Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Two years ago today, I spent most of the day in the offices of a perinatologist and a genetic counselor. They spoke to me with sympathy in their eyes. They gave me a tiny bit of hope around a table in the genetic counselor's office and then took it all away again in the dimly lit ultrasound room.

There was something wrong, something very, very wrong. The doctor put his hand on my knee and I couldn't contain my tears any longer. It would take me two weeks to come to terms with my decision, but it was in that moment that I knew. I knew that she was leaving, that we had reached the moment I had been subconsciously waiting for since a moment in the shower months before, when I first felt that something wasn't right.

I remember the doctors bowing out of the room, making comments about how this was a lot to take in. It was too much for today. We'll give you some space. And in that space I crumpled into the arms of my mom, who squeezed me too tight, which could only mean that she was crying too.

When they came back, they laid out the incredible decision that lay before me. A fucking terrible, impossible question with no right answers. I felt my soul kicking and screaming, looking for an exit from this nightmare of a life I had just landed in. This could not possibly be happening to me, to my baby. I had to leave.

So we did. I walked out of that clinic like a zombie with ultrasound pictures and two pieces of reading material in hand: 'A Time To Heal, A Time to Decide,' and a spina bifida pamphlet. We went to see my husband at work, since he could not get the day off to come with us. I flung the black and white ultrasound pictures in his face first.

Look, here is our baby. She is definitely a girl.

He looked at them, his hope still hanging in the balance. It's not good, I told him. It's actually really, really bad.

His face fell and I felt bad for giving him the news while he still had a night of work to finish, but I was so numb. I had already been crying for most of the day, and there was nothing left.

My mom stayed the night, packing up our Christmas decorations the following day. There was a box of random stocking-stuffers and holiday paraphernalia that ended up sitting on one of our kitchen chairs for months.

I was a shell of myself, numb to the world. I remember so little of those days, the in between.

Eventually I would make the phone call, schedule the room in the hospital in the bigger city, walk down that impossibly long hallway, climb into that horrible bed, push out a tiny baby, fall in love with her, and then leave without her.

How did I do it? How in the world did I ever do it?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I realized today that Christmas would be here and then gone before I knew it, and felt a surprising sense of uneasiness in the pit of my stomach. It isn't the holiday that I feel strange about, but the weeks that follow. In the short stack of days that stretched between the day after Christmas and the 9th day of January, everything changed.

They are just dates, I know that. But I still don't want to revisit them.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I didn't think the holidays were going to be hard for me. I was lucky that my anatomy scan was scheduled the day after Christmas in 2008, and I clearly remember sitting in the midst of the thick fog of uncertainty that followed saying, "at least this didn't ruin Christmas." And then last year, my arms filled with the soft, cuddly form of your brother at my breast, in a thick fog of a completely different, much happier variety, Christmas very well could have not happened at all.

This year is different. This year your brother is spellbound by the lights, bouncing to the music, and pulling the tree down with vigor. I spent the other night pulling things out of boxes that hadn't been seen since the Christmas just before you left us, and while your brother tangled himself in lights and shattered ornaments with his bare hands (despite our best efforts to find them all before he did), I saw your ultrasound picture in its frame on the piano, and I realized, again, that you will never get these moments. Or more that we will never get these moments with you.

I wanted to know you so badly. Maybe even more now, having spent a year with your brother. There is an ultrasound picture of each of you, still on the fridge. I can't bring myself to take them down. Today I stared at them for a long time and realized that your profiles were so similar. The only difference I could spot was that Orrin has your dad's brow line, and you, most likely, had mine. I want to know what you would have been like: what color your eyes would have turned, the sound of your giggle, if your hair would have started to curl. At the same time I know, in my heart of hearts, that you were never meant for this world. I felt it so strongly, from the very beginning. And still, it didn't (it doesn't) hurt any less.

Your presence in my life has become so quiet in the last year. And yet I feel you are closer lately. Maybe because we are fast approaching your birthday again. Maybe you know that I need to feel that you are okay out there. I'm okay here, somehow. I have become this not-so-new-mom with a big gaping spot in her heart that most people have a hard time understanding. I am a mom who gets frustrated, irritated, and exhausted sometimes, even though she has pictures of a lifeless baby in her bedroom to remind her of how lucky she is.

I am still here, living, almost two years after we said goodbye. There was a time when I couldn't have imagined this point; when two years felt like an eternity and even the smallest sliver of happiness seemed like an unattainable goal.

But here we are. Surviving. More than surviving, now.

There is still not a day that goes by that I don't think of you.

