Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Random thoughts on a Tuesday.

I had breakfast with Sarah (Ezra's mommy) this weekend. She is absolutely delightful. There is something so comforting about meeting these amazing babylost women in real life, watching them talk about their babies, seeing their expressions, and getting real hugs. This weekend, as we walked in the city, and ate at one of those very busy brunch places, I had this profoundly silent moment. Here we were. Sitting in a booth talking. I wondered if anyone else in the diner noticed us and wondered what we were talking about. I certainly thought, "I bet no one else in this place is talking about the death of their children." We look like normal girlfriends talking over a couple of egg white omelets. And we certainly feel like old friends. Some things just need not be explained, though we met only twenty minutes earlier, and yet, we were getting to know each others' mannerisms, humor, patterns of speech. Sometimes it is disconcerting to connect with someone, and not know exactly how they pronounce the word "water". (In Philly, this is not a given.) Yet, meeting with Sarah really felt like the opposite of real life--the real life that I am terrified of entering on a day to day basis.

In real life, you hear your friend's deepest, hardest, most heartbreaking moments after years of knowing them.
In real life, you expect to laugh, and it is unexpected to cry.
In real life, you don't feel completely protective, maternal, loving and unconditional about the person you have just met.
In real life, you simply expect to carry your grief inside your heart where you are certain you are going to explode.

Being with Sarah was comforting, kind, gentle, and much needed. Thank you, Sarah. I love your fantasy of having an entire social life of babylost women. Yes! I imagine it would involve some wine, some plate throwing, some crying, some laughing and everything true.


I know my playground sounds like an awful place. I think it is like most playgrounds in small towns. Sam read my blog and said, "Yeah, I hate the geese too."


I light a candle everyday for Lucy. It started early, when Sam's brother and sister in law sent me the best package from Earth Mama Baby Angel. In it was a warming heart for my post-birth uterine contractions, a package of seeds, called Seeds of Hope for Lucy's garden, a votive candle, and a container of No More Milk tea. It was so incredibly thoughtful. As I sat there with my breasts bound, and recovering from birth, I lit the candle next to the Buddhas. Lucia means light, and just having a little flame flickering feels warmer in the room to me. At different times, we have lit a second candle for my father in law Harry, and for others we want to think of that day or night. I have done a bunch of research about St. Lucy, which is its own post one day, and the rituals of light surrounding her. On our little shelf with Lucy's candle sits a Buddha my friend brought back from Thailand. It is small. When my nephew Max was a year old or so, we found the Buddha decapitated. I suspect that Max bit his head off and spit it on the floor, much like some toddler Godzilla. I never got upset about that, especially at the time. It made me laugh until my sides hurt actually, because you can see the little teeth mark on the Buddha. It just seemed like an apt reminder of the impermanence of life. And so, instead of superglueing his head back on, I leave it next to him. His head is never too far from his body. There is some wisdom in this, but I am just not sure what it is yet.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Today, I took Beatrice to the playground.
I hate the playground.

All the fucking small talk. All the fucking questions.
"Finally some sun. Nice day, isn't it?"
"How old is your daughter?"
"Where did all these people come from? It was empty when I got here."
"Is she your only child?"
"Is she small for her age?"
"What is her name? Oh, that is...unusual."
"Is she climbing well?"
"Where is she going to daycare?"
"Are you having any more?"
"Who is supposed to clean up this park?"
"She must look like her father."
"How does she sleep?"
"Are you the babysitter?"

I hate the playground.

The mommies and their babies in Baby Bjorns. So many siblings. Can't stand the siblings of the 21 months apart variety. The smoking grandmothers lurking on the other side of the park. The creepy teenage boys on the highest slide. The competitive stay at home mommies with their blackberries. The geese. (I hate geese, but perhaps that is another rant.)

I am the Mommy that everyone talks about across the playground. Wasn't she pregnant? Did she have her baby? Is that her daughter? She looks nothing like her. Is she Puerto Rican? I avoid the playground. I let it become my husband's realm since December, and well, to be fair, there haven't been too many great days...but spring is here, and Sam was totally spent today. So, I took the girl for a walk. It's where we end up.

Today I told a perfect stranger that I had two daughters. She asked me how many children I had. And I said two. Two daughters. But one died. She said, "I'm sorry. How old was she?" And I didn't know what to say, so I said, "She was stillborn at 38 weeks. So she was zero."

She looked uncomfortable. So I said, "We are so sad."

Uh, yeah. Sad.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Thesaurus Meditation

I don't know why I love the thesaurus so much. I just love words and the thesaurus is like reading jazz. Take a concept, and see how many words we can use to riff on that theme. There is something beautiful about that to me. It also seems so subjective. For example, when you put happiness in the thesaurus, blessedness comes up. So does cheer, and hilarity, and laughter, and paradise. Paradise = happiness? To the thesaurus compiler, maybe, but to me, I've been depressed in paradise. Been laying on a white sanded, clear-oceaned beach crying my eyes out. Location does not equal happiness to me. Or hilarity...humor is not happiness. Something funny is temporary. I laugh all the time, but we all know that doesn't mean I am happy. Happiness is a state of being, right? Maybe one can argue that a temporary hilarity is happiness.

Because I am me, and I somehow have to dissect and analyze everything. I put grief into the thesaurus today. Just to see what comes up.

