Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And let this be the last paragraph of the last post, which was left out as I laid down my head, exhausted and sad, upon my keyboard:

I realized then, that none of this would happen, because this was what I was to let go: a daughter, a child, my future. It was going up in a sudden puff of smoke, and I was to be devastated for a long, long time from it. It would take months to plow through the ashes to find some semblance of normal.

I never could have planned or guessed how truly sad I would be until I met her.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The In-Between

I was reminded of this, in reading my new book of choice (see below).

There was this strange moment in my history in which Charlotte disappeared altogether, and this was the period of time between the moment the doctor looked into my eyes and said, "I'm afraid so" (this in answer to my unbelieving query... my baby is dead?) and the moment when the midwife wiggled out her real-baby shoulders. It was a dissociation of sorts, my only-human brain's incapacity to deal with the sudden change of plans.

My first thoughts were things like... But the car seat! We have a car seat in our car. What will we do with it? And The nursery? The crib was so difficult to set up, will we really have to take it down? Lost between the lines of the flatlined heartbeat were the child still in my womb, the dream that had just minutes ago been snatched from beneath my feet. It was as if my baby were simply gone from my life, leaving not a trace behind.

As my thoughts moved to the family and friends I would have to tell, my heart did begin to break, because I felt guilty. They would not be getting their baby after all. Imagine how disappointed they would be! To have expected this baby for so long, and now I would leave them with nothing. I hastened to tell the news to a select few; I knew that if I waited too long to say the words they would stick in my throat and never come out. Thankfully, they offered to call everyone I knew, and the word spread like a snowball going down a fast winter's hill: Carol's baby died. It hasn't been born yet. They don't know why.

Later, in the delivery room, I schemed how we would piece together a life. We'd have to put together dinner parties, because surely our friends would fear us now, this would be the only way to lure them back into our childless life, the only way to re-establish ourselves in the world of the couple without children. Perhaps this summer we would travel, and I imagined visiting the south of France again, perhaps staying in the tiny village we had visited when we were younger, biking and soaking up warm sunshine and laughing at the tourists to take our mind off the things we didn't want to think about. There were places we hadn't visited yet, perhaps we should grab at this opportunity of freedom and just go.

My family members came, saw me, and returned to the solarium to wait for the baby to come. When they came in, they cried, but I did not. I looked round, and healthy, and beautifully pregnant. They knew the baby was dead. I did not know there was a baby anymore. It was too much to take in.

The labor and even into the pushing, right up to the final stages, were surreal. I was an actress, I was practicing the art of childbirth. I was experiencing a fruitless birth, walking the motions of labor and delivery with nothing to show for my efforts.

Then came the head, and the shoulders, and suddenly it clicked in my mind, the puzzle pieces marvellously put together all at once; visions of Europe and dinner parties whirling and swirling down the drain as I realized the one real truth about that day: I did still have a baby. I was, in fact, giving birth for real.

And there she was. Perfect, real, and mine. She was back, the baby I had dreamed of for eight-and-a-half months, lying on my belly, perfect, slimy, full-headed, gorgeous, and still.

Love exploded.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Creation of a Sister

It's happening to her, just the same as it did to him, maybe even at the same age.

She sits at the table tonight, intently devouring her supper when she lays down her fork. She tips her head to the side, regards me, and says it in a fake-crying voice.

I'm sad because I miss Charlotte.

She sniffles a little bit.

I'm sad because Charlotte isn't here.

I look at her, kindly, lay my hand on her back. I think about how, for the whole two years and seven months of her life, she has seen evidence of this phantom-sister, has heard that this Charlotte has "died", and has not known whatsoever what any of this means.

Suddenly, it's lining up. I see, she says to herself, it's making sense. This person is missing from our family, and I'm part of this family, so I am also supposed to miss her.

So she practices this missing her, and she's only two, so she doesn't yet know what she's missing out on.

