Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lucia's Birth Story, Part 4

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

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

The second part is The Word "Cruel"

The third part is Bringing Up Baby.

Merry Effing Christmas

Christmas came faster than I could ever imagine. Certainly, it was only three days after Lucy’s birth. That morning I was determined to make it a nice day for Beatrice, despite feeling completely traumatized and numb. I woke up with a vague stiffness in my breasts when I lifted my arms. Oh, shit. It occurred to me that I hadn’t escaped the cruelest of all parts of Lucia’s birth. My milk would have to come in. Still, I couldn’t be sure it was now. I had to focus on my Beatrice’s happy morning, pretending Santa came, and interacting with my mother who was sleeping downstairs.

For couples that experience their first pregnancy as a stillbirth, I imagine the grief to be all-consuming—a hellishly empty house with baby clothes, and expectation in every room. For my family, at least, it was also all-consuming, but we also had to be practical. We had an oblivious 21-month old running around. I needed to dress every morning, wash myself, eat, sleep. I am quite sure that if Lucy was my first, I would have not gotten out of my pajamas for three months, and drank myself into a silly oblivion for most of that time. But I had a child who needed me, so I had to do whatever I could to get through my everyday being at least semi-functional. I had set up Beatrice's room with a crib, integrated Lucy's clothes into Beatrice's drawers. When I got home, and tried to dress her, I opened a drawer to see all the little onesies for Lucy, the little socks. It felled me, and I crumpled on the floor sobbing. Not sobbing, howling. Sam and I grabbed some bins later in the day, and emptied everything, quickly. I asked my stepfather and brother-in-law to take the crib apart. It had to be Beatrice's room again, and quickly, or I wouldn't be able to put my child to bed. If I didn't have a child, I would have closed the door and not opened it again. ever.

In many ways, Beatrice makes me a strong woman. She needs me. She needs me to be whole. She needs me to get up everyday. She needs me to eat. She needs me to be present. It is a beautiful gift I have ever received—her needing me. I will try all my days to repay that little girl for the joy she brings to our life, and I am sure I won't come close. But I won't lie, it is also incredibly exhausting.

At the time, I was just so very afraid of traumatizing Beatrice with my sobbing. The first few days she just didn’t know what to make of me. She would look at me and run out of the room. I was surprised that since Lucia’s death, she never pointed to my belly and asked me about the baby. We spent a great deal of our days for the last few months talking about, preparing, talking to and singing to the baby. Bea often pulled my shirt up and kissed me, gave the baby a binky, or her sippy cup with water. My belly had become a member of our family, and yet, she seemed to know intuitively that the baby wasn’t there anymore. I spent those first postpartum days sitting on the couch with my laptop. Christmas eve, she crawled on top of me, and looked at me like she wanted to ask me a question. So I said to her, “Bea, do you know what is going on?” She nodded, as she did to most of my questions. “Mama went to the hospital to have the baby, like we talked about, but something happened. Lucy died and Mami and Daddy are really sad. That is why we cry, but we won’t always cry all the time.” She nodded again, and hugged me. I’m not positive she understood what I said, but I’m not sure that matters either.

Christmas eve, the funeral director we called came by our home for us to sign release papers for Lucia’s body. He told us he already picked her up, and forged our signatures. Bless that man. He knew we just needed this over with, and his empathy and love was palpable. I mean, he came to our home. He never made us come to the funeral home. He left us a catalog of urns, which literally made me nauseated to look at. I brought him a manila folder, asked him to put it in there. He told us the cremation was fifteen dollars. Fifteen. He said they don’t like to make money from this kind of death. He was clearly shaken up by our situation, and it being Christmas Eve. He told us to expect her ashes the next week. I was completely terrified of those words. They utterly floored me in every way. Ashes and baby should never be uttered in the same sentence. Your baby’s ashes are absolutely the worst three words in the English language.

I am constantly castigating myself for not being organized and prepared, and the year we were expecting the birth of our second daughter, I prepared for Christmas before Thanksgiving. I felt like a responsible adult. Yet as I stared at Lucia’s filled stocking, I felt like a fool. I jinxed myself, didn’t I? Beatrice was born without a hitch and I didn’t finish my Christmas shopping in November of that year. I suddenly was looking at my life like a typical Sunday football game, “The Eagles won against the Giants when I wore these grey sweats and drank Yuengling; hence, I will wear these sweats, unwashed, and drink Yuengling every Sunday for the entire season.” But these were lives. My daughter’s life, did it come down to Murphy’s Law? I didn’t know what to do with Lucy’s stocking. I decided to throw those gifts into Beatrice’s pile of toys and not fetishize them. They were toys, simply.

All the gifts that sat under the tree for my daughter were justified because we were having two girls. We were so conscious of not spoiling Beatrice that we often said things like “A little kitchen for Bea and Lucy.” or “It’s okay to spend so much on that, with two girls, it will get used for many years.” Maybe even more babies after Lucy...who knew? But now, I sat there knowing. Our daughter Beatrice will be an only child. I cannot do this again. I cannot sacrifice my heart for any more babies. I felt the same way I felt after my first major break up. My heart is broken. I am never dating again. That changes, sure. One day, a boy flirts with you, and you think about dating again. I was not there yet. Christmas was marked by this profound sense of “only”. Only one child. Only one stocking. Only if. Only us.

I am pretty sure we did a fantastic job of faking Christmas cheer. I think Bea had an amazing day opening gifts. We drove to my sister’s house. Driving through our neighborhood was like looking at the world through new eyes. Four funeral homes. Had I ever noticed that? Losing my daughter opened some portal into another dimension. I walked through the hospital doors and into a world that looked the same, but where death was on every corner, written on every face, where you only talked to people like funeral directors, crematory directors, grief counselors, high risk OBs. Where were the other people? Where were the birth people? The life people. It was Christmas. This holiday is about birth, and here I was mired in death.

