Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Oh, I am so cranky and foul tempered this sunny, lovely, chilly afternoon. My children were at each others' throats (actually it was my child and the child I watch), they woke up the sleeping 2 year old who took an hour to get back to sleep, the house is full of sand and dirt from outside.
Basically there is NOTHING actually wrong, but I am hormonal and grumpy and feeling so much like sitting in the sun, alone, and drinking beer.
So all that is to say, so grumpy, I have nothing of value to say, except, that I suppose we all get this way sometime... do we?
Also? I get terrible canker sores. All the time. Right now I have three, one on the tip of my tongue (can't eat), one on the back of my throat (can't swallow), and another on the side of my tongue (can't talk). My glands are so swollen from this that I can barely swallow or breathe. This happens to me for about 2 weeks out of every month. I need to do more research about how to solve this problem. I have cut things out of my diet before with success, but it seems like each elimination gives me only about a month or 2 of respite and then they are back, hormonally driven. It is so frustrating and so very, very painful. I wish some rich person would give a million dollars to canker sore research so they could figure out how to solve the problem. My doctor says talk to my dentist, and my dentist says talk to my doctor. Argh.
Sorry to use you as a sounding board. Some days I just don't have anything decent to say.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Oh well. Nobody ranted, nobody commented. I am such a blog loser. Oh, well. At least it makes me feel happy to vent. Perhaps the lack of comments should indicate that I am wrong. Nevertheless, I shall move on.

What a wonderful afternoon I had! Music has always been important to our family, and our involvement has included me bringing my children with me to the adult chorus I sing in, countless family singalongs with Greg on the guitar (daily in the summertime), various music classes, and just the general joy of song. I have paid, on two occasions, an exorbitant amount of money (in relation to our income) to take a music class which was very well done, but not totally beyond the capacity of a person with my music background. Now, I can't claim to have the singing voices or guitar prowess of these said instructors, but I do know a bit about song, and I know hundreds of children's songs, so I got to thinking, why don't I just do this myself? So I sent out an e-mail for a free music class, and told people to invite their friends, and we got a quorum, and now it's set: Tuesday afternoons at 3:30. Today was the first class.
Oh, joy! What fun it is to sing with children! The kids were enthusiastic and seemed to have fun, the parents sang joyfully along, the whole lot learned quickly, and the lesson was a good variety of stand-up and sit-down songs and games. I had such a great time. It brought such joy to me, and reminded me that we can often make the things that we pay for. It takes some effort, but not much. This is such a perfect example. What is a music class, anyway, but a number of people sitting around singing together, enjoying the fun of music? Easily accomplished in one's own home. It made me so happy.

I am also working very hard on the fundraising Mother's Day Walk (to take place on the Saturday before mother's day, to increase participation). I am planning a little program before the little, brief walk which will have a little talk, some people from my chorus to sing, some poems, and reading the names of the babies we walk to remember that day. I learned today that Mother's Day was actually started not, as we often think, by Hallmark to make money, but actually by a group of people who wanted to honor mothers who had lost their sons in the Civil war. Imagine that! The actual purpose of the holiday was to honor mothers who didn't have their sons with them anymore. This made my heart swell. Because although I do appreciate the idea of being honored for the good work of mothering that I do here on earth, it makes my heart sing to imagine that this holiday was made for the mothers who need it most: those who ought to be recognized for the most difficult mothering task of all, mothering a dead child. So while the holiday has grown, and even changed over, to include all mothers, (which I applaud, of course) I am so happy to hear that we are only returning to its original purpose by honoring mothers with our walk. I am hoping to get a great attendance. If you live in Western MA you should plan to come, really, please. Saturday at 3. Yeah. If you live in Washington or Illinois or Maine, never mind. But think of us, still, eh?

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Rant (Sorry, sorry, sorry.) and an invitation

"If you don't stop that, I'm going to buckle you into the cart."
"You better keep up with us, or I'm going to buckle you into the cart."
"I am getting really mad. I have been yelling at you all day. Stop it, or I am going to buckle you into the cart and you won't be going ANYWHERE!"
These were three of the statements I heard from the same mom, seen at a local grocery store weaving up and down the aisles, her about-4 year old boy on the loose. They were three of about 15 identical threats I witnessed.

Now, we are all guilty of empty threats. I am absolutely no exception (although I do try to make a point to justify and explain myself out of my empty threats, even to my kids)

But this is what I saw, as the outside observer:
When we fail to discipline (i.e. follow through) then we are crankier, ruder, and essentially more awful to our kids.
So this could have happened: after the first warning, she could have picked him up, and buckled him into the cart like she said she was. Then, she could have dealt quietly with the ensuing tantrum, gently placing things in the cart and talking about the things they would do that day, asking questions, begging distraction. This is not to say this would be easy, but it could be done. She could have just grabbed eggs and milk and a box of cheerios and checked out.
Empty threats do nothing for our kids but make them feel uncertain about who is in charge.
There is a hesitancy towards parenting with a heavy hand (justified) which sometimes leans towards parenting too lightly. How confusing is it, as a child who is yearning for some guidance through the world, when nobody is there to guide you? This is why human children live with their parents for so long, so that their parents can structure their world and show them what to do in it. When all their parents offer them is choices, with no guided answer, and empty threats, there is no clear path to follow.
The reason why this makes me mad is not because I am a perfect parent, which I am absolutely NOT, but because I feel so sorry for kids that end up being impulsive and uncooperative as the result of no clear guidance, guidelines, and consequences in their life. It makes parents so miserable to have kids who are constantly doing the wrong thing and testing testing testing and it makes kids so miserable to have parents who are always telling them what not to do, but never really showing them or telling them, flat out, what they are supposed to be doing instead.
I had one little boy in my kindergarten class once who was so high strung, so badly behaved for lack of better words, he was lovable and beautiful but just so hard to be around, and he drove the other kids crazy. My heart ached for him. I was always very, very firm with him, and clear with him that I was in charge of the class, and thus in charge of him. This sounds like I am some kind of dominating presence, but a warm, loving, kind, gentle dominating presence is just what kids crave. It's security, in a nutshell. Someone dependable. At a conference with his parents, I communicated this to them, their son's difficulty with authority, his desparate need for a guiding light, for someone, anyone, to show him the way.
"That must be sinking in," his mother said. "The other day he asked me who the boss was at our house. I told him we didn't have one."
I wanted to scream. "It's you! IT'S YOU!" Who will show your little bunny the way if you are not there to do it? It is not a gift of freedom to let a five year old child chart his own course through the world. You do not create or breed an independent thinker by giving a four year old no rules. You confuse them and you make them wonder and they don't know what the parameters are.

So anyway, that's what I think about that.

