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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."



  1. Hi Nora, I just want to say thank you for writing. I've connected with you through the 3rd trimester loss BabyCenter group (I've not very vocal on there though) and the facebook group of pregnancy after 3rd trimester loss. I love the name Josephine and the nickname Josie - it was actually one of my top choices (and my husband's was Nora!) but we settled on Lydia, or Lydie, instead. Lydie was stillborn in November when I was 34 weeks pregnant. And like you, I have a son at home. I find nodding a lot while reading through your writing, especially because I'm now 7 weeks pregnant.

    1. Heather, Congratulations! I love the name Lydie, also :)

      Thank you for reading, and I wish you all the best in this pregnancy. For me, it has certainly been a roller coaster of crazy emotions, and I have yet to be able to actually visualize this baby being okay; however connecting to women like you through writing, support groups, and BBC has helped tremendously. Thank you for your comment. I will be thinking of you!

  2. Nora, I received your blog info from Maggie with Mercy Heartprints. I have now read all your Dear Josie posts and I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. It has been helpful to hear from someone going through the same struggles and feelings. We also live in St. Charles county and have had all our care through Mercy. In reading this last post I realized that we had our last appt at the maternal fetal care center on the morning of March 5th (the same day that you were there before this post). This was the last time we would see our baby move and hear his little heart. I went in for decreased movement on March 7th (at 37 +5) and our worst nightmare was confirmed. I delivered our angel baby on March 9th. He is our first and only baby. The pain and grief is unimaginable but your posts offer some comfort. I look forward to reading more posts and I will pray for you, your family, and especially your rainbow baby on the way.

    1. Sara, I am so deeply sorry for the loss of your son. Every time I hear of another family who has to endure this pain, I am angered, and I am heartbroken for you.

      Maggie has been a godsend. I truly don't know how we would have navigated the initial days and weeks after Josie's death without her tender guidance and support, and attending the Heartprints meetings has enabled me to see women and families who are years from their loss. In the beginning, this was especially important for me, because there were days where I didn't believe I would make it to the next day.

      I want to thank you for reading, and for taking the time to comment here, for your kind words and prayers. I hope that in your sadness, there is also some comfort in the understanding that you are never alone. We walk this road together. :) I will be thinking of you, keeping your family and your son in my thoughts and prayers. If you would ever like to get together feel free to send me an email or add me on Facebook (if you have an account!) "Nora LaFata".

      Keeping you in my heart, Sara.


    2. Sara, I lost my daughter on March 7th. They resuscitated her many times. We took her off life support on the 8th. Full term. Lost in the literal last moments of labor.

      I don't know what to say, just that I am with you. Right there with you on this path. I hope you are surrounded by love.