Sunday, November 30, 2008

Still, but Born


I never, ever put those two words together.

But more than that, I never put the words


together, and put them into a sentence with my daughter's name in it.

Why? It's true. That is the technical term for what happened. It's here in Webster's:

stillborn: adj; dead when born
stillbirth: n. 1. the birth of a stillborn fetus 2. such a fetus

Now, I realize that is what happened. But look at that definition. I can hardly take it, this other term they use: fetus. She was nothing but a fetus to them, just a fetus. This full grown, seven pound, dark haired, healthy girl-fetus. We were all those, once. Only when we were born, we got to be called a baby. My child: a fetus. A stillbirth. I hate those words.

They degrade my child, to my ears, they lower her status from baby to something other-than; they make her less of a real thing and more of a term. Calling her stillborn puts her into a statistical category; she becomes something familiar. It is insulting.

After all, we've all heard about a baby being stillborn. We've read about it in books from the old days, when labors were longer and there were no doctors and it happened more often. The baby was stillborn, and the midwife would take her and wrap her in a cloth and she wouldn't let the mother see. The child was never named, and the mother was encouraged to quickly forget.

So should I be doing that? Forgetting? I think not. Being fixed on not forgetting is part of what I do, I think, when I say she died during the birth. This is, of course technically true: she did die during the birth, and by saying this I get to avoid calling her stillborn. We don't forget anymore. So I don't use that old word.

Sometimes I wonder whether my absolute refusal to use the word (and I can tell you with absolute certainty that I have never in my life referred to Charlotte as stillborn) is a form of denial. I don't want her to die. I don't want that to have happened to her. I think there is also a piece of me that is latching onto the fact that in our society, if your baby takes even a breath, even lives for one minute or two hours or a day or a few weeks, suddenly it all seems so much more legitimate to everyone that you get to miss that baby. Somehow, when it is so clear, when I say stillborn, that she never took a breath, it's as if she never happened. When I say that she died during the birth, it's almost as if I'm trying to prove just how close she got to life, even though she just missed it by a hair.

This is of course highlighted by the paperwork, in that of course she cannot have a real birth certificate, only a death certificate. And yes, yes. I do have the Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth; which you have to apply separately for later on because it doesn't happen automatically. But it's still not a birth certificate. She still never had life to them, she never existed on paper. It breaks my heart.

This is part of why I loved recording the StoryCorps interview with Greg yesterday, because we talked extensively about Charlotte, and now she is archived in the Library of Congress. You can't look her name up as someone who was really born but you can hear all about her if you go to the Folklife Center. At least she is somewhere.

Lastly, I will throw one more term into the pot: two words I found scrawled at the bottom of my discharge slip. They cut into me like a cattle brand, they seared my heart, sucked my baby down into a whirlpool.

Fetal demise.

I don't even need to write about this. How would you feel if someone called your baby this, even if you knew it was true? Her name was Charlotte Amelia. Please call her that.

What words get you?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

When I look out into my world right now it's as if there is a little, dimly-tinted screen over my eyes. I don't feel uplifted or optimistic. I feel as if I wish that if I had all this wisdom to spread about the pain of losing a baby and then the joy that can actually, possibly follow, then it should be joy I write about, joy. And of course the pain, but the pain of losing that one baby, and not about any other pains that might follow.
Tonight I am just sickly worried about the health of one of my children, I am feeling melancholy and missing Charlotte after recording a very intense and moving StoryCorps interview with Greg this morning, and I'm feeling pretty certain that I am permanently infertile and will never again have the pleasure of holding a newborn babe against my bare skin.

Ashamed, I feel as if these emotions should be causing me to spout some sort of excellent writing, but instead they render me mute; I have nothing to say. I want to crawl away and hide and come out and have at least the hereafter, the post-Charlotte; the things that seemed, at one time, to be manageable, to be okay.

But we all know how these things go... certainly after a little ice cream, a long sleep, some pancakes in the morning? Tomorrow could bring new sunshine.

