Thursday, January 6, 2011


I used to think that I would heal from my daughter's death, but I am a leper. I will never really heal. I am always in some kind of dull grief pain, so much so that I rarely feel it anymore. My skin itches. My eyes run. But it's okay, really. I mostly live my life with others of my kind. In a colony. Or a virtual colony. And because I live with others of my kind, I feel normal. I sometimes venture into the non-leper world--mommy blogs, or play dates and the such, but I realize I don't belong there. It is as though the healthy, non-leper people are pointing at me and saying, "Ack, a leper."

"What? Me?" I stare at my scabby, oozing sores. "Oh, right, yes. A leper, but we all knew that already, no?"

When you are past two years, maybe it is time when you should not be still writing, arting and talking about grief.  A new babylost mama said to me recently that she didn't want to be someone whose whole life was about the grief from her child's stillbirth, and then I realized that my whole life is about the grief from my child's stillbirth. I wasn't offended, and she wasn't being offensive. It just was a moment where I reflected. This feels like the authentic me, though. I know, authenticity is such a bullshit word to so many people, but in a wholly existential way, it feels authentic. This is the real me. One who lives on the edge of the living and the dead, straddling both worlds, not truly part of either. I think that has always been my place in the world. A liminal place between worlds--white and Latina, masculine and feminine, mainstream and punk, artist and poser, sacred and profane, dead and undead. It feels right and good to make art and write about what comes up. But then again, maybe I am stuck. Maybe I am not supposed to still feel sad. I don't know. I. Don't. Fucking. Know.

Actually, maybe this leper talk is kind of creepy, or plain unfair to people with leprosy. But I think the analogy is good. Did you know that 95% of the human race have a natural immunity to leprosy? And that while I was mostly healthy and a good conversationalist, my kid still died in me. It was like a one in 160 pregnancy chance. I don't know why I am comparing statistics. When you have been a one, no other number of the other side looks big enough. And statistics kind of feel like bullshit. Still, leprosy and  full term stillbirth have their similarities.

My daughter asked me tonight why we can't have a girl baby that stays, and I have no response that feels adequate. I just stammered and then she said we can name her Lucy again, since we all like that name so much. It broke my heart open again, like it is the first time someone suggested that we can just have another baby. She is so earnest about it, so logical, I feel silly for arguing that Lucia is the only sister who gets that name. And that we can't just have girl babies because it seems like a girl baby should nurse with the boy baby.

Thomas turned nine months on January 1st. Nine months. Today I received the travel journal after its harrowing journey through Europe, Canada and the United States. Ines included a bag of hand-carved pebbles. Skytimes included a little handmade journal, and everyone wrote diary entries from the Travel Gnome's point of view, and it made me feel like crying. I mean, if I were a different person, I would have wept. Last year, I would have wept. But this year, I just laughed, and my soul did cartwheels like the first time someone wrote a goofy haiku with me and thought it was funny. I read the whole thing with a glass of amazing red wine. It is perfect to have others put their hearts and souls into something you also put your heart and soul into. I don't know how else to describe it.

As my Facebook friends know, someone kept the journal for a month and a half. I know she would argue at that categorization, but let's just say, it was mailed in mid-November, and didn't arrive on the next person's doorstep until the end of December. We exchanged emails about it, since I felt she should apologize to all the women and she felt like I was being a controlling bitch. She acted entitled. I don't know, I reacted, and shouldn't have. I have no defense except that I give a shit. I gave a shit about the travel journal being the last piece on still life 365 for the year and it wasn't and it upset me. She said her family was sick, and she gave me a load of excuses. I wanted to tell her everything I had been through this year, and still managed to publish a piece of art every day of the fucking year. I wanted to tell her that the day I was in labor with Thomas Harry, the day I went to the hospital, is the day I mailed out the journal. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning the night before sending off emails to every person participating, and packed it up and waddled to the post office. Then I birthed Thor.

Maybe it is just me who is a leper. You know, she isn't the first person to call me a controlling bitch. Probably not the last. I am not even offended by that, really. I get things done. Some call that controlling, others efficient. I have thick skin for that sort of insult. But it reminded me of the betrayals of my life. This is a drop in the bucket, yes, but still, that feeling of someone saying, "Your desire to have things a certain way betrayed you, not me." It is a truth I can never seem to learn. I have to stop desiring things.

In a separate note and question, how long is it supposed to take a couple to finish a bottle of port wine? Sam claims this should last us more than three days. And that I am perhaps drinking it more like wine, rather than port. But it is so dang good in front of the fire while wearing my big heavy woolen grief socks. I also promised an excerpt from my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novel. Maybe tomorrow? Anyone coming to the reading on Sunday?


