Monday, December 21, 2009

The Shortest Day

Ode to the dying light, which brings me back to the days of my childhood in Sanders Theatre...

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

by Susan Cooper

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Couldn't you just eat her? Really, though, there is this thing about a newborn baby where it's as if you can't get enough of them, you can't get closer to them. I remember a friend of mine saying he wanted to put his babies into his mouth, he just couldn't figure out how else to get them where he felt they were possibly close enough to his heart. And Fiona Clementine is one yummy girl.

Tonight, while my support group happens without me, I am scheming about how I can go back to it. I really, really want to go back. It absolutely feeds my soul and to boot, I have been taking this absolutely kickass Motherwoman Facilitator Training and I'm dying to put all my new ideas to work as soon as I go back. And also? I'm a control freak and I can't help but just wonder what's happening without me there. There's that.

And then there's Fiona Clementine. Who I obviously can't leave, obviously. I really want to try to acquire an invisibility cloak that I can just lay on top of her while she snoozes quietly in my lap. Hmm... I have this new plan, though, which might work better than the invisibility cloak. The next meeting isn't until the 27th of January, at which time my little bubs will be nearly 11 weeks old. Some people manage to go back to work by this time, and what I'm working on is trying to finagle a two hour support group meeting... and what I've come up with is that I need to bring someone with me, a chaperone for Fiona. We'll go upstairs to a nice lobby area I know of, and I'll nurse her, and the chaperone, armed with a working cellphone, will wrap her up on her/his chest nice and tight and start to take her for a nice walk in areas where no bereaved parents will see her. Then I'll run downstairs where Greg will have dutifully set up our meeting, and I'll run the meeting with my cellphone in my pocket, in case my sweet darling wakes up at all and needs her mama. In which case I could be to her in about 1 minute. And, geographically, I won't be more than a few hundred yards from her. I think I could handle that six weeks from now. I really think I could. Because I would be doing it for Charlotte. Historically, Charlotte is the only person who can help me to separate from my babies. The first time I left Liam and Aoife, in both cases, was to go to support group meetings because I felt like I had to carve out time in my life to be Charlotte time. And so, I shall do it again. I am posting it here and this will make it less likely that I will back down: next month it shall be, I will begin again.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Random thoughts at bedtime

How do you ever put her down? asks my hairdresser, as she is snipping away at my handsome little boy's tresses.
I don't, I tell her, and what she doesn't realize is that this is almost true.

It's not always me holding her, not always. But she is an up baby for sure, destined already not to sleep through the night until she is three or so, and I could care less. She rides in my moby wrap, she naps in the sling, and at night I cherish the long hours with her curled in my arms while we sleep together. She is so tiny and darling and amazing and irreplacable and I really don't, I really can't, put her down.

There are times, of course, where I must. The shower, for example. I simply can't hold her in the shower. So if Greg's not home (and I do sometimes let him hold his daughter for other reasons besides me showering) I will get Liam to hold her on my bed or sit with her while she is in her little seat, which we dragged up from the basement the day Greg went back to work last week. Even Aoife is trustworthy to sit with her on the couch, with a boppy pillow on her lap for safekeeping, while I do things in the kitchen (within reach and sight, of course!) that might not otherwise be condicive to babywearing.

So I like to hold her, and my parenting style is obviously one where I hold her a lot. But the thing that makes me different from maybe someone who reckons themself to be that kind of parent as well is the fact that I hold her to keep my blood pressure down, to calm my nerves, and to soothe my soul. If I'm not holding her, I feel my pulse quicken. I am instantly anxious without the feel of her on my body, even when I can see her across the room nestled in the arms of her ever-so-doting and loving father, I have to supress the urge to sit next to them and bury my head in her neck and breathe in her milky sweetness. I want her like a drug, I need her so desperately and I am so absolutely and completely satisfied by having her with me. She really does feel intoxicating to me. Are these hormones? Is it just love? The return of the infant to my life?

And I also just still am reeling, reeling, reeling... after the 15 months or more of never getting pregnant, thinking I would never have this child, and the 9 months of feeling sure she would never live, and the mystical, ethereal birth experience, it is still just a surprise to have this new child in my life. She looks just like the rest of them but she is fresh and new, with her own little personality emerging. Fiona is quiet and snuggly, and when she gets hungry she lets out a sharp cry-- almost like a quack or a bark-- and then goes quiet again. This quick, simple protest is her strategy for most things, she doesn't let things pass by unnoticed but doesn't feel compelled to fuss about them for longer than a quick mention. Her body is so lovely and calm, she lies quietly and peacefully almost all the time, melting into the body of whomever is holding her. She nurses quickly and messily, sometimes getting overwhelmed with the let-down and letting the milk overflow all over her face and all over me. Thus she is exceptionally milky and delicious to smell and even sometimes has the cutest little milk moustache to boot. She is starting to smile at us and her previously dark eyes are lightening up to a deep royal blue at the present.

And-- something that I think of now, and let myself think, because of who she is... I am so grateful that Aoife has a sister here on earth. I have two sisters, and I honestly don't know how I would get by without them. It absolutely broke my heart to think that Aoife's only sister was dead. While I mourn that she will not have her two sisters as I have mine, I am grateful that my girls will at least have each other as they grow together. And they will also have what I always longed for-- a handsome older brother! How could they be so lucky... How could I be so lucky. Lucky after all the bad luck. Imagine that.
Strangely I feel as if our family has gained back many of the things we lost along with our beautiful Charlotte. With the birth of Liam, we gained back the ability to be parents. With the birth of Aoife, we gained back the experience of having a daughter, and Liam was blessed with the experience of having a sister. Now with Fiona's birth, Aoife also will be able to know what it means to have a sister. For all of us to have these contexts in some ways means we only know more what we are missing. But it also allows us to dream more fully of what could have been, and I am grateful for this. I do miss our big sister so very much...
And I find myself sometimes having difficulty looking at the photos on our wall (which are everywhere) of me holding Charlotte in my arms. She is this beautiful little infant who so looks like her new baby sister Fiona who is here with me now... and I look at that little infant in the photos, and I feel the infant in my arms, and I half remember and half repress that I had that infant and I had to give her up and never see her again, and my nervous system recoils at the idea that I actually had to do that. How could I have done that? How, how, how? How could it be that that gorgeous body, that fine dark hair, that soft skin, that perfectness that I grew and created was reduced to ashes within days of my one day of holding her?
It was, and is, too much to take in. I wonder if that could ever change.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Three of them living!!

This seems too good to be true...

I told some women today, as Liam was getting his hair cut and they were cooing about how he must be such a good big brother, I said, "These are the luckiest little girls to have Liam as a big brother."

Then later, in the car, he told me, "I am sure Charlotte would have been a great big sister, too."

And she would have, and he remembers that.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Baby Fiona lies on my lap. Her big blue eyes are gazing at me. She is wrapped in my new, beautiful linen sling, snug to my chest. She is content to just sit. How lucky I feel to have such a blissfully happy and mellow little girl.

I can't believe this go round. I feel absolutely intoxicated by this baby. I know that I instantly loved my other children but I don't remember feeling so enraptured ever before. I sit on the couch and hold her and breathe in her quiet, milky sweetness and I am in tears before I know it. Is it because she looks like all of them put together? Is it because there is more Charlotte in her? Is it because my three years and seven months between babies made me more prepared to sit back and just love?

Or, is it because there is more love in our house? At night, when I tuck Liam into bed, he likes me to lie Fiona in bed with him, so he is spooning her. He wraps his arms around her and nuzzles her fuzzy head while I sing him his favorite Balkan lullaby. Tonight as I sang, I saw him close his eyes and say to her quietly, I love you, little sweetie.

Oh, oh, oh. Does that just breed more love, or what?

Today Fiona is the age that Charlotte was when she died. Fiona was 8 days early, and Charlotte was 8 days late. So those put together make 16 days, which is how long I have been blessed to hold my third sweet girl for so far. If only something had made little Charlotte make her entrance at such an hour, she might be asleep upstairs right now. My lucky Fiona Clementine. I am so grateful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A moment to share, because it isn't all easy...
The day we arrived home, joyful, exuberant, but yes, exhausted. The four grandparents were here, the children were overflowing with love, and a beautiful lunch was served. After we finished, I was so exhausted, and I knew I needed to lie down and sleep.
Everyone was just cramming in to hold that baby. They all wanted a turn, and there wasn't enough of her to go around. So of course this is logical, I leave her downstairs, and I go have a little nap, right?
This baby, this child I have carried next to my heart, literally, for nine months? Leave her downstairs? It seemed impossible to do. But yet, I had to do it, right? I needed to let them have their time with her. They were her family, too. I would go, and I would sleep, and then I would have her back.
I started upstairs. Halfway up I felt that feeling, that tight, empty feeling in my belly. That yearning, that loneliness for my baby. I could smell her on my skin. I wanted her back. A deep shudder went through me, because this was all so familiar.
Then I was up in my bedroom, alone, and calling for Greg. Huge sobs racked through my body because I remembered this feeling, this yearning. How did it feel so much the same? I knew this little girl was there, she was right nearly before my eyes, yet I missed her, I wanted her desperately and I could not take that nap without her in my arms. Smelling her, feeling the void of where she had once been in my belly brought back that visceral emptiness and had rendered me helpless to my grief all over again.
My calm, rational, un-hormonal husband took charge.
She is your baby, he said. You should have her.
He went downstairs and fetched her, and I wrapped myself around her, tears soaking her hair and my breathing shaking her tiny form. I missed Charlotte so much, and here was Fiona. Here in my arms. This was where she needed to be.

