Saturday, March 7, 2009

Lucia's Birth Story, Part 3.

This blog entry is the third part of Lucia's birth story.

Here is the first part of her story. Winter Solstice.

The second part is The Word "Cruel"

Bringing up Baby

My twin sister came in the morning to attend Lucia’s birth. My mother stayed with Beatrice. I hope she ends up being okay with that, because it meant she didn’t get to hold Lucia. I didn’t want my daughter there to see me in such a black place. As I reflect on that day, I wish Beatrice would have gotten to meet her sister, but it was the best decision for me at the time. I was in too much turmoil and couldn’t bear not being strong for Beatrice. In the morning, I met the nurse who would comfort us throughout the day. Debbie was a member of the Unitarian Church, the church that married my husband and I. She told us she could perform a blessing for Lucia when she was born, and she was an incredible source of serenity and peace throughout the day. She was like an angel, as was my beautiful midwife Megan. They seemed to know exactly when to give us space, and when to say some words of healing love.

Throughout the day, the television became this welcome space of distraction for us. I read the endless list of what was on what channel, mentally trying to match title with corresponding emotion. We searched for anything funny; if not this hour, then the next one. Finally, my brain latched onto one of my favorite movies, Bringing Up Baby. I kept telling Sam. “We need to watch that when it comes on. It is really funny. You will like it. Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. It is really funny. We need to watch it.” I told the nurses, and my sister. “We need to watch this movie.” I must have seemed like an insane person. I began watching it, and laughing, trying to forget this bad place. I laughed like my 21 month old daughter’s fake social laugh. Suddenly, I felt her kick. A KICK!?! It can’t be true. “Come on, Lucia, do it again.” Can they miss a heartbeat after watching an ultrasound? Nothing. Please, baby, just kick once more. I laid my hands on my belly. It isn’t true. I turned to Sam and said, “I just felt something that felt like a kick.” He just held me as I sobbed. Phantom kicks. It happened for weeks after her birth as well.

I spent the day laboring, and finally got the epidural, which was welcome. It made me warm and tingly. I was thankful for the feeling. As I waited to birth Lucia, I decided to open a grief package they give to parents who have lost a child. In it was a pamphlet of what to expect after birth, and a local grief support group's newsletter. The newsletter contained poems written by parents who had lost children through stillbirth or miscarriage. On the front page, a piece entitled “A Letter to Alex” caught my eye. I had read this before. It was written by someone I knew. Mimmy. Tommy. Alex. Luke. And now their little Leia. They had lost their son four years ago. I wrote about this revelation before and thinking of the story of Kisa Gotami, but it reminded me that suffering affects everyone, in their own way. It calmed me. It made me strong to think that I was part of a very human experience.

Of course, I wasn’t completely enlightened and meditating on Buddhist stories throughout the day of Lucia’s birth, I was mostly overwhelmed with a paralyzing fear of seeing her dead, as though it were that which would push me over the edge and into the abyss. Every stage of this process seemed to grow crueler and more devastating. I just felt as though my cervix would never open and let her out, because I couldn’t accept this reality. I focused so much on empowering my body during my birth with Beatrice, and being positive. Birth is a natural process, and it suddenly became powerfully Other. Outside of me. Medical. I remember going through natural birthing classes, called Empowerment Birthing. We were to visualize opening our cervix, letting in the light. The hippie teacher made us imagine a labyrinth—every way in led to the same way out. I was afraid to leave this maze of emotional turmoil, because it meant my daughter was dead. Right at that moment, she was still warm inside me, there might have still be a chance they made an error, after I birth her, she will grow cold. She will be dead.

Now, I just wanted the labor and birthing to be quick, painless, and kind; that is, I wanted it to be the opposite of what I was already going through emotionally. They gave me Pitocin in the morning. I could feel some pain, but I still didn’t believe I would be able to birth Lucia. I was told that birthing a dead baby was different than a live baby. Babies help you. They wiggle, they compensate for your insides, and want to get out. It made me shudder to think of it. There was so much of the unknown in this birth. Debbie asked us if we wanted to hold Lucia, to see her. There were so many questions we were asked that afternoon which I simply was not prepared to answer. What were we going to do with the remains? Have her buried privately and hold a funeral? Were we going to have her cremated and added to a mass grave? Did we want a chaplain to come? Did we want her baptized?

