Thursday, December 10, 2009

december again

It's December again. Yesterday was the ninth. It has been eleven months.

I am unclear how this year has slipped away from me, how it can possibly have been eleven months since we let you go. It seems just yesterday I was cradling you in my belly by the fireplace as the snow fell outside, wondering if you were a boy or girl, counting down the days until we found out. Could have been yesterday I got the call and the world seemed to stop and I became someone entirely different.

And at the same time it seems impossible that any of it ever happened at all.

Lately I've been feeling really overwhelmed with emotion about you. That is the only way I can explain it. It isn't sadness, at least not completely. There is a softness in my heart, a gratitude, an overwhelming sense of....well, love, I guess. That sort of all-consuming, everything-at-once sort of feeling.

We have officially entered the time of year that I have simultaneously been anticipating and dreading. I am faced with that now familiar juxtaposition of missing you while also preparing for and celebrating your brother. He will be here any day now, and so will all the dates that hold significance in your story. It's hard to know how to feel. If I am sad, is that a betrayal to your brother? If I am happy, does that mean I am forgetting?

Should I forget?

Things have been different lately. There is light where there wasn't before. I am not quite as angry, as guilty, as grief-stricken. There is a buzz of excitement in the air as the world around me anticipates the arrival of your brother. Things are changing. Eleven months has made it easier to breathe, to dig and contemplate and sometimes find some semblance of gratitude for the experience we shared. But it has not made me forget.

In the middle of a nesting frenzy in which I barely stopped to breathe, I pulled out your memory box, held it in my lap, and just cried. As exciting and hopeful as these days are, there is still room to miss you. Even if only for a moment.

I don't really know where I'm going with this. I have lots to say, but have been having trouble expressing my thoughts lately. I can't count the amount of times I have had words begging to be written, only to be ignored and then forgotten. With all the focus on the new baby and the impending birth, it has been hard to find the energy to visit the darker thoughts, even when I probably should. Sometimes it is so much easier not to open that proverbial box.

So that's where I am. Forgetting, but not forgetting. Missing you, but also finding peace with that, somehow.

I don't know what else to say.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

halloween 09

"Just think! Next year at this time you will have a little one to dress up!"

Someone said this to me yesterday, and I just smiled, swallowing the first response that sprung immediately to my lips...

That's what I thought last year, too.

In fact, one year ago yesterday, we had our first ultrasound. We watched you wiggle and bounce around on the screen, saw your little heart beating away, and left with the confidence that everything was just fine. For the first time, I let myself start to believe it, and though I didn't know anything about you yet, I wanted to buy something, anything. A vote of confidence, in a way. So I bought your Halloween costume for this year.

I remember sorting through the rack of little costumes, counting on my fingers the number of months between your due date and today. I decided on the 6 month size, and remember commenting on how small it was. I couldn't imagine that in one year, I would have a baby who would potentially fit into it.

But I didn't. I don't. You are gone and your little pumpkin sleeper hangs, unworn, in the closet, certainly forgotten by everyone but me. Like most things.

It sounds silly, but I feel like I am being a bad mother to you lately. If my only job is to honor your memory, I feel like I'm falling behind. Your brother has become the center of attention to the rest of the world. The question "Is this your first?" has become rampant in my every day life, and I find myself just saying "yes" more than I want to. There is no good way to answer it differently without the confused, sad, awkward silence that usually follows. People don't want to know. Is it any of their business, anyway?

The lilies we planted with some of your ashes on your due date have died, leaving behind a pot of lifeless soil. I can't seem to figure out how to feel about it. On good days, I just ponder what I can replant in their place. Other days I wonder if it really even matters. And on the really bad days, I think of course. Nothing else about this year is right. Why would the plant live?

The rest of your ashes are still in the stupid plastic box they came in, tucked on the shelf of my nightstand, waiting for me to do something better with them. Everything I think of feels inadequate. I want them with me, and yet an urn feels strangely inappropriate. And so they remain in their little baggie inside a flimsy box, waiting. It feels wrong. I suppose it is wrong, in a sense, to even have your own child's ashes. This isn't what I signed up for.

Winter is coming, faster than I am prepared for, and it's already beginning to stir memories in the deepest corners of my soul--the places that sickening, heavy darkness has retreated to. Every once in awhile, when it's raining in just the right way, I get a flashback of that terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. I'm not ready to relive it all just yet.

I wish I could just accept that it all went differently than I planned, and that that's okay. I wish I could turn off the should's and would's and if-only's.

But instead I find myself wishing that you were here with me tonight, wearing your halloween costume.

I miss you baby girl.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

layers of exhaustion

I am really tired.

It's not the kind of tired that sleep can fix, as I've learned. I sleep 12 hours a night on my days off and I am still exhausted.

To most people, it is fairly one dimensional: I am tired because I am pregnant. And it's true, my body is working so hard, and has been for more than a year now. It seems impossible that I ever had an existence that did not revolve around growing tiny bodies.

To me, it's obvious that there are layers to this exhaustion. I am tired from harboring the weight of everything that has happened this year. I am tired from missing my daughter. I am tired from bearing the guilt that comes with having had to let her go. I am tired from the tears I still cry much more often than anyone knows. I am tired from walking this emotional tightrope that I can't quite define as hormonal or just consequential of the circumstances. I am tired from falling off more than I'd like to. I am tired from moving, gathering what remnants of normalcy I can manage, and attempting to put my life back together. I am tired from constantly pulling it all back in, burying it under the surface, and pretending that I am okay--even to those who would hold me up if I wasn't. Even to myself.

Maybe I am okay. Maybe I should be. But why, then, do I feel like I am constantly teetering at the edge of a proverbial line? One more thing, and I could tip into the yet-to-be-defined abyss of unimaginable despair. Why is it that the tiniest thing gone awry can send my entire day into a downward spiral, or at least into hysterics that are undeniably inappropriate for the situation? Because suddenly I am not crying about that tiny thing that happened, but because my baby died, and I have no idea who I am anymore. Still.

I have sadness in my eyes that I catch in glimpses sometimes, when I am surprised by my reflection. There is heaviness there, and it's making me tired. I wish I could explain it better to those who can't understand. I didn't even know her after all. It's been almost nine months. I am having another baby! Her little soul is fine. I made a loving choice.

Even when I can get okay with all of that, when I can wrap my head around it in such a way that I can feel the goodness that came from it (and these moments are rare), there is still my life to consider. When I got pregnant the first time, everyone told me my life would never be the same. They had no idea. I feel like I have been mentally, spiritually, and physically uprooted, tossed around, and left staggering in the dark, trying to find my path again. I am still completely lost in my life.

Sometimes I question the timing of this subsequent pregnancy. Did we rush into it? It certainly doesn't feel like the ideal time to have a baby sometimes, grieving a daughter and struggling to put a life back together. Not to mention the physical, mental, and financial strain it has created on top of what already existed. But at the same time, I am terrified to think of where I would be otherwise. He gives me purpose again, and even in those times when I am sure I have crossed that line, that I am going to be a mess forever, there he is, kicking defiantly. Hey, remember me? I am the best thing that's happened to you in nine months!

I just really need him to be okay.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I am weighed down by guilt lately. Heavy. I don't even have words.

It is incessantly nagging in the back of my mind, what could have, should have, might have been.

The sight of baby girls that are about as big as you would have been makes my heart seize, makes that fragile, broken, instinctual mother inside me curl into herself and try, unsuccessfully, to protect her wounds. Like blaring reminders...IT COULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT.

