Saturday, December 17, 2011

There Are Never Enough Photos, or Why People Need to STFU About the Duggars

It feels weird to be writing in defense of a family with whom I am so at odds. At first, the Duggars were simply some anomaly to me. My ambivalence about them hardly elicited a raised eyebrow. And then my own baby died, and this enormous, continuously-reproducing family was the symbol of everything the Universe was denying me. I couldn't think about them without ire. How DARE they keep having kids? They seemed to spite me; I took every morning show announcement straight to my heart and, frankly, hated everything they represented.

And this kind of flew in the face of my pro-choice beliefs. If I was truly pro-choice, as I have lived my entire life, then who was I to judge how another woman handles her reproductive life? I had no leg to stand on, no matter how much they irritated me. I was simply feeling they were stealing all the good reproductive mojo and hoarding it for their clan. Also, the name Jim Bob really stuck in my craw.

So when they announced that she was pregnant with her TWENTIETH baby, my heart shrank another few sizes and I sent out the ugliness. I didn't wish them harm or ill will, but I felt once again like they, along with the American media, were throwing their good fortune smack in my face. Also, through my own journey, I've made friend whose babies died earlier than the Duggar's last baby, who was born premature, but miraculously lived. And has health issues now, and likely will for the rest of her life. I was angry for my friends, too.

But then their baby died. And all bets were off. Because, you see, most of you know this, but I have a dead baby too. Instantly my heart went to them, no matter the chasm separating our lives, our beliefs. They do have 19 other children, she was possibly putting her life, her baby's life at risk. But it was her choice, her life--and that baby was so loved and wanted already. It doesn't matter that it was her twentieth baby---would it have been different if it was her first? My heart says no.

I admit to being somewhat ignorant about the entire story--mostly because I've backed down from my irrational anger enough to not really care. Also, popular culture and reality, ahem, "stars" don't take up a whole lot of my brainspace. But having just read that she was in the last week of her second trimester when their daughter Jubilee died, that means she was roughly 24 weeks pregnant, right? That means she had to go through labor. That means she had to deliver her dead baby girl. No one waved a  magic wand and POOF! the baby magically appeared, or was simply gone. That kind of warped thinking went through my brain when I learned my baby had died--I had no idea that I'd have to go through all the pains of labor just to say goodbye to my daughter.

And the notion that this family is somehow warped to have taken pictures of their dead baby? Well guess what. I have many, many pictures of my dead baby. Thank. FUCKING. God. Because that, my friends, is ALL I have to remember her beautiful face. And that is all they will have, too. Did people say all those horrible things about me when my baby died? "Oh how GROSS to have pictures?" "Who wants pictures of a DEAD BABY?"

I'll tell you who wants them: NO ONE. What I really wanted was my living child, but all I have is a box full of things that have little connection to her, fading memories and my pictures. And that's all they'll have, too.

So before you judge this family for taking pictures of their dead baby, and sharing them with the people who would have been in this child's life, tell me this: What, exactly, did YOU do when your baby died? Oh wait, you don't HAVE a dead baby?

Lucky. Fucking. You.

**I realize I'm being passive-aggressive by posting this on my babyloss blog, as the majority of you, if not all of you, get it. But maybe someone will share this, or read it and think, "Oh. I get it now."**

Friday, December 16, 2011


I remember clearly when I realized I was not even close to being a strong mathematician. I was a strong student School came pretty easily for me for awhile, and I did fairly well on tests. So well, in fact, that I was accepted into our fair city's premier magnet school in fifth grade. I had never gotten below a B, ever, on anything. So when I got to sixth grade and found a big, red C on the top of one of my math papers, I felt that leaden stone in my stomach that I'd come to know intimately throughout the rest of my mathematical career. Math tutors, extra help, studying, homework . . .  none of it turned on that lightbulb in that particular part of my brain. I always felt a year or two behind when it came to math. I got to seventh grade math and, whoa man, I took about 89 sick days that year just to avoid protractors and, wait, compasses? Are those even math tools? Bottom line: it wasn't working for me.

Math, in general, is an academic discipline that eludes me. I have a pretty strong grasp on the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division; percentages and fractions and basic algebra are cemented somehow in my brain, though if asked to metacognitively explain a solution, I'd be hard pressed. There are mathematical concepts that seem absolutely ridiculous to me: why the hell are there IMAGINARY numbers? Math, for me, may as well have been Mandarin or Cyrillic: a language that was so outside my understanding, with characters that made zero sense to my brain.

Proving the stereotype once again, folks.

Eventually when I reached high school (and miraculously was still attending my academically outstanding school) I had a math teacher who, with great patience, helped me not only pass his class but get a super high grade on the Regents exam. And I was lucky enough to have this teacher for three straight years. Every September I'd look at my new schedule and see "B. Soffin" next to the math course and do a little skippity-do with glee. I knew it would be a long, challenging year, but I'd pass that exam and not be spending my summer at the local public high school retaking math until I turned 75. Somehow Mr. Soffin had the magic mojo; when I sat for those exams in June I always, miraculously, did really well.

I don't know that I actually learned math, per se, or if I just learned how to take the exam and figure out the answers. We did, for the last month of two of school, use review books and take practice exams exclusively. Whatever. I'm not in high school anymore, am I? And Mr. Soffin helped build my shattered math confidence back up. 

What I always really liked in math was something I felt was more appropriate for a philosophy course. I liked it because there were no numbers to confuse. The logic tables, I think they're called, were fascinating. 

If A and B, then C.

I find myself using this logic often, even if I can't remember the tables' exact symbols and meanings.

If She had lived, He would not be here.

She is dead, therefore She is not here.

If She is dead, was She ever really alive?

OK, that last one shows my weak understanding of how the logic works. 

I stumble on that last one. Since she's dead, and I never knew her, was she ever really here? This time of year I can't help but remember those last weeks with her. We were hurtling head-first towards a brick wall and didn't even know it. And still we never even got to know her. Who do I remember? Who do I miss?

Math brain, dead baby brain. It's all so confusing, still.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


My favorite holiday is just one day away. Lovely Thanksgiving, with all its deliciousness and warmth and fun Turkey Trotting to start it off. When I was a working gal, outside the home, of course, I looked forward to this beautiful gift of a three-day-work-week. A bonus Friday off, to boot! A little sorbet of freedom to wash down the richness of the previous day's obligation-filled feast.

I don't, of course, love the nonsensical myth attached to Thanksgiving. Please, like the Pilgrims (pilgrims, thank you) could have afforded buckles, to start things off. Maybe somewhere in the genesis of the relationship between Native People and Europeans back in seventeenth-century/northeast current-day-USA was a benevolent, or even benignly indifferent sense of community. But I doubt Squanto and the Wampanoags really didn't bargain on the next few hundred years of genocide, disease and land snatching.

But I digress.

Our family life, as of late, has taken a sharp right turn and we've been stuck smack dab in the middle of Insanesville for almost three weeks. My whole self has been absolutely consumed with E, and to a lesser extent O, and their emotional and physical well being. Which is not to say I'm some sort of neglectful mother otherwise. But things have gotten INTENSE over here. Double ear infections for both boys, anti-biotics, no sleep, teething, newfound limit pushing, and did I mention no sleep?

I have been trying to surrender, or as C likes to say, let life lead in the dance. It is nearly working. I am walking a fine line between surrendering and feeling steamrolled.

There are certain things I am willing to overlook. Screaming for screaming's sake=mostly fine, as long as no one is napping. Kicking a little brother in the chest=not ever OK. It is difficult to sort these things out and maintain some sense of confidence, that somehow I am not warping these little minds and hearts.