Friday, November 5, 2010

skeletons in my closet

I have been missing you lately. There isn't a minute that goes by that I don't think about you, but lately it is more than that. It's the time of year, I think. These months of fall were so heavy with hope and excitement over your existence. You, this tiny little spark in my belly, changing the way my world turned. At the end of October, we saw you on the ultrasound screen and I finally allowed myself to fall totally in love with you, even though in my heart I felt that something wasn't right. Thanksgiving brought a table full of family, giddy with anticipation and twinkle-eyed imaginations of how different the next year's feast would be.

I was so happy.

I cleaned out my closet the other day. I pulled everything out to sort and threw countless pieces of clothing into a donation pile without thinking. Then I came across a pair of maternity jeans that I only ever wore while I was pregnant with you. They were the first pair of maternity pants I bought, actually, and I loved them. They quickly became the most comfortable pair of jeans I had, and eventually the only ones I could still fit into. I wore them to the hospital. And then one day, after you were gone, I was wearing them--out of habit maybe, or just because they were still the most comfortable jeans I had--and I caught the back pocket on a nail on the deck and ripped a huge hole in them. Into the closet they went, forgotten through my entire subsequent pregnancy and following year, until just the other day, when I pulled them out and just sat with them for awhile, remembering.

I couldn't get rid of them. Is that ridiculous? They are pants. It's pretty unlikely that I will ever wear them again, but I just...can't. There are so few reminders of your life, of our time together, that I find myself clinging to every shred of evidence I can.

I miss you, baby girl.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


In the quiet moments, it is you that fills my thoughts. For days, I haven't been able to shake the memories. In the not so quiet moments, the grief lingers in the perimeter, trying my patience, making me anxious and irritable and distant. Tears gather in my throat, sometimes even making it to my eyes, but I cannot cry. I pulled out your blanket yesterday for the first time in months, maybe even a year. Folded up inside, there is still the extra fabric we placed underneath you, stained with fluid from your open spine. I stared at it for a long time, almost in awe. It is one of the only things that still convinces me that you were real, that you existed at all. You are so very far away.

Friday, September 10, 2010

the great disconnect

I am feeling it lately, little girl: the disconnect as time stretches and expands between us, between our experience, and you just get farther and farther away. Yesterday was two years since I first learned of your existence, since I stood in the bathroom, listening to my heart pound as if it were going to explode, while the hourglass flashed. Two years since I looked down and blinked again and again, because it was early and I swore I had to be missing one of the words...where was the "not" part of it? But there was only one word on the screen, and in an instant, my life changed.

How can it be that we are coming around to all the dates again? It seems just yesterday I was reeling at the fact that a year had passed, and now two?

At the same time, I am so busy, so immersed in the work of raising your brother, that it seems a lifetime ago. I feel myself drifting. I have reached that point that I wasn't sure existed, where I don't feel quite so...haunted. You are still an ever present part of my thoughts, but there is a sort of veil over the dark parts. I can stare them in the face now without falling apart.

And, perhaps fittingly, your brother has decided to cut this post short by refusing to go back to sleep. There is no time for missing you.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

unexpected anniversary

When I wrote the date down today it resonated somewhere in my mind, but it took me awhile to realize why. August 17th...not a birthday or an anniversary or a holiday. No, it was my "LMP" in my pregnancy with you. The date of my last period, the official beginning of the cycle that changed my life. I wrote it down a thousand times, told it to midwives and doctors and secretaries and genetic counselors and ultrasound techs, over and over again.

It has been two years. Already.

I miss that girl I once was sometimes.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


She is on my mind a lot today. I don't know why.

I keep thinking about the little things that were lost. The room we never got to decorate. The dresses we never bought. How utterly and completely everything has changed.

And it isn't a bad thing, really. I can't even imagine having a girl anymore. I love having my boy, but I am still a little bitter that it didn't all go right the first time. I'm a little bitter that I didn't really get to enjoy my pregnancy, the good one, because I was so preoccupied with the possibility that it wouldn't last.

We ran into a mom with a three month old at the store yesterday, and she was asking all kinds of questions about the baby and the birth and here I am with this perfect story, beautiful baby, and a...weight. That's the only way I can describe it. It's like a nagging feeling that I am forgetting something. I feel like a fraud. Because I'm not a normal mom, not really. I have all these dark corners, flashbacks of the kinds of moments that nightmares are made of.

I guess what it comes down to my heart, I have two babies. Sometimes there are moments when the world is bustling around me and the subconscious, instinctual mother part of me sort of stops to take count, and there are always two babies there. Only one of them I don't have to wonder about. In fact, I am already finished mothering her.

