Monday, June 29, 2009

Be Present

This weekend while I was sitting with my mother drinking wine, we were talking about my grief. And I said, "I just try to be present." And Beatrice began bouncing up and down.

"Bea presents. Bea presents. YAY! Bea presents."


There are two mourning doves and a hornet's nest that live under my kitchen window. The mourning doves scatter when I walk to the car. I watch them fly off and wait for me to go quiet. After I leave, they fly back and nest again in the river rocks around my house. Their soulful moans echo through the open windows. They make me always remember my grief, even when I try to wash my grief away with the dishes and forget for a minute or two that I should be sad.

I refuse to turn on the air conditioner this year. With the rain and the cool nights, I haven't felt the urge. But particularly, this year, I want to hold out as long as possible before we turn on the fake air, and I once again get closed into our home without the baleful coos and the wind chimes. I'd rather be sweaty than insulated from the outside world. I used to defer to my polar bear husband who begins getting too hot in May, and doesn't stop complaining until autumn, but this year, I want to experience every season--no matter how uncomfortable. A summer without shivering. A summer without sweaters.

I had a dream last night that Sam and I were doing yoga together. Stretching and reaching, and one of my babylost mama friends walked up beautifully pregnant, and I began crying. And she held me and said, "Just cry. It is okay. You just lost your second pregnancy. It is right to cry." And I said, "Yes, sometimes I cry for all my losses." Was this an anxiety dream? A premonition? An expression of our many layers of loss?

Sometimes I don't want to believe in omens and signs, and yet I look for them in every corner. The hornet's nest, the mourning doves, the feelings and premonitions, dreams of my friends and little Lucy acorn girl got eaten by Jack the dog. Here is what she looks like:

Surprisingly, I didn't cry. I didn't lose it. Beatrice screamed, "My acorn baby. My acorn baby." And as I comforted her, I said, "We'll order more." I tried not to think too hard about it. Is that progress? I don't know. I can say in that moment, I was present. Taking care of my heartbroken daughter, not looking for meaning in the dog's chew toy. I wasn't looking for an omen, and that felt good.

I jumped on Etsy and ordered two more acorn girls, and tried to put the loss behind me. She is a thing, not a she. Not my baby. I had seen the signs of Jack's growing interest in the acorn babies, in the little meaningful toys around our house. But I decided to integrate them into our household, it also means I chose to take the chance of them getting eaten, lost, thrown away, stepped on, dipped in paint...a whole host of painful endings. And maybe, if I really look for meaning in things, I should think about why I did that. Why did I let the household with a two year old, a dog and two absent-minded adults in charge of delicate little dolls with acorn caps? Maybe I wanted them to have an ending, not just a beginning and a home in a box on a shelf opened on sad mournful occasions and nights rife with an extra glass of wine or three.

They arrived today, two more acorn babies, and a magic fairy ring.

"Bea presents. Bea presents."

This weekend we headed to the Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Festival, which is basically a large festival of Pennsylvania Dutch crafts and food. It is hands down my favorite festival of the year. We always pick up some pottery. This year I bought a witchy broom for my house. I have always wanted a handmade broom to use. So beautiful, it leans against our front door. I am still figuring out how to ride it.

Having new acorn babies makes me want to leave some of this expectation behind, makes me want to discover new ways of being present, (and giving Bea presents) also makes me want to leave behind these "things" I covet what I think connect me to Lucy when I know that everything connects me to her.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Words of comfort

I keep receiving these little religious grief booklets in the mail from my mother-in-law. I think they are a way for her to communicate that she is thinking about us and our loss. She isn't exactly the most emotive person I have ever met, so I appreciate her thoughts however they come.

My husband throws them away, and I immediately fish them out of the garbage, wipe them down, and file them in the Lucia folder in our two story filing cabinet. I haven't exactly read them. I mean, not really. I page through them before filing them. I have the urge to perform dramatic readings from them in a little beatnik bar with a stand-up bass and a small hand rolled cigarette perched on my lips.

"You did the best that you could," the chapter title screams at me.

Snap, snap, snap. The audience nods in approval.


Sometimes I find myself wandering around the house, picking things up, placing things down. I rearrange a room, move it back to the same arrangement. I file everything, put every last pair of shoes away somewhere, every bag laying around, and then can't find my purse two hours later. I then have to redistribute the chaos back into common spaces to find anything. And then, after I do that, I pick up the sixteenth plastic shit toy given to my daughter and I throw it against the wall, and fall on the floor and sob into my hands. I hate this life without her. I hate it.

"Grief is natural, normal, necessary," it says. "You may even feel angry when you are grieving."

I know sometimes that no one, not anyone, can do anything right for me. That even the most benign of messages makes me feel the wrath. I know it is unfair, but I don't give a shit. I got so angry today when reading another babylost mama's blog. She was talking about the "risks" of stillbirth--race, obesity, advanced maternal age. Can I just say fuck you? So, what, because I am a Latina with an extra roll of fat and having hit that magic horrible age of 35 I caused my baby's death? These are statistical correlations. They are not risks. She also wrote something to the effect of kick counts need to be performed at 28 weeks and beyond.

