Thursday, May 31, 2012


My big little girl had an epic meltdown today. In the library. The kind that had me trying to pick her up (with the little girl in the backpack) without getting kicked to hustle her out of there. The kind that threatened to become what the whole day looked like, even though it lasted maybe 20 minutes.

I finally got her outside, where our lovely, tiny farmers market was going on. There was a string band playing and people hula hooping and green all around. The river burbled past behind a wrought iron fence. All I could think about was the struggle to get back to the car.

She wasn't ready to leave and I wasn't ready to push her, so I got out snacks for both of them and let them roam. She continued to test me, doing exactly what I asked her not to do until I finally got a the little girl screaming back in to the back pack, grabbed my bags, and corralled the big girl.

"Do you want a massage?"

I looked at the chair longingly. "That would be great, but . . . " I trailed off waving at the kids.

"Oh, they'll be fine." She asked if was okay to give them as snack, one of the breads from one of the booths.

I nodded, shrugged off the backpack.

"I saw you with that backpack and thought, she needs a massage." (Did she also see the desperation in my eyes? The how am I going to make it through bedtime look?)

I sat on the chair, pocketed my glasses and leaned into the headrest. She kept talking to my kids, so I trusted the were still there, close enough to reach. I just settled in and let go. At one point I felt tears welling deep within me and breathed through them. I don't know if they were the post-birthday release or the muscle memory of being massaged after Henry died or simply the sheer kindness of taking care of myself for two minutes.

I could have sat there for hours, but those few minutes reset me somehow. Even with the backpack back on I felt lighter. I smiled at Kathleen and thanked her for her patience and for sharing with sister and from keeping her calm.

Walking down the stairs after reading and singing and tucking them in, I felt the weight of that meltdown still holding down my day, but I was able to put it aside and see the cool, dry sunshine on the grass by the river. I was able to remember the four perfect red strawberries we picked from our garden this afternoon and Kathleen's wide eyes and Yummy! I let in the snuggles and stories on the couch with my girls in jammies and found my way back to the golden, molten sun behind the pines, the broad rays stretching between the branches as the morning mist slowly faded away as I walked and walked and walked with the little girl and her blankie just because we were both up and the world was quiet.

Twenty minutes almost stole my day, but those precious two gave it all back to me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Five and the Best Laid Plans

My plan for the day:
family breakfast of fried egg sandwiches
listen to You Are My Little Bird in the morning
plant flowers at his grave
work in Henry's garden today
have cupcakes with friends

This morning Brian stayed in bed after being up late with a feverish Elizabeth. I was leaving early to get Elizabeth to the walk-in hours at the doctors. No family breakfast.

I had a little time to spare, so I went to put the music on and the CD player closed and then opened and wouldn't close again. I fiddled with it for a bit, getting frustrated. No music in the morning.

And then I started to laugh. I don't know why I would think anything would go as planned on this day. Five years ago he was born, a day earlier than planned, and nothing, nothing really went as planned after that.

I ate my fried egg sandwich, much like the one I ate the day he was born. I made one for Kathleen. Brian got up. I got Elizabeth in the car, and turned the music on there.

After seeing the doctor (Elizabeth seemed fine except for that fever), we all went to the cemetery together. As Brian stopped the car, in one of those coincidences or something more, "Peace Like a River" was playing, which was perfect. I often find myself not knowing what to say when we visit Henry's grave. Today I sang "Peace LIke a River' as I worked. Kathleen helped me dig a hole and water. Elizabeth tried to pull up flags. Brian blew bubbles.

Despite oppressive heat, I spent much of the day in Henry's garden, as I did last year. I loosened soil and weeded heavily and split and moved plants. I still need to add compost and transplant a few things and add a few things from some sweet friends who know that is what I do for his birthday.

We had dinner and cupcakes with our friend who asked so earnestly that first winter " 'Enry 'ome?" and his sister who had promised to help Henry on the bus his first day of school.

That's what a fifth birthday looks like here, for now. Five. My boy would be five.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Right Where I Am: 4 Year, 5 Months, 7 Days

His pictures are dusty, like everything else in the house. Some nights I forget to turn the memory lamps on until I find myself stumbling in the dark. His garden needs weeding, mulching, tending, though I’ve purposefully put that off until his birthday next week.

He feels far away. Distant. Separate. Sometimes he feels unreal.

