Friday, May 29, 2009


I found this quote on my desk, written down during the conference I attended last week. Our friend Ina Ma.y was discussing her "discovery" of homebirth, and she describes it as such:

"People discovered that you could have a labor and delivery nurse help you at home, and if anything went wrong you could get in the car and go to the hospital and they would take care of things, they would give you a cesarean and everything would be okay."

Ummm....... sadly, I beg to differ.
Because every minute counts, and sometimes, everything is not okay.

I just can't imagine, knowing what I know, taking that risk. And this comes from a woman who considered having a homebirth with Charlotte, and who declared that she might birth others at home if that first hospital birth went "smoothly". As if one birth can predict the outcome of the next. But in the beginning, I didn't want to take that risk...
Because when it all boils down, it is just that: a risk. And we take lots of risks in our lives, but how many of us don't buckle our babies into their car seats because they are more comfortable outside of them? (of course, as I'm writing this I am thinking of the horror I experienced when several friends took crying babies out to nurse while the car was moving, but you get my point). So while a home birth is more comfortable, is it really WORTH that risk?

The truth is, and I stretch myself out on a very precarious limb in saying this, that the risk doesn't exist to most people who choose this option, or else they wouldn't choose it. Because let me tell you, if you knew what a broken heart really feels like, you might be lovin' that hospital birth.

What Now is Like

May has whizzed past in a blur; leaving me breathless and astonished at the same time. I can't say with certainty what caused it to fuzz so indiscriminately into grey matter in my mind. This stands in such stark contrast with usual Mays, in which I spend long hours listening to intentionally depressing music, hoping for rain, and generally grumble around for two to four weeks feeling hideously sorry for myself.
This May there was much to distract me from the usual babylost self pity, which I usually savour as my only tonic in the month of May. Mostly it was this pregnancy, which I have not discussed on this blog in any such detail, but not in the way you might think: it has left me devoid of much for the last two and a half months. I have been unbearably nauseous, nauseous where I feel almost that in-labor point of total overstimulation: too bright, too loud, don't touch me kind of feelings. Everything smells heinous to me, every touch makes my skin crawl and my stomach lurch, I can hardly make eye contact or speak to people at times because I don't have energy for anything but breathing and not throwing up.
But, of course, I am taking care of two, or three, or four children every day, so in many ways despite this I just carried on this May, eating like a desperate scavenger, hunting greedily for the one thing that might ease the nastiness brewing within. I have been beyond exhausted, lethargic, wanting nothing but to lie still because if I am very, very still and close my eyes, the nausea passes for a time. Blissfully, when I am asleep, I do not feel sick.
So while I would not say that the "joy and hope" of a new pregnancy has dulled the grief of May, I will say that the pregnancy itself has for certain rendered me unable to consider much besides what might stay down, and when I might get myself a nap. I suppose this helped, in a way, to avoid some of the usual wallowing (although I must say I like the wallowing... and feel almost a little sad to have missed out)
And on the note of "joy and hope"-- one of the reasons why I have not spoken of this pregnancy to any degree on this blog is due to the precarious feeling of terror that I succumb to nearly any time I dare to consider myself actually "pregnant" or refer to the "baby" within. Could there really be a baby in there? Clearly, I must be kidding myself. Is is possible that for the last appointment I was so nervous that it was just my hundred-and-something beats per minute heartrate they picked up? That I have actually just missed the miscarriage, that I am not really 15 weeks, that I have obviously eaten way too many awful things in the past few months and now merely look like I am 5 months pregnant (courtesy of this being the 4th go-round)... in any case, I am still in a moderate state of denial, despite my sweet living children's hugs, kisses, and daily presents made and wrapped for "Peanut" (their name for the newbie). Often, with friends, in discussing the fall, what the children will be doing, the topic of "the new baby" arises, and I feel myself as if in a glass box, my voice echoing around me in a terrifying way as I non-chalantly act as if I expect there will, indeed, be a baby in the fall and that I am planning what my life will be like at that point. But the truth is, I imagine in many ways it might be September before I allow myself that luxury. I can't go there yet, I can't think of the baby as a baby when I have nothing on a daily basis to convince me that there is actually a baby to think of. I can't wait until I can feel it move. (and as I write that, I think, move? but what if it's not in there? what if it died? then it won't move.)
The good thing is that the nausea is starting to waver and taper, I am having days where I feel better (although hardly energetic) and it seems like some of the life is coming back to me. Hopefully I am only a few weeks away from movement, and hence my abilty to self-regulate whether or not the child lives. And in the meantime, May has passed me by, and so I've missed a year, in essence, and I don't know how to feel about that. I was too sick to put on my black cloak and veil, but if I was thinking of my girl the whole time, is that okay? I suppose it is.
The clock ticks. I have to pee, again. The Red Sox are ahead. My bed calls. If you come across any names that mean, "He/she who is born healthy and alive and lives to a ripe old age without illness or strife" pass them along to me....