Let's hope it does.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My sister is a psychologist, a good one. I could say this just because she is a good person, but there have been times in my life when I have needed her so desperately and she has worn that hat for me, and she wears it well. In her work she has crossed paths with a variety of people under many different circumstances. Among the most compelling to me were a number of older men that she worked with at a VA hospital some years ago. Their various disabilities and psychological illnesses are irrelevant to me and to this story, because what touched me most was this: these men were completely alone in the world. They had, literally, no one. No parents, no siblings, no aunts or uncles who cared. They had no spouse, no girlfriend, and no children. These people had nobody who loved them. Not anybody.
I could hardly wrap my mind about this concept, and it made my heart literally ache. To imagine being so alone, to have nobody to turn to when you needed something, to have not been touched in a gentle, soft way in decades. I couldn't imagine having nobody to care for, no one to think about, and knowing that there was nobody to think about me. To know that if you died, there would be nobody to claim your body. To be virtually alone.
I compare this to my own life, and it makes me want to pull the covers up over my head and hide, because I am so blessed with so many people whom I love, and who love me. I don't even know where to begin. My family is huge, everyone is happy and good to each other (mostly), I have so many good, good friends. There are dozens of places I could turn for anything.
I wish I had the clarity of mind to always feel this absolutely blessed when I'm having the worst day of my life, when my children are pulling me in six different directions, when my husband forgot to call and say he's going to be late, when I forgot to thaw the dinner, and it feels like everything is whirling around me in a sandstorm. Wouldn't it be sublime if I could just step outside of that situation and say, so many people love me, these two children are alive and well, and my husband will be home... eventually. But, I'll think it today, and perhaps I'll be reminded of this sometime when things seem too whirly to compute.

One man's story, I shall never forget. His parents were dead, no siblings to speak of. His wife had left him years before. He had no real friends; he was homeless.
His children? One daughter, stillborn forty years earlier. My sister said his eyes filled with tears as he told her. She was his only child.

This Thanksgiving, I say with a great, deep breath of gratitude, I have so much to be thankful for.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I'm not usually wordless... I have so much to say that doesn't burble out during the course of my everyday life, and here is such a great place to let it flow.

Tonight, however, time is of the essence...

so I thought I might provide some visuals of some of the daily events of the past few weeks... our trip to the circus, a ride in the shopping cart, a skirt I made, Liam's storywriting, and our Thanksgiving trees.
Now I have to go up to our town hall and vote in a special town meeting so that the library can gift a building to the town to build a brand new library. Yee-haw. I love small town New England politics. I will get lots of knitting done.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

This is still new to me; and somewhere I never thought I'd be.

How easy it was to put the blinders on; does one never stop being innocent in some ways, even when innocence is lost? I shake my head in dismay at myself, ashamed.

I just cringe at the memory of myself saying it, so many times: getting pregnant is the only thing I don't have trouble with.

As of now, having past the magical anniversary, I have had a multitude of tests all of which cannot determine why I would not be getting pregnant. Mysterious, unexplained infertility. Awesome.

And I am now at the point where, had I conceived when I thought I first would, I would be shopping for Christmas with babe in arms.

Today, as I was taking advantage of Northampton's pre-holiday "Bag Day" sale, I bumped into several people whom I had not seen in quite a while. Oh! They said, how many kids do you have now?

Two, I said, trying to keep a straight face. Just two. Not three. And not four. I realize the fourth baby never happened, but there is this feeling of almost wanting to justify the lack of the fourth almost as much (but not quite) as I want to remind people of the first. Bookends to my two living children, the "perfect family", to some people, but lacking to me. The ghost child and the child that didn't happen, they surround me now as I flicker my way through this life.

I have tried, please believe me. I look at my two gorgeous, happy, sprites that fill me with so much joy, and I try it out, like a mantra: this is my family, this is my family. They have each other. But I can't accept it. I don't know why, I just can't.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

There are times when my own story escapes me; it has become such an integral part of my own geography that the details become lost upon me in the rush. This is something that I don't think I've ever consciously realized about the road that I have walked, and it humbles me to the point of almost feeling like an imposter in this world of floundering babylost people.

I never existed out in the world without hope.
What is hope? It was Liam, this tiny seed growing in my womb, conceived not three months after Charlotte vacated. The unexpected delighted in how-could-it-happen little being that planted his feet firmly into my life, as if throwing me a ring-buoy, and has been there ever since.

