Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Today my sweet son threw a temper tantrum on the playground after school and we departed in disgrace, me shouting at the children, with one borrowed one under my arm as I stormed out of the yard after my two towards our sweltering car.
I imagined that if I had been watching myself I would have been shocked at my tone of voice, of my volume as I shouted the kids out the gate and into the car, my small, silent charge in tow.
It was 96 degrees and Liam wanted me to chase him and his friends. I said no, it was too hot, and I had the baby to watch to boot, and he got angry and belligerant and so I told him we had to go. That was what started it.
The other mothers watched. Their children were running around happily. They all sat in the shade and talked. Some of them had one other child of their own, some just one school aged child playing peacefully with her friends. Nobody was babysitting. Nobody had a non-profit to run at home with no babysitter or extra income to hire one. Nobody else's husband left home at 5 each morning . Nobody elses child was pitching a fit.
And you know what, I thought, as I drove home, with huge tears streaming down my cheeks? Nobody else has a dead child following her through her day, invisibly pulling her down because she knows this awful, drenching sadness that is incomparable to anything else. Nobody else has to know the pain of a baby lost. This is, of course, at the bottom of it all, this is the real reason why I feel sorry for myself. Not because I struggle to run my group on non-existant resources. Not because I babysit too much. Not because my child happened to have a bad day. Because my almost six year old is dead.
I cried, and cried, and cried for myself, for a long time.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Return home...

A week in pictures...
Can you see Charlotte in two of them?

I have to say that there has never been a better fix to an overwraught, slightly stressed winter than seven days of lying on a chair, watching children dig in the sand, chasing tropical fish, eating five meals a day, and warm sunshine. I am so complete right now, so complete.
And the anniversary approaches, and it is good to start out full.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Let it be known that I worked extra hard this year, and that it has not been without sacrifice. And so at some point, about seven weeks ago, I said to Greg, could we make this all worth it and spend a wad of cash on a nice vacation?
Yes, he said. Yes, let's.
And so it is that tomorrow afternoon we set out on our first ever family of four vacation, bags packed like a crew of tacky tourists, to lie under umbrellas on a sunny Caribbean shore. Our "No new baby" trip, I call it, with a big smile on my face, and I know that our sweet, amazing little family will have a sweet, amazing journey together. Il faut profitee, quoi?
I am so looking forward to relaxing absolutely, to eating whatever I want, enjoying fancy tropical drinks, and loving my family so completely.
So au revoir for a time, and I'll see you in a little over a week.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dear Liam

We celebrated the moment of Liam's birth in the nude, walking from the showers to the locker room at the YMCA. I looked at the clock, knowing that the moment was near, and as the minute hand crept towards the 11:12 position, I grabbed him around the middle and started to sing to him. He beamed, looked himself up and down, seated himself on the bench and said, "I'm five years old!" (He had been resisting the title of "five" all morning, knowing that while it was his birth date, since his birth time had not actually passed, he felt it was improper to consider himself five up until that point).

Several of the moms in the room wished me a happy birthday, too, which made me beam: of course this was also my day, and little could they know of what was packed into the moment of that child's birth. I still hang in suspended disbelief at the image of his little, pink body being lifted from my middle, hearing the cry, seeing the fat, white cord hanging from his middle as the doctor whisked him across the room to be suctioned. I could see parts of him, but not the whole boy, and I knew he was a boy. I could hear Greg tell the doctor his name was Liam, and could hear the noises he made, and my head was whirling and twirling-- it had happpened.

They had saved the baby.

This was it, of course, he had been born in the precise manner that I had fantasized about-- there was no allowance in my vision for a peaceful, copascetic birth of this child. Hehad to be saved, clearly, seeing as I was working with a failure rate of 100% this seemed the only way to get him out alive. And there he was, fat and flailing, and I was nailed to the cross with an oxygen mask over my face, crying like I would never stop.