I have nightmares about arguing my agonizing decision with people who will never understand, arguments littered with words like "kill" and "pro-life" that inspire the deepest rage in the pit of my soul. I have dreams about having a baby, but it is a daughter, not the son who is alive and kicking in my belly. She is too small, and I can't see her face, no matter how hard I try.

You have been gone for so long now. So much has changed, will change. It's been a year since your tiny life began, and I find myself longing for those days, the final, beautiful days that came before the conclusion of my old life.

I am not sure where I go from here. Your brother is the only thing keeping me on some kind of designated path, but even that feels all wrong sometimes.

I find myself caught up in the if-only's. If only I had known then what I know now. If only I could change it. I blame myself, still, for your poor little spine. I am so angry. It is my fault, my body's fault, and yet I did not know any better.

People don't understand. It's been 8 months, I should be over it. I should be unabashedly celebrating the new life that is thriving inside me without hesitation. But I am not immune, and I know it. And I will never get my daughter back, and I will always miss her. That is something many people can't quite process, because they did not see her, feel her, hold her. Say goodbye to her.

Sometimes I feel like I minimize your loss even to myself. And then I find myself justifying it--I have your ashes, you were real. You did exist. I am a mother of two, no getting around it. I have every right to miss the one who is not here, even if no one else understands.

I feel a million years old. I want my daughter. I don't want to be this version of myself anymore.

I thought of you and where you'd gone
and the world spins madly on

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I am twenty one weeks pregnant today. Today, I woke up, went to work. Today, I smiled about the sunshine. Today, my mother felt your brother kick for the first time. Today your brother has been bouncing around in my belly more than usual. Maybe he is saying "look mom, we made it!" We made it, 21 weeks, and nothing is falling apart. We are still here, both of us. Surviving. Today I celebrate that fact.

But I have not forgotten. Today is the 9th again. Seven months ago at this very point in my pregnancy with you, I took a drive to a hospital in another city, I filled out the paperwork, I changed into that hospital gown. Seven months ago, I started to feel the contractions, I got the epidural, I felt you move for the last time.

Seven months ago, you were delivered in your bag of water and my family wrapped their arms around me and one another and we cried around my bedside because you couldn't. We cried big, heavy, crocodile tears, and the nurse whisked you away to prepare your little body.

Seven months ago, my dad returned from his visit to the hospital chapel and wanted to share what he had read...

"Today we weep, tomorrow we rejoice"

Only his voice caught, and he cried, the only time I have ever seen him cry, and I felt that huge, overwhelming pain so intensely in that moment. This hurt, it was hurting everyone, there couldn't possibly be rejoicing in the future. Surely, the world had ended and I would not feel happiness again. This vast, gaping hole in my heart was certainly too big, there was no room! You died, and a very big part of me died with you.

Everything had changed. There is no denying that, at least.

I am not the same as I once was. And sometimes I have days, weeks, of missing that old person, the one who did not know this sorrow, did not have this wound in her soul. Sometimes I feel so desperate to turn back the clock and change things so that everything would have been fine the first time. You would have been just another healthy baby. We would have gotten up and gone to work after the ultrasound, sharing the good news. January 9th would have been just another day.

But I am learning and slowly beginning to accept that without this wound, the gaping hole, that these moments, these milestones would not be so sweet (even if they do come with hints of bitter sometimes). I know that if this baby is born alive, crying, warm on my chest, it will be an incredible moment made even more incredible by the knowledge of what a truly profound accomplishment it really is.

And that, my beautiful, tiny little daughter, is one of your many gifts.

As I look back on these past seven months, the quote from the chapel has never been so poignant Turns out the "today, tomorrow" is not so black and white, but more of a gradual transition. Sometimes the weeping and rejoicing often get intertwined and tangled up and happen simultaneously. But it certainly feels as though the dawn is breaking on that proverbial tomorrow.

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

the pursuit of happiness

Lately I've been feeling like I need a vacation.

It's not even that I'm very busy, I've just been having this overwhelming urge to just get away from it all. Unfortunately, I think what I am trying to escape from is a state of mind. Not that I am wallowing in sadness or anything, there is just an incredible mundanity in my every day life as of late. I still feel as if I am in a bit of survival foot in front of the other without worrying much about the direction.

When it really comes down to it, there has not been a lot of joy in my life since you left me. I feel I am just beginning to find the joy in this new pregnancy, but it is hesitant, careful joy that I seem to entertain only here and there, in fear of putting it back on the shelf in defeat for a second time.

The sun came out today for the first time in more than a week and suddenly I felt myself transported back to that moment, the morning of September 9th, sitting on the deck with the sun on my back, shaking with joy and excitement and nerves as I announced your beginning to my mom, who sat speechless on the other end of the phone. I can almost remember what it felt like, that giddy uncontrollable joy unleashed in the pit of my stomach. It was all so new, so unexpected, so exciting. It consumed me.

And after it was all ripped away, I remember sitting in the car with rain on the windshield and tears all over my face, the new normal setting in around me like dead air, and sobbing to my mom, "but I was just so happy..."

Surely I would be happy again someday, even though it seemed impossible at the time. And yes, here I am, halfway through a second pregnancy with a healthy baby, but things are different this time. I don't think I will ever get that kind of happiness back. The more I fall in love with this little being in my belly, the more I worry that he will be taken away from me too. Sometimes I want to cry at the very thought. Sometimes I want to cry because he gets to keep growing and you did not. Sometimes I want to cry because I don't get to have both of you the way I wanted. Sometimes I can dig down through all the protective layers I have built and really feel the loss of you all over again.

I decided to hang up the bunch of clothes that my mom already bought for him this afternoon. Among them, there still hangs the tiny handful of things that are yours: the yellow dress we bought for you on the day we went to the hospital, the pumpkin Halloween costume that I carefully chose in the 6 month size, anticipating how old you would be when the holiday came around. It will never fit him at the right time, and yet I can't bring myself to pack them away. At one time, I thought I would have a 5 month old on Halloween this year, a 7 month old at Christmas, a two month old at this very moment. Today, for the first time in a long time, I wondered what you would be like right now, if things were different. What would we be doing today, in the sunshine?

I spent so much time imagining and expecting you and now the reality that you are gone, you are really not joining me in this life, hits harder sometimes than others. What I would give to have just a moment in that sub-reality I created of "how I thought things would go." There, you are healthy and happy and growing, crying at this very instant, certainly not giving me enough time to write lengthy rambling posts on a blog that would not even exist.

It's too quiet around here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

oh, the gravity of it all

I don't shelter myself from babies anymore. Lately, I notice I am trying harder to get little glimpses of them in their car seats, in their parents' arms, in shopping carts and baby carriers. I can't get enough, almost. With each one I contemplate their tiny little features and wonder if this baby will be anything like them, just like I did with you. But there was a time in the not so distant past that even the sound of a baby from across a store would cut through me like knives, tearing at that gaping wound that was struggling to heal and bringing me down to that breaking point, letting that dark, looming sadness right back in like an old friend.

So many healthy babies in this world, and yet mine was not okay. Why couldn't you have been okay? But you had other plans.

Today at work, after witnessing a sweet new family, mom carefully attending to her baby in his car seat, I made a silly statement to the universe, or whoever happened to be in the general vicinity at the time.

"I want my baby now."

My coworker laughed. "You're tired of being pregnant already?"

Already, I suppose. But I will have been pregnant for most of a year next month, and I still have no baby to tend to. Plus, it's not so much that I am tired of being pregnant, as much as I am so anxious to have your brother here safely, healthy, well, alive. I am more aware than ever that I do not have control over this process. And how do I give my trust to my body when I have not quite forgiven it for what it failed to provide for you?