Downstairs, I'm not sure what they thought, or what they said. I'm sure they all wondered why I needed to have that baby with me while I slept. But fortunately for them, they don't understand. And I'll bet some of you do.

For some reason, I have found that I am sadder about Charlotte with this little one than I was with the others. Sadder about Charlotte, and more fearful about Fiona. I don't know why.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Beginning

Did anyone notice the title of the last post, a Warm Wind? I posted it more as a feeling, but then when I opened the blog today the absolutely obvious literary connection made me smile so heartily to myself... let me know if you caught it, too. So sweet, and clearly subliminal since I only caught it myself today.

I want to post about the birth of my sweet Fiona, more as a way of documenting it for myself than because I think all of you need to know every single detail... It's long and has some graphic photos, just as a warning...

First, on the night of the 11th, I had my first real night of terror. Liam woke up to pee at about 1:30 and I got up with him, and I could not get the baby to wake up after I lay back down. I spent about half an hour poking, taking deep breaths, and trying to be zen about it before I went downstairs and got some orange juice to try to stir things up. Another half an hour went by with close to no movement (I think there was actually some, but I wanted a lot) and I was beginning to panic. Should I go in? How would we tell the kids? How could this be happening again?

Then, quite suddenly, I sneezed, loudly and hard. And that baby gave a thump, and a whirl, and she was all over the place. I lay down, relieved, but said to myself and to her, I can't do that again. I can't do this night after night. This baby has to be born.

So the next night, supper was in the oven, and I was busy typing e-mails to people (like Sally) telling them that I really had no feeling that this baby was coming soon. The phone rang, and it was my good friend Pete calling from Vermont. I asked Greg to let it ring. "He's just calling to ask if I've had the baby yet, " said, feeling discouraged. "I'm not in the mood to tell him no." So the phone rang, and then stopped, and I logged off the computer because I could smell that the casserole was ready and the clock said 4:57 and I was in the mood for a nice, early bedtime that night. On my way to the stove, I scooped up the phone and pushed the button to listen to the message, and while I pulled the casserole out of the oven I heard just what I had expected:
Hi, Carol. I just had this really strong premonition that you had the baby... or that you're having the baby. Call me back.

I groaned, and I pulled a spoon out of the bucket of utensils behind the stove, and stuck the spoon into the potato gratin.

It was at the moment of contact, spoon on potato, that I felt the gush.

Greg was standing next to me, and the kids were in the other room with his mother, who conveniently happened to be over for dinner. I grabbed his arm and dragged him into the bathroom.
I think my water broke, I told him, and pulled down my pants.

Now, this is absolutely bordering on TMI on a blog, but to me it's a little comical, so I have to include it. Those of you who have had babies know that there are all sorts of things that gush and squish out of you in those last few weeks of pregnancy, and for the few days prior to this one I had been losing pieces of mucous plug bit by bit. So when I sat down to "check" on what had felt like a gush, I saw this thing, and it was soft and wet and slimy and I looked at Greg and I said, Oh, no. Sorry, I was wrong. I was disappointed. Obviously too good to be true.
Then I stood up, and the floodgates opened. Greg was out in the hall and I called out to him, No, No! I was right, I was right!

Most of you know that this is how my labor with Charlotte began, and it was at this critical moment, at the rupture of membranes, that my little first daughter lost her life. So yes, this was terrifying for me perhaps even more than it was exciting, but I was prepared. I was calm. I took a deep breath. Greg's mom was there, in the other room. All we had to do was get the bag and drive 10 minutes, and I could be on a monitor. We gently and calmly told the kids what had happened, and we got into the car, and we drove.

My baby, sweet Fiona, she wiggled the whole way there. She needed me to know all was well, and it was. When we arrived they hooked me up to the sweet monitor, so I could hear the galloping hoofbeats of her little heart, and she was alive and well.

You have to remember, the midwife said to me, as I lay there on the monitor, that statistically for a baby to come into the hospital in labor with strips (heart tracings) as good as this it is basically 100%. Basically, I thought, thinking of all of you. But there was a part of me that believed her, too. I had made it, right? I needed to believe that.

So then began the waiting. My water had broken, and for the first few hours I could feel the increasing pressure on my cervix, I was crampy and bleeding and contracting periodically. I walked the halls for a few hours to try to get things going, but I could feel that whatever was happening was not prodicing any remarkable effect. Things began to dwindle, until there were essentially no contractions at all. By 10 PM my midwife suggested that I try to get some rest, and that they could in fact augment my labor with some slowly administered Pitocin in the morning.

This was good news to me. As a VBAC, because Liam was a c-section, I was ineligible to be induced with Pitocin, and I took that to mean no vitamin P ever, for whatever reason. But it turns out that with a buttery-soft 4-5 cm cervix, and ruptured membranes, they would give me a little-- bit by bit-- so I could work towards that natural delivery. I didn't know how long they would give me to get things going, and I didn't want to take any chances. But I did want to try to avoid the C if I could.

So at 6 AM they started the drip. By 3 PM I had progressed.... oh my goodness... 1 cm. Fortunately I had not been working for this. Despite feeling contractions to some degree, I have labored before and I knew they were not strong enough to be doing much of anything. More than frustrated I was becoming impatient; it had been 22 hours since my water broke and I wondered if or when they would tell me I couldn't wait any longer. Not wanting to know, I never asked when that would be.

At this point, the midwife asked me if I wanted her to try to stir things up a bit, and of course I said yes. Who wouldn't? So she went in and stretched my cervix some more with her hand and reached as high as she could and scraped and stripped and rucked up everything within reach. She kept apologizing, knowing it was uncomfortable. Bring it on, I said. Bring it on.

It was a quarter past three. I was hungry, really hungry. The midwives let you eat, but the nurses, guided by the anesthesiologists, don't want you to. I wanted to eat, but (imagine this!) also err on the side of caution knowing anything is possible. So I hadn't eaten much in the 28 hours before this point... not since a waffle brunch the day before. Suddenly I felt this burst of energy, I knew this baby was going to come, and I knew I needed to eat.
I sent Greg down to the hospital coffee shop for a cider donut, you know the kind. Homemade, greasy, with cinnamon sugar all over the outside. When he came back he reported that they were sold out of the cider donuts, but handed me a hearty replacement: a 4x5 inch brick of crumb coffee cake-- with about 1/2 inch of cake and 3/4 inch of crumb topping. At this point, my contractions were really kicking in, it was about 3:30 in the afternoon, and between contractions I wolfed down this gigantic piece of cake-- 47 grams of fat, Greg later informed me-- and I was on my way.

What followed was fast, furious, and amazing. It got fierce immediately following that last bite of cake, I'm not kidding. Suddenly I was doing it again-- this was my third, true, unmedicated, unfettered-by-tragedy labour, and I knew just what to do. It was a familiar, beloved, dreaded friend. Suddenly I was right in the midst of it all over again. I went into that zone where I was coherent, calm, and present until I would feel this vague, tingling feeling that would tell me something was coming. I would press my head into the bed, which I had raised, and I would find the tone center of the song on the CD player and let it ricochet through my body in the lowest octave I could find. Greg's job was to push with all his might against my tailbone, a kind of counterpressure that this particular labor demanded, and of course I can't say why (ten days later I can still feel the bruising from this unusual method of surviving a contraction). I experimented with some different positions but with the same result-- each time I found myself in any other position, as soon as that feeling swept over me that another contraction was on its way, I would frantically flip back over, head into the bed, unable to tolerate any alternative. This went on, as labor does, with me completely unaware of the passage of time. There were just the contractions, and the calm between, and the pounding of the baby's heart, steady all the while. I was having this baby. For real.

