May 31, 2012

My wife goes in first. Her gown hangs over her belly, her hospital socks cover her feet. She doesn't blink or waver or need a hug. I kiss her for formalities sake. See you soon, I mutter, and she is off, through the light blue metal door, leaving me alone in the hallway I sat in last year while I waited on word about M.

This is the girl I met twelve years ago and married eighteen months later. Courageous. Determined. Poised. I had no idea I was looking for her, or wanted someone like her, but she came to me in a rush, like a stampede, and left me on the floor in a state of blissful bewilderment.

Truer grit would be hard to find.

Here I sit, in the infamous hallway, tapping on my phone, waiting for the spinal to finish, moments away from meeting my son, and my mind is fixed on how fortunate I am to have found such a woman.

They give me hospital attire to wear over my clothes, each piece represented by a different color, as if someone might confuse a slipper with a face mask. Ocean blue slippers to fit over my shoes. A light blue piece of mesh to cover my hair. Green mask to cover my face. And a bleached white, full body suit that zips up from the crotch and is so undersized the bottom of my pants clear my ankles by a good four or five inches.

I'm dressed and ready in under sixty seconds, which is why I'm here tapping away in between bites of a Payday that I purchased from a vending machine.

The floor is different now than a year ago. It's faux wood in dark and light accents. The hallway is double the size I imagined from last year, like they added lanes to the freeway and brought in new pavement. And its brighter, much brighter. I remember carpet. I remember a narrow hallway. A lone spotlight shining down on my curled up figure, fear and uncertainty emanating from my body like fog. I remember a bleakness to it, a darkness, tattered ceilings and stained walls, like a mental ward circa 1952. Now it's just florescent lights and veneer floors.

If there was a spotlight on me today, thirteen months later, it would reveal a different man, anxious but strong, a man who understands sadness and has walked the road of grief, a man fractured but inexplicably more whole.

Twenty-three minutes I've been waiting.

We decided early on in this pregnancy to follow every doctor order without researching the hell out of it afterward or contemplating rebellion. So if our Doctors suggested we endure fifty non-stress tests and twenty-five biophysical profiles and six thousand doctor appointments over the course of nine months, we happily obliged. And it's why I am here in the hallway instead of next to my wife. The damn anesthesiologist, apparently, isn't fond of partners watching the spinal. He doesn't work under pressure. 

When we asked Dr. Wu if he thought it would be okay for us to deliver early, he replied, "let's take our money and run," and then circled May 7.

Thirty minutes waiting, too nervous to type.

Here we go...

May 28, 2012

Fourteen months and four days ago, my daughter died. In a freak accident, in my front yard, a week before she was due. I can say that now without crying, without wanting to crawl into a hole, without my guts doing somersaults. I can say that from the standing position, my back vertical, my toes curled up against the ground. I suppose this is one way to sum up right where I am:

I'm standing.

However wobbly, however shaken, however much I lean to the left, however much my shoulders hunch and my heart sags, I'm standing.

Gone are the days of slogging through the thick mud, on my belly, in the darkest of dark, pulling myself ahead by my fingernails, one tiresome inch at a time. Gone is the feeling of being hit by a bulldozer every time I wake up and remember what happened, that yes, my daughter really did die, and yes, this is my life. Gone are the screams, the meltdowns, the desire to dress myself in black and the insistence that every single friend understand my pain.

Call it progress or evolution or acceptance, but something changed after twelve and a half months, something shifted in my grief, tectonic like. The mud turned to dirt and the slogging turned to crawling and I found myself opening up again to the world, seeing colors, dreaming again, finding enjoyment outside of my wife and living daughter. I could tell even then, six weeks ago, that this wasn't going to be one of those brief moments of respite before going back to the mud again.

Margot - or at least the idea of her - is so much a part of me now, so integrated into my being, into my story and conversations and friendships and daily life, that the longing for her has subsided. The deep ache I once had for her isn't as intense because of this integration, this beautiful and abstract coalescence of our stories coming together. I don't physically feel her presence, or see her in rainbows or birds or visions, yet her story has altered my own so thoroughly that it feels like I carry her with me wherever I go. So much of who I've become over the past fourteen months is because of her and I am grateful for the transformation that has taken place within me, the gifts from her story, from her brief existence. 

For the first time in my life, I feel the full range of human emotion, both the elation and the sorrow, and it grounds me to the earth, to suffering in a way that I only knew in the past on a rational level. It's like seeing the color black for the first time, without turning my head away from it or wishing it away or dismissing it. And the color may be black, but acknowledging it feels like something, and the black sure makes the reds and shades of purple all the more beautiful.

Her story has also taught me how to live within the complexities of the happy and sad confines, knowing that each has it's limits and each could be followed up with the other, even in the same moment. I am sad and I am happy and some days these two emotions live together and some days they are lopsided, tilting me toward one or the other. But to be okay with sadness, to sit with it and process it and feel the heartache, without pushing it away or trying to get over it, feels so profoundly freeing.