I asked about arranging for a private cremation, so we could keep her ashes. I didn’t know what I was going to do with them, but I knew I didn’t want her added to a mass grave of lost babies. She was not lost, she was simply found dead. She was my baby. So, I had to call my brother-in-law with internet access and ask him to look up some crematories for their phone numbers. My husband was having trouble speaking about her death, so I had to call and ask people how much it was to cremate my unborn daughter. My husband decided it was too much for me. I hadn’t even birthed her yet. Bless him. It was too much. We called my brother-in-law to ask him to call funeral homes in the area and get prices and details. It was one of those little amazing things our family and friends did for us that we needed.

Despite my fears, around five, I knew I was dully dilated, because I wanted to birth Lucia. I wanted her to come out. So I asked my sister to pull out my Meditating Mama—a statue I made of a pregnant woman meditating. It was to be my birthing focus point, and I made her when I was about 24 weeks along. Molded out of deep red Mexican clay, she was cross-legged with hands encircling belly. She sat front and center in my house as I practiced prenatal yoga, as I meditated, and as I imagined birthing Lucia, and the amazing life she would live. Now, she was sitting in front of me in this hospital room; all my hopes gone. I could barely look at my statue which once meant potential, beauty, calmness. Megan and Debbie pull up chairs and sat peacefully. They didn’t sit below me to catch Lucia, or involve themselves in this process. Lucia was gone. There was nothing to protect her from now.

The lights were very low, and my husband and sister stood at each side of me, grabbing a leg. Megan told me to push when I felt the urge. So, I did with the waves of contractions. I said to Megan, “I don’t feel like my pushing is going anywhere. “ So, she stood between my legs, and reached inside of me, and said, “Feel this spot?” I nodded. “Push to that spot.”

I suddenly felt I needed to have a beautiful birth with Lucia. It is what I worked towards for 38 weeks. She was going to have a beautiful birth. I took some deep breaths, in through my nose, out through my mouth. My eyes searched for my Meditating Mama. And I stared at her belly, full of life. I imagined opening, and pushing Lucia through me, into the light. I waited to use the next contraction to help me. I suddenly felt strong and empowered. I was going to do this the way I imagined with intention, gently and easily.

When I think of my birth experience with Beatrice, it was chaotic. It was completely primal. I lost my rationale. This was the opposite. I was composed pushing with deliberate intention, and complete control. Lucia means light, and I thought of her entering the light. I focused on each muscle, and with my focus on the statue and Megan’s spot, I isolated each muscle, and push her through each of them. It didn’t take many pushes, and she came out. Peacefully. Gently. No tears. No soreness. She came. Simply.

There was no longer any fear. I put my arms out to her. I didn’t care what she looked like anymore. I didn’t care about any of those fears. I just wanted her. And she was beautiful. Though she was covered in dense vernix, I could see how simply lovely she was. Her hair was black like mine, and her lips were perfectly mine too. And red, so red. At the time, I just thought it was magic how red her lips were, how simply feminine and pretty she was. Now, I suppose I realize it was because she was upside down in my belly. But still, at the time, I just kept kissing them. Those red perfect lips. I remember her first ultrasound, I saw her face. It was so…pretty. That is what I kept thinking after the ultrasound. “She is so pretty,” and now, here she was. That face. I blushed at how perfect she was. While my daughter Beatrice is the exact image of my Sam, blue eyes, blond hair, I knew deep within me that Lucia would be my mirror, and she was.

I held her to me, and just said over and over, “My sweet girl.” I cried so much I soaked her. I kissed her nose. I lifted her eyelids, and the blues had no life. But her eyelids had peeled a bit and were a deep purple. I realized then that my baby had violet eyes. It was my dream. Did I know? I mean, deep down that is what we mothers who have stillborn babies think—did I know my baby was going to be the one that dies?

As I sat with her, I felt the injustice over and over again like waves. What a life she would have led, my beautiful daughter. We held her for a few hours between the three of us. Debbie washed her, and her skin was peeling. She had been dead since Saturday, or Friday night.

The midwife told us that the only thing she could see was that her placenta was smaller than it normally should be, and the cord was placed on the side rather than the middle. They called it a marginal cord insertion. It means that she might not have gotten enough nutrients, but she clarified, many babies are born healthy with this condition. Why was Lucia one of those that didn’t? No matter how enlightened I am one minute, the next I am asking why.

Debbie performed a beautiful blessing for us as we held hands and surrounded Lucia with love. We held hands and talked about all of those people who would miss Lucy. We named each of them. So many names I could have continued for hours of all the people that would miss our girl, and name all the things we will miss.

