Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Beady-eyed grudge holder

There are some things I won't or can't talk about on this blog. I think everyone has them because I never read about anyone's parents. I mean, not in a direct way. More like in a "I hung out with my folks this weekend." Never about our new relationships with our parents. Someone should break through the fourth wall. We should have a conversation about our mothers and our fathers. I know with the birth of my oldest child, I became the mother to my mother's granddaughter. And so, the death of my own daughter in my own womb means something to that relationship, I think. But also, when my daughter died, something else happened. I became her child in pain. I know we are both in pain, and I know our relationship is changing. I just don't know how yet. I am not a strong person. Nor am I a courageous person. I am just treading water over here. But someone should talk about it. Someone braver than me.


This past weekend, I visited my friend in NYC with another friend. It was a nice visit; though I was so emotionally exhausted on Sunday, I couldn't stay awake for more than three hours straight. I have really been craving girl time, and it was nice to be unencumbered by little ones, and have an afternoon wine, and talk in the rambling, beautiful way you talk to your lady friends. It was also difficult to see myself out in public. I must look so shell-shocked, so sad, so weary, so, well, fake...and then when I talk, it just must always seem to come back to my grief. I wish I were different, but I am not.

Mostly, I realize how very angry I must sound. That is what I thought after talking with them. I was ashamed at how angry I am at our mutual friends. And I am, I guess. I listed them. By name. I told them who kept their promises, who called, who didn't...I wanted to cry it all out. I wanted to scream, "THE COWARDS." I didn't do that, but I did feel horribly guilty afterward. Over a glass of wine, my friend said, "They just probably don't know what to say." And that is true. They probably don't. We discuss it on our blogs. We all make excuses for people..."Thank goodness they don't understand," we say. "How lucky to feel alienated from them, it means they don't know this pain. Maybe one day," we muse, "We will be friends again. After the dust settles."

But today, after four months of thinking about it, hearing it, and having friends make excuses for other friends, I want to say this to those people who don't know what to say:

Read a fucking book.

Google "what to say to someone grieving stillbirth". (96,000 hits come up) Or better yet, go to a fucking therapist. I have. I have done all those things to soothe my relationships with people who haven't even lost a child. I read countless boring books about grieving the loss of my child to figure out how to still be friends with some douchebag I shared an apartment with in 1993. I begun putting nice-nice shitty status updates on Facebook to make people feel comfortable. I have spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars seeing therapists to help me process my anger, and sadness, and grief, and the fucking horrible realization that I am a different, sad, broken person because my daughter died. I did that so I could function in this world and keep my friendships with people who spend their weekends not lighting a fucking candle instead of holding their newborn. I have read blogs, and tried to learn how other babylost mamas keep friendships with people who can't figure out what to say to them.

AND we say, "I feel bad for them. They don't know what to say."

Well, here's another thing I want to say, "Figure it fucking out." Because I have. And I remember. I remember everyone who sent an email, who mustered an "I'm sorry" in person, whose eyes glistened, who said my daughter's name, who called me, who dropped off food, who didn't make any excuses about why they didn't call sooner...I never used to be a grudge holder, but I might make an exception this time.

(Does this count as part of the angry stage?)

Monday, April 27, 2009

The moon

I am in a funk. And not the cool kind where you invent dance moves. The bad kind. Where you have forgotten exactly how long it has been since you washed your hair.

Today, I watched three + hours of In Treatment rather than say, uh, write, meditate, stretch, clean, read, cry, draw, make art, exercise...be a productive member of society. The entirety of Beatrice's naptime spent in an uncomfortable chair drinking Pellegrino after Pellegrino, NOT thinking about Lucy, Beatrice, my house, my laundry, my anything. Not appreciating this amazing weather. Just zoning out. Trying to forget my stupid fucking reality.

Just as I finished that sentence, Beatrice ran up to me. "Moon, Mami, moon."
"Yeah, Mama, the moon. Outside. Come."
And I debated whether or not to go. I really wanted to keep bitching about how blah I feel. I get a ton of requests like this in the evening from my two year old. Repeated. Over and over and over again. Sometimes I feel like such an ass for not jumping up every time, not answering every question, not following every wild goose chase, not doing everything she wants. I want to savor and appreciate every minute with her, but sometimes Mama just needs a break. I am so exhausted from being interested in every thing she does all day. But she said, "Mama, moon. Come."

And I got up off my fat ass and followed her. A little reluctantly, shuffling my feet. And she pointed to the door, and we opened it up. Beatrice in just her little diaper, and me in my jammies. We stepped outside, and she pointed. "Moon."

And it took my breath away. The moon was so incredibly beautiful. Just a sliver in the sky, but bright and big. The stars illuminated all around. The night air warm and welcome. It looked like it was winking, and I thought of Lucy, and Beatrice.

"Thank you, Beatrice, for sharing the moon."
"Pretty, mama."
"Yes, love, it is beautiful."

I am humbled by the moments when I am present, and ashamed of the moments I have missed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Toast to Spring

Today, my emotions were so close to the surface, I just cried and sauteed radishes. Not a sobbing, moaning, unable-to-work cry. Just a soft, tear-rolling-down-the-face cry. It was a good dinner. Radishes with sea salt and butter. Some Panamanian rice. A glass of Sauvignon Blanc. My dining room wind chimes finally moving of their own accord. I am grateful for the small treasures of spring.

I received a book of Alma Luz Villanueva's poetry today, and it is so raw and heartbreaking. Even though our lives are very different, she is clearly my manita. And that is it, somehow all the rawness of the universe is mine. I own it too, along with every other woman who suffers heartbreak, disappointment, sadness, grief, mourning...All this grief is our collective pain, and so we feel every ripple of the butterfly's wing as it desperately fights against the wind. Sure, this suffering and pain is so self-absorbing, but if we share the pain, we also disperse the joy, pride, and the happiness.

Throughout the day, when I stare into the absolute pit of despair, I wonder if this is a moment when I should call my therapist. He once told me that my homework was to call him. This was many years ago, when I had nothing but stubborn strength and solitude as my problems. He said, "Your homework is to call me when you feel sad, or lonely, or when you want to need someone." I failed my assignment. I never called him. And I wonder if he remembers telling me that all those years ago. He hasn't offered it now. The cynic in me thinks it is because he knows I would call now. The optimist in me thinks it is because he knows I would call now.

Thursday's session was good. We did a very grounding meditation on the senses. We isolated the senses, and tried to quiet the mind sense--the one that makes logical conclusions about the input of the other five. So, you see a picture, for example, but the sixth sense, the mind sense, processes that information, makes a judgment about it. Por ejemplo, you stare at the wall with a hanging object. This is the sight sense. We are seeing. Now, our mind sense steps in. That is a black rectangle with colored shapes. Further, that is a painting. Further still, that is a painting of women walking. Even further, that is a painting of Nepalese women carrying jugs of water on their head. It shows the daily life of women in Nepal. Where the meditation begins and ends is the painting. We look at it, but try not to judge it. We also try not to space out on it. It isn't like a soft-eyed meditation. It is a fully conscious meditation on sight. It is fascinating. And I felt a sort of calm emanate over me as we began this meditation, and I felt a sort of centeredness I had been lacking this week.

I wish I could say it is all better now, but it's not. Maybe my meditation is better because he's given me something to focus on instead of the mantra, "My daughter is dead. My daughter is dead."


