Wednesday, July 28, 2010


If I weren't pregnant, I'd be relaxing with a glass of wine right now and then going to bed early. But I am, and dinner is running late, so no wine and probably not an early bedtime. 

I had my first ultrasound today. Everything looks good, but I'm exhausted. 

I was anxious when we went in. Kathleen cried because I couldn't hold her, so they sent Brian out of the room with her before we even started. As he was walking out of the room, I burst into tears. He was able to come back in when she settled down, and I pulled it together. Still, I was wiped out when we were done. 

At the end of my ultrasound when I was pregnant with Kathleen, the doctor told me that I had a 1% chance of having a baby with Down syndrome because I had had one. Then he patted me on the leg condescendingly and says, "That means 99% chance everything will be fine." Thanks for the math lesson jackass. I think it was the same doctor today. He said the same thing minus the leg pat. 

I did breathe a little easier after we saw a heart with four chambers, normal flow between them. I was relieved to see no cleft palate, no spina bifida. The baby is measuring right, brain, kidneys, diaphragm all looked fine. . . 

I take this as good news, knowing the limitations of this technology. But 99% doesn't mean a whole lot to me. I've been the 1%, the less than 1%. Odds are meaningless. 

I am relieved that things look good right now. 
I am hopeful that this baby will be born healthy, happy, alive, and whole come December.
And I wait, day by day, week by week, until we get there and see for sure. 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The purple box

My mom and sisters came today for a work day to help me get some things organized, and we did. I can actually enter the walk-in closet in my office; the four open boxes of outgrown baby clothes are arranged by size and ready to go in the attic; and the clothes we are transitioning in and out of in the next few months are tucked neatly in Kathleen's closet.

As we were clearing out one closet, my sister pulled a fancy white box off the shelf. I said it was just a gift box, but when she opened it, there was a fancy card a heart of silk roses on the front. My friend A. sent it for Henry's first birthday. Hanging from the heart is a small elephant charm because she remembered elephants were significant to my family. I remember that box coming in the mail on his actual birthday. There was no question I would keep the card, but I figured I didn't need to keep it in the big box it came in. Yet, I didn't want it to be crushed.

I remembered that the memory box from the hospital was practically empty. It would be safe there. I pulled the purple box of the shelf in Kathleen's room, where it sits for want of a better home. I sat down in the rocker, untied the ribbons binding it closed, and, Oh! It sucked the breath out of me.

I had sorted once again through the pile of blue clothes that we got when he was born. I identified the box my mom started to sort through with his caterpillar toy and his little old man plaid romper as a Henry box. Both of these without a pause or a catch or a cry. But the purple box stopped me. I cried looking at the barely existent wisps of hair, the bit of umbilical cord, the purple hand and footprints. I just sat there and cried.

My baby died.

Will that ever cease to surprise me? shock me?

I sat for a few minutes and cried. Then I put the card in the box, closed the lid, tied it shut again. I put the box up on the shelf in Kathleen's closet. Then I walked back downstairs and answered questions about where to find a rag and whether it was okay to make a box for ribbon and where the popsicles were. I didn't tell my family that opening that purple box was harder than expected, that I had cried, that I could still be sitting crying in that chair. I didn't keep it to myself because they wouldn't understand, but because my bed was piled two feet high with clothes to be packed away and you couldn't even walk into my office. There were things that needed to be done, and we didn't have time today for me to sit and cry for hours. The difference between now and two years ago is that I could have my little cry and then stop it.

But I keep thinking of that purple box now. There are pieces of Henry all over our house, but I keep remembering that box now and sighing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Remembrances of a 6-year old

My niece was talking to my sister the other day and said she remembered visiting Henry. Here's what she remembered:

He didn't have any hair. Well, maybe he had a little hair, but he didn't have much hair at all.
He had little things that stuck up his nose to help him breathe.
He had a bed like a basket. I could stand on my tiptoes and look in and see him, but I couldn't touch.
I got to hold him. Did I ever feed him a bottle?

She was 3 1/2 when he died.

She asked my sister if Brian and I were still sad sometimes, because she's still sad sometimes. And she's happy that we are having another baby because Kathleen will have a brother or sister here. That's something I want very much for my little girl. She will always know that she has an older brother, but I want her to have a sibling to play with and fight with and share stories with and grow up with.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

16 weeks, 3 days

I keep putting off this post.  I'm pregnant—16 weeks, 3 days. And so far, things are good. So far everything seems normal. So far I'm not an emotional wreck. So far.

