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Thursday, January 15, 2015


Dear Josie,

I know too much.

At my doctor's appointment last week, I told him about the dreams...well, nightmares, and the anxiety and the guilt and the isolation, and the intense, intense fear and the helplessness and the desperation. 

I asked him if there was anything to be done.  I just knew I was doing it wrong somehow, that my paranoia wasn't justified.  This particular doctor is brilliant, and has worked with many loss moms before me.  I asked him if he had any "tips", managed a chuckle, though I was incredibly serious.

He looked up from his notes, right into my eyes.  "No."

I like a brutal honesty as much as the next guy.  Don't tease me, don't lead me on.  I mean, I have been through the very worst thing, I can take it, just be honest with me.  And he was. 

I thought back to my first postpartum appointment, six weeks after you died.  My "regular" OB whom I still see, in conjunction with the high risk doctor.  I had asked her the same thing, in so many words.    "It will be terrible." She told me.  "Your next pregnancy will be terrible."

And 18 weeks in, I would have to agree.

You see, this time I have too much information.  I wish I didn't know so much.

I wish I didn't know what it felt like to harbor death, how it feels when the kicking stops.  I long for the days before my dreams were filled of static sounds, lone heartbeats on dopplers and the faces of panicked nurses.  I wish I didn't know that most funeral homes will absorb cremation costs for babies, or the price of a memorial tree in Forest Park, or how a grocery store cashier's eyes change when my son proudly declares he has a sister in Heaven.

I wish I didn't know these things, that I could pretend they didn't happen.

I wish two days after Christmas, when I first felt this baby kick, that it only provided an additional comfort to my black flannel pajamas with white polka dots.   I wish it hadn't made me cry, staining the couch with my oreo blizzard as I went running for your father.   I wish the right things hadn't preceded the wrong ones.  The best before the very worst. 

I wish the mundane details of January weren't so foreboding, that I didn't taste death in the frost that rimes my eyes.  I wish that the process of warming my car in the morning didn't remind me of my time with you.  A time cut far too short.  A time nearing its end as the snow fell.  A time I will never get back. 

I wish the Valentines displays didn't steal my breath, didn't send me spinning mid-aisle amidst the chocolate covered fruit.  I wish that candied hearts didn't break mine, didn't make me long for the girl I used to be, buoyant and na├»ve she peruses these same arrangements, one week before you left her. 

I wish that I could skip February altogether.  And March and April for that matter.  I wish I could wake up in May, on induction day.  I wish someone could tell me this baby will make it.  I wish I could believe them. 

Last week I took your brother to his doctor's appointment. As always, he asked to bring a toy and, as always, I said he could choose one.  His choice?  The large Ninja Turtle Blimp he has been sleeping next to since Christmas.  When I shook my head he asked me, quickly shifting the attention from my coffee.

"But I love it so much, Mom.  Why can't I have the things I love?"

And so we drove to the doctor.  Myself, your brother, and the two foot something green blimp in the seat just beside him.  And he smiled the entire way there.  And so did I. 

Maybe it's because that morning, I didn't have the requisite energy that an argument with a four year old entails.  Or maybe it's because I didn't have the answer, that I ask myself the same question every day.  But I think it's because of what I know.  This world of information that I have lived, this realization that I could, very easily, have been standing alone in that kitchen.  Or in another place entirely, never knowing how that mess of dusty waves feels against my cheek at bedtime, sitting just above those bright blue eyes.  Perhaps it's because I know all too well how grateful I should be, for this tiny slice of perfection staring up at me in confusion, just bursting with a love I couldn't possibly deserve. 

Or maybe I'm a pushover. 

Either way, we get ice cream on the way home.  


Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Dear Josie,

I like to think I'm okay.

It has been nearly eleven months since you left me, and I like to think I've accepted everything.  I won't say that I am happy about it, but I have accepted it.

Sometimes though, for no reason in particular I will be driving...or writing on a Promethean Board somewhere, or channeling my inner Michelangelo in a secret, basement, ninja turtle sewer lair and it will hit me.  This horrible, awful thing that happened to me, to my family, will hit me.  And I will feel like collapsing.

Most days I still can't comprehend that this actually occurs, cannot logically accept that babies die and then their mothers must give birth to them.  There are days where I nearly forget how it feels to lie in the most silent of rooms.  Quite honestly, it feels like this happened to a different person entirely.  I guess maybe that's the truest thing to be said of all.

A few weeks ago, when I announced this pregnancy to my students one of them raised her hand.

"Can I ask you something personal?  And you don't have to answer?"  I nodded.

"What happened to her, after she died? I mean like, did she..." her voice trailed off.

Some of the others scoffed at her question, unfinished, but I knew exactly what she wanted to ask me.

"I delivered her."  I answered, no hesitation.  "Just like my son."

