Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Walking in the woods today, the children delight in what they find around them: a cool rock, some very special sticks, those little round popper things that fall off the trees in the spring. They run ahead sometimes, and hang back. They slide down hills on their bums, joyful in the dry leaves that cushion their journey. The sun shines through the trees, dappled. The black flies feast. The river rushes below.

This makes my heart sing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Your words do beauty to my heart, thank you for your encouragment. It is flattering and humbling, and frankly surprising, to hear these words from others, directed at me: who journaled for so many years, quietly in my room, and never once thought of myself as a writer. One of the things I intended to do on Charlotte's birthday was to post some of my original writing: the raw, anguished truth, what spurted out of my left hand as my brain was uselessly melting and my tears flowed so freely that I couldn't even see the page in front of me. It slipped my mind, but as I am thinking of myself and the progression that writing has taken for me, I feel moved to post some of it, even though I was feeling relatively committed after May 13th passed to being at least somewhat uplifting and optimistic here. So this is it, the very beginning, where it all started.

I can see myself writing it perfectly. I am on the pull out couch in the living room. The sun is shining in the three big windows in the dining area, flooding the wooden trunk that is next to the bed with sunlight. I have boxes of kleenex there, chapstick, a clean t-shirt. There is nothing of Charlotte. I have no photos yet, and her mementos are in the hospital bag. I cannot bear to unpack them. There is a spiral bound notebook, Greg's from graduate school, in the pocket of the endtable, and an old, barely working pen. Greg is still asleep. I look at his still face in the sunlight, and dread that he will have to awaken and face this. It is so very, very quiet. Without thinking, I begin to write.

May 15, 2003. First morning alone at home, without Charlotte
We lost Charlotte.
My empty womb lies empty and hollow, slack and limp from the loss of such a vital life energy. Last night after dinner as I began to digest I was haunted by phantom pokes and kicks, so used to being filled up I am. It is lonely not to have her little being inside of me, twisting her small bottom from side to side across my chest, prodding small heels out my right side. Such an adjustment to going back to an only me, and empty me, a me without my little baby me on the inside.
Giving birth to Charlotte was the most amazing feat I have ever accomplished. Even though I knew that her angel being had already left her body, my work as her mother had this last possibility and it was miraculous. I knew that I could never nurse her, or teach her to speak, or walk, but this was the one last great gift I could give to Charlotte before I let her go.
Charlotte worked with me, I know she did, to be born. Her angel spirit fluttered around me as inspiration as I embarked upo the most difficult work of allowing myself to birth her. Strangely, I was afraid to meet her. Knowing now who she is. I can't imagine fearing that tiny, perfect person, but I did. But as soon as I began to work her out, the instinct to mother that is so deeply a part of who I am flew into full force and my body worked perfectly. Charlotte moved slowly down through me, gliding down, and then back, down and then back, gently stretching her way out of her world and into ours. Her father, my truest love Greg, was locked in gaze with her tiny being from the moment her first tufts of hair appeared. I only felt her, this tremendous pressure, urging me to do my woman's work and move her along. What gentle relief when her head was born, and then the tug of shoulders and my eyes opened to see her tiny body fall out of mine into gentle hands, glowing beneath her coating of my life blood.
It was 2:14 and I looked down at my child for the first time. I knew that her physical life had left her but she was so very alive to us right then, because her birth was beautiful, and when we saw her we realized theat there was gorgeous, perfect person who we had made. We gently lifted her onto my belly, cradling her delicate body in our arms and letting our tears of tremendous joy and unbearable sadness fall onto her tiny body. It was amazing, incredible, just breathtaking to see how beautiful she was. This little, tiny, precious face, attached to this long, thin, soft body. She was curled up but as we gazed into her eyes we knew we had made a tiny girl because she was just so, so beautiful. Charlotte was perfect. Charlotte was everything we had hoped for in a baby except that our greatest fear had come true. She wasn't ours to keep. And so with her birth began our small, precious window of borrowed time to spend with our baby before we let her go. One at a time, we cradled her tiny, perfect body in our arms while the other held onto a tiny hand, foot, or stroked the soft skin on her shoulders, belly, and head. We tenderly, slowly, and lovingly examined each tiny part of her person, from the top of her head to the tips of her long, elegant toes. We stroked and kissed each little piece of her, trying desparately to inhale, to soak in, to absorb as much of Charlotte as we could in our brief time with her. Each moment stood alone in time in its importance, each moment that we spent with our daughter, each little touch, stroke, kiss. Charlotte was this tiny little girl that we made. Looking at her tiny, perfect face, we could see that our daughter had pieces of us in her little angel face. Her daddy's chin and nose, her mama's tiny mouth and long fingers and nails. Charlotte's body was a beautiful mix of her parens, of us, and gazing down at her we cried more at the knowledge that our beautiful love had created this tiny girl whom we couldn't keep. Oh, the aching was so, so, so deep, but the peace and complete joy in cradling her small body was unparalelled in our memories. Here was the most glorious person ever created, our daughter. We gave her the gift of life but somehow she passed it on. Charlotte didn't look like she had died. She looked so calm, so peaceful, so alive. Like a quiet, sleeping infant whose little rosebud lips might at any minute form into a tiny "o" of a yawn, whose little arms might stretch out as she awoke. But we knew that she would not awaken. That our time with Charlotte was limited. That her fragile body would soon have to leave us.
We shared Charlotte with our families, one at a time. We wanted everyone to see what a gorgeous little girl she was, and to share in the tremendous peace of the time we had to spend with her. We cradled her close, as our loved ones came in one at a time and cried with us as they saw this miraculous little person who couldn't live. Charlotte is so beautiful, they all said, and they cried more because they could see how much we loved her and how desperately we had wanted to watch her grow up.
Six hours. Six hours, starting at 2:14 when she came out of me until we said goodbye. Sadly, we knew we could not hold onto her forever. Our inner hearts wanted to grab our daughter's little body and run away, and hold her forever. But we knew we could not. Charlotte wasn't ours to keep. When we decided it was time to say goodbye, we knew we were preparing to take our broken hearts and wrench them out of our bodies as we let her go. We allowed ourselves ten last minutes. We cradled Charlotte high, up near our faces, so we could cover her body with layers of kisses. We just soaked in every detail. We wrote a beautiful poem for Charlotte and read it to her. When we heard the door open huge sobs rose in our throats because we knew our time had come. The nurse laid down two soft blankets on the bed and we gently laid our small daughter's body down and tenderly wrapped her. Taking her miniature, wrapped form one last time, we gave her our last kisses, and Charlotte left us. As her tiny, perfect body left our room, a part of both of us walked right out with it. Our daughter was gone after only six hours.
How robbed we felt not to have known her cries or soft noises. She was such a tiny girl, in my mind I imagine a soft, weak cry as she would come to my breast. I picture her tiny hands on my body as she nursed. And I know that I will never know Charlotte in that way. That my memories of her inside my body are the only way I will every know her vitality.
That is the story of Charlotte. It is a story we will tell again and again, as we remember our precious daughter and the magnificent life that could have been. We love you, Charlotte, our angel baby. We love you.

When I re-type this, I am returned to that place. I feel that body I occupied. How heavy it feels.
It is so obvious to the me of today how present the tense is, how very much there Charlotte was.

Before I leave you, I want to address a comment that Janya left, wondering if she should be reading this, as she is not babylost.

Oh, oh, oh. While I feel such great satisfaction in my ability to reach out to the babylost world, to connect and kindle and beautify the experience of the people who are living without their flesh and blood, it is those who are NOT babylost that intrigue me the most. You, you who are not babylost, you read my words? You read them, and you look at your child, or think about your future, and you feel grateful, and whole, and deep? Oh, yes, Janya. Please, do read. I am honoured and humbled that you find wisdom in someone whose experience is different from yours. Read and know that you are not babylost, but perhaps in reading about somebody who is babylost, you can become babyfound: somebody who truly sees the gift of their child, this fleeting, transient, beauty in front of them, and will cling with everything they have and love every single moment of it.

Here, the sign I have by my front door:

Do it. See the good. It is everywhere.

Monday, May 26, 2008

This World, Now

I have learned a new adjective yesterday, it is beautiful, useful, and perfectly descriptive: babylost. As in, "From one babylost mother to another". I like it. It works. It was used in an e-mail from Kate, ( and I just was struck by the ring to it: babylost. That is what I am. Babylost.

