Wednesday, November 24, 2010


House became home over the course of several weeks or months, because we couldn't go out and we needed a place that could envelop us in comfort and safety. The soft pink exterior was almost flesh colored, with multiple gables like slouching shoulders. A weathervane perched on top, a flying pig, that seemed to keep watch of the world around. Tall, tall pines towered around the perimeter of the open backyard, while drooping hemlocks lined the drive that curved down the hill toward the road and the river. At night, the sky seemed black and in winter Orion was framed by the pines, the stars twinkling as gently as a lullaby. A small cabin sat at the back of the yard, it housed a perfect, tidy bedroom with a woodstove and a writing desk.
A path led from the cabin out through the woods behind the house. You had to know the way to get there; a right turn at pointy rock, under pine bridge, a left at woodpecker tree, over France rock and around Porcupine rock to the second river behind the house. The water rushed fiercely here, travelling swiftly over large, moss covered rocks and shaded by the steep hemlock slope behind. One could cross the river here, over the old dam, and walk for miles on deeply grooved horse trails through the woods.
But going back, back to the house along the little path, it would suddenly seem shady as the brightness of the grassy yard approached. Coming around the corner of the cabin, the little house stares with wide windowed eyes, and the bright perennial beds leap forth a greeting in summer. It is here that one leaves the rush of the backyard river behind, climbing the knoll that the house perches on, and the sound of the front yard river meets the ears. There is never silence, and when the wind blows hard it rushes down the little river valley with a howling fury that sounds like a thousand wolves at once.

And now, seven and a half years after the house gulped and surrounded us in our isolating anguish, its walls echo with laughter, its floors are marked with footprints and the corners house old cheerios and dust bunnies. The bedrooms call out with cheery colors, soft bean bags, and shelves of games and toys. Song bursts from within every day.

I am thankful for home.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Change is Good-- Or, I love MotherWoman

Oh, I love this organization. Check it out here. MotherWoman, an advocacy group for mothers, held a community breakfast today, with over 300 people, and it was truly inspirational. I am so full of ideas, thoughts, and missions for my future.

MotherWoman is actually creating change before our very eyes, with fierce love and enthusiasm and gentle, tender care. They are refusing to accept the plight of American mothers-- among the most unsupported mothers on this planet-- and are running, faster than the mouse on the proverbial wheel, to try to make this different.

MotherWoman supports and empowers mothers to create positive personal and social change for ourselves, our families, our communities and the world.


It's curious, because personally, while much of the MotherWoman crusade thus far feels incredibly important to me, imperative, even, I don't have a personal connection to it. As a mother who has embraced and adored the ability to stay home with my children (and has not felt for one second like I am a prisoner in my home; rather I feel slightly guilty and giddy that I get to avoid a career and focus every second of my day on raising these amazing people), I have not personally suffered because of a lack of fair wages and/or maternity leave. And, as someone who has gratefully and mercifully avoided post-partum depression of any kind, I have not required MotherWoman's fabulous services here, either. I haven't needed to be held in many of the areas that they focus on: but still, I am a mother, and I am a rational, educated individual who believes in honesty and justice, and so these things mean a great deal to me.

I am so grateful for where I am, for the simplicity, the ease, the meaning to my life with my children. I wish more women had the means, the ability, the head space to find such peace. I wish more women had the community I have to share motherhood. I wish more women were lucky enough to have never felt that being a woman has ever stood in the way of anything she wanted. I wish more women had access to the things I have access to; half the journey is knowing the support is there if you need it, whether or not you actually do. MotherWoman, through so many avenues, is seeking to help women all over the globe to feel (and actually BE) supported by their nations/states, communities, families, and most of all, themselves. I applaud their work.

But there is an ulterior motive to my love for MotherWoman as well, and it is that what they represent also holds my personal mission so neatly. The resources, research, and political activism that they have so strongly advocated for could almost 100% be applied to the experience of perinatal loss. Should we advocate for bereavement leave for mothers and fathers whose babies have died that is longer than the normal three days (if anything)? And then, given that there is nothing of this sort, should there be a policy allowing mothers who utilize some portion of a maternity leave to grieve for a baby who has died to take another maternity leave sooner than would normally be allowed since the first baby died? I argue yes. I know a woman whose baby died. Her body was healthy, fine, in perfect shape to conceive another baby within a few months of her daughter's death. She was desperate to have another baby. But she carried the benefits for her family, and because she had taken five weeks leave when her baby died, she had to wait a year to conceive again so that she would be able to keep her job and support her family once her next baby was born. The pain I felt for her, knowing that her inflexible company's policy was preventing her from taking the one step towards future hope and happiness that felt most important to her, was immense.