At a few select times during the intense part of my labor, I thought about what was happening for real, almost as if for the first time during the pregnancy. I am going to have a new baby, I thought. Someone to love and keep and hold. This is going to be a new member of our family. Each time I had these coherent, obvious thoughts, I would begin to cry hard, and my tears and snot would pour down as I sang myself through the contractions and prayed that I was right.

The pressure increased, it had been seventy minutes since the good labour had started. I was having those thoughts of wanting to escape, of being desperate for a break, of the pressure being too much for me.

Oh, I remember saying. The pressure. The pressure.

Do you want to push? asked the midwife.

Do you have to check me? I asked.

No, she said. I trust you.

What magic words. I was in charge of my body. I started to bear down, but not with intention, just as another counter pressure to the surges as they threatened to knock me flat. I was intimidated by the intensity of this labour-- it was already so much more difficult than Aoife's, and within the first three half-hearted pushes she had been born, and this baby was not. I had not slept in two days. My legs and arms ached. I was exhausted. I wondered if I had the strength.

Then, I felt it. That burning, tight feeling. There actually was a head. This was happening. I was going to push this baby out, and I was going to do it now.

But I was still in this awkward position-- on my hands and knees, head smashed into the bed in front of me. I didn't want to give birth like this, where I could not see my baby be born, where she would not be able to slip out onto my belly in one, smooth, uninterrupted move. So I tried to change. I asked for the squatting bar. They set it up for me, Greg and Pam, our midwife, and I managed to eek out one miserable contraction with half-hearted, incredibly-uncomfortable pushing until I flipped back over into the original position. Then I tried to side-lie, with the same result. Everything I tried landed me back on all fours. Apparently, this was how this baby was going to be born.

So I went for it. I don't know how many pushes it took. One moment I was pushing by choice, and the next moment I was in the zone where you can't stop pushing, where the contraction ends but you are still going at it with all your might, where the burn is so intense that you can't figure out what is compelling you to keep at it because all you want to do is make it stop. The funny thing is, because of the peculiar angle I was in, my midwife and my husband did not know that I was going for it in earnest. And so it wasn't until the head was, maybe, halfway out that I heard an exclamation of, Oh my! You've got a head here! and then I saw Pam's hand shoot out to the nurse's call button and cry, "Trudy! Come now!"

Trudy, as you may recall, is our fairy-godmother nurse turned family friend who has been present at the births of all of our children. You may not be surprised to learn that she just so happened to be assigned a shift-and-a-half, from 7-7 on that day. So yes, she was there, and she rushed into the room just as the head emerged. I felt that moment of sweet relief but the pushing kept happening despite my will to rest, and another huge, overwhelmingly intense stretch assured me of the easy birth of the shoulders, and then I felt it-- that amazing, fast rush as the rest of your baby's body tumbles from you with apparent ease, and then the void.

In this moment, I leapt. Remember, I was on my hands and my knees, and more than anything I wanted this baby on my belly. So I turned, lifting my leg over my baby and her cord, dancing myself around in a pirouette of sorts. I landed on my back and the baby was there, below me and being lifted onto my belly. Her face was tiny and elfin, and she cried weakly as I pulled her to my breast. Trudy laid a warm, soft blanket over her body. My baby scrunched her nose and opened her eyes. I cried for joy.

Look at her face, I said. Look how beautiful her face is. She is so cute.

Suddenly I realized that while the tiny, elfin face with delicate features had led me to declare her a girl, I had not actually checked. Imagine if a mother's first words to her son were implying that he was a girl. But I checked, quickly, and I was right, it was a tiny girl on my chest, and she was, indeed, beautiful.

Oh, how my heart sang. Sang to the trees, the earth, the stars. Sang to the spirit of Charlotte, to the voices of Liam and Aoife, to the energy of Greg, my companion and soulmate, anchoring me to where I was at.

I covered the baby with kisses as her body changed from the blueish cast of birth to a rosy, warm pink. I kept asking if she was okay, and they kept telling me she was, she was wonderful, perfect, lovely. I was so emotional. I was so surprised. This pregnancy, the fact that it took a while to come, the fact that I was so guarded for the whole 8 months of my knowing about it, I really hadn't expected the sweet, mewing baby who now lay across my chest, still joined to me by her pulsing cord.

But she was there. My beautiful new daughter, ripe and ready. My third little girl. My fourth little person. A sister to Aoife, who here on earth had been sister-less. A baby for Liam, my nurturing, sweet little angel. Another child for me to pour myself into, to give everything to, to feel everything for. The addiction of mother love is amazing.

We gazed at her for a time, amazed by her pixie-cuteness and alert state. She was wide eyed, looking around, serene and calm. The lights in the room were very low, our music was still playing (the Cold Mountain soundtrack...) the nurse and midwife were cleaning out their things, preparing to leave us for a time. It was heaven, pure heaven. That moment, that I have been blessed with now three times, where I lie there in utter bliss, a pulsing, new life in my arms, knowing that it doesn't always turn out this way.

Does she have a name? the midwife asked. She did, and it was what it is, but suddenly it seemed like too big a name to give such a tiny, miniature girl. I pictured Fiona as this brazen, blond toddler fighting fiercely for her turn to ride the scooter and chasing around her much older siblings in the backyard. But this tiny creature? The name seemed so big... I voiced my worry, but Pam confirmed her name. I see Fiona as such a small, delicate thing. It's five letters, so small, for the three syllables... I think it's perfect. And so it was a done deal, her name was what we had chosen for her on a steamy August night by the lake in Ontario, and she became my little Fiona Clementine.

And since then? It has been absolutely the best babymoon ever. Liam and Aoife absolutely love their sister. This I did not expect-- this instantaneous love for her. They adore her, they climb into bed with us and curl themselves around her, letting their lips graze her soft cheeks, loving the feel of her latch when she "kisses" their cheeks in her hunger. They marvel over her tiny fingers and toes, they want to hold her all the time. In our 8 days of being home together, our only issues have been whose turn it is to hold their "newborn baby".

And Fiona? She is a quiet little mouse, peaceful and serene. She is rhythmic and predictable, sleeping nearly all the time now. She wakes, stretches, poops, is awake for a few minutes, roots quietly, eats, and sleeps again. She has yet to cry, and with the exception of two car rides and the obvious diaper changes, she has not yet been put down in this life. Wrapped in somebody's arms at every moment, it is no wonder that she sleeps peacefully, looks around serenely, and needs only to open her little mouth like a robin before she is fed. I love the little family that surrounds her and the life we are making for her. I feel unbelievably blessed. I am emotionally and mentally prone with gratitude, kissing the earth below me in thanks for this gift of life that I cherish beyond explanation.

Fiona's placenta-- cord side-- the tree of life.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Warm Wind

Breathe deeply, and feel the bliss that has so saturated every ounce of my being that it must emanate across the entire earth with its magnitude.

At 5:07 PM on the 13th of November, Fiona Clementine was born into my waiting arms and is absolutely perfect.

(Fiona, one minute old)

Together at last (on the outside)

She is 6 lbs, 12 oz, 20 inches long, and she is a peaceful, quiet baby who is alert and cozy and beautiful.

I am so, so happy.

And the weight off my back is inexplicable. This combination of ecstatic joy and relief is really unbelievable.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The blessings of the universe...

A mystery arrived in the mail yesterday, a brown package with my name penned on it in unfamiliar print. I opened the package, curious. It is so rare now that something unexpected happens.

And this was, truly, so very unexpected.

For inside the little, brown envelope, carefully sealed with tape, was the one thing that I really (greedily) felt that I needed for my baby, and did not have. Really.

A history on my mothering would indicate that I hoard certain things, knowing in my heart that in some circumstances you need just the right thing. I hoard cloth diapers, and I hoard babywearing devices. I have Ergos, and slings, and wraps galore, but there was one thing missing from my roster-- my favorite thing to carry a brand, new nursling in is a ring sling that is just the right size for me. I have one ring sling, but it is too big for me and works better only for a bigger baby in a hip or kangaroo carry. I can't nurse in it. When Aoife was a baby I borrowed a smaller one and it never left my body for 4 months, but I no longer have access to it. Many times during the past few weeks I have lamented not acquiring that just-right sling for me, so I can nestle up my new baby with ease, nurse on the go, and be anywhere with my newborn.

So can you guess what was in the package? That exact sling, in a beautiful, blue jaquard linen print. It is heavenly, gorgeous, and exactly right. I feel spoiled.

Here is the best part, the part that made me literally just about weep. One of you reading this knows what I am going to say. Because do you know who sent it to me?

One of you. Somebody I have never even met. My heart nearly broke and fell on the floor to feel this gesture, this motion of the warmest love from somebody who I do not even know in person. I am so grateful for the motion alone, not to mention the gift which was somehow the only thing I really wished I had for this fourth babe of mine.