There is a website that Kate just started with some others, I'm still learning what it's all about, but you should go and look at it if you are babylost (or curious)... it is called It's this amazing little site that these six women have put together and there's just so much there. I love it.

I was so struck, in reading it, with the support and camraderie that exists out in cyberspace between babylost mothers. It is amazing. I can't even imagine what it would have been like for me to have that sense of "community"-- weird and abstract as it may be to have that on your computer screen. I can imagine that a great deal of my grief might have been moved off of the nursery floor (where I lay for many weeks on end, face imprinted with the pattern of the berber carpet, wet spots throughout the room where my face had touched), to the computer screen (where I can imagine myself sitting, fixed, almost stunned, There are more of me out there. I am not the only one who is babylost.)

Still, I have this reaction: when I read other people's blogs, when I read things that resonate so beautifully for me. Just the other day I read a post of Kate's where she described taking her son's little ziploc bag of hair with her outside, she wanted the sun to shine on him, he had never felt it. This post unleashed a torrent of tears, real and sincere, for Kate, and for myself. There was, in fact, another woman out there with a tiny little bag of hair. She, too, held it in her had, looking at the hair and knowing, this IS my child. This is not a picture, or a likeness of him, or something that touched him, but it is, in fact, him. This amazement, when even all you might be looking at is a tiny bag full of hair. She thinks this, and I think this. My other friends do not.

I don't find myself amazed at the comfort it brings me, however sadly, to know that there are others who are struggling through this journey with me. It makes sense. For the most part of my life I do feel that I fare so well, yet I crave, yearn, long for other people who can talk about this with me, who can sit there and suck up the feeling of sadness in my heart because they have been there and they know what is in my heart. Part of this is because it isn't always what I want to be talking about. How much is there to actually say about how this feels? What it was like? What it's still like? It makes me feel full and content, like a good meal, to imagine that there are women in the world, like me, who would have been the type of women that I would have hoped to befriend anyway, and in them I don't have to search for the words, because they just know.

There was a piece I read in glowinthewoods that caused lots of thought for me... it was a woman saying that Deborah Davis' book Empty Cradle Broken Heart didn't do much for her, because it merely validated what she knew she was already feeling. It really made me take a step back and realize where people can be sitting, now in a world where one can instantly, with a few web searches, find onesself literally surrounded with women who are also babylost. For me, that book was the ONLY thing ANYWHERE that confirmed that what I was feeling was normal. I did not have a single other friend, woman, acquaintance, ANYBODY who could tell me that this was what I was supposed to feel. I loved that book. I craved it, I read it again, and again, and again. (And you? Did you like it, if you are babylost?) This woman on glowinthewoods did not, really. Her post was about a salient point that Davis made, which did resonate with her, but overall she found it not so useful. My guess would be that this is because, unlike me, this woman is not islolated, and this is an amazing thing. This woman has endless acquaintances. Look at this: There are literally hundreds of blogs there, that you can connect to in an instant. What a different world this is to be babylost in.

This has also made me think and think about how I want to write a book, and basically, I did want to write a book that served the purpose of exactly the purpose that blogs can now fulfill. I kind of think that the book that I wanted to write, doesn't need to be written anymore. I wanted to write a book that could be a friend to a grieving woman, with many stories, and opinions, and emotions, and that doesn't need to be written anymore, I don't think. So now what should I write? I will have to put some thought into this.

Cause I have lots of time to write a book, what with spending all night here typing on MY blog...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Don't Let's Go

This a quote from Alexandra Fuller's Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, a provocative memoir about a white girl growing up in Africa in the 1970's and 80's. While I recommend the book on many levels, I was most struck by the mother, who, during the course of her life, lost her one year old son to meningitis, then her two year old daughter to drowning, and then a third child at birth. One can imagine the defeat of this woman, already with two children living and two dead, returning from the hospital, arms empty. My heart ached for her. And here, the memory of her daughter, who was nine at the time.

Mum's world became increasingly the world she sees in the reflection of the window at night when the lights are humming, high and low in tune to the throb of the generator, and Roger Whittaker is playing on the record player. Mum's towel slips lower over her full-of-milk breasts. I hear her crying in the bathroom when she's squeezing them empty. MIlk for no one, down the plug. Her towel hangs open at the bottom, where her thighs are blood-smeared from the tail end of childbirth. She seems to be grieving for the loss of this new baby in every way a body can grieve; with her mind (which is unhinged) and her body (which is alarming and leaking).

I feel that I have no words to really elaborate on this reflection of Mum: other than to say, I have been that woman with full-of-milk breasts, I recognize the truth in that description. It haunts me. But I did not lose two children prior. I cannot imagine the defeat, the loss, the utter and complete despair. I might, as this mum did, absolutely lose it.

This book is not just about the loss of a child, but it is about the struggle of a family growing up in difficult times, and I recommend it wholly.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


This absolutely has to be told, although there really is no time to tell it, as I am presently sanding the beadboard ceiling of my porch. (Note to self: if the ceiling ever needs to be re-done again, make sure you get a job lucritive enough to hire somebody; that or go to the Y religiously and lift for at LEAST 6 months prior. I will, for the record, probably be unable to even use my arms to merely type tomorrow)

So supper is over, and I am calling the children for bath, and Liam appears to be MIA. Knowing his usual haunts, I poked my head out the door and looked towards the "pee tree". Yes, we are a fairly barbaric family, and our son regularly pees on a tree whenever the urge strikes. But tonight, I noticed that his pants were a little further down than usual....

"I pooped in a hole!" he called triumphantly to me, and I can see it, the dirt all stuck to his backside, the tiny hole by the side of the driveway, the guest house fireplace shovel laid haphazardly next to the hole. I gulped, remembering the camping conversation we had last weekend as we outfitted Auntie Stephie and Michael with tent, sleeping bags, and yes, orange trowel.

"Oh, honey". I said, "You must never, ever do that. Pee is clean, but poop can make germs in the yard. All poop has to go in the potty."
I grabbed the nearest implement (fireplace shovel) and scooped up the two, tidy turds that laid at the bottom of the fairly decent hole my future-camper had dug for himself.

"But I want to play with that!" he protested, trying to retrieve his shovel. I told him that it was bathtime. And ran.

I made it to the porch before the howls of laughter escaped me.

"GREG!" I shouted. "You just missed the funniest parenting moment EVER!!"

But he did get to see me using the big throwaway baby wipes to scrape off the broken pine needles and dirt from our son's lily-white bottom.

You see, when he dug the little hole, he actually sat right in it.

How much does this job ROCK?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Smooch this

My little girl was quite naughty tonight. Generally, I feel, Aoife is a pretty manageable two year old. She rarely tantrums, this probably a result of her relatively sophisticated language ability, and her unlikely ability to question and rationalize. Occasionally, like today at the playground, she will try out something rude: a push or a swat. She's never hurt anyone, but since Liam never played that game, it does shock me. But what Aoife does do is just act naughty sometimes, mostly when she's tired out, and always very much on purpose, and in your face. Tonight it was at dinner. I pulled a rabbit out of a hat tonight, with a fridge that was virtually empty save part of a broccoli stalk, one sweet potato, two regular potatoes, a tiny quantity of lettuce, and a partially used onion (there was also a lot of salad dressing, mustard, and some cream cheese, but who is counting). I found the one frozen item in my freezer that wasn't ice or peas and made the Barefoot Contessa's Turkey Meatloaf, which is a really easy and surprising tasty entree. (Really, as a former non-meat eater who had never in her life eaten meatloaf I balked at this one, but was served it by a friend and was genuinely thrilled with the result) So we ended up with roasted, crispy little potato cubes, sweet potato puree, broccoli, teeny-tiny salads, and meatloaf with lots of ketchup. It was divine.
Our dinners tend to be pretty civilized, and I like this. We eat together, always by candlelight (because we light the candle for Charlotte). The kids use real dishes and utensils. We have placemats and try to make pleasant conversation. So tonight it is going just swimmingly, and then Aoife decides she's had it. First, the fork goes in the milk. Then the milk gets taken away. Then the sweet potato puree starts to be spread, slowly, while making direct eye contact with me, onto the table. Then, a bite of sweet potato and broccoli gets drooled, slowly, onto the table. "Oops," she says. "I need a napkin. I'll clean that up." Yeah, right. She did clean it up, but accident? I think not. She takes a handful of potatoes and looks at the floor....
I snatched away the plate. Took the potatoes. Dinner was over. I wiped her off, lowered her to the floor. "Supper is over," I told her. She pranced away. It was funny.