I understand that she wants to raise awareness. To change the world and make meaning from her loss. Hey, I did that too. I wrote letter to people who paid attention for a week and then went back to talking about anything else. It's not her, she is quoting from these people who want to give women this illusion of control when they are anxious. I just get so enraged when there is this insinuation that anything could have saved my baby's heart from stopping. If a woman just takes some notes, and counts kicks, she can control death. If you aren't brown or black, or fat, or know, babies die. I fucking wish it were different. I honestly believe that if I had been counting kicks, I would have known twelve hours earlier that Lucy died. And well, wouldn't those extra twelve hours of torture have been great?

But the truth is, I didn't count kicks. Not regularly. Not with a pen. Sure, sometimes I sat there and paid attention, but mostly, I experienced my pregnancy as though she were always going to live. Her blog whispered, "But you didn't count kicks, Angie. That blogger thinks you killed your baby. Maybe you are just trying to justify your laziness. Maybe this whole blog is trying to justify your being. Maybe your brown skin and love of carbohydrates killed her too."

"Guilt is only supposed to be a temporary emotion--a warning signal that something is wrong and needs to be corrected."


"If you find it embarrassing or difficult to cry, this chapter is especially for you. My advice is simple: Find a way to have a good cry. You'll quickly discover how soothing and healing your tears can be."

I can't think of her lips today. Or her birth, her slipping out of my belly limp. I almost did today, while we were driving to the trail for our morning walk. I started thinking about how that felt, and tears welled up. I looked into the back seat and saw Beatrice making monkey faces, and whispering OOO, EEE, to herself in the mirrored reflection of the window. Crying will ruin our morning.

We walked in the mud, and the verdant musty growth that encompass the entire spectrum of greens. I am grateful for the small escapes, those moments of clarity and presence when the refrain is simply, "Lucy is dead" and not something more sinister, or hateful, or angry.

You just never know when you are going to read that sentence that will change your perspective, that will change your way of being, your sadness, your grief. Sometimes that change has come to me for a few weeks, after reading something on someone's blog, and then I fall into the malaise again. I cope pretty well. It probably doesn't sound like it today, but I do. I meditate and love, and paint and cook, and laugh and tickle, I sob and throw things. But right now, I am hard-pressed to remember anything particularly life-changing I have read. I feel like my words have dried up, my memory shot, my experience too matchy-matchy. ("I went to the store, but I cried and was sad." "I had a date night, but I cried and was sad." "I visited the zoo, but I cried and was sad.") I think the premise in which these grief booklets are being mailed is the it-can't-hurt premise. I'm cool with that. It's better than the I-can't-be-bothered premise.

No, wait, that isn't right. I do remember one email I received. It is possibly the darkest thing I have ever read, and it was sent to me the day after Lucia died from someone who knows me just about better than anyone else (except my twin and my husband and my mother, you know.) That one email has stayed with me from the beginning, and I've revisited it here and there throughout the last six months, because it introduced me to the abyss. "Hello, Abyss, nice to meet you. Here are my friends."

When one is drawn into a Black Hole, it is said, one approaches a point called the Event Horizon; Essentially it is the point of no-return at which the gravitational pull of the collapsed star becomes greater than the potential escape velocity of any particular body. There is no escape.

My wife and I have been at that point before when we lost our three babies. Because of this, I will refrain from saying to you that I know how you feel, because I do not...

This is a kind of hell not unlike an event horizon; not even light itself can escape... There is only a darkness that pulls at you... And all you can do is fall in.

And, no matter who is there to offer solace, you fall in alone.

Because your tears will not be enough, we will be crying with you, as an extension of the pain we know you must be feeling.

People will offer advice, but none of it will help.

People will offer their love, solace and condolence, but these too will be drawn into the black hole...

Even though there is light and love in our lives, after an experience like this, that light fades a little. It is hard to ever be the same.

It is devastating. And it is appropriate to be devastated.

It is heartbreaking. And it is appropriate to be heartbroken.

Don't preoccupy yourself with bouncing back and healing.

Those things are also inevitable...

This is a journey through heartache and pain that is different for each of us.

This is a journey through a Black Hole...

My love and prayers are with you and your family.

Monday, June 22, 2009


I didn't know what sad was before your death, Lucy, or what insomnia was, or fear, or feeling utterly bereft.
I didn't know how hard it was to walk, until I had to leave the hospital without you.
I didn't know how wide my love expanded, Lucy. I suspected, but I didn't know.
I didn't know how beautiful and tragic, peaceful and cruel, a birth could be until I birthed you.
I didn't know, Lucy, how simply in awe of your perfection I could be even though I could not keep you forever.
I didn't know how very much I could miss someone until I missed you for six months, Lucy, my beautiful daughter. We all miss you so much.

six prayers for lucia.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I am strong in his hands.

We have spent six months grieving the death of our daughter.

You could tell me it has been six years. I would believe you. I feel like I have been grieving for so long. I don't really remember what it was like to imagine Lucy alive. And yet most days, I have to remind myself. "I can't believe she is dead," I think. Everyday. So cliche. It is like my lizard brain wakes up ready to care for my egg. Hasn't it been long enough for my neural pathways to reprogram itself into the "she died" part of my brain? I am fighting the reality, mainly because this previous idea of myself--a healthy, strong, connected person, who comes from Catholic working class breeding stock--and the person I have become--the scurvied woman incapable of giving life--seem so fundamentally different, so disparate. At six months, i am starting to see myself as the former again...maybe time has partially taken away that particularly cruel version of myself.

