Friday, February 18, 2011

Back to the baby group

Yesterday I took Elizabeth to the baby group at our local hospital for the first time. I took Henry and Kathleen to this group, and there was some part of me that wanted to get there with Elizabeth at least once just to go with all my babies.

As we entered the hospital, I saw a woman at the front desk. She had met Henry when I brought him to the group. Two years ago, she met Kathleen and asked about Henry, not knowing he had died. Yesterday, she cooed over Elizabeth's profuse red hair. Then she looked at me and said, "So that's three for you, right?"

There was another part of me that needed to go back to see how far I've come in the two years since I was there with Kathleen. I remember the struggle of figuring out how to talk about Henry and how to talk about my past experience as a mom (which led back to talking about Henry). I fretted over it. I had awkward moments and surprising moments of grace. The leader of the group knew Henry and encouraged me to talk about him. He would come up in passing conversation—with my son we . . . , my first baby ___, but Kathleen . . . —and I felt awkward every time like I needed to explain my situation or afraid that somebody would ask me dreaded questions: oh, how old is your other child?

Yesterday I walked back into the little conference room that looked dingier than I remembered, but bright in the sunlight. I sat next to the mom of a little boy just a little older than Elizabeth. In the group conversation, my experience with Kathleen came up. "My two year old . . ., with my older daughter we . . . ." When we did introductions, the leader suggested including names and ages of older children, which hadn't been part of the routine when I had gone in the past. I rattled off my name and Elizabeth's, her date of birth and age, the town we live in, Kathleen's name and age, "and my son Henry would turn four this May, but he died when he was six and a half months old." It amazes me sometimes how matter of fact saying that can seem now, how I can say it as if him dying didn't break my heart and shatter the world I had known.

I'm not sure if I will get back with Elizabeth. Schedule-wise it is hard with Kathleen to consider. I'm glad, though, that I got back, no longer wishing I was just a "normal" mom as when I was there with Henry or feeling like not quite a brand-new mom but not quite an experienced one either as I did with Kathleen. I was just there with my third baby, ready to talk about my experience, looking for moms I might like to plan playdates with. I don't know if the new confidence came about from having worked further through my grief or from feeling like an experienced mom now or from having gotten more used to saying that my baby died. I expected it to be easier to go back and it was.

"So that's three for you?"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

For Elizabeth at 2 Months

Two months ago today, I saw your head emerge from my belly where you fit so snugly, so perfectly, and when they finally let me hold you, warm against my chest, you fit there so snugly, so perfectly too.

You are growing, more quickly than I realize. Already the newborn sleepers are starting to have a little off the shoulder look, the 0-3 sleepers that you were swimming in look about right all of a sudden. Already you are beginning to uncurl from that impossible position you were in for nine months. Already at the end of the day my forearms are tired from too much one-handed while you nurse and I bustle about.

Someday you'll have to scrunch up a bit as you nestle in to nurse. Someday I'll find you are too long, too heavy to sleep on me for long. Someday you will sit on my lap, legs dangling like your sister's do now and I will wonder how you got so big, so long, so old. For now, you still fit neatly across my lap when you feed, head snug at my breast, feet tucked in on the other side. For now, you still fit snuggled on my chest afterward as I sleep with you, holding you upright just a bit so you don't spit up and choke. For now, I just notice you have gotten bigger but you still look so small. 

People see you and guess at your age. I stop to think before I answer their question, because always more time has passed than I expect. Two months today. Two months already.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Two emails
Two friends pregnant
A friend, no stranger to loss, waits to see if her baby will be okay.
Another friend, no stranger to loss, learned that her son had died.
I am stunned and sorry and so sad today.

I find myself asking the unanswerable questions for them.
Why? Haven't they suffered enough? endured enough? lost enough?
Don't they deserve an easy pregnancy and a healthy, living baby?

I find myself wanting to say something to help,
to make it better,
but I can't. So I stumble over my words in emails.
I read their news again and again with tears and disbelief.
I can't believe sometimes how unfair the world is, how cruel.

To my waiting friend, I hang even more tightly to the hope I hold for you.
To my grieving again friend, I'm so sorry, as inadequate as that is, sorry and sad.
Love to you both.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Two and three

I got a note from friend telling me she is pregnant again, due this summer. I was immediately happy for her, but, there it was again. That pang, that needle of jealously. When this baby is born, we will have three children each, six children total. When we get together, five children will play together. I'm happy for her. I just wish I could be happy without that little twinge. 

Twice in recent days, people we don't know well, upon meeting Elizabeth, have made comments about us having a third. In both cases, somebody else made a comment or asked a question, and I never set the record straight. I didn't explain that we have three children, though they can only see two with us.

I always thought I'd like to have two or three children. One seemed lonely. Four seemed like maybe too many. Three was what I knew. Three seemed right, but at least two. So two or three. Somehow it feels like I have two and three. How many kids do you have? Three total, but two here. Three in my heart, but two to raise. How many kids do you have?