Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I am sad, sad, sad.  Today the email popped into my inbox, "Your Pregnancy: 19 weeks."  And as I read about tiny hair buds and the ability to hear, the tears came. I know, painfully well, what this baby probably looks like. Or at least what she will be like in 2 weeks.

This time of pregnancy is hard. This time of year is hard. I forgot that they would coincide this year. 4 years have passed, and yet it's all still there. Four years ago, on the day after Christmas, we went to our first ultrasound. I was 19 weeks along. I left terribly upset that the tech could not tell us the gender and that she had seemed passive, avoiding our questions. We didn't know for three days that something was very wrong.  Then came a whirlwind of trips south, and bad news became worse. Then, at 21 weeks, I pushed out a tiny baby girl.

She was so small. Smaller than I thought she would be. She fit mostly in my palms, with long, gangly arms and legs.  I remember the tiny traces of hair just barely visible on her head, her tiny, perfectly formed nose and mouth and feet that looked like miniature versions of mine.  Her skin was so thin it was almost see-through, revealing tiny webs of blood vessels just below the surface.  We looked briefly at "her defect" (as the nurse put it), a large lesion that split over half of her spine, but it was easier to admire the rest of her. 

I didn't know what to do with her at first.  She was my baby and yet I felt like she wasn't there, not really. Her spirit was long gone. The nurse commented that it looked like she had been gone "awhile." (I still wonder to this day what that meant. Does that mean she had gone before the induction even started?  I will never know.)  It wasn't until the next morning that the reality hit. She was really my baby, and she was gone.

There is something about these weeks of pregnancy, having that acute awareness of just how tiny and fragile this baby still is, how much she probably looks like my tiny hurts. It feels vulnerable. And just like with Orrin, there is grief too...injustice that they are healthy and she was not.

This is supposed to be a happy week. We are preparing for a birthday this weekend, celebrating the boy who is currently fighting bed time and giving me absolutely no time to be sad. No time to do much of anything, really.

I kind of just want to cry for a couple of days.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I feel pulled to this space although I am not sure what I need to say...

There is another baby growing.  It has been hard. Maybe even harder than Orrin's pregnancy, for some reason. Maybe because there have been more similarities, because the dates line up so closely, or just because it has taken a toll on my body in almost every way. The anxiety has been intense, putting me firmly back in survival mode. In some way, it feels like I have so much more to lose this time.  I was only just finding my way in the new normal, feeling comfortable in the life that blossomed in the aftermath of her death.  I felt terrified that it would all happen again and I would be pulled back to that very dark place.  And so I have put up walls, lived somewhat in denial of this new life in my belly. If I am being honest, sometimes resentment creeped in as well. In the hardest moments, sick, tired, anxious, unable to eat, I wondered WHY on earth I ever thought it was a good idea to do this again. Especially since there are no guarantees.  Other people reassured me it was "worth it in the end," but I challenged them silently.  I went through it all once upon a time and all I got was a box of ashes and a hefty dose of grief and trauma.

Yesterday we went to see those same doctors that have delivered us both the best and worst news.  We were ushered into the same room where I got the diagnosis with Layla. I had to lay on the table, waiting, with my heart pounding so hard that my body shook with each beat.  As she started the scan, I saw the baby's feet moving with my pulse.  Then she smiled and reassured me as she looked at the spine and the brain and saw absolutely nothing abnormal.  I wasn't totally convinced until the doctor came in. I realized later that he looked different because he was smiling this time.  The strongest memories I have of him are of his somber face giving me the worst news of my life. He gave us pretty much an all clear on neural tube defects, but of course it's early and they can't see the heart well enough yet. One more big thing to worry about, but then we'll be done.

And...we found out that baby is another girl.

I was not surprised, as I've had a feeling from the very very beginning.  It seems I have connected with this little soul despite my best efforts. I have dreamed about and wished for a girl since the day I found out I was pregnant with Layla. After we lost her, the wish turned into what felt more like a need. A desperation of sorts that left me breathless every time someone else would announce that they were having a girl.

I finally got that moment that I have dreamed about for almost 4 years, and yet...

It is not what I expected. I am so, so happy. But I still have that disconnect. I still don't really believe that it's actually a girl and she's okay (so far).  I feel strange that people are congratulating me on having a girl, as if she is the first one.

Honestly when I really think about it, I just start crying. I don't really know what the tears mean. I'm happy and yet it's so complicated. This baby is also due in May, only 2 weeks before her sister was. In some ways I feel like it's almost as if I am fixing history, but then I'm not.  I wonder if maybe this is her soul coming back to a healthy body, but I'll never really know.

I don't want this girl to mean that Layla didn't matter.  I think, in some small way, it would have been easier to accept if it was a boy.  I know that I can grow and carry and birth a healthy boy.  In my world, boys live, girls die. Everything has felt sort of 50/50 during this pregnancy, based on my past experiences.

I just want to feel like I can be a normal, happy, pregnant lady who just found out that she's having a daughter. Another daughter. See? It's complicated. It's messy. It's socially awkward when people tell me I'm so lucky to have "one of each."

I can't wait for her to be born. Pregnancy makes me crazy.

Friday, May 25, 2012

right where I am: three years, 4 months, 16 days

Year two of the Right Where I Am project already. Here is my post from last year.  
And here is the link up.