There are moments when the pain makes all of these gifts seem worthless, moments when I miss her with the vivid rawness I experienced in the early days, moments when the normality of her death is met with an equal measure of incredulity. But they are moments now, spaced between the integration of her life into my own, spaced between the gifts, spaced between the beauty, however black and red and yellow the beauty may be.


This post is part of Angie's epic Right Where I Am Project that was started last year. It's a way for the community of babyloss parents to capture the current state of their grief.  I wrote a post last year, 67 days after Margot died, and then took on my own project to capture the other 178 people who participated in the project last year.

May 26, 2012

Much to Stella's disappointment and Kari's delight, the Beard Of Hope came off recently. And what beard party wouldn't be complete without some before and after photos, taken by my awesome camera talented friends, Brianna and Leif?

From terrorist to tenth grade yearbook...

I wanted a few with Stella to commemorate the occasion, 1908 portrait style.

Stella carefully and methodically helped remove the beard, one "yucky" layer at a time.

May 21, 2012

My son was born and I have scarcely a word to write about it. A blinking cursor has stared me down for the better part of nine days and I'm not sure there has ever been a greater discrepancy between the amount of thoughts streaming through my head and the inability to put any of these impressions and observations into words. Perhaps this says enough.


I thought seeing Leo would mean seeing Margot and it never occurred to me to think otherwise. The reason for his existence seemed inseparable from her, his life intrinsically fused to her life and death in a way that was concrete, a foregone conclusion. And then I saw him and I only saw him. He wasn't a continuation of Margot's story. He was just himself, without attachment, without her. His own revelation.

Margot is still present, as close now as before Leo, the foundations of her memory being built by the gifts she bestows, by the grief, by the transformative nature of experiencing her. If Leo has changed our grief at all, it's in the distraction of taking care of him, in the expansion of our hearts for another child.


I forgot how long my mind has been living in the future. How long we have been waiting, biding our time, distracting ourselves, ticking days off the calendar before lunch time. Perhaps the greatest part about having Leo, other than the obvious, is the way we can be present again, fully here, without a future date branded onto our brains. It's like seeing the world in color again, without the future and the anxiety graying over everything.


We were up last night, mother and father, around two in the morning, tending to our crying kids. While Leo struggled to learn the art of nursing, jerking and crying and latching on repeat, Stella woke up in a fit of tears. The moment almost felt sublime, miraculous really, two kids, crying in unison, both here, fully present in our home. I gave pause before tending to the eldest, thankful for this chance, for the added noise. The sound of their tears echoed off one another like sweet relief, the sun at the end of a long, gray winter.

May 15, 2012

Introducing Leo James Jackson, the young brother of Stella and Margot. The son of a Mother who willed him here, of a Father who still can't believe his good fortune.

His first name comes from nowhere and, like his sisters before him, he has it all to himself. His middle name, James, comes from my Grandfather, his Great-Grandfather, a great man, as generous and loyal and tender as men come, who taught me, among more noble pursuits, how to skin a squirrel and ride a scooter and the intricacies of router bits.

Leo is also my Father's grandson. He is my only son just as I am my father's only son. And his being, his essence, the man I hope he lives to become, is wrapped up as much in his kind, loving and selfless grandfather as he is in myself.

You got a lot of support, kiddo.

Leo! Leo and Stella!

May 7, 2012


We had pizza for dinner because it was the only thing she could imagine keeping down. Just the two of us. Out in the city. Brick walls, exposed beams in the ceiling. We sat there and talked nervously and ate a few slices and sipped on water, while two meaty elephants sat heavily on our chests.


Saying it's hard to breathe doesn't begin to cover the emotions.

Seventy-seven weeks of pregnancy. Thirty-eight and a half on top of thirty-eight and a half.

One way or another, this will be over tomorrow.


We drove home in the evening heat. There wasn't much else to say about it, so we talked about other things. We made almost every light.

May 5, 2012

We bought a fish. A red, male betta, with beautiful and elongated fins, purple streaks and orange checkers on his top side.

His name is: fish.

Stella, whose rowdy imagination normally conjures up elaborate stories involving princesses and poop, has never had a knack for naming things. When it comes time to imagine a name for her latest stuffed animal or doll from the local thrift store, she suddenly turns into a literal junkie. Her doll is doll, her baby is baby. Her stuffed animals have names like dog, bear, big monkey, baby dog, fish and reindeer. When a doll from her Grandma Gwen arrived from Europe, she aptly named it Grandma Gwen. Even when I offer up other possibilities, like flip or grizzle, she normally sighs unenthusiastically.

Our fish named fish lives in a little bowl with stones that Stella and I have slowly gathered from the Pacific Ocean. There is one bright white seashell in the bowl and it's cracked on one end, like a chipped tooth. The bowl sits on our dining table and the fish, the closest thing we will ever have to a pet, seems quite happy and content.

With forty-fours to go before meeting my son, I sat down to write about what this reality feels like, about the complicated nature of his arrival, about missing Margot, about how we added the breastfeeding rocker to our bedroom last night. And about how we are doing everything and anything to distract ourselves until it is time to meet our son.

Like writing about a fish.