Today I pitched tennis balls against my garage. I threw them as hard as I could, and the dog and the girl went crazy running after them. It felt good. My arm needed the workout, and those muscles, so long out of use, refound their rhythm of pitching balls. Toppling puppy and girl in a pile of giggles at my feet. I just picked up another, and they righted themselves, and I went again. And then a low pitch, right on the tip of the garden gnome's hat sent our ball flying over the garage, ending our game, but for those moments, my daughter's death wasn't all I felt.

To spring.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Walt Whitman

I live about a two miles from where Walt Whitman currently resides. He is buried behind the Dunkin Donuts, before the Route 130 traffic circle. In New Jersey, there is a poet behind every Dunkin Donuts.

I drive by Harleigh Cemetary often. Someone always cuts me off at the forced merge approaching the sign with his wild beard staring at me. I center myself and think, "A great poet lives there." Garbage strewn on the sidewalks, and among the chaos of a five way stop, I take a moment to think about beauty, and writing and poetry.

Today is four months since Lucy was born. I feel her so deep within my belly, so immersed in my being, that it as if she has always been my daughter. I feel as though I have mourned her for a lifetime. I remember when I first started reading blogs, still grotesquely postpartum--bound, weeping breasts, so tender I was...a great deal of babylost mamas I began reading then had just passed the four and five month marks. So, perhaps that is why this one is hitting me so profoundly. Before this month, I thought of this day as another of the many days of the month that I would cry for my daughter.

But when I began reading what these other women were going through, I remember asking myself this litany of questions:

Where will I be in this grief process in four months?
Will I be trying for another baby? (Uh, not even remotely close to there yet).
Would I still howl everyday?
Would commercials still make me lose it and throw things at the television?
Would my daughter be saying Lucy's name as much as I am?
Would I have hair?
Which friends are still going to be here, which friends are going to be gone?
Will so and so ever call me? (no.)

Maybe it is just that the rawness is not so raw, and the acute pain of Lucy's death is not so acute...but deep deep within me the grief has settled and made itself at home. Comments from yesterday were so so appreciated. I devoured them between painting in the sun, and being outside with my beautiful family.

So, for today, I want to quote some of that Federico Garcia Lorca poem that I love on this day, Ode to Walt Whitman

Not for a moment, Walt Whitman, lovely old man,
have I failed to see your beard full of butterflies...
Agony, agony, dream, ferment, and dream.
This is the world, my friend, agony, agony.
Bodies decompose beneath city clocks,
war passes by in tears, followed by a million grey rats,
the rich give their mistresses
small illuminated dying things,
and life is neither noble, nor good, nor sacred.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Yesterday, I received a package from Kodak. I finally ordered a few prints of Lucy. I have been so afraid since my computer crashed of losing them forever. Oh, my beautiful, beautiful girl. Yesterday, though, they were hard. I don’t obsessively look at her picture anymore. When I opened the package, it startled me that she looked so bruised, hurt, and well, so dead. I don’t remember her like that. I don’t even remember her picture like that, even though it has only been a week since I saw them. And when I sit with her picture for a few moments, I only see the Lucy I once held with whom I imagined a lifetime. The one without trauma. The one with the perfect nose, and those lips, and the aching I feel just writing about her. It is almost too much to bear.

Yesterday, they came, along with some prints of Lucia’s name on Christian’s seashore. As I made dinner, I walked into the living room to find Beatrice has taken them out of the package and was throwing them around the room as the dog pounced.

I. Lost. My. Shit.

I wish all the things sacred to us glowed a fiery red and hissed, or somehow triggered a door where clowns and a monkey came into the other side of the room juggling candy, or better yet, the sacred objects should come with the ability to throw chocolates in the other direction to distract approaching mothers, babies and puppies. My meditating mama had hair, as you probably noticed in this picture, but by the time I birthed Lucy, my nephew somehow broke her hair off. No, really, just the hair. It ended up being so apt, because when Lucy died, I wanted to pluck each hair out of my hair and stay bald for the rest of my days. But at the time, I was devastated, even when I knew it was my own fault for leaving her accessible to small hands.

I ran and gathered the photographs, and said over and over again, “NO, no, no, no, no…we do not touch Lucy’s pictures, no. Not now, not ever. NO. No. No. These are not toys.” And then, all at once, I broke into wide sweeping sobs. Bea stared at me, and just said, “Sorry.”

I do my best thinking in water. With a mug of tea, and my hands too wet to write effectively on anything, I memorize my amazingly eloquent, yet fleeting lines, and scamper out of the bath, making puddles in the hall along the way until I somehow get it all out. It is never as brilliant as it was in bubbles. Generally, it is solidly mediocre, or the original intent is lost somewhere between tile and rug. And I usually end up frustrated, cold and with a huge Angie print on a piece of furniture. After dinner, Sam offered to draw me a bath, and make me some tea.

I have not been doing very good. Not at all really.

I needed it—a good soak to clear my mind, and construct something brilliant. When I popped into the bathroom, he was lighting a candle to rest on the edge of the tub. The girl and the dog were giggling and bouncing respectively, so he herded them out and ran them up and down the house. Sometimes the best support is time alone.

The water is never hot enough anymore. I don’t even turn on the cold. Just hot. Sam puts the kettle on for a mug of herbal tea, and the rest to warm the bath. Apparently, I need it to be almost boiling to feel warmth. I sat still by the candlelight, and found myself weeping with my whole body. Being quiet makes me cry now. A lot. I cried because my days and evenings shouldn’t be like this. I shouldn’t have to miss my daughter. I shouldn't have to freak out when a picture of my daughter is on the floor, because I should be able to take more. I shouldn’t be comforted by the stories of suffering and dead babies. It breaks my heart.

Yesterday, in the rain and storms, during extended naptime, before the pictures arrived, I just read the same blogs over and over…it’s what I wanted to do. I was in a deep funk before the pictures. I wanted to remind myself how universal this is. I wanted to read birth stories, and weep. I wanted to know that people survive this. I am comforted by the survivors, even when they are barely surviving. I wanted to cry for us all, for the aching I have for the babies and their parents.

You know, even when I don’t search blogs out, people tell me stories about death. Does this happen to all of us babylost? People tell me stories about how their friends are affected by death, stories about a child's death in their community, stories of disaster, horrible accidents, senseless tragedies...in some way, I think tragedy and compassion are what I have now. In quite another way, it feels so cruel to keep being reminded how chaotic and cruel the universe is. Realizing that others have it worse than me isn't comforting; I simply want to be the last of the sufferers. A dying breed, so to speak. I would search for stories about random acts of kindness perpetrated by perfect strangers if they didn't read like fairy tales to me now. Fantastical. Yesterday, I just wanted to be around the babylost all the time, surrounded by swirling talk of our babies, our community, death, our real life friends, and whatever else comes up.

I am most comfortable in a world where I am alone in person, and together in spirit with perfect strangers crying. And I hate that about me right now.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My Space

I am shaken. I admit it. There was a day, not so long ago, where I would never have admitted that to my closest confidante. Today. It is probably far above what the anxiety a normal person feels when someone isn’t very nice, but then again, my daughter just died. Right now, I think I have realized just how open, vulnerable, and trusting I am here and in this community, and that means when I feel threatened, everything feels so much more scary. I don’t really want to talk about the specifics of what sparked all of this. I feel misunderstood, and I believe in my attempt to soothe that, I probably created fuel for a fire that was raging long before I came along. But at the end of the day, this whole situation is because of trust, of honesty, of openness, of community, and of healing.

