Tuesday, February 23, 2010

One year

The realization hit me that I haven't been my writing about grief too much in the last few weeks, which is ostensibly why I began writing this blog to begin with. I haven't really been thinking about Grief as this extra person in our house. I have been so present with caring for others, perhaps Lucy's Grief has sort of grown up a bit. She is able to get her own glass of milk, sob her own tears, make her own bed in the shadow room next to mine.

But Lucy is in my experience. I think about her in this intangible, accepting way. She was here in the flesh for a day. But Lucy is dead. I get it now. I know what that means in my daily life. I am not wrapping my brain around that fact anymore, trying to make sense of losing my daughter. I mourned her, and I will continue to mourn her. But I don't ache for her in that child-like way I used to ache for her, which to me means I don't imagine that if I just want her back hard enough, she will come. I don't will her back anymore. I don't repeat the mantra "Lucy is dead" to remind myself of her absence. It will never be different than the way it is. She will always be gone, and I have accepted that. I don't question my universe anymore. I am just one of millions of people who lost a child. I never was special. I never was someone who couldn't have a dead child. Nothing particularly unique about me to make me immune from daughter-death. We have a Lucy-sized hole in our family. It is something we honor and try not to get sucked into constantly. And what is left from active grief now is impatience. Anger. Loneliness. Bitterness. Isolation.

While the pain is not so acute anymore, I am also not pushing that particular black and blue. Not like I used to. I used to test the bruise to see if it still hurts. Start conversations about her to see if I could manage. Look at her picture and will myself to imagine her eyes open. I would ask Beatrice leading questions about her sister. Now, I just know that it can still hurt without the sharp pain to remind me. Anytime I touch it, or remember that particular day, I can see the contusion spread across the acreage of skin. And so I leave it alone to just be a swirling mix of colors on my heart. Staid and constant.

I feel isolated and alone right now. Lonely and overwhelmed. I feel guilt-stricken by my particular combination of our good fortunes and self-pity. But on my blog, I come to write it out, make sense of it, to deal with the guilt, the shame, the anger, the overwhelming and stifling pressures of caring for others when I can barely care for myself. Even though my posts haven't directly been about Lucy's death, they are still about Lucy's death. Even though my posts haven't been directly about grief, they are still about grief.

When I leave the confines of my blog, I see how much is on my plate whether I had grief as a heavy gravy on top or not. It is hard to get on top of the feelings some days. I can't point to Lucy's death anymore and say, "That. That is why I hurt." Because it isn't simply her death, it is the way in which her death has changed my life and my experience. I cannot parse out the grief from the daily pressures. Along with being overwhelmed and anxious and sad and alienated, the grief is just a constant nagging presence. It is like at the end of the litany of stressors, I have to add, "And my daughter is dead."

This week is my one year blogoversary. A year of writing about my grief here. 220 posts in 365 days. All of them somehow about the fact that my daughter Lucia Paz died at 38 weeks of pregnancy for no fucking reason. Would I be better able to manage my life if I wasn't also dealing with grief? I just cannot say. It is who I am now. That is what this year has brought, an acceptance of being someone deeply flawed, deeply changed by my daughter's death and still deeply struggling for grounding. But this year has also made me breathe deeply and say, it is okay to be all those things. It is okay.

That realization is in no small part due to you--a community of grieving parents. You helped me create a safe, accepting space for my grief. I haven't gotten to say it much lately, but thank you. This blog and your friendship changed my life. For the better. Thank you.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Empress of the World.

I feel vaguely optimistic about this week, like perhaps I will be able to handle the single parenting with incapacitated and drugged out husband thing a bit better than last week. Maybe it seems like I have my little Beatrice back. She isn't demanding things simply to hurl them back at my head anymore, and while my husband is mostly on the nod, he is now mostly able to use the potty by himself. The snow has melted enough that my garden gnome is now exposed in my backyard, and I have been back to wearing a vest rather than a full winter coat. I am ignoring the calls for massive amounts of rain and mixed wintry weather tonight. We are just going with optimistic and sunny.

At any rate, last night when laying in bed, I was reminded of my early years in college when I spent inordinate amounts of time doing, well, nothing. Eight cups of coffee and cards for three hours in the middle of the day? It is mind-boggling now to think about all that free time. Even before I had a child, I reminisced on that time with a sense of awe and bewilderment. My friends and I met every morning in a cafe and raced the crossword puzzle, and played cribbage for HOURS. Somehow we worked, but I have no recollection of how or why that happened. We had jobs in cafes and restaurants, and took half-assed classes. Somehow I managed Summa Cum Laude whilst cooking at a vegetarian restaurant, spending hours whittling my time away playing chess and drinking beer at Dirty Frank's every night. Ah, youth.

One favorite topic of conversation of mine at the time was the "Empress of the World" conversation, in which I would invent random edicts I would decree if crowned Empress of the World. Oh, this conversation usually disintegrated after, you know, a few hours, but until then, it sure is fun.

My first decree would be that one could not eat in a restaurant if one did not work in a restaurant. Perhaps there would be a mandatory period of time where people worked in a restaurant, and like the Culinary Institute of America, you would HAVE to do a week or two waiting tables, whether you were a chef or not. Another decree I would make is that professional sports teams needed to be made of people who were local to the area. You couldn't BUY a winning team. I just think "What's the point of watching the Philadelphia Sixers if they are made up of people from not Philadelphia?" Even as I am cheering for the AIs--Andre Iguodala and Allen Iverson. Wouldn't it be great if every sports hero was also a hometown hero? It would be like the micro-Olympics. And it would force teams to deal with superstars and mediocrity, just like high school. It would be a more interesting game, in my humble opinion.

There would be a lot of edicts surrounding driving, but not least of which is that each person would have their name and number on their car. There would be a database of bad driving with various degrees of embarassing public humiliation for lousy, stupid driving. Perhaps it would be just a driving number, because we don't want stalking beautiful women to happen. I would work that out with my advisers. But the point is: people that are anonymous and unaccountable for their rude behavior are more reckless and dangerous on the road than those who can be seen. I read that in the book Traffic, which is an incredibly fascinating book. (On an unrelated note, did you know that traffic signs/lights actually increase danger in an intersection?) People in dark-tinted-windowed cars drive more carelessly. And the worst drivers in this country, or I should say people that kill themselves or others most frequently--men in huge Ford F-150 trucks. Because they don't meet the eyes of other drivers. Humanize the machine. That is all I'm saying.

Alright, so for the beginning of this week of new beginnings and optimism, I am asking you: what would your edict be if you were crowned Empress (or Emperor) of the World?