Some day she'll dream what it is she's missing, and I know she will feel sad. For now she is just trying it on.

It makes me weep a little.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Book

And have you read this new one?

Elizabeth McCracken

An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination

I swear to you, it is eerie. I have this SAME manuscript in two spiral bound notebooks here in my office, minus the part about being in France. It is very bizarre.

My girl...

Nothing truly comes without struggle, does it. We qualify certain things and let others pass but when it comes down to it not much in life is truly easy.

I would put mothering into this category, really and truly.

I often think of this, how I "wanted" to be a mother before Charlotte was born. I had always "loved" babies and kids, and I longed to have children of my own. I thought I longed.

Truly what I did was dream, and feel warm and grounded at the thought of a newborn that would actually be mine. It felt amazing and surreal to imagine that I could accomplish that great feat of reproduction that had always felt so far-away and intangible.

Of course, the first time around, it turns out I was not able to truly accomplish that goal, was I.

And that in itself made me want to be a mother, long to be a mother, in a way that is difficult to even write about. It was more than a longing, a desperation, a hunger. I had held in my arms this beautiful thing, this remarkable love that brushed against me like a lizard's quick tongue: there and then gone. There and then gone? A mother, and then not a mother. A baby is there, she is mine, and then she is gone.

I felt it, I felt that surge of disbelief and primal love and protectiveness, and then the baby was gone, as if I had never been a mother in the first place.

(and was I?)

Then began the new wanting. The true wanting to be a mother. There was this calling, I could feel it deep in the beating of my heart, I needed to have a baby. I needed to raise one. This was what I was made to do. There was nothing sweet and easy about it, and I had to have it. This was true desperation.

I achieved my goal, my two beating hearts walk around all day, they laugh and giggle, they make music and sing and ask incredibly deep questions and have passions of their own. I am doing it-- for real-- I have produced these babies and they are growing to be children and I am part of it. It is all of me, for now.

It was hard, in the beginning, to admit the struggles. When Liam was born he didn't latch on properly for days, by then my nipples were cracked and sore and my breasts were engorged. Then he got thrush, and the cracks turned into huge sores. He began to bite instead of suck, because it hurt his tongue to suck. This caused more pain. For seven weeks we tried to find a solution to this problem, to the raging yeast that we were passing back and forth, to the huge, bloody sores, to the lack of proper latch and suck due to the soreness in his mouth. Finally, when he was almost eight weeks, I nursed him one day and it didn't hurt. I wasn't hunched over and stiff and tearing up from the sharp, shooting pains. We had come over the hump.

In this instance, I believe, my insistence on how very much I wanted this kept me going: I had spilled milk for one dead baby, and I would nurse this one through hell or highwater. But there were other moments where my grief sent me into a confused tailspin; wondering whether I was truly made for mothering after all.

The nights went like this with Liam: nurse for one hour, sleep for forty-five minutes. Nurse for one hour, sleep for one hour. Nurse for one hour, sleep for half an hour. Keep in mind the bleeding ulcers on my nipples. There were nights where I would lean back on the bed, tears streaming from my face, my entire body trembling and quaking with sheer exhaustion, willing myself to keep holding onto him and not just stand up and walk out the front door without stopping. I would look at him, his tiny little face nursing contentedly on my ravaged breast, and I would feel love for him, but I would want him to stop, and I really wanted to put him back in his basket so I could sleep.

Then I would be tormented: isn't this exactly what I wanted? Isn't this what I asked for? Don't you want to feel like you deserve this? BE A GOOD MOTHER. Show Charlotte what you're made of.

And I know that's not true, that I can miss her and feel worthy of Liam and still want some shut-eye.


I am thinking of this primarily because my doll of a two year old girl has been having me run in circles lately. She is fragile, despondant, irritable, demanding, irrational, needy, and independent all at the same time. Every now and then I get a giggle out of a child who, three months ago, smiled all day long and cried only when she was hurt. It is breaking my heart to see her struggling through the crisis of being two-and-a-half, sleep deprived and cutting molars, constantly frustrated with me and constantly too frustrated (and perhaps overtired) to put her precocious verbal skills to good use and tell me what she needs to be happy.