Winter solstice. Summer solstice. The longest night. The longest day. Are these days opposites or conjunctive? One leads to the other. I try hard not to think of the dates, after all there is a 21st and 22nd every month, and everyone has a day...but six months. Half a year. It seems important to honor it, this first half year of the rest of my life. I won't go to the place where I imagine what she would be doing. I don't stand in line and look at babies and imagine my Lucia. I just miss her. I never got to see her open her eyes. I think about that some days. How I never got to see her open her eyes, or her mouth, and do little baby things, but she is always stuck right there in newborn vision.

For Lucy, tomorrow, the only thing we have planned is lighting our firepit at dark and drinking wine. Our Lucia. Our light. I want a ritual for tomorrow, something I can do to stave off the pain...a sort of spiritual busy work.


Tomorrow, though, isn't just this death anniversary; it is also Father's Day. We do have some things planned in conjunction with that. Sam requested I cook sausage. I haven't made meat in my home since I don't know when. I stopped eating meat a while ago. I couldn't bear the death. But Sam wants sausage. It will be harder for him tomorrow. It is his first Father's Day without one of our daughters, and the first Father's Day since his father died. He died three weeks before Lucy. I miss him. Sometimes I am caught in my swirl of Lucia grieving, Sam will cry for Harry, and I forget how much he is dealing this year has been particularly cruel to my beautiful husband.

Can I tell you a bit about my husband? He is working tonight, so he won't peek over my shoulder. He picked up an extra shift because they were short-handed at the hospital. He is a pediatric nurse anesthetist. He cares for babies who are sick, abused, hurt, suffering...he has held babies the same age as Lucia would be, and cared for them. Babies whose parents didn't put them in car seats, whose caregivers shook them when they cried too loudly, babies born sick...and sometimes he just helps kids who get a little under the weather, or fell off the couch. He is true to his feelings. That rare combination of man who builds furniture and hunts and cries, who is stronger because he can be vulnerable. He looks at his list of patients some days, calls me and cries, sometimes in front of his co-workers, and then pulls it together and does his job. Very well. He dedicates himself. He is passionate. He becomes an advocate, a beautiful piece of the puzzle that saves lives. That man, he is my hero. So brave and true and righteous and so damn noble. He is the most noble man I have met. And funny as hell. Sometimes I want to have a blog just dedicated to things he says. Like when we were pouting and pissed at each other, and Pink Floyd's Welcome to the Machine came on the radio, and he said, "That's what they call me, Ang."
"What, husband?"
"La Machina."


I am strong in his hands.

My heart breaks because my husband is grieving our daughter, his father, our future. Every day for the last six months, I have seen him grieve. I have seen him struggle, just like me. I have seen him hold our Beatrice tighter, more passionately, appreciating being a father, waiting patiently as I sob. I have seen him at his most impatient. I have seen him at his most unraveled. I have seen him at his most compassionate, and kind. I have seen him lift me up and hold me and be strong. He is an extraordinary father and husband. From what I write of him, I hope you know that already. And so, on this Father's Day, I can't give him what he wants most, but I give him my love, my beautiful husband. My appreciation and love at his strength. I am thankful everyday for him. "My Sam"

When I hear this song, I think of my husband.

Friday, June 19, 2009

On bitterness and love

I have had a steady trickling of tears and sadness today. I have so many errands to run, and no energy. My house is kind of trashed. I know cleaning, shopping, and going for a run will make me feel better. I just can't muster the strength to be out. Still trying to figure out how to transform this sadness into joy. Sam thinks this is an impossible task. Maybe. Maybe the best I can do is perform tonglen for myself. Take the girl and the dog for a walk. Nap. Try to find something lovable and laughable about myself. And sob, long, glorious, guttural sobs from the diaphragm that will activate the muscle memory of the early days. Maybe I will dream then of Lucia. Maybe I can carry that as a type of joy.

Positivity. I read about it on some blogs. Bitterness. I read about that more often. With my last post, talking about letters and forgiveness, just know that I struggle. Just know that. Forgiveness is not something I ordered off the internet. A kind of pill I can swallow and transform myself into a loving person. It doesn't just come and I never feel anger again, or bitterness again. I meditate on it. I think about my role in these relationships. I have to be brutally honest with myself. I have to consider that I am reaping what I sow with my relationships. I look into the mirror often and wince. I work on forgiveness. I work really damn hard to be positive and loving. I have moments of ugliness. It is easier to feed the anger, negativity, the darkness, because it is always there all caught up in the grief. But I try to choose the lightness. I try to choose compassion.

It is not fucking easy. And it is not fucking luck. It is a hard choice, because I want to be angry at someone for the death of my daughter. I want to blame my cowardly friends for not being tender, or acknowledging our daughter. I want to blame them for making me suffer. I want to throw a fit at the universe. But when I think about it, deeply, honestly, I'm not mad at them. They are clueless, yes. They are oblivious, yes. And my forgiving them doesn't necessarily mean I want them in my life. How someone deals with death tells me a great deal about how they deal with life. Now I want people in my life who are more than the good times. But my anger at them distracts me from my grief. And my suffering ends up compounded by my misplaced anger at them. See, perhaps selfishly, I want to ease my suffering. I want my life to be easier. I feel compassion for them, but I work my ass off every day to get there. I am a narcissist like everyone else. I just don't want to be.


