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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pretty Things.

Dear Josie,

Your father and I met at a bar.  Someday I had hoped to tell you the story, so I guess I'll tell you now.

I had just finished my first month teaching and I was attending a group happy hour on the landing with friends.  He happened to be there with a group of his own.  There were drinks.  There was dancing.  (It was a piano bar, after all!) I noticed him immediately, and to this day I am proud of myself for making the first move.  I remember sitting across from him after one too many Rum and Cokes.  He looked at me and he asked, "So what, are you going to kiss me now?"  And I did.

The piano player was taking requests, and we both submitted the same 'Outfield' song from the eighties.  I considered it a sign. Of course now, the lyrics take on a whole new meaning:  "Josie's on a vacation far away..."

Our first official "date" was the 2008 Blues Home Opener.  He texted and asked if I liked hockey, to which I responded "I love hockey!"  Truthfully, I had never been to a game, and as I waited for him to pick me up from the apartment I shared with your aunt, she gave me a mini-lesson on all the current players' names. 

It was a wonderful year, filled with so many wonderful things.  Our first Christmas together, birthday parties and familial introductions, "Two Bottle Tuesdays" and way too many late night karaoke sessions.  I had never felt with anyone, how I felt with your father. It was fun and it was easy, and I loved him almost immediately.  If you ask him he would tell you when exactly he knew he was going to marry me.  It was around our fifth or sixth date on the drive home from a Cardinals night game.  He played his David Bowie CD and we sang, "Oh You Pretty Things" as loud as we could the whole way home. 

Nearly one year to the day after we met, we found out I was pregnant.  It was not planned.  We were not married.  We didn't even live together.  I had my reservations about becoming a mom at 24, leaving behind all the bottomless margaritas and two am dance parties.  I questioned if I'd be good enough, if I could handle it, but I never once questioned your father. 

That fateful night as I stumbled, hysterically, out of the bathroom and into his arms, I sobbed that I wasn't ready.   Initially, through all of my "we can't be parents" and "how could this have happened's" and the "am I going to be fired's"... he seemed scared too, digging the pamphlet out of the trash can, frantically scanning every inch for some disclaimer, evidence that we had read the test incorrectly.  And then he set it on the dresser.  Calmly.  He turned to me and he said, "Okay, so we'll paint the next room."

I don't have to tell you that your brother is the best thing that ever happened to us.  That he is the best "mistake" we ever made, the accident I never deserved.  That sometimes, when I think about how much I love him it gets hard to breathe.  And when I think back to that night, to the fear that kept me awake until the blood test confirmation the next morning, I have to chuckle.  That girl who was so afraid, hadn't a clue what fear really was.

It used to make me sad to look at other couples.  The ones who had more time for just each other before becoming parents.  The ones who traveled together, who had years of bar hopping and mountain hiking and  dinner parties behind them as a twosome. The ones who picked out and meticulously decorated their first home together, down to the shutter color.  I used to wonder if we truly belonged together, or if we'd been rushed into things, forced into this life and these obligations too soon. 

Now I know things.

I know how it feels to watch the love of your life crumble, to crumble with him, to lay shattered together for months, each of you trying desperately to salvage what's left of the other. 
I know that there are more important things to stress over than money or laundry or dinner.
I know that during the most difficult moments of life you will crave a certain touch, one specific smell.  That one person can convince you to continue.
I know there are many fortunate couples who will live for fifty years and never bury a child, but might always wonder if they are with that person.
I know that I am with that person.
I know that after the death of a child, the divorce rate in my country jumps to 80 percent. I know that time is meaningless, essentially.  That you can live a lifetime in a weekend.
I know statistics make me laugh.

This past weekend was the annual SHARE Angel Ball.  Your father and I were honored to attend this event as ambassadors.  Last year, Team Josie raised over three thousand dollars for this organization.  While we ate, I thought of all the families in the room so deeply affected by baby loss, of all the future families that SHARE will help. We felt so incredibly humbled to be sitting in that room, and so very proud to be your parents. 