My little rant for the day. I hate to rant because these are the types of things that piss people off. Also, I don't like for people to think that I think I am a perfect parent. Sometimes, I think the reason why it helps me to rant, is because then I realize that these are things I feel passionate about and things I am going to try my hardest to act out in my life. If I have ranted about it, I must try my most everly hardest not to do it. For example? I have not purchased a disposable diaper since my rant about diapers (although I do confess to using some previously purchased ones while on vacation for a week in Alberta). Because it made me realize that I would be a hypocrite to do that after having publicly ranted about it. Last weekend I went away for 2 days and toted the ammonia-stenched, poopy diapers around with me, and I felt very true to my diaper rant, and also decided that it was absolutely disgusting and not for me. So I will go against myself and my own principles next time I go away, but the rant made me aware, at least.
So hopefully you can see the purpose of a rant, and I encourage you, in the form of a comment, to rant about something that has been driving you nuts. It feels good and makes you more aware of what is meaningful to you.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Yesterday, I went to a pool birthday party with Liam. In the locker room, I overheard one of the moms say her son was going to turn five next month. My first thought was to wonder if he shared Charlotte's birthday. When the child rounded the corner, I saw him differently than I had earlier: instead of a little dark haired boy, I saw a body that had been growing for almost five years, bright, glistening eyes, and a beating heart. I wondered how it had happened, how he had lived, and she had died.
Walking out to the car, his mother caught up to me. "Will Liam be going to school next year?" she asked. I told her no, he had just turned four.
"Evan's leaving me next year," she said. "Going off to kindergarten, much to his mother's chagrin."
My eyes filled a little, thinking of my little girl who would never get on a school bus, of that class next year that won't even know she is missing. I didn't say anything to answer her, but simply kept walking, my eyes on the pavement.
It's hard when people don't know.

Friday, April 25, 2008

My spirit child

There are those children who just seem to have a larger sense of what is going on, and Liam is one of them. Look at his face. Even at four years old, I look at him sleeping and I see Charlotte, etched so vividly in his every feature. It is remarkable. And he says the most amazing things.
Today, I did a lecture to a group of nursing students at the University of Massachusetts. One of the students asked me how Charlotte had been incorporated into our family. I explained how her pictures were around the house, and how we lit a candle for her at each meal. I told them about how she has a matching plate, and shadow box, and birth announcement, just like the other kids. "But somehow," I told them, "My son just knows there is another child, one he cannot see. He will ask me if we have five people in the family. He will tell people he has two sisters. These are not things I tell him to say, he just says it."
This is true about Liam. Somehow, he just feels her. I know that her presence is very alive in our house, we do speak of her often. But he feels her deeply.
Tonight he stayed up late, arriving home after a birthday party, we found his grammie planting pots in our driveway with flowers. We stayed outside as darkness fell, and as the light dimmed he spotted the first star. At first, I thought it was an airplane, but then I realized that it was there, next to the airplane, a twinkling star up there in the twilight.
We recited the poem, you all know it:
Star light, star bright
The first star I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight.
I told him he could make his wish quietly, or out loud. I waited for him to wish for a new dinosaur or a cool scooter.
"I wish that Charlotte could come back to life and come and live with us," he said.
How does he know to say this? How does he feel that this, too, is my unsaid dream, that such a thing could happen? And he asked me what my wish is, and I told him the wish that I really do say when I blow away an eyelash or snap a wishbone, "I wish that my children will have long, safe, healthy and happy lives and will live longer than me. I wish Charlotte is safe in the stars and knows how much we love her."
I held him tight.
Later, Greg came home. Liam was holding a little stump in his hand. "I'm going to throw this way up into space and Charlotte can have fun sitting on it," he said. Again, she appeared. I wondered how this dark night had evoked so much of her.
Then, brushing teeth, there was a little baby toy on the counter. I had found it when I was moving some things from the nursery into Aoife's new room. It had been a gift to Charlotte.
"What's this?" said Liam.
"Oh, it's something that was Charlotte's" I answered.
"Did she ever use it?"
"No, she never got to use it."
"Maybe if she comes back to life she can use it."
"Oh, honey, Charlotte's not going to ever be able to come back to life."
"Maybe the tooth fairy will bring her back. If the tooth fairy brings her back, then she can use this toy."
I squeezed him a little. I wish my little boy didn't have to think such big things. He is such an old soul. I love him so much.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Here are the kids on Liam's birthday. Oh my how cute. He might kill me when he's older about that jacket but I couldn't resist. Later he donned his John Deere cap and looked out of this world.

Now onto my thoughts for today, mused on while making the curtains for Aoife's absolutely succulent new bedroom which I finished painting today:

It would be nice for all of us if everybody would cease to judge others for how they parent. But we all do it. So here I'll talk about two things. One, how I choose not to judge others. Then I will admit the ways that I do judge people, and why I think it's okay to judge just a little. And then again why I shouldn't be doing it anyway.
I felt sad when I read Jen's comment from my last post, where she indicated that her parenting had been criticized. Now, it turns out that I happen to actually know Jen, and she is a great mom. I think she does follow her heart, and her daughter is beautiful, smiley and full of joy. My guess would be that somebody is just not minding their own business, and is judging her just on the way she chooses to do certain things. These are the things that it makes me CRAZY when people stick their nose where it doesn't belong.
Let's just use the example that maybe the person was critcizing her for co-sleeping (I actually have no idea what was upsetting her, but we'll just use this as an example.)
Because here's the thing: I don't sleep with my kids, not really. I do a little, when they are babies, but by 6 months or so I am ready for them to be mostly just nearby, and by a year, I am really and truly ready for them to sleep for as much of the night as possible in their own bed, down the hall. This is how I work, and this is the arrangement that works best for my family. But if someone else wants to just keep sleeping and sleeping and sleeping together? You go for it. It's not my house, not my night's sleep, and not my kid. I have one very close friend whose kids who are older than mine still need her or her husband there in the room with them in order to fall asleep. So there they sit, frittering away their entire evening with a book and a flashlight. My thought? Not, they are dumb. Just, I could never do it. I would explode. I am too selfish for that. I need my evening. I can look at their situation through my eyes, and I can decide, "Nope, not for me." But that does not, DOES NOT, mean that what they are doing is wrong. You know?
So here's where I confess, I do judge. I can't help it. I judge for things that for me, seem inarguably wrong. I judge when I see somebody pushing a stroller and smoking a cigarette. I judge when I hear of kids watching hours of cartoons unsupervised. I judge when I see people doing things that seem to be endangering their kids. I judge in those situations, and I do think that I am making better choices for my kids than those people. I can see that I might be judged for choices that I make, for example, a vegan might judge my choice to give my children dairy and eggs ad nauseum and even a little meat every now and then as harmful and awful. I might also judge the vegan for depriving their child of essential amino acids that help to develop the nervous system (and just so you know that comment actually came from a child I taught who was neurologically delayed and the docs thought it was diet related). So we kind of do, whether we like it or not, all sit around and judge each other.
The other area where I feel a little guilty about judging, but I blame it on my slight loss-induced mental illness, is that I do judge people who choose, electively, not to breastfeed. I can't help it. I wanted to nurse Charlotte so badly, and it was so incredibly painful to have that milk come in and not use it, that I just want to jump out of my skin at the idea that anyone would electively go through that agony in order to feed their child an inferior product to the one they just chose to waste. So I do admit to feeling incredibly guilty about that one, just because I know people don't mean to do it to harm their kids, but I do think it's just ridiculous to not even try to do it for a while, anyway. And I'm jealous that their baby lived and they got to make that choice.
So, having said all that, I do think it would be nicer if we didn't judge. We all have to get through the day. Why do I judge the person who lets their kid watch 3 hours of cartoons, if maybe she can be a better mom for the 3 hours she actually plays with her kids if she does that? I have no idea what is going on in people's lives. I have no business judging. So I will try harder not to. And I will assume all the smoking moms are trying to quit. And I will try not to feel that feeling of being better.
And as for hearing of other judging people just based on sleep, or nursing, or other more benign issues? I will encourage people to mind their own business, by supporting both the criticized and the criticizer for the ways in which they are both right, both entitled to their own opinion, and both entitled to not really worry so much about what other people are doing in their own homes.
Enough for tonight. I am surprised I even got that out. My dear mother in law is in town to play with the kids, and I am getting so much accomplished it is making me feel almost manic. I am giddy with how much can happen in a day. The weather has been glorious. Aaahhh...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Today as I was rocking Aoife, quietly nursing her to sleep, I remembered the rants I used to post here in the winter, as I paced, cooped up in the midst of a New England winter, willing my daughter to sleep on her own.
It never happened. I did let it go for a bit, and while Aoife surely enjoyed her two-hour cocktail parties with Princess and Special Blanket in her crib, chatting away, singing songs, reciting books from memory, I began to feel more and more guilty about her not getting that 2 hours she would greedily lap up if only I would just rock her a little, nurse, sing softly, and pat her little back. So we just went back to that, happily. I nurse her to sleep every day, and in exchange, she sleeps for two hours every afternoon. It is a nice arrangement. There is no more angst.
It is interesting how, as mothers, we can sometimes create these situations that seem kind of serious and needing to be solved. Often, I think, it is more about us feeling this constant need to be in control in some way. When Liam was a baby, I know I felt this all the time. There was this feeling that everything I did was going to cause something else to happen. If I nurse him to sleep every time, that will cause him to be a bad sleeper. If I don't feed him enough of a variety, he won't be a good eater. With Aoife, I was less this way on a regular basis, but then when there were times in my life when I was generally more uptight, it crept back in. Me being annoyed about her really mild sleep dependence at naptime is a perfect example that I can see so clearly right now. That was just me, in the middle of winter, really, really wanting to be able to have 2 hours to myself in the middle of the day. Simple, that.
I really do look forward to having another baby again, because I feel like with each baby, it gets a little simpler just in that I realize that there are very few situations that really need to be solved. While I am a big believer in calm, consistent routines, I also really adhere to the chimpanzee theory of baby-parenting, and the more I let go of the idea that I am "forming habits" (which is a thing people throw around when talking about newborns, and it is really a load of crap) the more I am encouraged to just think chimp and love my baby. I think I was about 40% chimp with Liam, and about 80% chimp with Aoife. So maybe I can get up to like 92% chimp with the next one. We shall see.
It is fascinating how different the babies are.
And in this, I must reflect, that I cannot ever make statements like the ones I made above without wondering for quite some time what it would have been like if my Charlotte had lived. Where would she have slept? How? Would I have nursed her to sleep? I won't ever know. And I can't even imagine. She is like a dream to me.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Small Stuff

Yesterday in the early morning we drove to Boston. It was very exciting. Liam had tickets to the Big Apple Circus, and he was to be escorted by none other than the very famous and loved Auntie Stephie. It was a beautiful birthday gift that she gave him, this little date to the circus, to watch the acrobats and eat terrible, delicious junk. Meanwhile, Aoife and I had plans to rendevous with an old friend of mine and her two year old, and Greg carried on to his brother's house and went for a pre-marathon run with our sister in law, Lisa. Such fun.
Everything went swimmingly. Liam and Greg took the T in, met Steph, and several hours later Aoife and I took the T in and fetched Liam at Park Street station. Then we hopped on the red line out to Davis Square and walked to Uncle David and Auntie Lisa's house. Played for an hour, and T'd it home (I agree. there was too much riding of the T in this scenario, but the kids think it is SO cool). Then Greg and I met some old friends for dinner while Nana and Poppy put the kids to bed.
Today, we watched the marathon, an old tradition from my childhood which made my heart swell: standing on the curb just past the halfway point, screaming until we were hoarse for the wheelchairs, elite runners, and the everybody-else who ran past. Included in the latter category was our best and lovely Auntie Lisa, who completed this most-difficult Boston marathon in a mere 4 hours and 25 minutes, hurrah, and was looking sleek as she ran past us, stopping for hugs and kisses and congratulations.
After Lisa had finished and Greg and his mom had taken the T back to Wellesley to meet us, we headed home. Two long hours in the car through pretty heavy traffic on the pike, up the wooded driveway to the enclave we call home, and I walked into the kitchen and heard a strange humming noise.
The freezer door was open. Wide, wide open.
We have this problem sometimes where if you slam the fridge door, the freezer door pops open. Apparently this happened on our way out the door yesterday morning.
Every single item in the freezer was completely thawed and close to warm in temperature. The motor was humming loudly in vain, trying to keep the food cold, probably costing us a hundred dollars in electricity. That whole time, for all those T rides, for the circus, and the visiting, and the dinner, and the marathon, the door had been open.
Greg went out to the garage and got a few big garbage bags, doubled them up. Into the bag went everything. Blueberries, vegetables, bagels, bread, pie crusts, and corn. Bananas that were to be for bread, raspberries from last year's garden, and some leftover icing from Liam's birthday. There were 4 containers of ice cream, 3 of them unopened and brand new. Sorbet. Two organic, free range, expensive chicken breasts. Waffles. Leftovers.
Everything went into the bag.
There was one container of ice cream that had actually somehow tipped out onto the floor. It was a pink, oozy, gooey, partially dried mess on the floor. Greg scraped it up with a spatula. Washed the floor with wet towels and soap. Sealed up the garbage bag, and put it into the garage.
Meanwhile, I calmly prepared dinner for the kids. They played outside on the grass with Greg's mom.
Because you know what?
It gets way worse than losing a freezer full of food because the door accidentally popped open yesterday morning. We can just bag up that food and feel awful that it was wasted, but really not that awful... and when the electric bill comes I will sigh, and we won't order any pizza that week or the next, but we will just pay it, and move on.
This one we can manage. And I can just imagine this same thing happening to me 6 years ago, and me freaking out, and crying, and just feeling so upset about all the wasted food, and wasted money, and just being so upset about this little, dumb, solvable problem. But now?
So thanks, Charlotte. You turned what could have been a really shitty evening into one that just simply took about 17 minutes longer than we thought it would. I feel badly about the food, and I do hope I don't sound smug about having had to waste all of that, and the electricity, too, because truly it does make me cringe. But it doesn't need to make me despair.
And I am a teeny bit especially disappointed about the 4 containers of ice cream, because I do have to go without my ice cream tonight.
But you know how people do kind of get really totally out of control upset about little solvable things like this? It's just kind of peaceful to just be able to not freak out about the small stuff. Because it's just not worth it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

On Thursday nights Greg leaves right from the dinner table to go to his furniture making class. This is how it has been for our children's whole lives. While we sit there idly making conversation, Greg inhales his dinner, kisses us swiftly, and slips out the door to make the 15 minute drive and arrive there by six o'clock. He is usually late.