The other afternoon, as I was driving the boys to have their pictures taken, a song came on that just knocked the wind out of me. It took me back to a time almost three years ago now. Then, E was ALMOST sleeping through the night, an older infant. I was starting marathon training in the frosty winter, looking forward to finishing and then trying to get pregnant again. My life, while at the time seemed overwhelming, was so simple and naive and easy. Every time I hear this song I can picture where exactly I was on my long run, slipping through the snowy streets, huffing and puffing and singing under my breath:

And so when, on the Thruway the other day, it came bouncing out of the speakers, I was taken back and I mourned my old self. I mourned my girl who hadn't yet been conceived but was so imagined and wished for. Part of the plan that unravelled before it could even be put into place.

When I was pregnant with Calla I remember wanting to run up until the Turkey Trot, which put me at about seven months pregnant. I smugly ran the 4.97 miles that Thanksgiving morning in 2009, thinking I was well on my way to a healthy delivery in a few months. Then January 2010 came and smacked me in the face, knocked me on my ass and screamed "HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW, BITCH?!"

I need things to settle down here, because the last thing I can think about is my sweet girl. I miss visiting her in my heart, having the luxury of a few minutes of peace to remember her dark curls, her sweet, silent face, her tiny fingers and toes, her perfect mouth.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, wherever you are.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Greetings From The Rock Under Which I've Been Living

***This is a post about my living children. I'm apologizing in advance if this makes you uncomfortable or  sad. I totally understand if you bolt right now. xo

Not really under a rock, but my life has been . . . omigod I don't even have the words for how insane things are over here. My big boy has some things going on that I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out. It started, well, I don't know the exact genesis of E's new behavior, but suffice it to say we haven't actually slept in a week. ONE WEEK.

I am not exaggerating. Every time we try to put him to bed for the night or a nap, homeboy SHRIEKS AND WAILS as though we've strapped him to the sun itself. Jumps out of bed. Runs out of his room. This is a child to whom it had never even occurred that he could get out of bed once he was in it. As in, when he was in a toddler bed 10 inches off the floor he wouldn't even reach down to get something that had fallen out. And now this. Even if we get him to sleep, he wakes up in the middle of the night and one of us has to sleep in his bed with him.

Also? I can't leave the room without him freaking out. Nor can he leave the room without being accompanied by me. I just. I don't get it.

After a trip to the doctor on Tuesday we found out he has an ear infection in both ears, something that manifested itself only in his behavior--atrocious--but no fever or obvious pain. So we've been doing anitbiotics and ibuprofen, and lots of relaxing. Except. Now he's over-tired and wild and cranky.

I think, too, there's some separation anxiety going on. Ironically he's totally fine at school, the one place I'd expect separation anxiety to be the worst.

My point? I have absolutely no time to do anything. Which includes responding to so many amazing pieces of writing I have sitting in my reader. Also? NaNoWriMo is a no-go for me, I guess, this year.  If you've sent me an email or written something especially beautiful, know that I've read it, but haven't had a hand free to respond. (Well how the hell am I writing this you ask? Autopilot and coffee. No thinking required.)

So um, yeah. Any advice? I'm seriously on the edge here. I am stumped beyond stumped and have pulled out every trick in the book. Everyone tells me this will pass, but I'm dubious.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

One Year

Happy Birthday to our baby boy. 366 days ago I still believed the gaping hole in my heart could never be repaired. Even as I listened to his heartbeat all night, the night before being induced. Even after a good-looking amniocentesis. I still couldn't believe he'd actually get here.

But he did.

One year ago today our youngest baby was born. Our second boy, our third child.  My sweet little soul, who loves his mama, who smiles whenever he sees a camera, who dances whenever he hears a tune or a beat. Not technically a miracle baby, he was my miracle. He helped repair a heart that seemed smashed wide open forever--it was a miracle, to me, that I could love someone so fearlessly and wholly again.

I am swamped right now by life. We lived through getting a new roof, are fighting a double ear infection (E), are coming down from Halloween and its spooky accoutrements. We're trying our darndest to get the house is reasonable order before the big birthday party this weekend. Last week was C's 40th bday and all its grand celebrations. E has decided that sleeping, and going to bed, and staying in bed, id for the birds and has taken to shrieking and wailing whenever any of those activities are suggested.

Mama is tired. And VERY behind on the projects I want to tackle, namely NaNoWriMo and watching everyone's video blogs. Le grand sigh.

But I can't NOT share some pics of my beautiful birthday boy. The love of my life. My happy dude.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bundle Up

The frost has settled in here. It snuck in overnight, causing a scramble for coats and boots, hats and mittens this morning before school. We worked out the minute intricacies of how each new zipper and fastener works, looking for the secret jimmies and tricks to getting outside quickly. Car seat straps adjusted for extra bulk and seat backs covered for boot kicks.

It is a cold, sunny day in the East. The first thrilling glimpse of winter is here. Today is a day when a hat is not optional, a fleece jacket alone won't cut it. The first step along a long, cold path towards darkness, and heaviness, and snow-covered months. And while the solstice isn't technically until December, winter settles in much earlier than that around here.

Everything seems harder in the winter. More bundling. More time to get places. Less sunlight to cheer us on through the chill. Dirt and wet in every corner, trudged in on heavy boots, muddy paws and dripping mittens. But for now we're just at the beginning. We look at each other and make winter jokes about snow brushes and shovels, try on our coats from last year and search for matching gloves. The frost is novel, and the sunlight glinting on icy leaves is charming.  For now.

We have four birthdays to celebrate in our home this winter. C is turning 40 next week, in a few days actually. Then a week later O will be one. One whole year. Then my birthday, in February. Only E was born in the warmth and sunshine of summer.

Of course Calla's birthday is right in the middle of winter. At the beginning of January, when the calendar turns to another new year.  Forever I will associate the coldest depths of winter with her death and birth, that freezing night in January when I wanted to burn myself alive.

And so looking to winter, feeling our corner of the Earth turning away from the sunlight, makes my heart a little heavier. My soul is bundling up, fortifying its reserves for the long season ahead. There are some wonderful warm oases sprinkled throughout the upcoming months of our frigid desert winter, and during the dark days I will lumber, head down and hopefully, towards them.

Right now it is sunny and cold, but soon it will be gray and icy, and simply going outside will seem like too much of a bother. Right now the chilis and soups and breads and oven-baked dinners are satisfying. Right now winter seems survivable.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spoken Word Blog Round Up

OK, here she is. I am so excited to see everyone else's videos that I can ALMOST get over the seasickness of watching mine. Also, I find it strange that my eyes look brown, when in real life they are blue.

Thank you so much to Angie for putting this together, and once again encouraging me to do something I'd never attempt on my own. Not only attempt, but persevere when my techno-literacy is at an all-time low.

A word of caution: there are a few f-bombs scattered in throughout. Gentle Reader, if you are sensitive, you may want to sit this one out. You won't cry, but you might cringe. Maybe this says something about my personality: I did not choose a beautiful thing, I chose an ugly thing. Ooh, subversive.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In the spirit of backpedaling . . .

I'm not, really, backpedaling. I've just been thinking about what I wrote yesterday, and I feel like I was being a brat and taking cheap shots.

You know I absolutely adore you babyloss parents, right? You know I think you are amazing and wonderful and have quite literally saved me so many times . . . and I wasn't dissing the actual Remembrance Day, yes? I hope you do. Because I love you and would rather melt my face off than hurt your feelings.

And anyone who might be reading this who isn't a babyloss parent . . . you know I love you also, right? Even if you feel awkward around me or feel like you don't know what to say, or are just reading this to find out if I've imploded yet. Or if you do ask and do care, I carry your thoughts like good luck charms in my pocket.