They couldn't hear what I was saying when they brought him over to me, my face was covered and I was wet and snotty and wailing along with the baby. But finally someone slid the mask aside and they discerned that I wanted to kiss the baby, so they lowered him to my face and I kissed his damp little cheek, and I spoke softly into his ear and he quieted then, of course, because he knew his mother was there with him.
The rest of the day flew by in a blur of a dream come true, and really, has never stopped. This is all, really, truly, still a dream come true. This little boy, his eyes so big and wide and blue every day, his beauty and curiosity and wisdom just seeping from his pores as he floats his way through this world, just brings me more joy than I could have ever forseen. I am so grateful for him. (and here are a few peeks of him at 4 months, 9 months, and 2 years)

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I despise labels. I despise labels, and alongside this, I get squirmy with people who try to fit themselves neatly inside of a category. Who, in truth, can be categorized? Should any human being truly attempt to mold themselves to be just alike to any other?
I can first remember being aware of this in the early years of high school, when it dawned upon me that all the kids that proudly proclaimed themselves as "different" were, in fact, mostly the same as one another. There seemed to be a list of things one could do to avoid being mainstream. In our school, there were places you could hang out and people you would associate with to become an untrendy, cool-eschewing "different" person. Of course, there were also many people who delighted in being mainstream, and very cool, and a large chunk of people who didn't fit as neatly into that category of popularity but aspired mightily to do so. And then there were some people who drifted, who belonged nowhere, and I think I was one of them, and I think I still am.
Certainly losing Charlotte is part of what has cast me to the outside in terms of parenting philosophy. But truly, from my heart, I don't think that anyone should suscribe to a parenting "philosophy". What does it mean to be an attachment parent? Why must I wear this label like a badge? If I choose to let my child sleep with me, or carry her in a sling, why then must I have a name for what I am doing? And on the flipside, let us imagine that there is somebody, somewhere, who has not had a night's sleep in eight months and makes the decision that her baby and herself would be better off in separate rooms, and that it would also be mutually beneficial for the baby to be gently taught to sleep for longer periods of time. Why should this mother be automatically shelved as "different" from those who have chosen the ever-so-high and mighty label of attachment parenting?
This brings me back to the alternative kids, who were definitely in the long run (in their opinions) so much better for having not shopped at J.Crew... and to the environmentalists at college who definitely looked down on their frat-house counterparts...
It's all the same, and none of it is necessary. I don't know why this gets to me but it does, somehow by categorizing ourselves a perceived hierarchy is somehow generated, which does nobody any good. It is neither beneficial to feel more important or less important; to feel more effective or less effective.
What is important is to trust ones self, and ones own decisions. I feel I come to this as a result of losing Charlotte, when in the months and particularly the early days and weeks after losing her I could feel my body yearning to mother her. I could feel so distinctly that I was an animal craving my child, and I knew that if she had been there, I would have known just what to do with her. And so as my other children came and have grown I would say that the only description that I would attach to my parenting is instinct and trust, and paying attention to them and to myself. I would like to say that in any parenting situation if a mother or father is attentive to their baby's needs (and many are not, which obviously I can have a tendancy to judge from my wounded perspective), and if they follow their own instincts to best balance their baby's needs with their own (less important and more easily postponed) needs, and if they trust themselves and their baby, then they don't need a label. They are just parents. I am not them, I do not live in their house, I do not make their decisions. I must try not to say, one way or another, whether I approve or disapprove.
The only vote I get to cast is whether it would be right for my child, and maybe it would be, and maybe it wouldn't be, but that's for me to decide. Right? I have never read a book about raising a baby or raising a child, and I am proud of this, because what I read is what in front of me, they are two living, opinionated beings who ooze with direction in terms of how to best serve them and meet their needs. (And-- by this same token-- I absolutely respect people who garner a great deal of thoughtful advice from reading baby books, and use that to shape their best practice.)
But I guess I am more of a hands-on type of girl, waiting to see what will come next. There is no reason to plan, only to enjoy what is now, and to wait and see what comes. This is why living without definition works for me, because I adapt to what I see in front of me, not to what I've planned to do all along, or what I've seen other people do. I am only so honored to do so.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Out and About

I had a doctor's appointment the other day, and was able to leave Aoife with a friend and go without my children while Liam was at school.
As many of you mothers may know, even those who cherish every moment spent with babe in arms, there is something also to be cherished about time to ones self, about moments of quiet where thoughts can wander and decisions can be made on a dime.

And so it was that, while I drove through town on the way home from my brief appointment, I was passing my absolute favorite coffee shop, which happened to have the 15-minute free parking spot in front of it available. So what was I to do? Logically I pulled into the spot, and it was with some glee that I realized that, without two or three children to unbuckle and buckle and carry and distract and appease, this foray into the coffee shop would probably take less than one minute and would bring me such pleasure. So into the shop I sauntered, ordering a decaf to go and a chocolate croissant, and as I waited I noticed a woman nearby whom I had been friends with when Liam was a baby.
"No kids!" she exclaimed, which is of course the first thing that springs to mind when mothers see one another childless, particularly someone like me who usually has not only my own children, but several others as well. I laughed and told her of my quick appointment and the free parking spot. I admired her new daughter, whom I had not yet seen, and we exchanged brief updates about our five year old sons who were both at school. Then she looked down at my coat, which is a pure white, quilted jacket (truly is the most impractical thing for a mom to wear, but I received it as a gift and get almost a bigger kick out of the fact that it is something that is oh-so-pretty but nothing I would ever purchase for myself).
"My goodness!" the woman exclaimed. "No kids and a white coat! Are you sure you're really a mom?" Her eyes twinkled, and she laughed.