After dinner we had a marshmallow roast. I just bought Greg a lovely copper outdoor fireplace for his birthday. We made a tiny little fire and each had a two-marshmallow allowance. Liam gets so industrious and excited, he was frantically gathering wood and authoritatively filling the bucket that the marshmallow sticks (pre-carved by Dad) would soak in prior to the roast. He passed out sticks and proudly stood by while Greg roasted it for him (I want it perfectly burnt, he says, pointing to Greg's lovely brown marshmallow, just like yours) He loved his s'more.

I have to say it's things like that which make me want to have a big family. There we were, around the campfire, toasting marshmallows and singing "Alouette" with Greg on the guitar, and it just seemed like the mood would be more jolly if we had a few more singers. I shouldn't say it like that, because my level of satisfaction and delight with our little campfire was just about 100%, but it did seem like a scene that called for a crowd. The children were just beside themselves with joy. The naughtiness had ceased (unless you count taking a freshly roasted marshmallow and mashing it definitively between your fingers for 5 minutes, which I don't, because marshmallows are curiously gooey and very new to Aoife)

I had baby news today, two new babies born yesterday, Anneleise Victoria to my childhood friend Amanda, and another little girl (name unknown to me yet) to an old gap year friend... about this friend I received an e-mail yesterday saying, "Aspin's water broke this morning. She is having a little girl at home."

And you know my reaction. Oh, shit, shit, shit. Why did you have to pass this e-mail along? I think longingly of all the other people on the e-mail list who read it and sighed, as their hearts filled with excitement, whereas mine plummets and I am counting the seconds as the clock ticks for that baby. I have always told my friends, don't call me and tell me you are in labor. I can't handle it. Labor scares me. Labor is when your baby can die. I don't want to know anything until everything is already okay, especially if you are at home. Go ahead and do your thing, but don't bring me into it.

I hate it that I think this way. I always say this but I'll say it again, I know part of it is me just feeling insanely jealous that my old friend Aspin is maybe right now pushing out her firstborn daughter in the comfort of her own home, sipping her own tea, with her own pillow beneath her head. She never had to pack a bag, she'll get to wear her comfiest sweatshirt and choose her underwear the next day from all the ones in her drawer. Her baby won't have to go in a carseat for as long as she chooses to keep her at home.
And oh? She'll get to keep the baby, too. Yeah. Sometimes seem like they all get to do this part.

And the truth at the bottom of it is I'm happy for her, I'm happy for everyone who gets to do this part, the keeping part, I'm so relieved and grateful that another family has been spared, and I'm so delighted for her to know the JOY that motherhood brings. But there is always a pang, always, because she will receive what I was denied, and I will never get a second chance to get that back.

This is the thing that strikes me quite often: I will always be the person whose baby died.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The New Look

This is how I am. In my house, I am constantly envisoning: What I could paint, what I could sew, what I could plant, where I could add on. Usually, I just rearrange the furniture: this is a cheap and easy way of making things look different. I move the things around in the playroom, I bunk and unbunk beds, I trade a bedspread from the guest house to the main house and back again. I recover throw pillows and switch rugs. It makes me happy. Somehow, I need it.

So here is the new blog, the new look. With this blogger address I am pretty limited. One of the reasons why I sometimes hesitate to read other blogs is because I am really struck with blog- envy. As you know I am not the most savvy computer user, and other people's blogs always seem so cool to me. Amazing photography, 235 comments for every post, fabulous writing that I could never hope to emulate. And here I am, on my little, hokey blogger account, with about 14 templates to choose from and no idea if or how I could stray from these, with mediocre writing, amateur photography... and actually pretty much loving every minute of it. So here it is. The best I can do. I hope you like it. I just felt so tired of the brown, it seemed so fall, and this seemed wetter, more vernal. Feast ye eyes.

This morning, Liam crawled into bed with me at about 6:30, bless his heart. This week he's been sleeping in. Some mornings he wants me on the high wire right away, but this morning he was content to let me snooze while trying to tell stories of James the conservationist woodcutter. I kept dozing off between sentences and ideas, only to be awakened by the next leading idea that my little blonde bedmate offered. Since Liam was about 2, he's been obsessed with storytelling: constantly asking for stories about various characters we've made up: Tizzlepop the fairy, Bubba the naughty kid, Tim Tuggins the tiny little 6 inch man who plays horribly on a variety of instruments disturbing the peace wherever he goes; Bob Watson the offroad dump truck driver; James the woodcutter who always keeps the peace, and there are others. It may not sound like rocket science, but constantly creating new stories, sometimes with new characters, but always with new storylines, and always with creative additions from my audience, can be exhausting work. I don't multitask well with storytelling and really bad traffic or parallel parking, for example. Sometimes I feel like I have been kind of storied out. Liam will ask me for a story, from his little cow print carseat in the back, and I feel like saying NO. I just want to listen to my music and drive! But then I always think about how much pleasure it brings him to hear the stories, and how he will always remember how his mother (and father) told him stories, and I make myself do it. I always do.

So this morning I made up a particularly lame one, whilst falling asleep between sentences, and felt pretty halfway there. But my boy, my little boy, placed on my lips a sweet, juicy kiss, laid his head on my chest, and said, "Oh, Mimi. You're the best mother in the whole world. If I had to buy you, I'd pay a million google dollars."

Oh, hi. Melt my heart. OOOHHhhhh. It does not get much better than that. Sweet morning cuddles and sweet words whispered in my ear. I felt so happy.

(charlotte's little stone by the river: reads Charlotte Amelia, we love you)

Then later in the morning, on a much different note, I went to the last gathering of the Northampton Parent Center, where they brew the best coffee in the world, and had myself 2 cups with half-and-half and sugar in it. I have taken myself off of coffee because it might possibly cause canker sores, and this coffee was so good, and made me so happy, and had so much caffiene. It left me high as a kite and so bloody happy I felt like I hoped and prayed I would get cankers anyway because I just want to drink it every day. So you never really know what's going to bring you joy, eh?

At the parent center I was wearing my new t-shirt that says Charlotte's Mama. A woman commented on it. Perhaps kind of stupidly I hadn't really thought about what I would say when somebody I didn't know asked me about my shirt. I really do have to have pre-canned lines for these moments, because I do tend to suddenly get very concerned about the person I am talking to, and about making them feel awkward, and so things just come out too fast and awkwardly. So in this instance, the woman said, "What does your shirt say? Charlotte's what?" So I showed her, "Charlotte's mama" and I just blurted out something about how I had a little girl who passed away and how we had a walk and I made the shirts for the whole family. And then kind of disengaged, somehow. I just couldn't really continue, and I felt sorry for it, because I really could have looked her in the eye and said something pretty profound and remarkable but instead I just ran and stumbled over my words and then moved on.

What will I say next time? I don't know.
(p.s. Look! I added an e-mail address to the sidebar. Now you can e-mail me and tell me who you are without everyone else seeing it. Yay! Write me a note to say Hi and we can be friends!)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


My friend Aimee just told me about planting her garden today with her little daughter Megan, who is 3. She described rows of dozens of varieties of vegetables with a circular area in the middle for pole beans, explained dump trucks of fertile soil being brought into her sandy Main backyard. I sighed, kind of with envy, but mostly with contentment at my own gardening situation, which is so very different.
Our garden is kind of a laughable situation. We go on vacation for about five weeks every summer, in August. For those of you who live in New England, you will realize that without a very attentive housesitter (who we could never afford to pay) this renders our garden a total and complete waste of money and time. No matter how attentive and thoughtful we could be, we would always arrive home to a nest of weeds, rotten tomatoes, bugs, drooping, heavy bean plants, bolted broccoli, and flowering lettuce.
So we changed our pace, majorly. We planted our whole garden in raspberries, a huge, juicy variety that produces constantly from late August until November. I chose this crop for a few reasons: mainly the low-maintanence, convenience of season aspect, but also because raspberries are one thing I could never afford to buy. So we grow them, and for months on end we bring in about a quart a day of raspberries. We eat them on cereal, in muffins, raw, with whipped cream, on ice cream or pudding, we freeze them, we make jam. Our crop is bountiful, and beautiful. We have nothing to plant, nothing to weed. It is a lovely thing.
I do, however, feel some sadness for the fact that my children don't get to experience that beautiful feeling of watching the garden grow up, which I used to love so fiercely. So this spring we cleared a corner of the garden, about a quarter, for Liam. He chose green beans, and he has been vigilantly watering and watching his beans since he planted them. Now a few inches high, we are delightedly awaiting our first harvest. We also have a rhubarb patch, blueberry bushes, and a few strawberries. Can you tell I have a sweet tooth? I grow almost every native fruit I can.