Those are all good things.

So, I meant to run away. Honestly, I did. I meant to crawl under a rock and hide for a while, until my shell hardened a little. Sometimes I feel like I am still molting, and my scales haven’t grown in. My twin sister KellyAnn always talks about being one of those desert tortoises that gets so scared, it pees, and then dies of dehydration. So, whenever we talk about a situation in which I am going to confront one of our fears, she makes a high-pitched scream, a squirt sound, and then sticks her tongue out to indicate that whatever I just said is just too much for her fragile disposition. Maybe I am one of those reptiles. Only molting. I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings. It is the hardest thing for me to overcome—not caring what other people think. Not wanting to be misunderstood by a stranger. What is that—ego, self-esteem, immaturity? What?

But here I am again, writing about myself and my process. All day yesterday, I had been on the verge of crying, trembling and cold, even as I lay sweating in the sunlight after a rousing tetherball match with the husband and a perfect afternoon with my family. Sometimes I cannot help but feel the universal truth in Foucault’s Panopticon. Am I governed by my truth or someone’s else? Do I suddenly find myself guarded because I think someone who doesn’t approve of me is watching?

I am honest, though. I am just not brutally honest. I think those things should be mutually exclusive—brutality and honesty. I have an extreme aversion to brutality. But this is my space now. Today, I am peeing in my corners without dying. I am decorating its insides, picking gaudy paint colors that have a specific meaning only to me. There will be gnomes everywhere. Shelves lined with Bibles and books about Nixon. Aesthetics, be damned. I am declaring my safety zone here. But to do that, I have to face my fears. And my fear right now is being exposed and open.

So, let me tell you a little about me.

I am a woman whose daughter died, like millions of mothers in the world, who grieve openly, bellow a loud resounding wail for a short time, and then somehow manage to scream inside for the rest of their days. I am somewhere in between those two phases. That is why I write this blog. I write because I don’t know what else to do with my grief. I write because I cannot talk about it constantly, even though I think about constantly. I write because I am compelled. I used to write and not put it out into the public sphere, but I find the feedback comforting. I have found this community supportive and loving. I am comforted by knowing that others understand what lying in bed, in the dark, thinking the endless thoughts, asking the countless questions, wondering, even when you tell yourself it is a pointless exercise, but wondering what life would be like if…five days earlier, you insisted on being induced.

I am a woman who insists on thinking of herself as nothing special, and no one in particular. Citizen X. One of the most profound scenes in any book I have read is in Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger. After Franny leaves show business and drops out of the public sphere, someone asks her what happened, and she says, “It takes the most courage in the world to be absolutely nobody.” Yes. Striving to just be you is brave. That is why I never ask why this happened to me? Because why not? I am not someone special. I read What to Expect When You are Expecting, and promptly tossed it after thinking it was too alarmist. Ha, ha, ha, ha ,ha………..ha. ha, yeah.

I am a women who mostly sees both sides of every argument. So much so, I am annoyingly noncommittal. (Annoying to myself, to answer Kitt’s question.) I contradict myself often. But somehow, I manage to arrive at points of view, but everyone is after reading and thinking about every side of them. I just don’t share them with too many people.

I am not a white woman. I am a brown woman with a white father. Some of you might understand that; maybe others not so much. But I have babies with blue eyes and blond hair, and people ask me if I am the babysitter all the time. My daughter call my mother Abuelita, and my father Grandpa, and points to Selma Hayek and says, “Mami.” My mother immigrated to this country in 1969, and became a success. I am incredibly proud of all she has accomplished. I come from hard working people, people that never took what they had for granted…well, maybe having babies. Maybe that is one thing they took for granted a little. Because, well, they did it so well. I took it for granted too. A little. And well, now, I hate that about me.

I am a woman who has come to my religious beliefs, or lack there of, hard fought. I want to share all those stories with you. I want to tell you why I decided to study religion, and why I believe what I believe, and I want to tell you all the spiritual experiences I have had, the deep down moving, humbling experiences. But mostly, I know they are important only to me. Here, on this blog, I share what I go through spiritually now. Right at this moment. And that seems enough. Someday, perhaps, I will talk about Catholicism as well as Buddhism. But I will say this: Catholicism is so deeply ingrained in who I am as a mother, a partner and a human being that trying to separate it would be impossible. The rituals, the beauty, the art—it is who I am, and yet, so far from what I believe. At times, our differences still surprise me.

I am a woman who is so completely in love with her husband and her kids that I am sometimes embarrassed to admit that our biggest issue revolves around the fact that my husband never puts a garbage bag back in the can, and the kid thinks it is hilarious when I yell at him about it. He just seems to be physically incapable of doing it, and I am physically incapable of not making some smart ass remark about the fact.

I am a woman who could write from the time I get up at five in the morning until I go to sleep at eight o’clock at night with only breaks to drink coffee, and then wine. But I have a daughter to mother, a husband to partner, a father to daughter, neighbors to gossip with, a dog to walk, a fridge to fill, and a candle to light. And some other stuff I can’t rightly remember right now, because it is on my todo list, which is clear across the room. Even though in person, I probably don’t strike ANY person as type A, I have a to-do list, a shopping list, a thank you card list, and a craft monkey list.

I am a woman whose daughter has died. I used to be someone else. I was someone who cared for her sick father, and thought that the worst thing about my life was not having a weekend free from my middle and late twenties, and at least the first half of my thirties because of it. I have always felt like it was a blessing that I could say to the world that my father annoyed the fuck out of me some days. I was someone who may or may not have been a good friend. I cannot remember, but sometimes it keeps me up late wondering if I will ever recall whether I was a good one or who I was, and wonder if I can ever be a good friend again.

I am a woman who is your next door neighbor, the goofy lady making small talk in the cheese section of your local market, the person walking in front of your house looking a bit sullen while your dog barks, the person who bought your weird felted Etsy product, the one who wrote a letter to the local butcher praising his recent decision to buy local, organic meat, the person who feels such a deep gratitude that you read my words then share your love, comfort and support...I am nobody in particular except the person who painted these walls purple for my dead daughter.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Maybe Break

I think I may need a break here.

I am trying very hard to do what I need for myself. This community has been so loving and so accepting. I thought I could protect myself by being honest with my needs. As I muddle through this very swirling time, I am awkward. I am confused. I chose to stop following a blog that seemed to be about something other than babyloss, though ostensibly it is the undercurrent. I actually wasn't trying to deny that. The nasty comments following me since I decided to do that has shaken me, hurt my feelings, and I am physically trembling as I type this. So sorry. If you knew how gentle I was, then maybe you would know it wasn't personal. I guess I am finding that like life, this community is made up of all different kinds of people, some kinder than others. Some unwilling to use another grieving mother's blog to attack someone with a different set of needs than their own. To set the record straight, I have never or will never say whose pain is or is not valid. Not if you have been dealing with a loss of ten weeks, or a loss at 40 weeks, or if it was two weeks ago, or two years, or two decades. I think suffering is suffering is suffering. Period. If you have read my writing, then you already know that.

I needed this process. I needed this safe place to write and explore my grief, but it doesn't feel safe right now. Thanks for attacking me less than four months after my daughter died to prove you are suffering. Stay classy.

