June 25, 2012

Fifteen months ago, my daughter died. I held her lifeless body in my arms. I kissed her black hair. I had her cremated and to get close to her I have literally tasted her ashes. This reality will be with me for the rest of my days.  She is our second child, and she’s gone.

Somehow we crawled our way through the past 15 months with out her. Somehow we did it while facing the daily anxiety of another years' pregnancy. And here we are. Older. More wrinkled. Less naive. Much more empathetic. Perhaps even more fully human.

As I reflect back on this year, one thing is incredibly clear to me: I am not as strong as I once thought. I have discovered over these long months that there are things in this world that can truly break me. Death is no longer some abstract reality that, as I once believed, is simply a part of life.  It is bigger, more painful, than I knew.  It sweeps through a persons life and threatens to destroy everything.  It knocks you to the ground; it breaks you.

Living through this year has been unbelievably traumatic. It's not just the day you lose your baby that breaks you, it's the living with out one of your children, day after day after day. It's the ongoing trauma of facing the world with our her. For five months, I barely ate. For nine months, I cried every day. Even now, although I can finish my food when I think of her and I can string together several days with out tears, I have come to realize that much of this sorrow will actually never leave me. She will always be mine. And she will always be gone.

And yet the truth is, my world has not fallen apart. My friends and family have supported me. Spoken her name. Cried for her.  Held my hand as I walked the terrifying journey of subsequent pregnancy. They kept calling when I couldn't pick up the phone, kept knocking on my door when I couldn't answer, and kept asking how I was doing when all I could do was cry for months and months. My living daughter has danced in my arms and covered me with kisses. And my husband...well, there are never the right words for him. We walked this road the way we always do, together, side by side, with deep love.

Often I think that the reason my world did not crumble to ash (like my heart did) was because it was held together, not by me, but by the people who love me. And I can hardly believe my good fortune to have them all.

These days, there is a saying that keeps going through my head. It's something my doctor said to me when I asked when I should deliver Leo. "Let's get to 38 weeks, and then let's take the money and run."

Take the money and run. That's what we did, six weeks ago, and my baby boy came alive into this world. And now I think of that phrase all day as it pertains to making peace with this life we are living.
Take the money and run. Don't be too greedy. Accept. Make peace. Seize the joy while I can. Let go - not of her - but of the hard truth that this god awful tragedy happened to us. Be grateful. Hold my first born and now my third born tight in my arms and weep for all we do have. Because it feels as if it could all be taken from me at any moment, and I don't want to look back and wish I could have reveled in the good while it was mine to have.


I’m finding that hope and peace and relief are washing over me in waves, more and more, each day of Leo’s life. My body, the physical "me," hurts so much less these days. I have felt an acute physical longing for my daughter for all these longs months. It's as if my body had been continuously searching for her, looking for my missing child. When Stella was born, I remember that leaving her in order to run errands or go to the gym felt like leaving a part of me - a vital internal organ of some sort. I felt tethered to her by a kind of invisible umbilical cord, and I never felt quite right until I returned to her. I had the same feeling for Margot. But there was nothing on the receiving end of that longing, only absence, emptiness, ashes. It hurt in a place deep in my bones, a place I can find no adequate words to describe. (This pain is part of why I barely touched another infant over this long year. I have not held or tickled another baby, even though there are many in my day to day life that I love. Mostly, my body forced me to look away, stay away, because the emptiness of my own arms would threaten to suffocate me.) And then Leo entered the world and suddenly this layer of pain just...lifted. My body took a deep breath, pulled him close, and some evolutionary need was satisfied.

[In the same breath I feel that I must be clear that Leo’s life does not help me feel any more ok about Margot’s death.  I can imagine that most of the world (even perhaps myself in those early days) would assume that somehow his life would make her death more palpable.  I’m sure this is what my old babysitter meant when she said, “now you have a new baby!” But even though my logical brain knows that Leo would not be here if M was, I’m shocked how little that matters to my heart.  I gave birth to all three of my children.  And I want them all.] 

Mostly, in spite of the heart ache, right where I am is a good place. Happy even. I can smile with out holding back and wishing there was another expression I could make besides a smile - something between a smile, grimace, scream, sigh and cry - that would better reveal my state of emotion. The sunshine no longer mocks me and the happiness of the rest of the world no longer stings.  In many ways,  I feel myself coming back to the world, as if waking up after a long winter of sadness.  My heart ache for my daughter is ever present, but there is room in my heart now for happiness as well. I feel the urge to travel again, my most beloved of interests, and that desire alone shows me that I am evolving, that I no longer need to spend every night on the couch crying and talking about how we will get through another week. It's hard to believe that every single night for 13 months, we talked about M, about losing her, about surviving with out her. I would say that in a way I grew very used to sadness. So now, in this new spring, it might just take me a little while to remember how to be happy again. But I'm so damn glad it's time.

June 20, 2012

We spent Sunday afternoon hiking and exploring more of Margot's River, going up stream from our normal spot to find some nice pools and small waterfalls. This is the spot where we had her memorial service, where we carefully poured her ashes into the river. This is the spot we come back to, time after time, to dip our toes in the water and collect rocks and explore and tell her yet again that we miss her.