Quickly her hands rose, covered the mouth that had bravely asked what no one else could.   Her eyes welled with tears and everyone grew silent, save for a gasp in the back row.

I was grateful for this question, and frankly for their response.  I was thankful that they hadn't considered such a horror, that somewhere, in the deep recesses of their sixteen-year-old minds there was a place you had gone.  Somewhere safe and logical, somewhere easy and removed from my physical involvement.  The place that I had wished for that night.  The place some mother is wishing for right now, as her husband begs the doctors to do something, anything, when he thinks she can't hear him.

It used to scare me too, this incomprehensible, unimaginable circumstance.  It used to be my nightmare, some dark thought I could escape with the right song.  It's a part of me now, that morning.  My biggest fear and my greatest accomplishment, forever both a memory and a possibility.

After class she approached my desk, apologized for the innocence that had prompted such a question.  I shook my head and I hugged her.

I read something once, about the ripple effect.

The article spoke of the effect we have on our children.  It said that children are the ripples of our existence, our impact growing and stretching long after we are gone.  For awhile I resented this piece.  How backwards that analogy seems after losing a child.  How difficult it was to keep afloat, still water for miles around my thrashing, defiant limbs.

But what if this were part of it?  Your lasting effect.  Your legacy. 

What if when they left my classroom, they knew more than the steps of the carbon cycle or the location of ribosomal RNA?  What if they had proof that hope is indestructible?  That even through the darkest of times, one might still stand.

Maybe then they could look back someday, from their own respective tragedies.  Graveside, or from their hospital beds as they feel the pull from underneath, as they consider letting go. 

Maybe then they could remember, let the ripple brush their sides. 

Perhaps that is the lesson, only I could never take the credit.  You see, I have had the very best teacher. 

I am but a student myself.


Sunday, January 4, 2015


Dear Josie,

I'm convinced this is the bravest I'll ever be. 

The morning after we got the news I called my doctor, set up my first six week appointment as one would with any pregnancy.  Then I called my perinatologist, left a message with his secretary.  He called me at work an hour later, congratulated me and asked when I could come in for blood work and my self-injection lesson.

I glanced at my planner.  "How's Friday?"

He paused.  "We'd like to see you today."

Nothing about this pregnancy has been easy.  Maybe it's because when I glance at my stomach as it slightly protrudes over the elastic waistbands, I picture the ten month old who should be crawling at my feet. 

Maybe it's because I never owned a Doppler before you.

I was explaining said instrument to a co-worker the other day, the hand-held monitor used to detect the baby's heartbeat in utero.  She was surprised.  "I didn't know doctors gave those out now!"

They don't.  You have to buy them.

I've described my relationship with this device as love-hate.  Like a really, really, intense love, and a dreadful, fearing, seething hatred.  Some may find this description to be dramatic, but I can assure you I feel both emotions with every use.

People ask me how I'm doing, how I'm feeling, and maybe it's because I can't bear to tell them the truth.

I can't tell them how every time someone asks about this baby I wonder if I'm a liar.  If, while I'm smiling and nodding and responding to questions about genders and due dates,  I'm wondering if this baby is dead too, and I just don't know it yet.

Maybe it's because with every day that passes, I am slightly more hopeful but mostly more afraid.  I envision a bigger baby I will have to say goodbye to.  I picture my living room as a funeral home, beautiful flowers and cards lining the fireplace. 

Maybe it's because I stare at all the holiday lights and Christmas trees and I miss you.  I just miss you so much. 

Over Thanksgiving, my amazingly caring and adorable seven year old nephew approached me.  "Aunt Nora, if this baby is sick can we get another tree next to Josie's?"  Your brother's eyes lit up as he grabbed my hand.  "Pleeeeeaaase??!!"

Perhaps it's because this question, once considered morbid and scary, provides me with such a comfort.  To know the horror of this loss and the fear that rages within me does not penetrate their innocence.  To know they could ask such a thing and return happily to their Lego battle made me smile. 

But I think it's because despite all of my efforts to distance myself from this baby, I cannot. 

I cannot evict the hope that resides deep within me.  When I think of holding him or her, pink and screaming in my arms I can't help but smile, can't stop the euphoria from taking residence in this skin ever so briefly. 

It's because every time I hear that heartbeat, time and again I check for its presence, I am ruined.  Lessons learned are rendered useless, resolved to dreams of happy endings as if I had never lost you. 

The shots aren't bad.   The medication stings, slow and steady as it enters the skin and for several minutes afterwards.  I get these hideous bruises all over my stomach, had a paper cut last week that bled for over a minute.

But I don't care.  I don't care about any of that. 

If they told me I needed to stab myself every hour on the hour, walk into a burning building or let a pack of wild hyneas gnaw at my extremities I would do it.  I would do it for your brother.  I would do it for this baby.  I would have done it for you.

Did you know that needles used to scare me?

Truthfully, I don't even feel it.