Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Best, Hardest Present Ever

January has been incredibly busy. I have been getting back into the swing of school after an amazingly rejuvenating vacation in Vermont over the holidays, and I have been getting back into the swing of being a fertility patient again. I am exhausted and tired and cranky. But, I really wanted to go back to a moment in Vermont that was really important. Beautiful. And so, so hard.

We had our Christmas in Vermont--packed up all of our presents that had been shipped to us by out-of-town family and our few presents to each other. We had a cap on the presents since, really, the awesome trip to the tavern was the biggest present and everything else was like a stocking gift. Not a jewelry-store version of a stocking gift (It's small but precious! Buy your wife these sparkly diamond earrings or she will hate you forever!), but small gifts that were meaningful but not expensive. I took the small part very literally, gifting Bryce with neat things that could actually fit in a real stocking. A little wine trivia game, a guitar pick punch (turn any gift card or expired credit card into a guitar pick!), things like that. Bryce had a few small things and one ginormo box for me. I was so curious about that big box.

We opened our presents on Christmas morning after breakfast--drawing out the process well into the early afternoon. We like to spend a little time with each present--admiring it, exploring it. One at a time. Make it last, be sure you appreciate the gift and the sentiments behind it. It was really, really weird not to have a Christmas tree (and I'm sure the hotel appreciated us NOT bringing our presents down around their real tree that was decked out in the "living room" by the fireplace), but it worked ok. We had Christmas music on the radio and there was snow on the ground. We were in Vermont, far away from all things fertility, and it was actually an amazingly relaxing and romantic holiday.

We made our way through the presents, carefully picking which one the other person should open next. The big box was near the end. Bryce seemed a little nervous about it. We're always nervous about the presents we get each other, always worried that what seemed meaningful and sweet while shopping becomes trite and crappy upon opening. It's super neurotic. And it's never the case--the presents are always sweet and meaningful and well appreciated. One year Bryce got me a set of stainless steel kitchen accessories from Crate and Barrel--a paper towel holder, a canister for utensils, a salad fork-and-spoon set, and measuring cups and spoons. Hefty, substantial, grown-up kitchen accessories from my favorite homegoods store. We didn't register when we got married because we had so much home crap from our assorted previous weddings (ice cream makers in closets! three coffee makers!) and from living alone however briefly that it seemed silly. So these gifts were awesome to me. His best friend thought differently, freaking out when Bryce told him what he'd gotten me. "She's gonna kill you! A paper towel holder? That's not a Christmas present! What the hell are you doing? You need to go back out shopping immediately before this is the worst Christmas ever!" Now, I get it--to some this would be the equivalent of the birthday vacuum. "I celebrate you with a tool to make my house cleaner all the time. Here you go, 1950s wife." But to me those stainless steel kitchen items were the most thoughtful present because I had always wanted really nice, quality things for the kitchen and now I had them. It represented to me an appreciation for the things that I enjoyed doing and for the fact that we were truly grown-ups, in our home together, finally in a secure place where salad forks could be a beautiful gift. I use them all the time. These things are part of my daily life, which is the way a good gift should be. Useful and beautiful and seen often.

So anyway, here I was with this mystery box, wondering what could fit our price cap criteria and still be in this mongo box along with the earrings (silver g-clef) and books (of the picture variety) and cds (country Christmas, sweet simply because Bryce HATES country music and it just isn't the holidays without Dolly Parton for me...) and other sweet things I had been given. I started to open it. And had a feeling of both dread and incredible love when I spotted something left on the box that gave a clue to what was inside.

The label said, "BABY BUDDHA."

It looks like it's in jail,
but really it's safely in
the baker's rack right now.
I opened the box the rest of the way and inside was this. This beautiful, well-crafted, devastingly meaningful buddha statue for the garden.

It was perfect. It was incredibly touching. And it made me so happy, yet at the same time incredibly, deeply sad.

Let me explain. When we lost the little almost-miracle but totally-ectopic pregnancy that fooled us with low numbers that shouldn't have continued and then numbers that doubled but weirdly, giving us hope and then dashing it with the scary tubal implantation that had to be surgically removed, forever leaving my belly decorated with scars that will always remind me of that loss every time I get out of the shower, we had a ceremony to commemorate that loss. We had an event and said goodbye, within a couple weeks of that tragic experience. I wrote about it here. But we hadn't done anything yet to honor the brief presence of our last loss, the one that in my mind was more tragic because while not as dramatic as seeing a misplaced pregnancy on a high-definition ultrasound and being whisked into surgery within hours, it just seemed cruel and senseless. I am having a hard time getting over this loss. Bryce is having a hard time getting over this loss. Everything was going so well and then BOOM. Gone. But we hadn't yet done anything to put something resembling closure onto the experience. I wanted to do something, buy something for the garden. Some people plant a tree or a plant or something, but what if we moved? I couldn't leave that symbolic representation of the baby that could have been behind. So I wanted a statue for the garden, that we could take with us wherever we went and keep safe in the wintertime. I wanted something peaceful that could both clearly represent our poor lost baby (really, babies--both of them) but not be totally morbid to others. And, that could bring a sense of peace. I wanted a Buddha statue that we could put in our side secret garden, that could go near the prayer bells we added a year or so ago. But I couldn't find just the right one. I looked half-heartedly, but just couldn't bring myself to pick one out.

So the fact that Bryce took it upon himself to find this beautiful, perfect statue that captured everything I wanted was amazing. There is so much emotion in this little boy face. He is holding an open book, which is perfect. The stone is beautiful and I can just see exactly where this memorial can go when it's warmer and there's life once again in the garden.

But man, it was a tough present to open. I held it and just welled up and didn't know what to say. It was beautiful. It was perfect. It was heartbreaking. I lost it. And then Bryce lost it. He was so worried. Maybe this wasn't the right time...maybe it would put a shadow over Christmas. It took that thin layer of healing and opened it up so that we were hugging and crying and holding this little statue and just feeling the loss all over again. But it wasn't a bad time. It was perfect. I wanted to have the ceremony or memorial item in hand before we started our next cycle. I wanted closure to a year that once again held a lot of sadness for us and loss of hope that we keep regenerating, although never quite as strongly as we were once capable of. I'm not going to lie, the statue made me feel incredibly sad. I was in a bit of a funk for hours. But I was so grateful to Bryce for having the strength to do what I just couldn't. He found the perfect statue. He combed internet sites and catalogs until just the right one came to be. It can't have been easy. To find it, to receive it in the mail, to wrap it, unsure if this was the right time to give this incredibly gorgeous but extremely hard gift to your wife. But it was. That took some strength that I deeply appreciate.

And now, we have that closure in a sense. I see the Buddha every day and see it not only as a memory of loss but a peaceful reminder of the hope to come. We were so close, and the changes we have made will bring us even closer. Even though we have suffered what seems incredibly disproportionately on this journey to the ever elusive expanded family, one that has talking family members, not just meowing ones, we can keep looking forward to what we have to gain. Appreciate the loss, and hope for the future...for the baby that stays. 

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