That's just it, isn't it? She has no diapers to change, no boo-boos to kiss, no piles of clothing to fold and sort through and grow out of. She just came and went and there isn't anything else for me to do. And somehow, I am supposed to be okay with that.

Friday, June 25, 2010

some days

some days my heart beats too big

sometimes I am utterly overwhelmed with love for this bright and lively force of a boy in my life. my love for him grows daily (hourly, even) and it has reached the point that if I reach down and really try to feel all of it, try to comprehend the enormity of it, it hurts.

some days, the ever increasing real estate he is occupying in my heart seems to shine a light on your corner--the one that is still barricaded and reserved for the daughter who will never exist in quite the way I imagined. this corner is full of love too, stuffed to the brim, but it is different. it has to be different. there is still a hollow there, an ache. sometimes the contrast of this intense joy lighting up my life draws my attention to that darker hollow, and I feel that sadness, that weight, a little bit more than usual. I seem to realize more and more what I am missing, just how much was lost when you died. it is constantly more than I could have imagined at the time.

and yet.

without you, without the loss of you, I would not have this particular incredible child. I would not have so many things that have become strong, fundamental parts of who I am. after you died, everything changed. I used to resent that change, but I don't anymore. not really. our experience together has become part of me, woven into the fabric of my life. you are gone, and yet you are in everything I do.

some days I still wake up angry. some days I am bitter. some days that instinctual mother in my heart wants to take the pregnant woman next to me by the hair and scream at her because doesn't realize just how fucking lucky she is.

some days I stop for just a moment to shed tears for the daughter that never was, for my little broken baby that I still love beyond measure. for that once stranger of a self, lost in my own life.

I am not so lost anymore.

but some days, I still miss you.

Monday, May 24, 2010

fresh paint

we are flying down a familiar road again, speeding toward the hope of an answer, although this time the question lacks any hint of optimism. the sun beats down defiantly on our tired faces. the sheep in the fields keep their babies close, taunting me with their good fortune. this isn't fair.

it is new year's eve day, though the holiday barely registers. the date is almost too trivial to comprehend. there are no dates, and there is certainly nothing to celebrate.

there is tension in the car as we navigate through turning lanes and stop signs into the cement box of the parking garage. somehow, we gather ourselves and set foot on the ground again. one step at a time.

the smell of fresh paint and new carpet are overwhelming as push through the doors of a new hospital building. we seem strangely out of place among the brightly colored walls and modern artwork, among parents wrangling running children and caressing swollen bellies. what a sight we must be, tear-streaked and ashen-faced, wandering the halls of a place we never wanted to know. and somehow, we step into an elevator and ascend to the correct floor. a small miracle, as i am outside myself. my body goes through the motions, but i am not here. not really.

there is a wait. there is always a wait, as we will quickly learn. we sit among pregnant bellies, bellies larger than mine will ever get, and i stare at the circles on the wall, at the pattern of the carpet, anything but the round protrusions that remind me of what i am already losing, although i haven't lost her yet.

we are ushered into a small office with a round table. framed pictures and certificates of a genetic counselor litter the perimeter, not yet hung. i slide into the farthest chair, with him at one side and the window on the other. the counselor places a box of tissue in my vicinity of the table: a permission of sorts, a silent message that says, this will be hard. it is okay to cry.

her eyes are sad and her voice is thick with sympathy, quiet with the weight of her words. she offers another ultrasound but i refuse. i cannot bear the thought. she opens a folder, heavy with papers that sum up everything we have learned thus far. and then she pulls out a long string of shiny paper printed with fuzzy images in shades of gray, pointing out lemons and lateral ventricles and a spine that splits nearly in the middle and curves to the left. this is what we know, but there is so much that we don't. there is talk of necessary surgeries, of shunts and metal rods and braces, even to sit. potential brain damage, advanced hydrocephalus.

somehow, we reach the subject of the other side, of that other option that is tugging at us because we love her so much that we cannot imagine putting her through this. she looks at us knowingly and says, it sounds like you are leaning towards ending the pregnancy. and the pit of my stomach falls out and the tears spring to my eyes like a thousand pins as she pushes the box of tissue closer. and there, there is the increasingly familiar pull and tug of how can we, how can we not? she assures us it can be done peacefully, with respect, extinguishing the fear instilled in me by my own ninth grade persuasive speech with a pro-life angle. how ironic.

