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Thursday, March 26, 2015


Dear Josie,

In class yesterday, we watched a short video clip on the Darwin Beetle mating strategy. 

The male makes his way to the top of the tree where the female awaits, only his journey isn't an easy one.  He must fight his way to the top.

Slowly, he climbs the tree, jostling the other candidates.  Gradually, intently, he pries them from the bark, lifts them above his head and over the side.  A strength that isn't visible externally.  A purpose he is forced to master, for the sake of survival.

The class always loves this clip. 

Someone inevitably asks if the unfortunate souls who are cast off the side of the tree will die with the fall.  Yesterday, someone answered for me.

"Their exoskeleton protects them."

I have had people tell me it's too hard. 

They can't look at the pictures.  Can't read about you.  Their love for me makes it impossible to examine, how truly awful this is.  Simply put, it is too difficult for them to entertain.   As if this life were some horribly sad movie.  As if it were that easy to walk away from. 

And what I say is that I understand.  And maybe I would have felt similarly, 396 days ago.  Maybe I wouldn't begrudge them the luxury of looking away. "You're right.  Let's see something else instead."

Only I don't understand.  

Of course it's too hard.  It was too hard that night, that morning.  It is too hard now. 

It's too hard when my chest tightens during the Pampers commercial, when my fingers, pathetic and shaking and heavy, attempt the Evite Response:  "2 adults and 1 kid." 

It's too hard to enter rooms we shared together.  Innocent chairs and desks and sheets that were once privy to your existence, grazing a skin that housed you, and I must fill them.  Daily.  In your absence.

Every family dinner is too hard.  Every celebration. Every car ride.  Every season. 

It's too hard to live without you.  It's too hard to keep breathing.  It's too hard and it's unfair and it's inconceivable, but I can't turn away. Can't ignore the enormity of this loss in every aspect of my life. In all of the big, protruding, obvious places and in all the tiny crevices.  Can't decline the invitation.  Can't scroll past.  And they get that.  I think. 

What I want for them to know is that I love this pain.  I welcome the "hard". 

I want them to embrace it with me, to see that when I'm crying, white-knuckles flailing at the barren, desolate, nothingness that is often life without you, that this is when I am loving you most acutely.   This is when I am closest to you.  When you are most intensely mine. 

I want them to acknowledge the fear, to see beyond it.  To come running in these moments, hands grasping for mine in the darkness.  I want them to feel how much I love you in every photograph, in every word. For them to meet you there with me. 

So while it could potentially make for the more agreeable conversation, the easier transition, if I were to smile and politely agree. 

"Of course, I understand."
"Turn away if you must."
"Save yourself."

Please know that these statements are as empty as your crib, my darling.  For this shell that surrounds me now is just as they described.  Too. Hard. 

This same pain that slows the climb is also the love that cushions the fall, and I wouldn't trade one tear for a thousand smiling faces. 

It is something you have given me.   It is something I have earned.
It is something I wear proudly, necessarily.

It is something I'll never run from.


Thursday, March 19, 2015


Dear Josie,

I saw you today.

I came home late and your father was already in bed, sound asleep.  Exhausted, I lay down next to him.  As I reached to steal some covers there you were. 

It was the first thing I thought when they handed you to me, how your mouth was just like his. I memorized your every feature, as any mother would.  It is the reason I can see you now.   And it's why I was able to smile, amidst the shock and devastation that morning, because you were so familiar.  Because I could see them in you. 

And so on this damp, March night I got a glimpse of you in the dark, as I have often done before.  My daughter in the bow of his lips, trembling softly while he dreams of seeing the same.

I don't mind finding you here, in my bed.  In our kitchen.  Sitting next to me in the car. How you laugh with me during SNL anniversary shows, or when your brother attempts to say the word "Hyundai". It is your smile, my rescue, when I'm so afraid of losing this baby that I begin to shake uncontrollably.  Your lips that tell me to be strong.

Actually, you are other places too. 

I hear your voice in his, high-pitched and innocent and green.  In all of the "can we have pancakes?" and "are we there yet's?" and "I love you, mommy's", a  wavelength I could never ignore.  It is your eyes, the softest blue, so watchful of my every move.  Your embrace, within sweaty fingers as we cross the street. 

And every night at story time he will remove his socks, and I will count your long, skinny toes while pulling covers to his cheeks.

Each and every time, I am reminded that you're still here.  Still with us.  Within these familial walls and wherever we go, genetically bound to our physical presence on this Earth, increasingly remembered, and very much a part of everything that we do. 

And each and every time, it hurts.  Steals my breath and stops me, mid-sentence or narration, and for a moment I can do nothing more but long for you.  My daughter, my baby girl, in a room full of smiling faces on Christmas morning, or in the softest of beds on a chilly Tuesday night. 