"At least you still have your freedom right can go do whatever you want. After you have that baby..." and then the look, that grave look that means something along the lines of everything changes. You will have a different life.

And what people don't understand is, there was another baby, but she died. And what I would give to be caring for that baby, for you right now, to be living that different life. My freedom? Certainly. My sleep? Certainly. Absolutely anything at all, to have you here, safe and healthy and whole, the way I imagined you.

I know that wasn't how it was supposed to go, but it was more clear to me today than it has been in a long time. I consciously stopped thinking in "should be's" a few months ago, but I wanted so badly to revisit that form of misery today. I should be mothering you right now. I should not even be at work! I should already be "tied down" by that squishy, gurgling, screaming baby.

Of course I am grateful for this new pregnancy, for your growing, wiggling brother who has made a game of pouncing on my bladder every time it gets full. Of course of course. There is no question that I cherish him equally, that I cannot truly wish things were different anymore, because it would mean that he would not exist.

But there was another baby. And you just seem so damn far away lately. There are new people I know that do not even know that you existed (at least not yet). Together your dad and I broadcast your memory with permanent ink in our skin, and there are those silent scars in our hearts, but you are still so...absent.

I guess this is what it will be like. The rest of the world will see my living children and comment on my beautiful family, but to me it will always be incomplete. There will always be someone missing.

What do I do with all this love I have for you? It is so big, so much bigger than I even have room for, and there is nowhere to put it. I ache to hold you again, in a way I haven't in months. But you are just dust and memories and sometimes a presence that is even less tangible than the air I am breathing, so subtle that I could just be imagining it. I want so badly for you to exist in some form, but I don't really know if things work like that. I want to believe it though. I almost have to. You cannot really just be gone, can you?

Your brother is growing so quickly. He is almost as big as you were when I held you. In fact, it was around this time in my pregnancy with you that we first saw you and the world began to slowly unravel. It seems like years, lifetimes ago, and at the same time like yesterday. It is a strange place to be, a healthy thriving baby in my belly and the one who wasn't so lucky in my heart.

People ask me what my plans are now, and I have no answer. Just let me get this baby here first, let me survive this strange cloudy haze of uncertainty, and then we'll talk.

Monday, July 20, 2009

on the other side

It's hard to put into words what the last week has been like for me. A week ago I was anxiously awaiting word from a friend on whether or not they were able to learn the sex of their baby after a follow up ultrasound. I was admittedly stalking facebook, waiting for her update, but when it finally came, it was not at all what I had wanted to see. Mid-conversation with my mom, her words took my breath away. They were having a son, but he was not going to make it.

Right away, there were tears. I scrambled to write something coherent to her, though I knew, I knew so well, there was nothing I could say. That short message that felt so inadequate at the time has blossomed into a week long ongoing conversation that is just...amazing.

Our stories have been paralelling one another in so many ways. She had to make the choice too. She saw the same genetic counselor, the same perinatologist, likely the same ultrasound screen, the same look in the doctor's eyes. She had to make that drive to the only city in the state who would allow her to let her precious son go. She had the IV, the epidural, the horrifyingly uncomfortable labor and delivery bed. She had those wonderful, terrible, heartbreaking moments with her tiny baby. She had to leave him behind.

And six months ahead of her, I felt it all again. I felt all of those moments more clearly than I have in a long time. And I hurt with her, for her, for us.

But I have been happy to be able to be there for her in a way that most other people can't. I know I can't do much, but being there to say "yes, I felt that too" is reassuring for both of us. I just wish she didn't have to feel it, that big indescribable pain and everything that goes along with it.

How strange it is to be on the other side. How strange to be the one who survived, who is still surviving, somehow.

I have so much more to write, there are words bouncing around in the back of my head all the time, but right now I don't have the power to organize them the right way.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

the 9th again

Today is six months. Six months since we said goodbye. Can it really have been half a year already since I held you, since I let you go? The significance of today rushed in early this morning, as I was getting ready for work. The tears hovered in the corners of my eyes, but I did not have time for them then.

Work was too quiet, far too little distraction, and the tears continued to spring up in unexpected moments of silence with a persistence that they haven't had in months. I was barely able to get on top of them, and I realized that I was feeling that weight again, the gravity of everything that has happened, everything I am missing.

I am trying to shake myself free of this weight, as I should really be rejoicing. We found out this week that your sibling is, in fact, a brother, and so far, he is healthy. He flaunted his beautiful spine and healthy brain, and while I am beyond thrilled that I will have the honor of chasing after him as he makes use of those fully functional legs, I feel as if I am grieving the loss of you all over again.

If I am in fact capable of making a healthy baby, why not you? Why couldn't you have had a healthy brain and a beautiful spine too? There is still so much guilt there.

We always imagined we would have a daughter first, and we did, I just never realized it would be like this. I didn't know that we would never get to raise you, that we would have to say goodbye without ever getting a chance to know you. I never dreamed that I would be telling your brother about a sister he will never meet.

I miss you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


I don't know what it is--maybe all the writing I've been doing, maybe all the thoughts that seem to be constantly zipping through my head, maybe the hormones that are pulsing through every inch of me--but the grief has been resurfacing a bit this week.

All week I have been feeling uncomfortable in my body. Stir crazy, almost, except that I can't escape it, it follows me everywhere. I get incredibly angry at the tiniest things, just like the early days. The house is a disaster and needs to be unpacked, cleaned, vacuumed, and yet I can't bring myself to be remotely productive. I did 2 loads of laundry today (well, more like 1 and a half) and justify to myself that at least I accomplished something.

And then I read and remember and cry, and yet I can't cry as hard as I want to. And then I get angry at myself because there is the new baby fluttering in my belly, and I should be rejoicing in these moments, cherishing them, because next week we learn whether this baby is healthy, and the world could easily come crashing down again, just like that. The wait is agonizing, because do I even really want to know? Certainly if there is bad news to be heard, I would rather pass.

I am tired. Pregnancy is wearing me out, even though I have had an easy one so far, and I am frustrated since I went through all of this not so long ago and all I got was a tiny box of ashes and a big gaping hole in my heart. I want to scream at the next person who tells me how much my life is going to change, how hard it's going to be when the baby comes. I doubt it will be worse than giving birth to a dead baby. I want to tell them that I will gladly, enthusiastically, give up every second of my free time to tend to a screaming baby with a fully functional body. Don't talk to me about hard times until you have held your child's cold body and lived to tell about it.

And since I have been spending so much time wasting my day on the internet, I came across someone who just received a poor prenatal diagnosis and has decided to carry to term. Which is, of course, a completely admirable choice that I respect totally. But then I read all the comments, everyone commending her for making the "right" choice, for being so brave, and I started to get angry. While it may be the right choice for her, there is no overall, black and white, right and wrong about the decision that was handed to her (us). And why is it that those people who choose to carry to term, no matter what the outcome, are celebrated and praised for their bravery and strength, while the rest of us, the ones who make the other choice, are quiet, usually giving few details about our situation for fear of being judged by even our closest friends and family? What is THAT? Are we not equally strong and brave in making the choice to let our sweet, much loved babies go? What is the right choice for one person may not be so right for the next, and it often shocks me that so much of our society is so small minded that they cannot fathom such a basic concept.

I am getting to that point in my healing where I want to be a voice, I want to make people understand, I want people to realize just how common it is. And at the same time, I wish I didn't have to. I wish I was nursing a 6 week old, not knowing that it all could have been different.