For my daughters today, I want to share this poem.

i love you much(most beautiful darling)

more than anyone on the earth and i
like you better than everything in the sky

-sunlight and singing welcome your coming

although winter may be everywhere
with such a silence and such a darkness
noone can quite begin to guess

(except my life)the true time of year-

and if what calls itself a world should have
the luck to hear such singing(or glimpse such
sunlight as will leap higher than high
through gayer than gayest someone's heart at your each

nearness)everyone certainly would(my
most beautiful darling)believe in nothing but love

'i love you much(most beautiful darling)'
by e.e. cummings

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Some letters

I have some letters and emails I need to write.

Figuring out and managing relationships right now seems so insurmountable, so unbelievably complicated to figure out. Yet I know how much people care and love us, and I want to be caring and loving back. I just sometimes think all of it is used up. But it isn't. There is always room in your heart to look around. There is always room for more love.

I try to speak to myself if I were my child, or my best friend.

Just be true, Angie. Follow your instincts. Stay quiet when you must. Talk when you must. And in between smile. Live this new life with intention. With honesty. Be the kind of woman your daughters admire. Live a life that is full and unashamed.

I received an email that dared to say something awkward. But in it the message remained, I miss you. I think about you. I want to be your friend. And the second letter I received is one of those letters that babylost mamas never expect to receive. A courageous letter. An I-messed-up-and-I'm-sorry letter. The condolences six months late. I was deeply moved. I cried. I felt such a deep sense of sorrow, and thankfulness, and love. Someone realized the path of saying nothing wasn't the path I needed, and bravely apologized. Holy shit.

And this is it, right? People think that they could never make this less awkward. That it is too hard to say something. So they just don't bother. They take the path of losing our friendship rather than risk admitting they don't know what to do. But it is so wrong. I don't do everything right. I say stupid things. I say the wrong things, probably in the comment section of some of your blogs even. I can only hope that I confront it, apologize, and do what I can to make it right.

But being on the receiving end of this letter made me think, who am I? Who do I want to be? Someone for whom nothing is ever right? Am I really a grudge holder? Do I want to be bitter and angry? No. That is the not the person I want to be. (See above.) I felt love. Forgiveness, in some weird way, because until this letter, I wasn't mad at one person. I wasn't even specifically mad at the letter writer. I was mad at the whole lot. The whole group of cowards who decided not to say anything. I was mad because my daughter died and people went on with their lives. Mad because people who said nothing acted like it wasn't a big deal that my daughter died. And it is a big fucking deal.

And now, I have to be brave, because it will be awkward to write to both of these people. It will be awkward to talk about my feelings. It will be awkward the first time we see each other again, because we can't exactly pretend that nothing happened. It will be awkward to say thank you for changing who I am a little, for making me a better person. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to pick a path of love instead of bitterness, forgiveness instead of anger. And not just thank you from me, but thank you from all those jerks who couldn't be brave. Because of you, I can forgive them too.


I have been avoiding thinking about Summer Solstice. Part of me wishes I could stay up all night, and dance in the moonlight with my daughters and my beautiful husband with a bonfire and celebrate Lucia's short powerful life. I wish I could dig deep and find the joy of Lucy's life instead of this intense sadness I have. And maybe, somehow, I will figure out how to do that. How do you change the sadness into joyfulness? Can they both exist?

Monday, June 15, 2009

don't cry

Alone. I said I feel alone in my last post, and then I spent the rest of the afternoon feeling guilty, because when I say alone, I mean, us. We feel alone.

Which isn't really alone. I know.

I try not to take Sam and Beatrice for granted, and yet I must. I said it after all. I adore my little family. I experience the enormity of this life with them. We travel those vast rolling hills of grief together--its ugly shadowed valleys, its sunny moments of peace amidst chaos. I almost compared to grief to Sisyphus, but it isn't like that at all. It is not up and down endlessly. Then the lows, well, I would know when they were coming. It is more like I have some vengeful bully following me around, kicking my rock back down the hill indiscriminately. And he mocks me at the same time, throws questions at me about why Lucy died, telling me stories about other children who weren't wanted who survive. Sometimes the bully goes away, and I can roll my stone up the hill, and then, suddenly, it rolls down on its own accord. Not even gravity can account for falling in love with a dead daughter and all the heartbreak that comes with it.

Last night, I began reading the Children's Mythology book to Bea for sleeping time again. We read the story of Diana and Actaeon. The mortal hunter Actaeon unwittingly happens upon the goddess Diana bathing. She turns him into a stag deer, his hunted, and his dogs rip him apart. The story ends in this anthology with a sentence something like, "And this story shows how the goddess Diana could be harsh and cruel in her punishments." You think?

And when we headed to our room, I said to Sam, "Sometimes this is what I think happened to Lucia. Without proof of any other reason. It is like some bitchy, vengeful God, mad at me for seeing his beautiful naked body, took my baby." And I sort of see it that way in my mind's eye. A large hand and a pinch of the forefinger and thumb over my belly. Outten the light, as they say in my neck of the woods. But maybe in my own Greek myth, it was because when I was pregnant with Lucy, I was so happy. I felt everything fall into its rightful place. I touched the bliss and happiness of the gods. And Hades snuffed her, as I desperately tried to feed her pomegranate seeds. The Myth of Angelica.


Yesterday, we saw our friends who also have been grieving. My friend is 34 weeks pregnant and she is grieving the death of her sister at age 39. So young. So tragic. It makes me shudder, and feel such sadness. After I found out she died, I was fairly inconsolable. I paced and sobbed, and punched things. I was only two months out from losing Lucy. The world is so fucking cruel. I couldn't conceive of how we were supposed to survive these losses. Yesterday, our grief was less raw, but no less present. I think it beautiful the way that women relate. We cry and laugh together seamlessly. Though our losses are very different, there is an ease simply by understanding the multi-layered ways in which grief affects us. One minute is very different than the next. It is comforting to be with someone who understands that.