I do better when I stay in the present.

In just over two weeks, I'll have my level 2 ultrasound. It makes me anxious, as all my appointments due. So I will sit in the waiting room, trying to breathe, in and out, in and out. If I think ahead to that day, I start to tense up. So I stay here in today, where I've just started showing.

My due date is December 22 (the day we buried Henry) and I'll likely have a planned c-section in the week before that (not, I keep reminding them, on December 17). When my mind leaps ahead to December, it also jumps back to last December when I dragged my way through the month, barely able to get through it and back to the December before that when Kathleen was born and my anxiety grew until I could barely breathe. So I stay here in today, where I every now and then feel the first faint movements.

It is better than last time. Last time I was still crushed by the newness of grief. I could only imagine the outcome I had known or the various other scenarios by which you don't bring your baby home. I could plan for a funeral but not buy diapers; I could stock my freezer with food, but not wash the baby clothes. I hadn't started blogging yet, but I was desperate to talk to other people who had had a baby after losing a baby.

This time, I'm already plotting, where we'll put the bassinet now and the swing now that Kathleen's things have taken over the house. I've talked to a friend about covering one of my ongoing freelance jobs for a time after the baby comes. I hesitated to do it, but stepped away from superstition and made the request. Still, I have shared the news slowly and piecemeal.

I don't assume everything will be okay. I don't take for granted that I will bring home a healthy baby sometime before Christmas. But this time, unlike last time, I see that as a possibility, a very real one, and it makes a huge difference.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I very much consider where I live now home, but my parents house is still home too. I'm home at their house for the week—a week of chaos (7 adults, 5 kids, 2 dogs in a small house), staying up too late with my sisters, laughing until we almost pee our pants; a week coming home covered in salt and sand and sunscreen (nothing like a shower after a day at the beach). Tomorrow my cousins will come and we'll be at the beach from breakfast to dinner. We'll come home tired and sunburned and put the kids to bed. And then I won't go to my high school reunion.

I never committed to going or not going. There are a few people I'd really like to see, friends I've almost kept in touch with over the past twenty years. There are some people I'm curious to see and find out what they are doing. There are a couple of people I don't want to see, but mostly there are people I don't really care about either way. And I don't know who knows. Do you have kids? How old? I don't stumble over these questions as much as I used to, but I don't like answering them. I get weary thinking about it. It's easier to walk into a room full of strangers who I know don't know than a room full of people I once knew who may or may not know.

A one-time friend stopped by two years ago as we were getting ready for the parade. I was pregnant with Kathleen and just over 6 months out from Henry's death. I had walked on the beach that morning with my cousin's baby, enjoying her little body snuggling against my chest as we walked by the waves, but also lamenting that I never got Henry to the beach, that he never saw the ocean I sang to him about so many times. Mostly, I was having a good day, I was with my family. I was safe and content and I didn't want to break that by saying I had a little boy and he died. I didn't know if she knew, but I just didn't want to have that conversation right then. As she was leaving, my sister told her. I haven't seen or heard from her since. And this bothers me more than I realized.

A good friend of my sister's who had lost touch with her for a while got in touch with her back in March. They talked for a long time and they caught up on news. He emailed me after they talked and we've played Scrabble on Facebook and chatted there. He didn't shy away, but you never know who will.

There are plenty of people out there who don't know. And I don't feel like telling that story. I don't feel like agreeing that I have my daughter now but pointing out that I still miss and grieve for my baby boy. And, because I overanalyze things, I've thought about this and debated whether I should go because I should tell this story, because I shouldn't be a coward. Ten years ago, I didn't go to my reunion either. It fell on 4th of July weekend. I was here, but so were my cousins and friends who came to visit. I decided I'd rather spend the evening with them. That's what I'm doing this time too. There are kids to settle, games to play, cookies and ice cream to eat. My sisters and I will stay up too late even if we're tired; my mom will almost fall asleep playing a game with us. We'll all finally agree to go to bed saying we'll regret staying up so late when the kids are up in a few hours. And we will be tired, but we won't regret it—and we won't stop doing it.

Right now there is a cool breeze coming up from the harbor. The air is dry, the sun shining. My dad is running errands and all the others are at the playground. Kathleen went down for an early nap and I'm enjoying a little quiet and breathing deeply the ocean air.

It's good to be home.