So you know what? Here's the truth of that. This isn't all that much fun. Being with Aoife is like walking on eggshells, because you never know when you are going to send her off the deep end. Sometimes she cries because she needs help, other times she cries because you have helped her. Sometimes she cries because she is hungry, other times because you have given her food and she doesn't want to eat. I am never sure, at any moment, whether the thing I am about to do will make her happy or furious.

It is peculiar, indeed, as I found her to be a much more even-tempered and mostly always happy baby than Liam was (although he has always been good tempered as well) but this two-ness seems somehow more severe than his was.

Still, I do remember crying to Greg one night, when Liam was in the thick of this himself and I also had a six month old Aoife to care for; I said to Greg, I hardly enjoy spending time with him anymore, we fight all day long. So I know it happened, and I know that now he is just the most amazing little friend I could ever hope to spend my day with. So this too shall pass.

(us Thursday while Liam rode in the chopper)
In the meantime, I will cherish the hugs and kisses that I get, and try to unlock the key to happiness for my sad girl. I love her so much, and I just miss the happy little chipper girl that she used to be. There is a very huge piece of me that knows that it's just right that I'm not expecting a baby this winter, that my little girl is needing me right now and that it is going to be just the right thing for her that she's getting an extra year (or more?) of time as my baby when she needs it most.

Oh, remember this? (of course you don't, but I do... she NEVER stopped smiling).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I have so much on my mind, ideas whirling and swirling and seeping from my eyes and ears and fingertips. There's prophesy and wisdom somewhere in them, I'm sure, but what you are going to get is just a bunch of junk. As I sit here my eyelids are drooping, my breathing is slow and warm, my back is curled, I have two sweaters on and I'm truly almost asleep. I just can't devote the space that I need to write GOOD writing, and I feel tired of writing things that seem sub-par. (to me)

So instead I will just post some photographs of late, of a crisp, blue fall morning today (and a shot of the new two-wheeler: actually, as Liam explains, a four wheeler) and I hope you enjoy them.
Jumping on the hay bales...
The little shiny head of my boy chopping corn with his best big pal

Monday, October 20, 2008

The days are long and full as I push forward to make a very exciting thing happen. In just three weeks, I am putting on a presentation for all the people in the "birth world" here in Western MA (I say this as IF they are all going to come). Little old I, with the assistance of this amazing fund that has accrued through the generosity of many local families, am flying out this wonderful, thoughtful, compassionate and most of all knowledgable speaker to present a seminar called, "Compassionate Caregiving when a Baby Dies." Cathi Lammert is the executive director of Share, which is one of the biggest national infant/pregnancy loss support groups. She has been in this "business" for over twenty five years, since her son Christopher died. She is also a nurse and has walked this road with so many hundreds of families she is just an amazing wealth of information, thoughts, and experiences.
I have put so much thought into planning this seminar so that people will actually come to it. We are doing it at two different times, on two different days, to make it more available to nurses who work different shifts. I have tried to send our publicity everywhere I can. I wavered between making it free, which I could afford to do, but was advised that people are more likely to skip out on the day of for something they haven't paid for. So I made it cheap, and as it will provide nurses particularly with professional development points, hopefully that will be a lure. In addition I am offering three "scholarship" spots for every OB or midwifery practice in the area. But I am so afraid nobody will come. Here I am, flying this woman from St Louis, and she has SO MANY amazing, important ideas for these people, and maybe they will just recycle the flyer.
I spoke of this fear to Cathi, who said, If one person comes it will be worth it, because one person will help their next loss patient more compassionately. And I know that she is right. But I want a lot of people to come. I want them to come so that others will get better care, but truly I desperately want them to come because I want to see that SOMEBODY cares about perinatal loss. I want to see that somebody is actually trying to become more educated on the subject, and that they feel it is a worthy expense of their time.
Nursing schools as well as medical schools literally barely touch on this subject. To me, this is appalling. The families who bring babies home will barely remember their nurses. The families whose babies die will see their nurse's face for the rest of their life. They will hang on every word, verbatim. Their care will significantly impact their entire grief experience and, therefore, the rest of their LIFE. And this is unimportant?
I am just really hoping that people come. If you are in the Western MA vicinity and know anyone in the birth world (midwives, doulas, OBs, nurses, etc) please consider sending them my way this November. I am truly hoping for a success.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Liam has a new bike.