Maybe a shower will wash some of this insanity out...

Monday, June 29, 2009

birth? death? birthdeath?

It has been almost six months now, and I have yet to find the words to write the story of your birth. Not ironically, it is those moments--the last flutters, the foreign sensations, the tears, the cradling, the love, the heartbreak--that lurk in the corners of my mind, presenting themselves at the most awkward times and bringing me back. Bringing me right back. Six months of wrangling such memories has taught me to give them boundaries, however. I do not dismiss them, as that is essentially impossible, but instead I tell them to wait. Not now. I will deal with you later. I will visit you again when I have time, space. I will visit you when I can feel that pain with the intensity I need to, when I can cry those tears freely, as long as I want, because my baby died, and I'm not over it.

But I am okay. In my logical mind, I know that everything is as it should be. I know your soul is whole and well and part of my life for a very important reason. We probably planned it this way. And yet, that very human, very mortal part of me, that instinctual mother, does not understand. They say when you have children, it's like watching a piece of your heart walk around outside of your body. It's like that, exactly that, only you are gone, and so is that piece of me. There is an emptiness in this world, my current, tangible reality, that will never be filled.

And still your little life, your death, your absence, have changed me in ways I could not have imagined--changes that I am now grateful for, that I would not give up if I had the chance. Your birth and death were a beginning and end for me, too.

I started to write it a couple weeks ago, and it just comes out wrong. I cannot find the tone, I can't find the words. Do I just write it, the standard play-by-play of events that traditionally ends with pictures of squirmy newborns, a lament about sleepless nights and the new found love that comes with the discovery of your child? How do I put it that, in the moments after you were born, everyone was crying but you? That I witnessed my own father cry for the very first time? That there were no apgar scores or measurements, just a nurse bringing you in your blanket and asking if I wanted to see your defect? How do I explain the last time I felt you move, that I still wonder if it was the last time you moved at all? Are there even words?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

a hope and not a promise

I was so honored to learn that I was chosen for the spring award at Glow in the Woods this morning. I have found so much comfort in the writing there over the past 6 months, and to think that others may benefit from mine as well is a wonderful feeling. It is a group that I wish none of us ever had to belong to, but I am so grateful to have found it.

The award prompted me to read through your letters again--something I rarely do. As I said in my very first post: sometimes I want to reach out and grab someone and make them understand, bring them with me to that place and make them feel the terror, the sadness. The heartbreak.

I certainly succeeded, at least with myself. Every post took me right back to those moments, quickly reintroducing me to that dark gaping hole that I have so successfully been distracting myself from. It was if I was reminded: oh yes, this happened. Oh yes, it hurts. Oh yes, it will hurt forever.

And then I get angry. How could I have let myself forget? I think of you every day, and yet I somehow manage to evade that all too familiar, consuming heartache that goes along with your memory on a daily basis. How is it that the flood of tears that came today, the gut-wrenching sobs that are seemingly beyond my control, have come to feel right? Necessary. Comfortable? Perhaps it is that they are all I have left. If I am not grieving you, then did you really exist?

We moved out of the only house you ever lived in last week. It was the same house that became my refuge, my cave, the one place that I was allowed to stay in my pajamas for days and just miss you, after you died. As I swept every particle of dust out of the empty corners, I found pockets of grief that had slipped under furniture, waiting for the moment they might be visited again. Every inch of the house had an energy in it, and it was bittersweet leaving it behind. We are embarking on lots of new beginnings this year, and yet I cannot bear the thought of putting your life, your death behind me, into a dusty mental closet of bad memories. You are more than that. You will always be more than that.

The weeks are ticking away in the pregnancy with your sibling, and I find myself starting to wish time away again. I want it to be July, when we will learn if the baby's spine is closed, I want it to be December, when (God willing) I will hold the little one, I want time to pass for this and that until some little voice kicks in and screams in my head STOP! This could be all you get! And I try to cherish it, but there is still so much uncertainty.

People ask the incessant, obligatory question, "how are you feeling?" and I have little to say. I tell them I am tired, mostly, and they laugh and say "nap while you can, those days are numbered!" I smile, because that is the only appropriate response, but inside I am saying "yes, I can only hope to be so lucky." I can only hope to be spending sleepless nights with a screaming, healthy baby, the kind that most people take for granted.

I can only hope.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I love my baby no matter what

Ter`mi*na"tion\, n.

1. The act of terminating, or of limiting or setting bounds; the act of ending or concluding; as, a voluntary termination of hostilities.

2. End in time or existence; as, the termination of the year, or of life; the termination of happiness.

The word felt dirty to me, wrong in my mouth, for the longest time. To this day, I hesitate before saying it out loud. It is so harsh, so final, so totally void of the emotion and agony that went into the decision. Certainly, in the early days after the diagnosis, I resented the word, I danced around it, always calling it something different, because it was different, it had to be. In genetic counseling, it was always "ending the pregnancy" or "interrupting the pregnancy," as if those were any better. I worded it in any other way I could find, I still do. But then there it was, scribbled all over my discharge papers from the hospital, closely followed by fetal anomaly, fetal demise, 21 weeks.

It wasn't until one day, after the diagnosis but before your birth, when I decided to type the word, hating every letter, into the search field of the Baby Center Community, that it began to resonate with me. There it was, a group full of people going through exactly the same thing I was. Suddenly I was not alone. I was not a monster for even considering it.

I cringe when I see people say that termination would never be an option for them. It was not an option for me, either. Even in the initial phone call when Patricia mentioned that the specialists would be discussing my "options" with me, my head spun. What options? This was my baby. There were no options.

And then...well, everything changed. What happens when all the options are awful? What happens when life is not necessarily the best option for your own child? What happens when you have to choose their well being or yours? Just like any mother, you choose your child's.

There is so much misunderstanding surrounding termination for medical reasons. Those who have never been in our shoes and never plan to be, claim that they will love their babies no matter what. As if the decision is simple, black and white: if you love your baby, you will keep them, no matter what. But choosing to let a baby go is perhaps one of the hardest, most sacrificial demonstrations of love there is. I do not know of anyone who has taken the decision lightly. Choosing to let a baby go who would otherwise be born into a life of suffering (or no life at all) is a sacrifice. I will suffer my whole life so that you do not have to feel one moment of pain. I will spare you, even though it hurts more than anything I could ever have imagined. I carry the weight of this so you will never have to.

It is not easy.

As we get further into the pregnancy with your sibling, I have been thinking a lot about how I will handle things if there is a problem again. Some part of me wants to say it doesn't matter, I will keep this baby no matter what. But then, does that mean I love this baby more? And if I consider putting my own well being before this baby's, does that mean I love this baby less? It is so tempting to say that love has nothing to do with it, but essentially it is all about love. You are both my children and I am constantly humbled by the amount of love I am capable of in my new, unique motherhood.

I love you both, no matter what.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I'm a mess today. It's been creeping up on me in the last week and seems to have culminated into this huge overwhelming feeling of hopelessness today.

I have been doing so well. Even after Jesse lost his job, I was hopeful, confident that it was all part of the Big Picture, that it was probably meant to lead us to something better. But as the time continues to pass and the "better outcome" I was hoping for seems less and less likely, my optimism is admittedly suffering. In fact, I am starting to wonder if anything is ever going to go right again.

And it's things like these that begin to loosen the stiches of the patches I have so carefully sewn over that dark, gaping hole you left me with. I start to feel that bare, vulnerable, empty place again, and it makes me realize that this is far from over. That this will never be over, not really. Perhaps someday I will patch the hole more permanently, but it will never be gone.