  1. I'm so with you Angie on feeling like a leper and never healing again. Although I don't think my grief defines me, it's still the only thing I can write about. Somehow, the happy stuff just never makes it on paper or the words just never come. So I am stuck too...
    I think the success of Stilllife 365 was hugely because of your efficiency and talent, not because your controlling. I'm really missing the daily posts. Please come back soon.

  2. We went to a support group for 8 months after our son's stillbirth. The meetings were moderated by a woman whose daughter (second of three, maybe?) was stillborn about 25 years prior. You remind me of her. She was so amazing at helping us articulate our grief. I didn't think she was stuck, nor do I think that of you.

  3. i don't know that i would think myself a leper, but i definitely have scars from losing xavier. i have helped others survive as you have helped me survive! i have scars and i know that even though the wounds have healed the scars remain to remind me of what once was perfect or as close to perfect as it gets on earth. i too feel better with my online support community than with people in real life sometimes because i am not naive and happy like them. i am jaded and know that babies die. i'm so thankful that you began still life 365 and i'm anxiously awaiting to see what this year holds for it. i have a couple of ideas for sketches...i just have to find the time!

  4. Angie, I hear what you're saying, but I don't see you AT ALL as a woman defined by her grief. At all. The fact that your grief is the seed for your creative process in much of your life is very different than being a woman defined by her grief - if that makes any sense.

    This may sound really odd, and I mean no offense to any of the other babylost moms, but when I first came across your blog, it was one of the first times I felt this sense of "I can do this. Here is someone that I hope I can be like as I move through my grief." I admire you so much, Angie - so much. You give me hope that I can live a life where I will still hold my son in my heart daily, where my son's legacy will live on, where my son will be loved and remembered - but a life where I have not stagnated.

    You are an artist, Angie. An artist who uses her grief to create. And you create absolutely beautiful work, and it is inspiring to me on so many levels.

    And I don't think it's a bad thing that mommy blogs and idle play date chit chat bore you. Nor do I think it's a bad thing that you stand up for what you believe in and you don't take bullshit.

    Much love to you, as always.

  5. What a good analogy.. but then you always come up with good analogies.

    I think there are a lot of people in this world who might think me a controlling bitch- but like you I say 'whatever'. It's just me... wounds and all.

  6. How can we not be defined by our children's death? It doesn't have to be our only truth, but it is a core part of our truth, our voice in this world.

    Thinking of you. You poured so much into still life 365 and it hurts me to see your work treated so callously.

  7. I was wondering yesterday if it was still normal to be sat in a puddle of tears almost 18 months after Florence died. If it was still normal to be so sad.
    I can feel everyone wanting me all better now, and I'm not. I'm a leper too.

  8. I just got called a bitch yesterday, but I do prefer efficient as well. Still life is your thing. You do it very well. Everyone gets upset when their things are disrespected or mishandled. Maybe she should have considered that. But that is what is lacking in the world: consideration. Making us all feel like lepers. I'm glad you do what you do. Lepers unite!

  9. I am so happy to read about the cartwheels. Thank goodness it arrived, and it took 9 months, just like a "normal" gestation. As you said on f.b you sent it off as a little seed and it came back a huge book of love (or maybe a bundle of joy).

    I have been mulling over the "am I defined by grief" question. I agree with Mrs Spit, the experience of being a bereaved parent has seriously re-shaped my soul. Having to find a new normal and all that, it is a defining factor of my life but I don't think anyone's life is summed up by a single event. As Mrs Spit says "It doesn't have to be our only truth".

    If anyone were to ask me I would tell them that I will never be the same person I was, before, and privately IRL I feel like a leper too. In blogland I don't.

    Port always goes faster in the cold weather. You have to factor that in. Maybe get a smaller glass!

  10. I'm part of the colony too. I'm seven and a half years in, living a life that combines the world of swimming lesson schlepping, cupcake-baking, "normal" mama of two with the altered by grief, doing the best I can DBM.

    I am unapologetic about it. For too long I thought there must be something amiss with me because I hadn't "gotten over" my daughter's stillbirth. Life hadn't returned to its pre-2003 self. Then I realized that there is nothing to get over to. This is, and will always be, my new reality. It is all process...and that is where the truth lies.

    I wouldn't say that I am defined by grief...not any longer. But I am influenced by it, colored by it. It exists as part of who I am, how I perceive the world, how I's one component of my being. I could not eliminate it anymore than I could remove a vital body part. And what's more, after the journey I've been on, I'm not sure I would want to.

    As for the controlling bitch thing, I wouldn't say that. It's obvious that you're passionate about what you do and your work speaks volumes about who you are and what you believe in. You've also been a lifeline to so many others when they've needed it. If someone can't deal with deadlines and the responsibilities of a group project, then I guess they shouldn't ask to be part of it...

