Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The last few days

I admit I never do the "What would Lucy be doing now?" thing. It is not my nature. It means I have to pretend she was born perfectly fine. Since I don't know what killed her, I don't know that even if I turned back time and made them induce me when I know she was alive, that she would have been fine. So, before I even get to the point of imagining a tottering baby girl, I am caught in the logistics of my fantasy world.

Sometimes I wish I could imagine her in some other state than dead newborn, like kindergartener, teenager, even mother...but I just can't. I don't have the internal workings for that, just like I also do not understand how men or women can picture different men or women naked. I cannot picture random strangers, or even people I know, without clothes. I get caught up in the idea that perhaps, somewhere, they have a scar I do not know about.

Still, nine months seems to have a kind of significance in the first year after loss. I didn't really worry about the build up of this day, just that autumn equinox was coming. A change of season means my Lucy blows her beautiful wind over me, reminding me that life is moving forward. Her loss on winter solstice somehow connects all change of seasons to her.

But I just wasn't so hung up on this month anniversary, until this weekend. I walked in the room to find Beatrice and Sam watching videos of Beatrice from her first days to this year. We post videos on yo.u tu.be for Sam's distant and spread out family. And when we got to nine months...the tears began. Such a concrete reminder of what Lucy was missing, what she would have looked like, what I wish I could see her do, but I also couldn't turn away. I wanted to move forward, see Beatrice grow up into the sassy two year old she is. I just miss, Lucy. I miss what I don't know about her.


We attended an actual wedding/public event on Friday night. It has happened a few times this month, but this one was an evening wedding. The bride started as a work colleague and ended up a close neighbor. And one of those amazing neighbors who leaves loaves of banana chocolate bread on our porch with a note, "Made some bread for Bea. Love, K." She is amazing. I was telling my husband on the train ride home that I always thought she was like a perfect woman. Elegant. Graceful. Tough. Adaptable. Easy-going. Serious. Fun.

The wedding was gorgeous. Basically, I weep from the first indication a bride is in the room. I think that might be my only psychic ability. I am like the K-Mart blue light going off, I begin weeping and my husband looks around the room, "Where is she?"

I have no idea what I thought would happen at this wedding. And I have no idea why it didn't occur to me that I would be grilled asked questions about the last two and half years of my life. I mean, I sat at a table filled with people I had spent many many years working with in a very corporate, very professional work environment whose last experience with me was my baby shower for Beatrice. The next day, I gave birth to her.

"So, what have you been up to?"

Crying? Mourning? Cursing God? Finding meaning in this world? Mostly I just sort of smiled and said, "A ton and not much." And they ask me what I'm doing and I say staying at home with my daughter. I always feel like they are waiting for more information. I also paint. And write. Edit. Grieve. Read a shitload of books. Walk the dog, and recite the same damned children's book fifteen times a day, sing songs about spiders and stars...and yet, what do I say? Overlord? House goddess? I'm the mommy?

After the first time, I just sort of hung there, awkward and self-conscious, because then the inevitable question after someone asks a stay-at-home mother what she does is "How many kids do you have?"

Even if I say one, they inevitably follow up with, "I thought you had two? Weren't you pregnant?" And then the story. And then the awkwardness...it isn't easy to talk about your baby's death at a happy lovely event. I feel totally practiced in the market. Near the fish monger, I can say it in an elegant, kind, compassionate way. I nod and listen and share. I am out of my element in evening wear with "We are Family" blaring in the background. I could only say, "Our youngest daughter died last December."

The above paragraph makes what I said sound somewhat coherent. Never did I say anything that didn't sound like a rambling messy emotional blah when talking about Lucy. And I would hold Sam's hand very tightly, close my eyes and think:

I'm sorry, Lucy. You are more than that one sentence to me, love.

When Lucy died, I didn't know what to do. I had researched announcements before her birth. I just wanted to do something beautiful and lovely and cool. In fact, I held off on Christmas cards, because I wanted something to announce her birth as well as blessings to our friends for a beautiful new year. But after she died, I just couldn't mail anything to anyone. So, I sent an email that said we had sad news, and we need some days to receive calls and visits, and please no flowers, especially white ones, and we want to hear your news too, and we will need you, but give us time to process this new reality, and please please we beg you, friends, tell everyone who ever knew us so we don't have to speak this out loud again.