Tomorrow it will be May. May, which still conjures a bit of anticipation somewhere in my heart. It is the month you would have been born, the month I began waiting for way back in September. It's hard to imagine how different things would have been if it had all gone according to plan. I try not to hold on to that image, because you were not well from the beginning. It wouldn't have been as I expected no matter what. I just had so many expectations. I should have known better.

So this May we will be seeing your little sibling for the first time, who took up residence a few weeks ago. Naturally, I am fearing the worst, just as I did with you, but more so this time. It's funny, in the weeks and months after your death, I became obsessed with the idea of getting pregnant again. On some subconscious level, although I tried to convince myself otherwise, I believed it would fix everything, that it would fill the big empty hole you left. But it didn't. It won't. You are not replaceable. Even getting the chance to experience pregnancy again did not come with the joy I expected it to. That blind, hopeful happiness I had with you is gone, probably forever. In its place is uncertainty and a complete and utter lack of expectations. Oh and a big empty hole that makes its presence ever known.

I'm just so sad Layla. I want you to be safe in my belly, getting ready to be born. I want to hear you cry, to see your eyes, to snuggle with you. Some days I still feel like I could wake up and realize this was all a dream.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I knew I was pregnant with you before the test told me so, even though I was in some state of denial before I got the proof. I remember going to lunch with my dad in that seemingly never ending inbetween time and feeling as though I was going to gag on the chicken in my tortilla soup. I remember the nagging voice in the back of my head saying "see! You're pregnant! You are!" and I felt like I would burst with the desire to tell someone, anyone, about the possibility of you. But I didn't. In fact, even though I could not hug anyone without the feeling of fire across my chest, and I could smell a simple piece of peanut butter toast from the next room so strongly that it was dizzying, I could not believe it.

It was not the time, after all. We were supposed to wait. I thought of my old manager, who had fallen pregnant unexpectedly, telling newly-engaged me to watch out: once you are married, it happens more easily. I didn't know what she meant at first, but soon I got it. The security and societal acceptance of marriage makes you lazy, more willing to take risks. Suddenly, in the midst of analyzing every twinge in my body, I knew all to well how she must have felt.

I was excited. Well, excited doesn't even begin to touch the surface of it, really. My biological clock had swung into gear a full year before and you were the manifestation of my wildest dreams. I knew it was not a good time to try for a baby, but I prayed for it to happen by accident.

It was September 9th when I found out that you did, in fact, exist. After an ambiguous line the day before, Jesse insisted we get the digital tests. He wanted it in black and white, no more analyzing little pink lines. I woke up earlier than usual, anxious to know for sure, and my heart pounded in my throat as I watched the little hourglass begin to flash. At some point, I turned away from it, the anticipation too overwhelming. "It's going to say Not Pregnant," I told myself about a million times before turning around. When I finally did, I glanced at it a few times before picking it up to examine it more closely, sure I had missed the "Not" part of it. But there was definitely only one word across the display.

I loved you from that moment on. I did not know that our time together would be so short or that you would change me in ways I could not have imagined. I loved you. I still do, every moment.

Friday, March 27, 2009


The grassy fields outside the window blurred together, the pavement flying out from under us as we sped toward...what, exactly? An answer. The moment of truth. The tears came and went, a torrential flood of uncertainty and fear in one moment, and a vast and empty absence in the next. My own mother's words of comfort drifted in and out of my consciousness, sticking sometimes, but otherwise lost in the overwhelming sense of doubt that had made a home in my heart over the past 12 hours. I was awed that a single phone call had changed everything, just like that.

I had been taken by surprise, and I resented it forcefully. I had always been one to expect the worst, in hopes of being surprised, but my careful expectations for the pregnancy had fallen on deaf ears all around me. Oh, you have nothing to worry about, they would say, confidently, their faith in the process affirmed by their own experiences, which, if not flawless, had certainly resulted in a healthy baby. I too, had naively begun to believe in my own invincibility. I was aware of many of the things that could go wrong, and I feared the ever looming possibility, but in a general way. Yes, those things happened, but they would happen to other people. Not me. Not my baby. I was young, healthy (enough), free of family history. There were people out there who didn't know they were pregnant until they went into labor, and their babies were fine. The odds were in my favor.

Oh, the odds, which I would soon come to loathe and then, eventually, cling to for the hope of the future. In the moment though, the odds were insensitive, irrelevant. Your tiny little life and the impact you would make could not be measured in numbers. For now, there was just raw emotion, fear. Love. We passed a flock of sheep and my eyes fell immediately on the mothers, guarding and nurturing their babies. My heart swelled, the tears beginning to spill, and the sight of them (because even they had healthy babies) begged the question that had been brewing since the night before: "Why me?"

We were late. The receptionist handed me a clipboard of paperwork to fill out and I planted myself in the waiting room, both of my parents at my side, to begin the wait. When I had finished the paperwork and we had still not been called, I turned to studying the pattern in the carpet, the glass artwork that hung on the wall, the couple who sat opposite us, holding hands. Were they here for the same reason? Was there someone else out there who was awaiting the final word on their baby's future? Certainly, there couldn't be.

Patricia had warned me that the genetic counselor might be overwhelming, scary, a woman of facts and little compassion. However, when Kathryn called my name and led us back to her office, her voice was soft and sympathetic. I felt immediately at ease. She planted a box of tissue in front of us as we took our seats. She warned us that she would be laying out the facts for us, drawing a picture of what the doctor would be looking for in our second, more detailed ultrasound. We listened attentively as she explained the varying degrees of severity in spina bifida, and a tiny bit of hope flickered to life in my heart. Maybe I could deal with this, maybe it was not severe, maybe all was not lost.

"It's also possible," she said, coming to the end of her explanation, "that we will look today and see that everything looks appropriate." My mom and I glanced at each other and sighed, relieved that she had even mentioned it as a possibility. We were hopeful, and yet there was an unspoken "but..." that seemed to follow her sentence. I knew it was not likely, and yet I clung to the hope that maybe you were okay, or even if there was spina bifida, it would be small, minor.

We were led to the darkened ultrasound room and I assumed my now familiar position on the table. The sonographer breezed in, cheerful, asking if we knew your sex yet and explaining her role in making the diagnosis. As she began sliding the probe around my belly, the flicker of hope in my heart grew brighter. There were your perfect arms, your perfect legs, your perfect heart and kidneys. I watched you, in awe, as you put your hands in front of your face, and then the tiny movements that shook your whole body.

"Oh, it looks like baby has hiccups!" The sonographer exclaimed. There you were, my daughter with the hiccups. It was the first time that you became very real, very precious, very...human. It was a moment I would later recount to Jesse with tears streaming uncontrollably down my face. It was the first thing that would inspire tears in his eyes, too.

And then it was over. The screen went blank and the sonographer went off to consult with the doctor. In a matter of minutes, he was joining us, soft spoken, with a look in his eyes that said it all. He perched on the stool beside me and put a hand on my knee, gentle, consoling me already for what he had not said yet.

The facts poured out and the flicker of hope was abruptly extinguished. He continued, that same look in his eyes, demonstrating on my own back the point that yours had not closed. They went over what this meant for your life, and it was not good news for you, my precious baby, the baby I had carried and dreamed of and planned for since the beginning of your existence in September.

And then? From a very gray area diagnosis, they asked me to make a very black and white decision. Either I would bring you into this life of hardship and challenges, or I wouldn't.