Main Entry: grief
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: mental suffering
Synonyms: affliction, agony, anguish, bemoaning, bereavement, bewailing, care, dejection, deploring, depression, desolation, despair, despondency, discomfort, disquiet, distress, dole, dolor, gloom, grievance, harassment, heartache, heartbreak, infelicity, lamentation, lamenting, malaise, melancholy, misery, mortification, mournfulness, mourning, pain, purgatory, regret, remorse, repining, rue, sadness, sorrow, torture, trial, tribulation, trouble, unhappiness, vexation, woe, worry, wretchedness

I just want to say these words together, like I want to say our children's names. One after another. Grief. Affliction. Agony. Yes. Yes. Yes...grief is all those things. But there are the small words in here that I think are why these exercises are so important for me.


Such a gentle word. Care. We all need gentle. But does this mean to care for oneself in grieving? Does it mean we mourn because we care? I clicked its hyperlink, and it read "personal interest. concern." I just love that part of the concept of grief is concern, solicitude, diligence. Care as part of grief. Of course.

Dole. I didn't exactly know what that meant in terms of grief, so I clicked it (yay, online thesaurus). Dole means allowance, allotment...charity. Charity. That didn't seem right. I mean, yes, charity would be nice, but didn't exactly hit. So, I clicked the dictionary. 5. Archaic. one's fate or destiny. Shit.

In the definition of dolor, it says passion. YES. Passion. That is what we have...a passionate understanding of how unjust this all is. A passionate love for a child we do not get to hold again. A passion for understanding, coming to a place of peace, for loving ourselves, to forgiving ourselves. We are passionate about everything surrounding our children.

But I think the word that somehow floored me the most is disquiet. Not because it was there. I would have expected it in the list, but I dictionaried it.

dis⋅qui⋅et [dis-kwahy-it]–noun 1. lack of calm, peace, or ease; anxiety; uneasiness.

Disquiet. Lack of calm, peace or ease. Isn't this it in a nutshell? Isn't this the biggest hurdle? I want to come to a place of peace with the death of my daughter, and right now, I cannot. I still cannot even believe I never get to hold her again. It hits me everyday that this is permanent, like during the night I somehow wake again with this hope that I get her again. I wonder if this defines when we are out of our actively grieving period, when we feel a sense of ease, or peace, or even calm. Last night, I just couldn't stop crying as I ached for her. How much I want her with me. How hard it is to manage all these relationships in my life, when I really only want to focus on is finding a very beautiful handkerchief to soil. When I really only want to concentrate on my sobbing, the inhales and exhales, the particular noise I never knew I could make--noises that only exist when your child dies or you give birth, and are particularly unique when both those things happen at the same time. I cannot imagine peace right now, or calm, or ease. Disquiet, that I know something or two about.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Chapter Closed.

Monday, I closed a chapter of this life.

We finally met with the Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) doctor to go over all my test results, the autopsy, the bloodwork...Of course, my midwife had called to talk me through what she knew when she got the preliminary autopsy results, and we had a copy of all our records, which I poured over trying to find anything to explain why Lucy died. As my midwife put it, "There was no smoking gun." No infections. No chromosonal issues. No placenta incidents. Nothing. But this cycle of tests, waiting, results, repeat, was growing old. I felt nauseated from the roller coaster ride. One day, the midwife told me there was a placental infarction of 8%, consistent with the car accident we were involved in in October, and then the next week, my friend (a high-risk OB) would tell me that placental infarctions don't affect the baby until it is 70%, and death would be over 80%. So, I would prepare myself for the next result, the possibility they could tell me something so I could prevent another dead baby, and then I would come crashing down...nothing. She simply ceased.

Still, having known and been mentally preparing myself for the diagnosis that my perfect baby just died, I was still incredibly anxious about walking into the MFM office for further information. I had known people to get different information. More in-depth reasons for their baby's death. I just wasn't strong enough to learn anything new. And well, when I really examined why I was so very anxious, it wasn't that I didn't want to learn new information about Lucy's death. I did. I wanted to know why this happened. It was simply I didn't want to learn information that indicted me. I had the fear that I would sit down and he would say, "Sorry, Angie, but it was your fault." I mean, how could I not realize I was harboring this deep guilt? I was afraid he might tell me that my weight gain caused her death. Like he would sit down and say, "Yes, pasta killed your baby." Or maybe he would say it was my inability to give up sushi for most of my pregnancy (there I said it!), or the glass of wine I allowed myself every so often.

But he didn't say that. He said he was so so sorry. He said that these cases are most frustrating. He called me "healthy" five times. Me? Healthy? Before December 22,2008, I would have said, "Yeah, so?" But now, I didn't realize how much I needed someone to call me healthy. All these tests and a dead baby, and I thought I was unhealthy, diseased...I wanted to kiss him, and lay my head on his shoulder and cry, "Thank you for calling me healthy." He said I did everything right. He said my chances of having another stillborn baby were the same as before. (Actually, that part wasn't comforting at all.) and when he was talking about what would happen if we got pregnant again, it was the first time since Lucy died that I remembered the excitement of having a baby, of trying to conceive, of going through labor...but I am still not exactly there yet. I just realized that I entertained an idea I also thought was dead.