I will randomize the comments and pick a winner for something needle-felted. (I need to start relaxing and needle-felting again.) If you have won before, you can still enter. I don't care. If you want to give it to someone else, fine by me. If you want to enter fifteen times, go for it. This is about being Empress/Emperor of the World, you can do whatever the eff you want. The only edict is that you come up with some law for your reign. Here are the things you can win. (Scroll down on that post. )

Good luck, Empress.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Yesterday, I kept thinking that I needed to apologize. I have been nothing but one long bitch for two weeks. My husband with the stomach flu, being all husband-y about his nausea. I admit that having terrible morning sickness for at least two pregnancies (this one hasn't been nearly as bad, I admit) has made me nigh-invulnerable to calls for sympathy in that realm. Then his surgery. Then Bea's sickness, my constant blood pressure crap, MFMs, obs, my own puking, sore feet, lack of naps, no crappy television to fall into. I'm sorry. So, yesterday, I was thinking, I need to apologize, but then I spent all day in the emergency room because my husband's pain level was uncontrollable. So, yeah...even that got apology and call to stop my damn whining got trumped by another reason to whine.

So, I am going to do it today. Sorry for whining. Sorry for bitching. And thank you for listening. For your comments and gestures of kindness...Sarah sent us an amazing package of Grandma's Chicken Matzo Ball Soup. Holy crap. Talk about some good medicine. A day of not cooking while nauseated is a true gift. And my beautiful, dear friend (and uber artist extraordinaire) Sara Lee sent us flowers. A true bright spot on the week. And my lovely friend Dani sent us a Netflix gift certificate, which is awesome, to help entertain Bea while I nap. Can you ask for anything more than a nap when you need one? Everyone has sent massive love and emails and comments. Thank you. Your kindness makes me get all teary. Verklempt. You know.This hard time is much easier because of your support. Thank you.

It will pass. All of this shall pass. Sometimes I wonder if I will look back on this time as somehow beautiful--here we are in self-imposed quarantine and exile. Clinging desperately to each other and our dark, shade-drawn house. I need to stop whining like a puppy at the door, and start learning to play with my inside toys. Sometimes I find myself looking around at these people I love and thinking how lucky I am despite their grumpiness and pukiness and their everything. They are my beautiful loves. And I get to see them twenty-four hours for the next few weeks, and hear their little voices say they love me.

Today, Beatrice has been eating, finally, after a week. She has eaten a bagel and cream cheese, eggs, sausage, two glasses of orange juice, a peanut butter and honey sandwich on 15 grain bread, a peanut butter chocolate egg, two cookies and a banana. She is like the very hungry caterpillar. I have been trying to get her to eat one large green leaf. It doesn't look promising.

Anyway, I'm trying to take a more empowering approach to this time. Clear my mind and resolve: I am going to buy a damn mindless book despite my self-imposed book buying ban, because I cannot keep reading Widow for a Year by John Irving. I am officially here on out through my pregnancy going to not read any more books with dead children in it. I am going to trust and enjoy the baby's kicks and not imagine they are seizures, or final kicks of help, or anything doomsday. I am also going to nap and leave Bea in her father's drugged out hair whether he likes it or not. I am not going to work continually for hours on end until I realize that I have been having a contraction for an hour straight. I am also going to order out for dinner tonight. WHATEVER I WANT. I am putting my feet up, and allow Bea to have as many popsicles as she can reach in the freezer. I am not going to bitch anymore about how fucking hard this is, because it just is, and I am annoying myself with all the whining. The Olympics will be on twenty-four hours. I am going to take a bath and not allow any little body, no matter how many kisses she says she wants to give the new baby, to join me. I am going to make afternoon coffee if I need it. I am going to dust. I am going to buy some peeps next time I venture out of the house, because I am pregnant, and Easter candy is out, and peeps make the world go around.


I am going to do all of that, except the dust part.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Embracing my inner invertebrae

For some reason, the train station closest to my home has large plastic art of invertebrates all over the walls. Their latin name is listed under the huge oppressive pop art. Every time I take the train into the city, it makes me pause. What is this saying about our little town? For whatever reason, we have made animals without backbones into something beautiful and creepy. Nerd art.

There is some kind of larger message here.

I wish I could say that I am proud of the way I am handling all of this week. That I am facing adversity, sickness, hard work and selflessness effortlessly, but I simply cannot say that. When Beatrice refused to nap, and poked my face every time my eyes closed, I cried. I. Just. Want. To. Nap. That is all I could think. It reminded me of having a newborn all over again. That feeling of exhausted boredom. I love the newborn stage, don't get me wrong: unblocked and ceaseless kisses. No throwing toys at one's head. No child challenging my authority at every turn. But one of the things that surprised me the most about being a mother of a newborn was how exhausted I was, and how, well, bored I was. It was so easy to stay awake when she was kicking and being all cute, and making funny faces and stretching. That was easy. But it was like ten minutes here and there, surrounded by hours of breastfeeding combined with not really being able to sleep. It was like a kind of medieval torture. So exhausted. So mentally unstimulated. And yet here was this little person who needed mostly nothing but boob and for me to be awake. So everytime my eyes closed, it was like being proverbially poked in the cheek.

My father fought in Vietnam. He was a Navy radio man on the U.S.S. Warrington, which was sunk after being struck in the port of Danang in 1972. For two days straight, the crew fought against the flooding that two underwater explosions caused.  I remember my father telling me about those days. When I was a girl and asked him if he was ever scared, he told me that he was scared when he got knocked out of his bunk that afternoon. And that for two days, they stayed up putting bunk mattresses against doors. He remembers frantically coding here and there. I remember him saying that he fell asleep standing. Out of the entire story, being towed to the Philippines, and subsequent stories of opium dens, and running from taxi drivers, coming home looking more like a hippie than the hippies, that is what stayed with me. It is possible to be so tired that you sleep standing up.

Yesterday, I was that tired. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally.

I am so massively pregnant at this point, I lumber for everyone's whims and demands whilst muttering under my breath. Having a toddler, an almost three-year old, means that nothing is right. EVER.

"Do you want a bagel for breakfast?"
"Here is your bagel."
(Blood curdling scream.) "Not that bagel." Cue hysterics.

I don't even really know how to handle it, except how I do handle it, which is to say, "You get what you get, and you don't get upset." Unsurprisingly, that does not calm her. The crying continues louder and sadder than before. Ten minutes later, I end up having these floating images of my emaciated child and Child Protective Services coming. "She is so underfed." My only defense would be--she got what she got and she got upset.