My sister left fairly soon after the blessing. I think she needed to be with her own babies, and honestly, we needed to be alone with Lucia. As I held her, I called Debbie over and asked her if she could do me a favor. She said anything. I asked if I could donate my Meditating Mama to the hospital’s Birthing Suites where natural childbirth happens. I couldn’t look at her again, and maybe another mama can birth life into this world with her. Debbie thanked me.

I felt like I could have birthed Lucy and then walked down the hall for my own cup of water. For protocol’s sake, they made me wait an hour before letting me stand and pee, which I did without problems. They let us leave five hours later. When the evening nurse took Lucia for photographs, I knew I didn’t want to see her again. But my husband asked for her back. He held her for a while, and I peeked over at her. She was deteriorating, and I was disturbed to see her body wearing away. But it was also important for me. She was dead, and I needed to see her that way. I couldn’t keep carrying her with me, or in me. I had to let her go and carry the memory of our short time together. In a twenty-four hour period, I had experienced an entire lifetime with my daughter. I birthed her, was angry, loved her more than the sun, kissed her, held her, cried on her, and buried her.

I woke up the next day in my own bed, next to my husband. I couldn’t remember if the birth and Lucia’s death was a dream, or my entire pregnancy was. Beatrice crawled into our bed, and I reached for her. She pulled away from me. She had never been away from me for a night, let alone two. I felt like she looked at me, and I wasn’t Mama anymore. I was a sad broken person. She shunned me for most of the day. I was teetering between absolute heartbreaking agony and furious anger because of it.

here is a picture of my meditating mama.


  1. That's a beautiful statue you made.

    Your story brings me to tears. I am so sorry, yet I know how inadequate those words are.

    It's also amazing to me how all of us babylost mamas seem to have the same thought processes during these awful moments, despite all of us being so different from one another.

  2. Angie the similarities of our stories are truly amazing. I have Hope's story posted on my blog, if you feel game enough to visit. The statue is amazing, and I'm so touched you had the prescence of mind to donate it. What a kind thing you did at your moment of absolute pain and despair.

  3. your story is so heartbreakingly familiar. thank you for sharing your meditating mama and for sharing your beautiful lucy.

  4. What a beautiful and heartbreaking story. Your strength and clarity in the darkest of hours amazes me.

  5. My love to you. What an incredible story. My heart hurts for you Angie. What a beautiful piece of art you have created.

    Love love love


  6. What a beautiful and impossibly sad story. I am just so sorry Luica is not here.

  7. I am sorry that your precious Lucia is not here with you and your family.

    My second daughter, Alice, died in September last year. She was born too early and died a short time after. I have Minnie, who is now 3. Grieving and mothering and grieving is exhausting...

    Thinking of you,


  8. Thank you so much for sharing your story, and the story of Lucia.

    I am so incredibly sorry that this wasn't a nightmare. Beautiful babies belong in stories with better endings.

  9. Hi Angie,

    Thank you for sharing this... I will always remember every single detail of the day I gave birth to Cameron, our firstborn, as well. I am so sorry for your loss. It is absolute devastation to lose a child.


  10. "I was told that birthing a dead baby was different than a live baby. Babies help you. They wiggle, they compensate for your insides, and want to get out. It made me shudder to think of it."

    I wish someone had told me this. I couldn't figure out why pushing him out was soooo hard! And my son's lips were red like that, too... like a little rosebud.

    I'm so glad you kissed her and saw the color of her eyes.

  11. I found your blog while searching for "Jizo" articles. I lost my daughter at 23 weeks of pregnancy on May 27, 2004. Like you, I was told I had to deliver vaginally and it was absolute hell. I completely relate to your feelings and your story. Sadly, there are way too many of us that do.
    I did a drawing of Jizo about a year ago, and finally found an amazing tattoo artist to improve on it and make it a beautiful life-long memorial for my little girl. In the drawing, I personalized it by having Jizo releasing a yellow butterfly from his hand.. the butterfly representing my daughter. I now have it on my right arm, soon to be full color.. and it was a ritual for me. The pain of the tattoo was nothing compared to what I have already endured..And I did it in her honor. Have you heard of the MISS Foundation?
    While it is based here in Arizona, it is now nationwide and international. They really helped me through my journey so far. I am so sorry you lost your precious Lucia.


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