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A break for advertising...

This, from a colleague of my sister:



A researcher from the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology is conducting a dissertation study to learn about the loss of a singleton, a twin, a triplet, or higher-order multiple and its impact on mothers. The investigator is Louise E. Marasco, MS, clinical psychology PhD graduate student. She is requesting participation from adult mothers who have lost a baby, or more than one baby between the 28th week of pregnancy and the 28th day after birth. This study seeks mothers who have lost a baby within the last 4 years. The hope is that the information that is learned will assist health practitioners in providing comprehensive care for grieving mothers who have lost a multiple while simultaneously caring for a newborn.

If you choose to participate, the researcher will interview you by phone at a time that is convenient. You will be asked to complete several questionnaires about how you are adjusting and coping with the loss of your child. The questions are designed to help us better understand your experiences following the death of your child. Your individual responses will be kept completely confidential. Participation in this study will take approximately 2 hours and will be at no cost to you.

If you are interested in participating in this study please call:

Louise Marasco, MS
Principal Investigator



Did you ever have someone say to you, in reference to however long you had your baby for, that it was "better you didn't have her longer?"

I know I am not even close to being alone.

In my case it was words offered from a doctor, who had indeed seen many babies die on his watch, and who had no children of his own.

He suggested that perhaps I should be grateful that my daughter hadn't lived for just a little while, that perhaps this might have been more difficult.

More difficult than never seeing her alive? Than never being able to feel life in her limbs, than never seeing her little blue eyes open on their own? More difficult than never having known the sound of her weak newborn cry? Could her having lived for a few hours have possibly made it seem worse than the thought that she never felt the kiss of a parent on her cheek, that she never felt warm arms holding her to warm skin, that she never heard our voices telling her we loved her?

This is the truth, folks. There is no "easier" way to lose a baby. It all sucks. It is all hard. Anything offered as a platitude, is salt in a wound. Please do not try to have a pissing contest with me, because anyone who has lost a baby, has already lost.

(And what would I have given to hold her living body for just one minute, let alone an hour? To let her hear my voice, to feel my gentle mother's touch?
My life, at the time.

Without a doubt, my life.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fearing fear

