Thursday, August 30, 2012


Just a little disclaimer: I have been writing all month, just not able to finish edit and publish until this week, so that is why I am publishing a few posts right in a row. Particularly ones about August...

It is August again. When I first came into this community, it seemed all the people I met had August babies. I look on my perpetual calendar and nearly every day is filled with names of babies who died, and their mother's names in parenthesis. It is not my baby I am mourning. It is Roxy Jean that I mourn. It is Samuel Marc. It is Ezra. It is Hope. It is Georgina, Mizuko Star, Tikva, Madicken. It is Noah and Teddy and R. and Katie and Gabriel. It is Aiden. Emma and Chase. It is Lev and Wyatt, and it is Miller and your baby. I would have never met him, or her if they lived. I would have never met Roxy Jean. Yet I mourn her.

I anger quickly. It is my default emotion. My hookable place. When people would say to me, I miss Lucia so much. I would take her back from them.

"You didn't know her," I would spit out the thought, but remain silent. "What do you have to miss? She is mine. You can't miss her. She belongs to our whispers and cries in the night. Don't say her name. You go home to your babies. Leave me mine to mourn."

But I knew they could miss her too. They loved me. By loving me, they loved her. They could mourn her. They could take her death for their own too. She never belonged to me. It took me a long time to understand that.

Lucia never belonged to me.

It is the strangeness of this community of grieving parents. It is the oddity of meeting under these circumstances. Our babies died, then we became friends. In your mind's eye, you see your new friends parent. They are parenting their baby, even if the baby died. And these people you would have never known would be amazing fucking parents. You just know it, because you talk about what you miss about your baby, and what you would do with your baby, and how it would have been if you just insisted they take the baby out of you two days before. These people would be the traveling and reading books every night parents, and playing ball and creating art and listening to the Ramones. You mourn that they haven't been able to parent. Their first. Their second. Their fourth. Their nineteenth. You cry for their loss right alongside your own. It suddenly feels so immediate. You get so indignant.


It snuck up on me. I started grieving a baby in Australia and one in England and one in California and one in Indiana. You grieve for all of the babies you suddenly know about, whose lives are suddenly missed in the world. I fast forward through all the lives never lived--artists and lawyers, athletes and poets, drunks and the person that can always make you laugh. The people I would have never known anyway, those people feel more real than my neighbors some days.

It used to be strange to get a friend request from someone just because their daughter died in the same exact way that my daughter died. It was strange years ago. Now, more than half of my friends on Facebook have dead children. That is how we met. I write status updates about it, and so do they, and we pretend that the rest of Facebook knows who the babylost are and why we post pictures of Day of the Dead and artwork and animal medicine that get followed by hearts, and likes, and loves, and thinking abouts. Probably you are reading and writing them too. And my earth people friends roll their eyes and hide my feed and sometimes mention how fatiguing it all is.  But I don't care. The unfriend button is lovely and invented for people bored with parents who talk about their children.

The thing is now I appreciate knowing what other babylost parents look like, and the babies, and the ones that were running around before the death and grief. Everyone looks so normal. And maybe I look normal. Sometimes I look at those pictures from the before-time...could I tell the difference if I didn't know her baby died? Could I tell when your baby died if you never mentioned it, and we were soccer moms together? Would we be friends if our babies lived?


When I went back to Facebook after Lucia died, I would just write two word status updates.

three months.

I would write and people would make little hearts, or say HUGS! In two little words, it contained a novel of emotions: I need you. Help me. Save me. Understand I am not over this. My daughter died. I don't know how to live anymore. Send help. Send a cleaning crew. Or just send bourbon. But do something.

There was nothing to be done.

At about seven months, my friend posted something on her wall. She wrote about what it is like to be hit by a taxi and be wheelchair bound. It was a heartbreaking, honest, and darkly humorous piece. Turns out two months after Lucy died, she was hit running across the street in the city. I hadn't quite made it back to Facebook at two months out, so she hadn't heard my news, and I hadn't heard hers. We grew up a mile from each other, played softball together, wrote on the school newspaper together. She wrote a beautiful, touching email to me after I commented on her piece. And she told me her best friend Kenny had lost his baby in the same way I had lost my baby. She told me she grieved for Roxy Jean every day. Every. Day.*

I didn't think I could be more touched by her words. "And, hey, by the way, you and Kenny should be friends," she said. She disappeared again a few weeks later.

Two weeks before I gave birth to Thor, I received a few comments and then an email from a man explaining that he was my friend's friend. He was Kenny. The one she mentioned way back in the beginning. I was a year and a half out from Lucy's death.