I walked out of there feeling lighter, like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I am honest when I say I didn't consciously ever think I could have done anything differently in my pregnancy. The closest I got to blaming myself outright is that I often thought that stress took its toll on my baby. I blamed the stress of a car accident, a falling out with one of closest friends this fall, and a broken collarbone which all happened at the same time while my father-in-law was battling lung cancer and I was trying to care for my 20 month old, and prepare for Christmas...it very quickly darkened the happiest time in my life. I felt so alone during that time...I thought maybe my stress caused her to suffer too. But I didn't realize I was blaming myself for specific things I did in my pregnancy. As I virtually skipped out of the MFM appointment, it was clear that I had.

Now, I just need to really work on wrapping my brain around her death. I have tried to come to peace with this place of no resolution. But honestly, this will remain my biggest challenge. As a science-loving, non-religious mama, I am trying to come to terms with the death of my child for no discernible reason. Adults don't just die for no reason. Why do we tolerate this? I have tried to equate it to SIDS in my brain. In fact, in my quest to make sense of it, I came across this term: Sudden Antenatal Death Syndrome or SADS. Still, finding a term doesn't bring a sense of peace. It just doesn't. Someone named a no-reason. But hey, sometimes I'm up for grasping at straws too. But whatever you name it, it still remains the same--My girl is gone. She just died. In me. For no apparent reason.


Sunday, March 22, 2009


There they were, walking amongst the fleece jackets, a young couple with a baby in one of those framed backpacks that you really only need when taking on Everest. Really, I heard the baby before I saw him, but my daughter had been chanting "outside" for fifteen minutes. He was just one of the noises in REI today. I'm not one of those babylost mamas who cannot be around pregnant women and babies. Maybe practicality prevents me from dwelling on other people's babies, or maybe it is simply that I want my baby, not just any old baby, but I think babies are keen, pregnant women beautiful, and families heart-wrenchingly touching. Still, when I noticed them in front of me eventually, after Beatrice ran off to baby bicycles with her father, my knees got weak.

It was her that made me want to vomit, run away, shake violently, take a generous shot of Jamesons. N. She was in my prenatal yoga class for months. She cried every Sunday morning when we went around the room said our names, how far along we are, what are issues for the week were. An architect by trade, I think she was having trouble wrapping her brain around this all-encompassing feeling of unconditional love. She was afraid. Every week she cried over a new fear. She once cried because she didn't know how she was going to be ready in time. And there I was, sitting in remarkable flexibility, like some swollen Buddha, saying "Pregnancy is a wave. Follow the wave."
"All the baby really needs is a boob, a diaper and your arms."
"Enjoy this time of expectation and planning."
"Revel in the long days of waiting, and sleeping, and relaxing."
"Be kind to yourself."
"You are doing everything right for your baby."
"Your baby is happy with just you. You cannot spoil a baby with too much love."

I virtually flaunted my laid backedness. I was so fucking cool. I was the only one in class who knew what it was like to have a baby and I had done it naturally at that. It was like I held some ancient secret that I wanted to share will all women. "If I can do it, you can do it," I said. "I was only in labor for 21 hours. It is a pain that is productive. It isn't like other pain." I was such an asshole.

And there she was, like I once was, with my husband after our first child, walking around loudly in an outdoor store, planning for our first hike, camping trip, bike ride...everyone listening to us. We didn't care. We were new parents, and our life wasn't going to change. We were taking the kid on our back and hitting the road.

I cringed. I slunk back into toddler wear, and began hyperventilating. Sure, I wanted to see the kid. I would have once run to her, drooled over her beautiful boy, told her how stunning she looked, how perfect her baby was...but I was completely paralyzed. Stunted. Immobile. Wholly inadequate. Instead of gushing, I wanted to tell them about Lucy. But I couldn't. I just could. Not. I mean, they were happy. Look at them, picking up expensive little onesies for camping, blissfully unaware that babies die because of nothing. Their world still had order, justice, kindness...I couldn't tell them that their baby was one yoga mat away from a dead baby. I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror hiding behind a rack of clothes, trying to figure out a way to my husband and baby. I look so sad. So broken. So sleep-deprived and depressed. A person no one notices in the store. A person no salesperson asks to help. I hopped rack to rack until I somehow managed to pop into the aisle with Bea and Sam. He took one look at me, and said, "Come" and held me. He put the keys into my hand and said, "Go to the car if you want." And I thought, "Yes. I will run to the car." But I didn't. I didn't run. I decided to let fate decide if N. would see me, talk to me, ask me about my little girl. I am tired of hiding from people who are happy...she didn't see me. Too wrapped up in her own very loud new baby world.

Why do i feel so compelled to write about these moments? It happens to me everyday. To every one of us. Something that takes my breath away, reminds me of a before-time, of my ignorance, of my grief, of my dead baby in a more concrete way than simply the usual background chanting of "Lucy is dead". It happens so often, in fact, it is more out of the ordinary to not break down crying in public for one reason or another. But here was this woman. A woman so scared, so sure something was going to go wrong, and here I was so laid back, so sure everything was going to be just fine. Never again will I take anything so important for granted. Never again will I look at a pregnant woman and think, "Suck it up. It'll be fine." I was like some sort of twisted Greek heroine who told the gods that she was too smart for them to take her baby. I think the cliff notes of my life would summarize this chapter of my life as: Hubris killed Angie's daughter.