Friday, April 17, 2009


This morning I woke up without a stinging in my throat, and the bumbling ache that has accompanied me when walking down the stairs to coffee. The puppy didn't soil his crate for four solid nights in a row. Maybe something is working. Opening the sliding glass door, the cold hits my face, and I walked out into the early early morning with Jack. The bird cacophony. The faint hint of sun to the east making the sky look like a bleeding watercolor. The cold dampness of a post-rain morning. And the green. The luscious green. A thousand greens in an unassuming suburban backyard...I wanted to savor the moment. The delicious peace. I remember many years ago my friend Carol telling me about a morning at the beach where she thought, "I wonder if this is the best day of my life." And I have thought of that often...I wonder if this is the best moment of my life. The quiet of a random morning in April when the dog forced me to go outside, I inhaled the beauty of a Spring morning and felt grateful.

All my best moments have been in the morning, among them are all the mornings waking up next to Sam. Mornings walking in Italy alone where I felt so brave, so strong, where I went to make peace with myself...a vision quest with Chianti. The delicious April morning when I was in labor with Beatrice. Mornings in Tucson when I came to work before it was light, and I would finish the morning chores quickly so I could watch the sun rise reflected on the Catalinas with my coffee maybe a cigarette (ah, youth.)

After I wrote this post, I wanted to erase it. There are easy things to blog about--the despair, the moments of devastation when you have to answer a question about your children, the trembling, the fears...but what of those moments where you have a fleeing sense of peace, not about your baby's death, not about your life now, but a sense of peace in the universe? A moment of calm presence. Can I even have a best moment of my life now, or even a fairly decent moment, after the death of my daughter? Does it betray her? Does it betray me? Can my best moment be alone, or must it be something deeper than watching my puppy peepee in the deep dewy mist chilled by the morning air, warmed by my love of morning?


Sarah at Little Dale III nominated me for the "Sisterhood Award". She said blushable things about the way our blogs help her. Sarah, thank you so much...sorry it's taken me a few days to put it up.

Here are the rules after nomination: Put the logo on your blog or post. Nominate at least 10 blogs with great attitude and/or gratitude. Be sure to link to your nominees in your post. Let your nominees know they have received the award by leaving them a comment on their blog. Be sure to link this post to the person who nominated you for the award.

I am so moved by this community on a day to day basis. Truly, these blogs give me strength, a laugh, insight, love...these blogs give me permission to be angry, sad, happy, confused, mopey, funny, human. I read every blog on my blog list, as well as some more, and I learn something from every one of them. They would all be nominated if I had the time or gumption, but I'm sticking to the ten. Thank you.

And my nominations are...drumroll please:

1. Ezra's Space is one of the first babylost blogs I read...spiritual, insightful, kind, Ezra's mama is a gift to this community. Thank you, Sarah.

2. Love Reign Over Me is an amazing blog. If I believed in angels, it would be because of Christian's mama Carly. Thank you, Carly.

3. Unlucky Lottery is beautifully written by Colden's mama, Molly. Without Molly, I do not know where I would be, but it wouldn't be pretty. Molly, thank you for being such a good friend.

4. Life Without my Baby written by Lev's mama, Aliza. Aliza's writing is so raw, beautiful, deep, very very true. I learn something new from her almost every post. She is one of the most honest people I know. Thank you, Aliza

5. Tuesday's Hope, Sally, Hope's mama, not only writes beautifully complicated posts about her day to day, her comments on everyone's blogs show her loving support to everyone in this community. Thank you, love.

6. Ferdinand's Gifts is a blog I have read for a long time. Ferdinand's mama, Janis, is a beautiful writer. I am frequently moved by her words. I see she has been nominated already, hope that doesn't violate the spirit of this...still, thank you, Janis.

7. Elm City Dad is an amazing blog, as y'all know. Lani and Chris, Silas's parents, write beautifully as well as deeply, passionately, honestly. It is inspiring. Thank you both.

8. Burble makes me laugh until I snort sometimes, and other times I get all teary. George's mama, Barbara, thank you.

9. Awful by Functioning makes me laugh too. A lot. Often. Maddie's Mama is an awesome writer, insightful, biting, funny...plus, she is a homegirl. (Philly, hollah.) Thank you, Tash.

10. Freyja Ione + Kees Henry is the heartbreaking blog of their mama, Mirne. Her blog is new to the scene, but I am already learning so much in the short time she has written. Thank you, Mirne.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Conversation with Bea

"Mama, look. Mama. Mama. Look." Sam and I were having some after dinner conversation, a glass of wine, sitting with the puppy and our girl, while she drew next to me.
"Mami, look."
"Wow, Beatrice, what are you drawing?"
"You are drawing Mami?"
"Yeah, Mami. Mami. Crying. Mami crying."
"You are drawing Mami crying?"
"Yeah, Mami crying. Mami crying. Look, Mama."
And a swirl of circles in blue and green and yellow. I looked at Sam,and we looked down again.
"It's beautiful, Bea, just beautiful."
"Thank you, Mami. Mami crying. Look, Dada. Look. Mami crying."

For Danielle-updated

Kai, we light this candle for you this day--day of expectation, day of possibility, day of you.
Kai, like water, your being flowed into your mother Danielle and father Alan filling them with awe, light, and love.
Kai, like stones, we wanted the solidity of your body to hold here in our everyday, though your spirit lives in our hearts, our minds and our souls forever .
Kai, like moss, your time filled your parents with a soft comfort. Moss reminds us of your parents and their broken hearts.
Kai, we light your candle next to Jizo who protects the children not yet ready for this world--the water children, all of our children.
Kai, the world misses you. Your parents miss you. We all miss you.

from the lovely Carly's site...her tribute and video for Kai.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rainy day

I felt each hour of last night. Like a fun house mirror, at times it stretched on and on. The minutes felt like eternity as I replayed incidents and conversations over in my head. The neighbor’s dog went after Jack yesterday, nothing too hysterical, but my heart fell, and I found myself traumatized and shaking, standing there helpless, as I saw him yelp and pee all over himself. I wanted to cry, “God, no, not another little thing, please.” Then other times, two hours scrunched into a blink, as I awoke to the puppy yapping and crying to go outside. I am nothing if not true to this sadness—this swirling confusing sadness. I dreamed somewhere in the confusion that Jack had run away, and as I chased him, through city streets, I came to a horrible accident scene with people strewn on the streets, and I, quite aware, that among the carnage was Jack the puppy, maybe my girls. I awoke panting heavily.

I think I have a virus—my throat sore, my nose running, my lungs tighter than yesterday. I woke before 5 am to take care of the puppy Jack. A soft rain was falling outside, and I felt cozy in my jammies, leather Birkenstock slippers and a rain jacket lit by the motion detector in our backyard, newly sprouting green in the moist air of morning. Sometimes it all seems easy when your sole concentration is making sure no one pees on the floor.

Even in my darkest hours, I have my people. The ones that are there and you never question. Sometimes when I complain about the people that disappeared after Lucy died, I have to remind myself that they weren’t really there before she died either. I also am plagued with guilt that when I say I am alone, they know I don't mean them. But there is the whole community of people that keep me afloat, whom I love dearly, whom I talk with almost everyday, or at least often enough that they are apart of my grief. Those people somehow manage to navigate the slippery terrain of humor, sadness, grief, heartbreak, terror, confusion, complication…in short, they understand that I am not in my right mind, but this is who I now am. Maybe this is who I will always be. Through it, they somehow see through my tears, my sad sad sadness and see me--Angie, the goofball.