It all comes back to the damn Eff Beez, doesn't it? The root of all of society's collective ills. Or, my ills I guess. I just miss my girl and sometimes that comes out as grumpiness. Sorry, friends.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Remembering Whether You Like It Or Not

I am now officially the worst blog poster in all the land. Or, maybe just the laziest. Or something. Time just slips away and there I am at the end of the day, a blog post fully composed in my head and completely trapped, unable to get HERE.

This past weekend was the Remembrance Day; its official title escapes me but you know the day of which I write. We lit our candle. We thought about all the babies so  many of us are missing. I posted some words on the Livre du Visage, and well, if just felt a little hollow. My friend Sally wrote about this a bit, and I'd been mulling it over in the meantime, too. I have a lot of friends who are truly excellent babyloss friends. They remember Calla and are not afraid to talk about her, to ask me how I'm doing, to let me know they're thinking of her. That's not to say friends who don't ask or talk about it are NOT excellent--you know what I mean, right?

**OK, clearly my writing skills are diminishing. Twice I've asked you if you know what I mean without actually writing what I mean. Again, worst poster in the land.**

So when I was posting these little snippets, 140 characters or less of babyloss wisdom and wishes, it felt a bit like, oh I don't know, I was RAMMING it down everyone's throat. HEY WORLD! Look at me! I'm STILL SAD! And HERE'S WHY! And by Saturday night when I was lamenting blowing out her little candle . . . it felt like I'd pushed the limit a bit too far.

But hey! Everyone else gets to write about their kids there, why can't I, right?! I mean, just because my only daughter is DEAD doesn't mean she doesn't matter. I have to read about everyone else's kids' soccer games and first words and first days of school; the least I can get (and I do mean the least) is one day to remember that my child was alive once, and mattered and was loved. Is loved. Does matter.

I don't want a stupid candle or balloons or ribbons or anything else but her. My challenge is to not call the candles stupid out loud, to not roll my eyes and feel like I'm being thrown a bone by one lousy day. Because it's a beautiful thing. It's a day for parents like me, us, to make something collectively wonderful out of the collective awfulness. It is, apparently, too much to ask that she could have lived.

If my tone seems a little brutal, it's only because I am so missing that girl these days. You know, the whole stages of grief thing. It's funny, you don't experience those stages in a linear way--it should be called the Mobius strip of grief. Just when you think you might have found a way out, you're right back where you started--angry, sad, confused, or maybe still in denial.

And I'm not just pissed off for myself. Mt pissed-offedness extends to all the babyloss parents who are right here with me. It sucks and isn't fair and I don't give a SHIT that life's not fair, it's still not fair.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Fork in the Road

I ran another half marathon yesterday. This one went about a zillion times better than the last one, and I was within seconds of the goal I'd set for myself this summer. It was a long, hot few months of training, waking up before everyone when the boys got up (ie 5:30ish every morning. Yeah.) and heading out the door with friends or all alone. Doing speedwork and long runs. It wasn't my best ever, but it sure wasn't my worst, either. Overall I'd give myself a B.

I'm finally getting back into shape, running times that I haven't seen since before getting pregnant with E four years ago. Go me, right? There are clothes in my closet with tags on them, bought as grief therapy that now fit, or almost do anyway. O is sleeping through the night, E is settling in to preschool.

But um, here's the thing. Even though I've been working my ass off; even though I am sleeping again; even though I'm nearly done nursing; even though life is starting to settle down a little . . .

You know where I'm going with this, right?

I kind of want to have another baby. And the decision has mostly been made for me that it's not going to happen, but that's where I am.

I know, I know. It's nuts; I was a complete basketcase throughout O's gestation; it's unseemly and greedy to want another baby when I've already got two happy, healthy little boys, like tempting fate.

I keep telling myself that every woman feels like this, no matter if you have a 100%, or my 67%, out-of-the-womb survival rate. I mean, it's the primal need to proliferate, right? How do you KNOW when you're done?

So I'm at this fork in the road. One way takes me back to the start again. Back to worry and any one of a million things going wrong, and no sleep and stress and the possible sweetness and chaos that a new baby brings. Let's not even imagine me actually bringing home a live baby girl, shall we?

And the other way, moving forward with life, moving away from newbornland, getting back into shape and working towards new goals and let's not forget having a good night's sleep at some point. Maybe even, for once, sleeping past 7AM. (Or not--but a girl can dream.)

I'm coming to terms with taking the second path. It is bittersweet, often more bitter than sweet. If I stop to think about it too much my stomach twists into a knot and my head threatens to pop right off my body.  But I can't go on kidding myself much longer. The kidding has gotten me through lots of baby showers and pregnancy announcements and bitty baby girls being born . . . the kidding myself that if only I wanted it, tried hard enough, that could be mine too.


That's where I am right now.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Second Day

My house is so very quiet. The only noises are the occasional clink of the dog's collar tags as he gets more comfortable on the couch and the whooshing wave sounds coming from o's monitor while he naps. And the tickety-tick of my fingers, typing.

He barely looked back today, E. As a matter of fact we walked in and he already knew everything he was supposed to do. Where his outside shoes go, how to put on the inside ones. What his cubby symbol is (the sun) and where to find it. He remembered his teacher's name. He started playing and didn't even care if I was there. When I left he just asked, "why do you have to go home?"

"Because O needs a nap, and you have lots of work to do here. You have lots of playing to do."

"OK. Bye." Back to the trucks he went without barely a glance at me. I made him come back and give me a hug and kiss, but, truth be told, it was more for me.

He is happy. As I sat and watched him play, and interact, and begin to learn the rhythms of the day, I kept thinking that I wanted him to just be happy. And feel safe. And, most importantly, loved. I want others to love him as I do. Til now he's been only with people who love him just because. Because he is ours and he is wonderful and he makes us laugh and sometimes pull at our hair, but mostly because he is him. But every parent feels that, or at least I believe they do. And every parent wants their child to be loved that way by everyone.

He has a place, now, that is apart from me, a separate experience from us, his family. A world that includes him and his friends and teachers and I am not there. That is both unnerving and yet so amazing. His school is everything I want for him--and, quite honestly, if they can get him to eat millet with soy sauce and olive oil, it's worth every penny. When I picked him up on the first day all the children, from his room and the toddler room, were outside with the teachers. Planting pachysandra, harvesting vegetables from the garden, riding tricycles, digging in the sand, rolling tree stumps, playing in the little house. It was a little glimpse of utopia.

E was climbing on a jungley-gym thingy; really a pole with loops sticking out to climb on. He was higher than I let him be when we're on the playground. And he was wearing slippery rain boots. And he was going up and down and up and down, and not holding on quite as tightly as I'd like.

He was having fun and not falling.

He looked over at me and beamed and yelled, "Hi Mom! Look at ME!"

You know this preschool thing is just as much for me as it is for him, right?

So as I sit here in my quiet house, I am trying not to freak out over all the minutiae that needs to get done. I mean, it's the workaday regular old minutiae that always threatens to swallow me whole. It will get done. I am trying to just sit and enjoy this silence. Finally get these thoughts out of my head and written here.

Today is O's 10 month birthday. I started thinking about ordering invites for his first birthday party. Well, I at least put it on my to-do list. One whole year, almost--I know, we're not there yet, but Type-A over here needs to make some plans. When I think about how stressed, anxious, and miserable I was during my pregnancy with O, it amazes me to watch this child, who is the happiest, mellowest, chillest dude on the planet.

