Sunday, July 24, 2011

Notes from December 2007

I'm cleaning my office and in the file holder next to my desk, I got rid of folders for Christmas 2009, a prospective client that got bought out by another company, a project that I finished too long ago to remember. Then I got to a folder of a company I never worked for, though I accepted a project from them. Inside were two sheets of paper, one full page of my notes from a conversation on December 11, 2007. The other has no date. It has half a page of less detailed information about the project and a list:

BCBS form mail
get sympathy cards—Amy & her mom, Heather & Pat
TY notes—Henry's hand, list from mom
finish bears
finish elephant
make heart—Henry

During those last couple of weeks Henry was in the hospital, I was thinking about starting to work again, dealing with insurance, sending thoughts to others who had lost a loved one, thanking people for the many kindnesses they had done for us. I was making ornaments for Christmas gifts. The bears were for my nieces and nephews to go with the book Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, which I had already bought for them. I think the elephant was for my aunt (her version of my cardinal), the heart was for Henry. I think the penguin was for my friend Tricia's daughter, who was a penguin for Halloween. (That came to me just as I was writing that I had no idea who the penguin was for.)

I was not thinking that my son was going to die.

The list doesn't say how worried I was to bring him home, how terrified I was that he would get sick and we would end up in the hospital again, how anxious and exhausted I was.

On the other side of that paper there is a list of things for parents on one of the other floors—massage and reiki twice a month, yoga once a month, snacks, acupuncture, pizza, community art, coffee and Sunday papers . . . the bottom of the sheet is cut off. I remember how hard it was to start to find out about these things. You needed to be in the hospital a long time. You needed to hang out in the family center or the parent/patient resource rooms and talk about needing to get out or have a break or de-stress. There were times I felt like there was a secret language I didn't know that I needed to know in order to get help. Then coordinator of the parent coffee hours on our floors started offering me a slot for reiki whenever it was available. One day, I didn't make it to coffee hour and she left a cookie at the nurse's desk outside of Henry's room for me. It made me cry, that simple kindness. All of this rushed back with this not quite full page of events and times.

I  opened this folder expecting to find useless info about a project that never happened, pages I could easily recycle, but instead I found notes that showed where I was weeks, days, before Henry died, busy, hopeful, looking forward to Christmas, deciding I really should try to get back to work, and completely oblivious to where I would find myself on December 17.

I'll tuck these pages back into my file holder, and next time I clean out my office I'll look at them again. Maybe then I'll be ready to toss them or maybe I'll hold on to them, useless and mundane as they are. Sometimes a to do list is hope incarnate.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I have opened up to joy again. I find beauty and love and sweetness in my life. I smile. I laugh. I congratulate new moms—and mean it.

I don't want anyone to know the world shattering pain of losing a child. But I get jealous, even a little bitter when I read or hear gushy stories about perfect births. I get that way too reading about people feeling strong and amazed with themselves after coming through a dangerous patch with their baby, health issues that have been resolved or seem to be resolving.

I feel petty saying it. I feel the need to apologize to all my friends who have lost a baby and then lost again or waited and waited and tried and tried. I feel the need to apologize to my friend Tricia who is an amazing mom who deserves to feel strong and amazed with her self for what she went through with her baby, who has been doing quite well (last I heard, knocking on wood and like safety measures) and whom I don't feel bitter at at all.

Maybe part of it is the gushiness. Certainly part is what I didn't get, but maybe it's the gushiness that feels like the naivety I lost even when the gushiness comes from somebody who knows how fragile life is, who had a far from perfect birth, who had a rough start. And maybe all this bile rises in me because of a sliver of life I see in a blog, the bit that somebody wants to put out there being the pride not the pain, the loveliness not the lost.

I've noticed lately that I still get jealous and bitter and even angry sometimes about what I don't have. Despite what I have. Despite feeling the love and the joy and the beauty in my life. Despite liking to think that I'm "better." Despite feeling a little bit gushy myself when I see Elizabeth laughing at Kathleen.