Kenny and I started writing slowly. Both my childhood friend and Kenny are musicians and writers. It was a few weeks before Thor was born, so he told me about their new baby. The anxiety, the stress, sadness, grief, all of it from top to bottom was what I was going through right at that moment. He was so honest, and the respect and love he showed for his wife. And he made me laugh, and I made him laugh. And our writing picked up speed after Thor was born. Kenny seemed like the boy version of my grief.

I have always wanted to write about him, but it feels weird. Because men and women aren't to be friends. There may be the idea of sex. Or the idea of the idea of sex. But there wasn't. Because we were just grieving parents who liked to write with spouses who don't like to write. Spouses we love and are devoted to. So we wrote. We emailed everyday. Sometimes more than once a day, if we were both there and needing to talk. I read those email to Sam sometimes, and Kenny read them to his wife Terra too, because they were addressed to us all. There were no secrets. Sometimes I wondered if men and women just grieve on different timelines and where he was at three years was where I was at one and a half. Our grief paths intersected at just the right time. He said his wife's grief had changed, and I know what he means now. My grief has changed too now.

It felt cool to have a babylost pen pal. We don't write nearly as much as we did, but I think he is one of the most influential people in my grief journey. One of the people that abided, made me feel normal, made me feel understood, which helped me understand. And in that way, I will always be indebted to him and his wife, and always cry for Roxy Jean.


I had this imaginary conversation with an imaginary person which is the conglomeration of a bunch of shit said to me by different people over the years when I tell people what I write about and do since my daughter died.

It must be sad to talk to so many grieving women.

No. It's not so sad. 

But isn't your grief enough?

My grief doesn't feel as bad when I'm talking to someone else about their grief. 

I don't understand. 

I have compassion for other grieving people. Their grief might get ugly, or mean, or angry, but it never seems unwarranted. Eventually, I forgive myself for my own ugly grief emotions. I develop compassion for myself.

But still, why keep talking about babies dying? Surely, you have forgiven yourself already. How can you listen to sad stories over and over? It seems depressing.

Forgiveness is not a sudden landing. It is a journey. I have to keep forgiving myself. The stories aren't sad to me. They are just birth stories, parenting stories, living stories. The story I hear is not about death. It is about how to live. But some people I know take breaks from the babylost stories to get through times when they need to focus on their own grief or joy.

See, that is what I mean.

Sometimes when you feel unlovable, you have to love someone else. I feel like I need to give back, because someone wrote about grief when they had three years, someone started a website, and wrote and made poetry and I cried and I missed a stranger's baby.

What do you get out of it, though?


*My friend Faith wrote and sang this song about Roxy Jean's death, and shared it on still life 365, but I listen to it almost every day. Here it is again. I hope Faith or Kenny don't mind. Kenny also has a new album coming up which I will write about. He wrote a few songs about Roxy Jean, which are so exquisitely beautiful. 

Enjoy this one.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

blue moon

Wind takes pity on my battered soul and torn up legs, moves through the backyard, first caressing the chimes, then moving the mosquitos to the neighbor's backyard.  It is night. The dog is patrolling the yard, scaring squirrels, chasing phantom cats to prolong outside. I don't mind. I look both ways, then I open my arms and close my eyes and see the moon as a photo negative behind my eyelids. It is so bright already. Strange in this place that steals organic light, sucking it into some suburban ambient dull orange aura that surrounds our town. A second full moon this month is the moon of intention. Deliberate abundance. It is the one of synchronicity. "Ask your spirit guides," I read on a blog. "Watch for signs. Open yourself to them. Make connections. Then act on them."

I feel the magic run through my body as I soak in the moon. I am not eaten alive by bugs. That should be enough magic for this long summer. I ask for nothing, rather I tell the universe what I have in my mind's eye. It is what the blog shaman says to do. Use affirmations.

I inspire my children. 
I bring joy. 
I am driven. 
I know. 
I awaken. 
I am confident. 
I am clear-headed. 
I forgive. 
I am healthy.
I am a source of light and love. 
I am my higher self. 

Then, I whisper the vain requests, I am thin. I am strong. I am beautiful.

I am run by the moon. I howl to energize and turn inward, my cycles match up to the moon, perhaps like all women. But I don't know what to do with the power I harness from the night sky. I squander it on resentments and dream work that I am too lazy to write down and deconstruct.

I like the Native American names for the moon. August is the Sturgeon Moon which makes me happy for the fish (don't forget the fish.), and yet the blue moon, the second one this month, takes the name of the first, like a shadow self. Amore radiant, special, important shadow self.  Last full moon, I was packing for our trip, and praying and I forgot about the moon all together. I felt disconnected from the space outside my house. Heat and mosquitos kept us inside in July, bouncing on furniture, wrestling until someone cries. I am trying to let go of my shadow self, or rather maybe I am trying to make her more radiant, special, and important, like some kind of blue moon goddess. Can that be the shadow self I don't discuss in proper company? The one that is luminous, forgiving, pious, full of God and light, as opposed to the angry, resentful Angie? I realized a few weeks ago, that I hadn't thought about my righteous indignation in a week or more. I scratched my head and thought, Yeah, but I can fire that up if I want. Maybe that means I am still damaged. 

