August 30, 2011

Today was my first post as a contributor for Glow In the Woods. I feel grateful for the opportunity to write for such a beautiful site designed to help those who have experienced babyloss, and I feel grateful for the way in which it connects me to Margot. Feel free to stop by Glow and read my post, Searching, and join the discussion.

August 25, 2011

Letter #23


Hey buddy. I miss you something fierce.

Did you know that we were second guessing your name the night before you died? We stood in the kitchen with our housemates and laughed and drank wine and talked about calling you Vivian. It’s funny to think about now, too, because you were Margot from the very start. Your Mama picked your middle name and as soon as she said June, I was in. I told her it was perfect because I could call you MJ, and she said that June was out if I was going to call you MJ. For the rest of the pregnancy, as you were growing limbs and developing lungs, I would call you MJ just to give her a hard time. She always kind of laughed and kind of gave me that certain beautiful eye, like she’s gonna kick my ass if I ever utter MJ after you were born.

You weren’t named after anyone in particular, but we did get your name from our favorite movie, The Royal Tenenbaums. Margot in the movie is a depressed chain smoker, living a complicated adopted life in the middle of a complex family. I secretly hoped there wouldn’t be any irony in this one day.

Did you know that being a dad is my favorite thing in the world? I knew it long before your sister was even born. I felt it on a ferry in Norway and wrote it down on a piece of paper, alongside one other little tidbit.


My kids.

I’m still trying to figure out how to be a parent to you. And I’m so sad I couldn’t parent you in the flesh.

I think your big sister, if she knew what she was missing, would probably miss you as much as we do. I wonder if she’ll grieve this one day later, when she understands death and sisterhood. Perhaps she’ll have another little sister or brother, and it will make the grief lighter. It’s hard to say what she’ll take from all of this one day. I wonder if these will be her first solid memories. Your Mom in the hospital, all swollen with tubes coming in this way and out that way. Our daily sobs and blank faces over the reality of your death and our new life filled with sorrow. I hope she can see the gifts you’ve given us, even though I don’t even know what those gifts are yet. I hope she will be better equipped to face a complicated world, where death and life go hand in hand.

Some days I wish you could have talked to me for a few minutes before you died. And I don’t mean little infant sounds. I mean a real conversation that takes place a few minutes before we both know you’re going to die. I hear stories of folks talking with their loved ones on death beds and get a little envious. These people talk about how their loved ones told them to be happy in life, to move on, or whatever little gushy and beautiful thing they said just before dying. I wish we could have this kind of moment. It would have been nice to hear you say that everything was going to be okay. Or that you were content with your pending death, or that you wanted us to be happy, or that we will see the light again one day. Things like that.

Sometimes I just tell myself that Margot would have wanted me to be happy. It gives me a little hope amid the darkness. I hope you’re okay with that.


August 22, 2011

I thought it would just be the loss of Margot. And it was, for a while. Her death was all there was and everything else, the other losses that sat on the other side of the imbalanced teeter totter, seemed rather inconsequential compared to the reality that our second child died on the freeway as we rushed to the hospital.

And now, not so much. The other losses, some permanent and some temporary, have crept up, adding to what already seemed hard enough. 

Like the fact that we recently made an appointment with an infertility specialist. Even though we luckily got pregnant on our first try with Stella and Margot, it seems that massive blood loss and placenta abruption can lead to other problems, some of which may affect our ability to get pregnant in the near future. Every new monthly blood spill feels like another chip off the block of hope.

K has now been denied health insurance from everyone on our list, due to her kidney failure, a pre-existing condition that now marks her health history, like the scar that runs across her belly. Sometimes when the tears dry up, the wonderful gift of black humor comes rolling in, and we joke with one another. We got a dead baby and a pre-existing condition! Can’t say that very often.