Certainly there were the days, but there were only 102 of them, where I had nothing. Only 102. For those days, for ALL of them, I was devoted entirely to my grief. I did not work, I rarely socialized, I barely cooked, ate, exercised, or grocery shopped. The only times I left my house were for things that related to Charlotte-- a foray to place her memorial stone, a writing group to lay down my soul on paper, a walk with Greg in a private wood to share our deepest thoughts. My memories of that time-- my sitting time, I call it-- are mostly of me frozen on the couch, my eyes fixed on her tiny footprints that were balanced on the mantlepiece (and still are, not in a frame, just balanced there as if we just casually set them there a few moments ago and plan to move them). I recall being laid out on the nursery floor, the smell of wet wool as my tears literally soaked the rug beneath my face. I remember the sunlight on my bedroom wall as I would wake up in the morning, sucking in the dead air of my room and wishing I could sleep forever. We slept for 12 hours a night that summer, at least. It was all I could see fit to do.
And by the time I went back to work, 15 weeks after Charlotte's birth and death, I knew I was pregnant. At the time, I didn't think the notion of being pregnant was affecting me much, the whole idea seemed so uncertain. But of course it did, of course. How could it not? How could the very idea that something was growing-- even if it might quit on me-- not provide me with something in the way of hope?

And so what do I have to offer, at times, in knowing what it feels like to go for months and years without hope, or to never have hope again? I can equate it only to those early months, and I pray that the later months and years do not sear as wickedly as those early months alone did.

It makes me feel so lucky, which I am in those certain ways.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Power of a Name

Somewhere out there, in western Australia, a mother like me who had heard about me went out to the sand one evening and, thinking of my daughter, created this.
I feel speechless at this beauty.

Thank you, so very much.
(see the creator at and many thanks to my new friend Sally who made this happen)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Clare, Part 1

I was reminded tonight of my desperate love of writing of myself in the third person. So... just for fun, here is a clip from my "book"-- if you can call all my spiral bound notebooks that. My protagonist is Clare, and she is, 100%, without a speck of doubt, me. Somehow it felt so beautifully liberating to cast my story upon another, although I will have you know that I did keep Charlotte's name the same as the story marches onward.

Here you will read of the moment when my labor begins, a moment I spoke of several posts ago:

The window was open, and a damp smell was in the night air. Clare’s mind awoke before her eyes, she lay on the smooth, pearl colored sheets for a moment and became aware. She was on her left side, propped up from behind with one, large feather pillow and two throw pillows. In front of her, Clare’s enormous, nine-months pregnant belly lay like it was already another being in itself. It was propped up with a tiny child’s pillow, but its weight pulled at Clare’s ribcage and she needed to turn over. Lifting her top leg, and bracing with both arms, she pushed with sleepy-nighttime strength against the forgiving mattress, and then suddenly she felt it.

A warm rush, more than a trickle, coming from seemingly nowhere, and suddenly on her legs. In an instant Clare’s eyes flew open, her muscles clamped down, and she was on the edge of the bed sitting, bare feet on the floor, back straight, and fully awake. Her mind flashed to the date. 8 days past due. She felt the bed behind her. Dry. Suddenly it occurred to Clare, through her adreneline haze, that it was quite possible that her water had not broken after all. Every day some strange, new, hormone-induced symptom would appear and perhaps what she had felt was just that. She clenched her abdominal muscles and bore down. Another rush of warm liquid. Her heart soared.

She stood up and began to move towards the hall, and it was like a steady, smooth flow of bathwater that soaked her pants and ran down her leg. Across the hall Clare walked, turning on the light to assess her situation and mindfully moving in a whisper so as not to prematurely awaken Charlie. She carefully found a clean pair of pajama pants and underwear in the pile of laundry and tucked them under her arm.

Towards the nursery she crept, catching sight of Charlie in their bed on her way. She felt wickedly delighted at this moment: she alone knew that their baby was coming. Leaning in again to see Charlie’s blankets rise and fall, Clare envisioned her mother, her father, her sisters, so many friends, all doing the same. Sleeping the sleep of waiting, phones positioned at their bedsides, waiting for news. And Clare had the news.

Tiptoeing as best she could with her top-heavy frame, Clare continued into her baby’s bedroom and opened the top drawer. Soft, cotton diapers like clouds, twice laundered already and sweet smelling. She pulled out two, folded them twice lengthwise, and laid them over the maple crib railing. Off came her soggy pajama bottoms, on went the clean, dry clothes, and into her underpants she tucked the diapers. She giggled to herself. Definitely the best system for keeping dry. Her baby would laugh one day to know that her Mama had sampled her diapers before her birth.
Moving back into the bedroom, Clare stole a glance at the clock: 2:49. A quarter of an hour had passed. Charlie was still so blissfully asleep, his face calm, the yellow blanket pulled up over his shoulder.
“Charlie,” Clare said softly. “I think my water broke.”
Charlie bolted up as if he had been electrocuted. “It did?” he blurted, sounding completely awake and lucid. “When? Did you call?” His alert tone of voice was fading as his mind began to balance his current need for wakefulness in the midst of his deep sleep.
“Not yet,” said Clare. “I wasn’t sure for awhile. I’m going down now.” She turned, and stole down the stairs, leaving a bewildered Charlie in their bed. She crossed the kitchen, dimly lit from a night light, and then entered the dark living room. The red light on the telephone guided her, and she picked up the handset.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Please help

This is baby Andrew.