Today marks 20 months without Calla. Which is edging ever closer to two years. Which puts her that much farther away from me. I've been wondering, lately, just what I'd do with a girl. I mean, I'm hip-deep in boy land over here. O's wearing all E's old clothes these days, which makes me feel like I'm actually MAKING money on all that spending I've done over these three years.  But with a girl? I mean, I'm all for gender-neutral clothing, but no way girlfriend wouldn't be rocking at least a little bit of froufy pink, right? Someone along the way would have gifted something princess-y and sparkly, diametrically opposed to our truck-festooned sartorial choices we currently are sporting 24/7.

Sigh. If I stop and think too hard about these past 20 months my brain really starts to feel like it will explode.  He is here, she is not. Forever and ever amen. I love my baby boy so much I can hardly stand myself. But I love her too. I still don't get it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First of the First Days

Tomorrow is E's first day of preschool. And I, well, I'm mostly okay.

And so it begins, right? I mean, I used to be on the other side of the equation-in my former life as a Kindergarten teacher, I was the one patting the sobbing parents on the hand, shooing the kids into the classroom, telling the teary-eyed moms and dads to JUST LEAVE, and the kids would be just fine and don't worry.

And they all were fine, eventually. But now it's me. I'm sending my big little boy out into the world--albeit twice a week for a few hours to a place filled with other children and adults who care about said little children. He knows our address and my cell phone number and the ABCs and how to count and colors . . .

But it's still the big world, right? School changes kids. We've had a good run, these past three years. Staying home with E, and then grieving at home after Calla, then being home with baby O and big boy E--it's been fun. (OK, the grieving part's not fun. And the immediate aftermath was horrible. But you know what I mean.) September, for a long while, was adios summer and back to routine. Then for three years it was September who? Whatever! And now it's back to business as usual.

And then in a few weeks he's starting dancing school. My mother-in-law has a studio and my sister-in-law will be teaching his class. But STILL. It's something else.

Like I said, I'm mostly okay with all of this. It's time and he's ready and he'll love it. But it's still a little sad to say goodnight to  my little boy, only to take my big boy out into the world, his new world, tomorrow.

What a difference three years makes.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

And The Beat Goes On . . .

No no, I'm not composing a suicide note. This scene, though, from Beetlejuice, often bubbles up to my consciousness when I'm thinking about how sad I am. Like, what else can I say? I'm really sad, my daughter is dead, she's never coming back, let me write about it, I'm really sad . . .

You know? I'm like a freaking broken record. That scene up there is ridiculous, as is that whole movie (" . . . having jumped plummeted to my death . . . ").  And when I'm looking for news ways to say how sad I am, or how hard living without Calla is, or how someone doesn't get it, I feel like Lydia Deetz writing the perfect ending.

It just sucks sometimes.

Ahem, all the time. The hurt heals over, but it's never all the way gone, and then I start picking and picking and picking at it until it's in full-bore ouch.

Like when I found myself sobbing at a wedding this weekend during the father-daughter dance. Never mind their song was Landslide:

Fortunately I have a short attention span so when I found this cool dyson hand dryer vortex thingy in the bathroom, I was amused enough to regain my composure.

Anyway. The little things, the big things, life . . . everything and anything reminds me of her. Of her missing.

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Home Again

We just got back from a week-long vacation. Not exactly a stay-cation, as the kids are calling it these days. More like a close-cation. After our trip down to DC in the spring, we realized a long car ride with the boys was, um, not even close to being a vacation. So we spent a week in nearby Ellicottville, NY at a ski resort. It's only about an hour away from our house, and the weather was really mostly good, and there's a ton to do with little kids at the resort and nearby.

Coming home, I always feel a little exhausted. No matter how relaxing the vacation might have been, and no matter how great the house/cat/dogsitters were, there's always cleaning and unpacking and laundry to be done IMMEDIATELY UPON ARRIVAL. I'm not the best at letting stuff sit around. I need to open mail while feeding lunch while planning the laundry while organizing the toys. Yes, this is not really necessary, but it's how I stay sane amid chaos. So right now I'm forcing myself to sit down and sip my Vit.amin Water (seriously, how good is that stuff?!) and recall the fun we had this past week.

There's always this disconcerting feeling . . . wait, we live here? Where again does the peanut butter go? And how exactly does this washing machine work? Did I remember to repack the sippy cup lids, and if so, where do I put them away? It is the exact opposite of the feeling I get just before vacation when I am in a tizzy getting everything into its exact place and making sure everything is packed just so until I can't take it anymore, and start throwing things into any old bag and into the car.

We got home about three hours ago and already the clean clothes are mostly put away, the dirty clothes are in their sorted piles in the basement waiting to be washed, and the boys have trashed the living room with their toys. The toys we brought, however, are neatly put away. The dog's already sick of us again.  After a week of eating dinner and most lunches in restaurants, I am more than ready to cook again, but I know by tomorrow night I'll be banging my head against the wall trying to figure out what to make for dinner.

It's funny, being on vacation. There are so many times when I can just let go and relax and forget for just a moment that I am a medusa in mom-colored clothes, carrying around a piece of reality most people never would guess or even want to hear about. It's sad sometimes having fun, making the memories that one little baby will never be a part of.

So anyway. We hiked, we swam, we explored, we ate. It was a great vacation. Here are a few pics, and if you live near me, or even if you don't, this is a cool getaway for summer.

Golf cart. Hells to the yeah.

At the top of a ski slope. That we all hiked straight up.
Only two of us were whining.

Again, hells to the yeah.
Using binocs to check out construction progress on the mountain coaster.

Mountain coasting. Super awesomesauce.

Bortherly . . . love? Rassling? Both?

O with his new favorite delicacy: pretzel rods. 

Griffis Sculpture Park. The dopest.

Hell yes I can climb stairs.

Little Rock City.

So, I am not a camper, really. I used to be, but I guess I've gotten spoiled by my sharp knives and nonstick cookware. Bottom line: I didn't cook in our condo at all. Before I go make dinner now, here are the trip highlights:
O sleeping through the night (sort of?) and getting his first tooth (finally!) and learning to crawl up the stairs (zoinks) and discovering the deliciousness (gnawliciousness) that is pretzel rods, taking E hiking up some pretty strenuous trails (yes I wore bronzer and earrings, sue me. I am tired of looking like a complete troll in pictures, so there), riding the new (just finished while we were there) mountain coaster--and it was hella fun. The most amazing cheeseburger I've ever had in my life.

It was a great trip, and I'm glad we're home again. Back at it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Missing You

Yesterday I managed to be the stay-at-home mom I always thought I would be. It only took me three plus years, but who's counting? We played, O crawled around like a nut, when he went down for a nap E and I baked bread and did a sticker project together, then we all went to the zoo with friends, we ate lunch, napped, I cleaned most of the house, made dinner, the boys got up, everyone ate dinner without a fuss, baths, bedtime, time with C. I baked cookies. Watched an episode of The Wire, which we just started. No one, not adults, kids, or any combination of the two, raised voices in frustration or even huffed.

Why can't every day be like that? Because for several moments in that day I actually felt like a normal person. Not someone who's inadequate, who's grieving, who's always playing catch-up with life.

I don't know what hit me today, but most of it was pretty good. Until it wasn't. I don't know if it's because I'm exactly 19 months away from the worts day of my life, which was, ironically, the best and only day I got to spend with Calla. I just found myself in the shower tonight sobbing, nearly screaming (except O and E were in bed so I held myself back). Why did she have to die? I just can't understand it, and somehow tonight in the shower it just came to me. She's always going to be dead. Forever. It doesn't seem fair, does it?

In spite of how much I love my boys.
In spite of how much I love my husband.
In spite of how much I love my life.
In spite of my abundance of relative good fortune.

