May 30, 2011

My free moments often take me down long and heart wrenching rabbit holes looking for stories about baby loss. Sometimes I click and read and click and read, digging deeper and deeper until I suddenly find that the depth of my despair has plummeted to the depth of the rabbit hole I’m lost in. Like when I read about parents who seem to give up hope or when I read about the mother who lost four babies. But every so often, I dig down and click and read and then, promptly, I find myself emerging out of the ground in a better place, with more hope and less despondency. I had one of those moments today when I stumbled upon a beautiful blog called Still Life With Circles. In her latest post, she asks her baby loss readers to write about where they are now in grief. So that is what I will do.

It’s been sixty-seven days since our Margot June died. We were so, so close to meeting her. She was right there, breathing and kicking, just about to enter into our lives. And we lost her. And I miss her so much I can barely let myself think of her, my actual physical second child who weighed nearly eight pounds and closely resembled her older sister. And this is perhaps the dominating face of my grief on day sixty-seven. I miss my daughter. I want her to be here. I want to lay her across my bare chest and breath together. I want to see Stella interact with her. I want to share her with our friends. I want to crawl into bed happily exhausted from caring for two children, instead of crawling into bed hoping the nightmares will pass by me. I miss her. I miss her. I miss her.

There are other emotions of course, less forceful, but lurking none the less as I approach seventy days.

My mind and heart continue to be on different teams, each vying for my allegiance, each making the necessary arguments. My rational reminds me that death is part of life and that it wasn’t long ago that losing babies was somewhat normal. It implores me to hold these truths close and tells my heart to relax a bit. My heart gushes forth the obvious. Margot died. Her body was cremated a few days later and a few weeks after that, we poured her ashes out in the river. And we will always long for her, no matter how normal and frequent death is. My mind usually sweeps in when my heart can’t take it anymore.

I wondered in the hospital how long it would take for us to laugh again. I wondered how long life would run in slow motion. I wondered when I’d be able to walk at a normal pace again, or smile to a passing stranger. I wondered when we would care about anything else, like who won survivor or what to build next or where to go on vacation, if there could ever be such a wonderful thing as a vacation again.

But in the midst of Everything That Happened, we have laughed since Margot died. We laugh when Stella uses her funny voice, a low, deep sound, like she is old and southern. Helllllllo Daaaadddy. And Kari and I still laugh about random things, just like we used to. We dance every day together as a family, just like we used to. Of course, we swing our hips to the Margot June mix instead of Bob Marley, but we’re still dancing. I walk to work at a normal pace and sometimes, when I’m ripping a 2X10 or sanding a beautiful piece of reclaimed hickory, I feel a tinge of normalcy. And we leave for Palm Springs in the morning for two nights in the desert. I can’t call it a vacation, but it’s something I guess. I couldn’t have imagined that in the midst of the constant pangs of loss and a sorrow deeper than I could have ever imagined, all of this would somehow still exists.

If you took the pieces of my emotions from the last twenty-four hours and scattered them around the screen and dissected each one, you would learn rather quickly that where I am on day sixty-seven is an utter mess. And by mess, I mean depressed and hopeful and sad and happy and angry and controlled and desolate and content all at once. And I’m learning to be okay with this new reality, however long it exists.

[as a side note to everyone who has been following our journey. thank-you for reading this blog for the past sixty-seven days. i can't even begin to express my gratitude for your repeated hits and comments. each one seems to be a shot of hope and your empathy and shared grief is often just what we need. so please keep following and say hello from time to time.]

[special thanks to Angie at Still Life for this beautiful project.]

May 20, 2011

I donated blood today. It was the first time I’ve ever donated. It was the first time I ever considered donating. There have been many chances in the past to donate and I dismissed each one of them for various reasons, but mostly because I just didn’t feel like doing it. During one blood drive in College, I played ping pong in the same room where everyone waited in line.

The mere thought of losing Margot and my life staying the same is enough to make me lose my mind. For nothing to change, for nothing to be different feels like she died all over again, as if her life came and went without any significance. I find no meaning in her death, no good reason whatsoever. But I desperately want my life, in some way, to be a tribute to her.