An aquamarine "American Cycle".

He and Greg made a special trip last Wednesday night, trashless, to the dump to pick it out. It is truly a retro beauty. He is in love.

As we lit the candle last night, after a gorgeous fall day of hiking and bikeriding, we lamented the fact that Charlotte isn't here to hike with us and play with us.

"Charlotte would be five", Liam commented, and we nodded.

"She'd probably love to ride bikes with you," I told him.

There was a silence.

"Charlotte can't ride a bike because she died," he said, and we sadly agreed.

"Maybe she can ride a star," he said. His voice was hopeful, not wanting his sister to miss out on the thing he loves best.
We nodded, our eyes large.

I wish I believed in heaven.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Do you ever have that wonderful, thrilling realization that you are the one who makes the rules?

So this is the truest truth about me; I have a lovely, huge sweet tooth that I would never ever deny. I love to have dessert. I have not tried to shield my children from their own sweet teeth too much, knowing they would inevitably be there, and instead have rationalized that if every week or two we make a batch of something tasty, at least I know what form of sugar they're eating.

But this afternoon we ate the last cookie. After bedtime, I wondered what I would do: no sweets. There was some vanilla ice cream, but no hot fudge. Then I remembered: The halloween candy! I had bought two bags of Reeses peanut butter cups to donate to the library for our community trick-or-treating up at the town center.

This was where I got this thrill: It's my house! I can do whatever I want with that candy, including eating it. So I took out the ice cream, softened a nice bowl of it, and mashed up two peanut butter cups. It is so delicious I can hardly even describe it.

And can you imagine what I would have said if my son had proposed the same idea? I would have laughed him down, Oh, honey, those peanut butter cups are for HALLOWEEN, we couldn't possibly eat them beforehand! Besides, that would be WAY too much sugar.

But fortunately for me, I make the rules, and I have in my house a fabulous double-standard that says that after my children are tucked into their beds I get to eat whatever lovely sweets I want to.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

In a dark, dark house...

Last night I was reading way too late into the night. It wasn't intentional, just one of those nights where everyone else was asleep and I kept accidentally reading the first two sentences of the next chapter, which stretched into the whole chapter, and into the next. The house was so quiet and still.

Suddenly, there was a sound: something falling onto the hardwood floor downstairs, something jingly, almost like a set of keys. I couldn't place what it was. The rabbit was in his cage, the cat in the basement for the night. It was unmistakeable, like something being dropped. Knocked. As if a person, an appirition was climbing through my house in the night.

I froze, and then regrouped. Tried to imagine something that had been precarious finally giving way to gravity. Reminded myself what it might have sounded like, in my silent home, had someone broken open a door or a window or wiggled their way out of the creaky basement door that has a chain latch (for the cat/kids). Remembered that there was actually nobody there, just my deeply exhausted and anciently traumatized brain playing mean tricks on me.

I continued to read, and then turned out the light. As the darkness fell over my exhausted body, I remembered the noise, and the maybe-somebody downstairs. Imagined them thinking my children were so beautiful, padding gently down the hall, grabbing their sleeping forms with a cloth over the mouth and nose and running out of the house, away. I was unable to stop the imagery flashing before my eyes, of my child's eyes, wild with fear as strangers took him from his home. Terror engulfed me.