But I don't want. It is exhausting to let it go string by string of the cord that binds me to curses, abuse, and neglectful spirits. After more than a year, finally, I feel almost free of the cord that bound my heart and prevented me from letting women get close and know me. It occurs to me that I have already set my intention this year. I want to allow another woman into my life as a close friend, someone to confide, share, open up to and who I can do the same. I miss that in real life. Perhaps it is a friend of my daughter, or the pagan yoga instructor, or the psychics who ask me to join their group. I am asking the universe for a friend in my town, someone who makes me laugh and brings out that part of me, someone who likes far-out gypsy topics and oracle cards, art and crafts, and remembers that women need each other. Someone I can listen to for hours, someone who I trust.

I signed up for this two-month project called the Magical Sabbatical. It was everything I wanted to accomplish, and it felt divinely given that I even found it. It follows the full moon cycles, starting this blue moon, and ending on the full moon of October. It contains lectures and affirmations, rituals and intentions. The website says it is "an intentional disruption in your status quo." I am open to opening. I am open to the shadow self, the luminous goddess that she can be, if I only let her.

What are your intentions this blue moon? What are you accomplishing spiritually, emotionally? Share with me. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


He hides himself in the folds of my yoga pants and whimpers.

There are people, Mama. People. 

He doesn't say it, but I know what he is thinking. He is afraid of humans, my little Thor. I give him a hammer and a lightning bolt, but he still cowers. At the playground, he holds my hand and watches, and I push him gently toward a manageable slide. "Go play, my angel. Go play." And he shakes his head and reaches up.

No, Mama. No. No.

I take him in my arms, and stand on the sidelines watching the other children play. Watching Beezus slide down the fireman's pole, and talk to other children, and try the monkey bars. He still struggles with the talk. I hear him try sentences on for size, rolling around in his mouth. Aspirating after each word. I want to encourage him, but I don't understand what he is saying. He repeats the phrase again. Then out of the blue, he will perfectly pronounce 'garbage truck.' Most often, he won't speak at all. People ask him, "What's your name?" Or "Why aren't you talking?" Or "Don't tell me you're shy."

I smile and answer for him. I tell people that he is in speech therapy, so they know we are working on this, and I spell the word S-H-Y. They seem to want answers for the reason that he is the size of a four year old, but doesn't speak yet. They look at Beezus and say that his sister is probably speaking for him, and I nod and laugh, and all the while, I think that Thor knows exactly what we are saying and is living his fate.

The speech therapist wonders if he is lacking confidence, since he seems to whisper the right answer and then not repeat it aloud. She mentions selective mutism. She says he is probably the brightest child she works with. He follows complicated, even unexpected directions. He's smart and patient and lovely, she says. Almost much too patient and smart for a child his age. He's like the opposite of hyperactive.

Hypoactive? I think.

I wonder if shy is a bad trait or a good one. I felt emboldened recently at the spate of articles and books talking about shyness being a good trait. We are a family of shy. And shy is something everyone thinks you need to get over to be successful. It seems good to me to talk when you feel moved to talk, instead of filling empty space with noise. Thor sits in meditation. He giggles incessantly, and plays with his sister like he is four. Later, I look up selective mutism. Social Anxiety Disorder pops up. Shyness. Psychiatrist. Special classes. Therapy.

The nights have grown more pleasant. Almost cool, and I open the door to my studio. The wind chimes ring. The mosquitoes smell the warmth and buzz around me as I read about all the things I should be doing with Thor. He is two and I am reading about SSRIs. It feels so wrong. I caused this with my anxiety during his pregnancy, the thought immediately pops into my head. I've been waiting to find out how I messed up Thor, and here it is. I am convinced of it. It covers me like a wet, scratchy blanket. I can't escape it. It is heavy and uncomfortable and larger than our house. I will never escape accusation and blame. I am the causer of psychiatric disorders! He is too attached! BAD MOTHER! BAD! And as I start that line of thinking, I stop. I take in a long, cleansing breath, and let that abuse float out my studio door with the mosquitoes. It doesn't help me parent him better to believe it is my fault.