I make a damn piece of toast with butter and cheese, which ends up uneaten because it is the wrong shape, or something.

My 32-week growth scan was yesterday, and Thor looks good. It was very strange. Do you ever have the feeling that you walk into a doctor's office and there is so much chaos going on behind the scenes that you are somehow a sad casualty of that drama? That is how I felt. Computers weren't working. One of the ultrasound techs didn't show up for work. The charts weren't updated.

I have learned some things in the past three pregnancies and being ultrasounded countless times for my boobs is that you shouldn't really ask the tech anything specific. If you are looking for reassurance, don't look for it in the person with the wand. For example, if you're tempted to ask, "Is that the brain? Does it look normal?" Just save it. Because they inevitably answer something like, "I can't really tell you anything, you have to ask the doctor." Which means you spend those next fifteen minutes convinced there is something wrong, and it is a feeling you sometimes cannot shake even when the doctor says it is okay. So, I just skip it. This time, though, I could see the little growth measurements as she checked the skull and the abdomen, and the femur. He is consistently two-three weeks ahead.

That seems good, right?

And so, the doctor came in, flustered and short. He said, "The baby is measuring big. Did you get your glucose test?" I did. It was normal. Is it bad to be big? No, he answers. Then he asked me if I had my glucose test three more times. But never does he say the baby looks good. At least, he didn't say it out of his own volition. He starts talking about how I am coming in every week from now on for NSTs. He says something highly confusing about kick counts. And I ask about inducing at 37 weeks, and he proceeds to tell me that babies born at 37 weeks die at a higher rate in the first year than babies who are carried to full-term.

Do you ever feel like someone is just missing the fucking point?

How? How do they die? What do you mean? Beatrice was born naturally at 37 weeks and she was seven pounds, two ounces. Tell me exactly what you are talking about, please. But I lay back on the ultrasound table, and keep thinking, "What the fuck is going on here?"

"But the baby is okay, right? The baby looks fine, right?"

"Yes, the baby looks fine."

He then proceeds to tell me that since I suffered a fetal demise at 38 weeks and we don't know why, doctors recommend inducing at 37 weeks, because most people who lose a baby would rather have them in NICU than not. And I am thinking, but 37 weeks IS full-term, right? Just basically a huge what the fuck? I have started this pregnancy, hell, about two months after Lucy died before I could even consider getting pregnant again with this plan in place: inducing this baby at 37 weeks. And now, I feel like I am in this impossible choice--inducing at 37 weeks and risking my baby possibly dying within the first year from some unknown lung compromise, or leaving him in there to possibly die at 38 weeks in utero. I remember being told before I saw this particular MFM that he has a brusque bedside manner, and honestly, I have never seen it before yesterday, when I desperately needed it to be gentle and kind.

I left knowing and seeing that my baby is healthy and fine. I saw him. His beautiful face. Yet, I couldn't help thinking that something is wrong. I feel sort of resentful right now of having to deal with all of this alone, without my nurse of a husband grilling doctors, calming me right there and then by arguing with the doctor. Of figuring out how to calm myself before going into an ultrasound, of thinking of all the tough questions on my feet when someone who is having a bad day doesn't realize that saying death to a dead baby mama is like cutting her heart out again. I resent not being able to put my feet up without someone asking me for something, or the dog whining, of people not realizing that when I am up, I am up and when I sit, you are shit outta luck. Because I cannot honestly leave my crippled husband and toddler child without.

I came home knowing I had to make lunch, go food shopping, return library books, empty the dishwasher, deal with a nap striker...I broke. Well, a little. I broke a little bit. And I thought of the paramecium on the wall of the train station--strange and soft, vulnerable and bright. I can only wear the vulnerability of these days.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

And the predictable conclusion...

So exactly what you think happened happened. I got the stomach flu.

Taking care of the husband, the girl and the dog at the same time has broken me. It isn't that I couldn't do it. I just found myself fairly bitter, muttering under my breath, "This surgery better be worth it, husband." BLECH...to be fair, I did begin vomiting after dinner, baths and brushing teeth were administered, which was downright helpful. I sometimes receive cruel mockery for my organization skills, but you have to admit, they come in quite useful for planning hostile takeovers and surviving norovirus. So, I put the girl to bed and puked. By the time morning came around again, I was feeling, not perfect, but not actively puking. Just sort of in that liminal stage--nauseated, but not active.

Yesterday was a day of watching television, sipping water, eating toast, allowing all manner of naughtiness to ensue. Sam seems to be feeling less acute pain, because he snuggled with Beatrice for a while, and got up TWICE, which is exciting for me.

I slept for eight hours straight last night which is some kind of post-thirty week record for me. Though I did wake this morning to a dream that I was a bus driver in India who double parked my bus, ran into a public depot where I had to pay $1.19 to use the lav, and was just standing there waiting to pee. Someone cut in front of me. It was my elementary school bully. I was shifting from leg to leg wondering why the hell I became a bus driver in India to begin with.

Today I have an OB appointment. Technically, my 32-week appointment where we set up my twice a week NST schedule, and perhaps even an induction date. (Gulp.) Tomorrow, I go in for my 32-week growth scan. Fingers crossed. I admit I had some moments of sheer terror in the past 72 hours, as I battled the stomach flu, lay there moaning and sad, I was convinced that the baby was dead. Couldn't feel him moving. I even grimaced down a cup of orange juice to see if he would move, and those twinges, little flutters--were they baby? I counted them. That is what the OB said--anything baby-like. And he reached ten movements in twenty minutes. I was still unsure. That is the thing that is hard to describe about pregnancy after loss--you just doubt yourself. Well, I have. I have lost all faith in my body, my sensations. I thought Lucy moved, even after I saw her still heart in an ultrasound. There is enough counter-evidence within me to make even the most convincing of jabs suspect. He was a total wiggle worm, and obvious kicker for the past day, even this morning, I woke to his calisthenics routine. Yet, I still want to hear his heartbeat. Those moments of trying to figure out how I was going to birth this dead baby alone while my frantic husband cried with his foot elevated properly at home, are completely all-consuming, even if they are only moments.

I have taken some pictures of our recent follies for your enjoyment, they are all with my cell phone, so please ignore the quality, but you know, when you are stuck under a child for two days, you resort to all manner of amusement, not least of which is exploiting those you love for giggles.