I knew my fears were irrational, but I could not make them go away. I tiptoed down the hall and turned on the monitor on Aoife's crib. It has a motion sensor on it (oh, and how I lived for this thing with my kids, because if they stop breathing it will BEEP) so I figured if someone tried to silently abduct her, the alarm would sound. Then I went and crept into bed with Liam, wrapping myself quietly around his sleeping form, resting my forehead against his sweaty little brow. My arms were around his body, they could not snatch him without taking me down, too. I thought to myself, I would die before I would let them take my child, I would die.

And I would.

The strategy did not work. I was still too scared, too worked up. Some windows have no latches, the upstairs phone does not dial properly so how were we going to call 911? Finally I could not take this ridiculous scenario for one more minute. It was almost midnight. I woke Greg up.
I have to go downstairs to make sure nobody is in this house, I said, and I need you to stay awake until I come back up just in case I don't come back.

He nodded, humoring me.

I went down, looking in every closet, under the clawfoot tub, behind the furnace. Everywhere the kidnapper could conceive to hide himself. I checked the locks, and closed the baby gates on my way back up the stairs. The house was secure.
I kissed the children one more time and succumbed to a deep sleep. All that worry had worn me out.

This morning I awoke and almost laughed. What a drama I had engaged in, just me and my imagination late at night in the quiet house. But I entitle myself to these momentary and fleeting mental health crises, where my pain and grief become swept up in fear of something worse, of feelings of loss I cannot relive again.

Monday, October 13, 2008

So you're probably wondering if Joanna did indeed have a little baby that night...

I think she wishes she had given birth that night, but it wasn't until almost 36 hours after my dream that sweet Jojo delivered her beautiful son Elijah, after over two days of labor. So I had felt her laboring vibes somehow in my sleep, but had the baby all mixed up in my mind.

It was a long wait for me who sat by the phone after calling and not hearing back, wondering and hoping that everything was going to be okay, reminding myself that I would be the first to hear if everything was not okay. And it was. Perhaps I'll inscribe his name onto a little rock and bring it to them, to rejoice in his birth and his life.

I went to see them today and just wept and wept, for their beautiful little family and this beautiful little baby.

My favorite thing about little babies? The fuzz on their faces, on their little squishy foreheads. That you can kiss and it is truly like the down on a little baby chick. I just drown in it.

Two babies in a week, and the first babies that have come into my life in almost two years. I love the feel of them so much and can't help wondering if I will ever feel that of my own flesh again. I crave it so deeply.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


It is early, 6:30 but it feels like 5:30 because the darkness still sits so heavy under an overcast sky. I awoke half an hour ago to the deepest dream which I must document, I am so curious to see whether it will come true in some form.

Joanna is one of my dearest friends, and she is now 8 days past due for her first baby. Oh, and the story is long, we'll sum it up to say this baby is so long awaited for and anticipated, and I am hoping beyond all of my dearest hopes that everything goes beautifully and smoothly for her.

So it has not been unusual for me to dream what happens. The other day I wondered about Joanna, and I thought, she could be having her baby right now. But then I reconsidered, somehow. No, I decided, I will dream of it when the baby comes. Here is what happened, just now in my head, whirling and fresh from the night's sleep.

I am in a kitchen somewhere with my friend Beth and our children. It is a strange, bluey-green color and full of light. We are working on a project and there are cardboard boxes everywhere. Our children are there, but occupied. The phone rings, and it is Joanna. Beth answers, and at first, their conversation is simply normal: then I hear Beth say something about her having a girl. I grab the phone.


Of course the exact dialogue is lost to me, but I hear this: Remember the day you said would be a good day?
Yes, I remember. October 9th, and in real life I had said this to Joanna, that many wonderful people that I know have this as a birthday, the ninth of October.
Well, she says, At four o'clock this morning I looked down and pushed out the little head of Leigh."