And there are people who have tried to inject themselves into this grief. I am confused by them most. They aren’t babylost mamas, nor were we "friends" before Lucy died, but now, they try to somehow fit themselves into my grief, make themselves apart of this terrifying life. Sometimes I feel like their interest is strictly morbid curiosity, or maybe a sort of need to be part of something so fucking tragic most polite society won’t speak of it. I imagine them evoking my name, “Sorry I cannot come to your housewarming party, I have to write a letter to my friend Angie, whose daughter was stillborn AT 38 WEEKS. Tragic, no?” I am confused by the pledges of love, the constant attention...it all feels so insincere, so alienating, and I feel sometimes like a handsome death row inmate being sent love letters by someone who watches too much Court TV. Do I really have the latitude to reject any support?

My lungs hurt. My hair hurts, and yet I feel like painting another picture as naptime curves around Beatrice, and the puppy, and my husband who is curled on our bed. I am comforted by rain and the greyness today, which mirrors my insides.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Every movie seems to have the death of someone's child in it.

Disney movies are notorious for knocking off mommies, but then every other movie knocks off someone's kid. It isn't surprising, I guess, because death is just one of those philosophical issues with which humanity will always wrestle. And honestly, now that I am a dead baby mama, I just see every death as the death of someone's kid. The modus operandi of any Bruce Lee seems to be to kill off someone's kid every fight scene. I discovered that today when Enter the Dragon became my nap time movie choice. I switched it off for Evening. Someone's kid dies in that one too.

Today is Easter. Another story about a woman's son who died. But three days later, he rose from the dead. Is that what makes this holiday so beautiful...the wishfulness of it all? Freedom from death, suffering, in fact, a release of all suffering through one death. A religion that allows our children to live forever in paradise is a beautiful religion. I have always loved Lent and the Lenten period, the build up until Easter. I actually think Good Friday is my favorite Catholic day, if you can use favorite without a sort of heretical undertone. I just mean, it used to be the most intense spiritual day for me. I would feel most connected to my religion, back when I was a Catholic. I love fast days, the solemnity of the quiet, the rawness of the feeling of fasting.I think what moves me about fasting in the Catholic definition is that we eat one meal where no meat is consumed. No death. Nothing is sacrificed. Of course, most Catholics eat fish on Fridays and Good Friday. It never made sense to me, but if I were in charge of the Catholic Church, things would be a lot different. But I'm not even touching that shit.

Since Lucy died, I have cut my consumption of meat to almost nothing. I just can't stomach the idea of eating someone's child. It sounds ridiculous when I write it, but death death death, it is everywhere. And yet, I still cook it for Sam, still get my hands bloodied. I hate it. I am so tired of death. Back to Good Friday, I used to get choked up during the Stations of the Cross, which is intensely sad, beautiful, selfless story--the Passion. It humbles me. Sometimes I miss Catholicism, not for the faith, but for the ritual. The ritual is beautiful, and I wax poetic about it often. (Poor Sam.) On Saturday, the altar in the Catholic Church is stripped bare, and no mass is given, rather it is an intensely silent, dark time in the church. And the truly devoted pray the rosary in silence. It makes me shudder. I have only attended once, and it was intense.

This year, I forgot about Easter. Well, not completely, because last week I bought Beatrice some baby animals thinking I might decide to tell Beatrice a giant rodent wearing a pastel ascot is coming into our house in the middle of the night to fill her basket with candy and toys. I debated it in my head--to Easter Bunny or not to Easter Bunny? When I put it like that, it seems silly, and yet, this is what childhood is about myths, traditions, holidays, silliness...but something about this year makes me not want to tell her or myself that there is magic in the world. Giant bunnies (can we say Night of the Lepus anyone?) aren't breaking and entering this year. This year, Mama is giving a gift of baby animals because Spring is here, and things are born. And sometimes, that is enough reason for a gift.

Of course, there is another reason, a more practical reason, we adopted Jack yesterday, and well, I just forgot I was supposed to...so, without further ado, young Jack the dog:

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Year of Memories

About two weeks out from Lucy's death, I felt this desperate need to be in the sun. Yeah, sure, I knew that however light you pack, you still carry all your shit with you. But at least your baggage can be in a beautiful place too.

For now, we are in New Jersey. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.

When I took Beatrice to the doctor a few weeks ago, he told me she didn't need any vaccines, except Hepatitis A. "Which she doesn't need now," he explained, "unless you are planning on going to the jungles of Central or South America in the next year." I looked at my husband and then the doctor, "Well, we are planning on going to Panama this summer, and the highlight will be lots of jungle treks."

He cleared his throat, "Well then, you might want to consider getting her immunized, but perhaps not today." He looked over at the tear-streaked face of my little girl intent on figuring out the next level of torture she was to endure.

We are planning a trip to Panama this summer. It is exciting to think about getting away from our little house, leaving the confines of the last few months. Every feeling I have had seems etched on my ceilings, my walls, on my book shelves, now dominated by books with grief, hope, sadness, death in the titles. At one time, I could not imagine living in suburban New Jersey for any longer than a year; now, I have a hard time imagining not living here in this idyllic small town with a beautiful farmer's market; restaurants, art galleries and shops accessible by walking or riding; a lake a block from our front door; festivals every other weekend in the summer...a place where we brought one daughter home from the hospital and where another daughter was conceived.

When I said that people have disappeared from our lives, yes, some have. Old friends I expected to be ever-present. But never would I have imagined how brave my neighbors are. They come out of their homes to say hi, tell us how sorry they are, talk to us about Lucy, even now, if our last conversation was about trash collection, any one of them might ask how we are handling our daughter's death in the next. Everyone gives this place a bad rap, but we have a little community here. A safe place amongst normal people. A place where I can easily manage the slippery slope of grief, lightness, sadness, smiling...for some reason, I don't feel self-conscious here about my kaleidoscope of emotions. Everyone has made it easy to be true to myself.

As we delve into April, I find myself more and more reticent to talk about time, dates, anniversaries....see, up until now, the anniversary day of Lucy's death hasn't really bother me up any more than any other day. In fact, just this morning, I wrote it in an email. It is just a day, the 22nd, just like any other day now. Shitty, but not more shitty. It's not that I forget it is her day. It just doesn't make me any sadder than I already am. But the reticence is more complicated than that. I have a good memory for dates and being sort of an uber-organized person with my schedule, notekeeping and memory. And well, uh, today is the anniversary of the date that I conceived Lucy.

Perhaps that is too much information. But I know because we were TTC for four months, and I tried April 10th, though it was four days earlier than I thought my ovulation was, because I sort of felt the magic of the morning. And to keep giving you tmi, it was the same sort of day that began Beatrice's journey too. The windows were open, and a cool breeze blew over us, and I knew it was the day for a daughter. After we lay on our bed, letting the sun come in our high bedroom windows where we only see the treetops, I turned to Sam and said, "I think we made a girl."

Thus, today begins the next painful year of memories. A year of remembering being pregnant with Lucia. I am afraid of the next seasons, and the smell of spring, where I can actively recall digging my hands into the dirt to pluck weeds. Deep deep, my hands searched through the soil, and I felt so alive and maternal and ripe. Summer, where I spent days in long flowing dresses with my belly popping out, or wearing tanks so I could pull out my belly to feel the sunlight dance on my girl, warm my skin. And now this flabby skin once pulled taut over my girl reminds me of what I have lost--hope, innocence, expectation, my girl army...it all just hangs there waiting to go back into an acceptable shape, though we all know it will never be the same again. So, no, it isn't a date that matters, but the "before" time is painful. So fucking naive. So fucking oblivious to the horrible turn my life could take.