Before Sam went under the knife, we moved our two couches parallel to each other on opposite ends of the room. The seven foot one holds the man, and the little red one has been housing Beatrice and me. So, this is from the red couch. Sam's position for the next two-three weeks. I cut out his lolling in a narcotic-hazed head, but there is his foot.

I then spun the camera phone around and took this one. This is from the time when we were in the shit. That is what I am calling Saturday, which has turned into my own private 'Nam. We have watched a lot of shitty toddler television. When you are nauseated and dizzy, do not, I repeat, do not watch Yo Gabba Gabba. Dj Lance and his pack of insane monsters do not stop dancing. Ever. Instant pukeage.

After I became sick and my mother left, it basically meant that our house became Lord of the Flies with one child dominating the entire island. This is what I walked in on after I went to do whatever I had to do. She arranged the cushions on the little red couch to set up her throne, and the television was set, much to my Olympic-loving husband's chagrin, to Ni Hao Kai Lan on infinite repeat. (Hey, I can relate since in 1992 I think I listened to four hours of infinite repeat of Bauhaus' Bela Lugosi's Dead before I realized it.) The Queen of Beriddadelphia.


And this last picture is purely Exhibit A for an earlier accusation I made against my sainted mother. She helped us so much. I would have imploded without her. She put herself in harm's way to help us. I am forever indebted, but still, I have to show y'all this one. So, on the way out, I was helping her with bags, and she said she had a little something something for me for Valentine's Day, so she pulls out a wrapped present. I walk in the house. (I still wasn't sick at this point.) And opened it. It was a box of candies. Classic Candies--candy corn, gummy jellies, jelly beans, delicious things. Things I love. I'm not a huge chocolate fan. I would much prefer a box of sour patch kids or whatever, so I was psyched. I open the box, pull out a orange slice jelly, and YUCK. I mean, hard as a rock, unpleasant, almost turpentine, flavor. I spit it into a bag and turned the box over to see this:

Expiration date: 11/17/07

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Taking it back. Well, sort of.

When my daughter is sick, she still puts her hand down my shirt. It has been almost eighteen months since she breastfed. Still, she finds some kind of comfort there, her little hand in my shirt, her body curled around my hard round belly. Thor kicked her awake today, claiming my belly as his own. She shifted awake, and moved to the other, non-leg side of my body.

Her cheeks flushed and warm, she cried, "I can't yawn, Mommy. I can't yawn."

I don't know what it means, except I can see it. She tries to yawn and then stops herself. For 24 straight hours, she has been sick. Vomiting here and there, but mostly moaning and sleeping on top of me. She doesn't want much water, or even popsicles. For hours, as my bladder stretches, and my back aches, I let her sleep on me. It is what I do. Sleep on me. Puke on me. Wipe her snotty nose on my shirt. Catch a sip water between crying bouts, and readjustments.

What the hell was I thinking? Testing fate in the way that I did. Okay?!?!? I said we were okay. To be honest, I meant that I am okay with my friend and I going our separate ways, but not like okay OKAY. Let me break it down because I only have a few minutes before the shit hits the fan again. Literally.

So, last Friday, before Snowpacalypse 2010 hit, I intended to utilize my husband's day off to food shop without Beatrice. She is delightful at the market, don't get me wrong, but I am more streamlined without answering questions about why we cannot get cookies, candy and sixteen different popsicles. It was entropy in the local market. No milk. No eggs. I was walking around harumphing. "But this is MY shopping day. The same one I shop every week. Who are you people? And why are you taking my organic eggs?" As I drove home, my cell phone rang. I never answer my cell when I'm driving. But it rang a second time only a few minutes later and I pulled over and picked it up because both times it was Sam.

"What's wrong?"
"I've fainted and am on the kitchen floor. Where are you?"
"On my way home. Literally two minutes."
"I called the neighbor to stay with Bea."

I walked in to see my large, burly husband sprawled on our kitchen floor. It is one of my biggest fears--passing out or hurting myself while alone with Beatrice. Sam became suddenly overcome with dizziness and clamminess, and passed out in our kitchen. It was the beginning of the stomach bug. Now, Sam works at a pediatric hospital and we expect all kinds of bugs. This year we were sort of feeling a bit, I dunno, cocky. We got the sniffles a few times, but no high fevers. No RSV. No flu. No puking.

So, I laid Sam down in bed after he threw up, and set him up with the vomit kit: old towel, big bowl, cool washcloth, glass of water and space. I took the girl up to bed. As we lay in our bed for nap time reading books, the dog strolls into the room to, you know, vomit. Because apparently, I have become some sort of sick magnet, perhaps because I have the weakest stomach of almost anyone I know. I got sick once when I heard my husband chew too smackingly. My feeble mind could only comprehend that this was an XY chromosome gastroentrenitis, as though virus could differentiate men and women.

Sam never fully recovered this week. He's been bitching complaining about his stomach, his personal body habits (if you know what I mean), his penchant for bland foods.

I am exhausted.

I spend most weekends rejuvenating, putting my feet up, writing, catching up on email and whatnot, when I can. This week kicked my ass, and you know, then Sam had foot surgery scheduled on Friday. Well, he woke up feeling great, and I woke up nervous. Sam has bunions, which I'm not sure he is happy for me to share with y'all, but whatever. The surgery involves the breaking and resetting of two toes, as well as shaving off portions of crazy-growing bones. It means he will be on the couch, foot elevated over his heart for at least two weeks.

I sat all day yesterday in a hospital. My mother came to watch Beatrice. Sam's surgery was four hours late. And we sat watching Cash Cab and salivating over all the food commercials. We talked about the greasy food we would eat that night after surgery, when our baby was running around us. We never eat fast food, let alone greasy crappy food, but still, we pretended we were those people.

Sam's surgery went well, and by 6p, we headed home. I walked into our front porch and I could smell it. Call it my pregnant lady spide-y sense, or the fact that there was vomit spread across the entire entry way of our house. Did I mention I was holding my husband up the stairs at the time?

And thus it began, the shitstorm. Or the puke storm. As Sam lulled in and out of consciousness, asking for water and narcotics, and blankets and more pillows, and Bea cried and puked, and wanted another sip of water, only to send it right back up. My mother and I scrambled. And all I wanted to do was cry. Cry and throw my hands up and say uncle.

She is still sick. Sam is not so out of it, but still rather incapacitated. And the girl just got tucked into my bed, where I will wake every hour as she tells me she can't quite yawn, whatever that means.

I have a lot of emails to write, things to do, I have read some blog posts here and there, and haven't quite been able to comment, like all week. And I'm sorry. I cannot figure out the mechanism to comment on my blackberry, and that is all I have been able to get to during the day, the blackberry. I mean to comment. I mean to email back, but I became a bit overwhelmed and then it got worse. And now, I am writing to grasp a moment of clarity and sanity.