The air seemed to leave the room as the weight of the decision sunk in. How could I possibly be the one to take your life? And yet, how could I bring you into a body that was not properly designed for this world? How could I possibly decide?

Do not judge me for what I have done
For you have not walked in my shoes
She was not your daughter
You did not love her and long for her
As I did and do and always will

You did not feel her and plan for her
And know her and promise her that
You would always take care of her
As I did
She was my daughter

You did not hear the doctors say
That she would be sick
That she already was sick
And that she would be sick until
The day she died

You did not pray to God that the
Second ultrasound would confirm
Your hopes that she would be healthy
You did not see the tear
In the doctor’s eye when he
Confirmed the diagnosis

You did not pray to God for
Her to never have to suffer
For him to take her to Heaven
Where there is no pain
You did not feel her pain
I did
I am her mother

When you simply said to me
That I don’t have the right
To take her life
I know you did not feel my struggle
When you simply said to me
That I have to take her life
For her to be happy
I know you did not feel my struggle

I do not know what God wanted for her
I do not have His wisdom
And neither do you
I know that He loves me
I felt His love through the people He gave me
I know that God did feel my struggle

All I ask from you now
Is that you pray for my daughter
And do not judge me for what I have done
For you have not walked in my shoes
I am her mother

I Am Her Mother
By Joan Vander Male

Sunday, March 15, 2009

that moment

It still amazes me, the tiniest, most unexpected things that can bring on a downward spiral. Today I was heating a pot of water on the stove, the steam beginning to roll around me, when suddenly the memories of your birth rushed in, without warning. Or perhaps the more appropriate term would be your death, as it is that moment that I still agonize over.

The connection is not as random as it might seem. There was a moment, weeks ago, though it seems much longer, when I stood over a pot of boiling water, unable to stop the memories from flooding in. I remember standing there, trying to swallow the tears, because I had cried enough, and yet the memories kept coming in flashes: the moment you left my body, the nurse bringing you to me for the first time and asking if I wanted to see your defect, and why, why were you not alive? When did you go? I stood there, the steam billowing, the tears sliding down my cheeks unwillingly, and shook my head, as if to say, enough. Enough, enough, I can't take anymore.

The fact that you were not born alive was insignificant when I left the hospital. I knew going in that you were not going to live, one way or another. And even when the nurses told me that it was possible that you might be born alive, I did not expect it. I could not. I wouldn't. I was done with expectations, and when you were born lifeless, I was not surprised. It was okay.

It wasn't until days, weeks, later, boiling water on the stove, that I began to contemplate the moment that you died. Why did you die? Were you scared? Did you struggle? Suddenly, that unnoticed moment that your heart stopped beating consumed me, and I felt an overwhelming sense of failure.

I got my hair cut the other day. The woman snipped away for awhile before asking the question, the one I had dreaded, the one I had not prepared my answer for yet. "Do you have any children?" Maybe I should have just said no. But I felt the need to tell her, a random stranger, that I had lost you, my first and only baby. She gushed with sympathy and then told me that she, too, had lost her first baby, when she was 12 days old.

"That's worse," she said gravely, "after you get attached."

Is it, though? I don't and hope to never know both sides of the coin, but she got 12 days. She got to see life in her daughter's eyes and tell her she loved her before she left his world. She got memories. And as far as attachment? Maybe I am not in the majority, but my attachment began the moment that piece of plastic flashed the word 'Pregnant' at me. I began to exist because of you. There was still life as I knew it, but my priorities had changed. My sole purpose was to protect you, to give you the best, no matter what it took.

Did she have to decide that what was best for her daughter was to let her go? Probably not.
Does she have to live with the unique weight of guilt that comes with that? Probably not.
Is her loss worse, then? I can't say. It's almost like comparing apples to oranges.

In the days that followed the diagnosis, I would not listen to your heartbeat, I did not want another ultrasound. I wanted to believe that you were already leaving, that perhaps you were already gone.

And now, oh what I would give to hear your heart beating one more time. See you wiggling, hiccuping on the ultrasound screen, one more time. And I hate myself for not cherishing, clinging to, every last second I had with you.

But this life was not for you
though I learned from you
that beauty need only be a whisper.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

birth day

I awoke this morning, feeling a sense of significance about today, though I did not remember what it was right away. Slowly my mind chugged back into gear, until finally I remembered: my birthday. The 23rd annual celebration of the day I was delivered into this world, the day I first looked into my mother's eyes, the day I became my own separate entity and started walking my own path in this life.

I pulled myself out of bed with a struggle (it is always a struggle lately) and began the day, rejoining the world, as I do every day, with an odd sense of obligation. There was celebration to be had, there was family to embrace, and all of it came easily, with a smile that was genuine.

And yet...there was something missing. There is always something missing, isn't there? I don't know that it is you exactly, since I have come to accept that you are not going to share this life with me, that likely, you never were. Accepting it does not make it better though. In fact, the acceptance of your death has brought me a deep, underlying unhappiness, and still my mind gets caught up in that perpetual and illogical cycle of thoughts that follows the inevitable, unshakable question, "What if?"

My birthday is not the time for these endless, circular thoughts, or at least I wish it wasn't. But the thought remains that if things were different, you would have been here, sharing this day with me, hearing the joyful laughter and celebration from your cozy, warm little bubble inside my 30 week belly. If things were different, I would have been counting down the weeks until your arrival, preparing for the day of your birth, the moment I would look your eyes for the first time.

But things are not different, and perhaps part of the ache, the emptiness in my heart today, is that I will never get to bake you your 23rd birthday cake. I will never get to bring you balloons, call you at the moment you were born and tell you that 23 years ago, I was holding you for the first time, falling in love with you for the first time.

It saddens me that your birthday will never be a celebration. Your birth will forever be interchanged with your death, and how can ever I celebrate the loss of you? On your day, your January 9th, when we distinctly became two separate beings, I marveled at you. I swelled with pride that you were mine, I had created and birthed you, and yet you were leaving me, you were already gone.

I am learning to navigate this life without you, without the potential of you, but sometimes, especially on days like this, when laughter comes easily and the world is brighter, the gaping hole you left behind seems bigger, darker. Sometimes it is all I can do to keep from curling back into it. The grief is becoming comfortable now, instead of the other way around. At least when I am in that dark place, you are at the forefront. There is no going about my business or celebrating in the absence of you. You are all there is. Unfortunately, the dark place, the hole, is invisible to the rest of the world, and life continues to make demands of me that require me to step out, back into the light.

So here I am, standing at the starting line of my twenty-third year on this planet. It is a year, a birthday, that would have marked an entirely different beginning, if things were different. But no, if there is anything I have learned, it is that things just are, there is no getting around it.

I cannot wish it away. I wish I could.

Friday, March 13, 2009


As the tattoo gun buzzed into life today, I felt that sense of fear that has become all too familiar in the past months. I knew that pain was imminent and my reaction was unpredictable. As she began, the needle piercing and sliding over my skin, the pain was vivid, sharp, and there were moments when it felt almost unbearable. And then, just as quickly, it was over, only to return again, fresh and sharp, and I unable to escape. I started to draw parallels between it and my experience in the past months: the pain coming and going, the grief ebbing and flowing, and the moments when I thought maybe I wouldn't make it.

But I did, in both cases, and when she finished, she left me with a wound that has become the physical representation of the one in my heart, my soul. It is a wound I will care for and tend to and then watch as it slowly begins to heal. But the mark it leaves will be with me forever. It will be the announcement to the outside world that you have changed me, that you are here, in my heart, never to be forgotten.