Last night, he was making his rounds of hugs and kisses, and there was this moment, it was one of these moments where I just inhale deeply and cry a little bit. He kissed me, and he kissed Aoife, who tipped her head back and gave him a juicy, omelette kiss on his lips. When he came around to Liam's side of the table, Liam got out of his chair. He was wearing his blue and white striped oshkosh overalls, with a plain white t-shirt underneath. His hair is freshly cut and he was dirty from playing outside all day. Greg crouched down, and Liam folded himself into his body, wrapping his arms around Greg's neck, and leaning his head right down into that little crook where it fits so nicely.

And he stayed there, squeezing Greg ever so gently around his neck. Then he says, in such a soft, gentle voice, "Daddy. My Daddy."

This scene could be adorable in any family. But here is what I see.

My mind spins backwards. I see this man, this tall, sinewy, strong man, holding his tiny, newborn daughter. His tears are falling onto her skin, and as we are saying our goodbyes I am realizing that this is his destiny, this role of the father. While I am feeling my own grief for losing my daughter, my heart is simultaneously breaking for my dearest friend and mostly companion, who is in more pain than I can bear to realize. I see him in the weeks that followed, broken and hollow. I see him out on the porch, face ashen and tear stained, writing letters to his daughter that she would never read. I see him signing them, "Love, Daddy".


This name, this identity that my true love tried on for six hours and then was forced to relinquish. This prestigious position of fatherhood that he has always aspired to.

And here, his little boy, hanging from around his neck, softly nuzzling him, saying those words, "My Daddy."
I can see Greg's eyes fill, though he is looking down. I know we are thinking the same thing.

I don't know how to explain this without sounding holier-than-thou. But the meaning of being a mama, or a daddy, or whatever it is that you want to be called, is different when you have tried it on, and then lost the privilege. When we had Charlotte, it was this bitter candy-- this beautiful, sweet thing, that we couldn't have. It seemed so cruel to finally realize, with absolute clarity, what it actually meant to be somebody's mother-- all in the moment while we had to say goodbye. So then having the privilege to have this relationship to someone else, it's just so obviously amazing.

I do believe that had Charlotte lived, I would have been awestruck at this privilege of motherhood. I do know that her sweet voice calling, "Mama!" would have made my heart sing. But there is a part of me that remains convinced that I never could have realized the deepest level of how fine the balance is, and how truly, painstakingly amazing this role is, this ability to parent in the here and now.

And so, last night, I watched my son and my husband, locked in an embrace, Greg tearing up into Liam's fine blond hair. And once again I was left with this thunderstruck feeling of how random the universe is, that we had the amazing good fortune to be right there, around our long, cherry table with our beautiful son and daughter. With that particular son and daughter. Because if we went back five years in the choose-your-own-adventure book, and it was April 18, 2003, and maybe I got in a minor car accident or something and the baby came early, there would be none of this. None. And she might be here. And that would have been good fortune, too.

On another topic altogether, I finally took the negatives from Charlotte's pictures to our local photo shop and had them make digital files of all her photographs.

There are 12. Just 12. I had 4 rolls of film in my bag, and I have 12 pictures. Only 12. Only 12. I try very, very hard not to have regret, knowing that we did the best we could under the circumstances, but it remains that I only have 12 pictures of my daughter. I don't think I fully realized that I would never see her again.

So finally I have done this, and so now the pictures are saved once again in some other places, in case of fire or other disaster, and now I can work with the pictures, and maybe crop them or color them and somehow try to see my baby in a new way, five years later.
As I was looking at them, I kept zooming in on different parts of her, from different angles. I could see, for example, quite suddenly upon zooming in on a particular shot, that her lips are just like Aoife's. I never noticed this before, because the photos I have in my room are very small and because Aoife didn't exist when I was actually seeing Charlotte with my own eyes.
What a treat to have been able to make a new observation about Charlotte. I don't get to do that very often.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Some more...

The truth is this, and nothing is ever perfect: when I stepped out into the sunshine, my new ring on my finger, my eye instantly caught a tiny, hairline crack in the emerald.
I had chosen this emerald myself, separate from the ring, and so I recognized the anomaly immediately. Greg had a look, and agreed, the stone was cracked. We turned around, breathing deeply. We had already survived going into the store, signing the Visa slip, walking out. This had taken a great deal of energy. We now had to re-enter the store.
I told the woman that I believed the jeweler had cracked my stone when he set it. She looked at the stone under the light. No, she told me, emeralds are almost always interveined with small lines that appear as fissures, but are just inconsistencies in the stone.
No, I told her. I had chosen this stone myself. I remembered the stone. This was not there. So she took out her more powerful magnifying lens, put the stone, under the scope, and paused.
"You're right," she said. "This stone is cracked".
In only a few days, we were scheduled to depart to my family's ancestral home for three weeks, our ordinary summer soujourn which would pull us away from our home for the first time since our daughter's birth and death. I had been counting on this ring as something to take with me, a piece of memory and evidence that this baby had come and gone. Fortunately, we had told this to the saleswoman (the same nice French woman), how important it was for us to have the rings by that particular date.
"I know", she said, "How important it is for you to have this ring on your vacation. As it happens, we don't have any more emeralds of that size right now, anyhow. Why don't you wear it, while we order some in, and when you return, we shall choose you a new stone."
I was relieved. So relieved.

We left for the lake. I wore the cracked emerald for a month. Through the wear, the crack deepened, and the stone loosened. It terrified me of later breaking my new stone, and how that would feel to have broken it myself. While we were away, Greg and I walked on new earth. We cried different tears, feeling ungrounded away from our home. Liam was conceived. We danced at a wedding the day I took my pregnancy test. My mother saw me laugh.

When we returned home, the jeweler had called. The new stone was a different color, a brighter green, more valuable, and slightly more beautiful. A month later, they swapped the stones, and my finger was bare for a few days. I have not taken the ring off since (except to paint).

The sad thing about the ring, which I don't really think about all that much anymore, is that for some reason I had kind of expected people to comment on it. I suppose this is a little strange, since I am not the type of person who often comments on others' jewelry. But I did harbor a hope that people would say, "What a beautiful emerald," and afford me the opportunity to say, "It's my daughter Charlotte's birthstone." As far as I can recall, nobody has ever noticed the ring. But now, it is enough for me to know that I wear it for her, and always will.