At my sister's place, we opened gifts. Since Lucy died three days before, I had this sinking horrible feeling about one of the gifts I had bought. My sister and i wanted to give our mother a gift all about her grandchildren. They are truly her joy. So, we picked a necklace from etsy with all her grandchildren's names on it, and my sister and my birthstone in the middle. It is stunning. But that meant, way back in November, before everything, Sam and I decided we would make the final decision on Lucy's name. We always loved Lucy. It was second on our list after Beatrice, so we knew we wanted Bea and Lucy, but what kind of Lucy--Lucia? Lucille? Lucinda? We were stuck. Maybe it should just be Lucy? We went around and around.

Last week, while chatting with Molly, I told her this story about Lucia's name that I have been thinking about a lot lately. In October, I was feeling incredibly large and pregnant, and down, and decided I was going to treat myself to a day of pampering, and a real haircut. When I was getting my hair done, the shampoo lady told me her daughter was named Lucy. I told her that was the name we had decided on for our daughter.
"Short for Lucia?" I asked
"No, Lucille."
"Oh," I said. "I like loo-see-ah, or loo-chee-ah, because they are sexy names, while Lucy is cute."
"You want your daughter to have a sexy name?" She seemed a little put off by my statement.
"Well, one day, many years after she leaves my house, she will be able to change her persona by going by Lucia, instead of her kid name Lucy," I explained. "It can be cute and exotic, and she will be a beautiful exotic woman."
This conversation hit me recently. She will not be an adult. She will always be a baby. It incapacitated me to think of this.

Anyway, when I picked this necklace and ordered it, it meant we were set on Lucia. That's it. But now, what do I do with this gift? Give it to her? Hide it forever? Throw it out? I was reeling, and didn't know what people did with their baby stuff when their baby died. It hadn't occurred to me before coming home to a Christmas tree full of gifts, that there would be pain in every movement. We decided to give it to my mother, because these are her grandchildren. Beatrice and Lucia. When she opened it, we sat around her at her legs, and held onto her, like we did as children, and she cried. She has not taken it off since.


  1. “Bea, do you know what is going on?” She nodded, as she did to most of my questions. “Mama went to the hospital to have the baby, like we talked about, but something happened. Lucy died and Mami and Daddy are really sad. That is why we cry, but we won’t always cry all the time.” Well shit, that just ripped my heart out. And yes, I barely went outside for three months. I must have had a serious vitamin D deficiency. Couch. Pajamas. Tears. That was it. No one to be strong for, and maybe in a totally fucked up kinda way, that was a good thing, as this grief is ugly. You are a wonderful mother though Angie, to both your girls. I'm beyond sorry they are both not here with you.

  2. Wow, I relate sooooo much to this post. We lost our Nicholas on November 7, 2008 and Christmas was hell. After all, we had such different plans. But, I too, have other children and my husband and I were determined to make their Christmas as special as we could. You're right, they are a blessing in so many ways. They force you out of bed, force you to stay somewhat on track... although, at times, I feel jipped out of this grieving thing... so many days I just want to pull those covers up over my head and stay there all day.

    Stay strong....

    PS. I love the name you chose, Lucia is perfect.

  3. Ah, Angie. My heart just breaks for you (and us all). Lots of love to you.

  4. i agree, lea, sometimes i feel like i cannot adequately grieve, except for an hour of nap time and the time i take after i put her to bed, which to be honest, is mostly not more than a half an hour, because i am so mentally and physically exhausted.

  5. angie,
    that necklace is such a beautiful gift and reminder that lucy is and will always be her granddaughter and your daughter. always. just not the way we expected that's for damn sure. i'm glad that you have bea to keep you strong, to wake up for.
    the way you described the world looking different, noticing the funeral homes, i felt that and continue to feel that too. the world is a very different place now.
    sending you love

  6. hi Angie, I'm so touched by your birth story. Christmas was our 6 month after Fionn died and at that point I was seriously fighting for my life... Winter Solstice... I had forgotten I so wished for Fionn to be born on summer Solstice, the pagan believer in me... believing in just the Earth Mother... It's the day my contractions started, but he didn't come out and then three days later he was pronounced dead in the hospital and he was born on the 25th of June... I went from a home water birth to a hospital birth with an epidural. But it was still the best birth ever. I wanted it that way. I wanted to make him proud and I wanted to show the world (<- small town in Wexford, Ireland) natural birthing works. I laboured for 24 hours naturally and collapsed out of sheer exhausting after 12 hours on oxitosin drip... slept for two hours and then birthed with ease and a thrill and pride and enjoyment at 10:35 pm Fionn came out into the light but darkness of the day for the sun had set.

  7. Dear Angie,

    I am simply in awe of your honesty, your poetry, and your bravery.

    I just read Lucia's birth story this night, and it touches me so very deeply.

    You are an amazing, amazing woman.

  8. Oh my, I am sitting here crying remember my first 2 precious babies that are not with me, but in heaven with my grandparents. I wish with all of my being that I was the only person in the world that ever had to feel this void, this pain, this nothingingness.

    You're story breaks my heart so much more because the 21st of Dec. is my birthday.

    I wish you and your family joy, peace and happiness as your journey countinues on.

    ps. I know have 2 beautiful babies sleeping, and w beautiful angels in heaven. I always wanted 4, just didn't know it would be like this.


What do you think?