In spite of all of this. I miss and want her so much. Somehow the memory of her birth, so painful, and primal, and awful, bubbled up to the surface of my brain tonight. And I wanted to scream for my little girl. Just like I did in that hospital room 19 months ago.

My little girl.
She's gone.
My little girl.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Change Your Tune

We went to an amazing concert this weekend. Living in Buffalo we are so very lucky to have quite a few fantastic venues for live music. Not the least of which is where we were Saturday, down at the harbor. Right on Lake Erie. It was a beautiful, warm, clear night; one of our favorite bands from way back in the day, and from Canada, was playing. It was a phenomenal show.

We saw these guys:

I've said before that music is kinda the way I live and breathe. Going to a concert, especially one of my favorite bands, is like being part of something bigger than myself. Everyone there is transfixed by the music, singing along in one voice like a wolfpack baying at the moon.

It's disconcerting to hear a song, suddenly, that brings me back to the immediate aftermath of Calla's death. Music does that to me--maybe I feel some songs too intensely--but certain of them just put me RIGHT. BACK. THERE. Well, I guess right back anywhere, depending on the song (I'm looking at you, "Moondance.").

Anyway. The winter of 2010 was filled with lots of new tunes, and whenever I happen on one it's like I get the wind knocked out of me. So here are a few songs that are carrying me along these days.

Hope you find some new favorites, or an old friend.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Wanderlust and Pixie Dust

When I see a girl with two full arms of tattoos, I occasionally get a feeling not unlike wanderlust. The pull of being somewhere, something, and someone else. 

Often I think about the path my life is on, and how I ended up here. Please don't misunderstand, I really like where I am. Looking back at all the stupid, irresponsible and dangerous things I've done seeking a thrill, it's a small miracle I've ended up in such a stable place. 

Last night as I was leaving the grocery store at 9, my glamourous Friday evening coming to a close, the clouds overhead were low and fluffy-puffy swollen. The sky was edging towards darkness, glimmers of pink and orange and blue fading in the west.  I nearly stopped as I pushed my loaded cart across the steaming parking lot and asked aloud, "Is this all a dream? Is this really my life?" Always I figured this is where I'd end up, but actually arriving at this point in my life is a bit more surreal than I'd thought it would be.

Lately I've been a bit of a voyeur, clicking through vacation and jet-setting pictures on the FB. I have one friend who seemingly lives a life of leisure, partying and traveling with zero cares. It stuns me every time. Really? And how did this become your life?

Just as much as I look around me and wonder how this is mine. Mother of two beautiful boys and one beautiful dead girl. Me? This is my reality? Grocery shopping on Friday night, playground playdates and zoo trips sprinkled throughout the week, peanut butter and jelly lunches and two-man baths each night. It's mine. 

I'll sometimes wish for a little magic, a chance to pop out of my life, briefly. To travel without a thought for who's at home, for dinner at midnight, for tattoos on both arms, for an ashram, for something other than ordinary. 

We all know how that math goes, though: if I'd chosen that path so long ago, I wouldn't be here. And I so very much like it here. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

For 20 Years From Today

Dear E,

When you're sitting around with your friends, or your therapist, or whoever, talking about how your mother was some sort of Type-A lunatic who put you in time out for unrolling the toilet paper, I mean hey man it's only toilet paper, please refer to this epistle for the rest of your story.

You did not receive time out for unrolling the toilet paper, per se.

It's not because I especially like toilet paper.
It's not because we can't afford more.
It's not because now I have to go get another roll and put it in the bathroom, another trip up and down the stairs with 20+ pounds of human in tow.
It's not because I don't find it absolutely fucking hilarious finding you sitting on the toilet, surrounded by a mountain of unravelled absorbent paper, while you are fully engrossed in and enjoying the task you've undertaken--because it's a pretty damn funny, and might I add cute, sight to behold.

No, none of these earned you time out, although I don't appreciate wasting things.

It's because when I've already told you 861 times before to NOT unroll the toilet paper, and then you insist on doing it again, I've just about reached my limit.

Mommy/Mom/Crazy Lady Holding the Acre of Unused Toilet Paper

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Midsummer Afternoon's Post


I know.

Mid-July and not a peep for the month yet, huh? Dude, I've been busy.

You may ask yourself, "How exactly does a stay-at-home-parent REALLY expect me to believe she's totally swamped? She STAYS. AT. HOME."

Exactly. Things just come up all the time and then the dog's paws need wiping and then someone's behind needs wiping and then it's dinnertime and boom, it's bedtime and then I'm too tired to write or it's the no-computer time or something.

So anyway, hello.

Also this: I keep thinking about last summer. When I was newly out from Calla's death and pregnant with O. I couldn't bring myself to do much more than turn on "Yo Gabba Gabba" and sit on the couch while E danced and sang and told me not to bite my friends.

Like I could have mustered enough energy to bite anyone.

I did the bare minimum, parent-wise, last summer. I was sad and uncomfortable and anxious and, pre-airconditioning that we now have, really, really hot. I mean, E was well-fed and clothed and cleaned, had plenty of books and toys and shows and games to keep him happy. And I could entertain him enough, could read the stories and do the voices and cook the dinners. I was, however, a bit of a basketcase behind his back.

So I phoned it in. And all of a sudden this year E had his third birthday and the same summer festivals and parties and concerts are rolling around and I'm all, "Wait. How did I miss this last year?" So I've decided to do as much as I possibly can with the boys, and with C as a family, all day and on the weekends and at nighttime--even if that's just running around the yard or taking a bike ride or whatever. Because I missed so much last year. I was living with my hands covering my eyes and ears, rocking in the corner muttering, "I can't believe she died, oh please let him live," over and over and over.

It pretty much sucked, and I was not the most fun mother on earth.

All this to say, I've been busy. But happy, because I wake up and think to myself, "Homey, I can DO this."

We've been taking the boys on bike rides through the cemetery. It's right across the street, pretty much, from our house, and it is beautiful. It's super hilly and quiet and once you're in, you'd never know you're in the middle of the city. We've found some old parts where the stones date back to the mid 1700s. And then there's the deer who we see now and then. He's curious and cute and it's like a real-live game of Where's Waldo?--he blends. Baby O refuses to keep his helmet on in the trailer, so our rides are frequently punctuated with me freaking out and adjusting his helmet, only to have him yank it off four seconds later. It's a process.

We stop at Calla's spot--it's a nice hill where E can run up and down and burn off some energy. There was an open grave nearby once when we went, so of course most of my energy was spent keeping him far from it. I tried explaining why we were there, whose name was on the stone. He was far more interested in the truck that lowers the casket into the earth. So he's not really ready yet.

(I'm making this sound like we were frolicking as a funeral and burial were going on feet from us--don't worry, that wasn't the case. We were alone--except for the truck and its driver.)

I think people sometimes confuse my ability to function as a normal person with being, ahem, "all better now." Yes, we have our beautiful baby O, too--clearly another marker of someone who's completely healed, right?


I mean, yes, of course, things are far better than they were eighteen months ago. (But even just writing that, "eighteen months ago," it could be eighteen seconds or eighteen decades ago.) The hole in our lives is not the raw, ragged, gaping maw it once was. But it's still a hole. She's still dead and always will be. Calla's still our daughter, still E and O's sister, who is not with us. And that will always hurt.

But it's strange, being a year and a half out from her birth. I've met new people; they don't know. And I'm mostly OK with that. But there are days when I want to scream, "What about HER?! I have a daughter and she's dead and I'm sad and I MISS HER and you don't even KNOW IT!"

That would make things all about me though, wouldn't it?

Every night before I go to sleep I sneak into the boys' rooms and give kisses and whispers and just feel their chests rise and fall. I listen to them breathe and imagine what they're dreaming. Now that E is in a big boy bed I can kneel next to it and, if I'm careful, put my ear against his chest and listen to his heartbeat. For these tiny moments I am ever so grateful.

