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

Friday, March 28, 2008


So, I had a minor operation yesterday and today I am in pain. I have (no, make that had) lovely varicose veins on both my legs, thanks in part to heredity and in part to three babies. "I have the legs of an 80-year-old!" I joked with my husband. They were BAD. Even the doctor was a bit stunned by my veins. Yesterday I had them removed, some were stripped (the really big ones) and some were heated up and made to collapse. I won't get into the details, not everyone may appreciate them.

They put me under general anesthesia, which I can't say I really like; it freaks me out to think about before and after, though not knowing what's going on is good! They also intubated me, and I still have the taste of it in my mouth, not to mention a slightly sore and ouchy throat. My legs are wrapped up right now, and I can take off the bandages tomorrow and have a shower (hallelujah!). But I am really hurting right now, and walking like a 95-year-old. But I do have the good painkillers, which also help you sleep.

My parents came out to help with the kids, and bring tons of food (my mom is always great with the food), so I am relaxing on the sofa with books and the internet and lots of assistance. It's nice to be waited on for a change.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

To Whom It May Concern

A Letter to Anyone Who Thinks I should Be "Over It":

Two babies were born today, one boy, one girl. One was a third and final child, another was the first. Both healthy, both wanted, both loved. I have known about their coming for months, known that today would be the day of their births for the last week. My heart should be filled with joy for their parents, you think? Oh, it would be, if it were capable. What my heart feels now is both sorrow and fury. Irrational? Perhaps. A byproduct of a rough day with my third child, the one I had because I don't have Ben? Maybe. And that exhaustion that I feel? Is it more emotional or physical? At the moment, I just don't know.

You think I should be "over it," you think I should be fine by now. Here's some news you need to pay attention to: I will never be over it. The birth of these two babies today only reinforces that tiny and unfortunate fact. I am so very grateful that these babies arrived safely, that they are healthy and well, but I want to know, why didn't I get that too? Yes, I have two wonderful children who were delivered safe and sound, but there was that other one, the one you never met, the one you didn't want photographs of, the one whose name you never mention. I want him still.

My heart has broken into more pieces than you could count, these last four years. You think I'm ok, but I still grieve. I want one more chance - I tell myself I want another chance to have another baby, and yes, sometimes that's true - but I really want one more chance to get it right with Ben. There are things in life you've lost, you tell me - and that may be true. But have you lost a child? Can you begin to fathom what that means? The lost dreams, the shattering of the life you knew and planned on, the fear and grief you live with permanently. Have you been there?

There won't be any more chances for me. There will be no more babies. And don't think I've accepted that, that it's all ok. Because it's not. I would jump at the opportunity for one more chance, but it isn't going to come. You tell me I should be grateful for the two children I have, and I want to spit your words back into your face - you have no idea how grateful I am, how lucky I know I am, for all three of my children. So don' t tell me you don't understand why I feel this way, that I should ignore my feelings, that I should just be happy. Until you have stood in my place, you have no right to tell me how to feel.

And just in case it wasn't clear the first time, let me repeat myself:

I will never be over it.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

No Answers

Emily Dickinson wrote in one of her poems something along the lines of "Because I could not stop for death, it kindly stopped for me" and I think of those words while I also think of the poem I put up in my last post. The inequity of death, the inevitability of it, the fact that because I have given my children life I've also given them death, just as my mother did for me, and her mother before her. I've given birth to death quite literally, with the birth of Ben, as have many of you who read this blog. I am still trying to fathom it, four years on: giving birth to one already dead. Or delivering one already dead - a semantic difference I hate, for officially it isn't birth when your child has died in utero - and there are no birth certificates, no apt words to describe what it is a mother does when she has to bring forth her dead child into the world.

And I wonder what happens when we die; where do our souls go, if there is any such thing at all? Some days I believe in god and heaven, some days I don't. Some days I think that there is nothing out there and it terrifies me, then other days I think, no, that can't be so. Where is Ben now? And I don't know, other than in my heart. But is that all we get? That he lives on in my heart, and I will never get to know him in any other kind of lifetime? Perhaps it is.