I imagine most of my friends have no idea what life is like for me. What I am like grieving. If they read this blog, they must think it is all insights, and being felled by harsh words from strangers and friends. And it is true. I do have insights. I do write poetry, and appreciate every nook and cranny of what I have. I do cry when someone says an insensitive remark. But also this part of me that I don't like has shown up. The short-tempered one. The impatient one. The nagging one. The anxious one. Yesterday, all of my sides were out, like raw nerves poking out of every bend in me. Sam and Beatrice sat on a skateboard and rode down a Mt. Airy sloping sidewalk. I barely could handle it. I tried to make nice-nice in front of our friends. I turned around, and walked in the other direction. "He is her father. He can make decisions." They had no helmets. No pads. And I could only see catastrophe.

I licked my finger and wiped the blood off her scraped knee. "I need boo-boo sticker, mama."

I seethe sometimes.

And then, they wanted to go to the pool. More children die in pool accidents than gun incidents. And then the men wanted to play tennis. And I would have to take her in the pool, as I trembled in the only suit I own, maternity togs. I felt like the entire visit would be me saying "No." No running. No jumping. No. No. No. No, Mama cannot go in the pool right now. No fun. I am not proud of who I have become, but I keep imagining that this will change. It is a small time of trembling and fear. My anxiety will lessen. I will stop seeing death in every corner. Bea, bless her cranky internal nap clock, was melting down at every turn, and I could opt out easily. And yet, I couldn't stop this nagging feeling of being so freakish, so different...I hate the reflection I see in other people's eyes sometime.


I got home and ran in the afternoon heat. I just wanted to run away. Keep going. Keep running and not look back. When I did get back, I felt better, more whole. I was nicer to Sam. We watched Pema Chodron's This Lousy World, which always makes me smile. We did a sage smudge and cleansed our house. Something we hadn't done since Lucy died. We lit her candle for the first time in weeks. We ate Panamanian food, and listened to salsa music. I painted a picture after dinner.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fifteen words describing me today.

Fucking mad.


Thursday, June 11, 2009


Yesterday, while chopping vegetables, I noticed something sticking out of the dog's mouth. The two little bitty legs of an acorn girl.

Sometimes I act insane.

I saved the acorn baby. Her little acorn shell hat still intact, and her twisted body could be molded back to girl shape. If only we had cute hats, and wooden heads, and wire bodies to mold back into a semblance of health and happiness.


It is rainy and gray here, and yet I am okay with the sweaty coolness of this particular type of day in early summer. I've been crying a lot lately, thinking about my life as it is. Thinking about how much has changed about who I am, and what I want out of people, out of myself, out of my family. Every aspect of me is different.

I used to want to write novels about identity. Being an identical twin means I have questioned my identity a lot. So varied. I grew up with virtually no one knowing which person I was. My identity was simply my unique birth. The twins. That is what we were, and in the 70s/80s, there weren't as many around. And now, my identity is different. It is dead baby mama. Grief. Loss. Sadness. I hope it is more than that, deeper than that, but right now, it is all I read in the pictures I see. My identity keeps getting all tied up with birth.

When Lucy died, I couldn't comprehend the ways in which I would change. I remember thinking, "Nothing is ever going to be the same." But what that meant, I had no idea. I feel bad when I am still flaky, out of it, recovering from a bout of sobbing and trying to appear as though I were sneezing. I feel even the most patient of my friends are growing impatient with me. Sometimes I cannot believe how tired I am, how obliterated my brain is, despite doing the most menial of tasks. And I know it is the grief catching up with me, reminding me that I am not who I think I am.


Yesterday, I noticed the woman behind me in line staring at the pile of stuff on the Target conveyor belt. She looked at me, and back at the stuff, then back at me.

I had a pregnancy test, condoms, Hello Kitty band-aids, ziplock sandwich baggies, and three boxes of cereal. A two year old, who looks nothing like me, in the cart talking about her milkie, Mami's milkie, my milkie, your milkie...all milkie. "Oh, please, lady," I thought, "don't tell me you have never seen someone buy condoms and a pregnancy test before." I'm thirty-five. I have shit to take care of here, and no time for your petty judgments. Everything I do is respectable. But still, I had the sudden urge to explain that I had a dead baby.

I thought it would be a long time before I would start in with the hysterical pregnancy crap. I'm not sure this is an indication of steps towards or away from normalcy. For those who know me in real life, know that just about every cycle, I believe at some point that I am pregnant. Whether I had sex or not or whether I used protection or not. I blame my mother for this trait. Teen pregnancy was pretty much the root of all lecture conversation in my teenage years. She instilled the fear. "If you have sex, you get pregnant, honey," she said in her combination Panamanian/Pennsylvania Dutch accent. And really, being an honors student obsessed with the Cure, dressed all in black and wearing dorky buddy holly glasses is pretty much the best birth control out there for a high school student. But still, when I did get pregnant at age 32, as happy and wanted as it was, I felt a little like I had done something wrong.