The bottom dropped out of my stomach. It was my greatest fear, inspired by a year of walking around feeling nothing but my motherhood and having nothing to show for it. When Liam was a baby, I would go nowhere without him. Part of this was the obvious reason that I wanted to have him with me, but the other reason was that I need him there to seal my identity-- see this child? I am a mother, proven and steadfast. My child is here in my arms, he is nursing, he cries only for me, he is mine. I am a mother. As my second living child graced this earth I felt the same posessiveness over having both the children with me, needing both to have them within my sight at all times but also to have the evidence of my fruitfulness available for everyone to see. They were my badge of personhood, I was indefinable without them even though the very person who had made me a mother was no longer here.

And so here I was, delightedly in a cafe, ordering a delicious snack in my impractical white coat, and I didn't look like a mom. I looked like some thirty something lawyer off on a coffee break, maybe childless, maybe kids shelved off in daycare somewhere while I pursued my own dreams. What was this, this innocuous comment to squelch my own joy in being alone?

I had arrived here once again, at this struggle between joy and pain. At the cafe, I struggled to take a deep breath and laugh along with the woman, I took my coffee and croissant and drove as fast as I could to hold Aoife in my arms again. She smelled delicious and played so contentedly with me for the next number of hours. I settled into that rhythm of joy, but I couldn't forget how I reacted to the comment. It also demonstrated for me once again how my perspective hears the words of others completely differently than the words may have been intended.

I have felt such success in the past few years, such pride in myself for having reached a place where I can both be a babylost mother, who parents in a way that is intentional and an obvious outcome of my loss, and also a normal mother, who is entitled to feelings such as being overwhelmed, wanting time to herself, and the desire to pursue my own creative endeavors. For my first three years of active motherhood I was beyond satisfied to leave myself behind in exchange for my living children, but in the past few years it has made me happy to re-discover myself, and it feels like a sign of growth and progress for me to be able to once again derive some pleasure in being by myself and doing the things that I once enjoyed (like getting a coffee and a croissant). But despite this progress, I am still a babylost mother at my very core, and it is only reasonable that these moments of normality might sometimes be overswept by those more innate emotions that come from the very middle of my person.

It never goes away.

Monday, April 6, 2009


I am sorry, my dear Jen, to make you public here once again, but it has to be done.
My friend Jen is amazing. She had an amazing experience with her daughter's birth and she is really, truly, the only friend I have who truly realizes her daughter's presence here on earth in a way that I can relate to (I mean the only non-babylost friend).
Here is Jen's amazing post on her blog about her daughter Lily, who has just turned two. Jen, your writing is amazing, your insight is just phenomenal. What a gift to the world. The babylost people must breathe a sigh of relief to feel the true, deep, sinking gratitude that seeps out of every syllable of every word that you write. Lily is a miracle, it is true, but moreso is the miracle of you knowing it with all the deepness of your heart. Thank you.

Too much information

It has been quite some time since I have been in a place where I have over-saturated myself with grief reading. After Charlotte died, particularly since at that time there was not this amazing community of bloggers and commenters and supporters and friendship available, I was absolutely starving for other people's stories, and I read as much as I could, as much as I could find. But while I found great solace in the idea of not being alone, there was the other side-effect of all the grief reading, which was that I learned about a thousand and three different ways to lose a baby.

The irony is, what with blogs being available, is that there were, at the time, some online resources, but I quickly found those to be useless to me. They listed name after name of dead baby, and dates, and causes of death, but there was no emotion attached, no person, just a death and a number and they piled up, they piled up. Suddenly I felt not alone, but I also felt as if babies were dying everywhere-- and I couldn't know that. While I didn't want to feel isolated, I wanted friends who were like me-- people who I could know a little, who could lend their stories to me so I didn't feel so all-by-myself. So I had cast aside the web as a resource, and turned to books-- seeming more intimate and detailed than what was then available online.