Maybe the moral of this post is simply: today I didn't run away from my demons. I didn't confront them, like a brave person, but I didn't collapse and run to the car either. Maybe I was supposed to remember my arrogance today. Maybe this is progress. Maybe this is something.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Museum of Flowers

As we walked around the lake near my house, my sister-in-law said, "They really ought to have museums with only beautiful pictures of flowers and landscapes." I told her about the painting of Rachel Weeping and how I began to weep in the museum the other day. She was there too, of course. She said, "I was afraid you had seen it." She was good to talk to. She listened, she nodded, she told me stories about women who had survived the death of their children. When she said that there should be a museum of just flower paintings, I agreed at the time. Yes, only Monet, Renoir, Pissarro. It sounded like a good plan. Only safe paintings. Only paintings that don't make babylost mamas cry. They shouldn't hang pieces like Prometheus Bound, which also hangs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. When we saw it in the European collection, she said,"Did you see Prometheus Bound?" And I said, "Yes. I totally forgot that hung here. It is magnificent." She laughed, embarrassed, because I think she was about to say how disgusting it was. And it is hard to look at an eagle eating a man's liver. It is graphic. But it is also spectacular. Spectacularly horrific, but spectacular. Is this part of my personality that was here before? Probably. I have always loved Greek mythology, and the macabre, and well, that painting has it all.

The past few days since the museum trip, I have thought about it long and hard. Even though, I wish that we had some sort of babylost guide book, much like a morbid Lonely Planet, that warns us about paintings in museums; particularly baby-filled parks; scenes in movies that involve childbirth, miscarriage, stillbirth, cot death, death of anything innocent, young or child-like, or particularly touching scenes involving mothers and/or fathers; desperately coded songs where we might hear our own heartbreak present; and anything else likely to take our breath away, make our knees shake and send us into uncontrolled crying in front of visiting guests and strangers, I still think the painting Rachel Weeping needs to hang in the Museum of Art, even if it made me cry. I think it is desperately important for it to exist. So, I have catalogued the reasons why, as my brain is wont to do:

1. and/or A. In Peale's time, there was probably no place for men to talk of the sadness over the loss of his baby, and his wife's unhappiness. Painting it, perhaps, was his way to communicate how important and very sad this event was to him and his family. Perhaps it was his only emotional outlet. I dare say that is probably exacerbated by how prevalent stillbirth was in his time.

2. and/or B. Stillbirth and child loss is unfortunately part of our lives. To pretend we only have flowers, girls by rivers, and portraits of rich European girls in fancy dress means ignoring part of the human experience. We babylost mamas are already in the closet, must art also shield the world from our grief?

3. and/or C. Flower paintings are boring.

4.and/or D. This painting is entitled Rachel Weeping. Not Baby Lying There Dead. This painting is about our pain. This painting is about our grief. This painting is outing us in the American Collection. It is all about the Babylost Mama. About us. About Women. About all Mothers. Flowers are not about us. Flowers are about someone else, someone maybe we once were, but are no longer. Flower paintings are about pretending the world is a beautiful place. Flower painting are about pretending our babies don't die, and we are not sad. Flower paintings are for wimps.

5. and/or E. When we want to show pictures of our beautiful children in a room full of mothers who have pictures of their newborns yawning, we don't. We protect those mothers from our children, from our babies with their peeling skin, and red red lips. So, let us call this painting beautiful. Let us call this gray child cute, stunning even. Let us look for her father's nose,and her mother's lips. Let us hang Rachel Weeping front and center of the American collection, not behind a tall boy dresser. Let us think Rachel Weeping is more beautiful than a painting of flowers. And if forced to stare at painting after painting of cut flowers, let us remember that those flowers are dying too.

6.and/or F. Of the thousands of works hanging in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, there was one that I saw dealing with stillbirth. One. Rachel Weeping. I cannot even remember how many flower paintings I saw. I also can only specifically remember the contents of one, which is Van Gogh's Sunflowers, and that is simply by dint of its celebrity. Does our society repress death so much that one painting of a dead baby is too many?

7. and/or G. And the most important reason: Rachel, we will not forget your baby.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Angie Weeping

This week, we have out of town guests. Normally, I love having guests, showing everyone around this city, especially people that think that Philadelphia has no redeeming qualities. I like pointing out the history and art, the beauty of the city...I like telling those goofy Philly stories, showing them it really is a small town by walking around and running into people everywhere. Of course, it is different now. I wasn't sure I would have the energy to do it. Everyone seems a little bored with my stupid banal knowledge of the city. Perhaps I've truly lost my joie de vivre, or maybe, closer to the truth is, no one ever really enjoyed my ridiculous tour guiding.

Still, we hit the Art Museum yesterday, which is impressive without me having to do anything. Just by its mere existence. Now, I have a membership, and have gone/go quite a bit, but it has been a while since I wandered around the permanent collection. I generally go for a new show, or just head up to the Asian art section and Buddha-gawk. So, I was delighted to have an excuse to look at the European collection. The Philadelphia Art Museum has an amazingly vast collection of truly beautiful work. I was impressed with us. Go Philly.