I will be honest, I am not a blog reader. I am a blog checker, in a hurry, because I need to know who someone is, or because I already know who they are and need to just check up on what they're doing. This is (obviously) evidenced in my ridiculously minimal list of blogs along my sidebar, which consists almost entirely of the blogs of people I know whose daily life I want to have quick links to (told you I was being honest). I have come across dozens, hundreds of blogs that suck me in and make me want to read them every day, make me want to pore over every word and place myself in that persons shoes, but the stark truth of my life is I hate the computer and my therapy is writing, so that is what I spend most of my time doing on the computer.
There have been a few blogs, though, that I find myself wondering about as I go about my day, and they always, always, consist of a blog where there is some sort of baby in a precarious, life threatening situation. I become obsessed, wondering throughout the day about weight gains, GI tubes, and surgery success rates. I count backwards from birthdays trying to figure out adjusted ages. It is as if I am wanting through my own psychic thoughts and online energy transmission to somehow save these parents from the purgatory in which I once drowned myself. Quite simply, I need to see this baby saved.
Now, let me preface all the following remarks with this: the experience of a baby on the brink of life is a purgatory in itself, and a place which I profess to hold no knowledge. The greatest difference between these two forms of living hell (the land of the baby who has died, vs. the one who might die) is this: if the baby is alive, there is a glimmer of hope, and this is the strand that ropes me in. I cling to the hope for them, so desperately having wanted there to be one ounce of hope for my daughter who never had a chance, and so through these little fighters I somehow live out the dream of hope over the satillite waves of the world wide web.
My recent obsession, only two days old now, is Danny Miller's tiny son Charlie, who is fighting for his life so gracefully in Los Angeles. Miller, whose blog once took an entirely different form which you can peruse for yourself, has found his life (and hence his blog) suddenly consumed with his son's struggle to survive. Little Charlie now weighs in at almost two pounds, doing well for his class... and the other half of this story is that little Charlie's little twin, Oliver, lost his own struggle only hours after birth.
So there is Oliver, beloved brother, and he has died, the sweet son of two loving parents. The hopes and dreams for his independent life, the images of two boys in some likeness of one another, have slipped away. Grief looms, hovers, threatens to take over, and then there is Charlie.
The fight to survive must sometimes overwhelm the urge to crawl into a cave and cry. The thread of hope for Oliver has been lost, and I imagine that the strength it takes to recognize the enormity of that loss, of the life of one little son, is greater than the strength it takes to hope that the other son will live. Who could accomplish both at once, the grief (to its fullest extent) accompanied by the hope? Some of you know all too well.
But I do not, and this is what I am struck with now, as I sit here thousands of miles away wondering if there is anything I could do to help to keep Charlie alive. I picture his parents, sucked into a lightning-fast whirlwind of the micro-preemie world. They are also swirling in the dust cloud of grief, and feeling that increasing realization as each day passes that the dream has died, that Oliver will not return to them, and that they will have to trudge through each remaining day of their lives without him. They are learning what it feels like to lose a child, they are learning the ache that starts so deeply within your heart that when you take a deep breath it hurts. They are learning that some things hurt so much that your body forgets to do even just that, and a minute might pass without breath, until you begin to feel dizzy and suck in a gasp, and let out a sigh, and the world is still there in front of you, and your child is not in it.
So how do you pair this, the knowledge of what it feels like to lose a child, with the fear that your other child will die? How does knowing what this is like impact the journey of a family walking through the daily struggles of a 2-pounder who is fighting along like a little champ, but still walks the line? I ponder this as I wonder, knowing that the answer could never be known, how their daily fears would compare to the fears of someone who has only known the purgatory with the gleaming, distant droplet of hope, and have never known one where hope was lost.
This thinking is circular, and it takes me nowhere, but this is really where everything originates: I am amazed, every day, by the strength of the human spirit. I can't imagine how Miller and his family can cope with the grief and the anguish and the stress and the hope and the despair, with the loss of innocence and loss of life and each milestone and ounce gained and ounce lost. I can try to put myself there and say, oh, I could never, ever do that. I don't know how they do that.
Yet had you asked me, six and a half years ago today, if I could survive the death of my own baby, I would have told you in no uncertain terms that the answer was no. I remember, at one time when I was pregnant with Charlotte, having this very lucid thought:
If this baby died, would I kill myself?
I couldn't envision myself separate from my child, and she hadn't even been born yet. I was sure that I could never live beyond any separation.
Yet here I am, and while I feel I could tell you in just as certain terms that I could never survive it again, I also know that something grew within me that surprised me and took me captive, that held my hand and helped me to find light when around me there was only darkness.
And so while I cannot make Charlie live, I can sit here and feel amazed by the strength of his family, I can grieve in my own unrelated way for his brother and his parents, and I can hope on my own terms that this little boy wins his fight. And I can feel amazed, and assured, that whatever forces held my hand will in some way hold them tightly around their middles, keeping them standing for their child who lives, all the while keeping them gentle for the sadness that they hold for baby Oliver.
Thinking of you, little sweet Charlie, and offering all the good wishes and hopes for strength and growth and ounces gained and food digested and all those other things so many people take for granted.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The unbelivevable...

