Monday, October 21, 2013

The Messy, Risky Business of Love

There are a few times in a woman's life when she is particularly susceptible to allowing love, or something resembling love, to turn her into a complete fool. The first is when she is 16 years old, and some green-eyed boy catches her eye and just like that, she's gone.

The second, in my experience, is when her son dies and her marriage crashes and burns and she wants desparately to love and feel loved again.

The latter is precisely where I was as I sat on the cooler in my average bar on an average Sunday night, when an average looking guy walked in and turned my world upside down. He ordered a Coors light. I asked him for $2.75.

"Can you just leave my tab open?"

"We only take cash. So, you have to pay as you go. There's an ATM around the corner." I stood there staring at him for a moment until he picked up the cue.

"Oh. Right. Um, okay." And he rounded the corner with his debit card. He returned with one of the regulars, Karaoke Chris, in tow, who introduced me. "This is Andrea. She's kind of a devout Catholic, but she's cool, she's not weird or in your face about it."

"And you?" I inquired of the stranger after I'd taken his $20 and returned his $17.25 in change. "You have a name?"

"Uh, yeah. Sorry. . ." And so I was introduced to Bar Crush. By the end of the night I had indeed been in-your-face with Catholic knowledge. Bar Crush had been able to deduce that I took French in college. I learned that he was a native of upstate New York, and a New York Giants and Yankees fan. Still the attraction wasn't swift, at least not for me.

But as time went on the attraction, and the connection, became obvious to anyone who saw us interact. He said stupid things to me, like "I'm a Civil War guy," and "Every time my daughter smiles, she makes everything bad in the world go away," and my brain would melt and my ovaries would ache and I was just in awe of this fantastic guy that someone foolishly let go of. I was amazed by his capacity to move forward from his former wife, not talking about her, seeming not to think about her or worry about her, except to the extent that they had an excellent co-parenting relationship. And he, he gave me stupid looks and flattered me back, and engaged in the most intimate form of interaction with me that I could imagine - He read my blog entries, with fair regularity. Like an idiot I tumbled head first in lovei wth Bar Crush.

The relationship that I thought should have developed was obvious to me but Bar Crush was reluctant. He was not too far removed from his eight year marriage, and hesitant to start dating again. And I was a mess, recovering from my own broken marriage and broken babies. I was characteristically me, determined, focused, sure of what I wanted, and sure that I should have it. I wasn't quite sure why he was denying himself what I was certain a relationship of 19th century literature proportions. We'd both been released from marriages where we were underappreciated, so why wouldn't we move on with someone who would appreciate us now? Why would we wait? After all, life is short - ten days is a lifetime. Why wait even ten days?

The - uh - friendship? - waxed and waned as we each sometimes accelerated, sometimes pulled back, always at a different pace from the other. I was sure that when the time was right for Bar Crush, he would look to me first. I had, after all, put in the effort. So the words on my computer screen were all the more devastating in the light of my certainty: "I've been hanging out with someone." In the moment, I was grateful for his cowardly, online disclosure, at the time having thought of it as merciful because the tears welled up so swiftly and spilled so uncontrollably that I would have been ashamed for him to see such weakness in me.  Now I know he should have had the guts to tell me to my face.

"Oh." Hanging out? What does that mean? What is this hanging out? We've hung out. . . What was happening?

"It's nothing serious, and I don't know if it will turn into much, but I wanted to be honest with you." He at least recognized that I was fragile enough, and that, whatever the nature of our relationship it was certainly of the type where he should rightfully disclose this information to me.

"Well, I guess whatever it is, you should figure it out." And we ended the conversation on some baseball small talk, and I retreated to the backyard to cry as the pain sunk further and further into my chest.

Ultimately, he cut off contact entirely, and it made no sense for me to ask why, if we were only friends before, we couldn't just be friends now. The truth is, there is no good reason why we can't be. The truth is, he never really saw me as a friend. I still can't figure out of it's because he was simply using me to build-up his ego in the aftermath of a bad relationship, or if, as I believe, the attraction was so strong that it would be difficult to be just friends. Or maybe I'm just the fool who believes that the man who pushed the woman he was married to, the mother of his child, to the back of his mind, would remember me even in passing anymore.

A good person would simply wish him well. But I'm not a good person. I hope he's gloriously happy right now. And I hope that shortly, his heart is ripped from his chest cavity and pounded with a mallet - metaphorically speaking, of course. I hope the Red Sox win the World Series this year, just out of spite, and I hope he cries over it.  There are rebound moments. There are rebound relationships. But any decent person would have seen - SHOULD have seen that I was special. I was to be handled with care, and somewhere along the line, he just stopped caring - He had to have just stopped, because I don't believe for a moment that he never did. And maybe you'd ask - certainly the friends who saw me through the devastation will wonder - why I would give him the benefit of a blog entry, when I never have before? I guess it's because nothing really feels dealt with anymore until I blog about it, and besides, it's not like he'll see it now.

Of course, I can look at my life now, falling more in love with Marcos every day, with a highly anticipated baby on the way, and simply be happy with what I have in front of me. It's just not simple. This love doesn't remedy the hurt. This new baby doesn't replace my son. I just wanted to love, and to be loved, and I wanted that love to stay and I never thought it was so much to ask to have either without taking an emotional beating. I took a chance, on loving Bar Crush, on loving my son. I'm only vaguely sorry for Bar Crush, and I'll never be sorry for loving Gabriel. But they both hurt. They both left me pretty tattered.