So here it is, a huge thanks, and my love back to you for this lovely tribute. I shall wear it with pride, with the hope of ALL of you tucked inside it warmly and safely.

(now may the future occupant of the sling please reveal him/herself...wouldn't it be great if that were my next post?)

Something new...

Here is some of Erin's amazing photography... she captured my family beautifully several sunny weekends ago...

So now I have something else to fixate on.
Now, I want to say outright that I know that the only important thing is whether or not the baby is born healthy. How many times have I thought to myself, "It's not about the birth experience, but the otucome..."

And now, I'm choking, trying to maintain the willpower NOT to eat my words... because I know that they are true.
Starting tomorrow, at every single hospital in Western Massachusetts, there are NO children under 18 allowed in the hospital to visit patients, because of swine flu. As far as my research has led me, there are no exceptions, and no loopholes. It is just plain NO. No kids. Nohow, no way.

So my little, sweet children, who have been expecting and preparing for the past seven months to witness their new baby's entrance into this world, will not only miss out on that greatest moment of life, that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them to see that child be born, but they will not even be able to SEE the baby once it is out!

Oh, I know I should not care. It will be a day, maybe two, and then (god willing) a lifetime of memories with this child. But I do care, and I'm sad that my vision of a family birth will not materialize.

To be truthful, it's not the birth that vexes me, but the aftermath. I was very willing to let go of the children being there at the actual birth-- there are any number of circumstances that might have prevented that, and I expected that once things started rolling, time would tell whether the children would really attend. But I never imagined that it would be more than an hour or two before the grand reunion... and now we're talking, how long? I am tempted, if I have an early birth, to discharge myself hours later, but I want the surveillance that the hospital staff offers.

And, to be honest, I also want that day or two to lie in a sun-lit room, with total control over my visitors, with no laundry, with no meals to worry about. I look forward to that honeymoon. The two times I have taken a healthy baby home, I have worried intensely about the baby upon discharge-- and I'm certain that would only be heightened if I left early.

The only upside is, that it gave me something else to think about as I lay in bed last night, waiting for sleep to come.

I wonder if Liam would fit in a suitcase...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

37 weeks, 4 days

Okay, I admit it.
I have arrived at the point of no return.
I am scared shitless and I want this baby to come out RIGHT NOW.
It is fully cooked, all grown, ready to be born and I don't feel patient or zen or anything like that anymore. My power of mind to withhold anxious thoughts is waning. The baby is alive right now.
I want it OUT.
There is something about the fact that the entire zone within which the baby might be born now falls within the next month--- even if I were to be a full two weeks late, which I would never allow myself to be, a month from now it would all be settled.
And that's how I view this-- not that, a month from now I will have a baby, but that a month from now I will know.
I will know what the outcome is, I will know whether I am growing my family or shattering its very core, I will know if I have given my living children a gift or a lifetime of heartache.

I need to know. I hope I will not have to wait too much longer.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I am stunned and saddened because something that I wrote on this site, weeks ago, made a good friend feel judged, hurt, and angry.
Oh, how hard it can be to negotiate this delicate territory, and how hard it is to feel deeply ashamed.

How is it that something so private has become so public? That in my time (almost 2 years!) of writing this blog, I think I have revealed its existence to only several people yet somehow people I never imagined have found it and read it.

This blog has served as a forum of release for me-- to talk about myself honestly, from the roots of my babylost motherhood, where I am constantly trying to balance the normalcy of my life as the mother of two young living children with the absolutely earth-shattering beginning of my motherhood. I hate to say I don't consider the feelings of others when I vent the things that strike me as difficult about the everyday. But sometimes, it appears, I do not.

If you are babylost, and have living children, you know this feeling: you have good friends, and you love them and trust them and you talk to them like therapy and let them surround you with themselves. But somehow there are still moments where you are sitting on the other side of a glass wall, and you are not like them. Even if you could find the words to say, it would not mean anything, and would set you apart or ostracise you.

Or, worse---
Make them feel as if you were judging them, when really you are just looking at the entire world through the glasses of someone with a child in the grave. I can't judge someone who has never lost a child, because they do not have the same critical evidence upon which to make their decisions. I can make my own decisions, and I can say with great certainty that I would never make a decision that someone else has made because of my own life experience, but since that person has a different life experience, that does not mean that I think less of that person for having made her own choice. We all weigh the evidence we have to make our decisions. It's all we can do.

And, as I have said over a thousand times before, is there not always that streak of envy -- envy of the innocent-- that runs through anything that could be perceived as judgment? Where really what I want to do is just live the life of the carefree? Where really, when it comes down to the truth of it, there is NOWHERE I'd rather give birth than in my own bedroom, but I can't do it because of what I've lost? (This just pulling the most obvious example out of the air, but there are dozens more where that one came from).

I feel like sticking my head in the sand, like re-reading the entire blog from start to finish to pull out and delete anything that somebody might think of as judging. I do not think of myself as the judging type, and it makes me cry to know that I have been perceived that way.

Jealous, yes. Definite in my own choices, yes. But I fear for myself as a person if I am judging.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Today I talked to a new friend, I think she will be, who is six weeks out... six little, lonely weeks away from her little girl. I could have set the phone down and bawled. My body ached for her. Hurt like there was battery acid being poured down my throat, to imagine that echoing, ricocheting silence that bounces through her life and thoughts. I could feel that hot void in my arms where my baby should have been, I could imagine her in the car driving and knowing that there was nobody else there, and knowing that this was not right. I could remember that stultifying mystery of every moment of the day, my body crying out for my child, my life empty of meaning.
I remember thinking, how can this go on? How can I go on like this, when this is never going to go away?

This is where I begin to think, think hard, because I don't know how it was that things changed, and when they did, but somehow over the course of years on end, that knife that twisted in my chest, that salt that drizzled the wound every single day began to lighten. There was warm sunshine on my back, and I was able to bathe my wounds in warm water and sing softly to myself while I did it. I live in a new place.

I told this woman today about how part of what is different for me now is that I trust Charlotte, because she is more and more real to me as time goes on. She is changing me now, as she has changed me since she was born. I have never loved a single person the same since she came into my life, and I never will. Knowing with such extreme clarity that she will always, always be with me eases some of what felt so terrifying.

Even though, as I write this, the other side of me shouts in a tinny, sarcastic voice: I want the real girl, and I don't want any of this spiritual, wisdom crap of her always being with me. I want the real girl. This other side of me bangs her fists on the table and feels utterly unsatisfied with the course of events in every single aspect of their existence. And I respect this half of me, too, because she is also right.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Your turn

Here's what I need.

I have been a support to women who are doing this again, over the years. I have said, again and again, I know that you can't believe that everything is going to be allright. You can't. It just isn't in your emotional brain to do so. So, do you know what I am going to do? I am going to believe for you. I am going to take that hope that is too risky for you to hold, and I am going to hold onto it for you.

Can I give you a little bit of hope, and ask you to hold it for me? Because I can't even think past tomorrow, and when I imagine that this baby might live, it terrifies me because it forces me to think of the alternative. And I know I am getting down to the wire-- in four or so weeks, one way or the other, I will know the ending to this story. Or the beginning. Or however you want to qualify it.

Please RSVP in the comments section if you will hope for me. If you have a good relationship with a higher power, throw that in for me, too. I could use everything you can offer.

Thank you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In The Zone

So I'm not posting much.


This is not rocket science.

This is the place where I write about Charlotte, and while she is so close to my heart, I just can't rehash this right now. I am teetering on a precipice. I am a ticking time bomb who is trying not to think about it. I am weeks away from what could be the most amazing moment. And really will be, no matter what. But there are terrifying thoughts to be had, and it's all I can do not to have them.

I am booked to go and speak at the University of Massachusetts on Friday, a talk I have done 3-4 times a year for the past three years. I love doing it-- I speak to these fresh, willing nursing students who are so ready to hear my story and what I've got to say about how they can go out there into the hospitals and childbirth centers and make a difference in some poor bereaved family's life. I am always so grateful for the opportunity to do this talk.

But this time? I keep imagining calling it off. Can I really do this? Walk in there with my big, 36 week belly protruding out, and tell the story about how one night my baby was rocking and rolling and then suddenly she died?

I will, of course, but I'm going to have to really call in the psychological blinders to help me to say the words, but not process or remember while I'm saying them. It is so horrifying for me to go there right now. I have to stay as far away as possible, to save my baby. My little, happy, squirming baby who has no idea.

Oh, please, oh, please. Let's hope this baby decides to be born in a few weeks. Then we'll know once and for all.

