September 24, 2011

There was this moment, in the balcony of an old church, during the first days of my freshman year of University, that I still remember so vividly. It’s when I first saw her. I mean, I had seen her before, but this time I really saw her. And I heard her talk. Her voice sounded exactly like tender ferocity, and her words were articulated magically, and her tone and expressions filled the dark balcony. I’m not exactly sure if I fell in love with her in this moment, but I sure fell in something.

I’d like to think that somewhere, deep inside my brain, something was signaling me, pointing me towards her. Shouting at me: THIS IS THE GIRL. THIS IS IT. STOP LOOKING. YOU WON’T FIND ANYONE BETTER. SHE WILL BE THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU.

A year later, we were rounding the bases in softball dugouts and eating sunflower seeds on road trips and pretending to care about anything else. And I figured that was the last time I’d fall in love.

A decade later, though, I found myself in a room full of white coats and reeboks and bright lights, and it happened again. I saw the top of a cone shaped head, with jet black hair all wet and warm, and I was dizzy once more.

No one ever told me having kids was like getting to fall in love all over again.

I knew I’d love being a father. I knew I’d deeply love my kids. I knew they would be everything to me. But I didn’t expect the same range of emotions I had experienced ten years earlier. The gushing, the pride, the inability to focus on anything else, the magic of it all. And perhaps what surprised me the most is that it all happened, it all began, so instantaneously. Her head, her hair, her face, her shoulders, her belly, her knees, her feet, her cries. That was all it took. I was in love with my Stella, her big cheeks and blue eyes and crazy hair, her whole being.


Margot was handed to me by an older nurse. She was swaddled in a hospital blanket, a little stocking cap on her head. The nurse said, “We did everything we could,” as she handed me my second daughter.

In the rush to the emergency room, in the agonizing wait to see if Margot lived or died, I had hardly given her face a thought. I wanted her to be alive, I wanted everything to be okay. I had forgotten what it feels like to see your baby for the first time. I forgot it’s love at first sight.

And then I looked at her.
And she was perfect.
And my heart swelled with love,
and my heart broke into pieces.


Six months later, I'm still not sure how to handle this simultaneous feeling of love and brokenness.

Six months ago today, I fell in love with my beautiful Margot. Dead or alive, she is mine.

September 22, 2011

My first sister and I, circa 1982

Most first kids eventually get the fortune of holding their little sibling, just like I did when my first sister arrived. They get to observe them nurse and have their diaper changed, they watch for smiles and tears, they listen for coohs and cries and laughs. They learn how to help out and nurture and then one day, the little wordless sibling morphs into a little playmate. And the rest is predictably beautiful, as the story goes, a future filled with friendship and angst and fighting over the front seat.

My social little Stella is navigating a different journey. She is learning about death and about life, how elusive and tragic and beautiful it can be. She is facing sadness and heartache, things that she knows very little about. And without knowing it just yet, she is missing out on the beautifully complexities of siblinghood.

The only way Stella can be a big sister is to think and talk about Margot, which she does every single day. She wants to see her ashes. She wants to drive up to Margot's river. She picks flowers and then asks if she can trade her flowers with Margot for one of Margot's rocks in a jar. When she is sad, she says it's because Margot died. When we recently asked her what it means to die, she stated in no uncertain terms, "Margot die. Squish a bug it die. Mamma almost die." Yep.

And then yesterday in the car, out of the clear blue, using her new multi-sentence speaking abilities, she said:

"after school i'm gonna put on my wings and fly like tinkerbell and like airplane and i'm gonna look for margot and i'm gonna put margot in my belly and fly to my home and put margot in momma's belly and say 'YEAH!!!'  and then say, 'does that feel better?' and i'm gonna put my wings back in my room with george and say 'YOUR WELCOME!!!"

Brilliant idea.

September 15, 2011

This is why I loved the support groups so much, if people thought you were dying, they gave you their full attention. If this might be the last time they saw you, they really saw you.  Everything else about their checkbook balance and radio songs and messy hair went out the window. You had their full attention. People listened instead of just waiting for their turn to speak. And when they spoke, they weren’t telling you a story.  When the two of you talked, you were building something, and afterward you were both different than before.

    - Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, page 107

We go to a support group. It’s on the second Wednesday of every month and the group is held in this little blank room in the middle of some kind of Jewish center in the middle of West LA.

On these Wednesdays, we get in our car and start and stop and turn and start and stop and use my blinkers and somehow, some sixty minutes later, we’re on the other side of the city. I couldn’t tell you a solitary thing about the drive, as my mind is transfixed on what is about to commence. What will it be like today? Will there be anyone new? What part of our story should we talk about?

Upon arrival, I’m faced with a security guard who mans the entrance to the parking lot. He sits in his booth looking purposeful, wearing a gun and motioning people through after a brief interchange. I never know quite what to say about why we are there.

Hello sir. We’re here because our baby recently died and my wife and I don’t know how to handle it and we found this support group and thought it might be helpful because we are in so much pain. Could you let us through?

I mumble something about a support group and then it’s a blur again and suddenly I’m sitting in a chair with a sticky name tag attached to my chest, feeling what can only can be described as anxious exhilaration. My heart pounds within my chest, I twitch this way and that, trying to get my nerves together. Tears have already begun lining up near the back of my eyes, waiting in unison to fall freely if the need should arise. We’re ready when you are, they murmur. 

I watch as people come in slowly, like a whisper, and gingerly find seats. Some of the faces are familiar. And some are heartbreakingly new, like last night when two more couples came for the first time, their desperate stares a reminder that babies are still dying.

I’m never sure what to say, so I find myself lost in thought, staring downwards, my arms folded together. And then, as our caring and insightful facilitators open the group, the exhilaration begins to sneak into my anxious heart. I feel like smiling, like laughing, like breathing a huge sigh of relief.

Because these are my people.

They are young and old, african american and caucasian and hispanic and asian, married and single, years removed from their loss and months removed from their loss. Their broken bodies and broken hearts enter the room from around the city, from incomplete families and empty cribs, from lives that they didn’t imagine. And while I can hardly remember their names and I know next to nothing about their backgrounds, or where they work or where they live or what kind of people they are, I do know one thing:  Their babies died too.

We share our stories of loss, down the line we go. Genetic disorder. No known cause. Cord accident. Medical malpractice. Placenta abruption. Heart defect. Around the circle we go, trading tissues and tears, our stories uniquely different but with the same tragic ending.

And then we cry some more, and laugh a lot, as we trade updates on our present grief, as we share our sadness and hope.

This stranger said this. This family member said that.
I lost this friendship. I found this friendship.
I’m infertile. I’m pregnant again.
I don’t think I can make it. I think it’s getting better.
My hair is falling out, this new life is so hard, I miss my baby so much.
Us too, us too, us too.

And then our time is up.

See you next month, we say to each other afterward, a little different than before.

September 8, 2011


Let's be honest. Neither Mom or Dad are pink people. And despite our efforts toward gender neutral clothing, this girl sometimes pursues pink with a laser guided color seeking missile, like when we ventured into the American Apparel factory store in Downtown LA.

"Pink dress!!!" she squealed.

Even though this dress could be spotted from space, and may possibly glow in the dark, I can't help but love her in this. And yes, in regards to the last photo, she did wrap chains around the neck of her lion and push him back and forth.

September 5, 2011

Charles Bukowski's novel, Ham On Rye, is neatly stacked alongside my other sixteen favorite books, which sit in a sacred place on top of my bookshelf. I was deeply moved by troubled Henry Chinaski, Bukowski's alter ego, and his difficult and lonely Los Angeles upbringing. I went on to read the rest of Bukowski's novels and much of his poetry, and despite his sometimes crude writing and dark outlook on life, something kept bringing me back.

I stumbled onto this beautiful poem through a close friend, who wrote about the poem so eloquently, and it came at just the right time. I keep reading it over and over, finding solace and comfort in these beautiful words.

The Laughing Heart

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.


your life is your life.
know it while you have it.