Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Each Thanksgiving, I stand there again in the hallway right outside Henry's room. Ready to go to Thanksgiving dinner, eager to see my family, filled with guilt about leaving Henry. He doesn't know it is a holiday, that he should be seeing his cousins and grandparents and wearing a pilgrim hat. I'm standing there talking to Magie's mom, admiring her coat, talking about how we won't count this Thanksgiving, how next year will be the "first" Thanksgiving for both our babies. We were so sure they would both be home to celebrate the next year.

Neither of them made it to Christmas.

I'm thankful for many things. I don't spend all day stuck on this memory. I don't only lament what I don't have. I do give thanks. Henry taught me that. I was perhaps my most grateful when he was in the hospital, when we didn't know what was wrong with him, when every day seemed bleak and improvements seemed miniscule and setbacks huge. Each night I prayed for him, and I always began with thanks—thanks for another day, for better sats, being one step closer to extubation, a card in the mail, an email, open eyes, a smile.

It is easier when the daily challenges are more mundane to forget about the little reasons for thanks. Perhaps because nothing is all that bad, nothing is all that great. I like to think I am more aware of the small joys and blessings around me. Maybe. Most days.

Kathleen woke up too early this morning. She was cranky all day, throwing tantrums off and on. And yet, I was thankful.

I was thankful to sit with her,
to hold her,
to read to her,
to kiss her head,
to have her shout, "Bye! Ta ta! Cheerio!" as I tucked her in for the night.

I'm thankful for a warm home,
a comfortable bed,
and a full belly.

I'm thankful to have work that I (mostly) like,
and for three days off,
and for a break from that work starting a week and half from now.

I'm thankful for the blue skies today,
the November chill,
and the smell of smoke in the air.

I'm thankful for a close-knit neighborhood,
friends near and far,
and the amazing people I've met because of Henry.

I'm thankful for Thanksgiving traditions, 
for two families that I will happy to see tomorrow, 
for family that acknowledges the missing among us. 

I'm thankful for my baby boy whose smile still warms me,
for my baby girl who amazes me with something new every day,
and for the baby I have yet to meet.

I'm thankful I'm not standing outside that hospital room this year,
thankful for having survived year one and year two,
thankful to feel the sharp edges of grief softening, slowly, yes, but softening still.

Thank you for reading here,
for bearing witness,
for supporting me on this journey.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


We're in the home stretch here. 

Physically, I am ready for this pregnancy to be over. Physically it has been harder for me than either of my other pregnancies. I know I complain about my back a lot, because when I grimace or groan now, Kathleen looks at me and says "Back." Yes, my back hurts. My legs are tight. I've felt like I was struggling to breathe since the earliest weeks. More and more foods seem to bother me. This is mostly new for me. 

With Henry, I felt great. I walked, did yoga, swam. I glowed. 

With Kathleen, I walked and meditated and meant to start swimming. And probably the fear and anxiety and grieving kept me from noticing much about the physical. 

Emotionally, I'm in a much better place than last time, but physically, I'm done. But . . . 

I'm so aware of these last weeks. This baby seems to move so much more than Henry and Kathleen did. I remember being in the pool during the last week before Henry was born, floating in the water while he floated in me. I remember a sudden awareness that soon he come out, that the quiet closeness we had, just him and me would end, would change into something very different. I'm aware now that these few weeks will likely be the last time I feel a baby move within me. Given my age and the fact that after this birth I'll have been cut open four times, I just don't see another pregnancy in my future. So this is it. The last time I feel the strange, amazing sensation of another life moving within me. 

I try to pay attention, to really feel it, so I'll remember it. I probably won't. But right now, I'm aware. 

I'm aware too of my little girl of the here and now running around asking why. I'm aware this is the end of our time of just us. I don't remember being an only child, don't remember my sister being born, and likely Kathleen won't either. She doesn't know how her world is about to change, but I am. I'm aware of this time with her. 

When she says, "Seat!" or "Rockee!" and points to my chair, I'm more likely to sit at least for a few minutes, through one book, even if I'm in the middle of getting dinner ready, even if it's early morning and I'm chilly without a sweater. I sit and feel the warmth of her body, notice how tall she's gotten, how long her hair is. I am aware of how quickly she is taking things, learning, changing, growing. I look at pictures from earlier this year and wonder if it is the same little girl. 