But for the most part there is, at the most basic level, the isolating, traumatizing, anguishing experience of having a baby die at any point. This is not a syndrome, it is not a mental illness, it is a reaction. The grief that follows the loss of a baby is crippling for many people, yet it is among the most silenced of all sorrows.
I listened to a woman, a brave, powerful, humbling woman, share intimate details of her own postpartum emotional crisis this morning. MotherWoman had its annual fundraising breakfast, and this beautiful, open soul stood on the podium and threw words out there that I knew only too well: Anger, helplessness, guilt, sadness, hopelessness. As she described herself, right before her husband did the last thing he could think of and brought her into the ER to be admitted, I saw myself, and so many others I know whose precious babies have died. I was curled on the floor. Hours of crying had swollen my face, soaked the carpet, and wet my hair, which hung in damp strands. With no real confusion around this topic, I did not want to be alive. If somehow I could have slipped away from this earth, disappeared, without inflicting this same pain upon the people who loved me, I would have done it in an instant. I remember realizing then the true meaning behind the human act of crying, at any age, at any stage. True crying, the wailing, uncontrollable cry of a baby, or a toddler, or a grieving parent, or a person in complete crisis, says one thing: Help me. I cannot help myself.
Fortunately for me, I was grieving, and was not simultaneously unable to recognize my own importance to others. While the thought of not being here was so very appealing, the idea of acting on those thoughts was absolutely terrifying. Who could possibly hold my husband, also bereaved? How could I deprive my parents of their daughter, as I had been deprived of mine? As I staggered through the early weeks and months, people looked at me, with my swollen face, and tearful voice, and empty arms, and swollen breasts, and they said, poor Carol.
And that was all they could do.
There was nobody they could send me to.
I had no peer support.
There was no recipe for healing, or getting better, or making this okay.

Some would-be supporters returned to the age-old standby of implying that you simply had to get yourself knocked up again and trying for a fresh start. It's true that this is a mentality around pregnancy and infant loss that is still mighty present: people who experience this type of loss are obviously in their childbearing years, and from the outside perspective there are still an enormous number of people who suppose that the obvious solution to this "loss" is to simply conceive another child, effectively replacing and starting again with an new child. Just as the obvious solution to postpartum depression is to get off your horse and enjoy what you've got. Yeah right.

Anyone whose spouse has died will tell you that you can't just go out and get a new husband. So why am I expected to go out and make a new baby?

So what do we do?

We reel, us the bereaved, keening in the darkness of the night, alone in our sadness. We know that the world has no words for what has happened and that nobody knows exactly how to hold our hand through this. We grieve for ourselves and the life we imagined, and we grieve for a little person who we loved who never got a chance. We grieve for our family and friends who we've let down, as there will now be no new baby. We agonize over the new, angry self we see: she who wants to throw dishes, curse pregnant women, eliminate other people's babies from our sight. We suffer alone with the extreme guilt that our bodies have failed, that if only we had eaten better or not taken advil or been more vigilant, our babies might have lived. We grieve for the happiness we once knew, we grieve for our innocence lost. We fear for our own lives, for the lives of our remaining children, we face death and know it as real, as part of life. We are vulnerable, alone, and helpless. We can't imagine that this will ever get better, because we know we will never, ever get our baby back. And it seems brutally apparent that nobody, no one, can help us.
Unless there is something. Unless there is something known, something out there, that people know about, that is real, thriving, throbbing with lives and stories of people who have also lain in that ball on the floor, willing themselves to eat, to breathe, to live. Unless you know you are not alone, that what you are going through is normal, and you see living, breathing examples who tell you that it is possible to some day heal around this wound. Unless somehow it isn't hard, or complicated to find all those other people out there who have had similar experiences.
When there is community, when you know that each person's grief follows its own path, when you realize that we all create our own stories for ourselves, we can be empowered to grieve. We can see this as a painful, arduous, excruciating process that accomplishes something as it happens. Even when we are captives in a dark, whirlwind of a gloomy place, we have people with us, who describe being in that same place, who recognize where we are, and tell us we can find the way out over time. And, over time, we begin to believe them. And over the years, we see the light at the edge of the dark, once bottomless pit. And we tell our story, again and again, until it becomes a part of us that is soft around the edges. We carry our child who has died, with us always, and after the knife-like pain has eased, and after the suffocating loneliness has become less so, we begin to live again. This is how it can be, and how it should be.