A girl? Here? Named Leigh? But I hadn't heard quite right. What's her name?

DuFris, she answers, which of course rhymes with Leigh and is a rather strange name for a little girl, I am thinking, but I exclaim, Oh, that's beautiful!

This huge gush of relief flows over me, and I can hardly believe it's true.

Scene Two- In the car

As these things often do, suddenly I am somewhere else, in the backseat of a car driving alongside a lake. The driver is a woman who used to teach fifth grade at the school I was at, the passenger her son, and the other two passengers are other teachers (all people I worked with when I had Charlotte). I am in the back right seat. The people in the back with me keep falling asleep, and out of the corner of my eye, when I see them dozing, I mistakenly think they are the drivers and begin to panic. This happens several times.
Suddenly, we pull out into a wide plain, which is edged with steep little mountains. It's a wildlife preserve, and there are hyenas, wildebeasts, monkeys, rhinos. All in wide, fenced in pens. I wonder if my children would enjoy this. Suddenly I remember Joanna, and I turn to the little girl who is suddenly on my lap.

She is a five year old, blonde girl. She is on my lap, looking out the window, and my arms are tightly around her waist. In the dream, she is Joanna's daughter. I have to confirm with her, I can hardly beleive that this good news is true.

"Did your mama have her baby?" I ask. The little girl nods. I ask what her name is, hoping to confirm or clear up the strange name I think I have heard over the phone.

"She has to do the stone now" says the little girl.
In my mind, I am picturing a small little rock, and Joanna or a person scratching in the stone with another rock, making a brief little etching.

"What is the stone?" I ask.

"It's the stone where they put her name, because she's not dead."

This makes sense to me in the dream, and I have this picture of the family scratching the baby's name on this rock and adding it to a circle of rocks in their backyard, a ritual of life that has been completed.

I emerge from the dream. Three things swirl in my mind.

The baby is here.

The baby is alive.

Who is the little girl who brought me that dream?


I am so curious to see what today brings, if I will indeed get news about my dear friend's baby. And as my children are still asleep (!!!6:42!) I will go on to tell about another dream that once woke me.

My dear friend Katia was pregnant, and I woke at 5:40 one January morning remembering that she had called me in my dream to say she had given birth to a baby boy, named McCall. I got out of bed to go to the bathroom, thinking of McCall and baby boys and then returned to sleep.

As I slept, then, I dreamed that I saw her, and I told her about my dream and the baby boy named McCall.

I did have my baby, she said, but it's not a boy. It's a little girl, and I've named her Aster.

I woke up, corrected. I puzzled over the two names my brain had invented. McCall, and then Aster. Aster was almost pretty, I thought of the little flowers in the fall with that name and I looked it up in the dictionary; the greek word for star.

One hour later I couldn't wait any longer. I picked up the phone and called Katia.

Her sister answered the phone. Katia was in the hospital. At 6:00 that morning, she had given birth to a little girl, and named her Stella. The latin word for Star.


Less than a month ago, I dreamed that I ran into an old friend. Our friendship fell apart when Charlotte died, sadly. I felt unsupported, she had crises of her own, and somehow it dissolved: she is literally the only good friend I have ever fallen out of touch with. Getting back in touch seems awkward; so much time has passed, the emotions aren't hot anymore but so much of my life has gone by and changed. She now lives in Colorado. So my dream is this:

I am walking down the street, and I bump into Chandra. Literally.

I don't know what to say, I tell her. I don't know what to say.

I'm thinking, do I say, are you mad at me? What happened? Can we talk? Let's try again? But I don't know where to start.

I wake up and later that day call a mutual friend and tell her of my dream. I really don't know what I'd say, I tell her.

Two days later, I am early for a date in town with Greg. The kids are in the car and the weather, which had been rainy all day, has cleared. Suddenly, I decide to walk to the restaurant, pulling off Main Street onto a random side street a quarter mile from the restaurant. Remarkably, there is one parking spot. I pull into it. I get out, and I'm getting the stroller out of the back of my car, when I hear a voice.