This morning I took the three kids (Liam, Phoebe and Aoife) to the river, to walk to Charlotte's stone. They all ran the whole way. They were so happy. I didn't have to carry anyone, even Aoife. They found hiking sticks, poked their way along the trail finding holes in trees, worms, honeysuckle, and river glass. It was such a delightful, relaxing morning. Then I took them to buy a birthday present for my brother and sister in law. We walked through town, with Aoife on my back in the Ergo, and one kid on each hand, and they looked so cute. They were noticably well behaved in the store. I felt proud to have three such nice children with me, and people noticed, and commented. It always strikes me at the oddest moments, that I regularly take care of the three children, the two girls and the boy, yet it never usually crosses my mind that these are in fact the children I have birthed, although the one I care for is not actually mine. When people ask me, "Are they all yours?", which they often do, I feel tempted to say yes-- but not because I feel proprietary towards Phoebe, but because I hate to deny that I have three children. I have never thought of Phoebe as a stand-in for Charlotte in any way, except in that she confirms for me that having the three kids in three years would have been fun and not that hard, because I love having her around. I think there's just something for me about having someone admire me for having the three kids all really close together and then having to say, "No, actually I only have two kids," because that's a lie, I don't have two kids, I have three kids, it's just that this girl isn't one of them.

I've also had these odd moments this week with Aoife, in comparing her to Charlotte, which I never do otherwise. Liam has been very tired and has gone to bed before her almost every night, so Greg gives Aoife her bath by herself, and then reads to her. And there's something about watching Greg take care of Aoife, and only Aoife, that makes me think, "So this is what our family would have been like 4 years ago if Charlotte had lived: just us and our little daughter." This is odd to me because I spend 2 mornings a week alone with Aoife, and I have never had this thought about myself: there is just something about watching Greg that brings it up for me. It also makes me think about how weird it is that I constantly think of Liam and Charlotte, but rarely compare Aoife to her at all. The age difference? I think maybe.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Trash Can, and a secret.

An ingenius accident happened a few months or so ago in my kitchen. Every time I would come in the door, I felt like my house smelled weird. Kind of stale. A little gross. It really freaked me out, because I am a person who notices smells, and I'm very attracted to nice smells. People with nice smelling houses appeal to me. Was I not that type of person?
My first instinct was to worry that it was our bunny. Did you know that I have a bunny? I got him in college. He is 12. He is so completely, adorably elderly. He can barely hop, loves to eat the stereotypical bunny things, and the kids love him. He sits on our little braided rugs and sleeps most of the time. Actually, lots of the time these days, in his elderly years, he really just sleeps in his little cage. He's supposed to be potty trained, but you know how these things go when we get older. He likes his cage because nobody can get him in it. The kids do have a way of mauling him, although you can see that even in his cage they can sometimes get around this. He is very tolerant.

Although the bunny cage does, from time to time, reek, this was not the problem. It was, it turns out, my trash can. I had a big, lovely, expensive stainless can that I actually spent wedding money on, I thought it was so cool. It was. Nice and big, tall, with a step-on pedal that opened it up. It was great. Only it got stinky. Really, really stinky. So I just got rid of it. I threw it out onto the path, and shouted out into the snow for Greg to "put that thing in the garage, away from here!" which he did. For one day I just put trash into a little bag, but then I found a tiny little trash can, a mini-version of the can I had just chucked, and I put a grocery bag into it.

Voila. So we have a tiny trash can now. It doesn't smell, because it only lasts for a day or so. But here's why it's such a great thing: I hate taking the trash out. So every single thing I go to throw away, I think, could I compost or recycle this? It is amazing how conscientious I have gotten about making sure that only actual, real, uncompostable, unrecyclable trash goes in my trash can. There is no being lazy and just throwing it out (which I like to think I didn't do much anyway), because if I'm lazy and throw it out, then I can't be lazy and not take out the trash. So try it. It's a great environmental, mindful way of making sure you are recycling and composting as much as you possibly can. And your trash can won't ever smell, either.

So there's a little daily life tidbit to think about, a way that you can maybe throw less stuff away. It is appalling, when you think about it, how very much we throw away. I figure between cloth diapers and my teeny-tiny trash can I am doing okay.

I have to tell you that I am getting sick of this blog. Not the blog itself, which I am completely and totally addicted to, but the way it looks. I am very tired of the way it looks, and I don't really like it. So maybe, soon, one day, if I have time (!), I am going to re-do it and make it look totally, completely different. So don't be surprised.

So as you may or may not have guessed, based on the comments and discussions here, there is a bit of baby obsession going on in my head (and on this blog) that may, or may not, have to do with something that may, or may not be going on in my life. There are certain things that I really don't feel comfortable putting out there for the world to know, and this is one area that I don't feel comfortable discussing here, because it just feels more private. But here I am, bringing it up, and it is for this reason. So the baby obsession obviously comes from me wanting a baby, and while this making a baby thing has always happened without trying for me in a matter of days or weeks, this seems to no longer be the case. I shall not delve into any details further than that, except to say that I realize that my frantic obsession to be pregnant that followed Charlotte's death may be creeping back into my consciousness as the months tick by. But the good news is this: today I found out that a friend, who I would like to think of as a good friend (this based on me hoping that our good-friendship is just beginning, because we haven't been friends for too long), is pregnant. This woman is the kind of person who makes me believe in auras, because she has one, and it's really brightly colored and shiny and has all this good energy radiating out of it, but also has this calmness, and this wholesomeness, and this gratitude that just makes me gravitate towards her. So she's pregnant. And I am thrilled.

This surprises me, because in my angst over the past few months I was becoming frantic: what will happen when someone gets pregnant, and it's not me? Will I be sad? Upset? Frazzled?

Nope, I'm happy. And this makes me feel happy, and somewhat more relaxed, and I'm so happy that the person who got pregnant is someone who makes me delighted. This is a gift to me, removing some of the stress of feeling jealousy if it had been someone who I didn't appreciate and respect like I do her. For those of you who have lost babies, I am sure you can relate to the discomfort when you feel these awkward emotions: jealousy, envy, even anger, around pregnant people and babies. It is horrible, and makes you feel awful. You know it isn't you thinking, it's your "I lost my baby" brain, but it still feels awful. I think this was what I was afraid of, more of this creeping in, because I simply assumed that as my baby-obsession heightened, so would this. But apparently I am going to be okay. Big sigh. Maybe things will move along now. And I do plan to never mention this subject area on this blog again, but now you're in on my little secret, and that's okay, too.

And by the way? Congratulations... I am so happy for you. :) You sweet-mama you with the most beautiful, shiny children and this happy, honest way about you. You deserve this, and this baby deserves you. I am truly happy for you.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sippy Cups and Singing

A long due reprieve from the heavy, weighty stuff that sits at the front of my brain at this time of year.

So I've decided to phase out sippy cups. Part of this is because I am lazy, and I only have two sippy cups that I really like to use. After much experimentation and money I determined that really the only stainless cups worth buying are the foogo cups. They are also thermoses, so if you are like me and you accidentally leave the milk out for 3 hours and then feel really guilty and awful about throwing out a cup of perfectly good milk (which we all know some cow somewhere worked really hard to make, and then a farmer worked hard to get it out, and then lots of money was spent to cool it, and transport it, and pasteurize it, and bottle it, and transport it to my local grocery store, where I bought it, only to throw it out??) so it works for that, as well. But I only have two, and at 15 bucks a pop, could I really afford more? No, but I can afford a few wet t-shirts, and save the foogos for the outings. So Aoife is using a cup, a real cup, all the time, and it's funny.

My kid dish situation has always been kind of on the fritz. I was given one little set which had a little melamite bowl and cup with handles, and I also have one pewter bowl. Then, later on, I bought two heavy plastic plates at Target. The collection stopped there. I soon realized that for the most part, when they are past the stage where you throw the food in little piles on the high chair tray, you can give them a regular plate and they don't tend to throw it. So I've never had real kid dishes. It's worked out fine.