I think it's the most sacred place on earth.

June 17, 2012

I'm laying in bed after having fed my scrappy little boy, who grunts and moans and flexes his way through feedings, enough to make my already fierce Stella seem just about docile in comparison.

If there could be one thing to say about Leo's brief tenure on earth, it's that he knows how to make some noise. Whether its the feeding frenzy already described, or belly time or gazing at his adoring housemates, the boy is loud. His battles with the inevitable gas can only be described as epic, as he contorts his body and contracts his belly and snorts his way through the pain, rarely crying but always making his rumbling known. Even his sleep is laced with quiet murmuring.

He is starting to emerge from his life in the womb and it's simply magical to watch unfold. His facial skin is flaking off bit by fuzzy bit and his gray eyes are rounding third and headed for blue. He is engaging with light and objects, his eyes locking in for those brief but beautiful moments, his head moving curiously towards interesting sounds, like his big sister yelling in his face every time he does something remotely noteworthy. (Daddy, daddy, daddy! He just moved his hand!! Daddy! I just saw his tongue! Isn't that funny!!) And perhaps the most magical part of all is seeing him begin to show signs of personality, signals for what is to come. Like the fact that he is a determined little fellow, strong willed and willing to persevere on the breast for upwards of eight hours a day, all while barely scratching the surface of the milk at hand. And, much to our delight, he is a cuddler, at ease in the comfort of our arms, something his oldest sister was never fond of and rarely indulged.  I wouldn't think much of these signals but then I remember my Stella, who at three years old is simply a more fleshed out version of the little six week old that we watched emerge some three years ago.


It's Father's Day now, as the clock turns to 4:55am, as I poke away on my phone, wide awake to the thoughts streaming through my mind like a slideshow. Stella is coughing across the hall, Leo is swaddled up tightly in his co-sleeper and Margot is hovering in the place where she has taken up permanent residence, in the space between each one of my thoughts and feelings, simultaneously present and missing for each moment of my day.

We will go to Margot's River later this afternoon, the first time since Leo's birth, and spend some time together as a whole family. I'm going to splash my face with water and throw rocks with Stella and take my son down to the water's edge, where I'll dip his toes in the water, where I will whisper Margot's name in his ear.

June 8, 2012

It's 9:15pm and Stella is taking a bath. Kari is sitting on our living room rug, legs crossed, tits out, crying those deep guttural tears, the kind that stem from that lethal concoction of exhaustion and feelings of failure. Leo sits in her lap, his long torso stretched out across her belly, crying those piercing hunger tears.

I'm on my knees, hovered over Kari, arms wrapped around her shoulders, my lips against her forehead in a solemn attempt to understand her suffering, even though I can't possibly understand.

Her milk is drying up and her uterus hasn't contracted down, the latter issue influencing the former, both working in cahoots to prevent our sanity.

Daaaaaaaddddyyyyy, Stella yells from the bathroom, for the thirty-third time in the last twenty minutes.

Just a minute buddy. 

I gotta go poo-poo! she says, as she exits the tub and flips up the toilet seat.

Call me when you need wiped.

Moments later, in pure kid fashion, an hour past her bedtime, she is bounding out of the bathroom, trail of foot prints in her wake, rounding the corner to find her helpless parents entangled in an awkward embrace.

She shakes her pale rump in front of us, unwiped and unashamed, while singing a song about looking at her butt. The moment is the perfect picture of the great dichotomy surrounding our lives over the last year. In the middle of the grief, Stella was there to show off her butt or tell a funny joke or do something that amazes us.

She wiggles her rear and we laugh and it's damn near 10pm.


It's 1am and I am feeding my son with a syringe and some tubing. It's called finger feeding and it's what you do when your kid isn't getting enough milk and your wife isn't getting enough sleep and you don't want to use a bottle.

I microwave a coffee mug full of water. Then remove mug and drop in a bottle of breast milk, three ounces worth. Then get my syringe and tubing ready. Then wash the hell out of my hands, the kind of washing that changes the color on your cheap wedding ring you purchased from a street vendor in Oaxaca. Then use the syringe to pull out an ounce of milk from the bottle. Then attach the tube to the end of the syringe. Then tape the tubing to my right index finger, so the end of the tube is near the end of my finger. Then insert finger and tube into Leo's mouth. And then pump milk down the boy's throat. Repeat another ounce. And another. An hour from start to finish.

He stares at me with steel gray eyes and it's just the two of us and I couldn't ask for anything more.

June 4, 2012

May included trips to the beach, hiking, baseball, visits from family and, of course, the arrival of Leo. All photos taken with my iPhone and altered through the hypnotic power of Instagram.

[note to my special instagram peeps: sorry for the double dosage of sappy] 

Proud Sister

I'm Dreaming

Venice Beach


Grandma Gwen + Cousin Miles + Aunt Joni

Morning Time

Dodger Stadium + Dad

First Time Feeding Her Brother

Tummy Time

Neighbor's Country Themed Birthday Party