Watching your children sick is torture. Helpless, flailing torture. It reminds me of my other daughter, even though I didn't see her suffer, I am just reminded of that feeling of not being able to catch a falling child. The other aspect is that I cannot get sick myself. I hear the stomach bug is a rather contagious, and I have been puked on 23 times rather a lot in the last two weeks. I have managed to stave off the plague. Sometimes I think it is sheer will. the nausea sets in, and I tell it off, give it the finger, and somehow manage to exist without becoming incapacitated.

My mother is helping me. She has cooked, and cleaned up puke, and gotten piss bottles, and refilled waters, and done vomit-y laundry. She perhaps is now deserving of some kind of honorary sainthood. I can only hope she escapes the plague. So, you know, that is what happens when you say something like "We are okay."

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I have a tendency to dredge up old writing when I am stressed out,(like some recent posts) which is ironic, because lately, I am not outwardly stressed. Physically, I feel incredibly good, except for an insatiable craving for anything crappy and sugary, which is not my nature. I am by nature a salty rather than a sweet person. But I really want a half dozen mini-cupcakes from the grocery store. I am just sort of doing and going and snowing and blowing. Life has gotten a bit chaotic for being so dang calm.

Falling out with a friend always feels horribly personal, even when you can justify the thousands of ways it is not about you. In so many ways, it is always good to see someone's true colors, to realize that they were never there for you, yet it is so damn painful to go through the process. To have their silence become deafening, to hear words of intended hurt, to dredge up painful pasts...I cannot pretend that any of that was easy, but I am glad it is over.

I was raised Catholic. I am drawn to Catholic art and writing. Deep within me, I feel there is a quintessential alienated American/Latina Catholic novel within me. I was meant to write about saints and loss of faith and mysteries. When the Passion of the Christ came out, I had that deep yearning within me still. I was still a mass-going Catholic, albeit a secularly married and divorced one who wasn't taking communion. I had recently finished my degree in Religion where I studied early Christianity. I had a few friends who were studying to be priests. I wrote and talked about Catholic theology quite a bit back then with them. Still read Catholic writings. (Now, not so much.) I know the movie was controversial and Mel Gibson has shown his true colors since then, but at the time, I was very interested in hearing Aramaic, and seeing the story on film. I desperately wanted to see this movie when I began reading about it. It opened on Ash Wednesday and I was in this theater full of ashed foreheads watching such brutal violence and pain. This is the essence of Catholic art, I thought. Grotesque. Beautiful. Intimidating. Not pleasant. Redemptive.

When I went to work the next day, the other lapsed Catholic girls asked me what I thought. Should they go see it? And all I could say is that it was like asking me if I thought they should go have a traumatic experience. I mean, at the end of it, yes, I was a better person. I was moved. It changed my faith and I think it will shed light on your faith. Yes, I think it brings Catholicism to a new place and Catholic art to the 21st century. Yes, I think it captures the gospels and the stories of the Bible and shows the true sacrifice of Christ. But I can't in good conscience recommend to anyone to go see someone suffer the kind of brutality that was shown in that movie. You are either moved to see it or not. If you are asking the question, then the answer is probably no. I would never say, "Oh, yeah, it is a great date movie. Go check it out, then get a nice steak dinner afterward."

I think lapsed, ailing friendships are like that. Awkwardly. You know when you have to confront it. It is not going to be easy. You can't really ask when should I confront this person, when should the friend and I "talk" about things. It suddenly becomes abundantly clear that things need to be handled and clarified. It is not going to be without tears. It is going to be hard and traumatic. You are either ready to sit in that theater and watch the suffering, and listen to someone's crap, or you are not. But at the end of it, I think you come out better for the experience. You either let it go, or flush out the questions, the insecurities, the hurt and pain and get to a place of resolution in yourself. Sometimes that comes with virtual silence from the other person, which is what I got. I had someone apologizing, falling over themselves last spring to restart our friendship, sending me pages upon pages of ways in which they failed our friendship to someone who simply said that she just no longer has the time or inclination to talk about our friendship or why she cannot be there for me anymore.

Going through fall out feels like a personal failing. I'm not going to lie. I am okay, though. Better for having been reminded of my ability to survive. To be reminded that sometimes someone is there simply because your grief is a way to make them feel better about themselves and their compassion, rather than to truly be your friend. And at the end of the day, there are your other friends, standing tall and sure, holding your hand, grieving another loss with you. Things become abundantly clear, even as they were traumatic.

Tomorrow, Sam gets surgery, the one postponed in December because of a health scare. And I am (gulp) 31 weeks pregnant. And we have a shitload of snow on the ground. And all the little boy clothes are washed and put away. And I will be tired in two weeks, but Sam will be back on his feet (he is literally having foot surgery). And we are okay.

We are okay.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Biker bars and a dream

One thing about me that makes my parents sound terrible is that my first job, which I started when I was 13, was washing dishes in a biker bar.

That is how I usually tell that story. It sounds dramatic. I even tell it that way to my parents. "Remember that time you let me work in a biker bar?" Of course, it is more complicated than a "biker bar," though.

I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, and the closest towns were about five miles in each direction. Lots of farmland. The closest town had a gorgeous Lutheran church in the middle, a pizzeria, a post office and the kind of restaurant/bar that litters Pennsylvania small towns. The [Insert Pennsylvania PodunkTown Name] Hotel. See, with Pennsy Quaker liquor laws, a hotel is or was the only place where you could sell alcohol on Sundays. So, if you had a three beds you rented out to people and you served food, you could serve alcohol. So, if you find yourself driving through Pennsylvania, you may enter a small town and find the only restaurant-y type place to be the "Hotel" or "Inn". Go in. It is the quintessential small town experience in Pennsylvania. Those places always serve strip steaks, good soup, some Pennsylvania Dutch food, mixed in with frozen food under a broiler. Mostly, the restaurant side is always patronized by old people while the bar is patronized by locals. The one in my mother's small town now is called the Deutsch Eck House Restaurant. But in some less thriving communities, they have been renovated into houses, or apartments. But you can always tell which one it was.

But I loved working in that restaurant/bar. I made $2.50 an hour under the table. That was without tips. No waitresses tipped out dishwashing staff. But I didn't need much or care. The job was about independence. I was thirteen and people there expected me to act like an adult. They dropped the f-bomb with aplomb. They expected me to perform at the same level as everyone else. I actually worked there until I graduated from high school. At that point, I was working as part of the line one day a week, and diswashing the others. I also grabbed a few more jobs along the way. I was determined to be independent.