The loss of our day to day is starting to weigh heavily. No more meet ups or mom groups or play dates with close friends. Too many babies cooing and crying, too many innocent mothers gushing over their newborns (as they should), too many mothers complaining about how hard it is to have two kids (as they should). Too many conversations that could lead to painful places. Like when a well meaning friend recently said, “When you have your second child, at least Stella will be older and having two kids will be easier. I guess in that sense, you’re lucky.”

Instead of the normal day to day, our vast community of friends and moms and neighbors has been replaced with a cave where few are allowed to enter. And we stick mostly to our cave, where it’s safe, where we can have the freedom to express our sorrow and our joy, without pressure to get better or cry less. It can be lonely in this new dwelling, so we fill it with books and our family upstairs and work and Stella, who bounces around excitedly as if this new normal is actually normal.

There is the constant reminder of what could have been, a haunting reality that comes and goes as easily as the wind. They say that when you lose a parent, you lose part of your past. When you lose a spouse, you lose part of your present. And when you lose a child, you lose part of your future. I feel this particular loss so deeply, the loss of all the ways our lives would be different if Margot had lived.

A dear friendship sits in hiatus. We mourn with them, separately and sometimes together, hoping this too shall pass.

And then there is our precious little L who preceded Margot by a week, who lives a few houses down, whose parents happen to be our best friends. We dreamed of sharing our little tikes together, of daily hang outs and nightly card games and watching Stella care for them and most of all, watching them grow up together, little hand holding little hand.

Some days, like today, when the grief feels heavier than ever, when it feels like this will never end, I have to remember that it’s not just Margot we have lost.

August 14, 2011

Dearest Grief,

It seems as if we’ve been intimate for as long as I can remember, even though it’s only been a little over four months. I suppose this is where I should start.

I’m grateful it took so long to become acquainted with one another. Thirty-one years seems like quite a long time of living without you, especially when there is life to be considered. The possibilities for death seem endless, yet I never knew death. The reality of heartache and depression and sorrow seem almost inevitable in this life, yet I somehow managed to escape their grip. Nor have I known the pain of a life that didn’t turn out like I hoped, something I was always frightened of.

Was it simply my good fortune we haven’t met for so long? Was it my background or family or decision making? Was it a fluke?

I guess it’s neither here nor there. Everything happened and nothing happened all at once, preventing our paths from crossing, allowing my innocence and happiness to fill your absence. I suspect you were always right there, weren’t you? Waiting for me if the time came.

And then, of all the beating hearts that had to stop, it was my daughter’s.

You stretched out your hand and I didn’t accept.
I held my hands behind my back and closed my eyes.
I’m strong enough, I tell myself.

I peaked at you.
Before I could reach up, you reached down.
I lie on the ground, beaten and bruised, empty and bloody.

You flood my mind and heart, I almost drown.
Your weight is a thousand pounds, I can hardly breathe.
I can’t do this, I tell myself.

On my knees in the mud, clawing ahead, clawing together.
The mud turns to grass and then back to mud.
My knees become my feet and then I’m back to my knees.

The months go on, we trudge together through the storm.
Sometimes on my own, sometimes with K.
Sometimes with her.

Sometimes with a thousand others, with all of history, we trudge.
Sometimes I see friends, on a parallel path, with dead babies, with you, in the mud.
They whisper over to us, you are not alone.

A friend you have become, a friend you are.
You are my dark cloud and my hopeful sun.
To whatever may come, to however long we will be intimate, I reach out my hand in surrender.

August 6, 2011

I wake up. I'm back there in a flash.

It's the hardest part. And the best part.

She is there, wrapped up in a pink blanket, a little hoody hiding her black hair.

Her face is close. I touch her nose with my nose. I kiss her lips with my lips. I nuzzle against her cheek with my cheek.

We are both sideways. My hand on her back, her cold body against my chest, her head under my chin.

I open the lids for a peak and find blue.

I'm so sorry sweetie. Repeat.

The rain pours. Water cascades down the window, as if trying to reach out and wash over us.

I'm back there in a flash. As if I ever left.

As if I ever left.

August 2, 2011

I could sense the question coming as soon as the woman started in on Stella’s eyes.