If you're reading this, I am guessing there is about a 90% chance that you know somebody who is pregnant.
If you do, (or if you are), please do this: copy down this address

This is the enrollment form to donate umbilical cord blood. It is very easy to do, you have to download and submit forms by the end of your 34th week (and get your doc's signature) and be planning a birth at an approved hospital (all the ones in my area were approved, you can call the number to see if yours is also on the list).

This week, my cousin's baby, Andrew, who is very sick with congenital leukemia, is receiving a bone marrow transplant that is from donated cord blood. His life will literally be saved (we hope and pray) because somebody out there took the time to fill out a few papers, get their doc to sign them, and sent them in. Imagine that instead of your (or your friend's) cord being tossed out as medical waste, it could potentially prevent a very sick baby or child from dying.

Do it now. Copy the address, pass it on. If you are pregnant, download the forms right now.


RSVP. I would be curious to see how many of you are able to pass this information on, or to use it yourself. Imagine if your cord blood could save this baby's life. Wouldn't you do it?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tonight we had Trudy for dinner.

Trudy, Trudy.

Do you know who Trudy is? She is the only person on this entire planet, besides my parents and sisters, and Greg's parents and brother, who has seen all three of our children. I call her our guardian angel. She kind of is.

Trudy came into our life at 3:00 in the afternoon on the thirteenth of May, 2003. Her shift had just begun, and our life had just in a single moment, ended and begun again at 2:14. We had lost our parenthood, and were snatching it back again just as Trudy came on shift. Our daughter had disappeared, and we were clinging to her, realizing that we could hang onto her, get to know her, be with her for a time in this earthly life while we still could. Trudy helped that to happen.

She stayed with us, nearby, bringing us the things that we needed, taking photographs, talking to us about Charlotte's beauty and our family's closeness and trust. She marvelled at our instincts to parent this little girl as any parents would, despite what had happened. She followed our lead and we followed hers. I don't know how we could have negotiated that day without her.

When the time came to say goodbye, Trudy was the one who walked out of the room with my baby girl. I saw her back turn, and Charlotte disappeared. As my heart literally ripped in half, I saw Charlotte again-- for a split second-- in the crack between the curtain and the wall, as Trudy turned to close the door behind her. My tiny daughter was cradled in Trudy's left arm, her little face peeping out from the blankets Greg had so carefully swaddled her in, just as he had been taught in our childbirth class. I saw her again, and the door clicked shut.

I loved Trudy so much that day, I loved her for taking such good care of us, and for treating Charlotte with the dignity that she deserved. I loved her because she asked us questions about our baby, about who she looked like, because she called her by name. I loved her because she gave us respectful space but she also talked to us, got to know us, and didn't avoid us. I loved her for being this absolutely present and spirtual witness to our day together.

After we went home, I loved her because she had seen Charlotte. She was somebody who actually knew, she had seen the evidence, that I was a mother. I wanted to thank her for everything she had done. It seemed right when suddenly we realized that we had a mutual friend, and one June morning we sat in Sally's yard, eating cinnamon buns and drinking strong coffee with cream. Trudy was back in our lives, and apparently she liked it that way.

I love having Trudy in my life. She is quite honestly the sole witness of Greg and my time with Charlotte. Our families came, and they visited, but not for long. Trudy was there for it all, she watched us, she helped us, and she carried our baby away from us with such solemn grace and reserve. It seemed right that she happened to be there for the births of our next two children. We are the only family for whom she has worked with for three births.

Last week, Trudy came to our conference. There are times when I feel so steeled to my own experience. I have become so accustomed, through the work that I do, to speaking of Charlotte and of my loss experience with nary a flicker of emotion, let alone a tear. Somehow being able to maintain a straight face has made me better able to share her with the world, so a great deal of this time this is how I operate. But last week I sat on a parent panel, and I looked out into the audience and I saw Trudy sitting there, with her wide, blue eyes, and beautiful smile, and I could see her as the only person I had to turn to on that very day, the real day that it happened, the only day I ever held my baby girl, and suddenly it became real for me again, that it was really me, my baby that died. My own little daughter. Not just some sad cause that I work tirelessly for because nobody deserves to be treated badly. The sad cause that I am so devoted to because my very own child died. I broke into tears, and as I spoke they spilled down my cheeks and I had to get some kleenex and stop for a minute and I can tell you that hasn't happened in a long, long time.

