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

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


My husband and I were talking last night; we have both been feeling down recently; he is still working out his grief for Ben - he's had so much trouble grieving, and I haven't known how to help him. At times I haven't tried very hard to help him, either.

Last night he said, "I feel like our lives are inverted." I asked him what he meant, and he said, "It's supposed to be happiness interspersed with moments of sadness, but it's really sadness interspersed with moments of happiness."

Is that how it is from now on? After four years, we really still don't know.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What Do You Want to be Remembered For?

Yesterday evening, while standing at my kitchen sink washing dishes, my son called out to me from the living room, "Mommy? Pway?"

"In a minute, honey," I replied. "Let me finish these dishes."


"Yes, honey, minute."


My husband and daughter were out on a bike ride and I was trying to finish up those few little chores before bedtime, always multi-tasking, always hoping to do just one more thing. I haven't really been mentally present with my family recently, wrapped up in this book I am writing, and, this week, with more sad news from home. Two wonderful parents were on their way home from their daughter's college graduation, with their daughter and all her stuff in the car, when they were struck by a large truck, which had swerved to avoid a minivan that had, apparently, run a red light. The parents died instantly; their daughter, a beautiful, intelligent, caring and giving 21-year-old, is in critical condition in the hospital. She has endured 6 hours of brain surgery and has multiple broken bones and internal injuries and is currently in a coma.

This is what I was thinking about when I was doing the dishes last night, along with the rest of my to-do list, and how I couldn't wait until the children were in bed. With my hands deep in the warm, soapy water, my son called out to me, again, "Mommy? Minute over?"


I'd been following the story of the crash online and knew that this young woman's mother was a teacher. I remembered her, and her sunny, positive outlook on life. She'd had trouble getting pregnant and had her first child at 33, her second at 37. Warm, funny, energetic, she touched so many lives through her teaching, because she took the time to listen to her students, to bring out the best in them. One assignment she made her 8th graders do every spring was to write a letter to their future selves, stating what they want to be remembered for, who they want to be. Four years later, on their graduation day, she would deliver those letters from their past selves to remind them of what they had hoped for in their lives.


And who do I want to be, I asked myself as my son said, yet again, "Mommy pway?" Do I want to be remembered for being thin (which I am not), for having a good wardrobe, for having a tidy house? For always having my dishes done, nary a weed in my garden, for the things I own?

No. I want to be remembered as a great mom, a caring person, someone who made the world a little better after she left it.


I put my sponge down, dried my hands, and said, "James, what do you want to play?"


None of us is promised a long life. None of us is promised tomorrow.


Who do you want to be?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pregnancy after Baby Loss

If you've been reading Glow in the Woods, you'll know that bon just put up a post on being pregnant after a loss. (Glow in the Woods is a new blogging community of several babyloss mamas; it's terrific, {as if anything about babyloss could be terrific, but these women are so articulate and write so beautifully}, so head on over and say hello.)

Her post has given me so much food for thought; she is 20 weeks pregnant and fearful, hopeful, terrified. She is on bedrest and....managing? Yes, managing as well as any babyloss mama can. Bon asks the question how we feel about pregnancy now, and oh, I have so many mixed feelings. So much to say.

I want to be pregnant again. Sort of. But not really. I want a baby. I am also mourning the loss of that possibility in my life, although it is, still, physically possible, but emotionally, I am not so sure. I am rapidly approaching the end of my "safe" reproductive life - I am well into "advanced maternal age" and while there's no reason I couldn't have a baby again, it is very unlikely I will. I am both jealous of those who are pregnant and holding new babies, and frightened for those whose bellies I see protruding. I know I am a harbinger of death for those among my group of acquaintances who get pregnant; I see the spark of fear in their eyes, the slight distance they put between us, for I have shattered their innocence by losing my son.

Bon talks about "owning the elephant" in the room...I love that phrase. I'm not sure I own the elephant; perhaps it is easier now to pretend I'm not the elephant in the room of a group of mothers and hopeful mothers. But I still feel it, that distance, that experience that sets me apart from all the rest. It holds me back from becoming friends with the lovely women I meet at storytime with my 2.5-year-old; those women who are showing up pregnant at the library, at James's gym time, in the neighborhood. It keeps me from becoming friends with the moms at Charlotte's school, whether they are done having children or still expanding their families. It keeps me from feeling like I am truly being myself with nearly everyone, and I hate feeling that way. Part of me has closed off permanently to others, even to myself. I don't know what to do with the dead baby part of my life, so it just sits there, quietly waiting.