I think as well that the universe owes me the safety and comfort of knowing my two living children will live on to ripe old ages, outlast me by years, but no one is given even that, no matter how much we may beg the gods that be. I remember, months after Ben died, kneeling by the side of my daughter's bed, sobbing, snot running down my face, pleading with god to not let anything happen to her, to keep her safe. Like the mother in the poem I think of all the things that could happen, but I know I need to let my children go - and let go, and let go. All my life, I will need to let them go.

Poetry for Moms

Moreena, a mom to two girls, one of whom has had two liver transplants in the first 5 years of her life (may be slightly incorrect in the time frame, but not by much) posted this poem by Marilyn Nelson yesterday, and wow. And yes. And help me, someone, keep my babies safe.

Mama's Promise

I have no answer to the blank inequity
of a four-year-old dying of cancer.
I saw her on TV and wept
with my mouth full of meatloaf.

I constantly flash on disasters now;
red lights shout Warning. Danger. everywhere I look.

I buckle him in, but what if a car
with a grille like a sharkbite
roared up out of the road?

I feed him square meals,
but what if the fist of his heart
should simply fall open?

I carried him safely
as long as I could,
but now he's a runaway
on the dangerous highway.

Warning. Danger.
I've started to pray.

But the dangerous highway
curves through blue evenings
when I hold his yielding hand
and snip his minuscule nails
with my vicious-looking scissors.

I carry him around
like an egg in a spoon,
and I remember a porcelain fawn,
a best friend's trust,
my broken faith in myself.

It's not my grace that keeps me erect
as the sidewalk clatters downhill
under my rollerskate wheels.

Sometimes I lie awake
troubled by this thought:
It's not so simple to give a child birth;
you also have to give it death,
the jealous fairy's christening gift.

I've always pictured my own death
as a closed door,
a black room,
a breathless leap from the mountaintop
with time to throw out my arms, lift my head,
and see, in the instant my heart stops,
a whole galaxy of blue.

I imagined I'd forget,
in the cessation of feeling,
while the guilt of my lifetime floated away
like a nylon nightgown,
and that I'd fall into clean, fresh forgiveness.

Ah, but the death I've given away
is more mine than the one I've kept:
from my hands the poisoned apple,
from my bow the mistletoe dart.

Then I think of Mama,
her bountiful breasts.
When I was a child, I really swear,
Mama's kisses could heal.
I remember her promise,
and whisper it over my sweet son's sleep:

When you float to the bottom, child,
like a mote down a sunbeam,
you'll see me from a trillion miles away:

my eyes looking up to you,

my arms outstretched for you like night.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Here's the Truth

So, from my last post, in which I got the idea of the meme slightly wrong (I told two lies, rather than two truths), here's the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but:

1. Yes, my husband proposed 6 weeks after we met. We knew on our second date that this was "it."

2. Yes, I have been married twice (kind of) - but to the same man. We got married in England, where we met and where he is from, and got married in the chapel of his college at Cambridge University. In England, however, you can only be "officially" married in a registered building, which the chapel was not, so we held the official marriage in a registry office (like a justice of the peace) the day before, and held the religious ceremony the next day.

3. True. I wanted to be a Rockette (I loved watching them do kick lines) but I can't dance. I also wanted to be a jockey but realized, at the age of 7, that I had to stop growing immediately. (I'm kind of tall.)

4. True. Hey, I've got two degrees in English, what did you expect?

5. Nope. I love dogs. My daughter, however, is terrified of them and I have no idea why. I think it's genetic - no one in my husband's family likes dogs.

6. False. Can't stand the things. Told my parents when I was 8 years old I was not going to marry a man who liked lima beans. And I didn't.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


I've been tagged by Monica to do a meme. Now, I'm a bit unclear what exactly "meme" means, but I get the object of the thing: tell 6 things about myself, only four of which are true. Here goes:

1. My husband and I dated for only 6 weeks before we got engaged.

2. I've been married twice.

3. When I was little I wanted to be either a Rockette or a jockey.

4. I've read every word of both War and Peace and Les Miserables (unabridged versions).

5. I'm afraid of dogs.

6. I really, really love lima beans.

Edited to Add: You, my dear readers, are supposed to guess which are true and which are false. Have at it! And I am also supposed to tag people, I think...can I get back to you on that one?

Edited Again to Add: I didn't read the directions very carefully; 4 things were supposed to be false, 2 true. I did it the other way - 4 things here are true and 2 are false. Can you tell it's been a long week full of sickness and snow?