Every year, 26,000 babies are stillborn in America. In 2003, one of them was my son.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Fast Away

For Ben - Happy Birthday, wherever you may be.


Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

-D.H. Lawrence

After Great Pain

After great pain, a formal feeling comes--
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs--
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?

The Feet, mechanical, go round--
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought--
A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone--

This is the Hour of Lead--
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow--
First--Chill--then Stupor--then the letting go--

- Emily Dickinson

Sunday, December 30, 2007


Four years ago today, Ben died.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ghosts of Christmas Past

I think maybe I have lost the magic of Christmas. I imagine I lost it some years ago, probably after Ben died, but I never really thought about it before this year. I didn't want to lose that magical feeling, the belief I used to have as a child, looking out my bedroom window at the vast dark sky on Christmas night, feeling that anything was possible. Peace on Earth, Joy to the World, Santa Claus and flying reindeer. Christmas was the most magical time of the year - I even saw Rudolph flying past my bedroom window when I was 3. I believed.

I hope Christmas is magical for my children, but I don't suppose I'll know that until they're grown. I hope my loss of magic doesn't rub off onto them; so far, I think it hasn't. Maybe it can't rub off when you're a kid - at least when you're a kid of parents who love you and each other, and can afford to buy you gifts and make it a special day.

So I sat in church last night and thought about the ghosts of my Christmases past. We were attending the church I grew up in, which is 300-some miles from where I now live. I remembered Elizabeth, who died 2.5 years ago, who was a wonderful presence in my teenage years and through my mid-30s. I remembered Christmas Eves when she was there, with her young children. I remembered her oldest son lighting candles as a 10 or 12-year-old on Christmas Eve, and the worry that maybe he wasn't quite up to the job. I remember her smart, beautiful daughter singing. And I remember how Elizabeth had this aura of love and life about her. There are some people you meet in this world who are exceptional beings, who radiate something - the love of God? Peace? I don't know. Whatever it was, Elizabeth had it, and I adored her for it. I wish I had it too.

Her husband remarried this summer, and it breaks my heart.

When I was in elementary school I belonged to the church choir, and we had a wonderful director whom we all adored. He wrote musicals and songs for us, amazing things, and we were really good. I even remember bits of songs he wrote for us. He made us believe we could do anything. I remember singing on Christmas Eve those songs he wrote for us, how much joy there seemed to be in the congregation as we sang.

He was arrested last year on three counts of gross sexual imposition and corruption of a minor.

And then there is my third ghost of Christmas past - Ben. I had one Christmas present with him, and a lifetime of Christmases past.

I miss you, my little love. Merry Christmas.

And to all of you who are reading, I hope you find the magic. I hope you still believe.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2007

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen,
Snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.

- Christina Rossetti

Do you know the Christmas carol, In the Bleak Midwinter? Preferably, not the choral version as sung by the King's College Choir at Cambridge University, which sounds far too lofty for my taste. I prefer the Shawn Colvin version (hear a snippet of it here), or James Taylor's version. It's long been a favorite of mine, but took on a whole new meaning when Ben died.

On December 30th, four years ago, I sat in a private room of the OB wing of the hospital where I was to deliver, having just found out that Ben was dead. I was waiting for my husband and a friend of ours to arrive, and life as I knew it was over. This song, sung by Shawn Colvin, accompanied by guitar and piano, is what went through my head.

Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone.

Despite the unrelenting grief I felt, I also felt those last two lines with my whole heart: Earth as hard as iron, water like a stone. This was my world, forevermore, this frozen, vast wasteland of pain and sorrow. Time stopped and there would be no spring without Ben - certainly not a spring I wanted. This moment was where I wanted to remain, forever. And this song will always remind me of that day, will always make me ache with longing for my baby.

Tonight, I will go to a Christmas Eve service with my husband, children, and parents. We will sing "Silent Night" at the end of the service, just like churches all around the world, and, as I have for the last three years, I will cry. I will cry for myself, I will cry for my husband and my children who will never know their brother, I will cry because four years ago on this night I was ripe with expectations and love for my own son, come to fill my world with joy. I will cry because I miss him, I will cry for the innocence I lost the day he died. And when I am done crying, I will wipe my tears and walk away, and no one will say a word to me. My husband will hug me, and maybe my daughter, but the rest of my family will ignore the tears. Not because they don't care, but because they don't know what to say. I'd rather they said almost anything than pretend I'm not crying; they may even be surprised that I'm still crying four years later. And that hurts. Families are mysterious things, capable of so much hurt and so much love. I just wish this chasm of need inside of me were not so great; I wish some part of me were not still expecting them to fill it up.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Is it Spring Yet?