My lovely friend Jen, who often sends me her comments privately, said this:

I have been in that same jewelry store. Before *** and I ever decided we would be moving to this area, we once stayed at a B&B in Florence and *** asked me to marry him. We went to (said jewlery store) that same day to look at engagement rings (we didn't end up getting a ring there, but I remember so well those high ceilings, the hush over everything). There is something about consecrating your love with a ring, the endless circle symbolizing eternal love and faithfulness. The circumstances that led us both to that jewelry store were so vastly different, it's so jarring and sad.

I loved those words so much, and they meant a lot because it was, in a way, somebody recognizing the exact thing I was trying to accomplish with the symbol of the ring. So thanks, Jen. Now your comments aren't private anymore, but I'm sure everyone will appreciate your thoughtfulness. (Incidentally, Jen and I met through this blog... and we only live about 4 miles away from each other. Isn't that cool? There seems something almost eerie about it... it appeals to me. She has a most beautiful, fresh baby daughter who makes me happy.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Ring

I was standing in the shower, utterly defeated. It was a big, tiled shower, with flower motifs interspersed with the grey speckled surrounding tiles. I leaned against the wall, my head against the tiles, holding tightly to the metal bar that ran the length of the shower. On my left, Greg held my other arm, supporting my weight. Blood poured from me, mixing with the hot water on the floor of the shower before swirling down the drain. My legs kept buckling. I thought I was exhausted from the labor. I know now that I had simply had the life sucked right out of me.
My mind was empty and blank. I was virtually unable to comprehend what had happened to me in the preceding 15 hours. I had left my house about to have a baby. Here I stood. She had come and gone. My belly hung from me, loose and pouchy, agonizingly empty. The experience of my child was already over. It was 9:30 PM, May 13, 2003.
I could not say how long I stood there, supported by Greg, the tears that would become part of my very breath dripping off my nose as I watched the blood continue to flow down my legs. My body felt ravaged. Ragged. Torn. Robbed. I could hardly say what was up or down, I was dizzy, swaying, inconsolable.
Suddenly the words poured out of my mouth, in a stream. "What is the birthstone for May?" I asked my husband, whose 27th birthday would happen 3 days later. "An emerald," he told me, and as soon as the words had escaped him I said, "I want an emerald ring, for Charlotte."
"So do I," he said.
It took us three weeks to gather the courage to go into the jewlers in town. Money was not a consideration. "We would have sent her to college, " I told Greg. We walked in, and bumbled our way across the store to the emerald section.
The jewler we chose is right downtown, in a beautiful, old art-deco bank. The ceiling is high, huge, with stained glass skylights in the middle of the dome. It is both ominous and light at once. It is always very quiet and hushed in there, slightly dark but the cases are well lit, displaying the jewels beautifully.
Greg and I were helped by a lovely, quiet French woman. She asked us if she could be of assistance, and we told her she could. We told her that several weeks earlier, our only daughter had passed away, and that we wanted an emerald ring to remember her by.
The woman's face softened, and she took my hand. "I am so sorry," she said. "Now you have a little angel in heaven". This is, of course, at the top of the "what not to say" list, but somehow, with her soft French accent and my instant judgement that she was a deeply believing Catholic, it passed me over. I nodded, and we proceeded.
I had made it through, choosing the setting, and even a beautiful, round cut emerald to be placed in my ring. Greg had chosen a beautiful, two-tone man's wedding ring with a diamond chip, which was to be replaced with a tiny, barely detectable emerald. It cost 12 times as much as his wedding ring to me, but this would marry him to the invisible child he would carry forever in his heart. It was worth it.
Then it was time to plan the engraving. The kind, French woman got out some paper, and suddenly I had reached my threshold. I hadn't even left my house but once before this day. I simply melted, and I didn't care. My pockets were full of kleenex, and I wept copiously into the kleenex, not even noticing all the people around me. This was the space I occupied at that moment, the space of having no control whatsoever over whether I cried or not, or how little or how much. The tears coursed down my cheeks as Greg spelled out our little daughter's beautiful name, which we had chosen for her anticipating life, and midway through the lovely sales woman reached over and patted my hand, pausing, leaving her hand on mine for just a second longer than another person might have. I was grateful.
When we arrived home, we collapsed, exhausted. We had spent over three thousand dollars. We did not care. We knew that for the rest of our lives, we would wear the rings proudly, each representing our eternal love for our little girl who never made it home.

Monday, April 14, 2008


It would be fair to say that I have always been slightly baby-obsessed. As a teenager, or even pre-teen, I sought out any babies and little children in my neighborhood and gladly babysat whenever I was needed for the enormous sum of two dollars an hour. By high school, my rate had risen to 4 dollars an hour. I used my earnings to ride the red line into Harvard Square on the weekends. There I would sit, in my doc marten 10 hole boots and my weird dress, with my hair kind of long and hanging in my eyes, feeling very, very cool indeed. I would sometimes spend money on things like CDs (Mighty Mighty Bosstones, early years, and the Pogues). Then I would ride the T home with my super cool friends, get picked up by my mom and dad, throw on some jeans, and go and babysit some more.

I loved the babies. The little lumpy, sweet, drooly little beans that kind of hung on my shoulder and seemed to really need me. I could hold them dearly, maybe not put them in bed at exactly the time their mom said, but let them sleep a little with me, and I would daydream that I was the mother, that the sweet, fat face belonged to me, and I would smooch it and wonder why I really cared about ska bands and weird boots when the real meaning of life was lying right on my lap.

Fast forward 15 years and I am pregnant with Charlotte. You can only imagine the excitement and joy for me to be carrying this, the fruit of all my ambitions. I had completed my masters degree only two years before, but, as I had told people, I was only teaching to bide the time until I could have a baby. There was no question in my mind, as long as I had a baby, I would work nowhere else. We would figure the money thing out. I had had this job planned out for my whole life.

Having Charlotte die only made the baby obsession multiply exponentially. Now, having a baby wasn't just something I wanted. It was something I absolutely required in order to stay alive. I had given birth to the exact thing I had spent my life longing for, and then 6 hours later a nurse quietly walked out of the room holding her, and I went home the next day with my empty car seat. My house was full of all the baby things I could ever need. It was as if the whole thing had been a cherade, a fun little game where I eagerly acted out the part of the expectant mother, but never quite got the prize. The things that lay about the house served to make me feel as if I should have a baby.. should have had... but never quite convinced me that I really had had a baby.

This is the strange confusion of having a baby die. Did I have a baby? Really? Was that woman in the movie I was watching, the one in my head where I saw myself walk into the hospital, be told my baby had died, pushed her out, fell in love, and went home, was that really me? Do these stretch marks really prove I had her? This milk? These clothes? This love?