Monday, July 18, 2011

These days

These days I've been . . .

picking raspberries and making jam (raspberry alone, with rhubarb, with Cointreau) and sauce (raspberry with chocolate liqueur—so good on ice cream).

loving Elizabeth's belly laughs

smiling at Kathleen making Elizabeth laugh

struggling with a 2 1/2 year old's tantrums

chipping away at weeding the garden

pretending I have the summer off (dreading my next piece of work coming in this week)

enjoying garden meals (even if they are from a friend's garden, not my own)

watching Elizabeth getting ready to crawl (may be a while yet, but she's practicing)

turning watering the garden (a chore I usually hate) into a mediation of sorts

waiting for the red dahlias to pop in Henry's garden

remembering having Henry out with us, oxygen tank in the bottom of the stroller, while we worked in the garden

eating drippy homemade popsicles outside

sorting and cleaning and starting projects and making messes

staying up too late to enjoy the quiet.

What have you been up to these days?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Necklace

The day before we left for vacation, I bustled about cleaning things up in the garden, and the pear tree reached out and grabbed my forget-me-not necklace. The one that has survived two babies' grabby hands. The one my sister gave to me just after Henry died. The one I wore at first just on what I expected to be hard days. The one I at some point started wearing pretty much all the time.

For a long time it was a talisman against the world that didn't know I'd lost a baby. I'd put my hand to it frequently for comfort, for something to do when I told that news—or didn't. Now, as I find myself putting my hand to my bare neck again and again, I realize just how much. I probably have another silver chain somewhere that I could use with it, but I haven't had time to look.

I spent most of my pregnancy with Elizabeth feeling like I couldn't breathe. Some nights the necklace felt like it was constricting my breathing. I'd take it off, only to put it on again the next morning. I worried about the instructions not to wear jewelry to the hospital in my pre-birth anxiety I feared they would make me take it off. 

Yesterday, Kathleen noticed I wasn't wearing it and wanted to know why and where it was. She asked over and over and over and over as a two and half year old can. 

She wanted to see it, so I showed it to her. "Put it on, Mumma." I told it was broken, that I couldn't wear it until I fixed it and she lost it. For over an hour, she screamed and cried and kicked. She didn't want me to wear another necklace. She didn't want to wear another necklace. She didn't want to go up to her room with her dolls and special animals to hold. She didn't want stories or songs or other distractions. Finally, after some time with me and some time alone and some time with Brian, she agreed to come down for bacon. 

Even calm, she asked me again where it was. She heard me though and said, "Got stuck in pear tree." 

I don't know why it bothered her so much. I don't think she knows the significance. I don't know if she is just used to me wearing it and she was reacting as she might if I lost my glasses or got a drastically new haircut or if it was just the random thing at the moment that opened flood gates. 

The thing is I kind of like not having it on sometimes. It is like a haircut—it's surprising how cool and light it feels with it off. I have two chains upstairs, either of which will probably work, but I haven't made the switch because I'm not ready to put it on again. Maybe it's time to take it off, maybe replace it with a family necklace that represents all three of my babies. I know where it is if I need it. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Early Summer, 2011

There are strawberrys—whole and sliced with sugar and pureed for strawberry margaritas in my freezer—and jars of strawberry jam and strawberry rhubarb jam and strawberry-vanilla sauce in my closet.

Dinner tonight was pesto chicken (last years pesto from the freezer) with greens from our garden and peas from a friend.

Henry's garden is lush. My day lilies and Peter lilies are blooming. My delphinium is on the verge and my dahlias are growing, growing, growing.

I was out in the gardens today, tying up tomatoes, pruning shrubs, weeding just enough to be able to see what I've planted when I get back from vacation.

Tomorrow I will go to the coast to see my family. I'll feel the rhythm of the waves and breathe the salty fresh air. I'll be grounded and balanced again. I'll sit in the late afternoon breeze and wish I lived by the shore.

I will watch Kathleen run in and out of the waves, see her splash with her cousins, and I'll try to keep Elizabeth and her red-headed fairness and tender baby skin out of the sun.

Elizabeth will sit (new yesterday!) until she gets tired and takes a face plant. Kathleen will not nap and be fussy and tired like all the other kids. She will eat donuts and ice cream and all manner of things not good for you. It's vacation.

I will stay up too late with my mom and sisters and eat too much ice cream and play games and laugh and laugh and laugh until somebody pees their pants.

I will come back and call my friend and we will find a time to pick and start to fill jars with raspberries and beans, then tomatoes and blueberries and peaches and pickles. Because strawberries are just the beginning.

Happy summer (and for those of you not in it, look forward to it. It will come soon enough).