When I moved Liam off a sippy cup, I wondered what to do as our drinking glasses are pretty tall and heavy. They were clumsy for him and spilled easily. So what did I do? No, I didn't log onto Crate and Barrell and buy some more. I actually just bought lots of Jam, and ate lots of toast while I waited for the drinking glasses to empty out.

Bon Maman. It's kind of on the expensive side, about $3.50 a jar, but if you factor in that you are getting a free drinking glass with the deal, it's the best bargain in town. You polish off your sweet, delicious fruit jam, and get a wide, flat-bottomed glass that is really quite difficult to tip over. It's light and has about 8 flat sides so it's easy for little hands to hold. Voila.

So, now Aoife, too, gets a Bon Maman drinking jar to accompany her dinner. I bring the beverage to the table in a little pitcher to refill, and give her about a half an inch at a time. She raises her glass proudly, with two hands, and pours heartily. Milk almost always pours in a little, steady stream out of the left side of her mouth as I remind her, "Slowly, tip slowly." She is catching on.

Aoife really, really isn't a baby anymore. She's so grown up that she is really flexible now, and can do things that babies can't do like skip naps, stay up late, and go to the children's opera. We took her there last week, to Little Red Riding Hood. She was scared of the big bad wolf, so I took her to the back where she felt much better. She later explained to Greg, while eating dinner:
"I saw the big bad wolf, I was scary. So Mimi took me to the back and I nursed a little bit." It all comes out in full sentences. She is getting so big.

It is hard for me not to have a baby. I don't plan for Aoife to be my last baby but I wonder if this feeling will ever go away, this desparation to have a baby in arms. This need to be identified as the mother of a baby. She is only 2 and already I feel anxious, as if my identity as baby-mom is being lost before my eyes. Will another baby, or two, solve this? Or is it just part of my long-term mental health consequences of my drama?

In other news, the moon rose full, and yellow tonight as I was driving home from Chorus, my last performance with a group that will dissolve because our director is unable to continue. I sang next to the piano tonight, which is a rarity. Our accompaniest is a brilliant musician who improvises absolutely stunning piano and accordian pieces to go along with what we sing. We sang this gorgeous, Peter Schickele arrangement of Dona Nobis Pacem, and his piano accompaniment was just brilliant. Now this man lost his wife last May, lost her 3 days after their little son was born, and there was Sam, little Sammy, sitting out there in the audience, sucking on his little binky, happy as a clam. Beautiful little Sam, and his Dad there next to me playing the most beautiful music as the voices rose over the crowd and maybe bounced out of the room and over the hills and up to where Sam's mom was, and me there, and my two kids at home, and my one kid maybe hanging out with Sam's mom. And we were all there together, singing, and hearing it, and I started to cry, right there on the stage, and I looked at Chris while he played, and I think he saw my tears.

Life is a neverending circle.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Every day, it seems, it rains just a little. Our forecasts have been dismal, but then each day I awaken to sunshine streaming in the windows, and it takes half the day or so for the clouds to roll in, and the fat drops to begin to darken the pavement. Then I can hear the cars as they drive by, below me in the street. The smell is wet, and damp, and the rain is here.
The lilacs droop, as they always do in May, and I think of Charlotte.

There is something so respectful about this pattern of weather that May always seems to bring me, except for the year when she died, when it rained for a month without stopping, but that seemed respectful, too. The sunshine comes, it brings warmth, and beauty, and allows me and my children to romp, and frolic, and breathe in the world around us. And then the rain comes in, and it falls softly, reminding us that it helps sometimes to turn inwards, to take the time to be quiet and together. The colors are dimmed and everything is darker, and I need this, too. I feel the joy in the sunshine, and I feel what's missing in the rain. Both of these things feel good.

I was struck today, realizing how different it feels to me each year as I am anticipating the anniversary of Charlotte's death, and then after it happens. It doesn't seem to make sense that there is a release when the day passes, but there always is. I went to a brunch today, a gathering with a group of friends I fondly call "the old playgroup", because when Liam was a baby, there were 4 of us moms who got together every week. Two of us have returned to work so the playgroup itself dissolved about 2 years ago, but we still have family gatherings every other month or so. The kids are always full of so much joy, and the adults have a great time, too. It has always felt good to do.
But last May, we had a gathering and it was on the 6th of May, maybe? It was right in that awful, heavy period of time where I can barely think, barely lift my head. I always know that this is the way I feel, but I am determined that I walk the walk anyway, I do go about my life and try to do the things that make me happy, because that's just what I do. But in this instance, it bitterly failed.
I can remember being in my friend's kitchen. All I could hear around me was people complaining about their children. Truly, it wasn't complaining. It was talking. It was the banter that flies between mothers and fathers, about sleep deprivation, about picky eaters, about naughty antics that can honestly drive you nearly crazy if you let it. But in that time, with my head stuck in a hole like an ostrich, I heard complaining. I heard people who weren't grateful for their kids. I heard people not appreciating the amazingly good fortune they had to have living children here around them. I was bitter. Maybe a little rude. I might have left early.
I was aware, the whole time, of course, that this was happening, and I knew exactly why. I knew that what I was seeing, at that time, wasn't really exactly what was happening. I could feel how jaded my viewpoint was. But knowing that didn't make it any easier, and I felt miserable. It felt so awkward and uncomfortable to feel like I needed space from my own friends. I did.
This year, a brunch date was propsed for today: May 18. I thought, will I want to be there? It's the week of Charlotte's birthday. Will it be like last year?
It was not. I felt completely, totally normal. I was happy, delighted to be in the company of my good friends. This, after a period of anticipation for May 13th that felt particularly difficult, and a birthday and day-after that felt slightly more fraught with spontaneous crying. I had a great time. I loved what everyone had to say. I heard it with my ears that are only just me, and those ears are of course affected by my life, but they aren't the same ears that are so weighted with grief that they can't understand that love and good natured complaining happily coexist in most people.
What is it, then? Somehow having had it pass, has lifted this weight? This feels awkward, given that five years ago from this day was a period of time that I almost cannot ever remember what it felt like. I can't remember because it was so unbearably painful that I get goosebumps thinking about it, my stomach feels almost nauseous, and my body resumes its ravaged, empty feeling that plagued me. You could say I choose not to remember, but I think the truth is that my brain works very hard on an unconscious level not to remember, and I do intentionally pull out those memories from time to time, because it makes me feel human and me and reminds me of how very far I have come.
I am grateful that the weight has been lifted. No matter why, or for what reason, or whether it's right. It is hard to be sad. It makes me anxious, it can get me grumpier a little faster, and it makes my kids sad, too. So the mood feeling good, feeling up? Thank you, I am grateful for it. I could use a little breathing room.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Somewhere out there, somewhere in Maine, is a mother. I don't know her, not at all. But I know about her little boy. His name is Willows, and today is his birthday.

When this mother was pregnant with her son, she was told he would not live. Could not live. They told her that her pregnancy was in vain, that she should end it, say goodbye now, while it was still simple and tidy and less complicated.

She said no.

She held that little boy, carried him, and loved him, for the whole time. They told her he would, almost for certain, be stillborn. They told her that he could not, under any circumstances, live after birth. His body could not cope with what lay outside.

She prepared to be me. She prepared to birth this baby, this child she had loved, and created, and to greet his earthly body separately from his spirit, and to honor him always, nonetheless.

He was born, and he lived. He lived for thirty minutes. Thirty minutes this mother was told she would never, ever get with her son.

This was the day, one year ago, where one mother, somewhere in Maine, celebrated, felt gifted, and awestruck, and privileged, because she got to spend thirty minutes with her son before he died.

This breaks my heart, just breaks it, for her, for him, for his father.

And yet, I am amazed that this mother was able to realize the power of her thirty minutes, to let the feeling of her child breathing, and the very fact of his pulse just mystify and stun her, because she had been told it would never happen. While he lay dying in her arms, she had tears of the greatest grief, but also of relief, because he could hear her voice, and because she could tell him that she loved him, and because she could tell him that she would never forget him, and remind him to stay nearby.