So then the quest began, the real quest, to have a baby. When I became pregnant with Charlotte, it was all a game. What fun! A baby. I will buy things, I will get excited, I will call all my friends, we will place bets on when the baby will be born. (These statements are intended not to demean my true, sincere joy at being pregnant: just to emphasize my complete innocence of possibility). This quest to have a baby was quite different. It involved no clothes, no delighted phone calls with joyous news, no plans whatsoever for "what we'll do when the baby's born". It involved getting from this minute to the next without the baby dying. It involved a birth plan which was written with four letters: LIFE. In this birth plan, dimmed lights, squatting or kneeling, did not come into play. Only one thing mattered.

I got what I wanted.

After my sweet, dear labor, and my harrowing, frantic cesarean, (see January 12 for the birth story), my baby boy was placed near my face. Not in my arms, but this was close enough. I could see his chest heaving with breath, hear his whimpers, feel his hot breath on my cheek. His little, purple hand darted out, like a fish out of water, and grabbed my hair. He would not let go. An oxygen mask was over my face, and I was crying profusely. Liquid seemed to be pouring from my face.

"I want to kiss him," I said, but there was the mask, and the tears, and nobody could hear me. I said it again, and they moved the mask aside in order to hear me, and the doctor moved Liam's face closer to me, and my lips pressed against my newborn son's little face.

Then he was gone, away to be suctioned and wrapped.

I was alone on the table, flat on my back, arms outstretched and seemingly pinned down like Christ. My uterus, meanwhile, was outside of my body, being stitched up, a scene my husband accidentally witnessed while standing by Liam's side.
I lay there and cried, tears pooling in my ears, knowing that 11 months to that moment earlier, I had been across the hall, curled on my side in a birthing bed, my body heaving to deliver a body whose life had already passed.

The interconnection of emotions that I felt at that moment could hardly be called joy.

But what else could I call it?
It was the moment I had been thrown back into the life I had always longed for. Always. With my little girl's spirit tucked under my arm, close to my heart, I would carry on, and I would bestow all the love energy that I had planned to put into her, into him. I would use all of the things she had taught me to be a better mother to him. She would be there. And he was here.

Moments later, my little boy was placed in my arms. I was unhitched from the wires and stitched up tightly and wheeled back into my own room, where my labor had begun. My tiny boy curled into my breast, sleeping there as if he always had.

He, this absolutely miraculous child, who was never meant to be.

Never meant to be.

Here, my most difficult thing to imagine:
If she had lived, he would not be here.

Would not.

Could not.

Liam, the most beautiful, peaceful, joyful gift that had ever been bestowed upon me. My beautiful son, who has brought me more joy, and beauty, than I had ever imagined possible.

This miracle of a child, who not only had pulse and breath, but whose very existence would have come and gone if his sister had stayed.

I will never forget this, this happenchance of his existence, he the joyous, beautiful side-effect of this tragic accident. He who I could never live without.

My baby boy turned four years old yesterday.

What more can I say to him, this child who saved me?
This baby upon whom my very life depended?
This tiny, innocent creature who pulled me out of the deepest, darkest place, and lifted me, exalted me?

I love you, little Liam.
You are so perfect for me, and you always will be.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Some pictures, and not much else

I just found this picture of Liam in a random file on my computer, and I liked it. So here it is.

I had a work day yesterday, and I spent 8 hours on my computer just working, working, working. When I got up at 5pm I felt like I had lost weight, I felt so freed from having spent so much time working on the things that are important for me to do.

So a big thanks to Greg, my sweet honey on the rocks, for gifting me that day to just focus so much on the things that I wanted to accomplish.
And here is my mum, as a young 17 year old girl, starring in a home-made film called "The Girls From Ditty". They just had a reunion of the cast and she got this shot. I thought it was great. Probably not so interesting if it's not your mom but hey, she's mine.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Melancholy Bliss

A few days ago, it was raining. Pouring. It was grey, grey, grey. In the afternoon, I suggested cookies: chocolate chip cookies. You might have figured out by now that food does soothe the broken soul, it also brings lots and lots of pleasure and joy, so I am always game to make something tasty. We pulled up the two chairs and began mixing away.
The kids are very good about taking turns. We bake a lot. Bread, pizza crust, muffins, cookies, cake. They love to be helpers. We put on aprons and drag out the kitchen aid and get to work. The whole operation was very successful. When they finished, they moved to the little table in the middle of the kitchen to play with playdough while I rolled out the cookies onto the cookie sheet (this part of the process falls to me, because they seem unable to put the little balls of dough onto the sheet without bypassing the mouth).
I had some of my best depressing music on, The Beauty of the Rain (Dar Williams). Of course, the light in my house was similar to May light, despite the fact that we don't have the green yet to reflect in the windows and add to the grey pallor. I was rolling the dough, just thinking, watching the kids, when the song came on that really calls me back, it is called "The One Who Knows". It was running through my head the whole time I held Charlotte in my arms, for whatever reason, and we played it at her memorial service while people came forward and greeted us and looked at her pictures. It is so special to me.

So here I was on this day, covered in flour, rolling out cookies, in this flat, grey light, and my two little children are happily puttering away with the playdough, paying absolutely no attention whatsoever to me. Something huge swelled up in me. Something about how peacefully they were just absorbed in their play just swept through me, and caught that piece of me that pulls me back and doesn't let go. I started crying, weeping, tears dripping onto the cookie sheet. Here was the music that had filled my ears and mind and heart through this tragedy, this awful, aching beginning to my motherhood not even five years ago, and now it echoes through our house in the midst of this absolutely perfect domestic scene.

The timer went off for the first batch, and I pulled them out of the oven. I gave the kids a hot, gooey, fresh cookie and we went to our post at the big front windows to eat. I was still weepy, and as we sat there enjoying our delicious homemade treat, I grabbed the camera and snapped some pictures of the three of us, just wanting to try to capture that minute of time, of us eating cookies, my kids so oblivious, and me feeling so melancholy and happy and blessed all at the same time.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A good day

I have had a much better day.

This morning I heard thundering footsteps in the hallway, a small crash, and then a thready voice in my ear, "Mimi? I threw up."
Dizzily, I threw back the duvet and scrambled to get my boy in my arms. He was wet through and through. Soaked with what seemed like water.
"Did you drink a lot of water?" I asked him, and he nodded. I had heard him get up for water. This is not the first time he has dumped a gigantic glassful of water into a semi-upset stomach, resulting in instantaneous puking.
(it is like the game we play in the bath. we fill up the fishy with water, submerging it and squeezing it until no more bubbles come out. then he rises to the top, sticks out his lips, and says, through his mom or dad interpreter, 'Oh, no, I drank too much water', and squirts it all over the kids, who laugh hysterically that they are being barfed on)

I stripped him bare, tucked him in my bed, and went out into the hallway, where it literally looked like someone had taken a large bucket of water, started at the top of the stairs, and thrown it across the entire floor. There was water everywhere. Luckily, it did not smell like puke. I wiped it up with towels, and we began our day.