I turn around, and she is standing on the sidewalk behind me. My old friend, who now lives in Denver, who I have not seen since two days before Liam's birth, who I dreamed about bumping into two nights earlier. Chandra is there, in my town, right behind where I suddenly, randomly decided to park my car.

I walked across the street and met her eye.

I prophesied this, I told her. Two nights ago I dreamed that I bumped into you on the street and I didn't know what to say.

Do you? She asked.

No, I answered. And I hugged her, and ended up spending the whole evening with her. It was perhaps the only way our friendship could have been saved, and it was.


I will keep you posted about Joanna.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

peace at last

Of course, you now know if you read her blog, that the mystery friend is Erin, Birdie's Mama.

She is so special to me.

I have looked at this picture a million times since I took it, of Erin and her Birdie's name and photo and her little sweet Holdyn lying across her chest, fitting so perfectly and reaching towards Birdie's face. It makes me so happy.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Keeping in mind...

I am still rocking in the joy of new arrival, and trying to ground myself with these images:

myself there, in the hospital bed, with my two babies, my two infants, my living newborns.

Trying to remember breathing in their wet little heads, and kissing their swollen little mouths.

Knowing that that primal, basal love I had for them in those days where they suckled and groped and rooted and I went along with it all, desperate to dig to the bottom of what they needed and solve it all.

These are good, warm feelings to keep me afloat through these times, where the terrible-twoness I thought maybe was going to pass us by has reared up with a wicked vengeance. This has all corresponded perfectly with Aoife's abrupt and decided end to napping, end to diapers, and the emergence (bloody and bruised) of the two-year molars. My kids are the slowest, most excruciating teethers. Each one takes a few weeks, they come one at a time, so we're looking at a good three months probably, all told, of bloody toothbrushes and tylenol on -demand. And I give it, I feel so sorry for her. But this is all to say that our days together have been, how shall I say, difficult. There are those fleeting moments where I have to give myself a little pinch and say, remember, you love this child, somewhere deep down where you can't see right now. Because it's really hard sometimes.

Even my cool-tempered four year old has, in the past few days, had his moments of exhausted temper tantrums. Just flying into a wilted heap of tears, angry and depleted, and no doubt also affected by the hormonal mess of a sister he has before him, a new creature who is lying on the ground, screaming as loud as she can (as in screaming, not sobbing) and kicking her feet because she wanted raspberries in her rice krispies so I put them in but then she didn't want them so I obligingly took them out and now she wants them in.

We were on our way home from school when we realized we had forgotten the corn chopper he'd brought in for show-and-tell; it was left in his cubby as we ferried out children and artwork and the jackets from morning playtime. He melted into a puddle in his carseat, crying and carrying on, truly sad that his chopper was gone. Then, he asked me to turn around, and I explained that school was over, and so no. And then the piteous weeping morphed into a wailing, cranky tantrum of anger that I wouldn't go back and get it. So I explained, in my best calm voice, again, that the school was closed, the teachers had gone home, and the door was locked. The crying continued, wailing, yelling, kicking my seat crying. Seven minutes elapsed. I turned on the radio, pretty loud, gripped the wheel until my knuckles were white. Thought happy thoughts. Tried to remember that I love him so much, thought about his sweetness and his curiousity, and then it became too much. My arm jerked out, shut off the music, and a sound emerged from my throat: BE QUIET! It sounded like a snarl, like a wild, angry animal. It was me. I admit it.

The past week or so has felt a lot like getting by, in the times when I'm alone with the kids, and I don't like the idea that I'm just getting by, without really savoring or having fun. But this is the truth of it, that even if your first baby is dead and all you want to do is savor and enjoy and appreciate every single moment of parenting, awake or asleep, sometimes it's just a hard job that you do. And at those times, that primal, animal love that keeps you going makes you take a deep breath, remember how quickly kids change, and look at them in the eye and talk in your calmest voice. Okay, not always the calmest possible voice, but we try, right?