the office is too small for this conversation, this choice that feels like anything but. she gives us her cell phone number and we file out, sinking back down the elevator without a word. i am numb. dizzy with grief and fear and uncertainty, and yet i feel very little.

in the breezeway, a mother pushes her son in a wheelchair, his gaze absent as he stares out the window. our pace simultaneously quickens as we pass, pushing our way through the heavy metal doors into the damp darkness of the parking garage once again. we do not stop until we reach the car, the doors falling shut on either side as we collapse into our little portable bubble. the silence settles in, thick and ridden with unspoken questions.

and there are the tears again, although this time, they are his. suddenly, this is all very real to him, too. suddenly, we are tiny, helpless, powerless to fix this. there is a ripple of injustice as reality continues to set in. why us. why her. this isn't fair.

we lean into each other and cry, tears sliding off our noses and mingling together on the upholstery. he is the first to muster words:

i think we have to let her go.

i know it is the truth, and yet it is sickening, sitting in the pit of my stomach like a rock or something equally indigestible. there are no good options.

we cry a little longer, and i am thankful for the dialog that has finally been opened between us. because suddenly it is real, and it isn't fair, but we are in it together.

slowly we settle back into the hum of the rest of the world, where our bodies already know what to do and our minds just follow along.

i start the car and we keep moving.

we have no choice.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

getting to know you

Over the last year or so I have gathered a handful of followers on this blog--and gotten comments from several of you who aren't "officially" following as well. Some of you I know, but there are some new faces too. So if you are reading, I would love it if you would take a moment to comment and tell me a little bit about you and your story, and/or if you have a blog that I should be reading! If you feel more comfortable emailing, you can do that too:

Monday, May 10, 2010

would-be birthday month

It's May again, and since the moment we flipped the calendar you have been on my mind constantly. There is still a heaviness in my heart about this month--a sort of bitter sadness that accompanies a broken dream, I suppose. I remember so many people commenting on what a great time of year it would be to have a baby. Of course, I never got to find out. Yet somehow, this month, your due date, still holds so much significance for me. In that alternate reality where everything is different, I would be planning your first birthday. I can't even imagine.

Mother's day was a little bit easier this year, although much too ridden with the word "first." Happy first mother's day! Once again I found myself in that familiar position of being pulled in two directions: torn between embracing the happy, normal, "first time mom" image, and the one whose heart bristles at the assumption that I was not a mother last year. What about that 24 hour labor last January, at the end of which I pushed out a tiny baby? What about the box of ashes on the shelf? What about the tiny flutter of hope that would become your brother, already nestled in my womb?

This year, he is the dominating force in my life, and my motherhood is a lot more obvious. But I like to believe that it truly began a long time ago, way back on the morning of September 9th, when I peed on a stick and it flashed an hourglass at me for what seemed like an eternity before spelling out something along the lines of: "you will never be the same." And now I can truly appreciate the magnitude of that moment, because I am, in fact, forever changed because of you. I am a better mother because of you. You have shaped me in so many ways.

All of that, and I will never get to know you. I wonder if May will always feel so significant; if it will always feel like there is a birthday missing on the calendar. Much of the time it almost feels like I am still waiting for you, and it isn't until those flashbacks of a hospital room, of tiny, lifeless fingers and toes, that I remember you are really gone.

Time is funny that way. That old cliche that time heals is a bit misleading, I think. Really, I think time is just distance. With time, you begin to lose touch with those moments, just like you might lose touch with friends after moving away. They are still a part of you, of your history, but suddenly you have this new life. You become someone different. You remember them, but they are not so present in your every day life, and so you drift. And I think, in many ways, we do begin to forget, just a little. We have to, if we want to be able to move on in this new life, which, for better or worse, keeps marching on. Eventually, maybe we get used to the distance, and the distance gives us the perspective to reflect more objectively, but it never hurts any less. I don't think time will ever truly "heal" that heartache, but it does soften it. A little bit of distance and detachment makes it easier to bear, at least until it all rushes in and takes you back again.

Am I the only one who has these moments of rushing memories that make it all very real again? Because I am having entirely too many of them lately.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

the i-would-nevers

I am feeling really exhausted by people lately. Maybe it is hormonal or something, but I am in an angry, bitter, frustrated state with the population at large.

There are so many people around me that are newly pregnant. Two of them just within my small-ish group of coworkers. One of them is sixteen weeks, and has brought up genetic testing with me on two different occasions now--not exactly my favorite topic of conversation at 5AM (or ever). Since I have recently been through one and a half pregnancies, I have become the resident expert on "what to expect." So naturally, I guess, she was wondering about this blood work they were sending her for. When I told her it was probably for the quad screen, she went on about how she would be declining genetic testing because...