And you are with me, always.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


The phone call came around 7:00. I'm not sure why or how I remember that except that it was the first moment of what has become known as my new life. The message from my midwife came shortly after I had tentatively announced that you were a girl to the world via Facebook status. Her voice was different, and the strained way she had said "I need to speak with you," made my heart jump immediately into my throat. I knew there was something wrong, though as I dialed her number, hands shaking, I tried to convince myself that it was something else. It was not the ultrasound, it could not have been.

She answered quickly, too quickly, and her voice was gentle, soft, too soft. She took a breath and mentioned the ultrasound, asked if Jesse was home. My heart was beating out of my chest and I stumbled to tell her that no, I was alone.

"I don't have the best news," she said, and the words hit me like bricks, I can still hear them now as clearly as if she were speaking to me. In the seconds between my strained response of "okay" and her next words I prayed that she was just going to tell me that I had placenta previa or something equally benign that would simply mean I could not birth at home, with her. I even imagined my sigh of relief, telling her I had been so afraid she was going to say something was wrong with the baby.

She asked if I wanted to wait until Jesse was there to hear the news, probably imagining my reaction, wailing, screaming, who could know? But I could not possibly imagine hanging up the phone without knowing. And so, she began, gently breaking the news that would change my entire world, though I didn't know it at the time.

I was doubled over, elbows on my knees, staring at a spot in the carpet that I can still point out if someone asks. The ultrasound showed signs of spina bifida, did I know what that was? Yes. No. I had heard of it but I did not know what it was. She explained that it was a neural tube defect, that your spine had not closed properly. My head spun, imagining what on earth I could have done to cause this. I needed another ultrasound, I needed a specialist, I needed...

I needed my mom. I held it together through the rest of the conversation without crying, practically rushing her off the phone so I would not show her my weakness, even though I could have. The second I hung up, I crumpled, I fell apart, sliding off the bed and onto the floor. The phone slipped from my hand and my face contorted and the river of tears began their journey, rolling down my face and spilling onto the carpet, transforming me.

No. No, this was not happening. This was the subject of my worst nightmares, the sort of thing I worried about needlessly. These things did not happen to young, healthy people with no risk factors. In fact, this was not my baby they were talking about. It was not you. They had to have mixed up the paperwork. The ultrasound technician did not know what she was doing. She had to be mistaken. Not you. Not you.

I wailed. In the silence and solitude of my home, with no one to hear me, I wailed. I did not even know what was to come, and yet I cried, harder than I had ever cried. I was already lost. In the next week, I would learn more about your condition than I wanted to know, I would be faced with the worst decision I could possibly fathom, and I would make it. But at that time, I didn't know what was to come. Somewhere, I knew it was the end, the beginning of the end, but I had no idea, really.

So that Sunday night, I clung to every ounce of hope I could muster. I googled. I cried. I waited. All I could do was wait.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

the aftermath

Morning crept through the heavy hospital curtains slowly that morning, nurses sneaking in and out with surprisingly little sound. I was uncomfortable. Although I had been detached from the IV and the incessant blood pressure monitor, the bones in my hip were now up close and personal with the metal contraption that allowed half of my bed to fall away on demand, and I could not bring myself to move. I was afraid to move. I had slept most of the night in that same position, you nestled in your blankets beside me. I was afraid if I turned over or even repositioned myself you would fall. It did not matter that you were not breathing, I had been acutely aware of your presence all night, and had arranged myself accordingly. I did sleep though, I must have, as somehow it had become 8:30 and a maroon colored box had appeared on the shelf next to me along with the breakfast I had chosen the day previously.

As my eyes began to flutter open more permanently, my thoughts were on getting out of that bed, that room, sooner than later. But Jesse was still sleeping, and I didn't want to wake him just yet. So I propped myself up on my elbow and leaned over you, studying every inch of your body once again. You were bruising and cold, and this was not at all how I wanted to remember you, but I could not pry myself away. Suddenly a wave of reality rushed over me, one that had not been there the previous day as we had passed you around and taken your pictures. It hit me, forcefully, that you were mine. You were my baby, and you were not living, you were not joining me in this world. Not this time.

The tears fell, silently at first, onto your tiny cheeks, like a river that I had no control of anymore. You were so still. I felt the emptiness in my belly expanding until it consumed every inch of me. I was empty and you were gone and now I was supposed to get up and go on? I swung my feet over the edge of the bed and sat up, separating you carefully from the bundle of blankets you were nestled in. I wrapped you in the tiny knitted blanket the nurses had given you (it was just your size), and cradled you in my hands, trying to commit every inch of you to memory.

I held you. I pulled you in close, holding you close to my heart, rocking you, as if you were the one who needed consoling. And the tears fell, my breath shook me, and the only words I could possibly manage to whisper to you, even though I knew you didn't hear me, you didn't need to hear me, were "I'm sorry." I'm sorry, I'm sorry. My baby. My baby.

"Should we call the nurse?" Jesse had appeared by my side, his presence simultaneously strong and comforting, his voice softer than usual. I nodded, feeling that I could not spend much more time in that room, but also knowing that you could not come with me, even though I wanted you to. More than anything, I wanted you to. But you were lying peacefully in my hands, too little, too fragile for this world, my baby bird who fell out of the nest. I kissed your tiny, freezing little head as he pushed the button and we began the process of leaving you forever.

The nurse buzzed in a few minutes later, all business and cheerfulness, with instructions to give me a shot and a handful of discharge papers. She warned me that the shot might be painful and I laughed. I felt untouchable, the pain in my heart so overwhelming that nothing physical could possibly compare. She mentioned the necklace that was in your memory box, the maroon one that had appeared overnight, and I went searching for it after she left again with the intention to return and collect you. It was a two piece ceramic heart--a small one inside of the bigger one, just the way you had lived inside of me, the way you would continue to live inside my heart. I separated them and tied the smaller one around your neck, placing your hands over it carefully.

"You hold on to that," I instructed you, feeling silly as I did so. And then the tears were falling all over again, as they would continue to for days, for weeks, perhaps forever. Soon the nurse was hovering in front of me, waiting.

"Are we ready?" She said softly, and I just looked at her. I would never be ready, not in this lifetime. I gathered you in your tiny knitted blanket, cradling you, my little handful of perfection, for the last time. The nurse gave me a small smile and said "as ready as you'll ever be, right?" I nodded and then I handed you over, just like that, into the nurses hands. I handed you to her and let you go forever. And she carried you away, leaving me to get dressed and rejoin the real world without you.

In the days and weeks that would follow, it was this moment that would haunt me more than any other, but at the time, I did not cry. Instead I took off my hospital gown and put on my real clothes, gathered my things and waited for my wheelchair escort to the front entrance. I resented the idea of being wheeled out of there. I had come this far and I was still standing, but I consented to the formality anyway. I was not broken, but I was tired. I felt eyes on me as I was pushed back down the endless halls, and I wondered how I must look. What did people think, seeing me pushed out of the labor and delivery ward, tear streaked and blank-stared, without my baby? The nurse stopped on our way to direct a small family to Labor and Delivery and I felt immensely small, especially from my perspective in the chair. I wanted to disappear.

Once again in the parking lot, I looked up at the grid of windows that now represented something different entirely. You were up there somewhere, and I was leaving you. This was it, it was really over now. As we navigated our way back the world, my eyes remained fixed on the building, watching it, watching you, getting further and further away. And when it was very far in the distance, about to disappear, I whispered "Bye Layla." And then it was gone, you were gone, slipping away into the distance forever.

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
as long as I'm living,
my baby you'll be.