Last week I was driving to a support group, of all places.  It was nearly seven o'clock and the sun was beginning to set as I approached an elevated overpass.   For a moment I hovered at the top.   It was yellow and it was warm, and I felt you there next to me.

I could see everything below, all of the people, hurriedly, scattered and distracted.  The same view as was before you, only I hadn't wanted to change.

And I could have stayed forever, parked there in my thoughts of you.  It's how I feel when I see find you in the contours of a cheek, or a simple mannerism.   How I want those moments to freeze forever.  How they're all that I have.

But I descend, as we all must, into this life without you. Merge into the beautifully tragic details, into our attempted understanding.

And so I'm moving forward.  Always a little without, though I'm beginning to favor this perspective.  Strange, how I'm seeing so much more.

One eye on the bridge ahead.

And one in the rearview.


Friday, March 6, 2015


Dear Josie,

I read somewhere that the world record for holding one's breath is around twenty-two minutes.  Impressive, sure, but it's no nine months.

I think about things this time.  Will he or she look like you?  In all of the normal, non-morbid ways, of course, but I also ponder other things.  Things that existed before you, only I never thought about them.  Things like fingernail color:  will this baby's be pink, as the blood vessels expanding beneath them?  Will they be gray, as yours were, from the oxygen depletion?

I used to fear these thoughts, ashamed of these changes within myself. The awkward, off-putting, scattered ideas that chase well-meaning friends away.  The ones with the choices I no longer possess:  the option to turn away from the picture.  Not to read.  Friends who live in worlds where gray remains in the Crayola box. 
And they pick it up from time to time, and it adds a beautiful shadow to their pictures, but they have never birthed the color.  It is never their creation.  They have never held it, still and profound, turned it lovingly in their fingers. 

For months I would check this baby's heartbeat, and there is only one thing I would say. 

Mostly I would say it to myself, silently in my head.  Sometimes it was aloud.  I have said it in the storage space behind my classroom, on carpets and on couches, in hotels and while on-hold with insurance companies, shaky hands gripping thick, white plastic.  I have said it on Thanksgiving morning and on Christmas Eve. 

"Please," in bed before closing my eyes.
"Please," at my computer desk.
"Please," in the car after work. 

And I know what I am begging for.  It's what I begged for the day you died.  We were moving your brother to his new make room, for you.  Sitting just beneath the window that morning while sorting a trillion Lego pieces I felt you kick me.  And I'm not sure it was the last time, but it's the last time I can remember.

Gently, I pulled your brother to my lap.  "Here,"  I had said, placing his hand.  "Can you feel your sister?"

And there was nothing.  There was nothing for the longest time.   And I remember saying please.

Please don't leave me.
Please, I need her.
Please don't let this happen.

The other day I noticed something.  While parking for my 24 week ultrasound I felt this baby kick, so strong and so sure from deep inside that I nearly jumped the curb.  I never miss one anymore.  This perpetual anticipation, this constant longing for proof of life.

Minutes later as I sat in the waiting room a wave of panic came over me, as it often does now.  For no reason and without trigger, my heart will run and my hands will sweat and I will know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this baby is gone. 

I set down my magazine, and I asked the receptionist if I had time to use the restroom down the hall.  "Just use this one, hun," she pressed the button, opened the large doors to her left.

And I walked, hurriedly, past the rooms.  Past the curtains hiding pregnant mothers just inside, heard the heartbeats of their babies on the monitors, the varying accelerations loudly thumping in my head.  And I was shaking.  And I was sure I wouldn't hear it again. 

Inside the bathroom there was barely time to flip the light and I was sitting, back against the wall, sprawled on the floor.  The cold, gross, white tile bathroom floor that gets mopped once a day if I'm lucky.  The beautiful, isolated, holy ground where I would search in vain.  Where I would surely learn my baby has died for the second time. 

I pulled the aloe from my purse, then the Doppler.  Five seconds crawling by and then I heard it, one hundred forty-two beats per minute. 

I pictured myself walking back down that hallway and into the parking lot, driving home in a haze.  I saw myself telling your father, your brother, heard the vacuum collect the dried rose petals.  On my tongue, the pungent mustard from the donated deli sandwiches, the bitter chocolate from the edible arrangement. 

In the twenty steps to this room I had lived another death, only there hadn't been a "please," and I realized something then.

I realized that I will always be scared.  You have left me this way, but because of you I will always be something else, too. 
The words left my mouth as they had a million times before, but I felt them in a way I never used to.  I felt them in a way I never could have without you,  without the gray.  Feel them now in a way others cannot. 

These words I must have said, but never truly felt in all of your nudges from within.  This gratitude, aloud to my cold, tile audience on a Thursday afternoon. 

"Thank you."