I just returned from a few days at a conference, Part.ners in Perinatal Hea.lth. I had an exhibit table there with literature, suggestions, examples, gorgeous photography, and a couple of down-home bereaved moms to talk to. I was delighted at the response we had from the nurses, midwives, childbirth educators and doulas who attended the conference.
Now speaking at this conference was the ever-so-renowned Ms. In.a Mae Gas.kin, and if you are not familiar with her very incredible life story and her quite compelling writing about women and birth and breasts etc, it is worth a look. But it is easiest to sum up that she is of the school, which I also once belonged to, that it is silly to imagine a baby born anywhere other than at home, and she is also of the school (which I did not really belong to) that believes that insurance companies run everything, doctors and nurses are out to put you in stirrups and inject you with all array of toxic substances, and that hospitals are mostly just bad. So listening to her speak, I did listen through a filter, knowing that as a babylost mother I would never take the risk of being away from the things that might save my baby, but also knowing as a birthing mother that I do believe women are made to give birth and can do so easily and with joy when the circumstances allow it.
I could, and may, go on for several posts worth of reactions to Ms. G's talk, but for now I will just relay one story which made my blood boil. This followed a series of pie charts touting her "farm's" success with 0% maternal deaths in their first 400 births, to which I wondered, but what about the babies?
So the story goes like this, she relays it, it is early in the life of her delivering babies, and a mother comes to her with a long and difficult labor, and the baby eventually emerges with the cord wrapped tightly three times around its neck, blue. While efforts are being made to resuscitate the baby, the mother begins to hemorrhage. Ultimately, the baby is resuscitated and the mother's bleeding slows down to a normal rate. Ina explains that everything did end up fine, because she knew what to do. Our friend Ina, in recalling the story, asks, "Who writes this stuff?" Like as if it's just this kind of cool war story to tell, with a happy ending that had nothing to do with really unbelivable timing and luck.

So here's another story. (It's mine) There is a healthy mother. She goes into normal labor, and delivers a healthy baby. The cord is not wrapped around the baby's neck tightly. The labor had not been difficult. The mother does not hemorrhage. The baby is dead anyway. Nobody knew what to do.

Who writes that?

(green, green, green. I know. I am green with envy. I want a cool war story, too)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Birthday Gift for Mama

Could there be anything better to hang over my bed?
(Umm.... well there's the six year old leaping under the covers in the morning, but besides that?)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The 13th, Revisited

What do you do on a birthday, when the birthday girl isn't there? So many people have called, good heartedly, in love, and have asked the question that I love to hear but hate to answer: How was your day on Wednesday?
I need to know that you want to know, but I still never know what to say... It was the most beautiful spring day, there were birds and the scent of lilacs hung heavy in our yard. We ate amazing meals full of incredible amounts of comfort calories, we spent almost the whole day outside, we loved each other so much all day long. We laughed together, we made each other cry, we held hands, we planted beautiful things. We collected wildlife, marvelled in the magic of life, and let it go. We baked an amazing dessert, sang to our sister, and then ate without her.
After the children went to bed, I unpacked about 400 sympathy cards from my bedroom storage closet, popped in Charlotte's birth music, and let it all go. A beautiful, appropriate, homing ending to a day that was, for all intents and purposes, as good as could be expected.

(love that line)

Wouldn't presents and a party have been more fun?