Last night I gave myself a good cry, long overdue and possibly facilitated by the red wine I had before bed. I have Calla's pink knit cap under my pillow, and it's been there for eighteen months. I try to hold it in my hand all night long, but I keep it between the pillows in case I roll over or lose my grip.  And last night it made me sad that all I get for her goodnights is some donated yarn, the only thing I have--not packed away-- that touched her. No kisses, no dreaming, and definitely no heartbeat.

Life may get easier, but living without her never does.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Creativity, Imagination, and Me

Musicians amaze me. Not pop stars, not those autotune denizens. But real, honest-to-goodness, talented music makers. I believe it was Ad Rock who so wisely rapped, " . . . Only 12 notes that a man can play." We all have the same notes. We have the same constants. Some of us can turn them into such amazing, original, beautiful new things. Some of us plunk out the same old chords.

I am the latter.

In my youth I took piano lessons. My teacher was this hard core, old school pianist who would regularly scold me for my too-long fingernails and biomechanically-impossible turned-out thumbs. "You don't see people walking around with their thumbs turned out!" she would huff. Except mine do. I was a thorn in her side, for sure. She and her husband were concert pianists, their small North Buffalo house filled wall to wall with baby grand pianos. Early on in my lessons--I started later in my youth, say, when I was 10 or so--I was assigned short compositions. I had to write musically-correct melodies and then play them each week at my lessons.

I sucked. Even during the years when I was learning music theory my compositions were pedestrian. Boring. Blah. Unoriginal. I don't think the way creative people think. I'm a rule follower to the core. A musician hears whats missing in the world and then makes it. I don't understand how that works.

I don't know if I've ever had an imagination. Looking back, thinking about being a child, I don't know. My drawings all looked the same. As an adult, trying to paint a picture I have no idea what to put on the paper.

Believe me, I'm not throwing a pity party for myself here. Being a literal thinker has done well for me, mostly. I just wish, sometimes, I had a bit of a creative spark in me. Some way of looking at the world that would help me make something different and new.

My lack of imagination and creativity, though, has not served me well when I think of my little girl. I can't place her in our family, other than what I knew her as. I don't see her as a one and a half year old. I don't know what she'd look like, sound like, smell like. I don't see her in the world around me, I don't know if she sees us.

I just miss her. I just want to be able to conjure her up when I need to. And I can't, and that sucks.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fathers' Day

I like Fathers' Day so much more than Mothers' Day. I don't know, maybe it's because there's absolutely no chance I'll ever actually BE a father, and get to watch from the sidelines. The dads deserve their day. I don't buy into the hapless, bumbling dad-stereotype, full of farting and golfing and beer-swilling and how-do-I-change-a-diaper. Not to say those dudes don't exist. But come on.

C is such an awesome dad. He makes up, with E, these elaborate games of construction sites, and forts, and chase, and adventure. Trips to Home Depot are full of wonderment for E, what with the forklifts and tractor trailers and all those damn TOOLS he might find a use for. He gets up with the boys most days of the week, affording me extra sleep or time to run.

I don't know where I'd be in my life without him. I do know my life is exponentially better with him in it. We've travelled, we've dined, we've bought and sold houses, we've had three babies. Through every labor he was at my side, amazed at the goings on, encouraging me when I wanted to give up, or even worse, just die. Quite literally.

This space is where I pour out my heart, not wanting to give too much away from anyone else's point of view. But C has had his sadness, too, and shares so very much in my grief. He planted all the crocus bulbs at Calla's marker last Fall. He missed out on his dad and little girl life, too. He carries his sadness differently, but it is always there.

I am a lucky lady to have him as my husband and as the father of our kids. Right now he's outside getting E's birthday sandbox ready--in the dark. That's just how he rolls.

I love you, sir. xo

(OK, enough with the sap-a-lap-a-ding-dong!)

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Tomorrow, Sunday, Fathers' Day, it's E's third birthday. And yes, time has gone from amble to sprint in that short time. Three years ago right now I was getting ready to go to the hospital, ready to be induced, ready for this gender-unknown baby to be born ALREADY, ten days past his due date. I kissed the dog goodbye, sad that he wouldn't be the baby anymore.

And now. Happy birthday to my first born, my first baby love, my companion through happiness and sorrow, my alarm clock, my truck driver, my bookworm, my human megaphone, my tricyclist extraordinaire.

If I could list everything I love about this boy I would, but there's no space big enough to contain it. My heart is full to bursting every time I look at his sweet face, even when he makes me want to rip out my hair. Oh, three.

Happy birthday, Eliot. We love you oh so very much.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When a Butterfly is Just a Butterfly, and When A Butterfly is Not

I think of her all the time, you know. She is the undercurrent of my every thought, each in and out breath. She is woven in the fabric of every brainwave, she colors my speech even when I don't speak her name.

But I look for her too. As though I might know her, or recognize her outside of my one day of memory. Could that be her, that lazy, lumbering bumblebee buzzing and bobbing near my face? Or the butterfly, flitting and darting overhead along the way on our walk? Is that her, the deer in the cemetery, watching me as I run down the street? Maybe that's her, the flower that opens at dusk each night.

I know better, though. The bee, the butterfly, the deer and the flower, they are all just what they are. Earlier, the butterfly was a caterpillar wriggling and inching along the ground, and the bee is heavy with pollen from an afternoon of gathering. The deer, he's just a curious, shy creature who's somehow found himself living in the city, albeit in the most peaceful and woods-like spot. That flower's been opening since before I was born.  These creatures are simply creatures, not here for any other reason than to be here.

I wish I could believe otherwise.

But then. I think of her constantly. As though my thinking and wondering and wishing could make her be with me, in our family as a girl instead of the memory of a baby.  And maybe since the bee, and the butterfly, and the deer and the flower give me pause before realizing they just are what they are, maybe she is there.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Weekend Remembering

The other morning I was out running with some friends. If you've ever run long distances, you know how important well-fitting clothing and good biomechanics can be. Bodyglide usually works well to remedy the latter for me, but Saturday I made a rookie mistake with the former. Without getting too personal, I had to do a quick deposit of an article of my clothing in a Dumpster mid-run. While my friends were shielding me as I made a quick change, I joked how I was going to get caught, um, with my pants down, and the headline in the newspaper would read: "Mother of two arrested for indecent exposure."


Make that, "Mother of three who's a fucking moron."

You know. It just slipped out. Mother of two. Fuck, man. I was with two friends who know my Calla life intimately, and I'm almost positive they knew what I meant. But I felt like a total asshole as the words were leaving my mouth.  I could insert a million reasons here, but really, it doesn't matter.  I was thinking two and said two. 

Forever my vocabulary will be filled with qualifiers, spoken or not. Forever my life is filled with this missing.

On that run we did a loop of the cemetery and visited Calla's marker. It was sprinkled with grass clippings from a recent mow. There are, what appear to be, several young soldiers on her hill, buried there, protecting her. I noticed for the first time another stone, from September of 2010, Quinn Patrick, "Born to Heaven."

Mothering a dead baby is so strange.

This weekend was the big dance recital. My mother-in-law has a dance studio and my sister-in-law and she teach most of the classes. Along with the other teachers and helpers they really do an amazing job every year putting on the show. It's fascinating to me, who danced exactly one year in my whole life (as an ADULT! I was IN the RECITAL--another story for another time), to watch this production and realize the hours and sheer talent that goes into its execution.