My baby Thor is sweet and lovely. He needs to sleep with his feet over someone, like he is the King of Siam. He wants to be fanned and fed grapes and he likes to dance to music about the moon and goddesses. He likes to grab my face in both his hands, and stare into my eyes and then kiss me on the mouth. He is quiet and shy and afraid sometimes and I realize I have been approaching him all wrong. There is nothing wrong with him. Instead of losing patience, I need to reassure him that shyness can be a successful way of being. I need to stop making excuses or explaining all this. I want him comfortable so others can see the loving, confident, creative, amazing child I am privileged to mother everyday. What I created is a child who trusts me, who practices discernment in social situations, and fears strangers asking what is wrong with him. I understand where he is coming from.

Let people wonder, ask, gawk. Let them call me controlling, or too attached. Let them think I am a bad mother. I can handle that. What Thor needs is to know nothing is expected of him but his security. All he needs to do is feel safe, and then nature will do the rest. So my job now is not to get him to talk, but to get him to relax.

Find it in my skirts, my son. Find it on my lap. Then grow strong. Grab your hammer. Change the world.

Monday, August 13, 2012

forgiveness and remembrance

The shop smells of Japanese incense. There are chakra crystals and handblocked fabric bags made in Tibet by a women's collective. There are angels in resin for a buck, magical rocks, and pyramids, and in the middle of lavender eye pillows, I see a smiling praying jizo statue for their garden. A big jizo. It is reasonably priced, and I imagine the red bib I will sew for him. He looks like one of my paintings. I ask the beautiful woman with long flowing scarves in August, and almost no shoes about the statues around her shop. There are jizos all around this place. I ask her if she has more. I want to see them all, and she leads me around the shop, showing me Buddhas, and jizos, and Hoteis. And the first jizo is the best. He is mine.

As we stop, I reach for him, turning up to heaven, hands in prayer position, smiling. The clerk touches my wrist where her name is written on my body. It is a sensual gesture, one of compassion. The touch of a stranger feels electric. Her finger rests on my pulse. It quickens.

What does that say?


Is that your name?

No, it is my daughter's name.

It's beautiful. How old is she?

Actually, she died.

How old was she when she passed?

At birth. She was just being born.

Our eyes meet. It is kind of true, I am trying to communicate. No, it is true. She didn't have an age. She would have been born soon. She died just before she was born, but she was still a baby. Stillborn sounds like miscarriage to strangers. And miscarriage is also difficult and physical and hard and not to be dismissed, if you don't want it dismissed, but those words, stillbirth, miscarriage, pregnancy loss open dismissal and distance from the fact that I gave birth to my six pound baby. Lucia looked like me, and I had to leave her in the hospital for an autopsy, then cremation. So, I said she died at birth. It's not a lie, really. What I really want to say is that I pushed her out of my vagina. She was limp and gray, and weighed more than my neighbor's living baby. Her eyes were bruised and the skin torn. I kissed her anyway, and had to push her little tongue back in her mouth so she would look more alive, because it was hard to see her dead. After I held her for a few hours, she grew cold. I couldn't bear it. I wanted more blankets to cover her, to warm her.

I'm sorry. 

Thank you.

Do you have other children?

Yes. A two year old and a five year old. But Lucia is why I want the jizo, because jizos protect babies that die, and guide them into the next life. I paint them. Constantly paint them.

Wow, really? 

Yes. I paint them for other people all over the world and for myself. It is a ritual of forgiveness and remembrance.

She stared at me, tears welling. And then she hugged me. The clerk in the metaphysical store in a cluster of other stores held me. She said there was a light in me. And I could feel the darkness bubbling under the light. The dark is so overwhelming, I want to tell her, that all you can do is light stuff or it would consume us all. Even you, even your light, gauzey fabrics.

I kneel in front of the jizo I placed under her tree, next to the stepping stones we made for our two babies.

I'm sorry you died in me,I say.

There is no answer.

I'm sorry you died in me, I say again.

I chose to die like that, Mama. 
You did?
You chose it too.
I'm sorry.
Don't apologize to me, Mama. I had a good life.

I light another stick of incense and jam it into the ground.

I'm sorry your baby died in you, Angie.
It's not okay, Angie. I'm not sure I forgive you.
I know, Angie.
But keep apologizing, Ang, I think it might be working.

I perform a ritual of forgiveness. It involves nothing selfless. It is all about me being forgiven. It is empty and dark and sad, and as I walk through it, I am come out the other side full and light and contented.

I think about the life I made out of her death. It involves writing and painting and going to metaphysical stores and letting go. I let go of friends. I let go of expectation. I let go of the future. I let go of my tears. I let go of naiveté. I let go of my baby. I let go of the darkness to embrace something dark in me. I let go of anger. I let go.


Today, I was over at Glow in the Woods writing about this thing that happened to me a few years ago. It was something I never talked about, or if I did, only privately to Jess or my husband, I think. I was embarrassed about it, actually, which sounds weird considering the emo shit I have owned on this blog, but still, you know, there once was a girl on the train and I loved her for a few minutes.