Friday, May 15, 2009


The lift is on, the sun is creeping above the horizon as the day has passed and somehow, although six years ago I could not lift my head above my shoulders, the light is returning.
But even with the release of the anticipation, the agony of knowing that she could have been saved over, I still retain the grumpiness of May-- the critical eye that seeks not to place myself above others, but to feel affronted by much that I see and hear around me.
Sometimes I find it hard to be around other mothers in May. Quite hard. Now, let it be said, to each his or her own, and this I do believe, truly and wholly. Of course I take exception to extremes that might constitute abuse, but I truly do believe that parent-child relationships seek a balance, and while there are certain practices that I believe are in the best interest of a child, I also respect that those same practices might lead certain parents to not be the optimal parents for their child, and so compromise is justified and called for.
But in May, I just hear it all around me. I hear people chastising their children. I hear impatience. I hear parents who sound, from a listening ear, as if they'd really rather not be parenting. (I realize this is not actually the case). I find myself in situations where I want to yell and scream and grab a child and take her with me, when a parent is scolding her child for not being good enough at something, instead of encouraging her for what she's doing right. I want to grab the child, hug her tight, and tell her it sometimes takes kids a long time to learn new things. To tell her to keep trying, that she's doing such a great job and I'm proud of her, even if her mom isn't at that moment. I see babies crying while their mothers talk on cellphones on the park paths. I hear complaints about children who are too loud and too slow and, for all intents and purposes, acting exactly as children should (which is different from how adults act and therefore annoying)
I hear these things, and instead of just walking past, or laughing along at the complaint and offering my own version of the story, I feel sick to my stomach. I want to take all these children home with me and appreciate all of them for exactly who they are. I want to hug them when they cry, and let them walk as slowly as they want to, and let them learn new skills at their own pace without being told they obviously aren't good at it. I want to take them to my home and feed them homemade cookies we have made together, while getting messy and dirty and spilling ingredients without reprimand, and wrap them in cozy blankets and read to them and kiss their soft cheeks and give them nothing but goodness, nothing but sweetness and love and whatever it is that I can offer to them because they are alive, their hearts are beating and they are breathing and they deserve a chance to be the best to someone.
This, all this, even though sometimes my own grief, and shadow grief six times over, pulls me to the point of impatience with my own brood, makes me wilt and cry and handle situations less than skillfully, and causes me to question my own worth as a parent.
But my misgivings about myself are in the moment, are gut reactions to one specific moment or behavior, I never question the worth of my child. If my words caused her to sit down quietly and hang her head, defeated, I would feel by crushed my actions. Children are miraculous, no more, no less. They are absolutely amazing. To think of the physical and cognitive skills that a child masters in five short years is staggering. Now think of the emotional skills they are capable of if only we allow it. How they can flourish and shine when we tell them not just that they are "good", but that they are worthy, and capable, and amazing. How they glow when they realize that we are truly proud for exactly what they are doing, which is learning and growing, and aren't just pleased by the successful perfection of a specific task.
So I think the long and the short of it is, that however one chooses to parent, it seems only fair that one should prioritize the self worth of one's child. This encompasses the simple, basic necessities of loving ones child, respecting ones child, and allowing him or her the individuality that we are all due. How one then chooses to go on and feed, or discipline, or whatever else goes into the daily ritual is off my radar. I just wish I could see people letting their children be children, like beautiful daisies growing in a summer field, each so beautiful in his or her own way. I wish more children could have a half-full glass, could have the benefit of the doubt, could be given something to grab onto to inspire them to reach to higher places.
And I wish this in part, of course, because my daisy was plucked much to soon, and never had a chance to dance to her own breeze, and develop her own strength of character. Her glass is empty. So couldn't those who are here fill up with some of what she lost?


Someone commented to me the other day that May seemed much less heavy this year, that the posts here were much less dragging and sullen. Truth, yes, but it dismays me to think that through the nausea and exhaustion and incredible sense of purpose from a fundraising walk last weekend and a conference next week, that I was perhaps slightly distracted from it all, and we all know how effective it can be to shelve emotion for later (hem, hem). So perhaps there will be days upcoming which are heavier than those that have passed, and for those days I will be grateful.

It feels nicer for me to be sad than to be angry, but it is so much easier to feel angry.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Last Day, Round 6

Last day always wrings me to the core, knowing that years ago my sweet baby's clock was ticking slowly down to nothing while I merrily bounced my way through my life. I remember the minutes and hours of that day in molasses-slow detail, and have obsessed for many hours inserting "save the baby" scenarios into what never needed to be her last day.

In fact, it should have been the day before her first day, except that her cord happened to be wrapped in a certain way, and then my water happened to break first, when I was still at home, and it happened to be a break in the bottom of the sac so that all the fluid gushed out all at once, and that was the end of that.

If only one, one, of those details could have been different, then it all could have been different.

Tonight at dinner, a lovely meal of wild caught Alaskan Salmon, couscous, and fresh local asparagus, we held hands and lit the candle. I asked that we all say some words for Charlotte, and we did, and then Aoife asked to sing.

She has a clear, tiny, high voice, and sings perfectly in tune. And this is what she sang, to the tune of Happy Birthday:

Sad Charlotte to you.
Sad Charlotte to you.

She misses her hungry family

Sad Charlotte to you.