(This is the fantasy I have each and every time someone asks me if I'm having a boy or a girl, which happens about 5 times a day. I want to say to them, I don't know, and I don't care. To me the only mystery is whether the baby lives or dies, and if I can be patient enough for that, god knows whether it's a boy or a girl matters quite little. But I have never said this, and I know I never will. Please don't take this the wrong way if you are someone who likes to find out. It's not about that, it's just how I'm hearing the question: as if the only mystery the person can wonder about is whether it is a boy or a girl, while I hunger for life itself).

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I love the responses to my last post...

But the thing is, I really can't write that article right now, because I am less than 7 weeks away from my due date and I'm therefore a ticking time bomb who simply cannot allow her mind to wander into those areas that, to me, qualify as "real" fear. So allow me to offer you an "IOU" on that, and perhaps if I can add another safe arrival onto my list, I will channel my hormonal emotional surges into the most ass-kicking tirade imaginable. But for now, I must shelter my addled brain and just sit here amid pokes and prods and eat chocolate and focus on sunny skies, when possible. I know you understand.

I love human biology. I was thinking about this the other night, when Greg was out. I had cooked dinner for the children, the kitchen was a mess downstairs, and I was upstairs wrestling tiny feet out of socks and helping people out of too-small t-shirts and running the bath. As soon as they were in I was folding laundry and putting toothpaste on toothbrushes and laying out clothes for the morning and washing hair. Then it was on with the jammies, brushing the teeth, reading books for half and hour and then an elaborate, original story creation with the lights out and a lullaby for each child.
This is all elective, I thought. Imagine that I have all of this, and all I want is more. More teeth to brush. More laundry to wash. More mouths to feed. More dishes to wash. Less time for anything else I might want to do.


More cheeks to smooch, more little warm bodies to hug, more giggles to echo through my house. How could there be anything more satisfying? Truly? I can almost, sometimes relate to people who haven't had kids who find the prospect overwhelming. Who wonder why you'd want to have two, or three, let alone four or five. But once you begin, once you realize that miracle of life you slip into a mode of service that is unlike any other: you are at the beck and call, at the will of another, and you want it no other way. Yourself has been cast aside for the time being and you love it, your tiny dictators cause you to laugh ferociously when they aren't looking, they make you cry with joy and pain every day, they fill you with more love than you thought possible.

I read this thing in a magazine at the doctor's office. It was an issue from last May, celebrating Mother's Day, and it was quoting celebrities opinions of motherhood. Gw.yneth Pal.trow was quoted as saying something to the tune of, "I just can't believe how much I love my children. I mean, I knew I would love them, but this is just a whole new dimension of emotion." It's probably the only celebrity-mommy quote I've ever read that I have related to. Because who coudl have imagined, before giving birth or conceiving for the first time, what this love would feel like? How this devotion would turn you inside out in a heartbeat?

It is amazing and fabulous and I'm so glad to be programmed to reproduce... it is the best thing I've ever done and I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to be a mother.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


"It's safe to say that the No.1 worry for most preg.nant women is pain during labor".

This, scribed by the pen of the editor of my magazine of choice both to love and deeply despise, magazing. (sept/oct 2009, p. 10)

And my response to this?


I only wish.

Imagine if all we had to "worry" about was the pain of the actual birth? How absolutely, completely SIMPLE! To imagine something so mundane causing actual fear for someone causes me to imagine that such a person doesn't actually know what there really is to worry about. (which fills me with envy, bien sur)

But I do.

So, Peggy, you want another article from me? Cause I'll write one about what the number one worry of some of us underrepresented mamas really is.

(not that a single one of your readers would care to read it).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I received a message from a mother today who is in her third month since her baby died. Just entering it, just having passed the anniversary of her baby's death. I swirled back on the calendar to July, 2003, which was the worst month of my life, really, truly.
It actually seems logical to me that July would have been the worst. May I got to have her. She was born, I held her. I still had quarts of milk for her, my belly sagged, the lilacs blossomed and fell and she was still around in so many ways. In June, we had her memorial, the cards kept flowing in, and in, and in. People brought meals. We were still in a state.
Then July hit. Two months had passed. The ceremonies had finished. The milk was gone. My belly was flat. The cards dwindled, and ceased.
My baby was still gone.
One day stands out in my mind, a blur among many simliar days I am sure. I could barely keep my head on my shoulders. I did not know left from right. Greg was outside in his shop, working on the table he was building for some friends as a wedding gift, and I was in the house alone.
I crept upstairs to our teeny, tiny nursery, and I laid myself down on the beige, woolen rug, and my body ached with the missingness of my baby. I laid there, like a comma on the rug, alone, my tears soaking the carpet, and loud animal wails filling the house. I wonder now how many times my neighbors must have heard me crying, and I would have plugged my ears in agony to have heard that sound, even if I didn't have the context. What is more horrifying than the grieving cry of a mother, alone, without her baby? All of you who have been there know this sound, it is crying like you never knew you could do as an adult, it is the child of two who has missed his nap and his mommy has left and he's fallen and scraped both his knees, it is a cry like that, but you are older, and the pain is even deeper, and it ricochets around the room and haunts you to imagine you are making that sound yourself.
It seems like I was there for hours, and perhaps I was. I know the rug was wet. Soaked with tears. Finally Greg came upstairs, and the sound of him padding up our tiny, narrow staircase made me feel warm all over. I was so lonely. He wrapped his arms around me and laid his head on my middle, and the relief flooded through me.
"Do you want me to stay?" he asked. My body shook, I was crying still. I took a deep breath. I did want him, I did. But I also knew better.
"No," I said. "You go and be where you need to be."
"Thank you," he said. He held me, tightly, for a few more minutes. Then his footsteps padded down those stairs, and I heard the screen door slam as he headed back out to his workshop.
Fat tears rolled down my cheeks, I was alone again.
But I knew that lying on the rug crying was not how my husband grieved for his daughter, at least not for hours at a time in broad daylight. His time in the nursery was after dark, it was brief, and it was his. During the day he created beautiful things while he thought of her, his own tears staining the spalted maple and cherry and other amazing woods he chose for his pieces. I had to let him be what he was, just as I was being who I was.
This was a day in July.
And my heart aches to hear of someone who is there, stuck in the month that is no-mans land, far away from where one wants to be, and too far to see where one might go.

Monday, September 21, 2009

So I signed up for this group class for prenatal care for this one reason alone: I wanted to experience, to pretend, to be a regular pregnant lady. Just two nights a month, really. I vowed that I would just drink lots of juice before I went so I could feel the baby squirm right up to the moment of Doppler and would then laugh and yuck it up with the rest of them.
So far, I have had two meetings. On the first, I did okay. I liked the people, and I left feeling proud because I was doing the pregnant lady thing, and doing it right. Check.
The second meeting was not so good. I had mentioned to the midwife that my greatest concern as of late had been that the baby moves TOO much. (It has to be something). So she wrote on a whiteboard, "What is normal baby movement?" Already I was kicking myself for having gone public with my concern, because I really did not want to have a conversation about this particular topic. But the midwife outlined what "normal behaviour" is, and how it ranges from child to child.
In response to this, somebody asked about kick counts. Now, when I was pregnant with Liam, I did kick counts, but by the time I had done it for a month or two I realized it was unnecessary as I was already obsessing about every single kick I felt. But with Charlotte? Who knows. Regular kick counts might have noticed a decrease in her movement, and could have sent up a red flag. So I am, in theory, a big fan. The midwife ultimately framed it as something you could do, but didn't have to do. I began to feel a little panicked, so I mentioned that it's not hard to just pick a time of day when your baby is always active and just be mindful of the movement, and to see how long it takes to get to 10 movements. While you're eating your cereal, or reading in your bed at night. It gives you a baseline. The point was taken. Heads nodded.
But then! The midwife goes on, and this is a midwife whom I adore and respect, to say the obvious: If your baby is surprisingly quiet, definitely call right away. We'll ask you to eat or drink something and lie down on your left side, and then if you still don't get much we'll have you come in.

Can you guess where my mind is going? Eat? Drink? You are wasting valuable time while a baby might be DYING in there. Take some time to lie down? Bullshit! Get in the car and DRIVE, BABY! Do not pass go! Your baby could, at this very moment in fact, be suffocating or ailing in some other way and you would never know it!

I wanted to leap out of my chair and say, You know what? You know what all of you innocent first time mommies who are choosing layettes and matching your pastels and thinking about 529 funds for your children who will doubtlessly live to go to college? That exact scenario happened to me. I was young, I was healthy, everything was perfect, and after I drank my juice and nothing happened and I came in, guess what? The baby was DEAD. And only hours before I had been JUST LIKE YOU. So hang onto your hats, girls and guys, this could happen to YOU!