Then, we decided to hit the American collection. I had forgotten that the Gross Clinic had become part of the permanent collection, and was excited to see the other Eakins. We walked into a room filled with quintessentially American furniture, and glassware, and I walked around. Wide-eyed, taking it in, and then BAM, there it was. Rachel Weeping. And the room began spinning, and I searched for an exit. My niece, age 7, stood next to me, and said, "Is she dead?" and I was faltering, "Yes, I think so. I have to go." And I turned around, past my family, past my husband, just saying, I need to walk, I need to walk. and the tears were streaming down my face.

I couldn't pull it together. I couldn't reign it in. I was just simply a wreck. Why didn't I notice these paintings before? Or the songs, or the poems, or the anything...how ignorant I was. I felt such a pull of two emotions. One screamed like an insane women, "Get me out of here. Get me out of here." And the other wanted to pull each person to this painting and say, "See how sad she is. This is how sad I am too." Of course, these incidents always remind of how universal this is, how very human losing my child to stillbirth is, but that doesn't make it any fucking easier. Sure, I feel very very human and very very fragile.

Yesterday was such a beautiful day, a day I have been waiting for since Lucy died, and I was a mess. When we got home, everyone wanted to head to the playground, while I just lay in bed and sobbed. It took all of my energy, all of my everything to get up when I heard them, and try to make it look like I hadn't been crying for an hour and a half. Last night, I looked up the painting on line, because I was ready to look at it. I was prepared, unlike the chance encounter we had in the American collection. And when I found the painting on a blog, it said, "Rachel Weeping, by Charles Willson Peale. Above is a painting by Charles Willson Peale of his wife Rebecca weeping over her dead little one. This painting is a poignant reminder of one of the blessings of modern life: the drastic lowering of child and infant mortality."

Fuck you, blog writer.

Monday, March 16, 2009

On compassion

After reading Sarah's post, I was thinking about the word compassion. I use that word all the time. It is the main quality I wish to bestow upon my daughter. But I have never really looked it up before. So, I did:

1. a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

Even the definition makes me feel deeply that the universe is a good place...It isn't that I don't know what this word means, but I wanted to be reminded of all the elements of it. Deep sympathy. Sorrow for another. Desire to alleviate suffering.It isn't simply one of these qualities or feelings, it is all of them together. That is powerful medicine. The synonyms that came up are commiseration, mercy, tenderness, heart, clemency. Wow.

I asked Sally the other day how she found my blog, and she said Sarah sent an email to a few people. Then she honestly said, "I must admit, when i got the one about you I was like 'fuck not another one' almost as if, my heart is full, i can't support any more." And honestly, I don't know how she did, yet grateful that she is. We all have an the exhausting job of mourning, of sadness, or existing. That is enough, like that folktale I wrote about once, that is enough work. But all of these women come together and sound the call. I imagine it sounds like a great wail across the world, hitting San Francisco, Australia, Germany, England...like the bat signal, only a loud, deep guttural cry only a mother experiencing the death of their child knows, to support another new mother of another dead baby. Compassion, indeed. And the effect is tangible. I am here and ready to offer my arms, my ears, my tears, my memory for the next woman, even as I beg the universe that there will be no more women...This beautiful, sad, cyclical community thrives on compassion, and proves the extent in which our hearts are capable and ready to love.

I don't know why I am writing about this this morning, when others have written about it so well. But hell, I will probably write about it a thousand times again. But it got me thinking about these stories. Our stories. I devour babylost stories. Before I could find my own voice, I relied on the stories I read of others able to somehow breathe another day. They told my story. They put words to the anger, the pain, despair, grief, guilt...Some of those women went on to birth again and showed pictures of their beautiful children. Women that wrote stories about a small joy in life, like the first flower popping after a long cold winter (hey, my front lawn is littered with crocus). Stories about women who were finally emerging back into the world, a little pale and clammy, but eager for sunlight on their skins. I wanted to read about survival, especially from women who experienced the stillbirth of their child like me. The most powerful posts for me are the ones where the emotions are so raw, so honest that they floored me, somehow made me laugh a little, but left me slack jawed and crying all at the same time. Where there are no other words to describe the experience except fuck, or wow. I vicariously live through those happy times, laugh at the rants, feel a great satisfaction at pure raw anger and vitriol, and I cry with the sad.

Before Lucy, I didn't know you existed. I didn't know about your children. I'm sorry. I should have known. The world should know about all of our babies. But now, I think their names constantly along with my daughter's name. Name after name, like couples, I cannot think about a mother without thinking about her son, or daughter. They go off in my head interminably. And I think there is part of me that is collecting these names. One day, when they hand me a microphone somewhere, and I will say them all together, in a long litany, so those thousands of ignorant fools out there, of which I am and was one, will know about our babies. And I will say each name, "Angie and Lucia. We will not forget." Standing tall, trying not to cry, and say them all, until I drop...or they pull me off stage and tell me this is the annual book festival of Collingswood...

But I just thought I should remind anyone who might think of themselves as not compassionate enough, your comment on one woman's stupid blog might change her outlook for the day, it might change a tide in Philadelphia, it might change the world.

Friday, March 13, 2009

On strength.