When I meditate and my mind drifts to thoughts of my shopping list, or the laundry, I simply say, "Thinking." And try to reground myself in nothing. As I continue this journey, I try to do the same thing, when someone says something about what their baby would be doing now. Like three months, my baby would be doing X, Y or Z, and I find myself drifting into what Lucy could be doing, I simply think, "Longing." And reground myself in reality. She will never do those things. She is not ever going to grow beyond zero. She will never gurgle for me no matter how much I long for her to gurgle. But this memory of pregnant time will be remembering a time when I know she was alive. Dare I say, the happiest time in my life, and now, juxtaposed with this reality, it seems almost too much to bear. But I will. Like I always do.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mizuko Jizo

Not surprisingly, I have been fascinated with rituals surrounding the death of children in other societies. I think Americans think they know about death, because we watch shows like Law & Order and CSI, but we really don't talk about grief. We hide it away, expect people to be normal when we are uncomfortable or are out of things to say. As a culture, we just don't have many rituals surrounding death and grief. I mean, sure, there are neighborhoods where you see some calaveras around Dia de los Muertos, but as a culture, women dress in sexy cat suits for our one ritual about death.

As I have heard many wise babylost women say, wouldn't it be wonderful if wearing all black for a year meant something instead of a fanatical devotion to the Cure? Wouldn't it be something if we walked around veiled, not expected to attend weddings, and baby showers, and picnics, and theater? What happened to the mourning period? What happened to the black arm band? And privately, I have agreed, nodded my head. As someone not affiliated (read: I don't attend church, synagogue, temple, ashram, or anywhere specifically to pray), I miss a place to go to find counsel in my loss. It wasn't too long after Lucy died, that I remembered a book I read a long time ago, in my "before" time. Thankfully, I covet books, and don't usually throw them out, give them away, sell them, or anything which would prevent them from being within arm's reach if I should want to reference an obscure sentence I recall reading once about Spiro Agnew's "pusillanimous pussyfooters" quote. Incidentally, that sentence is in this blog post to use in an eventual argument with Sam about why we have so many books about Richard Nixon in our house.

In Waiting for Daisy, Peggy Orenstein discusses her struggle with infertility. After a number of miscarriages, she finds herself in Japan struggling to come to terms with all her losses, her infertility, her quest to become a mother...it is a good memoir. In it, she talks about Mizuko Jizo and the rituals surrounding baby loss--miscarriage, stillbirth and abortion. I am going to quote her, because she is brilliant:

I had never before considered that there was no ritual acknowledging (baby loss)in Western culture, no Hallmark card to 'celebrate the moment.'...Then I remembered Jizo. Of course the Buddhists would have a ritual for pregnancy loss; they're famously good at death.

Jizo is technically a bodhisattva primarily associated with the dead. A Bodhisattva is a person who attains enlightenment; that is, released from the fetters of the cycle of birth and rebirth, but returns to the cycle (is born again) to help others achieve enlightenment. It is considered the height of compassion, since samsara is suffering. Sorry if you know this, I just don't want to assume anything. Mizuko is technically translated as "water child," because Buddhists believed that "existence flows into being slowly, like liquid." Mizuko kuyo is a ritual surrounding miscarried, stillborn and aborted fetuses. It is a ritual of apology and remembrance. I love that apology is in there. Even though rationally, we all know there is nothing we could have done to prevent our baby's death, we still struggle with guilt, and so the idea of apologizing to our babies is so amazingly comforting to me. The ritual itself is performed in many ways--lighting candles, a letter of apology and remembrance, an offering of toys, food, water, or flowers...it can be done once or many times.

I love reading about mizuko kuyo and mizuko jizo. One thing I read was the Jizo hid the babies in his long sleeve to protect the baby from hell. I don't know why, but the image of Jizo hiding the baby in his sleeve is just so comforting to me...still, I have wanted a ritual and here is one. A few months ago, Aliza wrote about her experience with a Mizuko Kuyo. It sounded amazingly healing. I am intrigued with the idea of having some place to go--a hillside with a multitude of Jizo statues, a park for lost children...perhaps a place like San Francisco has this, but it certainly isn't prevalent, is it?

Sam and I have wanted to create a ritual to grieve Lucy, and place to go, so we ordered a Jizo statue for our garden. We are planning our place of honouring our baby Lucy, and Jizo. But I have been painting Jizo pictures for a while...above is one I recently did called Lucy and Mizuko Jizo. If you are interested, another place I have read about Mizuko Jizo is Finding Hope When a Child Dies.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Most days I think there is nothing more to say about the death of my daughter or that I do not have one original thought in regards to this grief. I am always one step away from deleting my blog completely, because it feels so indulgent, narcissistic, and I feel so vulnerable and exposed. Sometimes it depresses me, but you know, it's not like I am not already wallowing in it. It also gives me so much comfort some days, like I need an outlet for these pent up emotions...I am a little tea pot, and this is my steam.

I read blogs throughout the day when I steal a moment...and so often, the words other women write don't simply resonate, I read them with a kind of awareness of the universal truths of this process. Guilt. Anger. Hurt. Love. Pain. Suffering. Jealousy. Rage. I am not a unique snowflake. I am a mother in pain. We all are. And losing your child...it is a kind of private cold hell that you carry in a bubble around you.

In an email to an old friend who I haven't talked to in a while, I wrote:

I am both drastically different, and exactly the same. I am exactly the same person living a drastically different life that looks exactly the same.

Somehow, I think this sums things up right now.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


"If we haven’t forgiven, we keep creating an identity around our pain, and that is what is reborn. That is what suffers."

I have thought a lot about forgiveness in my life. I'm sure we each have defining moments in our lives that gives us an insight into our character. Defining moments. Hard moments. Shameful moments.

For me, one of those defining moments was many years ago. My ex (let's refer to him as X) and I were robbed. We had very little. We were in our early twenties, just starting out in the world, and shared a house with another couple. In our little bedroom, we had a crappy box (a radio with a CD player). (Are they even called "boxes" anymore?) A red television. Books. A couple of guitars. In all, what did it total? Monetarily not much. But when you have one room of stuff, it seemed like everything. When I came home to see a window broken, our room upturned, our things missing, I knew who it was immediately--a "friend" who developed a pretty bad drug problem. We cut him out of our life earlier in the year, because he seemed capable of something like this. Our roommates didn't lose anything. The thief came in, went straight to our room and stole the things that he knew meant the most to us. Our guitars were especially hard. It sounds cruel, and it was. The grudge wasn't about me, but still, its effects were so pervasive.

The details are incredibly complicated, and in the end, he ended up being arrested. We got most of our stuff back. He went to rehab. But I wasn't free. I was so angry. I had so much rage against this guy. I would have dreams frequently about running into him. How I would yell at him, attack him, become violent...I just imagined myself unable to stop hitting him. Unable to control my emotions. Or sometimes I would become impotent, my arms like jelly, or I would just see him and cry and he would laugh. I am not sure I have ever hated anyone as much as I hated him then. The results of his actions affected every aspect of my life. My identity. My comfort. My reputation. My anxiety. My relationships. My everything.