“Oh my God, them are the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen,” she pronounced with an oomph.

Stella dismisses her casually, as if she has been here before. I say thank-you, as if I’ve been here before.

“What color are yer eyes, boy? Let me see them eyes!”

“Hazel.” I say, without giving her a chance to see the pain.

“Oh, she must get them pretty things from her Momma then.”

“Yep,” I add, hoping my dismissive tone will be picked up on, ending our brief exchange as soon as it’s started. I’m weary of these kind of conversations now because I know where they lead. I avoid them at the park and the grocery store and just about anywhere else I go alone with Stella, even willing to act a fool, or a jerk, just to skirt around them. It’s not as if I mind going there, of answering the question, but I don’t want to put them through it. I don’t want to see their face. I don’t want to be what they think about for the next thirty minutes or two hours or the rest of the day. I don’t want to burst their bubble of innocence.

I look at her, pleading with my eyes for her to simply finish ringing our lunch through the checkout. My face contorts this way and that in a hapless attempt to express my misfortune without opening my mouth. Surely, I think to myself, after months or years in her profession, she has learned to evaluate the mood of customers and then act accordingly.

“Girl, come look at the eyes on this little girl.” The cashier calls for her friend, the barista, to come over for a peek.

“Oh, sweetheart, just look at you!” her friend says with almost the same sense of urgency and pizazz as her co-worker. These two are a match made in sanguine, extroverted heaven.

Stella can no longer shrug it off or resist this persistence. She has taken the bait and all but forgotten about her pizza and juice and one promised chocolate covered peanut. She laughs as big as ever, showing her teeth and puffy cheeks, giving them everything they asked for and more.

“Oh lordy!” the women shout in near unison as they raise their arms and sway their hips to Stella’s reaction. The main culprit’s big hoop earrings flail about, shooting in one direction and then another, signaling the climax of her blue eyed obsession.

I can visually see this scene unfolding before me. I can hear it. But I’m already drifting, wondering how I’ll answer the question that is inevitably about to rise forth out of this woman.

Just as she finally settles back into ringing the last of our lunch items through, she finally comes out with it.

“Is she your only one?”

My mind races, my mouth freezes.

“Is she your only one? You got any other beauties with blue eyes?” she asks again, laughing this time as she clarifies her question.

Under normal circumstances, with my family and friends and acquaintances, Margot is all I want to talk about. There have even been times when I want to talk about her to strangers, as if spreading her story around the city might keep her spirit alive a little longer.

I could be straightforward. Actually, no, my second child died three months ago and her eyes were as blue as the Mediterranean, I could say. I could just come out with my sadness and deal with her face and the possibility of a sweet or frustrating response and then eat my food a few steps away and walk out of the store.

Or I could tell her more gently, in a more removed, it’s in the past sort of way. I could tell that I have two kids, but only one who is living. And I could try and conjure up some sort of contentment in my face, as if I have made peace with the fact that my second daughter died.

But, as it happened, neither of these responses came to my lips.

“She’s my only one.” I say quietly.

As my lips utter this lie, I have this unexpected moment with Margot. It’s just her and I together, looking at one another playfully as if she is my little secret. I know you’re there baby girl, I say to her. I know Dad, she says with a wink. And before I can tell her how much I miss her, she is gone. Just like that.

August 1, 2011

July 2011

Highlights: We spent a few wonderful days near Joshua Tree with some dear friends to celebrate a birthday, take pictures and eat good food. And thanks to some generous folks, we spent a few days in a cabin up in Northern California. Wineries, kayaking and a visit from another friend made it a nice break. A few photos from the month:

[stella dancing her heart out for a crowd of jazz lovers]

[fun at the porter creek winery] 

[stella and i kayaking away from the cabin on the russian river]

[housemates sharing the ipad]

[outside a thrift store in the desert. this girl is obsessed with animals]

[stella loves finley]

[lots of trips to the beach]

[playing with my new canon 30D]