But it's hard, you know? I find myself choking back tears watching all these beautiful girls and young women twirling and tapping and leaping across the stage. There are a few boys up there, sure, looking cute and dapper. And yes, it's an assumption that our little girl would be enamored with the tutus and tap shoes. But I can imagine, right? And the imagining and the missing together are so very painful.

As I was watching and wondering and crying just a little, I was also holding baby O. And just when I thought I was going to have to leave the auditorium, he put his little head on my shoulder and hugged me.

It's okay.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Going and Going

This past weekend I ran a half marathon. Not particularly quickly--in fact, it was my slowest ever--and well, I can't pretend like I really trained all too hard for it. But it's over and done with. It was hot and long and, quite frankly, pretty miserable.

I kept running until I couldn't. Which was just past ten miles. I gave myself a good long walk break. Of course this is when that voice inside gives way to, what I so eloquently call, the "I-sucks:"

I'm fat. I'm slow. I'm the slowest runner I know. Everyone is looking at me and laughing. Look at everyone going by, they're wondering why I even bothered trying to do this. 

Which ever-so-quickly segues into "I-suck-at-everything":

I am a shitty mother. My poor kids got me in the lottery of life. My husband has to put up with me. It's no wonder my baby died, I am a terrible person. I can't do anything well, everyone is better at everything than I am.

I don't know. I think strange things happen to my brain when I'm underfed and overtired. It's hard to not let the negative thoughts creep in at the edges. The wheels just fall right off my wagon.

I am a new person, though. The old me, the one who never really ever lived through misery, or had to do anything especially challenging that wasn't self-inflicted, probably would have given up. Watched the runners pass me by, felt sorry for myself and pouted. But the old me wasn't out there on that sunny, hot morning. The new me scraped my sorry sack of shit self off the pavement at mile 11 and started running again. And finished. Running. The new me knows a thing or two about keepin' on keepin' on.

C and the boys were there just past mile 11, cheering me on. They were there again just past mile 12, too. Hearing E shouting "go Mommy go!" gave my heart a jolt. I'm still not all that jazzed about my lackluster performance, but I finished what I started.  I didn't quit even though it was hard. Go me.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Right Where I Am: One Year, Four Months and 17 Days

This post is part of an amazing project started by Angie for the babyloss community. Check out her post to see what it's all about, and follow us on the path.


January of 2010 was the beginning of my new life. When we found out Calla had died, I stopped understanding language for a short while; when they told me I'd have to deliver a dead baby, I couldn't make those words work in a sentence together. When C told me it was really real, I knew it was true, because he would never lie to me, but, again, it didn't compute.

After she died I never thought I'd smile, or be happy, or be a whole person ever again. I remember coming home and posting something on FB, only because everyone there knew I was pregnant, and I couldn't bear anyone asking about the baby. I remember crying myself to sleep, crying myself awake in the morning, crying in the shower, the bathroom, the car, while doing laundry . . . I just knew I'd never smile or be happy again. How could I?

I was totally wrecked in so many ways. I'd pushed my dead daughter out of my body--how could I ever forgive my physical self for that? I remember saying some crazy things in the hospital, things about all that work, getting fat, being in pain, for nothing. Looking back I almost feel ashamed. But in those moments, it was my truth. I felt cheated and stung and I didn't know how to process what was happening.

C said it perfectly, that no one should know what it feels like to hold their dead child.

In fact, I don't really remember wanting to be happy at all. I couldn't eat, I could barely sleep, I hated myself, my brain and my body. I drank. A lot. I bought tons of clothes I didn't need and didn't fit into, but those packages arriving every day were a distraction from the knife in my throat.  C and I would go out to dinner, and I would squeeze myself into some semblance of a normal outfit. We'd cry. Just look across the table at each other and shake our heads and drop our eyes.


We also had E. Who, at the time, was 18 months old. Which meant I couldn't just stay in bed all day, no matter if I wanted to or not. And while I hesitate to place all my happiness on my child, he truly saved me. I do not say that lightly. He needed me to be his mother, even though I was desperately sad. And so I acted like his mother, showed up, played trucks. Amazingly, just by acting like a normal mother again helped me almost feel like one again, eventually.

So where am I now?

That's a difficult question for me to answer. In so many ways, in a much better place. One day, a few months out from Calla's birth, I laughed. Really, really hard. I don't remember at what, but I instantly felt both guilty and relieved. To be honest, hardcore grieving is exhausting work. Necessary and inevitable work. And that laugh was building up for a long time. After that I laughed a little more, more often, all while still being bone-deep devastated.

Also, I became pregnant with our third child, baby O, just two months after Calla died and was born. And their birthdays are exactly 10 months apart. To the day. Which is . . . an emotional challenge. So 2010 was a year-long adventure in grief, anxiety, disbelief, heartbreak and joy.

Much like the rest of my life is shaping up to be.

Right now, I work on balancing my sadness with the happiness in my life. It feels like I think of Calla nearly every minute of every day. People tell me all the time that baby O looks so much like his older brother. Calla was a dark/curly-haired girl, but I wonder if those dark curls would have given way to shiny blonde hair like E.  I wonder what my life would be like with one truck-loving three-year-old and a one-and-a-half-year-old girl who is so into . . . what?

It makes me sad that she's not here with us. It makes me deliriously happy that baby O is here, he made it here safely, he brings so much joy to our lives. It makes me confused, often, that this is my life.  It hurts when people refer to O as our "second." It makes my heart feel warm when someone talks about Calla, asks how I'm doing, lets me know I'm not the only person who remembers her.

I remember those early, dark days after Calla's birth with a mix of dread and, well, possibly fondness? Only because I was closer to her, closer to the rawness of her birth then. We are moving forward as a family, and while we all get older and evolve, she'll always be a bitty baby. That's a hard truth for me.

But overall I feel better about LIFE, not better about her death. Her death will always be a terrible part of my history. I will love and miss her forever. But she's a part of our family, in a way I never could have imagined. I can laugh again. I can eat again. I find joy in every day, probably more now than ever before. I am not a perfect parent, despite my best efforts.

Emotionally, I am beginning to heal. And healing does not mean "getting over it" or forgetting her. It just means, to me, that I can look at the butt ruffle on a pink baby swimsuit without hyperventilating. I can look at the older boy/younger girl families and not want to run into traffic. But like I said, I'm still at the beginning. So many everyday-life-type things bring the tears flooding back; somedays a sparkly sneaker is all it takes to send me diving under the covers. And yet, that's okay, too.

So much love to any and all who walk this path, no matter where you may be. Know that I'm holding your hand along the way, and please hold mine back.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Love You Forever

Tonight I did something I've been putting off for nearly three years: I read E Love You Forever. Now, this has long been a favorite of mine, but an absolute KILLER to read and sing. And then tonight I learned this book was born from Robert Munsch and his wife having two dead babies. Cue the waterworks.

But lately E has been acting very THREE. Whining, yelling, doing things he knows better than to do. And I feel like I'm constantly correcting and redirecting. I thought it was time for this book. I will love him forever, and like him for always. And as long as I'm living, my baby he'll be.

Tonight I am tired from a hard workout, tired from a long day after a long night of little sleep. But this tired is so much better than being tired from crying all night. Even so, I am missing my baby girl. I am loving my little boys.

Ah, this life.

To all my babies, I will love you forever. Wherever you may be, whether I can sneak into your rooms at night and rock you, or sit by your stone and cry. I will love you all forever.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Minute to Breathe

Right now I'm nursing a wicked headache that started with blurred, or rather, loss of vision and is finishing with nausea. And also deja vu, as I had this same headache at the end of the day on Mothers' Day. Yay.

