Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Stocking Filled With Flowers

It was the last thing I did before I went to sleep Christmas eve. I stopped by your stocking, hung with care in between your big brother's stocking and your little brother's stocking. Theirs filled with toys and treats, yours filled with flowers. Two dozen fluffy pink roses in a big mason jar filling the white sailcloth stocking decorated with a silver star. They were beautiful. They brought you right into our holiday, front and center, there on the mantle, our baby girl, now gone 16 1/2 months. I touched the roses, then went to bed.

Christmas came yesterday and we opened presents and celebrated with family. You were on all of our minds. Your big brother sat down to dinner across from my cousin who is 8 months pregnant and explained that his mommy had a baby die in her belly, and now we have a stocking filled with flowers for her hanging from our mantle. All true, but so sad.

It was an almost perfect day. The sun was shining and the sky was clear and blue. The food was great and the presents thoughtful. All of our relatives were in good health and great spirits. It was the best Christmas you could have with a stocking full of flowers hanging on your mantle. And I think that may be all we can hope for each year. You will always be missing. Any perfect moment will be less than perfect, will be less whole for the fact that you are not there to share it with us.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


It's been a few months of milestones: the anniversary of Chiara's death/birth, my birthday, our anniversary, the second year we participated in the walk for remembrance and the babyloss service at our hospital, Halloween, all these days to mark the passing of a year without our baby girl. All these days to note how we are different from who we were last year. I am less raw. I do not cry constantly. I now have 2 living children. Life is much better than it was this time last year. We made it through a terrible, terrible year and we welcomed our new son and I am so grateful. And still there is sadness.

I am grappling with the fact that my days are filled great joy and great sorrow. My brain seems to want to believe that the joy will outweigh the sadness, outcompete it, and then the sadness will go away. This is not happening. The joy grows, the sadness lingers, it does not diminish in relation to the joy. There is a lot of both in my day to day. I find this frustrating, and I keep bumping up against it, having to learn the lesson over again.

I keep remembering a line from a Pablo Neruda poem, "love is so short, forgetting is so long." This is clearly about romantic love, but it still applies. Except it was not the love that was so short, but our time together. The love persists, but the forgetting is so long. And I don't want to forget, really. I want to recall the joy I felt when we found out she was coming, when we learned she was a girl, when we watched her move inside me, when her big brother felt her in my tummy, when we all thought she would join us. All of that beauty was so short, and is overshadowed by her loss. Her baby brother is now here, he made it through where she did not. He grows as she did not have the chance to, we get to love him in person. I am so grateful, but I am still so sad.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Someone will always be missing

We're back at our summer place for the first time since losing Chiara last year. The last time we were here she was alive and inside me. I was sick as a dog and could barely get off the couch. Swimming in the ocean was the inky thing that brought me any relief. I was basically useless. A few weeks later, everything came apart and we lost our girl. I couldn't come back here after that, couldn't face our little group if island folks, couldn't answer any questions, feel any of the pity people would have for us, I was still feeling so strongly that Chiara's death was my fault. That I somehow caused it.  I was afraid others would see that, would know instantly that I was to blame. 

A little over a year later and we ste back here. We've shared this weekend with good friends and our new baby boy and 3 year old. Everyone has been so good and its been lovely, but I am still so sad. Someone is missing. My girl should be a round and chubby 8 month old, sitting up and making noises. Eating sand and watching her older brother swim. Instead I nurse a new baby boy, 3 months old, who would not, could not be here if his sister hadn't died. I love him. I miss her. I want both. I'm reminded of Elizabeth McCracken's quote, "it's a happy life, but someone is missing, someone will always  be missing". Someone will always be missing. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Right Where I Am: 365 Days Later

This post is part of the Right Where I am Project, created by Angie at Still Life with Circles. Please check out her post from this year and all the great responses from other babylost parents through recent years:

Right Where I Am

I've been meaning to write this for a while. I've been busy with our new babe, born June 9, 2013, 299 days after his big sister died and was born. Where I am right now is plain worn out. I am not the open wound I was last year at this time. Tears are not streaming like an open tap down my face. Instead, they seep. My sobs are softer, muffled. I can't quite believe that it all really happened. I had a baby, felt her move inside me, fell in love with her, and she died. Then I was fortunate to get pregnant as soon as I could and I now have a living baby, a year later. This new baby would not, could not be here unless we lost our dear Chiara. This is a lot for a brain to process, for a mother to get her heart around.

I yearn for my daughter. I ache for her even as I count my blessings in my two living boys. I ponder another pregnancy even though I am terrible at pregnancy. Hyperemesis with all 3. Callouses on my knees during this last one. Honestly. Another pregnancy won't bring her back though, a daughter won't make this longing go away.