I walked in through the door marked “donor entrance.” My pockets contained my photo ID, headphones and my iPhone, which was already cued up to play my Margot June mix. I was ready for the needle and the tears and the reflection.

On first glance, the inside of the center was as I imagined it to be. White walls, florescent lights and floors scrubbed to a glossy finish. Nurses moved around gingerly from donor to desk, looking purposeful and bored all at once. The large open room smelled fresh and seemed to breathe hope, as if the pints of blood were letting off an aroma of life.

As I sat down to fill out my information, a more careful look revealed an unexpected sight. Several old men were wrapped in red cross blankets and watching a television that was suspended in front of them. They too had needles, but their tubes were connected to big machines.

By the time I arrived in the little room where a nurse took my vitals, I had already been thanked four times by various nurses and volunteers. I didn’t know how to reply.

The nurse took my blood pressure, pulse and poked my finger to see if I had enough red blood cells to donate. I found out the old men were donating platelets and that it takes nearly two hours a session. She says most of the platelet donors are older folks. It was all I could do to stop myself from leaving the room to run to the old men. I wanted to kiss their cheeks and hold their hands and thank them for donating the miraculous platelets that help people's blood to clot. I imagine Kari an old soul now, her blood filled with platelets from the elderly.

Following vitals, I had to answer personal questions on a computer screen. Have I lived in the UK for a total of three months between 1980 and 1996? No. Have I had aspirin in the last 48 hours? No. Have I paid for sex anytime since 1972? Nope (but why is 72’ the cut off?).

I wanted the nurse to ask me why I was donating. I wanted to tell her it was because my daughter died on March 24, 2011. And that my wife would have died without the 14 blood and platelet transfusions she received. I wanted to tell her that I want my life to be different now as a tribute to my daughter, that I want to join the beautiful cycle of giving and receiving that happened when Margot donated her heart valves to three babies and strangers donated their blood to Kari. Instead I sat in silence, with a band-aid on my finger and straps around my arm, and thought of my tiny Margot.

The needle goes in on the right side and immediately takes me back fifty-five days to the hospital. As the blood flows out, I remember the blood flowing into Kari, one pint after another, as I desperately waited to see clots form.

Maybe it was better to keep our story to myself. Because for those seven minutes, in the presence of nurses and white walls and televisions and cubicles and red cross blankets, Margot and I shared some time together, just the two of us. 

May 17, 2011

[april 25, 2011]

The three of us sit on our uncomfortable couch. Stella in the middle, us flanking her on either side. It’s in the evening, curtains are closed, our Margot June mix playing in the background. The oldest of us are crying, missing our second child, wishing desperately she was here. Stella is playing a word game on my phone until she interjects at the appropriate moment, as if she was listening the entire time.

“Margot died mamma?” she asks it like a question, but there is a certainty behind her tone. We go through these motions every day with her.

“Yep, Margot died sweety.” Kari replies.

“Sad so much?”

“Yes, we are so sad buddy. We miss Margot. She is your little sister.” I repeat these words several times a day, hoping they will one day mean something special to Stella.

“New baby?”

“We’ll try.”

“Baby brother?”

“Maybe,” I say. “Maybe.” Kari looks at me longingly. I know what she’s thinking.

We reach out our arms above Stella and grab hands, tears welling up as Crazy Heart plays in the background.

Suddenly Stella giggles for no apparent reason. An innocent smile darts across her face as she reveals her little secret.

“I just farted.”

May 13, 2011

I went back to work yesterday for the first time since March 24. I didn’t really feel like going back to work, it was just that we thought it might be a nice distraction. Normally this would be quite the break, the kind of prolonged vacation only reserved for long trips or a new baby. Or a dead baby, come to find out.

I dug out my tattered jeans from the bottom drawer and slowly slipped into them, trying to avoid putting my feet through the holes in the knees. I snagged my t-shirt and pulled it over my head. Since I was planning on working the day after The Day, neither article had been washed. They smelled of sawdust and sandpaper and the rich odors of reclaimed wood and it just about killed me to realize they were, perhaps, the last tangible reminder of my former life. I remember walking home from work that day. I remember placing the clothes in the drawer and getting in the shower. I remember how excited I was for Stella to get up from her nap, to hear her say “no night night time daddy.” I remember the sweet taste of anticipation, the kind that seems to build exponentially from week 37 on. For we were having a baby girl and Stella was having a sister and we were going to be a family of four.