I have been really slacking here. I mean, I know that no one's waiting around their Reader for BING! A new naptime confessional post to pop up, but it's that whole continue-what-you-start thing.  Baby O is a hugger, he needs to be held, quite a bit. Which is delightful, but not conducive to typing, or, well, cohesive thoughts. C and I have started a strict no-computer-after-kids-go-to-bed policy. And every other free minute I have is devoted to cooking, or cleaning, or running, or boxing, or yoga, or maybe even sleep.

But there's been a bit going on, you know? I've been sharing a lot of grief talk with my therapist, who walks me through. It feels a bit indulgent--HEY! let's talk about me me me!--but necessary.  I still can't believe, some days, that this is my life. In the past few weeks I've run into two separate people from my old life. Neither of whom I'd seen since I was pregnant with Calla. And it was  . . . okay? With one I didn't get into the story. She said, "Oh, is this the baby?" And I thought to myself, "Well, he's A baby, but not the one you're thinking of!" I let her do the complicated math in her head. If I see her again I'll explain, but it was in a doctor's office and it wasn't the right time.

I saw the other friend in the park. I was packing the giant double stroller into my trunk after running with the boys. Both of them were already in the car, and she spotted me from across the road. "Hey!' she called to me, "what did you end up having?"

Um, my worst nightmare come true? A year from hell? Two babies, one live, one dead?

So I waved her over and told her the story. Her daughter is my age and pregnant with her, well, I'll say second baby, but she's had miscarriages since her first. Oh. This pregnancy thing can be so fraught. Anyway, she was sad for me, but she understood. She told me of her best friend from years ago who had a full term stillbirth, how that friend, earlier in the day at her baby shower was uneasy, who had the operator interrupt her phone call and was hysterically sobbing on the line, calling from the hospital.

You don't get it I guess until, sadly, you do.

I talk with my therapist about all the little things that, to maybe anyone else, would seem stupid, or whiny, or ungrateful. Like how the frilly Easter dresses make my heart leap into my throat. How the tiny dancers in pastel tutus in the dance recital leave me crying in the dark auditorium. How the mother with her boy and girl, older than my children but spaced how E and Calla would have been, takes me out of the present and into my head. How any number of seemingly insignificant, material, impossible things in any day litter this path, sometimes shoving mountain-sized hurdles in my way.

It's all those woulda-shoulda-couldas. The what-ifs, and what-nows. The bullshit no one wants to hear when you have two beautiful, healthy, happy, wonderful, living boys in your arms. You have all this and still you want more?

And sometimes, when I can be brutal with myself--or maybe it's kindness--I do look at my life and wonder why it's not enough. Because, truly it is. My boys are enough. C is enough. I have everything I could ever want.

Except. I want my little girl too. And for that I will never, ever apologize. I don't care if that's selfish. I don't care if it's greedy. It is not ungrateful.

So. I'll end with this thought. Without rehashing, last year sucked. I look at pictures of myself and every one is the face of anxiety. I was a nervous wreck nearly constantly. But you know what? Baby O is as happy as I was anxious. He laughs and smiles at everything--big belly laughs, too. And he thinks E is the  best, saving his loudest laughs just for him.

I am so sad, and I am so happy, and I am so devastated, and I am so lucky.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mothers' Day, Year Three

This is my third Mothers' Day celebrating as a mother. Well, technically my fourth, as E was born a month after MD three years ago.  And looking back on last year's, erm, celebration, this year is far different. Last year on this day, we had snow, and wind, and I ran a 4 mile race that sucked, except running with my best friend and her kiddos in the stroller made it a bit fun. But overall, I freaking hated that day.

Last year on Mothers' Day I wanted to spend the day in bed. I didn't want to go anywhere near it. I felt other, different, alien in a world of happiness when I was so very, deeply sad. It felt like no one could possibly understand why the day might be hard for me.  My baby had died but 4 months earlier, to the day, and yet it seemed I was supposed to have gotten over it.

This year, I have a six-month-old-tomorrow little dude celebrating with the almost-three-year-old and me, and C. And I am so very much in love. It is sunny and warm, and maybe, just maybe, we can start to believe spring is on its way to our corner of the Earth at last. I have laughed today at the absurdities of life. I have kissed and hugged my two boys all day. I went on a nice date with C last night and am still feeling warm and fuzzy and loved. Somehow, just 365 days later, I look and can act (mostly) like a normal person.

And yet. This day will always be a reminder (as though I would ever forget) of just how much we have lost, despite our rich life.  Part of me will resent this holiday forever, the contrived feeling, the sometimes forcing of smiles and niceness, when all I want to do is cry. How dare I want to scream and wail when I have such wonderful children alive in my arms? 

Who knew you could still have mom guilt for a baby you never even got the chance to parent? It occurred to me that I've done so physically little to honor Calla's memory. No fundraising foundation. No letter-writing campaign. No 5k memorial run.  All I have is a hole in my heart, some pictures and a beautiful box, an urn of ashes I can't bring myself to scatter.  Last year it was all I could do to merely survive, preserve my sanity through my pregnancy with O; anything more seemed impossible.

This is my year. The year for tending her stone in the cemetery, for telling her story to the boys, for living without her while still living.

Mothers' Day, happy or not, easier or anxiety filled--my love to you all, wherever you may be on this path.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Springtime in the Cemetery

Early spring, the trees are waking as the birds chirp in their branches.
The earth is defrosting. Something beautiful peeks from the ground.
Tiny bursts of purple, yellow and white dot the thawing green hill; here and only here, on her hill.

The labor of last fall has survived the barren winter to surprise and delight us now. 
Beautiful flowers for a little girl gone.

One of my favorite memories of being a little girl was reading books about me. Well, not specifically about ME, but those books given as gifts, my name inserted in the action. Back then the font in the book made it look as though someone was meticulously typing the story on a typewriter--and, you know, it's not completely implausible that happened. It was long ago, after all.

For E's dedication my sister-in-law and her family gave him one of these books. His entire name is spelled out with animals filling in the letters. And then for O's dedication they gave another one. But L, my sister-in-law, said it wouldn't be right if all out children didn't have one. So she made one for Calla.

We love it. I would have loved it as a little girl, and I know our little girl would have loved it, too. Now her brothers will listen to her story, fairies and all.

And then there's this box. A dear family friend MADE this box. It holds all of Calla's earthly possessions. They fit perfectly. Isn't this the most gorgeous box you've ever seen? I am still trying to figure out how someone possesses such a talent. Oh, and woodworking/carpentry isn't even this friend's profession. Impressed? I am so very.

Oh yes, and beyond thankful, too. This box is in our dining room at the bottom part of our sideboard. Sounds like a weird place to keep it, but we can see it every day. She's with us during the most important part of our day, sharing meals together.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Fear

My new fear obsession is SIDS. I have a mantra that I connect to every time O wakes in the night (which, lately, has been quite often), or even during the day: Awake=Alive. Somehow I've latched onto this fear because, as I've read, there's NOTHING anyone can to to 100% prevent SIDS. Sure, breastfeeding, sleeping on his back, having a fan running in his room, no one smoking in the house, on and on and on. But there's no guarantee. I don't remember being this paranoid vigilant with E, but then again, I hadn't lived through the death of my baby yet.

And all of a sudden it hit me. From the minute I found out I was pregnant with O to this very second, I've been fearing for his death. I've been enjoying the heck out of him, loving him fiercely and with wild abandon. But there's always a little tickle, a nagging fear on the edge of my consciousness. If I'm being honest, it's often at the forefront of my consciousness. So much so that I've woken him accidentally, checking to make sure he's still breathing.

Tell me I need to get a grip. Tell me this is normal stuff, not just post-trauma, hyper-vigilant behavior. Because I'm starting to worry I'm losing my mind.