Aah. The sweet, gentle nature of the caged bereaved mother, my story locked tightly inside me as if inside a little metal vault while I flaunt my thirty-something week belly for the crowd. I said not a word, but sat there, squirming, for a time while the conversation ultimately turned to another subject.

I am most definitely not a normal pregnant mother. Nice try, though, eh?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

When the door opens...

So I'm pregnant, you see. I'm trying to come to terms with this, and I'm reminded more and more often because I can't touch the floor anymore without extreme discomfort, and I'm hobbling and wobbling, and because this person who lives inside of me is so absolutely here and part of my life that it's becoming an indisputable truth.
It has been amazing to me to realize the amount of control that I have acquired over the past four years, since my last pregnancy. I have doors in my brain that I can open and shut at will, and it has been of a great relief that I can keep the "panic" door shut most of the time if I work on it. There have been several occasions where I have slipped into this mode in full force, and this is when I am reminded that it's all still in there, even though it's behind a closed door.
For example, last week. I had this ingrown hair on the bottom of my belly, which hurt like the dickens but of course I can neither see nor reach it, so it had to just be what it was. I put some hot compresses on it, and some polysporin cream, and it seemed to abate a little bit. But then! Suddenly, on my ring finger, something else. A raised bump. It looked like a very swollen pimple, but when I burst it, it appeared to be more of an infected finger than your average zit. That was when it hit me-- CELLULITIS! Or was it folliculitis? Either way, this was for sure: left untreated, I would be getting blood poisoning, perhaps within the hour, and doesn't it just kind of stand to reason that if you had blood poisoning it would adversely affect your growing baby? Like even cause it to d**? So that was it-- my fate was sealed. When I realized this it was, of course, after hours so I had to make it through a whole night of this certainty before I was able to procure an emergency visit with my GP to check out the blemishes.
I was so relieved to be there in the waiting room, until I realized that (GASP!) unlike at my midwife's office, there might be sick people here! Even people with swine flu, perhaps, it could be possible, and then I could also become sick and d** along with my baby. I was beginning to regret this visit when I actually looked down at the swollen pustule on my finger and realized that the polysporin I'd applied the night before had kind of worked, and it wasn't really looking that swollen anymore. Upon closer examination in the bathroom where I washed my hands twice with very hot water, neither was the ingrown hair. So here I was, risking acquiring swine flu or some other awful contagious disease that might harm my baby, but it was still possible that I might be getting blood poisoning while I was sitting here, so WHAT is a mother to do?
When I was seen, the doctor didn't exactly laugh at me, although she did humor me by taking a swab of my ingrown hair to check it for bizarre viruses. She also prescribed a very expensive topical ointment which I promptly filled "just to be extra cautious", although I could tell that she didn't really see the need to be extra cautious. But I did.

So there are these moments, where the door to the panic room opens and this is my life, but sometimes I keep it closed, and those days are quite peaceful.

Thank goodness. Because I remember that that day, used to be every day. And for some people it still is.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Reappearance

Those of you who have been with me from the start may remember this story, which was written in the third person but is quite obviously autobiographical. This little baby, who at that particular event was just the straw that broke the camel's back for an overwhelmed, bereaved mother, nevertheless was cause for much thought and amazement. This little girl had been adopted by two loving mothers, and then reclaimed in a bitter custody struggle for several months. Around the time that I lost my Charlotte, they lost their dear little girl, but the story ends differently, of course. Not only was their little girl merely lost to them, and was still alive out there, but she was ultimately returned to their custody permanently. This was what was so hard for me in seeing her. Not only had they gotten their lost baby back, which seemed so unfair, but also there was out there somewhere a mother who had given up custody (the mother herself had never been involved in the custody battle, as I recall) and had willingly said goodbye to her little girl. And there I was, I had had my daughter snatched from my grasp while I slept and there was nothing I could do to change the situation. There was no choice, no fight, just submission to what had already happened.
Gina, of course, was who knew this little girl, and when Liam started kindergarten, of course I sent her all the photos of his magnificent and remarkable first day. Liam's class contains both kindergarten and first graders in it, and somehow this has taken the pressure off of me ogling the first grade girls and knowing I ought to have one. Instead, I see a room full of girls and boys and some of them are five and some six and some almost seven and I don't really know who is who. Somehow this seems easier than gazing at "her" class in and of itself, although I do feel dreamy about the idea that my two children could have shared a class and peer group. So I hadn't invested much time in the thought that some of these girls were Charlotte's peers, born perhaps in the same month as her, and maybe even I had known their mothers when I was pregnant. Who knew. Gina looked at the picture. She looked at Liam, sitting on the meeting rug, and at the little girl sitting next to him.
You know who it was? The baby who got returned. The little girl who was won back. I, of course, had no ability to make the connection, but Gina did. There she was, the miracle baby who has lived in delighted innocent bliss with her family for the six years that we have trudged along without our daughter. She was itting right there next to my son, the boy who brought us the bliss, side by side, like any two classmates.
Did I feel envy, when I met her mother? Did I cry to myself?
No, I did not. It is different now. The rage doesn't accompany the pain anymore. The sadness just percolates in a gentle, calm way that I am so used to that I walk along with it almost all the time without even noticing it. It is sad, very sad, because my daughter isn't there. But it is wonderful that this little girl still has her family, and they have her.
And that is what six years can do.

Friday, September 11, 2009


My littlest, but somehow biggest bird has flown the coop, and I have graduated from the mama of a baby, a toddler, a preschooler to the mother of a full-grown boy who leaves me for hours on end and comes home singing brightly, spouting facts and delighted with himself through and through. I did it, I really did it. After a year of thinking I couldn't do it, I couldn't do it, I found the school that seemed like a just-right fit and I did it, and he is glad for it. I am torn, though, every day, because it seems so wrong to have given him over to somebody else for that huge, substantial part of the day. It is the juicy time where so much that is delicious happens, and I am missing this. What I wish is for a middle ground of sorts. Couldn't we have a really great school that runs from 10-2 each day? I would absolutely dig that.
However, for now, I am surviving, and my baby is thriving. It makes me so pleased and so delightfully proud to see him flourish, to see him skipping into his classroom and feeling safe and loved. Thankfully his school welcomes parent presence at any time so I get to be privy to much of what he does.
But I miss him, too. I miss him a lot, and when he comes home it's all I can do to keep myself from taking him up to bed with me, stripping down and just spooning his warm flesh against my body in an effort to re-absorb him into my being, to make us one for a little while longer. He was, after all, just born. Just born.
It is a big change in our life, this fall, for our family. Liam is off to kindergarten, Aoife will begin two mornings a week at our little, traditional nursery program where Liam went last year. She is itching to begin, and I will have 8? 10? more? weeks with a few hours a week on my OWN before newbaby arrives to steal the show.
I am floating here among the chaos of so much newness at once, of driving hither and whither when all summer long it has seemed that I have been so still, and so thoughtful, and so quiet. But I LIKE it, that is what is thrilling me right now, I feel delighted with how busy things are and how happy and whizzy and joy-full everyone seems to be. So we'll ride this wave, and trust that things will settle in time.
And I try, try, try, to maintain a positive outlook for the babe within, now 30 weeks cooked and with a vivacious, amazing personality. It seems cruel not to be optimistic, because this baby deserves all the hope in the world. I feel like I am less dissociated than I have been in the past months, perhaps because this little guy/gal has such a big presence right now. There is much joy to be had, I tell myself, and though I find it hard to envision I try to grasp tightly to the knowledge that it is true, it could be true, it is true.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Home again, home again...

Have I ever mentioned how grateful I am, despite my love for the deep dark lakes of Ontario, to have married an Albertan?

I was remiss not to announce my departure again, although I hope contribute regularly enough for most of you to suspect that I had, once again, flown the coop. This time, we headed west to the homeland of my dear life partner. Once again surrounded by scads of family, we romped through the nearly-ripe wheat, bushwhacked our way along overgrown, dried up late August creek beds, and helped with chores around the family farm. Then Greg, myself, and our two little ones got into a great big truck, hauling a great big camper (this being a far cry from our low-impact, teeny-tiny tent in backpack days of 10 years ago) and had ourselves the roadtrip of our life. We wove through the rockies, stayed for a while on our farm south of Calgary, camping on the creekbed and falling asleep to the howls of the coyotes, and then dropped into the Badlands to crawl around on big rocks and bake in the sun and feel like we had moved to the moon. The children were amazingly delighted to be on such a big roadtrip at such a tender age, and we were so close to the stars, so close to the spirits in our joy that we seemed to be all together despite everything that has happened over the years.
Tomorrow, Greg returns to work, and we therefore return to the world that we live in. What a gift this summer was, to bask in the glowing-ness of my growing tummy, to feel the love of my children and husband around me, to remove myself entirely from everything that did not affect my day-to-day existence. It was a gift I will always treasure, and I will look for her after-effects in the year to come.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

I was trudging up one of the incredibly steep hills in my neighborhood today, listening to Richard Shindell on my iPod, and thinking of Charlotte. Specifically, I was thinking of what I had written a few days ago-- about 7 years of loneliness-- and knowing in my heart that that number is terribly wrong, because for the first 9 months of that 7 years, I was nothing but joy. Joy, hope, peace, and absolute certainty that I was the luckiest woman in the world.