Fast forward three years, I was newly single. Preparing to move back east to my family after years in the desert. And there he was, walking towards me on the street, holding a motorcycle helmet. It was a festival, and there was nowhere to go but forward. His piercing eyes stared straight at mine. It was my dream. I felt my anxiety explode, and then I saw him up close. He said, "Angie. Oh, Angie." And in that moment, I knew. I threw my arms around him and began crying. "I forgive you," I said. "I didn't know it until just now, but I forgive you. Thank you for teaching me about my own strength and weakness. Thank you for the things you taught me." All the while, he wept, harder than I had ever seen a man cry repeating, "I'm so sorry, Angie, so sorry for what I did to your life."

That moment was defining for me. I always thought I was an unforgiving person. A harsh person. An angry person. I felt liberated, like I could see myself without blinders on. It is so cliche, I know, but I did. I felt the lightness of being that I miss now.

Today, I remind myself of forgiveness, and of how it worked in me. I thought forgiveness came if I justified his actions enough, if I understood rationally why he did what he did, but that is not when forgiveness came to me. It came to me in the moment I saw his eyes, his fear, his shame, his sadness, his suffering...It came to me when I saw his humanity. It came when I saw myself in him, and him in myself.

And so, today, I am thinking about forgiveness. I am concentrating on manifesting true compassion. I am trying to figure out who I am so angry at, and when I do, I will look in the mirror and forgive.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lucia's name in the sand

I opened my inbox today to these gorgeous photos of Lucia's name in the sand near Carley's home in Mullaloo Point (near Perth), Australia. On Christian's seashore. Carly's beautiful spirit and awesome project has touched me since I first came across her site, probably right after Lucy died when I was devouring sites. For some reason, it took me a while to ask her to write Lucy's name. I imagined her too busy with other names. But then, it struck me. I want Lucy to be remembered in this beautiful way. I want her to join with the other babies whose names have been written. I want to see her on Christian's seashore.

Carly's work is truly inspiring. She gives her time, love, patience and energy to writing our babies' names in the sand. She blogs. She has a website resource for the newly bereaved (we can only hope it becomes obsolete, though rationally, we know it won't.)She comments on blogs of women who have lost their babies. She is an inspiration in her compassion, dedication and love. Of course, you know, she is also a grieving mother. You can read Christian's birth story here, and the inspiration for her awesome projects. Thank you, Carly. Thank you.

To Write Their Names in the Sand

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Random Sunday thoughts.

I sometimes feel like every morning I go through the trauma of realizing my daughter is dead. It makes me feel like that dude in Memento, I need to write myself notes.

"Your daughter is dead."
"You realized she is not coming back yesterday."
"You put away her clothes except for a pair of socks. You did that on purpose."
"You saved her picture in a hidden folder on your computer, so you don't happen upon it. The folder is entitled "Christmas"."


My house is decorated with balloons and streamers and monkey stuff. Beatrice turns two on Monday, and we are celebrating her birthday today. She wanted "ice cream. sushi. pizz-y." I am still undecided about the sushi, but life seems too short not to indulge. I keep thinking I should have cleaned more, or done more, if I had the energy, if my youngest daughter hadn't just died, but I am what I am. I'm not hosting the Queen, just my mother, step-father, and my sister, her husband, and their kids. I can only warn them that the dust bunnies are mostly harmless.


Lucy died on December 22nd. It has been a little over three months ago, and I'm not sure how I am. Some days, I feel human, and other days, I feel like the "Undead"...terribly aware of the horror of my existence, and yet hungering for human brain. I am in the zombie daze. Am I dead, or am I alive? I just can't quite be sure, because I am walking. One leg in front of the other, arms outstretched for what? I do not know.

Spring is springing here, and I try not to read omens in every popping bloom in the garden. My daffodils came up pale yellow this year, as opposed to say bright yellow. Not exactly sure why, but I'm trying really hard not to see it as a sign of something...well, you know, not science-y.


Yesterday, I had breakfast with the beautiful Molly. She is amazing. Colden and Lucy died within four days of each other right before Christmas. We began writing within two weeks of losing our babies. I'm not really sure where I would be today without her in my life. Wherever it would be, it would not be pretty.

I also filled out the paperwork to adopt a lab puppy. I am trying not to get too attached to him just yet. It isn't finalized or anything, but I woke up in the middle of the night imagining our house with a puppy. I'm really excited. Sam and I have been talking about getting a dog since we met. In fact, our first date we went on a bike ride, and then ended up at the dog park, where we sat and talked about how awesome dogs are. (We have simple conversations.) We talked about how much we both wanted a dog, but it was unfair in the city when we both worked so much. When we moved to the burbs, we were having a baby. It seemed insane to try to figure out a puppy and a baby. Last summer, we really started looking and talking about it. At the end of the talks, we decided it would be too hard with a newborn. It makes me so very sad to think that right now is the perfect time to get a puppy for us.

Still, a puppy!


My amazing friend Sid came to see me about a six weeks after Lucy died. She took the train out to the burbs with her ukulele and song book. That meant the world to me. We were going to drink mulled wine and play music together. Though incredibly well-intentioned, we both couldn't really figure out how to play the uke and guitar together. On the same song. At the same time. I think it is because we both were trying to play lead...it didn't really matter. We talked all day, and it was wonderful.

I just needed it, so much more than I realized. In the beginning, people asked me all the time, "What do you need?" How the fuck am I supposed to know what I need? I need my baby. Beyond that, a little food, a toilet, bourbon? I had no idea. So, those very nice offers of "call me if you need anything" were just sort of empty phrases to me. They meant, "I want to help, but you still need to be in control." Sid came to see me without me having to say, "Come. I need you." That was a godsend. She told me about her twin nephews Zachary and Nicholas who died after coming a little too early. It made me so incredibly sad again for her family. It made me cry again. I had ached for her back then, but in my anemic non-babylost way. I didn't really know what it meant, I mean, not in the way I now know.

A few weeks later, Sid's sister-in-law sent me the most amazing email. I hope she doesn't mind if I quote from it, because I think of some of her words often and I wanted to share them with you.

I remember the constant realization of "still dead" -- that it was actually a surprise to me, the immutability of it, the fact that it was never going to change. I kept getting the kind of sudden adrenaline hits that wake you up from nightmares because my subconscious was screaming at me to end the bad dream. And the deer-in-the-headlights look that people got, the silence that surrounds the death of a child. It's conveyed even in our language -- if a woman loses her parents, she's an orphan, or her husband, she's a widow, but her child.... there isn't a word. Our culture can't bear to look it in the face. And like you, I know many more people who have lost a baby than I ever imagined I would.

Before Nicholas & Zachary died, I saw grief as something that could hit hard but gradually healed every day. When I was where you are now -- about three months out -- I felt like people were expecting me to be well on the path to healing, and it just wasn't happening. I was like a marathon runner who discovers that the next six miles are all going to be uphill. Oh, and you get to run the course ten more times right after that. I also remember thinking that I had no idea what crying was before my sons died. I thought it was that thing you did at sad movies -- tears running down your face, maybe a hitch or two in your breath. Not keening, howling, screaming into your drenched pillow. I imagine you know.