I remember reading something like this in a battered, green book I borrowed from the support group that I had attended. It was an early 80's SANDS publication from England, and it was called, quite simply, "When a Baby Dies". There was a quote in that book from a woman who recalled that, when they had told her the news that her baby died, she went almost robotic, not truly realizing that it was in fact her own child who would be born dead. She then went on to describe the outpouring of emotion that overwhelmed her when she did give birth, and suddenly the pieces all fit together all at once: it was not just the sad tale of someone's lost baby, but it was her little girl who lay lifeless in her arms, who would never take a breath, and there was nothing anyone could do to undo any of it. That feeling, put into words by this anonymous woman, was so familiar to me, as I had experienced a very similar dissociation and then immediate connection and loss upon Charlotte's birth. But I now realize that this continues to happen as I grow and grieve, I will lose her and then gain her again, and then gain her again. I dissociate at times because it's too sad, and I can't cry right then for whatever reason, and she becomes this sad thing that I talk about, and then there are these days where it just hits me like a ton of bricks; my baby is dead, my baby is dead.

I have no five year old child upstairs asleep, my daughter has no sister, I have only two children right now. This is all because my baby is dead, because that woman that I talk about all the time is in fact me, and I'm the one whose baby died, and I will always be her, no matter how much I'd sometimes like to take a vacation from that feeling in the pit of my stomach that won't go away.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Missing Sister

It is midnight, exactly.

Driving at night always makes me sad. There is so much time for thinking, and truth be told, I have a lot to be sad about. Being sad takes a lot of time, and in the busy-ness of everyday life, I don't prioritize it. It sometimes seems too hard to take the time to feel sad, and it also is hard to be sad about something that absolutely cannot ever be fixed.

Today I went to a Children's Museum nearby, in a town I had never been to before. While I was there I met another mom who I had seen at a school open house last weekend, so I connected with her about that and we stood chatting while our kids played. She had two children with her and was heavily pregnant, due around the same time that I might have been had I conceived around when I thought I might last spring. In addition to her two year old son, she had a beautiful, shining, joyful five and a half year old daughter, Louisa.

When I had seen Louisa at the school a week earlier, she had stood out to me: something about her was appealing. I had thought maybe she was looking for kindergarten next year, but her mother clarified that she was going to be in first grade. I should have known, looking at her more closely, she was clearly one of those girls I pick out on the street, just a little older than Liam, somehow my radar sucks them in, she is a spring baby from 2003.

I so desperately wanted to ask when her birthday was. I wanted to know exactly. Was she a few weeks older, or younger than my child? How can I compare them?

I didn't really know why Louisa was making me feel so agitated. I do see five year old girls all the time. I have become accustomed to being around them.

A while later, Aoife wandered over to the dentist's office area of the museum, where they have the real dentist's chair that you can sit in and all kinds of things to play dentist with. Louisa was there, and as Aoife sat in the chair, Louisa played the dentist, and it hit me: they look the same. Not Charlotte and Louisa, but Louisa and Aoife. Louisa had the same delicate little features, close set eyes, and very straight, blonde hair in a side part with a barette. Any person walking by would take a glance and assume that they were sisters. Without a doubt.

They were giggling and laughing, enjoying this two-to-five year old interaction so thoroughly, and she looked like her sister, a big sister, just like my Aoife deserves. It makes me want to stamp my foot on the wood floor so hard that the little table in the middle of my kitchen bounces up and down, because I did have a baby that should be that old, and she was absolutely perfect in every single way except for the fact that a freak accident crimped her cord while she was trying to be born.

Did you know that my midwife said "fuck" when she was telling me this? Her total human-ness in this situation made me feel so comforted, for real. She said, it was an accident, that's all. She was perfect. A fucking freak accident. Yeah. Can't really say much after that.

So there, in the museum, I watched this grown-up Aoife play with little Aoife, and I thought about my big girl who is missing, about the things she might enjoy, and about how she might explore and love this new museum we had discovered not half and hour from our home. It made me so, deeply sad for myself to be missing my girl. Somehow she stood for my girl, somehow in her straight blonde hair with the little barette and her cute pixie face, a face that Charlotte didn't even have, only Aoife does, but she looked like my daughter's sister and that was enough for me. It just broke my heart.