This doesn't mend her heart. It doesn't make it better, and it doesn't make it worse, that she got to keep him for that extra half an hour. To me, it is just amazing to think, that for her to get that thirty minutes, would be like if I could go back and get thirty minutes.
In some ways, she had already been told he was dead: she was prepared for the silence. And to have that time: it will be unlike any 30 minutes in the rest of her life. When more children come, and they will, there will never be an isolated 30 minutes in any of their lives that packs the importance of those 30 minutes that Willows laid, alive, in his parents' warm embrace, soaking up the love that they had to pour into him, and onto him.

I remember you, Willows, and I'm thinking of you today. Perhaps you are holding Charlotte's hand, and she's helping you with your baby steps, up there in the clouds, or wherever you are.

*My apologies to Willows' family if any of the details described above are incorrect, I dearly hope that my own vision of Willows' day did not overshadow, exaggerate, or change any truth.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Today is really the anniversary of the worst day of my life.
The day they wheeled me, because I was too sad to walk, to the front entrance of the hospital.
The nurse who was pushing me didn't know what to say to me.

Greg met me there, in our little silver car. I looked in the back seat.
The car seat was gone.
Later, I asked him where it was. He told me that when he had come out, early in the day on the 13th of May to get our bag from the car, he had taken out the car seat himself, unbuckled the seat, removed the little locking clip, and then taken the baby things out of the bag, and he had put them into the trunk.

My heart ached for him, imagining the pain radiating up his arm as he lifted the tiny seat, carrying it in defeat around the side of the car and putting it into the trunk. Closing the lid with a slam, and a click. Door closed. Chapter over. Book done.

We drove home. It was a beautiful, brilliant day. The lilacs filled the air with their sweet nectar, mocking our grief. We arrived home, and my family was there. Our family, all of them. They watched, barely able to, holding back, not knowing what to do, as Greg helped me from the car.

I leaned into him, almost staggering, as I came up the path. My belly pooched out under my shirt, that baggy, strangely empty, postpartum belly. My breasts were bare under my red shirt: I only had nursing bras, and I could not bring myself to wear one.

I crossed the threshold. I was back in my home, technically the same home I had left the morning before. My sister had made up the pull-out couch in the living room, because I couldn't go up the stairs. I didn't want to go upstairs. I didn't want to see the little baby room, the bed where she had died in my belly. I couldn't face the towels on my bedroom floor, cast there when my waters were pouring down my legs, me not knowing my baby was suffocating as it flowed.

We stayed downstairs for one week.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


At the dinner table, we sang the song we usually sing. (to the tune of the skater's waltz)

Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, We love you

Happy Birthday, You made all our dreams come true

When we blow out your candles

One light stays aglow

That's because you're in our hearts, where e're we go

The kids looked at us, expectantly.

"Do you want to sing the regular birthday song?" we asked.

Enthusiastic nods.

They sang, joyously and with love. Happy Birthday to their sister they never knew, to the mystery person in the family.

Greg and I, in tears, tried to sing along.

Liam noticed, and burst into tears himself.

"I don't want you to be sad," he cried.

Aoife watched, astonished.

Later on, I went up to kiss Liam in his bed.

When I walked in, he said, "I love you Mimi. It's okay if you need to cry a little bit."

I obliged, almost soaking his pillow as I grieved for him, for her, for all of us.

This is easier than it was, but it's never easy.

(My clock is ticking. Around now, around 9 pm. We say goodbye forever.

Imagine that.)

In the morning, my mother came into the hospital room to see me.

I was sitting in the bed. I was exhausted. I had been awake almost all night, hit with the most unfathomable, unbelievable news I had ever heard.

My mother was surprised.

I expected you to look sick, she later explained. Instead, you looked so beautiful, and so healthy. You had a suntanned face, and your hair was shining, laid pretty on the pillow behind your head. You were glowing, still, from pregnancy.

How could you look so well, when everything was so very wrong?


I slept a little on the epidural I let them give me. It was merciful. It was an escape from the pain, and not the pain that people usually use an epidural for. I could retreat into darkness, make the world I was in go away for a little time. I could make the room go out of focus and doze, unaware for a brief moment of my surroundings.



I held to the squatting bar like an animal, bearing down. Greg put cool cloths on my back and ice in my mouth. The time seemed to be going by quickly, although in retrospect, it did not. I don't think I was really in any hurry for my baby to be born.

When she was born, she would die.

You may think she was already dead, but this is how it seemed to me. When she was born, she would die. It would be real.


I was a real mother, wasn't I? Rocking on the soles of my feet with my knees in my armpits and my head hanging, hair in my eyes, filling my body with air and then sending all available energy down, down, down, down. It was exhausting, life work. Life work.

But I wasn't sure.


2:14 PM

The silence fills the room.

It echoes out of every corner.

Its piercing noise is evident in the faces of the four people in the room. Now five.

But something else bounces around, too, and it is the spirit of a girl.

It fills me right up, from my toes to my eyelids and out the tips of my hair. My body, once rigid and afraid, goes soft. It curls around the daughter I have made. Love surrounds me.

It is not what I thought it would be like, this.

It does not feel the way I imagined, the let down, the disappointment, they have vanished for a time. There is grief, yes, and sadness, of course, but the path has been cleared for joy. For amazement. For awe. For beauty.

She is here.


I made this? This beauty of a child? This perfection of a human?

What would I give for this child?

Could I trade my life for hers?

I would.


Six and then some hours. Starting now.


I wish I could go back.

Knowing I cannot make her live, would it be too much to ask?
Just to hold her once more, to kiss her again?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Waiting for it to happen (5th time)

It is, as I write, 7:06 PM.
I could hazard a guess that five years ago, at this very moment, I was walking, with my little yoga bag over my shoulder, out of the hospital. I was there, in that place, on this very day: this day I call last day.
Last day.
Last day seems like it was yesterday, while the days that follow it seem a lifetime ago.
On last day, I slept in quite late. Each day, I figured, was an opportunity to bank sleep for the weeks to come. When I woke up, I ate my breakfast, and then headed out to go swim laps.
Before I left, I noticed that my baby hadn't been very active. I sat in a chair, drank some orange juice. Enjoyed her kicks, bouncing my belly up and down. Let my hands wrap around her, holding her in my hands, loving her, willing her to come out and join me.
I swam, and then went and returned a video (the Bourne Identity) to the little store in downtown Northampton, and then went into the discount organic food store across the street to buy some black beans and some salsa. These things all happened, but it is at this time, this seven o'clock, that I come back to, because I see myself walking out the door after my yoga class, leaving the hospital, the place where she could have been saved.

(I revert to previous writing here, I am exhausted just thinking this)

In the early evening of that Monday I was in the place that could have saved her, the place where the next day Charlotte would indeed be born, on an unlucky day, to an untimely fate. I was there, tucked into a small conference room with a dozen other swollen mamas breathing deeply, connecting to our babies. It was prenatal yoga, and three of us were due that week. There were a lot of giggles and encouragements for our little ones to emerge, quickly! before we popped. I remember back and see myself, as if in a movie, laughing, with hands on my egg shaped belly, walking out of the hospital to my car, driving away.
"Stop!" I try to yell to the woman in the movie. "Go back!" Resist the urge to feel happy and safe. Climb the 20 stairs, that will leave you breathless, and go to the childbirth center. Feel worried about something, ANYTHING, ask them to put you on the monitor, just to be sure. They can take care of you there, they can perhaps detect a little shudder in your tiny daughter's pulse, perhaps suspect something might be wrong.
But the woman in the movie doesn't hear me, and she's getting in the car, and I can see her beautiful little girl is curled so gently and comfortably in her womb. The cord that gives her life is tucked dangerously under her arm, cushioned only slightly by a small pocket of amniotic fluid that will soon be gone. And the woman doesn't know.
That woman gets into the car, and drives home, and it's not me anymore, it's just that character from a sad movie that you want to rent again, but can't bear to because it's just too sad. She gets home and kisses her husband and the eat quesadillas in the semi-dark, virtually untouchable in their state of expectant bliss. The phone rings, near the end of dinner, and it's Peter, calling from Cooley. Baby Henry is born! They talk for an hour, their minds filling with the images that they imagine they will soon encounter themselves. It's all so exciting. And they're there together, a family. Three beating hearts, two of separate blood, and one of mixed that binds the three eternally in love.
The little family climbs the steep stairs to the gabled attic bedroom and piles into the big, wooden sleigh bed. The lights are warm, and they pick three stories: Where the Wild things Are, The Maggie B; and My Crazy Sister. Daddy falls asleep in the middle of the Maggie B, but wakes up to sing the Beatles (Hey Jude and Yesterday) to his bouncing baby girl, who is enjoying her evening calesthenics. Then he goes to sleep and the woman, the mother, reads silently with a tiny lamp, her book rising and falling with her breath and every now and then jolting with the life of the little girl within.
And technically, then, last day is over. But for this family we shall extend Monday for an extra two hours, just for this occasion, because that is when their world stopped. The mother never knew, and she never suspected, and neither did the dad. And in the darkness of that Monday-turning-Tuesday, they took their little bag, and drove with the baby clothes, and soft cotton diapers, and the car seat and unborn baby Charlotte, and they did climb those stairs to the Childbirth center, but by then it was too late.