Monday, March 9, 2009

the 9th

Today is 2 months without you, my tiny girl. My heart is heavy, thinking of the time so quickly spreading between us. I looked at your pictures today, just to give you some time in my thoughts--real time where I focus only on you. Usually it is painful, but today I was able to look at your tiny body, zooming in on your tiny face (your hands, your perfect feet), and feel nothing but love and amazement.

You are mine forever, no matter how many months pass. I feel you with me today, in that special place in my heart, and I am thankful for your tiny life that changed mine forever. I love you sweet birdie.

Friday, March 6, 2009


I hit another dark spot in the last couple of weeks. I think there have been many contributing factors, including my hormones, which seem to be back on track for now.

The other day I was feeling so low and realized that I needed my mommy! I had days off and Jesse had to work, so I drove out to the coast to visit.

Something about being here, nestled and nourished in my mother's nest, my forever home, gives me this sense of clarity that simply cannot be achieved in the hustle and bustle of my everyday life in Salem. Lately, amidst the grief, I have had an overwhelming sense of being lost in my life. My entire world was uprooted and tossed around after January 9th, and I am struggling to discover what this means, what direction Layla is going to take me.

It hit me a couple of weeks ago that I want to be a midwife. In my darker days, there is doubt: in myself, my abilities, my determination. I often write it off in my mind with a string of excuses, all with the underlying theme of it being too hard. However, I can't shake it this time. There is a stirring in my soul that defies the excuses and the doubt in my mind. I think this is how you know you have found your calling. And if I have learned anything in the past 2 months, it is that I am strong and I can do hard things.

Today I stopped at the library on a complete whim. I trudged through the rain and into the warm building, feeling comforted by the rows and rows of books. I was looking for a specific book my midwife had recommended, but happened on a different one instead. The Diary of a Midwife. I stood in the aisle reading it, absorbing the words, unable to even allow myself to skim. She spoke of her own epiphany, and I recognized the same stirring in her soul that she was unable to shake. And then she put it so simply.... "There were two things I wanted to be in life: a mother and a midwife. That was it."

It rang so true that I almost lost it in the middle of the nonfiction section.

Which led me to my next realization: I need to have another baby, give birth the way I had always intended, as part of my preparation. I know that that will make for a longer road in the end, but it is all starting to fall together. I definitely need more time to grieve my Layla, but I feel that it is an essential piece in moving forward.

I am starting to dread the bad days, when I will doubt myself again, but I think having a bit of direction again will help.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I lingered under the covers that morning. It was the last morning I would awake with you in my belly, though I didn't think of it that way at the time. I couldn't. The past week had been a whirlwind. Still, somehow, a sense of calm had settled in. It would become the eye of the storm.

All the appointments, the tests, the phone calls, the overwhelming agony, the river of tears that had been cried, all of it was leading to that day. Thursday had arrived. I felt sick. I felt numb. Somehow, I pulled myself out from under my cocoon of blankets and set foot in the world again. One step and then another. Where did the strength come from?

Soon I found myself in the shower. It was our last shower together, though I didn't think of it that way at the time. The warm water washed over me, sliding over the curve of my belly, replacing the tears I wanted to cry but couldn't. I closed my eyes for a moment to ask for angels, or spirit guides, or whatever you want to call them, to please, be with me that day. To my surprise, I felt surrounded. It was almost as if I couldn't move, I was so tightly encircled.

The drive was solemn. The familiar straight stretch up I5 offered little in terms of distraction. It went too fast. Too soon we were navigating the streets of the last city you would ever be alive in, though I didn't think of it that way at the time. The tension in the car was palpable as we took wrong turns and backtracked, in a rush to meet a doctor on his lunch break. Finally, we were ushered into a tiny room with a papered table and handed a stack of paperwork. I filled in the blanks carelessly, weary of writing the same information so many times one week. Eventually the doctor slid into the room and retreated to his stool in the corner, slouching against the wall and chatting casually with us. A matter of moments and then he was leaving, a nurse entering with the information for our admittance to the hospital.

We had originally expected to be admitted at 7, but the nurse called us before we had even left the parking lot to let us know we could go up to Labor and Delivery whenever we wanted. I did not want to go yet. I didn't want to go at all. We said we would be there at 5.

We decided to go to the mall. It seemed surreal to be in the midst of normal people going about their every day lives. But we had to find something for you to wear. Eventually I found the sweetest little dress that would end up being much too big for you. It would be the only dress we would ever buy for you, though I didn't think of it that way at the time.

We ate lunch overlooking the ice rink that I spent many hours at as a little girl. It wasn't until I saw a little girl, all dressed up in a tutu and bright white skates, gliding along with her dad, that it hit me. It was Thursday. It was our last day together. I was never going to get to skate with you. We were going to the hospital in a handful of minutes and it would be the end. It would be over.

I lingered in the car, the hospital parking lot sprawled around me, the labor and delivery ward towering above me. I caught glimpses of balloons in the neatly stacked grid of windows and immediately felt like an outsider. My baby would not come with balloons. My heart swelled and the tears sprung to my eyes. I doubled over, holding on to my belly, wishing I could make you better, wishing harder than ever that I would wake up. It was the last time you would be in the car with me, though I didn't think of it that way at the time. I didn't want to go. I couldn't.

And yet, somehow, I opened the door and set foot in the last building you would ever be alive in, though I didn't think of it that way at the time. The hallways seemed endless as we made our way to the nurses station. We were taken to the very end of the hall, far away from the baby we had just heard crying and the joyful celebrations of other families. The last room. The last bed. The last hours.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

the beginning

I have been writing to Layla in a journal for awhile now. Something about the pen and paper is comforting, and so much of it is so personal, not necessarily for others to read or understand. At the same time, I am feeling the need to write about my experience in a way that it can be shared with others. I feel so alienated from the world at times. Sometimes I long for someone, anyone, to ask me what happened. I feel like maybe if I tell my story, it will feel more real. Each time it will sink in, just a little more, that this is not a terrible, drawn-out nightmare.

But no one does. And that's okay, because honestly? I would probably have a hard time talking about it unless I happened to be feeling particularly strong at the time. And yet...

There are so many moments. They come back to me in flashes, in waves, and there is no escaping them. It's as if there is something left there to process. Something I didn't feel quite enough the first time. The memories, quite honestly, haunt me. And sometimes I want to reach out and grab someone and make them understand, bring them with me to that place and make them feel the terror, the sadness. The heartbreak.

Last night I was feeling a physical heaviness in my heart. It was like there was something sitting on my chest. I decided to write to Layla before I went to bed, and was surprised at how much I had to say. A snippet of my letter:

"When I was on my way to work today, I started to really miss my old life. So much has changed. I have changed. I missed my old coworkers, I missed the feeling of knowing what I was doing with my life. I missed driving to work, singing, imagining you listening to my voice as we sped down the road.
I miss the happiness. I miss the innocence.
I miss the excitement and the countdown and my growing belly. I miss the midwife appointments on the calendar, the hours of research on cloth diapering and breastfeeding and cosleeping.
I miss the thoughts of you in between us in the bed. I miss contemplating whether you would have curls, whose nose you would have, what color your eyes would be. I will never know."

As I finished the last sentence, the tears came on so forcefully and violently that I could hardly catch my breath. I had not cried that way for a long time. It was hard to think back to the happy times, the innocent times, the times that have now culminated in my mind as my old life. The line between then and now is so drastic, the contrast so sharp. There is no going back.

There is a hole in my heart. I have accepted it. But it hurts. Every day. Every moment, even if it's just a little. It still hurts.