I have been having a very emotional time of it lately. There are many more posts for me to make in the aftermath of last week's conference. Just being there and surrounded by all of this babyloss constantly, being on the parent panel, it brought me back to a place I have not visited in a long time. I also have several friends who are getting ready to welcome their own new babies, which is such a joyous prospect but I selfishly turn inward and remember that absolute joy of anticipation that I got to experience just once, the one and only time where I thought my baby was a sure thing, only she wasn't.

Day after day lately I am just brought into this whirlpool where I feel like what I really want to do is have a good, hard cry.

Why is that so hard to do?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Five and a half...

So exactly five and a half years ago, I lay in a hospital bed with my baby in my arms. Not that I'm counting... and I am, absolutely. I used to calculate the days as I drove to work sometimes, in those early days. It has been 146 days since I held her, 217. I did just do the math, of course, because I had to, and it has now been 2009 days since I held her. That is a long time. A long time to grow into a little blonde-headed child with a wild sense of humor and hysterical giggles, with wavering but determined handwriting and a thirst for reading. We ate chocolate chip cookie and ice cream sandwiches for dinner to "celebrate" Charlotte's half birthday. We held hands and said our blessing for her, told her how much we loved and missed her, and licked melted ice cream off our fingers. It was jolly, sort of.
I was curious to see what I had written five years ago, on a day I remember had been quite difficult. I did not go to work. Here is what was in the journal I kept for her, the only thing I ever wrote in. Greg and I would take turns writing together in the nursery.

November 12th, 2003 (written by me)

Dear Charlotte,
Tonight is the eve of your six month birthday. It is hard to believe that it was six months ago tonight that we read you your last 3 books and innocently fell asleep. So often I recall the moments I spent walking around our house leaking water and I wonder when your last seconds were. I remember when I woke Daddy up. I said, "Greg. My water broke." He sat up very quickly and exclaimed, "It did?!" We were so very, very excited that you were coming. NEver in a million years did we consider that we might not get to bring you home. Even when we couldn't wake you up we never went that far to consider the impossible. We loved you too much to even imagine that something so awful could happen to you. We are looking forward to devoting all of tomorrow to remembering, honoring, and loving you without distraction. That is something we haven't done in quite a while. You are our family and tomorrow is our family day. We love you so much, and although you are not here, our love for you grows each day as we see your amazing impacts on our lives.
Love, Mama and Daddy

November 13, 2003 (written by Greg)

Dear Charlotte,
Today we spent the whole day remembering you, loving you, honoring you without distraction. We also took care of ourselves. We woke up to sunshine on the walls of the bedroom. After a fresh donut and coffee in bed we remembered all the details of your birth. Then, we went to revisit the hospital, the place where you were born. Our friends Andrea and Trudy were there to help us. After lunch in a restaurant, we bought some pink flowers and took them to your stone at the river. We tied your flowers to a little tree so they would not blow away on this very windy Thursday. When we came home we lit a nice fire and have spent the entire evening in front of it. We ate supper on the sofa and then decided to sleep by the fire. So that's where we are. We are missing you and loving you so much and wondering again and again what you would be like if you were here with us today, six months old.
Love, Daddy and Mama.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I am basking in the joys of accomplishment....

When I was first babylost, I yearned for the days when I could be entirely satiated by sitting quietly with a suckling newborn, needing nothing more.
And I need very little more than my children, it's true. Not much more outside of just being their sweet devoted mama.

But to truly give? It is the most satisfying thing on earth. Giving my time and energy to this group I run is like being a mother, you just give with no expectations of anything in return, and it's from the heart, and it feels like butter. Our conference was such an amazing, rewarding success. We had an attendance over the two days of over eighty, and I just stood there in partially stunned amazement, listening to the great Cathi Lammert speak, thinking, I made this. This is something that I did.

I admit now, at this point, that there is a piece of me that benefits greatly from a tangible product, from having something visible and useful that others can benefit from. My job as a mother is irreplacable and I think I do a fairly decent job at it, but let's face it: the kids don't often thank me, and there's generally not much feedback on what I'm doing right. So to put together something that felt so good and right that taught and benefitted so many made me soar above the clouds and just feel so ... well ... useful! I really needed to feel that, and I'm grateful.

Grateful for the people who helped to make it happen, grateful for those who came, and mostly grateful to Charlotte, who gave me the courage to pick up and keep walking when I wanted to stop and lie down and die. And now somebody else might keep walking because of her.