(look how cute they used to be. REMEMBER THIS)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Joy is Here

The phone rang as I was making my daughter's birthday cake.
Of course I was feeling emotional with the baking, the decorating. It had been one year, and the birth sat fresh in my mind, the day of labour replaying itself again and again as I watched the numbers on the clock change.
And then, midway through the afternoon, the telephone rang in my silent house.

I answered it, and she was there on the other end.

It was me on the phone, another version of me. She was alone in her house, belly slack, breasts swollen with milk. Photographs of her once-future life surrounded her, black and white and color and still; yet as lifelike as her baby ever had been. She was young, like me, left a childless mother with a heart too huge to know what to do next. I sank into a chair. Words flowed from my mouth like a faucet turned on too quickly; I was at once relieved and in despair to hear the voice of this woman living my same nightmare.

The months have ticked by, and she has watched me, smiling all the while, while I laugh and bathe and feed and care for the two children that have been my new-born hope, who have brought me the most amazing, irreplacable, particular joy while I sit in this place as bereaved mother with delightedly full hands.

Meanwhile hers were empty, and I was aware that seeing mine full brought her hope.

Joy has come.

This afternoon, I walked up the stairs to a hospital room and saw her, lying in a bed with the hospital johnny on, because she had needed a cesarean with her new-born baby, just as I had. The little baby lay across her bare breast, a tiny boy. He looked just like her daughter.

There she was again, another version of me: except this time, I could see on her face the joy, the beautiful, bittersweet, deep, indescribable joy that accompanies the most surreal event of birth after death. Her little baby slept quietly in her arms, unaware of the impact he had just made.

I walked into the room, and I saw her sweet husband first, and then as I rounded the corner I saw her, and I was overcome. I started to cry, and I took off my glasses, and I turned to set them on the table behind me. I started towards her again but I couldn't do it, it was simply too much for me to take in the sight of my dear friend with a baby in her arms and the baby himself all at once. I couldn't do the thing where you cry gently with a sweet look on your face, I needed to crumple and sob because I was so unbelivably happy for them and because seeing the stunned, sanctified expressions on their faces sucked me so fast back in time that I almost lost my balance.

I did it, though. I held on to the arm of the chair and I almost fell onto my dear friend and I hugged her as best I could with the little baby between us, and then I let my eyes fall and I saw his little face. I was crying so distractedly that the tears were falling on them, I almost felt those weren't my tears to be crying but they came anyhow. I know they didn't mind.

I sat with them for an hour and felt this gigantic peace: they had gone from this family that I related to immensely, who I cherished and loved but worried for, and felt protective of, to my equals. Like me, they had ridden around the circle of death and back into life, they had become parents by way of joy, without burying their pain.

My love for them is gigantic.

Photo to come.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Here are some things that people who aren't babylost never think twice about, but I do.

--Your answering machine. Hi, this is Carol, Greg, Liam, and Aoife. Please call us back!
Except that isn't my whole family, but Charlotte isn't here, so I can't include her, but I can't leave her out. So I can't say it. I just can't.

--Oh, you know Aoife. She's a typical second child. Except that she's my third.
(This really pertains to anything related to birth order or things having to do with numbers of children. It all makes my skin crawl. How many kids do you have, things relating to your first child, your oldest, etc. I just feel the pit of my stomach drop.)

--So, do you guys think you'll try for a third, or are you happy with two?
Arghhh.... I'd be happy with three, if only they were all alive.

-- To Liam: Draw a picture of your family.

--Bring in a picture of your family.

--On forms: names and birthdates of other siblings. (and I have to omit one. And it breaks my heart)

I have a date to sew now. So I won't write more. What are some of the things that make your skin crawl?