Too late.
Too late.
Too late.
Too late.
No matter how many times I retell this story with different parts, in the end, it is always too late. The baby is never saved.

This is what it feels like for me on the anniversary, like today is the last day that maybe I can do something, and by tomorrow, the day that for me does not exist on the calendar anymore, the day that is a wash, and where I am in an abyss far from earth, all hope will have been lost and the year will start anew.

I have spoken before of how I measure time, the calendar of my year. Well, tonight's the night. It's New Year's Eve. Tomorrow begins year 6 for me, with a full 5 years of Charlotte-less life behind me.

It's not really Charlotte-less, though, is it? This is a nice way of putting it, and when I am not feeling depressed, I can be really optimistic about how present she is, and how much she's changed me for the better, and how she affects my every decision and is thus so present.

But the sucky truth is that she is not here to wet her bed, or talk back, or get sick and throw up in my bed, or learn to ride a bike, or go to kindergarten in the fall, or learn to read. She doesn' t write her name, or make me artwork for my fridge. Nobody calls for her on the phone, I have never heard her name in a doctor's office waiting room. She has never done anything naughty, she doesn't have any hobbies, and she has never had a friend (except maybe Henry). She never had the chance to make anyone laugh, to play a mean trick, or to fall down and get gravel stuck in her knee which would be so painstaking and awful and gross to pick out but I would do it anyway, of course, and give her some ice cream afterwards.

It is like a dream, like the greatest fantasy, like when you are 13 and have a huge, major crush, and you're imagining yourself married to this boy you are crazy for. This is what it feels like for me to imagine myself with Charlotte here in my home. I want her so desperately, still. I can't imagine this will ever stop.

Oh, baby girl, I do love you do much, and I miss you so much. I want you to come home to me. I just want to be your mother. I want to brush your hair, and braid it. I want to lie in bed with you and rub your back, and sing your songs that you love. I want you to choose the things that you love to do, and I want to do them with you. I want to know what you would love, who you would love. I want to hold your hand downtown, and I want to talk to you about what's bothering you, and about what you think is funny. I want to pick out birthday presents for you that I know you will love, and watch the delight on your face as you tear them open.
I just want you here.

I always wished for my baby to be born healthy. I wished on stars, even prayed to an uncertain God, just in case.
I didn't even know I also had to wish for her to be born alive. It seemed so obvious at the time. I wish I had known.

It is now 7:33. I have gotten home. The hospital is long behind me. My daughter has about 7 hours left to live, and I have about 9 hours left to be the person that I once was.

Then, the world explodes.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

This time, then.

I am looking sad here, but not because I am sad. Only because my ribs were so terribly sore, and I couldn't get them into the bathwater to soothe them. See? The rubber ducky is already on the side of the tub, ready for bathtime. It was, in essence, a time of hope. Can't you see the jest on my face, beneath the fake frown? And there's Charlotte, right there in the picture, vital and alive. Probably squirming while the shutter clicked, her little heart pounding away, and me never knowing how fast her clock was ticking. What It was like:

For many nights, I sat at my sewing machine. I was sewing tiny little edges onto little, 4x5 little squares of flannel.
Baby wipes.

To be washed and re-used.

The most boring, dreadful sewing project I've ever done, but worth it, I thought.

I mixed up a ceramic soap-pump full of a mixture I'd read about-- water, olive oil, lavendar, and a few drops of soap to mix it up-- and set it on the changing table.

I washed my diapers 3 times in hot water, to help them to reach their best absorbancy.

I cut all the tags out of the baby clothes, carefully, with tiny nail scissors. The tags might irritate the baby's skin. I folded the clothes, lovingly, and put them into the drawers. There is a photograph of Greg in the nursery, while I am doing this, holding a baby doll in the baby Bjorn. He is smiling.

I put water, with vinegar in it, into my diaper pail. I set it up next to the changing table, with the fluffy diapers, and the tiny, clean, tag-free onesies, and the wipes, and the solution. I smoothed the soft, hand-made gingham mattress cover, and moved the soft, cotton mat over slightly, to center it.

Everything was ready.

I laid down in bed, my book resting on my swollen globe of a belly. My ribs ached from the tiny feet that strummed them all day. Periodically, my book jumped, the inhabitant below shifting for her evening calisthenics. It would only be a matter of time.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Memory

Greg arrived home from his class. It was a Monday. In his hand, he held two branches from an apple tree in full bloom. The blossoms were huge and fragrant, light pink in color, and giant, pregnant, dark-pink buds peeked from beneath the petals.

"I pulled these off a tree at UMass, " he said, as he arranged them in a giant, wine-bottle holder of a vase. "I wanted the house to smell beautiful when we brought our baby home."

Two days later, we arrived home.
The house smelled ripe with the apple blossoms.
All I could think of was the young, sweet, hopeful dad plucking them off the tree, his heart full of so much love, which was now crushed at his ankles, irretrievable.
There was no baby, and the flowers continued to bloom.
Their smell would have seemed mocking, had it not been so steeped with love.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Here, tonight, will start with a small gallery of photos of our latest accomplishments here in the hills. I was thinking tonight about how stirred up my creative blood is: Just wanting to make, and think, and do.
Here are the shirts I am making for this weekend's Mother's Day walk, for our family to wear. I will add more art to them in round 2, tomorrow.

Aoife's new bedroom (we call it her playroom since she still sleeps in the nursery). OOhhh I love this transformation so much. I am dreadfully sorry you cannot see the beautiful curtains I also sewed for the windows, but take my word. Delicious.

#3 The Fort. It actually has a little house up on top now, and we'll also be adding a little pretend store front in the "basement" soon. We're going to paint it to match the house. And put a flag on it, and a pulley, and some rope ladders, and a slide... what else? Suggestions?

It's no wonder I need to accomplish, at this time of year when I am about to fail, where the life, in retrospect, is about to be sucked out of me all in one breath. This is the time where I need every ounce of energy to tell myself, convince myself that yes, you can do, you can make.

There's really nothing like the failure to produce a live child. You can ask any mother who has walked in these shoes. Whether her baby died early in the pregnancy, or in infancy from complications. Even though we know, in most cases, that our bodies were vessels in which a mistake, or an accident, or a twist of fate occurred, we cannot help but feel completely, solely accountable for what happened.

When Charlotte first died, it came to me in waves that were more surface, slightly less deep. She was still in my belly. I was plunged into shock. My first instinct was to feel as if I had led all these people on, as if I had lied to them. I had tricked them into thinking I would provide them with a granddaughter, a niece, a baby to hold. It would not happen. I called them, my heart sunken into my big toe, and told them. "It's not good news. Our baby died. I haven't had it (her) yet". I felt like I was reluctantly admitting a truth I had been hiding, as if it had all been too good to be true all along.

When Charlotte was born, this shifted immensely: it was no longer a trick, but my own failure as a mother. Here she was, unblemished and beautiful, and without life. Somehow, my body, which had created and sustained her, had missed out on this final, most important step: bringing her forth alive. Everybody else I knew hadn't had trouble with this step. But for some reason, I had. I felt shamed, embarrassed, that I would have to admit this shortcoming, and to boot in the depths of my misery. I would have to face my family and friends, empty armed, and then try to meet their eyes. It seemed impossible.

Greg would get frustrated, sad at me. "Why do you do this to yourself?" he would plead. "Just don't go there, don't think that. You know it's not your fault."
But I do know it's not my fault. It's just that I won't ever feel that it's not my fault, and there is a big difference between those two four letter words. I have thought this, and said this, over and over again: "If there was one person in the world who could have known that something was wrong, it was me. If there was to be just one person who could save her, it would be me. I did not."

And so, this May, in anticipation of my greatest failure, my subliminal error, my mistake that could never have been prevented, I am creating: I am trying to make beauty and fun and sound that can act as a balm on my still throbbing wound.