I'm tired. All this holiday stuff is getting out of hand. It's nearly 1p.m. and I have only now having a full, entire cup of coffee - just sips here and there so far today - which is not good for caffeine-dependent me. So how are your holiday preparations coming along?

So far today I've done 3 loads of laundry (not all dry or folded yet), made 24 delicious (mini) British mince pies to take to my family, wrapped 98% of my presents - well, maybe 95% - helped my 1st grader finish "holiday" cards for everyone in her class (everyone so there will be no hurt feelings and yes, she drew them all herself), played with my son, made lunch for my daughter and ran her to school. Yesterday I had a long meeting about my book (thanks, Katey!), spent 50 minutes doing Christmas cards (because I'm crazy), shoveled the ice off of my driveway, took my son to the library to play and read, got my hair cut, tried to help my daughter make a snowman, quizzed her on spelling words and helped her with math homework, helped her start her "holiday" cards, and made 2 batches of blueberry muffins. I nearly had the first batch done when I reached for the nutmeg, sprinkled it in the batter and realized it didn't look right. It was turmeric. I tried to scrape it out but dumped the whole batch. Made a new batch, which we gave out to the 4 crossing guards on the way to school and to Charlotte's teacher. Oh yeah, I did laundry yesterday too.

And in an hour I am due at my daughter's school for their "Winter Break Festivities" to help them decorate cookies with sprinkles and icing (yay! messy!). I also need to cut up a bunch of apples to take along as their healthy snack option. Then we have a "mini" recital at ballet class for 45 minutes. Then I am coming home and having a martini.

Oh, did I mention the ironing? I ironed 3 of my husband's shirts, because we are trying to have all the ironing done before his parents arrive next Friday. My mother-in-law judges my domestic talents on how much ironing there is to do. And my husband does the ironing. Mind you, I do everything else around the house, but it all counts for naught if the ironing isn't finished. And no, she doesn't understand that it's the one thing her boy does. (Not that he wouldn't do other things around the house - he does - but it's mainly me.) Gee, do I detect a little tension here? Hmmm.

Yeah, I'm feeling a little crotchety. I'm feeling a bit prickly about this. I mean, um, she's 16. He's 19. Hello, a minor and an "adult." So the babydaddy could get arrested for this. Did she not learn anything from her big sister? Talk about a train wreck. Although I have to laugh - their mom wrote a parenting book that was going to be published by a Christian publisher. Which has now been cancelled. If Lynn Spears can get a book deal, surely so can those of us who actually have talent. And it was about parenting? Raise your hands, all those of you who would take advice from this person's mother.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I need to go cut apples.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Could Someone Please Explain to Me...

...why there are so freaking many of us?

When Ben died, my OB told me that, in 20 years of delivering babies, what happened to us had happened about 3 times when he was the doctor. Initially I thought he meant stillbirth in general, but I later realized he meant stillbirth as a result of a cord accident. I've since learned that about 15 percent of all stillbirths are due to cord accidents - so not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but a high number when it happens to you.

I've been stumbling around the blogosphere the last two days, reading various baby loss blogs. (And may I say, if you're not reading Niobe, you should - she writes so beautifully it makes me drool with envy.) And I am continually staggered by how many of us there are, who have had stillbirths or some other kind of baby loss. These are two of the blogs I've read in the past two days, and they made me feel so sad: Still Passing Open Windows and Baby Theo.

But what I feel more than sadness is just completely pissed off. December is not a good month for me, but I was doing ok until yesterday. I'm feeling pissed off mostly because it's a damn site easier than feeling sad. What I need right now is a good cry for all of these beautiful babies, but I don't want to. We're approaching Christmas, the season of joy and light, and you know what? It's not such a season of joy and light for so many of us. And that pisses me off too. I want my life to be the way it was before. I used to just love Christmas, especially all the carols - I've been a singer all my life and I couldn't imagine my life without music. But have you ever noticed how sad many of the Christmas carols are? All those beautiful old melodies set in a minor key - In the Bleak Midwinter, O Come O Come Emmanuel - singing of a celebration but full of sadness, foreshadowing the future of the one being sung about. I wonder why they were always my favorites, those mournful melodies. It makes sense now, after Ben, but I suppose I was always filled with a touch of melancholy anyway.

Right now, I just don't get it. I don't get why babies die. And I wonder sometimes how we all can live in a world where they do, and keep going, and pretend that everything will be all right.