loop too. Sorry to hear your news, duck. I too admire your gutsy and elegant description of raw emotion. Heal well.

anyresemblance said...

oh, ampersandduck, i have had such a blogging hiatus i did not know, i am so sorry to hear your sad news but so admire your patience and stoicism and focus on the great things in your life. Thanks for sharing this.

Ezra said...

I've been heads down with some printing, and I am so sorry to come back to your blog and find your news. I'll be thinking about you, and wishing your continued recovery!

Meredith Jones said...

Dear @Duck,

so sorry I am late on this one - I've been away from the blogosphere - but am sitting here with tears on my cheeks for you and for all of us. Life's so crappy sometimes & being a woman can be shite. You're wonderful though, and I love your blog.