When I think about myself, and how this loss has changed me, I'm amazed. I didn't think I could survive a loss like this. I still reflect on what happened to us and I can't believe we're still putting one foot in front of the other each day. But we are. There are lots of tears, lots of sighs, but also there is laughter, there is joy, there is hoping and dreaming for the future. There is a knowledge that we have faced something truly horrific, something unthinkable, and survived. And we have done it together. I am so tired, some due to grief and some due to mothering this new living baby and my 3 year old. In the midst of the exhaustion, and the sadness, there is also some pride. I have not let this loss define me. I have endured a great sorrow and I have pressed on. I am not the first woman to have done this. I will not be the last. We are a sorry sisterhood, but a strong one. We know things we should not know: how it feels to hear that your baby is dead, to make decisions on parenting a dead child, how it feels to give birth to death, to hold a tiny baby that was to be your daughter, to watch your dreams extinguish, to explain death to a 3 year old, to endure the communications that entails ( such as: "yes, a baby did die in mummy's belly" and "no, hopefully this new baby won't die like the last one did"), and to endeavor to make a new life even while fiercely grieving one that was lost (there is nothing more serious than sex after your baby dies).

Now I am part of the lucky sisterhood that has welcomed a new baby after a loss. I marvel at his perfection, his breath, his heartbeat, his placenta and cord that functioned as they should and brought him safely here. I hope that he will stay a long time, that he will outlive me and his father. Tonight I nursed him as we lit candles to remember his baby big sister. We sang a tearful happy birthday. We ate cake. We'll do this each year to celebrate her brief life. She did live, inside me, for 22 weeks. I felt her move. I fell in love. I miss her so.

Friday, May 17, 2013

33 weeks 5 days

I'm existing in a strange place these days. Truth be told, it's been a while now. I got pregnant, quite intentionally, about 6 1/2 weeks after we lost Chiara. There were many reasons: I'm 41, and time wasn't stopping for us, we really wanted to grow our family, and I was desperate to be pregnant again, to be making our way towards another child. It seemed the only way I would heal.

Now I'm 33 weeks 5 days, pregnant with a boy. I knew he'd be a boy, before we even started trying again. In some ways, it is easier. It clarifies things. In some ways, it is harder. This is likely our last child, and I have moments when that is fine and moments when the thought of not raising a daughter breaks my heart. Although it's not just about not having any daughter, it's about not having my daughter, who was here with me, who grew and moved inside me, who I delivered, who I loved.

Our boy is a mover and shaker and I am so grateful. It keeps me (somewhat) sane, feeling him, knowing he's still in there, heart still beating. Alive. All I want is to hear his first cry. I want to hear him announce himself to the world. We are so close, and sometimes I can imagine holding him, feeling his warmth on my chest. But I am still afraid. Part of being a babylost mom is knowing all the many ways that pregnancy can go wrong. There's a bad outcome for every week, every day. It's pretty terrifying. Even knowing that most babies do fine doesn't help. Statistics screwed us once, why not again? Sometimes I think, we're not special, not more or less lucky, and I feel OK. Sometimes I think that, and I think that we could end up with the short straw again. Just because we endured one loss doesn't protect us from another. Nothing will protect us. So I will prepare for this new babe, this second son, this third child. I will believe in him and trust that he has his own story, and that it is yet to be written.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

NPR Keeps Breaking My Heart

I think this is probably a good thing overall (for me, for the world, or at least for the listeners of NPR-WGBH Boston, to be specific), but it is making my morning car-to-work transition very difficult. WGBH has taken to broadcasting very sad stories related to loss between 8-9am in the Boston area. These stories are beautiful, and important, but they are leaving me sobbing in the car, wiping my face with Dunkin' Donuts napkins from the glove box, and hoping that not too many co-workers see me as they make their way to work. It takes a while to get composed.

I'm used to this on Fridays when they feature Story Corps. If you haven't heard this program, I highly recommend it, but be sure to have tissues ready.

This oral history project features short clips of interviews between real people. A recent story includes a piece about a couple who fell in love with each other (both experiencing this for the first time ever) late in life and one of them is now facing a long-term illness. Last week I heard a Mom talking to her young daughter about what it was like for the daughter when the Mom went to jail. Inevitably, these very short  stories reduce me to a puddle in the car. I've come to expect it when I hear the music that precedes the show. It's probably a little Pavlovian at this point. I'm certain I'm not the only one, however. Go ahead, give it a try, let me know how you do.

So that's to be expected on a Friday, but this week GBH has gone further. In what must be an arts and culture feature, they have broadcast 2 pieces about loss in a row the past 2 mornings. Yesterday it was this story about Sonali Deraniyagala and her new book about how she lost her husband and sons in the 2004 tsunami:

It is impossible for me to imagine her loss, and her survival. It seems too, too much to bear.

Today they had a piece about a band called Cloud Cult:

A couple in the band lost their 2 year old son in his sleep, for no explained reason. The music is haunting and beautiful and after hearing this brief bit I needed to hear more immediately. Two songs I found are "You Were Born" and "Your 8th Birthday". The first is about the mystery of love and birth and in the second, the singer envisions his son's 8th birthday- a birthday he'll never see.

I'm almost 7 months out from the week we lost Chiara. Many days are good, life has returned to normal on the outside. Inside it's still a struggle, but still there is more normalcy than not. She is always there, and always will be. There are still tears, especially after stories like these. I hate getting all red in the face and having to get composed, but I am so glad these stories are being told, that people are making art and transforming their grief into something. It helps me to see what is possible- what love and then heartbreak people can experience and still keep living. For me, it is still early and I am not sure how my grief will be transformed. I do know that losing Chiara has changed me, in all sorts of ways, many that I cannot yet articulate.