And they were, they filled me with sadness and helped me to lift myself by seeing that others had walked in my shoes, had struggled as I had. But there did come a point, particularly when I was getting more and more pregnant with Liam, where I decided that enough was enough. I was grieving, true, and I did feel alone, but what these books were now doing were scaring me. They were teaching me new ways to die every day, and this was adding to my aresenal of points against the baby growing in my womb, and so I quit the grief books, and I wondered if I would ever return to them.

It was not surprising to me, then, when a member of my support group arrived last week with a short stack of books. "I'm done with grief reading for a while," she told me, and I nodded knowingly. I recalled to her that the same thing had happened to me, and then as she handed the books to me I spotted one on the top that I had heard about, a recent book about a support group called "The Good Grief Club" (Monica Novak). I had been curious to read it and told her so, and I fished it out of the pile and put it into my bag.

Now it goes without saying that while luck has not been on my side and perhaps now is the time in my life that I feel like about the biggest reproductive failure ever, I certainly have NOT pulled my card out of the baby pool. I hope beyond all hopes that I will one day birth another child, or two, and so I do find myself still in that mode of thinking. But I didn't expect this: I started to read the book, and I read it for a few nights, and then a few more, and then suddenly it was too much: I could not read anything more. These ones were premature, these ones died due to an incompetent cervix. There were chemical pregnancies, there were blighted ovums (ovi?), there were knots in cords, there were abrupted placentas. I could not take it. Suddenly it all started filtering back in. I realized that, while there have also been difficulties to this (jealousy, anyone?), being around a whole bunch of reproductively successful people (my current friends and community) has actually helped me to move out of the mode where everything seems like a likelihood. And then, reading this book, I felt sucked right back in. I was remembering it all, and I didn't like one bit of it.

So I put the book down. Maybe in a few months I'll pick it up again, and read a few more chapters, after I've forgotten what happened to everyone in the first half. But for now, I'd rather stay here in blog-land, and read individual people's stories, where the cause of death is part of their history, instead of their entire description, and where I can wrap myself up in the warmth of others who have the same feelings as I do, without feeling like all the babies are falling like an unsteady line of dominoes.

So thanks, bloggers all. Somehow coming at it from this angle brings so much comfort, and I realize why I quit reading all those books so long ago. Too much information.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Birthday Glee

Today the sun shone hard and warm on our backyard, and despite a swift breeze that brought a chill to the air the weather was ripe for an outdoor birthday extravaganza. We strung birthday banners from tree to tree, hauled out tables and chairs, and prepared for the onslaught. The children arrived to tables for face painting, for mucking around in "gak", and for necklace making. An obstacle course was open and the table was covered with tasty snacks. Guitars were at the ready for the singing. Much fun ensued.
I had, as per usuale, created a cake that ended up a sad reflection of my original intentions. In November I had spent about 6 hours making a beautiful, fondant covered castle cake with my dear friend Beth. It looked amazing, but I couldn't help wondering, couldn't I create something just as amazing looking, and also edible? The sight of everyone peeling the awful-tasting fondant off of Margaret's cake was too much for me to bear. Sure, the icing beneath tasted great, but wasn't that just such a waste of food and money?

So I decided that I would create a cake for my children that was beautiful and delicious through and through, and so rather than just bake the cake and make normal icing with butter and icing sugar and cream, I decided that I would out-do myself and make real, genuine buttercream. I looked up many recipes and finally settled on one that appeared to be the simplest of the complicated recipes I encountered. And so... after four hours of double-boiling, and whisking, and taking careful temperatures on my candy thermometer, and beating, and beating, and beating, and beating... I had created buttercream. It was an almost grotesque yellow color (yes, the color of butter, which is essentially what it was) and it tasted, well, it could have been that I had just licked the spatula one too many times, but I didn't really like it. It was much too buttery and rich, and not quite sweet enough for my taste. But no matter. This was going on the cake, and we would like it regardless. So I slapped it on, made some old-fashioned icing sugar icing with the 2 cups of confectioners sugar I found in the baking closet and piped on a chocolate decoration, embellished it with about a dozen candles and some princesses and a toy knight, and voila. It looked messy and tippy and off-coloured and awful, but I knew in my heart of hearts that the children would think it was fabulous and so I tried to be satisfied at least for that.

And here is the point of the description of the cake-- for the very, very first time ever at a birthday party, I carried the cake out to my children and I did not burst into tears. Because this is what usually happens.

I am distracted. I am busy with the cake. I light the candles, I begin to walk into the room where the children sit, everybody begins to sing, and BAM! It hits me.