But for those of you who have been there, and even those of you who haven't might be able to imagine, that when one looks back on this pre-disaster state of bliss, it is with a sense of horror. I think of myself cavorting around, flaunting my ever-swelling midsection, naively buying diapers and signing up for childbirth classes and speaking in definite terms about my future with my baby, and I almost have to look away. There is a part of me that cherishes that innocence, which I will never have again. I am grateful that I had the opportunity-- if only once-- to feel like the glowing, proud pregnant mother that so many people take for granted. Now, feeling like a ticking time bomb, I look back on that with a greater sense of envy and disbelief than anything else. It's not that I think I was actually dumb, or truly naive, I was just doing what almost everyone I know has the luxury of doing-- I was loving my pregnancy, my baby, and I was absolutely optimistic. Why wouldn't I have been?

So those nine months were not lonely, not by a long stretch. They were probably the happiest nine months of my life, to date, and while my living children have brought me joy that certainly matches that which my unborn Charlotte brought me, it is almost unfathomable for me at this point to remember that the joy I felt with her, before her birth, was ONLY that, it was just joy. It was not joy with a huge potful of grief on the back burner. I was just happy. Only glad. Simply full of hope, with nothing else to speak of. What an amazing place to be.

And yet, at the same time, I sometimes pick apart the quality of that naive joy, and wonder if what I feel now with Liam and Aoife isn't somehow a bigger joy. There is something about having climbed such a huge mountain of loss, and to be walking with a practiced gait down the other side, that makes the sun feel especially warm on your back.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Seven Years

It was this week, seven years ago, that I became pregnant for the first time.

There is something about that number. Six, it's very close to five. Five isn't that big. But when you get to seven, you are creeping ever closer to ten, which is a decade, and that is a very, very long time indeed. I don't know if it ever dawned upon me, seven years ago, that I might even become pregnant, and I obviously didn't ponder that a pregnancy could end in disaster. In fact, the deciding point for trying that summer was that I really wanted to get pregnant the summer after that, but I knew that sometimes it would take up to a year to conceive and so I wanted to cover my bases. After all, I reasoned, would you ever be disappointed to have a child? Think, I should have worked that extra year, saved the extra cash? Not in our family.
So we threw caution to the wind, and sometime between the 6th and the 12th of August I became pregnant with what would become a little girl who would change so many people's lives for the better. And who would leave a lot of broken hearts in her wake.

Six years ago last week, I became pregnant with another little being, who now sits in the bathtub over my head laughing at whatever antics his father is performing. This, I can believe, because I can feel the six years of pure bliss this boy has brought me. Six years hardly seems enough for the joy to be contained within.

But seven years of loneliness? That is harder to grasp.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Nursery

The grass is mown, the berries picked. We have romped in the river, and held hands around the little table on our porch before supper. We have ridden bikes, hiked through the dense hemlock forest, and tried to weed the garden. I have cooked dinner on my own stove, shopped once again at my own store, and re-connected with friends. I am home, yes. I am home. Missing my other home, but I'm home.

The nursery is empty again. This is a chapter of my infertility journey that I touched upon several times, and the relief that I am flooded with as I lie in wait for its next occupant is indescribable.

Since Charlotte died, everything about our house has changed. Everything. (was this intentional?) The dining room is somewhere else, we have a newly-added living room, new bedrooms, renovated bathrooms, everything has been painted, the gardens have been moved, extended, replanted... everything EXCEPT the nursery, in which time has stood still for six and a half years. The little stars still shine on the pale blue ceiling, the buttery yellow walls warm the tiny room like a little sun-filled tent, the crib still stands in the spot where Greg proudly completed assembling it one February day while Charlotte practiced her calisthenics in my womb and I thought I was destined for the best life ever.

And then life unfolded, and I don't have to tell that story, and we can fast-forward through two more babies moving into that room at perhaps nine months of age and staying put until... until they were shuffled aside by the next occupant, was my plan. That's how it worked for Liam, anyway, and I assumed that it would work this way for Aoife, as well. I was, in fact, so bold in my assumption that I had been played my bad hand in baby-making that I re-decorated the guest room for her in the winter of 2008, so certain I was that I would soon be needing the nursery back for baby #4. Baby #4 who took a year and a half to come, and whom I became certain after a certain period of time would NEVER come, and so I wondered what would happen to the nursery when Aoife moved out, and there was nobody to move in.

Certainly I could not stand the empty nursery again. This time it would stand as a failure of another kind. But it would be missing two babies, in my mind, one who I missed and cried for but shouldn't need a nursery for anymore, and one who I wanted but couldn't create and stamped my foot on the ground and swore in frustration for. I would have to dismantle it, I supposed. I would have to take the crib apart, store it somewhere, figure out an alternative use for that little space, and try to keep hope that one day I would re-assemble the nursery for the miracle I could hardly bear to hope for. I gave myself the deadline of March 27, 2009, which was Aoife's third birthday. I couldn't realistically keep her in the crib for my own mental health purposes any longer than that, I reasoned. She had been staring longingly at her new "big girl bed" for over a year now, and at three I couldn't hold her off any more. It would happen then. I would grit my teeth, and I would do it.

And it was only 9 days before my deadline that my period failed to come, and because I was visiting a newborn baby in the hospital that morning, I figured I'd better extinguish the hope that was brewing somewhere in my deepest pit of myself, because I couldn't go and see the newborn and think that there might be a chance that I'd be there again, could I. So I peed on the little cheap pregnancy test that had come free with my ovulation kits, and I could see that control line come up fast and pink, and so I threw that little f***ing strip across the counter in frustration because HOW could I have been so stupid to have thought that a missed period would mean I was pregnant when I was so OBVIOUSLY infertile. I brushed my teeth and my hair, muttering under my breath and feeling foolish for having held onto five minutes of false hope, and I was just about to leave the bathroom when I saw the pee-soaked stick where it had landed on the back of the toilet seat, and I figured as a good housekeeper it belonged in the garbage. I lifted it up to throw it, with animated gusto, into the trash can, and that's when I saw the second pink line, which had showed up while I was spitting f-bombs into the sink along with my toothpaste. Miracles do happen, occasionally, after all.

So the move-the-nursery plan was abruptly cancelled, and my little Charlotte's bedroom gets to stand for years longer, my little corner of my heart can live there when it likes, and now I just have to let hope live there in that empty room while my living children fill up the other rooms until the month of November arrives.

And don't you wonder how I'm doing with all this? What it feels like to have two living children and a few years of unsuccessful attempts in the void between Charlotte and myself? Yeah, I wonder too how I'm doing, too, because I spend a lot of time making sure that I'm not thinking about how I'm doing. I am trying to be present with the kicks and bumps that delight me all day long, and I'm trying to choose my set of names so I can have somebody to think about hypothetically. But I can't do much more than that. I can't think to myself, at Christmas I will have a six week old baby. I think to myself, will there be a baby at Christmas? I have not had any specific freak-out moments where I've actually imagined something going wrong, but I still think in the hypothetical to a really severe degree, to the point of some real dissociation. This is a very obvious reaction to a pregnancy after a loss, but I have to be honest-- there was a part of me that thought that by the third time, I might have gained a little more trust in myself and in my baby. This is what it is, and things shall be what they shall. And I will sit back, feel the baby battering at my organs, enjoy the rise of bile in my esophagus, and hope that the stars line up in my favor this time around.

A year from now, perhaps that nursery will be in use. At least for now, I don't have to take it down.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Our car slipped down the crunching gravel an hour before dawn, leaving the fresh lake air and the clouds of mosquitoes and a million memories too comfortable to remember behind.
We crossed over onto the pavement and the magic was gone, the safe haven left once again for the thirty-fourth summer of my life as I headed for "home".

And I wondered, as I thought it, what home is. Is it the place I am leaving, where four generations before me have dipped their toes in the lake, where spirits freely roam? Is it where my children play every single day with their cousins and get hugged by aunties and nanas and big cousins? Is it this house where I grew up for every summer I have ever known, where my children sleep in the same beds, on the same sheets that my sisters and I shared thirty years ago, where I serve them cereal in the same bowls I ate out of when I was three? Is it this place of timelessness, where I have no phone card for long distance, and no internet access, and where I never drive anyplace, and where I never run out of things to do?