When Henry was born and diagnosed and taken away and sent home with oxygen and sheets of follow up appointments, all I wanted was normal, a normal baby, a normal life. My life is normal now, ordinary, full of figuring out what to have for dinner and running errands and defusing or waiting out tantrums. It’s filled with snuggles and reading stories and early morning (and middle of the night) wake ups. It’s normal, but he’s gone. I laugh. I watch my girls grow and change and amaze me. I notice the beauty around me and the abundance and the fullness of my life. And he is gone.

In this month of May, as his birthday looms close, I am wound tightly. The missing bubbles more to the surface, needing more attention. May is still tender; December still a month of apprehension.

On Tuesday, he will (would) turn five. He should start kindergarten this fall. Friends announce kindergarten screenings and open house on Facebook, and I remember watching with him as our neighbor started kindergarten, remember telling him how she would help him on the bus his first day. It seems so long ago that I was doing that. It seems so strange he will never get on that bus.

I’m still working on letting go of baby stuff he used (or never got to use). I'm still working on letting go of jealousy and resentment. I’m realizing how much his death affected my ability to talk to other moms when my oldest daughter was born, how that still affects me today.

Where am I right now? I’m here in this blossoming spring, here with my garden filling up, here with two little girls who get out in the dirt and should have tubbies every day. I’m here trying to figure out what it is I want to do with my life. I’m here trying to find balance between being with my girls and making space for me. I’m here still sorting out with my husband who we are now as individuals and how we work as a couple. I’m here, uncertain how much some of this has to do with losing a baby and how much it has to do with having a baby at all or having two little ones running around.

I am here, where from the outside it may look like I "got through it", and maybe this is what getting through it is, getting to this point where the missing is part of the ordinary, where the missing becomes almost like breathing, something your body does with out thought or excess energy. There are moments and days that still sear and sting and wipe me out, but they become rarer. And I bounce back more quickly, either because I’ve had practice or because my well has refilled some and I have reserves again.   

I am here, 4 years, 5 months, 7 days since I held him for the last time. That he is not here can never be normal, but that he is not here is part of my normal. I feel this, though it still confounds my brain sometimes. 

—part of Angie's Right Where I Am 2012 project
Right Where I Was (2011)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Another Piece

This photo of Henry is one of my favorites. No oxygen, no cannula hiding his face. He's so alert and focused. So healthy.

He's in his car seat, the Graco Snugride in neutral colors that I registered for. He's in his car seat ready to go. Truth be told, he didn't like the car seat much. He wailed on most car rides. He cried when we tried to take a walk with the car seat as part of a stroller. Here, though, he looks content, with a tease of a smile.

All three of my babies came home in that car seat. They went in it to visit family, take walks, go to appointments. The cried in it and slept in it and spit up in it.

Five minutes ago, a young women showed up at my doorstep looking for the car seat I had offered to Freecycle. I handed it to her with a smile, told her I was glad it would get another use, but as she walked down the steps and I watched the familiar green, blue, and tan plaid move away from me, this image of Henry grabbed me and I wanted to snatch it back.

I remind myself that there is now a little more room in the barn and the attic, that we won't have to pay to get rid of the car seat, that somebody else will extend it's life before it gets relegated to a landfill. It's not something I can hold tight, nor something I can save to pass on to my girls. It makes sense to let it go. Rationally, I know this, but still, sometimes I find myself wanting to hold on to the things he touched and used, as if by doing so I could better hold on to him.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

To all the mothers I've met

I walked today with our local support group to remember Henry and all the babies gone too soon. I walked to remember the babies I've come to know through their mother's words. I walked to honor their mothers. I have met so many wonderful, amazing women on this journey, and I'm so grateful for them (and if you are reading this, that likely means you). Wishing you a peaceful, gentle mother's day.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Stumbling Gratitude

I should know better what to do, what to say. I should be clear on what not to say. I should know there is no right thing, no magic thing, nothing that will really help. And yet, I want to say the right thing, the magic thing, the thing that really helps. And I worry about saying the thing that comes out wrong that hurts where it means to help. I want so much to help and feel helpless.

As I stumble through my friend's loss gracelessly, I think back to all the friends who stumbled through with me, all the people who didn't know what to say or do who offered words and hugs and silence for me to fill or not. I think of the people who sent cards and made donations and brought meals, the people who let me talk and cry after, long after, years after, who didn't shy away or change the subject, the ones who still remember his birthday and when he died. It's been almost five years since Henry was born, four and half since he died, and I'm welling with gratitude for the many people in my life who stood in the uncomfortable place of not knowing what to do and simply tried, because there are no right words, no magic things, because nothing really helps, but doing nothing at all surely hurts.