I know that what we have will not be lost by bringing other baby into our home and hearts and family, but our routines will change. Love may expand, but time does not. It will be different. I don't think that is bad; I'm simply aware of and cherishing what we have right now. 

In a few weeks, things will change. Right now, I'm ready for what is to come but not rushing to get there, just here enjoying what is. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Headstones and hospital programs

Friday we drove up to visit my parents, but really to look at stones. We still, almost three years later, don't have a headstone for Henry. Making that decision was more than either of us could handle when Henry first died. Then grief was heavy, Brian was in nursing school, I was pregnant, we had a new baby, Brian was still in school . . . we didn't have the time to look or the energy to talk about what we wanted. Still it bothered me that he did not have a marker, and we finally started talking about it this year. We talked about getting a piece of granite from my hometown. I never got to bring him there, so we thought we'd bring a piece to him.

While my mom chased Kathleen around an very old cemetery, Brian and I poked through a pile of stones in the yard of a family friend. I wasn't sure we'd find anything. I kept telling Brian we could always get a stone from someplace else if we didn't find what we wanted. Then he found it. Not too big, not too small. A flat face for his name, curved on the back, not quite a perfect arch at the top. It looked natural, but workable—just what we wanted.

We still need somebody to carve and install the stone, but we are one step closer to having a marker on his grave. One step closer, maybe, to keeping people from driving over him. One step closer to anybody being able to find him.

Saturday we left Kathleen with my parents and drove into Boston for a program that Children's runs each November for grieving families.

The timing good for me. It feels right to go back in the fall, during the time that I lived there with him. It feels right to make space for him, for grieving, for talking about all of it, right before we head into the darkest days for me.

Strangely, it feels something like a reunion. We saw our chaplain and the woman I knew best from the family life center and the psychologist and a couple from our grief group and a mom who had helped me a lot while Henry was in the hospital and another mom who was in our small breakout group last year. There was that odd happy to see people feeling, despite our reason for being there.

It was an exhausting day, but a good one. I talked about the things that seem like the big issues right now for me: telling new people I meet about Henry and December. I cried the hardest talking about what I want for Kathleen and this new baby—fun birthdays, happy Christmases—and my fears that the weight of December won't let me give them that. These are the things I struggle with right now.

When we left our house on Friday, I thought of it as a grief weekend, thought it might be kind of depressing. It wasn't though: we found the stone; I talked to people have I haven't talked to in a long time; I talked about Henry. It was sad, exhausting, but not depressing.

The moment that sticks with me most clearly isn't sad at all. Friday evening we brought Kathleen over to see my grandmother. She was shy for about the first five minutes; then she was running around with her cousin like she owned the place. When it was time to go, I told her to go say goodbye to Big Nana. Kathleen ran right over to her and gave her a big hug and loud kiss, and my grandmother gave one of her famous neck-breaking hugs and sang "I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck. You bet your big blue eyes I do!"

Going to look for the stone, the extra night with my family was a last minute plan, but when I think of this weekend, the first picture I see is Kathleen with her arms around my Nana and it makes me smile.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Surprise excitement

We took Kathleen trick-or-treating on Halloween. She didn't quite catch on to saying trick-or-treat, but she got the idea of grabbing some candy out of an outstretched bowl, and after the first few houses started saying "thankyouwelcome" after she did. We went with her friend from our neighborhood and saw lots of people that she knows. I think her favorite part was walking outside in the dark and holding the flashlight.

That's when I decided I would get her her own little flashlight for Christmas—perfect stocking stuffer.

And I was excited by the idea. I love the idea of filling her stocking this year, watching her opening her presents. It was a switch from the dread I've had facing December. I've worried about giving her the happy birthday she deserves. I've worried about sharing the anticipation and joy I used to feel about Christmas with her. I wasn't sure I could pull it off.

I'm still not sure, but I have a glimmer of hope. Maybe instead of giving her the joy and excitement, hers will carry me. I am beginning to see that she might lead my way, carry the light for me through the dark.

Maybe it will work that way. Maybe it won't, but December feels a little more doable.