I can't find any words that can actually tell anybody what this feels like, this being five years away from the day my life became new and different. A few people have called, asking me, how am I doing. I don't even know what to say. I am cranky at times, irritable, feeling sad sometimes, frantic at others, and joyously happy in between.

Last night, I was only a combination of those bad things. I couldn't figure out what I wanted, what I needed, or what I should do. We were getting ready to go upstairs. As we turned out the last light, before climbing up, Greg grabbed me, and wrapped me in a fierce, long hug in the dark of our kitchen. He let me just lay down my head and breathe in the quiet, dark smell of him, and he didn't say a word. We stood there for quite some time. It was just right.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Today is May 5th. I know you know that. Today is my due date. 5 years ago today, my great friend Beth and I went out for breakfast at Sylvester's Restaurant. She was also due that day. We were so happy together. We ate eggs and laughed and waddled out of there wondering "if we would see each other again" before our babies were born. We did not.

We landed in the hospital at almost the same time, she just one day earlier than me. Her son, Henry, had his cord wrapped three times around his neck, and his heart started to fluctuate when her contractions got serious. They did a cesarean. He was born, alive, almost ten pounds, and beautiful. His father called me that day, which was on the evening of the day I call "last day", before my life ended. Peter told me of the love that had swooped in and set upon them that morning when Henry's birth cry echoed through the delivery room. He told me how magnificent and unimaginable it was. "You have so much to be excited for. It's so amazing," he told me. I believed him. I knew it would be just as he said.

That night, as I went to my prenatal yoga class at the hospital, I searched out their car in the hospital. I left them a note under their windshield. I don't remember what it said, but I know it meant, "I can't wait to join you." I was anxious to catch up.

The only problem was, my daughter's cord, wrapped around her torso and under her arm, did not tolerate even the early stages of labor, and when I arrived at the hospital, less than 24 hours after Henry's birth, Charlotte was dead. We sent the nurse down the hall to share with them our bad news. Later, Beth told me that she lay on her side in her hospital bed, staring at Henry and weeping without stopping, her heart breaking as she held the very thing I had lost. She wanted to run down the hall and hold us, but could not.

What might not be the expected end to this story is how their family is now our family here in Western Massachusetts, how we share holidays together, how Liam has grown to quickly become Henry's best friend, filling Charlotte's shoes in that regard. Beth, despite the fact that she had exactly what I lost, supported me greatly through my grief. I think it was because she knew just what I was missing that she never, ever, once underestimated the depth of my pain, and the importance of my loss. And for me, knowing that she had met me because of Charlotte, I knew she could not, and would not, ever forget my first baby girl.
We have each had another little girl, her Margaret only a few months older than Aoife. Every May, she calls me to make sure that Henry's birthday party does not conflict with anything we are doing for Charlotte. Her heart is beautiful.

And I love Henry. I love him so much, for the love he gives to our family, for the way he always remembers Charlotte, and for the friendship he offers Liam. He and Liam are so perfect for each other, both sensitive, sweet boys, but boys to the core: loving tractors, trains, and farming. They love to get muddy together and play fire station and mining and they entertain each other endlessly. He is so special to my family, and I know to Charlotte, because I can't help but think that she and Henry passed each other on their way down, maybe holding hands for a minute before she let him go, and perhaps her love for him helped her to choose a perfect little friend for him to join him 11 months later. I'll never know.

Friday, May 2, 2008

May 2nd

A view of our Charlotte garden, and the tree beneath which Charlotte's placenta is planted. It is a flowering plum and it blooms for all of May. The stone, which Greg made, reads:
Charlotte Amelia
We love you
May 13, 2003
So it's May 2nd. I was already on my maternity leave, I had been since the 18th of April, unofficially. We had April Vacation from the 18th for 9 days, then I came back to work to write papers for 4 days, and actually, today, May 2nd, was my last real day with the kids. Of course, when I "left" on April 18, I had told them that I would "try" to come for MayDay, which was the celebration that took place on this day, this second of May, but I wasn't sure if the baby might already be born... little did I know. So I showed up on this MayDay (a beautiful celebration of spring at my old school), and I watched the adorable, beautiful kids exchange their sweet May baskets that I had helped them to make. I watched them wrap the Maypole, and teared up at the beautiful singing. I was so rosy and round, so huge and wonderfully full of life as I greeted all the parents and reminded them that the due date was on Monday and told them that I felt great. It was sunny, and warm, and it was the first day where I felt hot and pregnant and wanted to give birth.

In the afternoon I went to the doctor. I met with Joanna the midwife. It was lovely. "The baby" kicked on command, the heart was beating strong, I measured fine. I was 40 weeks. Yeah. Things looked fine, great, super. They actually were. Were they?

Maybe they weren't. When we met with the pathologist, she said it looked like Charlotte's cord had been compressed for some time, possibly even weeks. She said that for many babies, their cords do get partially compressed, but like an asthmatic that can cope moderately well with a limited oxygen supply, similarly babies can and do thrive with a compromised oxygen supply. However, it sometimes happens, she explained, that there is an "event" during which the baby can no longer tolerate the oxygen deprivation. For Charlotte, it was my water breaking. It was the act of being born, the only way she could get away from that cramped, squashed place, that ended her life. So perhaps, on that beautiful Mayday, when I looked so beautiful, and I felt so fine, and even appeared so fine to my midwife, my baby was already suffocating inside of me. I can't ever feel certain that she wasn't.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Today, and May.

Greetings and Salutations.

No sign of crankiness today. I had a good mother day. I really did. I felt like all my interactions with my kids were calm, thoughtful, and productive. I don't really feel that way on most days, even though I usually do feel that I tried my best.

The ironic part is, we could have had a doozer of a day. I made an appointment to take them to be photographed at JC Penney. I actually love the cheezy, posed pictures, which of course I only get around to doing about every year, but somehow having the line-up of posed, thoughtful photos with pure white backgrounds appeals to my sense of tracking time. So off we went to... THE MALL. Which the children probably haven't been to since last February (the last photo shoot). I brought them, shamelessly, lots of junk food. It worked like a charm. When Aoife started to melt down and didn't want to stand on the red light, I took Charlotte's little stuffed bunny which I had brought and hid a little M&M in his ear. She knelt down and searched for it, and looked up, delighted, when she found it. Voila. When the shoot was over we had to wait half an hour so I went up to Target to buy some white T-shirts, which I am planning to decorate for Charlotte's birthday. (each family member will get one, stating the relationship: Charlotte's little sister, Charlotte's daddy, etc.) When we returned, I had to look at the photos on the computer and choose and order them. Lollipops did the trick. Half an hour strapped into the carriage with four big, round, blue eyes staring at me in amazement while they sucked desparately at the coveted sugar product in their hand, as if it might be taken away at any moment. I love candy for this reason. It so serves its purpose when I choose to use it. So it all went well. No real tantrums. Aoife is getting her 2 year molars, and she is an awful, slow teether. It took 5 months for her to completely cut all 4 of her first molars so this could be the beginning of a long summer.

Not that I am complaining. You realize this, though, don't you.

Now, here is the truth. Already two people have mentioned this to me. I woke up this morning, looked up at the same ceiling, the fan, out the window into the treetops, but something felt different.

It is May. May, May, May.

Starting on Saturday, I can tell you everything I did five years ago for the entire month. And not because I wrote it down. Because it got burned into my head. This year the days of the week are actually coordinated with the days in 2003 so it is going to be so completely and awfully obvious to me what I was doing (and not doing) as each day passes leading up to the day when it will be too late, and all will be lost, and my daughter will be dead once again. In a bizarre way this chunk of May represents hope, it was the time when she could have been saved. By my period calculations May 1st would have been my due date, although since I had a longer cycle then they adjusted it to the 5th, so here we are, really actually exactly 40 weeks already from LMP, and she's in there, still alive, and I have no idea that she is about to die. I always think about that, about how they adjusted my due date, and if they hadn't, I would have gotten to have my non-stress test the week before and maybe they would have seen something. Maybe. And maybe not. And whenever I think stuff like that, I can feel my brain just turning and running, fast and hard, away from that thought, because the thought that actually, something might have been done to save her, is almost awful at this point. To think that something might have been done, and wasn't, is almost worse than thinking that there was nothing that could have been done. It is preferable to be helpless, than to be at fault or negligent.