Then one day, Marcos picked me out, damaged goods from the bunch. I find myself having to take another chance, trusting that our baby will be okay, trusting that no matter what happened in the past, that Marcos will always handle me with care.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


The morning was running smoothly, right on schedule.  I was set for a deposition and already knew what I was going to wear.  The dogs went outside with little fuss.  I'd completed the test, and as I brushed my teeth all I had to do was wait for the Clear Blue response.  Only problem, as I brushed, unmarried, reflecting on my two-month long relationship with Marcos, I wasn't sure what I wanted the answer to be.

Soon, there was no reason to think about what I wanted.  The truth blinked across the digital screen:  "Pregnant 2-3," indicating that a 2 to 3 week old baby was growing inside of me.  I spit.  I rinsed.  I cried.  I prayed.  I thanked.  I begged.  I went about my day.

When I presented the news to Marcos that evening, he smiled, hugged and kissed me, and said teasingly, "I guess we're not going out tonight."

"Yes!  I still want to go to karaoke!"  So we did, and I drank club soda with a lime out of a silly hurricane glass and sang a couple of songs and the night was full of promise and hope.

But by the next day, I resumed my self-admonishment.  I had compromised my principles.  I'd given up and given in to the grief that I'd long been suffering.  I'd stopped binding myself by rules and conviction.  My arms had been empty for too long.  My heart had been broken for too long.  The rules no longer seemed to apply.

Maybe it seems like I took the easy way out of grief.  I can promise that the physical part of this process has been the only thing that's been easy.  True to form and now at nearly nine weeks, I've yet to experience any symptoms beyond fatigue.  It's only the fear and anxiety that handicap me.

Two years of gathering information about anencephaly have informed me that 1 in 1,000 pregnancies will result in an anencephalic baby.  Among us 1 in 1,000 women, 4 in 100 of us will experience a recurrence. As I swallow my handful of folic acid tablets I remind myself daily that I'm reducing even further that already slight risk of experiencing that rare defect again.

So when I first consulted with the nurse, when I first heard the words "high risk" fall out of her mouth, I was stunned.  I had never considered myself high risk.  Miscarriages happen, they're common, even.  Anencephaly just happens.  Sometimes it just happens.  And I'd been reassuring myself, soothing my irrational fears, only to have this nameless nurse resurrect them again.

"Ordinarily, you'd meet with a nurse practitioner for most of your visits, but the doctor may want to see you personally throughout.  You know, because of your history.  We have a perinatologist come down a couple of times a month, and they'll probably want him to scan you.  Also, you'll be getting a call from the genetic counselor."


"Because of your history."  I scowled.  I hated her.  I hated her for reading some segment of some chapter in some nursing school textbook, and thinking she could talk to me like she had a clue.  I guarantee I know more about anencephaly than she does.

I recalled briefly flipping through the pages of my barely-used copy of "What to Expect When You're Expecting" at 22 weeks pregnant with Gabriel.  I had stopped referring to the book when I found that I just didn't need its assistance.  But in the bleak, grey wake of Gabriel's earth-shattering diagnosis, hungry for information, I demanded to know what kind of heads-up this pregnancy bible would have given me and I found only a small gray box with general information on birth defects.  I learned only that anencephaly was a defect that resulted when the neural tube fails to close completely, resulting in developmental failure of the skull and brain.  My doctor would give me the option to terminate my pregnancy.  I learned from other sources that carrying an anencephalic infant posed no more risk to the mother than any other pregnancy.  I learned that anencephalic babies could live for days, weeks, months - I met mothers whose babies had lived for years.  I learned that if I continued the pregnancy, I could plan to participate in Duke's study to learn the causes of anencephaly.

I learned that my baby was a boy.  He was strong-willed and brave.  He's not just history.  He has a name, Gabriel Michael Gerard Cude, and he lived for ten days, and he changed the world.  He is deeply, constantly missed, by many.

And he is going to be a big brother.

Every once in a while, the weight of the experience really comes crashing down on me.  As I sat one evening watching the season finale of "So You Think You Can Dance" with my family, the announcement of beloved contestant Fikshun as America's favorite male dancer brought me to tears.  Gabriel would never win "So You Think You Can Dance." He'd never sit on the Supreme Court, or play in the World Series, or learn the alphabet or to count to ten, or to sit or crawl or walk.  And I don't have the nerve to dream that the baby I am carrying, already affectionately nicknamed "Rocco," will do any of the above.  I can only dream of a round, whole skull, a fully developed brain, a first breath, a first loud cry, a glimpse and a touch of the rainbow I've waited so long and endured so much to see.  Every day without Gabriel has been a challenge.  Every day until I hold Rocco in my arms will bring its own challenges.

My rainbow is on its way.  And the troubles haven't melted like lemon drops.  This yellow-brick road that I must travel to get to the other side of the rainbow has already been harder than I ever anticipated.  Still, it's the road I want to be on, with all of its challenges, with all of my fears.  For the first time in such a very long time, I can finally see in color.