And this is the reason why I love MotherWoman: because their mission, when it comes to the individuals, is that together we can help each other to help ourselves. They know that we can only save ourselves. And MotherWoman sees this cause, they see my Empty Arms organization, and they know already that this mission is closely linked to all areas of motherhood. They see us bereaved mothers as a substantial group. They recognize that this is a glaring need, and they want to help me.

MotherWoman will help me, I know. They will help me for whatever I need, whenever I ask. But moreso, they represent to me that when you are part of a group that is marginalized, a group that is isolated and crying out for help, attention, and change, you can do something about it. MotherWoman has already changed the lives of so many women in this Valley, this state. They are reaching their arms wider now, on a national and even international level. People are seeing the work that they do, nodding their heads and saying, yes. This works. This is true need, true response, and real results.

I feel so privileged to be a part of such an amazing, fantastic organization. And it helps me to be patient to see the amazing work that MotherWoman has done with the causes they have chosen to embrace thus far. I realize that one day, when I don't have small children at home to devote myself to 24 hours a day, Empty Arms can become exactly what I envision it to be. That it can wrap itself around this valley, and even farther, bringing in all who need each other. I can do the things I dream of, and I will be patient with myself, knowing I am not alone in wanting to create change in this world.

Change is good

Last year, for six Sundays I attended the MotherWoman Facilitator training here in Northampton, Massachusetts. First, allow me to confess that I signed up for the training almost against my will. It was offered to me by the amazing, powerful, and inspirational leaders of this organization and I thought to myself, I've taken other facilitator trainings. I would really like those Sundays to myself. But I also realized that being affiliated with MotherWoman would be beneficial for Empty Arms, and so I wrote the check and signed up and agreed to attend.

The first five minutes of the first meeting proved me wrong. Personally, those six Sundays would provide me with an invaluable opportunity for reflection, growth, and community.The companionship of the 21 other women in the room, all so different yet so alike, would prove precious to me. Professionally, the ways in which the training would affect and change the groups that I run is almost indescribable. I am so grateful to MotherWoman for inspiring so many people, and I am continually inspired every time I lead a meeting.

MotherWoman groups operate on the principle that it is essential to create a steadfast, ironclad, calm, earnest, SAFE space first and foremost. They reason that if we take the time to speak exactly what we intend to do, and exactly what we intend to accomplish, and exactly how we intend to do it, it can all be done. They celebrate speaking the truth and encouraging others to do just that. They pull for the underdogs and seek honesty and truth-seeking in all endeavors. They believe that each person can be her own best advocate, and that each person has the power to create the change within herself that she needs. They believe that we can accomplish this within the context of community, when we are held in a safe space, when we are allowed to be honest and real and truthful about our experience, our process, and our direction. (these words are all mine, extracted from my experience with this group)

In a MotherWoman circle, I soon learned, the first substantial chunk of time is spent spelling out the parameters of the shared space, to ensure that everyone understands that they are safely held, free to express themselves openly, confident that their words will never leave that space. Their mission is spelled out, the guidelines explicitly explained, so that we can all sit with what the hope for the time together is. Specific time is spent separating that space from the outside world, making it unique, apart, a place of safety and comfort.

This part was easy for me. I wrote up guidelines and principles easily for my group, modeled on the MotherWoman principles, and they were as follows:

Empty Arms Group Principles

We know that losing a baby is an isolating and devastating experience. In our groups we support bereaved parents by naming the incredible challenges they are experiencing, knowing that this group is one of the few places where parents can speak the truth about the depth of their emotions and the details of their experience.