Yes. Yes, I know.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Four Reminders

I know I have wondered publicly on this blog if I was inconsiderate as a friend, or if I took for granted all the blessing bestowed upon me in my "before" time. Yeah, sure. I was arrogant. I didn’t ever think my daughter would die, even when I was most terrified during my pregnancy, the worst I could think was “Nothing is going to be the same as it was.” The thought never even entered my mind. I never seemed to ponder that I would be a dead baby mama. Today, it seems, I am getting some important and difficult-to-swallow lessons. Today, someone compared the loss of my daughter to the death of their cat. Today, another person said upon finding out her third child was a girl (after two boys), “I just found out I am having a daughter. Shit.” This was after a long email to me complaining about pregnancy and being unappreciated as a stay-at-home mother. I am a tolerant woman. I am a kind woman. I think this grief thing actually has made me more empathetic and kindly towards those suffering, but I have my fucking limits too.

I had this deeply profound experience at my Buddhist therapist many many years ago, when I was newly single after a long relationship. I told him about my inner thoughts, you know, the ones that for your whole life you think everyone has until one day you mention it to someone and they look at you as though you have three heads. Anyway, when I realized that my thoughts were weird, I committed myself to therapy.

When I get into a plane, or a bus, or even a commuter train, I think, “When this plane/bus/train goes down/bursts into flames/spirals into an unforgiving sea, where are the exits? How do I get there? And who am I saving first?” There I said it. That is what I think every single time I get into a vehicle of one kind or another. The reason I realized that not everyone thinks it is that I was in a line at an airport, and a really obnoxious woman with lots of bling and fancy pants butted in front of me. So I said, “Excuse me?” And she said, “I am in a hurry, and clearly, you are not.” So, instead of continuing to argue (she was right.), I turned to my traveling companion and said, “I’m totally not saving her when the plane goes down.” He laughed. But after a few minutes, he turned to me and said, “You actually kind of believe that, right?” And I said, “So?” We talked the entire plane ride about it. Anyway, the metatext of the initial statement is multifaceted. 1. I always think the plane/bus/train is crashing. 2. I am not afraid of the aforementioned crash scenario. 3. I always think I am going to be coherent enough to rescue the lot of the people. 4. I am a planner. 5. I never think how am I going to go out without rescuing someone first.

The therapists among you will certainly have a field day with that one, and good on you. It is messed up. Clearly, you can imagine how the death of my daughter, in my own fucking womb, plays out in a deranged brain like that. I couldn’t save my daughter from the plane. She died and there was no catastrophe. She just died. That is why sometimes I think I am a character in a novel whose plot even tenth graders can figure out.

A few posts ago I said that my Buddhist therapist is good for me, but perhaps not for everyone. He responded way back then like this, "Angie. Obviously, I could go into a whole exploration of why you think this, it’s obvious you are a survivor, but it's really kind of arrogant."

I said, “Well, I agree, but I don't think that none of the other people could save themselves or someone else, just that they might not realize their own power to save themselves."

Then what he did at that moment changed my life. He looked straight into my eyes and said, “You are going to die, Angie, and the thing is you don't know when and you don’t know how, but you live like you have forever Maybe no one will save anyone. Maybe you won’t even save yourself. You could walk out of here and die. You might decide, based on that realization, that life is too short to spend an hour a week talking to me, and I would understand that. But let us get one thing straight. You will die, and you have no control over when or where. Are you living your life like that?"

He then encouraged me to start incorporating the Four Reminders in my meditation. They are: The preciousness of human birth (It is a gift you are here, Angie), the truth of impermanence (You are gonna die, Angie), the reality of suffering (It’s a gonna hurt, Angie), and the inescapability of karma (You better do it right, Angie). These were so good at the time that I felt like my cells had morphed. Like he hit me over the head with a reality fish, and I needed a good stink. I remember this clearly: after I left the therapist, I went to get my eyebrows waxed. It was a “long lunch” and my therapist and waxer were in the same part of town. This Asian woman pulled all the hair out of this delicate skin above my eye, but I was gleeful and beautiful. And I thought, “I should just hire a dominatrix to beat the crap out of me, it would be much cheaper and more time efficient.”

That is really beside the point. Today, I thought about all of this. I thought about it when these women told me their pain, forgetting that less than three months ago, their worst nightmare happened to me. And, there was a deep dark part of me that wanted to tell them to fuck off, but a stronger, more vocal part of me wanted to send them these reminders. I wanted to tell them, “You are going to die, Asshole. You don’t know when. You don’t know how. But are you living your life like you are going to die? Are you living your life like your daughter is going to die?” Because I sure didn’t. I thought that lesson sunk in, and then my daughter died. I argued with friends when I should have been spending every moment dedicated to serenading my daughter in utero. I wasted hours watching shitty television on Bravo when I should have been watching my living daughter sleep (she is truly a beautiful girl), or reveling in every gentle kick in my belly. I thought I lived the Four Reminders, but I was a fool, but perhaps we all are, until our most precious thing is taken from us.

The Doctor

Today, I take Beatrice to the pediatrician for her two year check up. She hates the doctor, so I've been talking about it incessantly. What the doctor is going to do. ("She'll look in your ears, and your mouth and make you say 'AH', and feel your belly, and it might tickle.") What to expect at the doctor.("You have to take all your clothes off, and then the doctor will watch you walk.") How she helps us not to get sick. (read: there might be a shot.) Even though some of the things she does might be uncomfortable, it is to make sure we are healthy. "You can always say stop, and ask the doctor to look at the instrument she is using, Beatrice." But then, deep down, I think, should I be instilling this much faith in a system that can't even figure out why my healthy baby died? I am not blaming any doctors or midwives, but I am just saying it is a fallible system, and not perfect. Why could no one save my daughter? It's not exactly a conversation I can have with a toddler. Mostly, my rants are met with "Mami! Look!" followed by an extended tongue. The girl always has an opinion.

I admit, though, that this time I am the one who is afraid to go to the pediatrician. I mean, yeah, Beatrice hates it there. She has screamed bloody murder the last, uh, four appointments. It is the reason for the pre-appointment conversations. She is shy, but she is also in a normal stage of hating the doctor. She remembers shots now. I'm not afraid of a screaming toddler. Hell, they have seen it all there. But I am afraid for a different reason. I am going as a non-pregnant mama without a newborn. Last few times I went for Bea appointments, I talked to them about Lucy being a new patient. I asked them about possibly having a homebirth with Lucy--would they see her within 24 hours of her birth? How does the care differ following a homebirth? How do toddlers regress with a new sibling? If I return home from the birthing center within 24 hours of birth, can they certainly squeeze Lucy in? See, after we realized we really couldn't have a homebirth, I was planning on having an easy peasy natural birth, coming home after the requisite 12 hour stay, and then continuing my life. Yeah. It didn't exactly work out like that.

I debated, as per the suggestion of my grief therapist, about sending a little note to the pediatrician's office, telling them about Lucy and our experience, just so they don't ask me how the baby is. But then I thought, well, if the baby isn't going to them, they will know she is dead, right? I mean, when they see me, realize I am not pregnant, have no baby with me, they will know she died.

Still, I am steeling myself, mentally preparing, just like I am doing for Beatrice. At the doctor, Angie, she might ask you questions. "Weren't you pregnant? Did you have the baby?" and then you can answer the doctor, "Yes, thank you for asking. I was pregnant, but our baby was stillborn at 38 weeks." If you say it enough, Angie, maybe you won't cry. If you practice it enough, Angie, maybe you won't fall into a puddle on the floor. Maybe these doctors are experienced enough in this realm to not ask questions. Things change. Babies die. Mamas have to still take care of their other babies. Maybe they, of all people, will just forget another baby was supposed to be in their waiting room but isn't.

Everything is so fucking complicated now.