There was a story at the conference that made me cry, cry, cry. I still can't get it out of my head, and you won't either. Cathi was talking about memorials and funerals, and it came upon this slide: a family, man and woman, walking side by side in the sunshine down a path in a cemetary. Their heads are hanging, eyes cast down, they are wearing black. The mother's face is concealed by her long hair. Behind them they pulled a wooden wagon, the kind with the big wheels and the slatted sides that you can take on and off. You could see flowers in the back, and a tiny casket.

These parents, said Cathi, lost twins five weeks apart, Gage and Garrett. This dad decided that he wanted to take them through the cemetary in a wagon as part of the service.

She said, He wanted his boys to have a ride in the wagon.

A ride in the wagon.
A ride in the wagon. Like my two kids do every day, almost, in our wagon, and these people did it through a cemetary, and that's all their little boys got.

I wept and wept, as if I'd never even been there myself.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

24 hours...

I am ticking off the days until I can sit idly and type away about the throes of motherhood... we are now just one day from conference time... at this time tomorrow I will be wining and dining our guest here in my home as we prepare for Monday and Tuesday's big events. I am so excited, proud and, yes, slightly nervous.

But so what? What if the food doesn't arrive, or everyone doesn't have a pen, or the tables are arranged wrong. I could run out of folders, or my books could be lost, but still, Cathi will come, and the 70 people who have signed up will probably show up, and they will all learn things they perhaps didn't know before.

And then, when someone like me, or you, or someone you know walks into their room, they will know what to say, and will also know what not to say.

And how much is that worth?

I have felt so busy and crazed with all of this; I am so excited for it to end so I can settle a little bit into the life that I love and just enjoy my little folks a little more fully.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

You truly are going to have to excuse my brief foray into politics. This is NOT a political blog, and I will return (I promise) to the throes of mothering by tomorrow.

But I have to say it, I just have to-- I am disgusted by California. I am disgusted, and dismayed, and beyond anything, deeply saddened. And this is about family and mothering and everything else, because it's about people's rights to be born and grow up and become grown people who can make independent choices for themselves. It's about people having the right to have the same rights as everyone else around them. It just makes my head spin around in a hundred circles of dazzling disbelief that a nation that shakes its head disapprovingly at the mere mention of women being unable to vote, or blacks being unable to marry whites, would continue to try to justify the fact that marriage is specific to one man and one woman.

It makes me want to cry to think that people would go out of their way to BAN people from sharing the civil rights that their brothers, sisters, parents and neighbors enjoy. Every citizen of this nation should be granted the same basic rights. Is this not the basis of our constitution?

And you know what? If you belong to one of the religions that condones hatred, and is against gays, then go ahead and ban gays from marrying in your church, because guess what? There won't be any gays in your congregation anyway. But do not put those laws on my country, because it isn't up to this country to make those rules (or the state of California).

And this is the thing, you hear these people saying, "Oh, I have gay friends and I TOTALLY support them making their own choice, but I just really think that marriage is just between a man and a woman." Oh, that is such total bullshit. What you are, is anti-gay. You don't support them making a choice. You are denying them a civil right, and you are denying them the human right to choose a life partner and to be respected in that choice.

Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhh. It just makes me want to wilt.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I am absolutely deliriously delighted today, just reeling and keeling left and right.
I felt like I should be popping Champagne all day. It ended up being a number of cups of strong coffee to keep myself going after such a short sleep but it was all good.

I am so happy. And I'm so un-embarassed by my country right now, which is a new, different, and incredible feeling. I feel so hopeful and pleased.

Big, gentle sighs.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Morning Fog, 7:12 AM

To the town hall
In my booth

I shiver as I x my box

And drive down the mountain in the early morning foggy light
To wait, and to hope.
And to imagine that I might
be delighted
at the thought of my president
Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

Monday, November 3, 2008

This conversation arose today that left a funky taste in my mouth, as this topic often does.

I was speaking on the telephone to a new contact at our local hospital who is giving me great help with my upcoming training. She asked about my loss.

I told her, five and a half years, a baby girl lost during labor to a cord accident.
she cried, dramatically, but not in a bad way. That is so sad. To go the whole nine months and lose her at the last minute.

I agreed. I never know what to say, truly, how do you reply to this?

Yes, this is probably the saddest thing I've ever heard as well.

Yep, my life pretty much sucked at that point.

Couldn't think of a much worse outcome.