We believe that speaking the truth about the heartbreaking journey of losing a baby is essential. Healing comes through understanding what we have been through and what may lie ahead. By speaking about our experiences they can become integrated into who we are and allow us to move along. We celebrate breaking the silence that bereaved parents have been historically subjected to.

In these meetings we do not compare losses. We respect that each and every person’s experience is uniquely challenging in its own right. Regardless of the gestation or age of our baby when he or she died, we all hoped that we would have a lifetime with the child growing within us. Consequently, we all have the right to grieve our loss, and we support one another in our grief.

We believe that grief takes many forms. Emotions such as deep sadness, anger, confusion, longing, and even a sense of intermittent peace can all be normal parts of grieving. No one person grieves like another. We believe each person has the right to follow the path of grief they are most comfortable with.

We respect that each person has his or her own comfort level for sharing emotions and stories. We believe that the very act of coming to this group demonstrates each person’s commitment to their own growth and healing, whether they share a little or a lot. We believe that this extends into the greater world, where each bereaved parent should be liberated to share the pieces of their story and their child in a way that feels comfortable to them.

We believe that each one of you has the inner wisdom and courage to come out into a brighter place, without ever forgetting the baby that you lost.

Empty Arms Group Guidelines

  1. Confidentiality. We hold everything that is said in group to be confidential and ask that you share it with no one outside of this group. Furthermore, we also extend this confidentiality to within this room, in that we ask that you request permission from someone to talk with them about what they have shared when the formal discussion is over.
  2. In this group, we hold each other with respect, compassion, and non-judgment. We remind you that there is no right or wrong way to go about grieving.
  3. We do not give advice or interrupt. We welcome responses in the form of “I” statements, which can help another person to see another way of doing things without hearing advice that could be interpreted as criticism or judgment.
  4. When we’re sharing stories, please feel liberated to include any details you wish. The only thing we ask that you not include is the names of professionals that may speak of negatively.
  5. This is not a therapy group, and it should not replace therapy for individuals or couples who need it. Grief brings up a myriad of issues that can not always be adequately addressed in this forum. Therapy can often be very helpful, and we would be happy to share the names of counselors/therapists that we know if you would be interested.
  6. Self care- Be aware of what you need during the group, and take care of yourself. Food and drinks are on the table, feel free to eat, drink, and ask someone to pass things to you. If you need to cry, blow your nose, or laugh, do it. If you need to use the bathroom, it’s right down the hall. Take care of yourself. If at any point you feel you are overwhelmed and you need to go home, of course you may, but one of us will follow you out to make sure you are okay.
The next part did not come so easily for me. In a MotherWoman circle, beginning with the facilitators, an object is passed around the circle, and each person is given space to speak. A topic is posed, which participants can choose to address or not, but each person is given air time to introduce themselves and speak openly and honestly about their experience. During this time, there is no cross talk, and there are few interruptions or commentaries from even the facilitators. Occasionally, when somebody expresses something that the facilitator believes it would be poignant to point out to the group as it is such a shared experience, they will carefully and formulaically offer a reflection and unifying statement about what they've heard. But other than that, during this time, people are handed an object and invited to speak.

I simply can't do that, I thought. I can't force these people to speak. The people who come through my door are wounded sparrows, they are limping, their wings hang broken, they have been silenced. While some are eager to speak and will share their experience from the start, some simply cannot. I had always historically honored this silence and maintained committed to the idea that participants should be able to choose whether or not they would like to contribute. The idea of handing somebody an object and putting them on the spot seemed almost repellant to me.

Furthermore, I was also concerned about the fact that people wouldn't immediately be able to connect and comment on each others' experiences. In a community so silenced, and where most people coming to my group have not one single person in their own lives who has even a point of reference to understand their experience, I knew that connection and the establishment of common community was absolutely essential in my groups. When these people shared their experiences in the outside world, they were often almost speaking to a brick wall. There was no comprehension whatsoever; this was what made so many of us feel like we were going crazy, or doing grief wrong. I was afraid to limit cross talk in a group of people so desperate for commonality.