This child, this blond, rosy-cheeked child sitting in front of me, has survived another year. I have made it through another year with this child, a whole entire year, all 365 days of it. The disbelief of my good fortune of having had this child for such a seeming eternity always bowls me over in that moment, this of course combined with the fact that my first child laid in my arms for somewhat less than six hours all told, and the floodgates always open as the cake hits the table. I know the onlookers think they are sweet tears of joy and love, but they are only partially that. They are also tears of sadness, for Charlotte who is not at the table with her brother or sister, for Charlotte who never got to blow out candles, for Charlotte who never got to make a friend. In that moment, she always comes to me.

But this year, as I carried out my eighth birthday cake (all told), I was distracted up until the moment that I realized that I was not crying, and that I was happy to see the joy on my children's faces, and the joy on their friends' faces, and I was so glad for all this gladness that I chased the tears away quite willingly, and I enjoyed the afternoon with all my heart.

So it was a good day, and though there is part of me that feels wistful for having not felt those strong pangs of sadness, I am also grateful for having been able to sop up the joy with my two little ones who are here. They deserve great joy, after all.

Hanami prints

I just have to alert all of you babylost folks to this amazing website I just discovered--
It is a catalog of remembrance items including amazing jewelry. I don't know about you, but I have been sorely disappointed at all of the items I have found that are intended to memorialize lost babies. The quality is often low and, quite honestly, I find most of it to be quite tacky. This site is full of absolutely gorgeous jewelry, as well as other things that are oh-so-appealing. So check it out! And pass the word along!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Shoot

The photographer came today, this super nice, compassionate, kind man who had been sent by the newspaper to capture me and my family (but of course not my eldest daughter, who is obviously not fit to print in their paper.) But this was not Chris's fault; in fact he was very thoughtful in trying to help me think of the best way to capture our family sitting around our special Charlotte garden. At the time of day he arrived, the light was waning and the shadows were theoretically all wrong for doing the shoot at the garden. I explained it to him very frankly.
"I really wanted to have my daughter in the photograph, the one who died," I told him, "but whoever is in charge of the article wouldn't let that happen. Honestly I'm pretty upset about that, and it's really important to me that whatever we figure out for the shoot, she is somehow in it". I showed him the garden with the angel statue and he got all sorts of gear out of his car, "Oh, it's possible, we'll make it work," he said.
While Greg was upstairs getting our kids Charlotte t-shirts on them Chris was careful to write down all of our names and to get the spelling of Charlotte's name, too. He wrote down exactly what I wanted him to say, that pictured here were the four members of the family sitting in the memorial garden for their daughter Charlotte Amelia, who died in 2003.
So we sat, and we smiled like the happy family that we are. Chris made faces for the kids and they laughed (when they weren't complaining to go back and play some more) and he snapped away. After a time his face furrowed, and he worried that he wasn't getting enough of the garden into the shot. "Do you have a stepladder?" he asked. We did, and up on the ladder he captured the family and the garden surrounding us, with the angel and the tiny rabbit and the pretty purple crocuses (and a lot of old dead perennials mowed down to nubbins, thank you early spring in Massachusetts). I wonder how the photos will look, if you will be able to read the writing on our shirts, if the angel will be visible, if the caption will say what I hope it will.
But for now, I am glad that even without the photo, about which I am still bullshit, I feel we created a Charlotte-centered photograph. I hope others will be able to see that.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Liam bit his finger tonight while he was eating his pizza and he burst into tears.
He bawled just for a second, looking right at me, his little mouth open and downturned, his eyes squeezed shut, big crocodile tears streaming down his cheeks.
For just a flicker of a second, he looked absolutely exactly like the way he looked the moment I first saw him, lying on a little light-table, naked and afraid, with his little face scrunched up just that very same way.
I had to run around the table and hold him, even though his father was sitting right there. Love just pumped fiercely through my veins, I had to have him next to me, to feel the warmth of his flesh and to taste the salt of his tears on my mouth. On my way back to my seat, I fetched the little photo book that holds the pictures of his birth and found just the photo that the midwife had taken of him at that moment; I held it up so that he could see.
Then I sat back and flipped through the book, and something surprised me:
stoic, sturdy, concrete me, my eyes began to fill with tears. I was trying to tell Aoife what was happening in the pictures but I could not, my voice was choking and I was overcome with emotion. Somehow I had gone there, I had been taken back.
Then it dawned on me, of course.
Of course.
Tick, tock.
Six weeks to go.
The fragile time has begun in earnest. Be ready.