There are other reminders of our former lives. I look at pictures from the month before and the days before and I can see the anticipation, the happiness oozing forth in every shot. Me kissing Kari sheepishly over pizza with a friend, us holding our dear friends new baby, Kari and Stella laying together in the rocker. Or I remember events like parties with friends or moving or trips around the world or getting married and all I can think about is how innocent we were. But these clothes, this ridiculous work outfit, it's like I can physically touch and smell my past.

I practically choke on the smell. Tears burst forth as a desperate longing to rewind takes over my whole body.

This is the lay of the land these days; trying to live while never forgetting. Wake up, think of Margot. Go to bed, glad to tick off another day. Play with Stella, wish Margot was here. Eat dinner, cry over Margot. Laugh with friends, hope to get pregnant.

Go to work, remember your former life.

May 10, 2011

2011 garden, a little more sophisticated than last year. Along with our housemates, we decided to build our own raised beds this year. Thanks to some extra salvaged wood we had from the shop, some free dirt and trimmings from around Pasadena and a friendly neighbor who shared some vegetables, we have ourselves a garden.

May 6, 2011

[april 15, 2011]

I knew the dentist I was about to see. I remembered him from three years before, when he examined my teeth and told me a crown was probably needed.

He looks to be in his late fifties. Gray hair, but full and coarse. He’s tall and slender and has the appearance of old wealth. A few wrinkles dart across his face. His smile shows average teeth, which makes him seem trustworthy. I remember his gentle spirit, the way he gracefully moved the utensils around my mouth, the way he carried himself in and out of the room. I was drawn to his sense of calm and paternal concern.

I was a different person way back in 2008 when I saw him last. It was, as I’ve come to think of it, the Before Margot time in my life (It’s strange to think that six weeks ago was also the Before Margot time in my life). Kari was five months pregnant with Stella and we were blissfully happy. After finishing his examination, he gently explained that I needed $1500 worth of work done in my mouth. I may be the only person who smiled contently after such news. Well, it’s better now than after she’s born, I told him happily. Let’s do it, I exclaimed.

That was back when I thought being pregnant would automatically lead to having a baby.

Today I slip into the chair and wait, with wet eyes, in the After Margot era of my life. In this moment, all I want to do is tell him what happened. That I just lost my baby. That she weighed 7 pounds, twelve ounces and that her name was Margot June. That she was just as gorgeous as my first born, with her big cheeks and blue eyes. I want to tell him that I feel sad.

I can’t seem to understand this desire to tell him, or to tell others who I think might empathize, as if their pity will somehow validate my pain, give meaning to my sadness. Perhaps telling strangers is some form of acceptance, acknowledging out loud that this tragedy did happen. And any little trace of acceptance that creeps out of my heart feels good these days.

Good morning, Josh, he says casually. How are you?

May 4, 2011


When it comes to giving thanks, to all of you for everything you have done for us, I feel very short on words. We have simply been overwhelmed. From the very moment this happened until now, some forty-two days later, we have been inundated with kindness, love and generosity.

To our inner circle of family and friends, we would have barely squeezed by without you. From weeping together on the first night, to holding Margot together, to the morning food runs, the daily hospital visits, the massages, sharing in our tears, caring for Stella and for sharing in our grief into the future, thank-you.

And to everyone else, from family and friends far away, to those who brought over meals every evening, to those who sent cards and emails and texts, to those who left comments, to the strangers who reached out to us, thank-you for everything.

The road ahead appears long and tiresome. There are good days and awful days and we are learning to let each day be just a day, not giving too much credit to good days and not giving too much weight to bad days. We will continue to share our journey on this blog, so please feel free to stop in from time to time.

If we could have added emails, Facebook messages and texts to this picture, the entire room would have been filled. Our deepest thanks for all that you have done and all you will continue to do.