The details might bog you down, but my boy did end up with two more puke episodes (not water, but luckily into a bowl, he has such talent for these things). Then he conked out in bed for two hours and emerged, declaring, "I feel so much better, I think I feel as good as a Giganotosaurus. And I am as hungry as a bear". I let him eat lots of dry cereal for a few hours before letting him really tuck in, and for the rest of the day, he was chipper and cheery as ever he can be. We spent hours puttering outside, soaking up sunshine, and all truly enjoying each others' company. The issues of yesterday have faded with the ebbs and flows of my own hormonal tide. The joy has returned.

Not bad for a sick day, eh?

Not to mention that it was in the sixties, our snow is all but gone, we opened the sandbox, and the crocuses are out in full force.

It was, in summary, a really great day. Really. I can take puke if the rest is that good.

Monday, April 7, 2008


I am in one of those hormonal funks where I am really, truly, convinced that I am totally worthless, have no hope of ever accomplishing anything, and really only my therapist could possibly understand, except that I don't have a therapist.

I am also cognizantly aware that this is only a false sense of worthlessness based on the way my emotions tend to skyrocket to extremes during this, ahem, phase of my cycle...

But nonetheless, I do feel that sinking, awful feeling of being dragged down and overwhelmed by all of these things I am wanting to accomplish and feeling unsupported in doing. Not unsupported. Like everyone thinks its a great idea that I have this group, and I am working so hard to try to get everyone on board, and coordinated, and working well. But it is overwhelming, I have very little time, and no money to hire out babysitters so I could have more time. I would guess that I probably put in about 8 hours a week right now, but if I accomplished everything I wanted to I would probably put in twice that, and still feel this anxious sense that somebody's baby might die tomorrow and there are things I would have wanted to do before to get ready for that so that they might have a little bit of a better experience. Then, there is the added thing that of course I don't get any feedback really for this, I feel personally satisfied with the changes that are taking place but I haven't really spoken to any families recently because the recent losses haven't been families who have wanted to be contacted by our group. So there's this, this working my absolute tail off, feeling tired, and like I'm working really hard but not nearly hard enough, and only biting off about one percent of what I'd like to do. How can I be doing less than everything I can think of, when someone's whole experience of loss could be profoundly affected by what I do or don't do on any given day?
For example, I have this box sitting right next to me of dental stone. I have a can of alginate, too, that's the gel-like stuff they put in a mold and you bite into it to get an impression of your teeth. You can use this same stuff to make impressions of hands and feet, so I bought some off my dentist to learn how to use it so that they can do it at our hospital. then people will have an actual, cast, statue of their baby's hand or foot to cherish and feel forever. Unfortunately the two cans each didn't come with the requisite scoop, so I have to go back to the dentist, and get the scoops, and then I have to find a newborn baby to use as a model, to try to figure out how to do this stuff, and to feel reassured that the little hand really does just wiggle out of the mold like they say it will. Then I have to teach some nurses how to do this, so they can or will actually do this for the patient. So this might all take about 12 hours, all told. Which might take me 2 or 3 weeks. And so what if someone's baby dies between now and then? They won't get a hand cast. That's because I'm not doing what I need to be doing to get it so they can have one. But I can't do it all at once, I can't.

It is in this mood that I currently sit, and think about deleting this whole post, and think, WHY would someone ever want to read this blog? What could there be, possibly, inspiring about reading about my mood swings? That question lingers, but as you ponder this I'll say, I can't afford a therapist, really, so thanks for listening. Really. I am truly sorry to have to put you in the position of listener in this context. But venting really does soothe the soul.

And here's what really sent me spiraling today. Remember new baby Charlotte? I have adjusted to this. I don't think I've called her by name yet, but the shock wore off and I am okay with it, really. So tonight was my night to bring the family dinner. I made them this fabulous chili which you make with all these brightly colored peppers and basil, and mix in sour cream and cheese and it is beautiful to see, and delicious to eat as well. I packed up cookies and fresh bread that Greg baked yesterday and headed over there at suppertime. I was delighted that she offered the baby to me immediately. I am the kind of person who just melts for babies, I could hold them for hours. I don't care whose baby it is, hand it to me, and I will love it. I love how they melt into you, and their soft, smooshy little beings. I love, love, love newborns. So I smooshed on this baby a little, she is just a few weeks old, and her eyes were open and wide, taking in the two inches before her face. She had that soft, soft skin, and such a cute nose... and these little, black spikes on her hair. Her hair was that cute, black newborn hair that you know will fall out really soon. And her mom, (who incidentally called me so sweetly after learning about my Charlotte, which really helped me feel okay about the whole thing) asked me ever so innocently, "Did Liam or Aoife have dark hair like that?" And I said, "No, they had this smooth, light brown hair," which was true. But for some, protective reason, I just couldn't bring myself to say, "Charlotte did," because this baby was also Charlotte, and I just couldn't bring myself to say it to her, to remind her that she had what I once lost, I was doing the thing where you protect the other person at the expense of yourself, and I regret it wholeheartedly.
Why did I not say it? Why? I just felt worried for her, knowing that she knew that it was already hard for me that her baby shared my baby's name, to then add that they also had the same hair style on top of that (and it wasn't really the style, just the color). It wasn't a conscious decision at the time, just a feeling I had, and at the time I didn't feel the depth of the omission as I do now. I want to go back and say it, and let her know that I don't mind talking about it and that I'm okay with everything now. But I didn't. And you can't ever go back, can you.

So this is really the root of my tailspin, as it always is.

You can call it whatever you want. Frustration, anger, guilt, overwhemed... but it all starts at the same place.

Some people think grief is just about being sad, but when it's you, it's everything. It defines your core. It starts everything off. Sometimes it takes a long, long time to recognize.

I've said this before, but I'll say it again. Sometimes I think to myself, I had three babies, but I only parent two. But I don't. I parent three. And I think, sometimes, that the amount of room I need in my mind to parent Charlotte, to take the care of myself, and do the things I need to do, and think the things I need to think, takes up almost as much space as the other two do. It is hard work.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Power of Music

I was a singing diva this weekend, with performances on Friday night and this afternoon. This afternoon was in a big old theatre in town. Very exciting and cool.
On Friday night, though, we sang with another community chorus, and they performed this song which maybe is well known, I don't know, but it resonated so beautifully for me. If I ever get a recording that I love as much as theirs (I found a few on youtube that I wasn't nuts about), I can share on this blog I will, but for now, the words will do. It is an old South African song, called Woyaya, and the words are these:

We are going, heaven knows where we are going, but we know within
And we will get there, heaven knows how we will get there, but we know we will
It will be hard, we know. And the road will be muddy and rough, but we'll get there
We'll get there, heaven knows when we will get there, we know we will

How universal are those words? When I think about those people who wrote those words, those impoverished, brutally opresssed people, I feel almost ashamed that I am pirating their words to apply to my own personal crisis, my own loss of one, little child, one child who would have fit beautifully into my otherwise privileged and kind of perfect life. But, as it has come up so many times in this blog, it is all relative, no? This loss of my child, this struggle I have had to reclaim my life has been my journey, my realest truth. It is a struggle that I share with very few people whom I actually know. And those words will resonate with those of you who stand where I do, who have waded through the pit where you want to die, yet you know, you have been shown by your child that there is light out there, and you know you will find it. You don't know how to find it, but you know you will, some day, although you can't fathom exactly how or when that might happen. All you know is that it will be hard, and that you have no choice.