It is so hard to see other women pregnant, and I suspect it always will be. I met a woman shortly after Ben died - I knew her only slightly before then - she lost a baby some 30 years ago. He seemed fine when he was born, but died unexpectedly sometime in the first 24 hours of his life. She told me a little about her experience, and mentioned that the daughter of a friend of hers was pregnant, and how terrifying that was for her. That is where I am now, and permanently.

I see younger mothers at my son's preschool, who are expecting, and I feel...I hate to say this, it seems so awful...disdain. Perhaps it is because they are driving in their SUVs, with enormous diamonds on their fingers, designer clothes, manicured nails...which is not my thing...but their personas shriek entitlement, and perfection. And they barely see me, a late-30s, average mom, with perhaps 10 pounds to lose, fairly attractive, wearing reasonably-priced clothes, who doesn't believe in ostentation, who doesn't play tennis or go to a gym to work out with a trainer, who doesn't run with cliques and never has.

I alternately hate those mothers and feel sorry for them. Mostly I hate them. Because they are pregnant, and they are blissfully unaware as they drive off in their Audis and Suburbans that anything can go wrong. And if they knew my story, if I told them, I know they would look at me in horror and never speak to me again. And of course I wouldn't tell them, could never tell a pregnant woman who did not know me "before," what it is that makes me who I am "after." I'm sorry for them because I feel they don't live in the real world, which makes me a snob of a different sort from them.

Ultimately, here's how I feel about pregnant women: after Ben died, I thought no one should get pregnant ever again. It hurt too much to hear about, hurt too much to see, made me feel so frightened. I can't shake that. I fear for any pregnant woman I see and only wish I could be happy for them. That I will carry for the rest of my life.

Strangely, last night I dreamt I went to my OB for my annual check-up, and we talked about me having another baby. I don't remember what we said, only that I hoped it wasn't too late for me, even though I didn't think it would happen again for me. I am conflicted; I both want to be pregnant again, one last time, and I know that, emotionally, I can't do it again. If it were to happen, of course I would, but deliberately? I don't see how I could.

I know how much there is to lose.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What Do You Do For Mother's Day?

The first Mother's Day after Ben died, I remember someone telling me, well, at least you are a mom. And yes, I was. I've never had to deal with Mother's Day with one dead child and no living children. I'm pretty sure that would be akin to one of Dante's levels of hell. And that day was hard; my husband had been away on business (out of the country, no less) for two weeks, and was traveling home on Mother's Day. My daughter had been particularly sweet that weekend - she seemed to understand that I needed a little extra love that year. I held it together by mostly not thinking about it until people started to call me and see how I was doing.

The second Mother's Day after Ben died, I realized that this was it - no matter how many years went by, two, 10, 33, 50 - no one was going to phone me up to ask how I was doing anymore. But I was going to remember that one of us was missing, one of us was not here to give me hugs and kisses, handmade cards, or breakfast in bed. That's it - you get the first year, and then you're done. Or, that is, the rest of the world is done. I'll still miss him in 20 years, and think of him on Mother's Day. Will anyone else, besides my husband?

And for those of you who are reading this, who are missing your babies, whether you have living children or not - I am so, so sorry for your pain. You are mothers, not the way you should be, not the way you want to be - and I honor you, and your children, this Sunday, and always.

One thing I will do this weekend to honor Ben is go to this website and light a candle. For every virtual candle lit in honor of a baby who never made it home, the website Memory-of.com will donate $1 to First Candle, the support organization for parents who have lost children. First Candle's mission is to make sure every baby makes it to their first birthday healthily and happily. You can light a candle any time in the month of May. Memory-of.com is also donating $1 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure for every candle lit here in memory of a mother, grandmother or godmother who has died. I will also light a candle for Elizabeth, who I am missing terribly right now.

Hugs to all of you missing your babies.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

On An Entirely Different Note

Niobe has news, of the very best kind. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers for 36 weeks of nothing but good news.