Since Lucy died, it hasn't really occurred to me that I could become pregnant accidentally. But yesterday, in the parking lot of Target, it occurred to me that I could be pregnant. I sat there after eating a soft pretzel very quickly, puking into the car garbage bag. It came on suddenly. And as it was happening, and it was that liquidy biley puke of early pregnancy, I thought, "Oh, man, I had sex. I am pregnant. Just like Mami said."

And so, I went in, and bought a pregnancy test, along with the rest of my list. And I continued from Target to my other errands. I felt fine after that, which only enhanced my conviction. And yet, I had to sit with this possible reality. What if I am pregnant.

I am not pregnant. But for those two hours, I was okay with it. I asked Beatrice, "Do you want another sister, or brother, Beatrice?" And she said, "Okay." As though, I were going to hit the baby aisle on my way from Target. I'm not saying that we are going to actively start trying, but I'm just saying, I didn't freak out at the idea of it. Small steps.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lazy day

I discovered Etsy this past fall, searching for toys for my two girls for Christmas. Of course, I was proactive, shopped early, expecting a Christmas baby...I bought two perfect little dolls made of wood and acorns--one for Bea and one for Lucy. I bought a blond one for Beatrice, and a little dark haired one for Lucy, imagining that she would have my coloring, my hair...Lucy died Dec.22nd, and those dolls threatened to become hermetically sealed fetish items in our house. They were wrapped, each in the girl's stockings. *sigh*

In a strange moment of hyper cleaning after Lucia's death, I took Lucy's toys, the ones she never got to play with, out of the stocking and just integrated them into the mix. There were only three things: an acorn baby, a chewie elf and her little baby girl sock monkey ornament. (Okay, I know all those things sound like Loopy, Cuckoo Mama gifts, and they totally are, but they are very me.) Of course, I had the desperate, incredibly powerful urge to tuck them away for Lucy, put them in her box to pull out and smell (if only they smelled of my baby), but these are toys that should be played with. I cannot just keep them for the possible theoretical next child, or for my little fetish box of all things Lucy.

Last week, Beatrice has begun asking for the acorn babies. She wants to sleep with them, tuck them in, kiss them, carry them in her "purse". She says in the morning, "Bye, acorn babies. I miss you." And now, I run across all these toys (except the ornament) when I am picking up house. I get sort of this beautiful feeling of having Lucy in all my corners, if that makes sense, instead of only the one I would have put her in.

It gives me this opportunity, this normal part of conversation, where I can say to Bea, "This one is Lucy's acorn baby, and this one is your acorn baby. Because you and Lucy are MY acorn babies." The picture above I took when I headed upstairs to Beatrice's room after my sister and her kids left and Beatrice fell asleep on the big chair for nap. I guess the girls, Bea and my niece Audrey, created a little bed for the babies. There they are, my girls.

I miss Lucy.

Today, there is a sense of full circle in my journey. I have been working with my sister to set up an Etsy shop ourselves. As you may or may not know, I am an identical twin, and my sister quilts. Our shop is called the Kenna Twins. Since Lucy died, I have been painting a great deal, and the paintings that have been most therapeutic have been the babyloss paintings of mizuko jizo scenes and of the emotions I have been going through since my Lucy died. I thought maybe it would help someone else too. I can't tell you how many times I have put babyloss into the search engine of Etsy to have a handful of things come up, mostly memory jewelry...I told you, Lucy's death has made me more brave about my art and my work.

I love today, with its cross breezes, the windchimes going, the sun, the napping dog and girl on opposite ends of my living room. There will always been this beautiful longing for her to be part of all of my scenes--my summer days and their laziness. I don't want her for the events; I want her for a normal day. A normal day of dallying beauty, of contented freedom, of beauty and love of home.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Random thoughts instead of napping

A few weeks ago, I had this dream that I had thirty-seven followers. Not dream as in a "goal," or something I am striving for. I had an actual dream where I was on the computer and I had thirty-seven followers to this blog. I think this is one of the twelve danger signs that I need to go log off and join a monastery or something. Still, it was a weird dream, creepy and ominous, though I can tell you that nothing overtly creepy happened. No one appeared to me dressed in robes and said "Beware the Ides of Followers." It was all ambient freakiness. Shadows and strange animals with yellow eyes. Clicking on-line.

"Huh," I said in my dream, "Thirty-seven followers. That's weird."

The funny part is, at the time, I didn't even know how many followers I had. I didn't and don't even really care about the number. It is just that one day, I had this dream that it was 37. When I woke up, and went to the computer, it was 28 or something. Whew, that was strange, I think. Suddenly, it began creeping closer and closer to 37. And I kept hearkening back to that stupid ass dream.

This week, a strange feeling of foreboding has been enveloping me. Today, that number is 36. What happens when I reach 37? Was it a prophetic dream? It is obsessing me a little. What happens at 37? Will my thirty-seventh follower be G.Reaper, or something? Since the dream was creepy, I just keep thinking that it is something dark. Mogwai-turn-to-gremlin disturbing. But maybe it is something good. Thirty-seven, after all, is a prime number. Prime means unique, natural, good...I just hope that it is something like free coffee. Thirty-seven cups of it. Or mail. I love mail.


Sam has the day off today. I have been painting miniature paintings all day today. Painting pictures of jizos. Pictures of babies. Pictures of Beatrice catching butterflies or lightning bugs. Pictures of me holding Lucy and crying. It has been wonderful if I focus on the painting and not the subject, you know. Is that what makes it therapeutic--that I don't actually think about what I'm painting?