So many of these people were people I spent my single years with, hitting happy hours, lingering in cubicle doorways with lattes and one-liners, sharing emails about some jackass at some meeting. It felt so strange to have left that job one person--a creative, funny, light-hearted person--and been seen years later as a grieving, broken mother. I think for me the most awkward part of the night was not telling people Lucy died, though that was certainly awkward, but was this strange interaction I had with someone who friended me on FB before Lucy died. Turned out that we were due within weeks of each other. As you can imagine, I was incredibly happy for her first baby being healthy and happy only a few weeks after my baby died. But I couldn't see the constant updates, the pictures of her girl...the new family obsession. I hid her for a while. Every once in a while, I would check in, make sure everyone was healthy, and then rehide. Anyway, she said something about FB, and catching up on our lives, and I said, "Yes, it is good for that, even if Facebook is a little lame." And she looked at her husband and said, "Well, I don't think it is lame. I don't think it is lame at all."

Slap me across the face. That is what it felt like. I wanted to explain. I am not a horribly negative person. Honestly. Fac.ebook IS lame if you are mourning your child. It IS lame if you have to read people complaining about their baby's gender, or naptime when yours just died. It is lame when you are dealing with questions of grief and mortality and someone is updating you on their breakfast menu. And yet, FB also saved my sanity some days. I played Scrabble instead of lie on my bed screaming for three hours while my two year old slept. I spent insomniatic nights taking hundreds of shitty quizzes instead of reliving the moments I found out my child was dead. So, yes, I think I have some right to call Facebook lame, yet still appreciate its existence. But instead I just turned red and felt stupid, and wanted to cry, and decided to leave before the cake. Bad form, perhaps. Self-preserving, definitely.

The awkward moments of telling people about Lucy came and went. The mothers I told wept, and the fathers pursed their lips and nodded. No one asked us what happened. No one asked us to explain. They just said, "Sorry, so so sorry." Everything but us was appropriate. And we said, "Sorry, so so sorry too." And we tried to pretend that Lucy's death didn't just stamp us as the people you don't want to end up sitting next to at a wedding. Incidentally, I had a lovely conversation sitting next to a woman who was 36 weeks pregnant.

But most people, staring open-eyed at me after the question, "What are you doing now?" Just got the standard line.

A ton and not much.


  1. "I'm sorry, Lucy. You are more than that one sentence to me, love."- yes, yes a thousand times-yes.

  2. Oh Angie,
    So much of this really hit home. That line about Lucy being more than a sentence. So many times I have felt such guilt for spitting out the rehearsed lines: I had a daughter. She was born with Leukemia. She died. I want to tell people so much more, and yet sometimes cannot. I saw so much of myself in this post. Where you said, "It felt so strange to have left that job one person--a creative, funny, light-hearted person--and been seen years later as a grieving, broken mother." It is so very hard when this lost changes every organic piece of your being. I used to be the one people came to for a chat or laugh, and now, just a year later, I have become the "you know what happened to her" girl. And the, "very sad, she really fell apart" girl. And the "don't get to close or you might catch her misfortune" girl. This loss is just so very, very hard. Even though you left before the cake, be proud of the accomplishment of going. Be proud that you are at a place where you can make your way out into the world, even if just for a short while. I am proud of you.

    PS I agree, Facebook for the mourning mother is very, very lame.

  3. Seeing your life through the lens of an awkward pause is so hard. Feeling like you're denying her, feeling inappropriate or like you're bringing people down - I recognise this.

    And the films. Oh Angie. It's heartbreaking.


  4. 'It means I have to pretend she was born perfectly fine.'

    This line hit me straight away. I feel the same way. Looking at little girls... I really do have to make an effort to think what my Jordan would be doing now. It is pure fantasy and depends on so many different things... if only, if only, if only.

    Nine months was a biggy for me too. I'm sorry Lucy isn't here with you Angie.