"I would never terminate a child."

If you are one of the unlucky members of our club, you know how that statement cuts right into your heart. I have seen it written online a million times, but I have never had someone say it to my face. I felt like I had been punched. Even worse was today, she explained that she did end up getting the blood work, but she "wouldn't get rid of it" either way.

Her tone was totally casual, not accusatory or even necessarily judgmental, but I am still somewhat dumbfounded. To her credit, she does not know all the details of my loss, and I'm not really offering them, either. I know that she really has no idea how many things could go wrong, or what she would do if something really did. I know that you cannot possibly appreciate the gravity of the situation until you have been there. You can't fathom the heartache and the agony and the guilt.

I have been struggling with the guilt lately. I tend to get caught up on the negative perceptions of termination and then torture myself with them. In my heart, I know I spared my daughter from suffering, but her defects are still the fault of my body. I am the one who allowed the induction of contractions that would ultimately end her life.

I am still trying to forgive myself.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's been awhile. Not because I have not had anything to say, much to the contrary, but these days my time with two hands is rare and usually occupied by more important tasks. Orrin is beautiful and healthy and thriving, almost 4 months old. I still find myself taken aback at times, asking myself if this is really my life, do I really have a baby?

I think back to last year, when I was so desperately clinging to reminders of my motherhood, and now, when I am literally covered in reminders on a daily basis. Even at work, when I manage to escape the spit up and pee, I leak milk. Such a difference from the aching emptiness that followed your arrival. And still, sometimes, I don't quite believe it.

Today has been hard. I can't really figure out why I am in such a terrible mood, but terrible moods inevitably lead to reflection of terrible moments and that led me here. I find myself missing being pregnant sometimes, but I think it is more that I miss that short space of time I carried you. I miss that little sliver in my life that was so blissfully, obliviously happy.

I find myself wondering what you would have been like. What your laugh would have sounded like. What color your eyes would have been, or if you would have been born with as much hair as your brother. Sometimes, when he is sleeping, I catch a glimpse of him that looks like you.

I have two babies.

Everyone forgets.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

the may flowers

Your plant is coming back.

There are four green, perfect little stems shooting up out of the pot of soil that contains a part of you--the same pot of soil that I was so sure had become lifeless. I took a moment to marvel at them the other day, these delicate new beginnings, and I felt like they were charged with your presence, like a vibration, an invisible force.

I don't know how it all works, and I'm sure it can all be explained away scientifically, but to me it is so clearly a message from you...wherever you are.

There is new life. There is hope.

We are all embarking on new beginnings. And it's okay.

Friday, January 29, 2010

not over it

I came to write the other day, but ended up reading through my old posts instead.

I should know better. There is no better way to turn me into a sobbing mess than to revisit those darker days. The ache has evolved so much in the past year, but it is far from gone. Even now, with a healthy, warm, living baby who smiles at me every morning.

I have been struggling, this month, with the fact that I sort of let your birthday just slip by. I had big ideas for a celebration of your life, but then plans changed and we found ourselves out of town on the 9th, traveling around Seattle with Jesse's family and three week old Orrin. It wasn't until the evening, Jesse and I crammed into the back seat of the family van with Orrin in between, that the tears started to fall. Jesse was the only one who noticed, the only one who knew, and he took my hand and we cried together, heads bowed over our new boy sleeping in his carseat.

Look at this beautiful boy she sent us, he said, and I nodded. We promised ourselves we would do something to honor your birthday when we got home the next week, but we didn't.

We still haven't. And as the days keep slipping away, the timing seems less and less significant. Still, I find myself wanting to recognize your existence somehow. Perhaps I just didn't even give myself enough time to process the fact that it has actually been a YEAR.

I still have so much to process. This grief thing is far from over, but it is certainly taking on a new shape as we move forward.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

safe in my arms

Little brother Orrin arrived safely on December 16th--those who are interested can read the story on the family blog.

We are thoroughly immersed in the new baby daze, but it has not escaped me that it is January. Layla's birthday is in 3 days. In the quiet moments, which are so few and far between these days, I feel the grief lurking. But things are so wildly different now than they were last year at this time. My heart is so full, my arms are no longer quite so achingly empty, and that makes it easier. We have an appreciation for this healthy, thriving, beautiful little being that is unparalleled by those who have never known the other side. We are so completely aware of what a miracle he is, and we are so thankful.