A sad, appropriate grace for a grave, yet cherished, dinner. It is probably not necessary to say that Greg and I broke into tears at her sweet song, for so very many reasons. But I felt it again, this deep, visceral tug towards the earth. This feeling of inexplicable gratitude, of disbelief that from the ashes of my incinerated life, these beautiful children have risen and given us such a wonderful family to love. Clearly, they are hand-picked souls.

Tomorrow, we will stay home together, we will plant flowers for Charlotte, we will cry, we will eat, we will sing. We will bake her a cake and we will weep into the batter, and onto the icing, but the children will be sincere as they sing her birthday wishes and blow out her candles.

We will miss her so very, very much. We always do.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

I have had seven Mother's days now, one with all my children with me. That was the first, which was exactly thirty six hours before my daughter died.

We walked with our good friends along the river which now has Charlotte's stone along its banks. I remember holding my hands in the air as I walked, they were swelling. It was a beautiful, fresh day. The sun was shining and the apple blossoms were breaking apart, spreading their pale pink petals all across the trail and field beyond and filling the air with perfume. The river snaked lazily along. In my ears, simple gold hoops hung, a gift from Greg for my first Mother's Day.

My father had given me a card that morning, a funny one, in his usual fashion. Also according to the way dad is, there was something changed in the card-- part of the original text that had been crossed out and replaced with his own words, exchanging the word "move" with "come".

On this Mother's Day, Keep this one thing in mind about children-- the card read on the outside.
Eventually, they come out! his words changed the inside to.

How we laughed. Would this baby really come out? Already a week late? But of course! We had only to wait.

I told this story to my friend, Gina, as we walked. We laughed, knowing this was all we had to wait for. This pregnancy was as good as over. I had sailed through, happy and healthy, the baby was robust and vivacious, and we were in the final days. If I didn't go into labour on my own, I would be induced the following Friday at 42 weeks. I was home free.

Gina was so excited for my baby to be born. She is a true baby lover, now a mother of two herself, and there was no hiding the fact on either of our parts that she was living vicariously through me for this pregnancy. Her hands were always on my belly, she was knitting things for the baby. She would be an honorary aunt, for sure.

As we came to the top of the hill, near where our cars were parked, the conversation turned to a family she knew whose baby had died some years before. The family owned a restaurant, and had made a little "shrine" to the baby in the restaurant.
"That's kind of weird," I can remember saying. I thought for a moment, then reconsidered. "Then again, it's hard to imagine how that would feel like."
"Yeah," Gina said, rubbing my belly. "I mean, you've carried this baby for nine months. Can you imagine?"
"No," I said gravely, "I can't." And I didn't. There was no need to, because my baby was not going to die. I, like most people who have never lost a baby, knew this could not, and would not happen to me.

The conversation never crossed my mind again. Until, of course, two days passed and my baby did die. Then I thought about it a lot, a lot.

This Mother's Day was a delight from beginning to end. I awoke after a 12 hour sleep at half past eight to the smell of freshly baked brioche. My children ran to me and crawled into bed with me, covering me with kisses. Upon coming downstairs there was a beautiful, handmade banner in my honour, and a vase of flowers from the garden sat upon the table.
After enjoying the brioche, we walked up to the high school which is up the street and took Liam's training wheels off on the track. He took to it immediately, flying around the track about 9 times before the agenda turned to kite flying and t-ball. It was an amazing morning.
I slept again in the afternoon for a few hours, and when I awoke the children were back at the river. They had a huge tupperware full of various salamanders, larvae, water bugs, and tasty green things to eat. It made my heart sing to live in the woods, surrounded by such opportunity.
The day was made complete by a trip to town and a lovely, early dinner in a favourite restaurant. Bedtime came easily for the children, and now the lawn mower hums outside as the sun drops below the horizon.

This year is the first year that I have broken the tradition and not walked by the river, but it worked for me. The day was perfect, through and through.

But I haven't told you the most exciting part of the day, which came just after I awoke, when I was downstairs examining the banner that the children had decorated. One of Aoife's drawings was of "a big round tummy". Greg asked her to explain to me what that meant, and she told me that my tummy was big and round because there was a baby in it. I laughed, and patted my tummy, which was, in fact, slightly rounder than it has been.
"And what would you children think," I asked, "If I told you that there really was a baby growing in there?"
Liam's eyes grew wide. He is a perceptive child, as is his sister, and suspicion had been high in the past week or so. "Is there?" he asked.
"There is," I said. "There is. You are going to have a new brother or sister just before Thanksgiving."