However, I saw for myself after the first few MotherWoman circles I sat in how immense the power of that object is, and how incredible the safety of a well-established circle can be. As I sat there and heard women weep, and express themselves absolutely honestly and from their hearts, I began to see the strength behind the format. MotherWoman circles work. I would see this week after week.

For the first five months of my MotherWoman training, I was on maternity leave from facilitating Empty Arms Groups because of my huge pregnant belly that I had no wish to parade among a group of bereaved parents. So while these ideas were brewing and stewing, I wasn't in a position to try them out. Finally, in January of 2010, I returned to facilitating and announced to the group that we were going to have a new format for meetings.

Slowly, and deliberately, I welcomed people to the meeting. I told them that I was going to read these new guidelines in hopes that it would effectively mark this space off as separate and different from the busy, fast-paced, world around us. I told them I hoped they would feel safe in sharing their stories and feelings, knowing that we all have the common goal of supporting each other. I read the principles, making eye contact with each and every person as I did so.
Then, I introduced myself, and told the group about Charlotte. I spoke about winter darkness and the depth of my love for her still. I recalled the pain that had once nearly robbed me of my very life, and reflected on how, six and a half years later, that pain felt so different. I spoke for only about two minutes, modeling brevity, and then I took a deep breath, and I passed the little stone heart I had been clutching in my hand.

It was amazing.

People began to speak. There were people around the table who had come to 10, 12, 15 meetings before, who shared things I had never heard before. Tears were shed by people who never cried, and everyone listened with an open, honest heart. Nobody was thinking about their response or comment to what someone was saying, they only listened. Although I had given people the option to pass the stone if they didn't feel ready to share, nobody did. I was floored, my first instincts having been absolutely, positively proven wrong. As people spoke, I thought about commonalities that were being shared around the table, so that when people were finished, I could thank them for their honesty, and start our shared conversation with that common thread. That meeting was the first of many that I hold so dear, so precious, so wholly in my heart. The plan had worked.

What was especially amazing to me was this: while MotherWoman is primarily an organization that serves women, I was seeing the greatest change among the men in my groups. While they previously had been more likely to let their wives/partners take the reigns and share the details of their story and healing journey, suddenly now a warm stone was being passed to them, and the room was silent. Suddenly these men were being asked to share from their hearts, and one by one, they did. The more they spoke, the more they spoke: it was as if the men in the room found the experience of being emotionally liberated so empowering that they could not stop talking. Unlike before, where the women clearly dominated every meeting, we now had meetings that were absolutely split, with fathers and mothers equally talking, crying, and sharing.

I have now been running my meetings using the MotherWoman model for nearly a year. Every month, I worry briefly about the length of the introductions, whether people will feel pressured to speak, or how the topic will be processed by the group. But month after month, it works, and it works well. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity, and I thank the amazing women at MotherWoman for reeling me in and for encouraging me to join them on their crusade for change. Check them out.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I love this little birthday girl so much.
She was so worth the wait.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Phoenix

He's leaning over his little green math book. He's an amazing math genius, my boy, something I've never taken the time to brag about, but it's his favorite thing to do. He brings his little book home every Monday and breezes through the week's pages with such gusto and joy. Then he poses questions of his own, out loud, for all to ponder. "I wonder which day we'll be 45 % of the way through the school year?" As Greg and I exchange worried glances across the room, his gaze is fixed, and by the time the two of us have determined a strategy to solve the problem, Liam has figured it out. It's humbling to be regularly out-computed by your six year old.
But on this day he's just plugging away, and I'm leaned over some felt I'm cutting out for Fiona's birthday. I'm struggling with figuring out how to do a layered felt dog in a book I'm creating for her. As he works, Liam chats to me periodically.
"I've figured out what I'm going to be for Halloween next year," he offers.
"Mmmm..." I say absently, my scissors paused halfway through a snip. I'm cutting out an extra piece to sew on top of the existing dog to give the head more depth, but I think I'm not getting the shape right. Maybe I should draw a template?
"It's going to be fire colored, and I think we'll need to get lots of feathers and maybe dye them," he continues.
"Is that so?" I offer, as I figure out that if I cut the ear separate from the head the dog looks more real. I put it on, satisfied.
And Liam says, "Next year I'm going to be a phoenix".
I look across the table at him, this strong, lean, growing tower of pulsing flesh and blood. This soft, sweet, sensitive, beautiful boy who asks me to lie with him every night when I tuck him in. This caring, loving, devoted little son of mine.
I look at him and I see him for what he is, this magical soul who defeated the odds I perceived and rose, alive and alight, from the ruined shards of my would-be life. He brought me back from the place from which I thought I could never return. Liam was my rebirth. I have always thought of him as my phoenix.
I looked across the table at him and said, "That's a great idea, Liam," and smiled for the millionth time at this old-soul boy of mine.

