Saturday, July 23, 2011

A better catch...

This, here, is a better Maeve, captured in her usual pose. So, see? They all really do just look like sleeping babies. Sleeping Maeves, that is....

(this is Maeve fast asleep from the heat on our family's trip to Storyland, a trip I solemnly promised to my children last summer when I told them it would be "easier for our family" to travel this summer....)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The photograph of Charlotte that you see on the sidebar that is one of the most beautiful we have of our family, our trinity. We only have two photos of Greg holding her, and there is something about the way the three of us are wrapped around each other that seems so circular and whole. The raw emotion that this photo evokes has always left me breathless. In the beginning it was every time I looked at it, but now, as it hangs in three rooms in my house and is part of the fabric of my being, it is when I sit down and try to process it with myself, my amnesic self who lives in another nation now: this was you, you and your beloved, you are young and in your twenties, and you are cradling your firstborn, dead child. This fact still sends me reeling. (will it ever seem real?)
Charlotte looks so beautiful to me in this photo. To me it's the one that looks most like how I remember her, the delicacy of her little features, the chiseled beauty of her face. It's the one I always think of when I am realizing how similar all my children look to one another.

But there's one thing that's always bothered me about it, that I've felt a little self conscious about. I've always stated that Charlotte looked just like she was sleeping. But in this photo, she has her mouth open, and none of my babies ever did sleep with their mouths open. So I would wonder to myself, maybe this looks odd to other people: maybe she doesn't just look like she's asleep to them. I desperately want her photos to look like she's sleeping, it's as if I can seize her as living for just a moment if I imagine that somebody might look at her photo and not be sure whether she was a living baby or not. But for that mouth, that mouth.

And then came Maeve, my fourth living child, my fourth daughter, my little wisp of beauty that shares the same chisled face with her sisters and brother and always, always sleeps with her mouth hanging open, just like Charlotte in that photo.

Thank you, Maeve, for connecting me just one more time with my little first born. Thank you for making her look like any other sleeping baby in my favorite ever photo of her beauty, captured forever in black and white, seared into my heart.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

capturing life

And all of it, because you never know.

I look at Fiona's face, and I think, this is how I cried. This is how it was, every day, for I don't know how long.

Did you know that grown-ups can cry like that?

I didn't either.

(it hurts your heart so much)

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Almost 20 years after my sweet old Pentax bit the dust, I am back to a "real" camera... and so happy for it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Daughters and Sons

There was a time, after Charlotte died, where I felt sure that I would never, ever have another daughter. I steeled myself for a life of parenting rough-and-tumble boys, envisioning myself feeling wistful for a waif-like daughter with long blond hair, someone who would snuggle and read Anne of Green Gables with me...
Then, I had Liam. I had never had a boy in my life before for real, being one of only sisters, parented by a mother who was the same. I was amazed (silly me) to see how absolutely FUN it was to have a boy, and was humbled to realize that my son was full of more cuddles than I could ever imagine. Pregnant again for the third time, I imagined myself with another little boy: a pal for Liam, and his name was to be Owen Henry. Liam and Owen, my two boys... it seemed perfectly clear to me that this would happen. Occasionally the fear would flash before my eyes, but I would try to avoid it: maybe I will never have another girl, maybe she was it. But I would dismiss it, feeling defensive of Liam and how passionately I loved him. Boys would be fine, just fine. Perhaps I was not meant to have girls. I was building my walls of defense, just in case. Would it have been fine?

Three daughters later, I like to rationalize that the universe has a way of giving back to you somehow. Aoife gifted me a daughter and Liam a sister, Fiona gifted Aoife a sister. Maeve came close on the heels of Fiona to gift me the experience of two very close babies, as Charlotte and Liam would have been.
And when I look at Liam? I imagine this. The universe had a plan for me. A plan for daughters, a houseful of girls to run me ragged and keep me laughing and whip me into shape. But something happened, something awful, and that first baby girl couldn't stay. So Liam, sweet baby Liam, was a little special treat: the son I might never have had, the little boy I wouldn't have even known to miss if I'd never had him. I feel wistful, now, thinking that I won't have another little boy, ever, to visit construction sites and obsess over tractor models and farm equipment (although the last two rounds would have brought us Callum, not Owen...) It's funny to hold up the fear of not having another daughter with this near-sadness that I'll only have one son.

And my girls, my three living girls, they are a beautiful gift that follows, three little girls I can't say whether I would have had or not. But I'm sure glad I've got them. There was almost a sense of relief each time, like a catching up: somehow, with the birth of each daughter, we found ourselves with the number and ratio of sons to daughters we'd had in theory prior to her birth. Except that now we had one more. So we never caught up, of course...

I like to always tell the families I work with, although bereaved moms and dads often feel enraged at people who express a preference for the sex of a particular baby, it's also completely normal for those of us who are missing a child to have the (often very strong) desire to parent another child of the same sex. Why not? Wouldn't it simply make sense that we would want that experience? I hate the thought of parents feeling as if their worries are petty when they are grieving the loss of never having had the experience of parenting either a son or daughter. It's a real thing to grieve. And I'm saying this never having even really experienced it, as it was less than 3 years after Charlotte's death that my eldest living daughter was born.

It's the fourth of July. We went to a parade in a nearby town, patriotically dressing our 100% Canadian family in red, white and blue, waving little American flags. Our family looked tidy and complete and lovely walking down the street, bystanders sitting in folding chairs and on blankets waiting for the festivities to begin. Only I saw her, the ethereal mist following behind, the ghost of a daughter who began it all.