Cheers all around. Cheers, hugs, kisses, and more hugs. Could there be a luckier baby?

13 weeks, folks. The countdown is on.

(And now you know why so much of my Mother's Day consisted of sleep. this, combined with the past seven weeks spent mostly green and heaving, also explains the dearth of posts in the past few months)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Seventh

Today was the day, for some reason, I had ingrained in my head she would be born. The seventh of May, two days late, an odd number (I never wavered in my conviction that I would never birth on an even day), and a lucky number, at that. I knew of two wonderful people who shared that birthday, and so I hoped that the seventh would bring me my baby, robust and healthy and ready to face the world.

The seventh of May was a Wednesday that year. I know that much. I imagine that I wore this blue, embroidered maternity dress that my friend Kathleen lent to me. But I'm not sure. This is the strange part, you see. There were years, years, where I could rattle off every single thing that I did for every single day leading up to Charlotte's birth, even those empty hours spent idly passing time on a quiet Wednesday six days before. But now? It is a distant memory. I do remember with some clarity the events of the weekend prior, and the day before is still embedded deeply into my memory as I'm sure it always will be, but the seventh remains a mystery.

But this I know is true: The apple blossoms were filling the air with a pure and gentle scent, the wind was warm, and the sun was radiant. I think that this was the day that I walked slowly on tender, winter bare feet into the back woods wearing only a sarong, and Greg photographed me in black and white. The best example still hangs on our wall, I am looking down at my belly, my hands clasped beneath her, my hair hanging over my face.

I had no idea.

Those photos, all of those photos of before, they haunt me. I only imagine how absolutely simple it would have been to save my daughter, if only we had known what was to happen.

So absolutely simple.

I hear so often, when mothers' conversations turn to birth, these "horror stories" of births gone complicated-- the cord is around his neck, the baby's head is stuck, the baby fails to breathe upon birth. And frightening as they may have been at the time, they truly aren't horror stories, because somehow these babies in these stories ended up with the luck: the timing of their misfortune was such that someone was there to save them. And truly? I don't even know if the reality that a baby could die would even strike a parent at that moment. I know it wouldn't have struck me.

Until it happened, and my poor girl didn't have that good fortune of being in the right place at the right time.

Would it be appropriate to say, Why me? Why Charlotte? Why, why, why?

Tonight, at the dinner table, I said that I could feel Charlotte all around us right now. Aoife said, "Maybe we'll find Charlotte. Maybe we can find her and we can bring her back to life."

If only.

I feel so sorry for my children that their sister is gone.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Today it is the first of May the first day of the year-o.
So many jolly songs welcome us to the beginning of this merry month. And it is, in this green kingdom of New England, absolutely bliss this month of May, with huge fat blossoms everywhere and all at once, the smell of wet earth, and the warm sun on everything. I feel so grateful that my daughter's death happened to fall in such a time of life, as I mourn her loss of life I see around me everywhere everything bursting with what she lost, and while at times this seems to mock me, at the same time there is beauty everywhere, and this is soothing.
I am grateful that the things that I plant for my little girl gently open into bloom beginning at the time that I was waiting for her birth; she was due on the 5th of May and so you can imagine, from late April onwards there was this waiting, this anticipation, and spring crept onward as my belly blossomed and the smells that surrounded me filled the world with nectar.

But May brings with it a longing to escape, to turn off the calendar and get away from the sadness, to breathe in isolation and to turn myself inward. My lashes fall heavy over my eyes as I see the world going on. My clock ticks forward to the end of another year, to early in the morning on the 13th. Somewhere in the hour of 4 in the morning the guillotine slammed down upon the life that I once lived and I began again, a slighter, depleted version of my former self.

For months afterwards, without fail, I awoke when the clock read 4: something on my bedside table, I could feel the blade falling again and again, shearing away at my will to live.

Is it true, really, that the 12th of May and the 14th of May are only a day apart?

Not in my world.