How did he know to be a Phoenix?

(by the by, I've always secretly wished I had given him Phoenix as a middle name)

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Missing Piece

As we're walking out of the Haymarket, a tiny, dark, hole-in-the-wall coffee shop on Main St in Northampton, Jenni poses a question I've never thought of before, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since.
"So who's your group of peers?" she asks.
"You support all these people. But who supports you?"
This gives me pause. I'm on the stairs, on my way up, and I begin to speak, but stop.
I feel so well supported. There's everyone in the group, there's the loyal readers of the blog, there are close and wonderful friends who love me and hold Charlotte so dear.
"I was thinking about it," she continued, "I don't know anyone else who's 7 and a half years out."
Come to think of it, neither do I.

I don't feel unsupported, I don't feel like an island. But when I break it down to that, it's really true. I don't know anyone else who is just where I am. And when I have a night where the three living kids are running me ragged, I don't know anyone else with three living kids and an almost eight year loss under her pillow who I can call and cry to. There isn't anyone who ever puts her arm around my shoulder and knows what it's really like to have these three kids plus one more, not somebody who actually knows. I think I miss that person in my life. I just hadn't realized it.

And while thinking about this could seem like a bit of a downer, or maybe nearly alarming, for me it came almost as relief. It gave some real structure to the feeling I get sometimes, late at night, when everyone else is asleep. Perhaps I am leaning over my computer, trying to draft a letter to the director of the childbirth center, or maybe I'm e-mailing a newly bereaved mom and trying to think of just what to say. It's always late, the packed lunches are in the fridge, the house is almost clean, and the kids are happy and dreaming. I've taken time to read to them, to scratch their backs, to sing to them, to lie with them. Meanwhile the meeting for tomorrow night is planned, I've sent out the reminders, and I need to get on the website and update something. The next conference in the works, and the volunteer project for the nursery school is halfway done. I have plans to go into Liam's school tomorrow to help with writing workshop, and my friend's child will come over in the afternoon so she can go to the doctor. As the minutes tick by, and the caring-for-others continues, I have moments, sometimes, where I do what all moms do: I wilt, I fall, I wither, and I cry: why doesn't anyone ever care for me? I just want someone to take care of me. I am tired, weary, bone tired, of caring for others, of giving my time, of running around in circles over and over and over again. I want somebody to do something for me.
This is selfish, greedy, wretched, I accuse myself.
Because what in life brings me the MOST satisfaction?
(a question that need not be answered, I pray)
And I think of all the people, the big, huge circle of amazing babylost people in this valley that I have discovered, and they DO hold me up, but they don't know it. And they are not my peers. But I think that sometimes, that is just what I wish I had. I wish I had someone who was where I was, who could relate to the vague distance and alarming normalcy of my life; who could understand the random tears and even laughter over the other kids lighting the memory candle at dinner, who could be part of the wrath of the overtired mother and the overtaxed heart when the anniversary time rolls around.
I have survived without her this long; and I will continue to. But knowing she is missing from my life gives me a little pause to take a breath and say, it's hard to do it without her, and I feel almost braver for it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

This week's menu

It's comfort food week here.
The rain is coming down, almost in sheets, as the red and now brown leaves swirl around in the gusty gales. The temperature today did not top 45. Winter, cold winter, knocks hard upon my windowpane.
(come now, we gather, to dance the night away)