  11. Man I was just thinking about this the other day. When I started babbling about Calla and Baby O and blah blah blah and I got THE LOOK. The, "Huh. Do I give her a hug or back away slowly?" kind of look. And yes, it's only been a year, but I feel like I'll always be this woman.

    Without these babies, how can we possibly ever heal, be our old selves, NOT bring it up? It's the effing saddest thing I've ever known, it's one of the biggest parts of me, it's part of my heart. It's who I am and always will be. Like it or not.

    Beezus' thinking about another baby girl made my eyes mist--so sweet and innocent and easy. Gosh, it's sad to lose that thinking. I don't think you're defined by grief. I'd say more like defined by passion--for your children, your art, for life.

    Have you read Irving Stone's Lust for Life? About Van Gogh? I think you'd like it.

  12. Right beside you in that colony of sanity, where I don't feel like the outcast. I just can't help it... Like I wrote in my Creme de la creme post "Being his mom has changed me just as much as it would have - if he had lived.". And just because Sky is not here, doesn't mean that I'm not a mom anymore. It's not a choice - it just is. I loved reading this - totally second you:
    "This is the real me. One who lives on the edge of the living and the dead, straddling both worlds, not truly part of either."

    I am so thrilled the journal has arrived. I - seriously - want to jump up and down with excitement. Can't wait to see what the other's did. And I'm even more happy about the fact that people continued the gnome's journal (it's not handmade by me though, stumbled across it in a little store). Would love to read about his adventures one day...

    Thank you for doing this with us. It's been a great experience being part of this project. Made me want to follow his steps and visit the same places... :)


  13. Once upon a time I ran something, tried to do good, tried to make things good for people like me. And some of those people turned on me just because I am me and imperfect and make mistakes, or did things not as they thought right.

    It's water under the bridge now, but god it hurt.

    Please don't stop being you. Keep cartwheeling.

  14. Thank God (or whatever) for the leper colony. Because you're right, after two years out I've started to wonder if I should still be so shaped by my son's death, if I should still be clinging so tightly to every scrap of memory about him. Having a place where I don't have to hide the scabs and ooze makes it possible for me to function.

    And controlling bitches get things done and keep the world from falling into entropy.

  15. "When you have been a one, no other number of the other side looks big enough." So true.

  16. I know my life is all about her stillbirth now. I can't see how it can be any other way. I was only 28 when it happened. Nothing else of note had really happened to me in life before that. I am totally and utterly defined by her death.
    I wish I could be one of those mums who could say that, but the truth of the matter is that's just not me.
    I'll always feel like I belong when I'm around you, and I hope you can feel the same around me. You're always welcome in my life.

  17. I still feel like a leper - I tried the village playgroup once and just found it unsettling. I was a regular there once, but I've changed too much now. I prefer my virtual community too.

    I don't feel as stuck in my grief, just still grieving and, if it's not presumptious of me to judge another person's grief, you don't seem "stuck" when I read here. What I want to do - and what you seem to me to accomplish for Lucia with all the amazing things you do - is to find ways to parent her. We, sadly, have to do it unconventionally. Your art and your words and your compassion honour your daughter.

  18. Don't many of the great artists and writers have a 'defining' moment? To create art that reflects life, you have to know about life, and life includes death and grief.

    I try to balance off- and on-line life. Sometimes one feels more like 'real' life than the other.

    All of the dbm blogs that I read inspire me in one way or another - just seeing the strength of these women - sharing our pain. Can't get that in too many other places. And you, Angie, have me searching to find a way to channel my grief creatively. Keep up your 'bitchiness' - you know what they say about well behaved women.

  19. Another Leper... Right here with you... My life continues but, in some ways, I'm still at the days where my children died. I know that a part of me always will be.

  20. I can't really imagine my grief not defining me to some extent. I expect I'll stop thinking/talking/writing about R's death when she's somehow miraculously restored to us and gets to live a long, happy life. Same goes for all of the other moms and babies (and siblings like little Bea).

    You seem almost the opposite of stuck to me. I mean, look what you've built here and what it means to the folks who contribute or visit and take some strength away to get them through the day.

    Still Life 365 is one of the only places I can go to feel the full size of my grief after stuffing it into a tiny, hidden place most days.

    So sorry I can't make the reading today. We're preparing to make a visit to my FIL this week and I can't seem to clear my calendar. Good luck to you.

  21. I agree with the others. I'm almost 13 years out, didn't even start my blog until almost 10 years after Katie was stillborn. It was a defining moment in my life, probably THE defining moment. Grief is a major part of who I am. But it's not ALL that I'm about.

  22. I don't have the answers either - all I know is that I think of Sam a lot, I always will, and more and more it feels like how much I miss him is a secret between us.

    Sending much love. xoxo


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