Or is it where I am going, the pink house on the ledge with the rushing river below and the tall pines behind? Is it where I have carefully crafted each room, each space to my own liking, with things that sing to me, collected over years for specific reasons but at isolated times? Is it this house which stands on its own, where I have to drive in a car to see people, where my computer blinks on my desk and my telephone rings and mail piles up in the box?
I don't know the answer. The first sometimes feels more like home, but one can't stay there forever. I want to, I do, but the summer does end and the cousins all go home and then it is just a place. A place that settles me like a baby at the breast, but a place all the same. And my home has a bustling energy that I might miss, I might long for the hustle and bustle at times. Winter on the lake would be long, and cold, and lonely. Here it is cozy and warm, and the friends, though they travel by car, abound. They are not tied to me by blood, but by choice, and there is something to be said for that, as well.

We arrived home at two in the afternoon, and the sun beat down on the unfamiliar pavement of our driveway as we unloaded the vanload of things. I have spent my whole life trying to defend my homeland to clueless Americans who ask every year, "But isn't it cold up there?" but this year the myth proved true, we had a chilly month of July on the lake which appealed to me a great deal. As I unpacked my swelling body was repelled by the new sensation of sweaty heat and hot pavement. But as things slowly were dragged out of the car and across the lawn we managed to also pick six pints of blueberries out of our prolific fruit garden and to discover all the toys we'd left behind when we drove out, also before dawn, five weeks ago.

And now I sit, back to the plugged-in world, knowing in my heart that both places are home, and that one has much to teach me about the other. About the value of family, about keeping connections, and about how it might be a nice, relaxing idea to just say NO sometimes. To not turn on my computer 3 days a week. To not answer the phone if I am otherwise engaged. To be more present, more there. To celebrate.

So, there it is, a stream of consciousness that I dare not re-read-- having woken up this morning at 3:20 with a baby kicking my bladder and returning to bed unable to sleep, I am sure that this post will leave many grappling for what the point might have been, but it is a sleepy start back into life back at the little pink house, and there are parts of me that are glad to be back.
(and big huge parts of me that are sad).

And tomorrow is my birthday!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The lake is calm, and the winds have ceased to blow for today.
It has been a cool and windy July so far on the lake, almost spring-like, and the pace of life here has once again been a gift I cannot adequately describe in words. The phone does not ring, there is no e-mail to check, there are no cars. The children wander out into the common and find others to play with, the grown-ups don't worry, and there is laughter everywhere. 
Today Aoife cut her foot in the lake on a mussel shell. She was bleeding everywhere, and as I carried her back to the house, she buried her little face in my shoulder, sniffling.
"And I'm also a little sad about Charlotte," she said. 
This is what it's like for me, too. If I get sad about anything, or mad, it always all comes back to Charlotte.

And by-the-by? There is a new baby up here, the child of some new renters, named Charlotte. She cries sometimes and her mother is too busy to pick her up, and it's all I can do to not go and scoop up her sweet, blue eyed little self and take her home. 
I had to tell her mother, of course, the moment she told me her name. I haven't told her the whole story yet, though, and I'm sure she's insatiably curious to know WHAT HAPPENED. But she'd never dare to ask, would she. That's my story to tell. 

My borrowed laptop is running out of juice, the mosquitoes are biting me outside the vacant cottage I'm pirating the wireless from, and the kids are ready to be tucked into their beds for a long summer's rest. I miss this world, miss writing and take photos and see scenes every day that belong here on my place, but I am cherishing as well the ability to be away from the screen and the isolation of the computer. It is refreshing and kind to the soul.

Monday, June 29, 2009


I have written before of my homecoming in the summer of 2003. I am not speaking here of the time we drove up the driveway in our little silver car, and got out, my belly swollen and empty, face blank as canvas. I'm not writing of that time, when our families ushered our shell-shocked exteriors into the house, where the baby books and newborn supplies had been tidily hidden in our nursery for us to peruse when we were ready. That time, I came home with no baby, but also no idea what I was entering into. I was numb to the core, my very bones shuddering at the emptiness that was inside me, and I did not have the facilities to contemplate what I actually faced.

No, here I am talking of my second homecoming, when Greg and I arrived in that same car at the back drive of our summer cottage, the same cottage where I had spent every summer of my life, and my father every summer of his, and my grandfather and great grandfather every summer of theirs. This was the cottage, my ancestral home, where I had dreamed of bringing my newborn baby girl, where throughout my pregnancy I had fantasized about all my relatives rushing out to ooh, and aah, and congratulate me on being almost the first of my generation (the fifth generation of the point) to create a new being. (There are actually already 8 members of the sixth generation, but their family is off-set in ages from the rest of the extended family, so I was to have been the first in my cousin-cohort to reproduce). Instead, I stumbled from the car, my face already swollen with tears, and I ran and tried to hide myself in the house because I didn't think I could live through the summer without her.

But there is no hiding in a cedar-planked cottage with no insulation. I am certain my wails reverberated over the point, the awful, lost, sad wails of a mother who has lost her child. If you have not lost a child, you cannot fathom this sound. If you have, you have heard it, and have recoiled at the realization that you posess the grief to create such a sound. My cries could not be contained, though, and there was no warm welcome to sweep me up. I could not have felt more alone, there on the point, surrounded by one-hundred and fifteen years of love and holiday and song. My baby wasn't there. I could not be consoled.

I felt nearly certain that my relatives, who I did love and care for, would not be effusive in their condolences. I had endured enough sympathy cards, hugs, and flowers by now to learn who spoke with honesty and who hid from the truth, and I had an inkling of an idea that most of my relatives would be the types to hug me deeply, but then to never mention Charlotte's name, thinking it best to keep the past in the past, and to look forward with new eyes. I was almost, nearly prepared for this. I knew that most of them would lack courage to engage me in a real conversation. I knew plenty of people would avoid me altogether. These people had not seen me pregnant. They had not seen the ultrasounds, felt her feet and elbows through my belly. She was not real to them, she was a pregnancy loss equal to a loss at 6 weeks or 8, something society is well-trained in sweeping under the rug at all costs (not that I encourage this). So I did prepare myself, I did, I did.

But there was one person who I had always been close to, I had always cherished in a special way, and she had sent me some beautiful things in the mail, and had included a poignant poem which we had read at Charlotte's memorial. She, I believed, was different. I believed she would perhaps be the one to sit on the porch and ask me questions. I don't know why I thought this, but I did. So later that afternoon, after my wails had subsided, and silence fell like a black cloak over our still household, she came over and enveloped me in the warmest, most enveloping hug I'd ever felt. The tears started before she spoke, tears of appreciation which soon turned bitter at her words to me, uttered with a soft hand stroking my hair, "It will be allright. Everything is going to be allright."

All right? EVERYTHING?

These were not, were not the words I needed to hear. Everything was NOT allright, and it never would be. I said so.

"It is not all right. My baby girl is gone, how can that ever be all right?"

I do not remember her response, if there even was one. And I write here not at the dismay in this person, because now I can see with complete clarity that she was doing everything she could to try to help me, but she just didn't know what to say. The emotion I seek to extract here is not anger towards a person, but this pervasive feeling of utter disappointment that we, the bereaved, feel when someone who we trusted and care about comes out and says the wrong thing. It has happened to us all. Everyone has someone who has said something that may not have been outright hurtful, but has made our heart sink into our stomach, because here was someone we hoped would say our baby's name, and hold our hand while we cried, and all they can stomach is to try to fix it with one simple sentence.

Nobody knows what to do, nobody. Nobody knows what to say. We are all speechless in the face of loss, of grief, and especially when birth and death, life's two greatest mysteries, intertwine. We the bereaved have all due respect for this not-knowing what to do. But say it, say it. Know not what to do, be speechless with your thoughts, and say so. Let us grieve, let us grieve. It is the only way out, it is the only way up. We must grieve in order to grow, and we must grow in order to live.

It was a lonely time, that August, a lonely time. This year, I head to the point a month early, to afford my blessed chidren with five weeks of sun and sand, surrounded by the love of one hundred and twenty years of family holiday. They will sleep under the same roof that their great-great-great grandfather built, and they will breathe the fresh Simcoe air that has nourished plenty a soul over the years. I will be pregnant there for the first time ever, and I am already prepared for the numerous comments that will surely come about my "third" pregnancy. I will, of course, remind them of the facts. And I will sit with knowing that many people, no matter how much they care for you, simply cannot face the truth.

**And suffice this to say that my internet access will be sporadic at best over the next five weeks, so please don't abandon me, my fair readers, as I desperately seek kind souls with computers who will let me check into the blog-o-sphere every now and again... Until the next time, fare well***