Monday was simple, black bean, red pepper, and corn burritos with jack cheese and brown rice, nicely toasted on my griddle for a little crunch. Then when the sky turned a little more grey on Tuesday, I had to dig in my heels. That night I cooked Ina Garten's turkey meatloaf (sounds so mundane, but you, too, could be converted if you partake in such things) with cheddar and sour cream mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts from our farm. The next night was just as good-- with a simple salad I made macaroni and cheese-- this recipe is amazing. Chop up two baked sweet potatoes and mix right in-- with your cooked pound of noodles, 16 oz. of cheddar tossed with 2 T of flour, and 2 C milk whisked with 8 oz. cream cheese. So easy, so simple, bake for half an hour with a little panko on top if you like a crunch.
Then tonight, the best of all bests, my barefoot goddess again brings me her Chicken Stew with biscuits... this recipe tops all in terms of winter yumminess. The heavy goodness in my belly is making me so happy. No need for anything but that bowl of delicious wintertime.

Food can make you feel good, and I love that.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

When I have a minute...

I am fiercely committed to the idea that every single one of us fills up every minute we have. I can sit here and imagine that somebody with only one child has a good deal of free time, given that only one child has to be fed, bathed, driven places, and cleaned up after. But I am also certain that at one point I did have one (living) child, and I was very full, very busy. I didn't find holes in my life to make time in unless I looked for them. Life whirled past.
Even before I had one child, for a year I had one very big child, a big spirit, a hole in my life. It takes an incredible amount of energy to parent that, I tell you. Just this evening I was putting together a plea-for-meals for a friend whose unborn baby passed away several weeks ago. I thought about her, at home, glazed and thunderstruck, her two and a half year old son running around her in circles, and wondered just how long we could stretch the meals on wheels for. I imagined myself, after Fiona's birth, a few weeks later feeling proud that I had slung her in the Moby wrap, as Aoife and Liam amused themselves at the art table, and cooked our family a complete meal. But a newly bereaved mom? You just can't take that grief and wrap it up in 17 feet of stretchy cotton, get on your feet, and function. The lack of baby sucks the very life right out of you, and you are flat on your back. I was thinking maybe if I could stretch her meals to about six months, or eight, maybe she could feel a lightening then. But maybe not.
But although I admit that we all fill our time, I have found myself lately being angry at myself for letting certain things slide. I feel sad about this blog. I know that I have lost a good many readers over the last eighteen months because I haven't been posting regularly. Five comments feels like a good day, and I cringe when there are only two. I want--need--this community, yet can I blame people who give up when weeks pass with nothing? Similarly, I have been working on a project-- not a secret project, just not one that is fully developed enough to share in detail, about lactation after loss. My mind is absolutely swirling with details, ideas, calls to bereaved mothers to contribute, questionnaires to write, people to contact... but the days pass.
And in the days, I get children up, and dress them, and feed them, and drive them places. I run around doing their laundry and picking up their toys and hanging up their coats. I try to sweep the kitchen floor so Fiona won't eat too much organic matter. I put in laundry, take it out, try to fold it and put it away from the five overflowing baskets. I pay the bills, try not to lose anything important, and pick the kids up. I play with them, love them, enjoy them. I feed them some more, bathe them all, read to them, tuck them in. When they are in bed, at long last, I clean up from dinner, wipe down the counters, wash the baby seat, make the lunches, and try to figure out what we'll eat for breakfast. Then I lay out their clothes, make sure I can find coats, and shoes, and dig my car keys out of whatever pocket I left them in so I don't have a temper tantrum tomorrow morning. And then, I look at the clock, and it is 9:00 every time.
So if I want to go to bed at 9:00, where's my minute?
But, but, but. There is a big difference between what the above could mean, and what I mean it to mean. The above could mean, oi! I have NO time for myself!
Or it could mean, and does to me, WOW! I have a lot going on in my life right now, and I haven't even touched on the support organization I run out of my kitchen and the weekly meetings. But it's full with EVERYTHING I love and everything I chose (well, not the bereavement part, but I did choose what to do with it), and so rather than look at it as an opportunity to complain, I choose instead to look at it for what it is (busy) and say, I'm busy right now. I'm not going to get to blog every day, or work on my project three times a week. I do what I can, and I have to know that I have thirty-four years behind me and hopefully at least that many ahead of me and there's nothing more beautiful than those little blonde heads resting on pillows upstairs....
And so, I bid you adieu for the night, knowing that I've just used my minute (or five) to tell you all of this.
Good night!