If my whole entire little universe were in school together right now, I would pass this note to my mother.

Are you reading my blog?
Circle yes or no.
Love, Angie

Not that that would be a bad thing, but somehow, it seems like I should know that.


We bought our tickets to Panama yesterday. Since Lucy died, I've wanted to be in the equatorial sun, in the rain forest, somewhere hot and sweaty. Somewhere, anywhere different. And yet, we haven't done much of anything, or gone anywhere different really, since December. This winter and spring we have stayed home, taken naps, planted things, been fairly domesticated and in general, sat around crying and reeling. I'm ready for some place warm and tropical. We will be surrounded by family. Little Bea will meet hundreds of her cousins, and my aunts and uncles, and eat Panamanian food. We'll dance and drink Seco. We'll taunt monkeys to throw poop at our heads. I just keep thinking...please don't let anything happen to us. No strange jungle rash. No fender benders. No food poisoning. No hijacked airliners. No lost luggage. No, absolutely no, ebola. Just let it be normal, pleasant even. Will even beautiful happy vacation news always have this tinge of apocalyptic, hysterical thinking?


Hey, Thirty-seven, (and only you know who you will be), I'll be keeping my eye on you.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My status updates

"Angie is sorry she hasn't called you back, but her baby died five months ago and she just doesn't feel like it."

This would be my status update today on Facebook if I cared about being honest. Since reading Molly's post a few weeks ago about honest status updates, I am constantly writing them in my head, like little captions in my life, especially when I drive.

"Angie thinks that people who drive recklessly never had their child die."

I have fantasies of raw, snarky, blunt horrible little things I would write on my status updates. Maybe I just like writing in the third person, it makes me feel less emo.

"Angie hates your little green plant and doesn't think it does shit for the rainforest."

Still, this isn't really about Facebook. I have begun hearing the whispers that my lack of returned calls and small talk is bugging people who rarely called in the first place. I have the conflicting impulses to both cut all these people out of my life, and also leave a window open to possibly have friendships with not very compassionate people when the grief is less raw. I had friendships with not so compassionate people before, maybe I will again. But will I ever forget who said what?

"Angie thinks you should appreciate your fucking morning sickness."

Sometimes I annoy myself with all this complaining about other people stuff. I have some amazing friends. I do. Some of those amazing friends have sent me only a couple of emails, or called a few times, and that is all they need to do. Support is not quantifiable. I know they love me. I know I can call, no matter what, and they will be there, even if we talked twice since Lucy died. I love those people. I hope they know who they are.

"Angie had decided the day of reckoning is here. Let's see who stands tomorrow, you heartless bastards."

And I go through my friend list, and erase any and everyone who couldn't even muster a bloody lameass 'I'm sorry' via email, wall post, text message, smoke signal...come on, people. I am not expecting the full gamut of dinner/wine/babysitting/memory necklace. Just some human freaking decency to say "It must have sucked to have your baby die, even if I am a boy/don't have a baby." But to be honest, I suspect I might have 1% of the friends. I also think defriending is more trouble than it is worth. So, instead, I am taking the coward's way out and blogging about it. I'm feeling feisty today.

"Angie wishes it were socially acceptable to have a Bourbon Holiday some days."

Monday, June 1, 2009

A midnight poem

Tonight, as I lay in bed reading my crappy book, Sam brought up our incredibly stressful lawyer/lawsuit, which I cannot discuss openly on this blog. Let's just say, I was in a car accident at 29 weeks pregnant. Lucy died at 38 weeks pregnant. I hired a lawyer at the time to protect me in case Lucy died. He hasn't returned our call in over a month. I haven't the energy to deal with this shit. Last time I talked to him directly on the phone he gave me excuse number 248, and verbally berated me. He gives lawyers a bad name, and yet, somehow I haven't the energy even to fire him. I want this over. I am not strong, despite what my last post might have suggested. I wanted to give love to someone I care about, but I haven't always got a backbone, or an ounce of strength left.

Today, Sam and I took Beatrice and Jack to a little park we found once riding our bike. It was beautiful, and for those moments hiking, I found myself wholly present. I was sort of happy, and I let Sam take my picture with Bea. And it is the first picture I have seen of myself since Lucy died that doesn't physically make me cringe, even without makeup. Maybe it is because I don't look horribly sad. I just look old and tired, but not exactly broken. I am all about not being broken.

We came home and took a family nap and then went for a family run. In all, it worked out to be a beautiful day, and then, there I was, sitting in bed thinking I'm not sure I will ever sleep thinking about Lucy's death and lawyers.

And so, at almost midnight, I am sitting up watching crappy television trying to forget all that is lurking in my life that I wish would end. Colleen, my high school friend and the woman currently editing my poetry, sent me this poem tonight. It is beautiful and sad, and somehow a perfect ending to this beautiful day. And so, I share it with you.

Child Burial
by Paula Meehan

(I hope I am attributing this correctly.)

Your coffin looked unreal,
fancy as a wedding cake.

I chose your grave clothes with care,
your favourite stripey shirt,

your blue cotton trousers.
They smelt of woodsmoke, of October,

your own smell was there too.
I chose a gansy of handspun wool,

warm and fleecy for you. It is
so cold down in the dark.

No light can reach you and teach you
the paths of the wild birds,

the names of the flowers,
the fishes, the creatures.