    I hate that last question too. My grandma rang me once and asked that question and when my answer didn't satisfy her she said "oh things will get better when the baby comes" and I'm like, "no, you don't understand. I'm doing exactly what I need to do for the moment. I'm not bored, I'm not dwelling... I'm grieving."


  5. Oh that one sentence. It is never enough is it?

    For the record, I think Facebook is lame too. Fun and good for sharing the positive things about your life, for games and quizzes but for real life . . not so much. I was joking with my mom the other day about what all the status updates will be when we are all old age pensioners. My mind boggles.

    I also think people who make a big deal of contradicting others about something said in a light hearted manner just to make conversation at a wedding are lame too. Take that anonymous lady at the wedding. xo

  6. Oh Angie, SO much to say to this. But I'm at work and I need time to write down how much you mean to me, how much reading your post and knowing exactly how this feels means to me - it means I am not crazy. I am not alone. I want to quote every single line here. Over and over again.

    And yes, FB is lame. And unintentionally hurtful. And can throw me backwards when I least expect it. And you have every right to say it.

  7. I have apologized to Christian too.

    So many times.


  8. Facebook is lame at the best of times!

    I echo what Carly said. I have apologized to Nicholas so many times it hurts...

    Such a great post. Thank you, Angie.

  9. Angie, I feel this too. Especially the FB part. I almost left FB when someone started chatting with me and I said I'd lost my son at 2 weeks and she typed, "Sorry to hear that. I had a miscarriage. You'll have another." I wanted to strangle her through the screen.

    Lucy is more than a sentence to me, so much more and she always will be. Much love to you, sweet mama.

  10. I am so familiar with more than a few of the situations you mentioned.
    I'm sure having so many questions at one event was a bit overwhelming.
    Thank you for your comments on my blog. I ALWAYS love hearing from you..
    xo lindsay

  11. Thinking of Lucy on this quiet, gray solstice. With love and sorrow.

  12. Just in the green grocer yesterday, a lady asked "your first?" and I said nope, my second. So she pressed on..... and I said "she passed away". "Oh, I'm sorry," she said. But those three words are usually all I offer up these days. They say a lot yet they don't say much at all. I have to apologis to my Hope, too.
    I have a wedding in a few weeks that I have literally been mentally preparing for, for months. I am looking forward to it, but dreading it at the same time. I feel ok in my safe house and even at the green grocer. But at a huge event like that with dozens of people I know some I don't know very well or at all, I'm scared.
    Remembering sweet baby Lucia with you at nine months, Angie.Just by the very nature of this number, I think we all found this one tough.

  13. I understand the guilt that goes along with mentioning our sweet babies so simply. It is so hard to tell someone what happened becuase we want to protect them from our horrendous news, but at the same time it feels wrong not to say how much we love and miss our children.

    I think fb is lame too. Especially since things have really been put into perspective for me since losing my girls. Hopefully that woman will never know how truly lame it is.


  14. I recognize myself in this post. Yes, they are all more than one sentence. Oh so true. In fact, there are not enough sentences. Never enough.

    Facebook is lame. It's a broadcast medium and anything truly meaningful seems wrong to 'broadcast'.

    Thank you for this post. It's touched me in so many ways.

  15. Yes, exactly. I apologize to Hannah every day. And 9 months felt like a big deal to me too. It's hard to accept that they have been gone as long we had them. It just hurts. It never stops.

  16. thinking of you and lucy at this 9 month mark. i remember it feeling significant.

    i didn't go to any of the 6 or so close friends and relatives weddings this summer. so i'm proud of you for going. it is so hard to know what to say and what not to and how to say it. our lives are so complicated now. and facebook is LAME.


  17. Hi Angie,

    I think occasions like weddings just illustrate how other one becomes when a baby dies.

    On matters face.book, I moved mainly to Twitter where I don't have to see photos of babies and contemporaries of my own child. I'm delighted for everyone, but I don;'t want to look at their children right now.

    Like you say, it's self defense.

    Thank you for your post, I'm so sorry Lucia isn't with you.


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