Surprisingly, I didn't drink there, even though I worked as a bar back, stocked beers constantly, and had full reign to abuse the power of close proximity to alcohol. I was just a good kid, I guess. I worked with a bunch of other honor students too, which sounds strange. But it makes sense. One of us got the job, then recommended another, and another...the dishwashing room was all punk rock music--Dead Kennedys, Seven Seconds, Agnostic Front, Dag Nasty--we argued politics, quizzed each other on Trigonometry, and drank coffee all night. The kitchen area was dominated by Guns -N- Roses. All of it was good. There was no part of the restaurant I didn't love.

I was a pretty dedicated worker bee in high school. See, I wanted to escape the countryside that I now exalt. I wanted to travel. I imagined making all kinds of money and driving all over the country--beatnik dreams of open skys and Buddhist escapades. I bought my first car at age 14, and fixed it up. It was a 1974 Super Beetle, which was being held together by bumper stickers. My sister and I would sit in the front seat and talk about where we were going. How we would take up smoking cigarettes. We would write the great American novel, and sleep under the stars. And if the car broke down, we would hitch to the next town. We talked of Big Sky Country, and Corn Palace. Of Denver and New Orleans at Mardi Gras. We wanted to drive into Mexico, just because we could. Still, I sold the yellow Beetle two years later for twice what I paid for it. I bought myself my mother's Chevy Citation which I totaled in a month. And searched and saved again for another. The car was a mental health necessity.

During a time of upheaval, the job was a consistency. My parents separated and divorced. My father took up full-time drinking. My mother worked until late in the night most nights. Our house became a place of chaos and loneliness, but there, I could always count on someone complaining about cold soup and overdone steak. The heat of the dishwasher and the background hum of angry music comforted me. Working at the bar gave me purpose, made me feel needed and kept me wholly present in the moment. Everyone came from the same kind of chaos I did. You can't really mope when you have a team of angry, coked up kitchen staff demanding ramekins. I was too busy to be depressed. I worked Friday night, Saturday night, and then early Sunday morning, where, with three other young dudes, we cleaned the entire bar. Scrubbed it. Scraped fat out of the broiler bottom. Cleaned the bathroom urinals. Swept the pool tables. Drained the fryers. We blared music. I reveled in the shittiest of jobs. Bitching about it meant you were weak. We challenged each other to balance mugs on one hand until the owner walked in one day, slapping my friend's hand. The entire twenty-six mug stack came crashing to the ground. "I don't run a fucking circus here. Get to work, Clown, and clean up this mess you made." After our shift, we would place a lunch order of fried foods. We shot pool, played darts, or challenged each other to massive pinball competitions for an hour or so before heading home to nap.

Most of the kitchen staff lived upstairs in the rooms above the restaurant. They were people down on their luck, or with significant drug and alcohol problems. Not that I really realized that at the time. They seemed like cool dudes. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary for me that a thirty-five year old man rented a room for 100 bucks a month in a bar. For a few months of the year, the owner, who used to be a track cyclist, opened the rooms to traveling professional cyclists who came through the circuit to train at the Velodrome. So, in between meeting thugs at work, I also met Olympians. Professional cyclists would return from their morning training ride around the rolling hills of Eastern Pennsylvania and sit where I was cleaning, coffee in hand, and tell me about the world. They were never Americans. Australians. British. French.

The motorcycle bikers came in simply by default, because there was a trailer park up the road with motorcycles a plenty. When I went to my first college frat party, it clicked. OH, that is what that smell was. Pot. I like to call it a motorcycle bar, but it was a local bar with lots of motorcycles parked outside. It sounds tough, but from the bicyclists to the motorcycle guys to the local drunks to the owners were so incredibly kind and protective of me and all the kids that worked there. I was never threatened or approached. I was just a kid. That is how they saw it. And we laughed a lot. I learned a lot about alcoholics. It made me comfortable talking to just about anyone.

I have amassed many a great story from my time there. When honor students, bikers, drug addicts and cyclists collide, there are great stories. One Friday night, I was stocking the coolers in the front of the bar, which always made me slightly uneasy. And a group of out of place college kids were really drinking a lot. One guy started lurking around me. He told me it was his 21st birthday. I mostly tried to ignore him. I was fifteen. He was drunk. He was really starting to invade my personal space. Leaning in close, asking me to kiss him for his birthday, and putting his drunken arm around me. I turned to the bartender, who caught my eye suddenly aware of my predicament. He sent two huge bikers over and they grabbed him. "Do you know how old she is, asshole?" The guys were intimidating, but harmless. They escorted the college kid outside as his friends stood around mouths agape, but knowing he was too drunk to drive home, asked for his license. And they drove him home. When they got there, they knocked on the door and his mother came to the door. They made the poor kid apologize to his mother for hitting on a fifteen year old. On his 21st birthday.


I feel like I had to tell you all of that to tell you about a dream I had last night. In the dream, I was in premature labor, and called my midwife. When I was pregnant with Beatrice and Lucy, even, I was sure I would do natural childbirth, so I read Ina May's books, but was particularly moved by Spiritual Midwifery. I can only say that now I cannot even look at that book on the shelf. No stillbirths. No losses. I mean, most of these women won't even call contractions painful, or call contractions contractions. It definitely set me up during my birthing of Beatrice to feel like a failure, because you know, that shit really really hurt.

Still, I read it, and it is lodged in my brain somewhere, because in my dream, I channeled one birth story I read in there. This birth story was one of a woman at 26 weeks who goes into premature labor. She calls Ina May who tells her to drink an ounce of vodka. So, every night, FOR TWO MONTHS or something, she drinks an ounce or so of vodka to keep the contractions at bay until finally the baby can't be held off any longer.

In my dream, I call with contractions. The midwife on call says, "It'll be okay. Just go get yourself a huge glass of vodka and relax." So, I head to the bar. That one. The one I worked at. And I walk in during the light hours, and people are scattered about the bar. People I knew then. People I don't know. And I tell them I need vodka because I am in premature labor. And they stare at me like I am insane. I explain. And they start patting me on the back and say, "We should get you champagne if we knew what that was," which is just the kind of self-deprecating joke, everyone tells around those parts. And I fit back in. Easily. Even though, clearly, I was just so different. I was pregnant. In a bar. And yet, there were people who remembered me. People who protected me.