There was an auction, and I marveled at all the beautiful jewelry, the bags and the home d├ęcor. Your father reminded me, as he often does, of the hundreds of bracelets and necklaces and purses hanging in our room.  Perhaps we could bid on something to do as a family instead?  He reminded me that we are saving.  Saving for this baby and saving for a bigger house, hopefully in the next year or two, and so I nodded and we continued to enjoy our dinner.

At the end of the night, the auctioneer described the very last item:   The commemorative SHARE Angel Ball bracelet.  The bid was one hundred dollars. 

He turned to me and asked, "Is it pretty?"  I nodded.

And then he raised his card.



Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Dear Josie,
I believe in a mother's intuition.

In December of 2013 we took a vacation.  Your father, your brother and I, along with your grandparents and your aunts, traveled to Florida the day after Christmas and returned after New Years.  It was wonderful.  I was six months pregnant with you.

We stayed in a lovely condominium, and during our time there the three (well... four) of us would share a room, and also a bed.  It was a large bed, but I was getting bigger by the day.  Most nights I would wake to your brother on top of me, and after a swift elbow to the ribs I would end up on the comfy, spacious leather couch in the living room instead.

Very early one morning, I awoke to a strange thumping on my palm.   When I opened my eyes, I noticed that my hand was lying directly atop your brother's chest.  He was fast asleep but his heart was pounding.  Rapidly.  Enough to wake me.

I can't really explain how I felt then, only to say I felt different.  Like I was being watched in that moment.  Like someone was trying to tell me something.  It was so silent in the room, so dark, and I remember thinking:  I am supposed to notice this.  Like I was meant to wake then.  Like my hand was placed where it was for a reason. 

I stared at him for awhile, wondered what he was dreaming about.   When it didn't slow I began to worry, because that's what mothers do.

Why was his heart still racing?  Wasn't it too fast?  Did this happen every night? Was it the heart murmur he had as a newborn? Hadn't that resolved?  Did he have some condition we didn't know about?

I made a point to check on him the next night, and the night after that, and after we returned home.  I talked to your father about it.  I googled "pediatric resting heart rate" and "how fast should your heart beat when you are sleeping?" and "heart murmur complications".  I thought about it often, and I almost, almost made a call to our pediatrician, only I never noticed it again. 

And so we went about our normal routines.  We unpacked.  We put away the Christmas decorations.  We returned to work and to school.  I went back to being the blissfully pregnant person I had been with you, the person who actually looked forward to her ultrasounds.  The person who couldn't wait for that Doppler to be placed on her stomach.  The person whose babies never died.

And so, three weeks later, when the ultrasound technician made the comment that you "wouldn't be the biggest baby in the nursery," but assured me that you were still within the normal growth range, I forced myself to ignore the sinking feeling in my stomach.

And when a friend suggested we sign up for a breastfeeding class together, I didn't question my hesitation to register.  Didn't wonder why I waited so long, filling the very last slot on the very last day.  Never questioned my reluctance.  Didn't wonder why it felt strange putting my name on that line. 

And it never bothered me that I had tons of baby dreams while pregnant with your brother, as I have had several while carrying this baby, but I never had any during your pregnancy.  Not one. 

That feeling.  That feeling in my gut that kept rising alongside some artificial confidence. 

Looking back, I can point to the signs.  I can say “Yes, there.  I should have seen," because I believe I always knew you were different.  On some strange, indescribable level, I think I was trying to see, all the while not wanting to open my eyes.

Perhaps it's why six weeks after our vacation when you stopped moving, I knew you were gone.

Why I drank the cold water like they tell you to. Why I ate the fruit and lay on my side and wait.  And poke.  And wait.   And knew.

Why I told your father not to come with me to the hospital, because I could see the hope in his eyes, but I already knew.

Why I wanted to be wrong more than I have ever wanted anything.  Why I knew that I wasn't. 

Because as it happens, there had been a message in that room.  There had been something to worry about, only it hadn't involved your brother at all.

It was you.