Three years is different.  This is the first May since we let her go that hasn't left me breathless with longing for what might have been.  Her due date passed a few days ago, and it just barely registered when I noticed the date, just a flutter of a thought and then...gone. No sadness. No feelings of emptiness or a birthday missing on the calendar.  This is the month she would have been born, but she wasn't, and that has somehow become normal. Somehow okay. Maybe this is what they meant by that stage of grief called "acceptance."

This isn't to say that I don't think of her anymore, because, oh, I do. I think of her daily, still.  I think of her every time I see a little bird watching us, or when the sky above the ocean turns brilliantly pink.  I think of her when I am in the shower.  I remember, endlessly, it seems, that moment when I first felt something was wrong.  I roll it over and over in my head, trying to pinpoint the moment when I could have done something, could have changed everything.  But I don't want to anymore, not really.

I think of her as I watch this amazing boy blossom into a little person before me, not just a baby anymore. Her brother runs, he runs and tumbles and kicks with such force.  I imagine her spirit is nearby somewhere, smiling about this, the things she never would have done in that little broken body.  It is all because of her.  This is how it was meant to be, it seems obvious now.  He is very much here, and she is this abstract presence in our lives.  Not here, and yet so very much a part of the last 3 years.

Orrin and I were spinning in my chair the other day.  He stood on my lap and laughed as we spun faster and faster.  Then he got very serious and wanted to stop, pointing at the shelf where Layla's ashes and photos sit.  I said, that's Layla.  He said, oh...Layla.  Yes, Layla.  Feet, he said, pointing out the little plaster mold that sits collecting dust.  Yes, I said, she had the tiniest little feet!  And then he was back to playing.  I hope he will keep asking.

Somehow this didn't make me cry.  Grief is so different now.  Occasionally it rises in my throat and tears well in my eyes, but I rarely cry anymore.  Sometimes I miss the release of those gut-wrenching sobs that plagued me in the early days.  Now when grief visits, it sits on my heart, nagging in the perimeter of my thoughts, but I don't let it in much anymore.

In the beginning of my grief, I remember reading blogs of women that were years out from their loss and feeling horrified.  I could not imagine ever accepting this loss, moving on with a new normal.  I wanted to cry forever, because it was the only thing I had left. I clung to grief because it meant that she was real, she had existed, even when it seemed everyone around me had forgotten. But there was a moment (or a series of moments I'm sure) when I realized I could still love her and miss her and get up and move on, move past the grief. 

Perhaps the most important thing three years has given me is strength.  For the first time, I am talking about what really happened with people I don't know.  I am fighting for understanding and compassion for those of us who have made the most difficult, horrible choice imaginable.  I am admitting that something went very wrong, and we chose to let our baby go because we loved her. Not because she wasn't perfect, or because we didn't want her.  We loved her so much that we chose to spare her from a life of pain and suffering.  I am not afraid of anyone's judgement anymore, because I know it was the right thing.  I know it was what her spirit asked me to do, what she was preparing me for from the moment I had that rush of intuition in the shower at 6 weeks along.

I will love her forever for everything she has given me. Strength, compassion, empathy, wisdom, gratitude, a beautiful, healthy child and the knowledge I need to create more of them if I choose to. She is still my first baby, the one who introduced me to that all powerful mother-love that was bigger than I ever could have imagined.

I cried for you, and the sky cried for you
and when you went, I became a hopeless drifter
but this life was not for you, 
though I learned from you
that beauty need only be a whisper

Friday, February 24, 2012

grief: three years later

We visited the city she was born last weekend.  I never have a problem with the city itself, but there are so many memories that float to the surface when I know we are near the hospital.

Last weekend, we visited the mall that was the last place I visited before the hospital.  The nurse had called and told me our room was ready, hours ahead of schedule, and I panicked, asking for just a few more hours.  I needed to find something for her to wear.  A completely ridiculous task, in retrospect, since she never wore the little yellow dress we bought for her.  They don't make dresses for babies that small, for babies who don't live.  But still, I had to buy her something, for whatever reason.

We ate lunch at a table overlooking the ice rink.  I remember that last meal with my rounded belly in the outside world so clearly.  Below us, a tiny little girl in a tutu clung to her mother as they slid around and around the ice.  It was one of so many hundreds of things I hoped to do with my baby girl, and I remember sitting there, chewing, in this numb disbelief that it would never be, not with this baby. 

When we were there last weekend, this tiny little memory that I hadn't thought of for years came rushing back.  And Orrin was cranky and throwing a fit and I was so tired and I just couldn't shake the sadness.  I felt a little crazy, but I just couldn't stop thinking of that old me, sitting there eating lunch, about to do the hardest thing I have ever done.

It's still making me cry, to be honest, and I'm not even sure why.  The things that stir up the grief these days take me by surprise.  Little moments that have been tucked away to make room for the larger ones that have become commonplace in my consciousness.

There is one other moment that I always think of in Portland. 

We left the hospital and I was a complete mess.  I remember sitting in the car, zombie-like, feeling every inch of distance stretching between me and that brown brick building where I had left my baby.  And then, as we merged onto 405, Jesse and I started singing.
Misguided by the 405 'cause it lead me to an alcoholic summer. I missed the exit to you parents' house hours ago. Red wine and the cigarettes: hide your bad habits underneath the patio, patio. (obviously the lyrics were not relevant, but it was a song that has been in our lives from the very beginning)

I think it was that moment that I knew we would survive.