I woke up with this feeling of ease and comfort, and the great feeling of sanctioned debauchery, which would be so friggin' sweet. I don't know what it means, or what I need, but that feels right right about now.

Monday, February 8, 2010


A baby died today.
Another last week. Another the week before.

Friends of mine. Friends of friends. Blogs of women I read.

Recently, a friend talked about leaving My Face after her baby died, because people kept posting about mundane shit. About Starbucks and laundry. I remember thinking that when I logged back onto my preferred social networking site after Lucy died. The world kept moving forward, going on. People were still obsessed with their petty shit while my world was falling apart. The people who couldn't bother to say I'm sorry were posting about their breakfasts. And yet, it is what it is. My Face wasn't a place where I engaged in deep conversation about the meaning of life. It was a place where I played Scr.abble and made the same type of jokes I have made for decades with people I have known for decades. I always call it the illusion of friends. Your loss suddenly juxtaposed against constant updates about someone's boredom. It is startling and s cruel, some days. And to be frank, some days it is comforting to know people aren't wracked with grief and that someone is out there functioing. But I always expect more from people who call themselves my friends.

But recently, when the discussion started amongst some dbms about My Face and babyloss, it reminded me of September 11th. I actually worked in a fairly tall twin tower building in Philadelphia during the September 11th attacks. I had just started working there a few months earlier, and was making copies when I saw a bunch of engineers huddled in a cubicle pointing to someone’s computer screen. I heard the word, “Airplane.” I headed back to my office as I watched people sort of gathering in groups around the incredibly formal, quiet office in which I worked. It was curious, but I didn’t know these people.

Well, not really well. I always felt out of the circle of emails and chatting engineers. I was still feigning complete work focus, meaning I rarely if ever emailed during work or you know, started a blog or anything. As my comfortability grew, that became a different story. But September 11, 2001, I was still the newbie. I talked to one man often, Joe. He had a stutter and is a Christian Iraqi. We talked about religion often and his country. Of our families. He didn’t really have other friends at work, per se, because he was very shy. But for some reason, we used to talk often. Maybe both of our statuses as people outside of the circle. We would chit chat, look at pictures of his children, and exchange cool world music we found on-line. As I headed back into my shared space, one girl was hysterically crying, as the other cuddled her. “My father,” she cried, “he works there.” And I was still flummoxed. I wanted to ask, but not pry.  Like I said, I didn’t know these people, and I half noticed my computer screen while trying to listen in on their conversation, an email sat on my screen from my sister, “Holy shit, a plane went into the World Trade Center. And while I was watching the news, another plane went into the other one. Dad and I are crying. Come home. Now. If you can leave the city. Love, your twin.”

No one could log onto CNN anymore, or NY Times, or the Philly Inquirer. Planes were crashing into places on the East Coast. Places my friends lived. Places my friends worked. My co-worker’s father called her. He was fine. He happened to call into work with bronchitis. And we turned on NPR and listened. I still hadn’t really seen anything. There were words about a tragedy. A plane into a building was something I could not even really visualize. I didn't understand what all of this meant, but I listened horrified as the announcer described fires, people falling...Was Philadelphia a target? Were we just sitting here waiting for the same fate?

I headed to Joe’s cubicle. And we listened to the first tower collapse. And he started laughing and crying. “Wh-wh-wh-what is happening?” We held hands as they began evacuating us. Down ten flights of stairs with everything important to us in our cubicles. "I think there is a war in America," I said. Joe nodded, and seemed to know exactly what that was going to mean for us all.

No empty cabs. It was chaos on the street as office building after office building evacuated suited, dazed people wondering what was happening to our world and wandering about trying to figure out what to do next. Was this war? I walked the thirty some blocks home, wondering where my boyfriend was, if my friends were safe. I didn’t have a cell phone. Nothing happened in Philadelphia, as we all know now. All of my friends in Washington D.C. and New York were fine.

All of this is to say: it was an ordinary day for me by all accounts. No one I knew died. No one I knew suffered from losing a loved one. I was just one of the millions of people who felt terror from the terrorists. And yet, I was so profoundly affected by that experience. Not to sound too new age-y or anything, but I felt the shift in the atmosphere--the immense losses felt by the world. Tangible losses--mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers. Intangible losses--safety, comfort, security. It made me aware of how safe my world is most days. It made me connect with the millions around the world who suffer from war and suffering on a day to day basis, where bombs and threats are part of daily existence. Of course, I always keep the experience in perspective--I get to return to my relatively safe world.

After Lucy died, I had this profound experience of seeing people as the embodiment of their suffering. In some ways, I felt connected to everyone by loss and suffering. I felt an iota of that feeling after 9/11. I forced myself to witness the tragedy, over and over again for the next few days. I stayed glued to the constant coverage, even though it made me cringe, even as some of those images haunted me. I grew sad and depressed for months. I wanted to be someone who wouldn't let this tragedy go unnoticed. I cried genuine tears for the families. I mourned for losses that never touched my life. In some ways, I hoped I never returned to the person I was before that day--a naive, ignorant person.

I feel that when I read and see things like the earthquake in Haiti, the bushfires of last year, the tsunami...I cannot quantify each person's suffering, but I can bear witness, stand as someone who will remember each loss as important, even if they are presented merely as a number in the media, or as a headline glossed over.


I have never been on a subway so quiet as the one after September 11th. Everyone sat still, sunken faces, their eyes fixed forward. No one spoke. It was like a subway car full of zombies. For weeks afterward, our building was routinely evacuated because of bomb threats, white powdered envelopes, random fire alarms and checks. I became a fire marshal trained to lead hysterical people out of a burning building. I received an orange vest, a whistle and a flashlight, which really was the extent of my training. When things became less, uh, tense, I often used them to pretend the fire drill was a rave.

The whole experience of September was so life-changing for me. It was so important to me. People live with this fear every day of their lives.

I don't.
I didn't, I mean, you know, until my daughter died.

I often am struck while walking alone in a Targ.et or driving down the highway. "Where is my husband? Where is my mother? My sister? What if?" I'm not sure I want to be away from everyone I love even for a second. But that is not rational either. But back to My Face and this whole idea of the world moving forward.

I admit that every week I read the sex column Savage Love, which is ironic, because the most lurid I get in terms of nookie these days is asking the question, "You mean, right now?" But there is something shocking and fascinating about people’s sexual questions, their fetishes, and about what they seek advice.  After September 11th, there was no regular programming on television. I remember reading columns and hearing reports about when we will America be ready to watch comedies again? When will laughing be appropriate? My Wednesday lunch ritual was to look up the newest copy of the Onion, and then read the Savage Love column in the AV club. The Onion's first issue after September 11th was a picture of the World Trade Center with the planes crashing into it and the headline: "Holy Fucking Shit!" The entire issue was one big cathartic laugh. It was the first time that I laughed since thousands died at work that day.