Ignorant you must remain
of the sun and its work,

my lamb, my calf, my eaglet,
my cub, my kid, my nestling,

my suckling, my colt. I would spin
time back, take you again

within my womb, your amniotic lair,
and further spin you back

through nine waxing months
to the split seeding moment

you chose to be made flesh
word within me.

I'd cancel the love feast
the hot night of your making.

I would travel alone
to a quiet mossy place,

you would spill from me into the earth
drop by bright red drop.

from the above website with permissions from The Gallery Press, Loughcrew, Oldcastle, County Meath, Ireland from The Man Who Was Marked By Winter, 1991

© Copyright 2000-2004 by West by<

The Shower

Yesterday I attended my first baby shower since Lucy died, replete with no less than four pregnant attendees.

It was okay.

It was more than okay, actually. It was lovely. Initially, I thought I would just go and help set up, because I do very much love the star of the shower and wanted to be part of her day. She is my sister's sister-in-law. She was also part of our short-lived but mighty book club. We are both the only aunts in my nephews' and niece's lives. I am grateful actually at how much I love her and her mother. They, along with my twin sister, created a safe environment, knowing I had lost Lucy, knowing I realized Lucy wasn't moving at a baby shower, knowing that in my position they maybe couldn't attend a shower, to come and go without grudge. If I couldn't manage, I could leave safely at any time. But I didn't leave. Maybe it was all I needed--an acknowledgment that that day was going to be hard. An acknowledgment that I am grieving. An acknowledgment that I could be jealous, that I miss my girl. An acknowledgment that I wanted to dress my girl in the same outfits being oooed and aahed over and couldn't.

In the first few minutes of the official start of the shower, an aunt came in. She said hello, as I stood next to my mom doctoring some punch. She made small talk, asked me how many children I had. "Two daughters." I kept my face officially buried in the punch, without contaminating it, not making eye contact.
"How old?" Had she really not heard my story through the family grapevine?
"My oldest is two..." and my mother interrupted.
"Her youngest was stillborn in December." And I kept working, and ignored the rest of the conversation, which involved my mom showing her her necklace with all her grandchildren's names, including Lucia's. I thought then, "Oh, I cannot handle this shit. I will not last long with these questions." I poured another apricot nectar into the punch bowl. I couldn't find my sister, as she was greeting people in the door. Partially, I wanted my sister to quietly whisper my story to every person walking in the door; and partially, I wanted noone to know. I couldn't bear the idea of pitying looks my way through all the parts of the shower. But instead of finding KellyAnn, I grabbed some coffee, sat in the corner, buffered by my mother, and ate chocolate covered strawberries. It was a good position to be in. The observer in the corner. Sometimes I summoned George Page's PBS Nature documentary voice, "The elusive, yet beautiful, first time mother delicately opens the packages brought by her family to welcome her new offspring. The group of women instinctively coos over another pink onesie, verbally acknowledging the preciousness of the newborn."

Occasionally, my sister would come over and say something hilarious, as she is wont to do, or bring me another strawberry, and go back to the hosting. Not one more person asked me how many children I have, or what I did. I assume some knew my story, others just too wrapped up shower. But that was more than okay. There are some days you just want to be an anonymous positive force, a smiling person bestowing blessings. I had thoughts, random fleeting thoughts, that I think all babylost mamas have. Will everything be okay for everyone? I was partially terrified for everyone and comforted to think my story is not the normal ending. I was also horrified by my thoughts as my eyes rested on the beautiful roundness of the bellies in the room. I dared not dwell on these thoughts, or I will cry at the possibility of any of these women experiencing the type of sadness I have. I am not normal.

How I long to be normal.

Not simply once, but throughout the day, my sister's mother-in-law and sister-in-law looked at me with tears in their eyes and said, "Thank you for being here." And well, that meant the world to me. It made me feel wanted there, even though I could have come to represent something scary. A few months ago, my own mother, when I was telling her about my anxiety about attending, said something to the effect, "They probably don't even want you there, talking about babyloss."

Still, my mother stuck close to me yesterday, and I am incredibly appreciative of that. When we talked later that night, she admitted that at some points she had gotten pretty choked up. I hadn't noticed (ah, the narcissism of grief!), but I didn't get choked up, surprisingly. I just have an overall air of sadness and unsure energy. I notice it in a room full of people jabbering away and making small talk. The babymama cried when she opened my gift. I painted her a picture for her nursery, and also got her some things from her list. Even though I didn't want to cry, I was okay with others crying. It is a joy, and tears of joy to me, are more beautiful than smiles.

As I drove home, I put in the Gipsy Kings, rolled the windows down on the Outback, and thought about a weekend trip I once made to Puerto Penasco in Mexico. I was happy then. I felt contented then. Driving through rural Northern Mexico without a care. I had left my many many anxieties back at my home in Tucson, and headed to the beach. I remember thinking on that ride, with the hot desert wind on my face as the beautiful gypsy guitar music blared, that I was happy to be in my twenties, and maybe in love, and maybe facing the hardest trials of my life at the time, but it was okay. I could do it. I could get through anything; I was so cocky and brave. There was something of that feeling yesterday. I blared the same music, and thought about how my obligations and anxieties about this day were over. I felt liberated, a bit brave, a bit lighter. I can go to another shower someday, maybe a more intimidating shower. Maybe a shower where I can dance with a full-bellied woman to some gypsy guitar and cry tears of joy.

Baila baila baila me
Este rumba a ta gitana
Que yo siempre cantare