And, distantly related to this, I have moved into depressing music mode. There are 3 CDs I listen to, they were the 3 I had on constantly during our sitting time, the months of May and June, 2003. They are,
Dar Williams, The Beauty of the Rain
Richard Shindell, Somewhere Near Patterson
Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, Drum Hat Buddha
These CDs are not so much depressing in themselves as they transport me back to the time where it hurt to take each breath. I like it.
The other CD that lurks in the wings, and if you are reading this and you know this CD, you are obliged to comment. Obliged. Anyone have/know the CD Appalachian Journey? It is YoYoMa, Marc O'Connor and Edgar Meyer. This music is Charlotte's Music. It played through her labor. There is a song on it that she was born to. Does anyone know this? If you have it, tell me. I will tell you which song she was born to. It haunts me, and can bring her to me most any day.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Early Morning Panic

As our family has grown, Charlotte's space in our house has diminished. This was not really on purpose, but it had to happen. When she was born, and died, she had a whole room to herself. It was full of diapers that were hers, clothes that were hers, furniture that was hers, etc. Everything baby that we owned, belonged solely to her.
When Liam was born, most of me was delighted to share Charlotte's things with him. I felt slightly melancholy about converting the nursery, which had been her shrine, into the place where his things would be (which basically entailed him moving in and taking over all the things that had been destined for her). This did work out for me, I was happy with this arrangement. It seemed right to me.
But I did take a little doll cradle, one that Greg had refinished as a boy, and fill it up with the things that were just Charlotte's. Some special books. The outfit I had brought with me to the hospital. A knit blanket that was also with us in the hospital. Her urn of ashes. The blanket she had around her. Her photo album. And a little, painted memory box, which holds all of our hospital mementos: bracelets, crib cards, measuring tape, as well as other assorted cards and memorabilia. The most important thing to me in that box is a tiny, little ziploc bag with a lock of her dark hair inside.
Charlotte had beautiful, thick newborn hair. It was thinner and fluffy on the sides, but across the top and around the whorl at the back of her head it was thick and beautiful and soft. It was very dark. She had more hair than the other kids. It was very bittersweet to cut that lock, I can remember it so clearly, taking the tiny scissors and cutting a tiny little piece of it, not wanting to hack apart her lovely hair, but wanting to have that piece of her forever.

And that is it, really, it's her. It really is her. The only piece of the actual Charlotte Amelia that I grew that still remains.

So this morning, Aoife is rifling through the box ( I like to let the kids feel free to access her things, so that they will feel part of her, too) and I see the hair is gone.

I look harder. In all the envelopes. I take the whole cradle apart, sifting through each piece of clothing. Nothing. I burst into hysterical tears. This is my baby. Liam is crying, now, holding me, saying, "What would make you happy?"
"I have to find that hair," I cry, "It's all I have left of Charlotte, I have to find it".
I start to search frantically, imagining that one time, up on the bed, the little bag has camoflauged itself against the duvet, slipped off and under the bed amongst the dust. And as my eyes scan under the bed, I see the firebox.
I just got it on freecycle. It has extra copies of pictures, negatives, and other Charlotte-related things. I open it. The hair is there. I had forgotten I even had the firebox, and I had no recollection of adding the hair.
But it does make sense, doesn't it, that I would put the only actual relic of my daughter in the place where nothing can get it?
I breathed such a deep, heartfelt sigh of relief.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

My little Scientist

One of the things that has been interesting for me to contemplate is how my children's lives will be different, fundamentally, from my own simply due to the fact that the neighborhoods we are growing up in are so vastly different. I grew up in suburbia, lovely, wooded, safe suburbia outside of Boston, and there were kids everywhere. There were places to hide and run and we travelled to hike and explore, but our neighborhood was most definitely, exclusively, suburbia.
Now my kids live in the woods. We live on a windy road that follows a river, when you drive to our house you pass a few horse farms, a dairy, and then cross the river into a little wooded glen that has a few little houses right on (I mean hanging over) the river, and then high on the stone ledge above the river, our house, tucked in the trees. There are acres of woods around us. There are no kids at all.
I feel a little bad about this sometimes, as so many of my fond, childhood memories are centered around the joy of all the kids in our neighborhood, and how much fun we had just outside our doorstep. I am sorry that there are no kids here.
But our kids do have that limitless fun, too, just in a different way. Quite different, really, but so very fun. Outside our door is the fun of dirt, and old sticks, and hard-to-find paths. There are more streams and rivers, vernal pools, and fabulous views if you climb all the way up to the top of the little lump across the street from us. And it was on a trip up this hill, on the weekend, that we found a real prize: a bona fide, grainy, nasty, falling apart OWL PELLET. Oh, so cool. We transported it home and put it in the freezer, and tonight was an early bedime for Aoife, and Liam had napped, so he took it apart.
This is a little boy who is so insatiably curious, whose attention span appears to be limitless, who is so hungry to know and discover, and who also is really, really interested in dinosaurs. So this was akin tobeing a paleontologist for him, the ability to sift through the leaves and the fur, and to pull out the tiny little bones, one by one, and just marvel at each one.
This child, four years ago today, was unborn. In my belly. Technically, a fetus. And tonight, he sits just feet away from me, with endless patience, slowly and carefully dissecting an owl pellet. He pulls out tiny jawbones, pelvises, and identifies them from a chart. He is delighted to see parts of a crayfish, and wonders about the tiny molar he has discovered through his diligence.
How has this happened? Does life ever stop seeming so unbelievably miraculous?
I am so proud of him, and so amazed by him. I see my scientist mother in him, she who paused dozens of times on each walk that our family took to point out geological formations, to wonder at a pile of poop, to identify trees, flowers, and birdsongs. I think my kids will be just fine here, don't you? Not that I doubted that, not that I did.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Spring Cleaning

The mercury skyrocketed today to above 60 degrees. I am so content with this. The windows are open and I am loving the smell of mud.
I had such a relaxing morning this morning with Aoife while Liam was at school. We went for a swim together at the Y, and then came home to paint on her new easel, color with her new markers, and have a tea party. I have just rearranged, for about the 3rd time in 2008, the play area. It always makes it more appealing, and we did enjoy our tea and biscuits very much.
And here are the children this afternoon. Sacked out. I have a meeting at the hospital at 2:30, which renders napping impossible. I had planned our first annual outing to the park, hearing the 60 degree forecast, but tuning out the rain... so we are watching Pinocchio instead. When I told Liam he was watching a movie this afternoon, he said, "April Fools?" He thought I was kidding. I wasn't! They are so happy.