I sometimes have the urge to just go to the place that is reserved for particularly disturbing fifties films where the distraught mother loses all touch with reality and dresses a porcelain doll in her baby's clothes, and calls it by her dead child's name. I would surround myself with all things Lucy—her hair, her picture, the little acorn baby that I bought for her Christmas, her ashes. I could create some kind of fancy, strange little Victorian museum out of all her things, wrap myself in another reality, and rock in the corner. I would just weep until I believed she was alive again. It would be morbid and ugly, and somehow deeply satisfying. But I have a child, even if I did this for one day, I fear I would go fully insane and not be able to come back to my beautiful life. But for one day, I want to dress like Bette Davis, and say something akin to "But you are, Blanche. You are in that chair."


The other day when I wrote that I wasn't strong, I was also a goddamn liar. I have lived a few lifetimes already. There was a time in my life when, convinced that I wanted to be a writer, I decided that I would not turn down any new experience. I have talked to truly insane people, like a man who believed the Illuminati was following him and had tapped his Temple dorm room phone because he was a Catholic. I talked to him for five hours. I once went cliff diving in New Mexico while visiting a Zen Monastery. I tried to be brave then. I did. But I wasn't strong. I really was just a knucklehead. I have always thought that when people called me strong they just meant that. They just totaled all those knucklehead experiences and thought it equaled strength. But to me, that never was strength.

Strength to me is being compassionate, being humble, being capable...I want to be that. I strive to be that. One day, in a seriously delusional moment, after Lucy died, Sam and I were driving I began saying, "Being strong and faking being strong are the same exact thing. No, really, I am just going to pretend I am strong. I am just going to act like a strong person, like how I imagine a strong person acting, and then I am going to get through this." and I giggled nervously,"Yeah, I'm just going to fake it."

After Lucy died, I reveled in the emails and notes I received from my friends, and loved ones. But I was also completely stunned, and still am, at the amount of people who have said nothing. Not one thing. I know they know. In my kindest moments, I see their suffering, and pain. In most moments, I call them cowards. Fucking cowards. And I am shocked at how many cowards I know. My amazing friend, whose wife miscarried three babies wrote me the rawest, most honest email after Lucy died. It stunned me, and I read and reread it. He got it. He has survived this nightmare. He talked about the abyss. He gave me exactly what I needed at the time--permission to go to the dark place, to be angry, to be alienated, to grieve in anyway I needed without regard to my mental soundness. He still does this for me. It is a gift I can never repay. When I wrote back and told him about the cowards in my life, he wrote this:

I am sorry that others you care for and who, no doubt, care for you cannot be more for you in this time of suffering. Such is a bitter lesson for the strong: Because we are strong does not mean that those around us - though they may revel in this quality - will be equally strong when we need it; Indeed, it is in times of weakness that you find that those around you who rely vicariously on your strength are nowhere to be found because they cannot fathom the responsibility of shouldering the load; they cannot be strong for you... And you must find it in your heart to forgive them. You can believe that they are out there wishing they had the strength; the courage to try and lift you up....

But you will find that your strength alone will carry you through this, and you will indeed come out stronger.

But in the end, I do think I am strong. Not simply because I have survived a lot--death, birth, robbery, marriage, taxes, sickness, bills, corporate life, traveling, depression, giddiness...but perhaps it is because I have grown from these things. Because I have let others lean on me when they are going through them. Perhaps it is because even though I don't know what the fuck to say when someone's baby dies either, I still say something. ANYTHING. Even though I am afraid. But I don't think it is any of those things. Not really. I think it is simply because I forgive all those cowards in my life. I do.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

a dream

i had a dream that i walked into this strange house. it was like an architect's house from the 60s all straight edges and exposed rocks, and low furniture. there were people milling about in a sort of cocktail party type way, and i was fixing martinis for the crowd. when i carried the tray down the stairs to a fireplace room, my grandparents were sitting there. my beautiful nan and pop. my grandfather was reading a newspaper, and my grandmother looked as though she were crying. she said, "oh, honey, i am just so sad for you." and i said, "i am so sad for me too." and i sat at the edge of the coffee table. "why are you here? i am so happy to see you." and i sat with them staring. my grandfather looked up from his paper and said in his way,"Jesus, would you look at this one, Mary Lou? She died cliff diving. That's a shame." And I realized that he was reading a paper from heaven about who the newcomers were. i knew they were leaving and my grandmother gave me a kiss on the cheek which left big red lips, like she did my entire childhood. and i missed them before they were gone again.

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.

Monday, March 9, 2009

An open letter

Sunday we had some friends come over. They have a baby who is six months old. It is good to see them, but hard too. They have come to see us twice now since Lucy died, but have not said "I’m sorry" in person. They completely ignore that Lucy ever existed. I mean, we know why they are visiting—because we are grieving—but every time I bring Lucy, or her birth, up, they get saucer-like eyes, and pretend they haven't heard me. And I do bring her up. It is troubling, but I also know that they are trying. Simply by dint of them being in my house, I know they are trying. I actually received an email from my friend, the male part of the duo, who said he was sorry for not talking about our grief, or acknowledging it in person, which was nice of him to recognize. Then he said, "Maybe we flatter ourselves, thinking we can be a bit of a vacation from your loss." A VACATION FROM OUR LOSS?!?! You have got to be kidding me with that shit.

It has sent me into a huge tailspin this morning. Honestly, it made me super depressed, because I realized that the only way I could get any respite from this grief is if I could get Lucy alive. Then the pain would go away for that time. But I will never ever have that.