I usually piece together something about how it's hard for me to even believe that I've gone through it, much less come out on the other side this crazy advocate for babylost folks running groups and seminars and speeches. (and this is true)

Then she asked me, and your children now?
Yes, I've had two more, since I lost Charlotte, one is four, and the other two.

And are they boys or girls?
Why do I resent this question? As if somehow my answer will tell this woman whether or not Charlotte has been replaced. When Liam was born, I could feel it in some people's voices: the slight drop when they heard it was a boy, as if somehow things might have been better if I'd had a girl right away. People actually voiced this when Aoife was born, they cried with relief, I'm so grateful you have a girl. Thank god it's a girl.

Can I disagree? No, I am glad that I did have another girl, eventually. But I'm also glad I had a boy, and there was a huge sense of relief when Liam was born that I was not going to simply replace one girl with the next. When Aoife was born I would have also been glad to have another boy, although I will not argue that having another girl did provide me with a sense of relief as well. Something lifted to know that, at the very least, I would be able to experience being the mother of a girl, though she would not be Charlotte. This piece of my identity, the girl-mother, was re-established, and I was grateful for that in its own unusual way. But not for her being a girl, per-se, as if I must have the girl to right the Charlotte wrong, and to establish the American ideal of the boy-girl ratio that had been lost.

But of course I answered the woman, and I told her, I have one of each now, one of each here in my home with me. My elder is a boy and the younger a girl. (Note, elder, not eldest. Although is she my eldest? She never did grow to be any older than unborn).

Why does that question always send my mind spinning?

Two hands working together... my little boy and girl

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Just a quick post to say that it is driving me to near insanity that in only 37 hours and 11 minutes I am going to walk up the front steps of the old town hall, have the nice lady with the curly grey hair check off my name with her pencil on the printout, and take my short, many-times sharpened pencil up to the stage at the front of the hall. There, the six wooden partitions, each retro-fitted with its own bare light bulb, stand tall and proud-- waiting for the town's residents to come and cast their votes. I will check the box, so excitedly, and then hand it to the policeman who will undoubtedly let Liam and Aoife help to turn the big, metal crank on the side of the box. We'll hear the ding, "Ding!" and see the number change. Maybe we'll cast among the first votes in our tiny town.
And can you believe it? It's remotely possible that in fifty-two hours or so, we'll feel with certainty that by 1-20-09 we'll have a president who can actually string together a sentence. I am feeling so hopeful, yet so anxious all at once. I have never felt so drawn into an election before.

And one of the reasons I want my own guy to win? Because little Aoife, two and half, can read his name on the signs.
"Yook!" she shouts from the backseat, as we pass one of the many signs along our road. "Oh-BAMA!!" She sounds jubliant. I hope I will be, on Wednesday, too.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Aoife is working through this so hard. It slightly breaks my heart.
In the past week it has probably been eight times, either at dinnertime candle-lighting or when she first gets out of bed, and she says it: I'm sad because I miss Charlotte. I want Charlotte to come back and live with us.
First, you must recall that she can't say her "l" sound, so we hear Char-yitte. Which is so cute. Next, you must imagine how little this all makes sense to her.
Last night, after a wonderful, cozy evening of trick-or-treating, she worded it perfectly, in two-year-old lingo: What does Charlotte mean?
What does Charlotte mean? I don't get this, Mama. I don't understand what this all means. Who is this person you are talking about? I don't know what it means to be dead. I don't know what you're talking about when you say I have a sister, because I've never seen one. How can you be born and then not here?
I tried to explain to her, again, to make it as much on her level as I could. A baby had grown, tucked in Mimi's belly, and we were so excited to be her parents. I painted these stars on the nursery ceiling for Charlotte, we set up this crib that you sleep in for Charlotte, we bought her clothes and planned to bring her home to be our daughter.
But something very sad happened, and Charlotte died, which means that her body didn't work anymore. So we couldn't bring her home, and we were very sad about that.
Yet here we sit, under those very stars, and we remember that tiny baby who might have grown, and if she had grown, she would be bigger than you now.
I am lucky, she says, her eyes half closing as she lies in my lap, curled under a knitted blanket. I can look up while I'm sleeping and see Charlotte.
Yes, I tell her, yes you can.
I feel so sorry for her, missing her big sister. I mean not so much now, because she's just grappling with what that means. But she may never have a sister to live with, and I wish she could have a big sister to be there for her. I feel sorry for her later.
I miss you, too, Charlotte.