But Dan Savage's column sort of lodged in my brain. I don't know how to say it without sounding completely hyperbolic, but it sort of resonates in me all the time. Suddenly, some perspective. What the column consisted of was Dan Savage saying he is not sure he can do his job anymore, since terrorists crashed planes into buildings. So, he called out all the assholes who sent him questions about sex, or complaints about how boring he had become, or asking him to clarify his position on something as the towers were coming down. He did what I want to do on My Face every day. I want to post status updates, "A baby died today. Who cares if your dog pissed in the shape of Portugal? This is real life. Real suffering. Gain some fucking perspective."

Is that under 140 characters?

The column is here, actually, if you are interested.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The price of doubt

Last year in October, I was a passenger in a car accident. My sister was driving. I sat in the passenger seat and three of our four kids were in the back. We were stopped to make a left turn to pick up really really shitty food requested by my father. A man in a large truck speeding and simultaneously trying to go around us, slammed into the back of our car. I was 29 weeks pregnant. I spent the rest of the day and all night in the hospital being monitored. Lucy's heart rate dropped a few times, but stabilized. I spent that night away from Beatrice and Sam. It was the first time I didn't sleep in the same house with her. But I listened to Lucy's heartbeat all night. Like horse's racing, I was so terrified and comforted to have this time just with her. It was the first time in either of my pregnancies that the mortality of my children occurred to me. I cried off and on all night between whispering to her about the world, and telling her all the fairy tales I could remember.

From the pure adrenaline of car accident and morphing into Mother Bear, I didn't really recognize until I got home the next day that my collarbone hurt more than say a lot. I mean, it was broken. There wasn't much I could do. I saw an orthopedist who wouldn't x-ray the injury, which would have been more damaging to my pregnancy than just treating it as broken.

That car accident has haunted me since it happened. Firstly, it kicked off an incredibly difficult time in our lives. The collarbone, sitting on my ass, gaining weight, finding help to care for Bea, leading into Sam's father's death, and then three weeks later, Lucy's death. But mostly, it haunts me because I will always have that doubt. What would our life had been like if we hadn't made that left turn? What would have happened if some speeding jerk would have just been following the rules?

I will always live with that doubt. I try to accept the diagnosis that there is no reason for Lucy's death, but I find it nearly impossible. It doesn't jive with my scientific sense of the world. The effect of the accident was clear on the autopsy. Though the pathologists say it was not enough trauma to kill Lucy, we will never know the ways in which it contributed to her death or her suffering. That has remained my point in this case. I think of that Ray Bradbury story, The Sound of Thunder,  can we really measure the effect of one butterfly on the world? I can't help but think that a man speeding at speeds no faster than 40mph and ramming into us at a dead stop has something to do with Lucy's death. I doubt this cadre of doctors, lawyers and insurance people that say the car accident was beside the point. How could it be? And so I doubt their intentions. I doubt their conclusions.

How much is that worth? I ask the insurance lady.  
How much is doubt worth? How much is waking up everyday wondering what would have happened if your client would have just been following the rules worth?


After Lucy died, I received an email from a Facebook friend from high school. We had only recently friended each other. He is a high risk OB, and we played on the chess team together. He said he was available to answer any questions I had about Lucy's death. I sent him some theories about her death. And all of his answers were the same:

You just have to accept that there are no answers. 
Doctors will never quantify the what ifs. 
Doctors will never write a report with doubt in the margins. 
They may whisper it to you, but they will never write it. 
I cannot tell you the ways in which a car accident would have contributed to her death, because those weeks of her time in utero after the accident were unmeasured.
Doctors always go by facts and measurements.

And I want to scream that not having an answer for my daughter's death seems so medieval. What of Occum's Razor? What if the only difference between this pregnancy and Beatrice's pregnancy is a car accident? What of the most logical explanation being the one we go with?


This week I received an insulting settlement check from the insurance company. For 15 months, message after message was left. Lawyers were hired and fired. I faxed autopsy reports, told my story to random insurance people in different offices. I saw doctors. I emailed specialists for more information. I probed through details about my daughter that no one should read--the weight of her heart, and the percentage of her placenta functioning. As my friend said, no pathologist or doctor would speculate on the ways in which a car accident could have adversely affected my daughter in utero, or contributed to her death. I simply don't have the money to pay enough specialists to do that. For over a year, I have had this case hanging over our child's death. No one will say the car accident had any conclusive pathological evidence to contribute to Lucy's death, and yet it is the only thing different between the one pregnancy and the other. The doctors have said that the 8% placental infarction was not enough to cause her death, but what about contribute? What if it was the one extra push that caused her to lose nutrients? Why won't anyone agree that my doubt is founded?

When they finally offered me a settlement, I couldn't even believe they were talking about my case. They offered me $4,000 for the death of my baby, and not one penny of that was in the stress, doubt, death of my child column. They paid for someone to clean my house. They paid for my collarbone broken. They paid for my hospital stay and my husband missing work. But they didn't pay for any suffering of my Lucy. They didn't pay for insomnia They didn't pay for terror. And yet, settling isn't about money for me. I just want it done with, and so the check came with both relief and anger. I want the last of Lucy's unresolved death to be resolved, even if it is not at all representative of what I think this kind of gnawing doubt is worth. Even if it is unjust.

None of this has been fucking fair. 

Not her death. Not the car accident. Not the insurance companies. Not the grief. Not the losses. Not the absence of my daughter in this house. It is just money. Money that won't bring her back. Money that when broken down shows the tangible things we lost.

How much does doubt cost?
How much does grief cost?
How much does fear cost?
How much does stress cost?
How much does unbearable sadness cost?
How much does living with these questions for the rest of your life cost?


Almost everyday I see a woman in a Black Jetta speed down my street. It is a purely residential street, lots of kids and old people. Two small children strapped into car seats in the back. But she somehow manages to reach horrifying speeds (for our street) from one stop sign to the next. She sometimes blows right through the subsequent stop sign. And when I would see her from my front porch window, I had the urge to run, a la Garp, and catch her and tell her, "Somebody, speeding at 35 MPH, may have killed my daughter." A little dramatic, yes, but maybe, just maybe, if I stared in her eyes and explained to her, "You don't want to calculate the price of doubt every day."