So, I am writing an open letter:

Dear you,

There is absolutely NO vacation from the pain of losing your child. EVER. But if I could have a vacation from my grief, a reprieve from my pain, it would mean one thing—that I would have Lucy to hold. My vacation would be ten minutes of smelling her again, a week of touching her warm skin again. I would give my left fucking arm for one sleepless night with my daughter. My day off from grief would be to have an ordinary day with my newborn. I know I will never get that, because I am not an insane person. I am a real live depressed, grief-stricken woman. But still, that is the only vacation I can imagine from this shithole hell that I live in.

You said I seem to be doing well, and that I am strong. Perhaps I seem good to you; perhaps I seem strong, but I am neither. Strength is choosing to do something that you know is hard to help someone else or yourself. I didn't choose this life. I would have chosen a different path for myself. An simple path. I would have chosen an easy birth, a live child, a quick latch, and a good sleeper. I would have chosen to be blissfully ignorant of how much a baby-size urn costs, of what my husband's worst moment looks like, and of reading how much my dead daughter's goddamn liver weighs in an autopsy report. If I am smiling, it is simply because I am a goddamn liar right now. I am a goddamn liar if I am showing the world I am okay. And if you don't want to talk about Lucy's birth or death, it is because you are uncomfortable, not me. I am sadly comfortable in this dark place. I am at home in the abyss. We are one. You certainly aren't protecting me from anything by ignoring my daughter’s death. I have seen the worst that life has to offer. You are protecting yourself.

My husband said, “Fortunately, he does not understand what we are going through.” It is fortunate. And in many ways, I am comforted by my alienation from you right now. Fortunately.

I love you.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


I randomly grabbed some pair of socks out of the drawer, sat on the bed to put them on, and then I realized they were the socks I wore during Lucy’s birth. I probably would never have remembered that if my midwife Megan hadn’t pointed out that they were Smartwool. Before Lucy’s birth, she pulled out those footsies they give you in the hospital with grippers on them. She told me I should wear the hospital footsies. “You might get blood on your socks.” Really? Like on top of everything else, she wanted me to save the socks. “It doesn’t matter if I get blood on these socks,” I said. She looked at me very seriously. “But these are cool socks.” I stared at the socks when she handed me the footsies. I began hating these fucking purple Smartwool socks. I mean, really hate them. Why do I even have these socks? Where did they come from, these ugly ass socks? Maybe if I hadn’t worn these socks, the day would have been different. Still, she said, “No, really, those are Smartwool. They are nice socks. You don’t want blood on them, do you?” Actually, yes, I did want blood on them. Iwant blood on everything. I am in a war, and I want everyone to know about it. I wanted these beautiful purple socks stained and ugly, just like me. “They are already ruined! I am already ruined!” I wanted to scream. These stupid purple socks will always be those fucking socks I wore the day Lucy died. They will always be ugly now. And I hated them. I hated everything Smartwool. I hated everything wool. I hated everything having to do with socks period. And now, I am pulling on those fucking socks I wore the day, more than two months ago, that my daughter died—the ones that Sam carelessly threw into the bag after I put on footsies and birthed my dead daughter without a drop of blood.

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.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Lucia's Birth Story, Part 2

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

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

The Word Cruel

She was breathing one minute, and not the next. And then, they explained I had to be induced. I had to bring her into this room and into the world. Cruel world. “Can’t you just do a C-Section and take her out?” This was me speaking, I birthed my first daughter naturally. I would have birthed at home with a lay midwife if I could, and here I was asking them to take her out by Caesarean. What I was really thinking was “Just cut her out of me. Take her out.” Birth seemed so unbelievably cruel. The midwife explained that then I have to recover from major surgery. I had to deliver her vaginally.

I was terrified of this process and terrified to eventually see her. When I birthed my first daughter, someone asked me after a few weeks what it was like to be a mother. I said, “It is like watching your heart walk around in the world.” But what if your heart is not beating?

Everyone left us to talk about our options, which were really to be induced, naturally or with epidural. They transferred us to the labor and delivery area. The nurse came in alone after the doctors and midwife left, and gave me a huge hug. “Ah, honey.” And I cried on her shoulder. There is no measure of time, or space, during these times. I could have been in that room for three seconds or three hours. It was the same.

I decided to have an epidural with Lucia, despite my hippie nature. This was a different experience for me, and my husband said he couldn’t bear to see me in physical pain on top of everything else. I wanted to be home with Beatrice. I wanted to erase the last 72 hours, and go back to the time when I know she was alive and ask them to induce me then. I wanted to erase the pain. And yet, there was part of me that wanted the pain. I wanted to physically be tortured, for that is what I felt inside. Tortured. I looked at my gigantic, 38-week pregnant belly. Torture. I still feel pregnant. I still am pregnant. My womb is now a coffin for my little girl. Every so often, I would feel what felt like the baby shifting, and think, “They are wrong. They are wrong.” But I would just cry. They don’t get that wrong.

I think I have completely blocked the phone call to my sister and my mother. I am grateful to not be emotionally strong enough to remember that pain. I do know that saying the words for the first time were nearly impossible, and hearing their utter sorrow made me shudder. I kept saying to them I am sorry. I am so sorry. I was. I often said the safest place for Lucia was in my belly. But then, the worst thing that could happen, happened in my belly.

They put Cervadil in over night, and when I was ripened, as they said, they would begin with Pitocin in the morning. Ripened. I kept thinking about that word. “Get some sleep,” my midwife said. It was the darkest, longest night. It was winter solstice. I drifted off for a couple of hours, expecting to wake sweating in my own bed, but I woke in the hospital again. This day was certain to be the worst day of my life. If I can survive this day, I thought, I can survive anything. Just one hour at a time today. Just one minute at a time. One breath until the next painful breath.

Our night passed restlessly. I took a Benadryl to sleep. It barely touched my anxiety and late pregnancy discomfort, but the few hours seemed all I needed that night. Sam bunked on a cot next to me. His long body looked painfully cramped in the bed, and I was having trouble bearing the sight of him in such a painful position. Finally, we just decided it was morning at 5am, and Sam asked me in the morning if I wanted a coffee. I suddenly wanted a fully caffeinated coffee. Not just fully caffeinated, but something like a quadruple espresso. Maybe a shot of bourbon in a quadruple espresso. I had denied myself full caffeine this entire pregnancy. And then, like ticking off a checklist, it began occurring to me that I could drink alcohol, take ibuprofen, take morphine…that the epidural didn’t matter because I wouldn’t be hurting the baby anymore. She was dead. It always ended like that, suddenly every thought pattern ended with, “because she is dead already.”

I shook off the hundred yard stare and just said, “A half-caf, please.” And he left the room. I sobbed and watched the news. The world was continuing. The world was going on even though my baby was dead inside me. How can that be?

Sam bought a breakfast, which I simply could not touch. I had no appetite. How could I eat when I was no longer nourishing my child? I wanted to waste away. I wanted to be left bereft, starving. I didn’t need my strength anymore. I was simply a shell.

The nurse came in with a stunning arrangement of flowers from my beautiful sister-in-law and brother-in-law. I took one look and burst out crying. I just couldn’t see an arrangement of white lilies. Everything seemed so cruel to me. I ordered them out. I ordered them out harshly. I cussed. I became enraged. I wanted something to be angry about, someone to be angry with, and flower senders seemed as good as anything. I realized, quickly, how irrational it all was, and yet, I felt compelled to throw things, to upturn my IV machine, and trash the hospital room. I just sobbed instead, and let my anger turn into what it was. I was determined to call my feelings by their proper names, even if most of the time, I didn’t speak the language of this kind of cruel. And truly, the mantra in my head during my hospital time was, “This is so cruel. The world is so cruel. Cruel.” This refrain would eventually change, but for the first 24 hours, it was what echoed in my thoughts.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

To being on-line

Aaaaaaaaaah, I just feel like skipping down the street, pointing to random groups of people and gloating, "I'm back on-line, bitches!" Of course, that kind of hubris is probably what caused my computer issues to begin with. Still, my sweet laptop is back in my arms, and I feel much better. Last Wednesday, my computer just ceased being able to get on-line. The geek squad saved me from madness.

It was an incredibly powerful experience to be off-line for a week. I felt utterly bereft. I have set up such an amazingly wonderful community of mothers on-line through blogs, forums, email, facebook...I just felt so down, lonely and sad. A vital part of my support system was instantly gone. I really missed talking to Molly, whose son Colden died four days before Lucia. I can't even catalog the ways in which her emails soothe me. I missed reading everyone's blogs. I miss surfing ridiculously vacuous crap just to silence the inner voice during naptime. I missed Scrabble. I just didn't realize how important it has all been to my sanity. On top of that, being a stay at home mama can be a little alienating and lonely without staying connected to other big people throughout the day. [The only up side was that my house was much cleaner. (So very sad.)]

The day after I took my laptop into the shop, I had a sudden horrifying realization that I hadn't backed up any of my writing, or pictures. I began ticking down all the things I would lose. The only pictures that exist of Lucia were on my laptop. Lucy's birth story. Countless pieces I have written about this time of mourning, and the death of my daughter. I got seriously frantic. I cried on and off thinking of a world without these things. I called the geeks to ask if I could come and back everything up, and they assured me that it not would be necessary. They tried to convince me that they would take care of it, if it came to that. I simply wanted to yell, "But you don't understand, my baby died." In some situations, I would have completely said that, actually, but these are eighteen year old boys working as computer dudes for a while. I didn't want to scare them. I was already being an insane person calling every other day, even though they told me it would be a week. It was a difficult exercise in trying to shake those Type A, controlling parts of my brain. Because despite their assurances, I had strange fantasies of speeding towards the Best Buy, jumping the counter, pushing those black-tied geeks aside, grabbing my laptop, viruses and all, and running home, maniacally laughing. I didn't do that. I waited. Still, I couldn't exactly quiet the anxiety. I spent one naptime writing "lucia paz 12/22/08" sixteen hundred times on a sheet of paper in various hand writings. I just kept thinking about losing my pictures of Lucy. I'm not sure I would have recovered from that. Why do I keep thinking that one more thing will push me over the edge? When the next thing happens, I am still here. I am still surviving. You would think I would have more faith in myself by this point, but maybe subconsciously I realize that it is such a tenuous string that holds my sanity together, I can't imagine it being strong enough to endure any more loss.