Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I am tired.


Worn out.

It's everything. It's physical, I don't sleep well. Even when I do or when I get enough sleep, I still feel tired. It's mental, I can't always think clearly or focus on what I need to (er, that may not be a new thing). It's emotional, I'm tired of the weight of grief, of bottling up how I feel, of letting go how I feel.

It hangs on me like a mantle. I find myself saying it over and over. I'm tired.

I mean

I'm sad I'm lonely I'm in need of sleep I'm in need of comfort I'm in need of something to say that won't cause you to give me that pitying look I'm exhausted I don't want to move Excuse my outburst Excuse my silence Excuse my lapse in concentration Leave me be Ask what is really wrong with me

I'm tired.

It all just seems so overwhelming today. Last night was awful, it all spilled out. All the stuff I guess I'd carefully tucked away for a couple of weeks wasn't gone like I hoped, just waiting for my defenses to lower and . . . whoosh . . . the crazy spills out all over the place. Peaks and troughs, right? It all just seems so pointless today; I genuinely can't answer the question 'why bother?' . . . I assume there is a reason, but it's too far out of reach right now and I'm so tired.

And I don't see an end. I just want to sit down and quit life for awhile. Recharge my energies, rest. But there is no rest, no energy. Just plodding onwards, for reasons I don't know.


I feel defeated.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

One decision made for us

Yesterday I got a knock at the door, which startled me. No one but food delivery people or neighbors knock on the front door and I certainly had not ordered Chinese. Fortunately it was not a neighbor complaining about our vocal animals or a robber with a gun intent on stealing our broken down laptop, it was actually the postman.

He had a package, which I signed for. I opened it up to find a package from a group of my friends. For a long time we've celebrated big achievements and births by sending good wishes and funds to one person who coordinates them and puts them into a card and buys a gift and sends it off. They did the same for me.

I found a package of kind words and well-wishes from my friends which I'll have to read again, because I was crying too hard to get much out of it the first time, but there are a few things that stood out - Rachel welcoming me, bittersweetly, to motherhood, Tamsyn's beautiful poem for Gabriel, Joel's description of the box that was also contained in the package.

The box is a wooden box from Morocco that opens to a small interior. Not much bigger than the palm of my hand all together, the wood is highly polished to show all the knots and whirls and imperfections. It's beautiful. Joel said that she had purchased it in Morocco years ago, but had always felt that it was not intended for her to own and that now she knew why she bought it. Inside was a blue pouch which contained a silver chain with a peridot bead and a stamped oval with a Bible verse: "The angel said, I am Gabriel and I stand in the presence of God." It hit in me the gut the way nothing else touching on God or religion has since the moment I knew Gabriel would be born and would die. I guess I really, really want that to be true - it hit me with the ring of truth, anyway, and made me think about something I'd pushed aside.

DH saw the box and read the notes this morning (he got home late, having attended the football game at our alma mater with some friends yesterday). He commented on how beautiful it was and so I asked him what I'd been thinking about all along, from the second I laid eyes it. Can we put Gabriel's ashes inside?

He blinked and nodded. We weren't sure they would fit, and it meant opening that box, and taking them out, which neither of us particularly wanted to do. It was a hard moment, to see ourselves what is left of our son, just how little is left and what that is. We both gulped and blinked back tears and I quickly thrust that bag into the blue bag that had previously been in the box and tucked it inside, where it fits perfectly.

I don't know if years ago, someone in Morocco had any idea when they made that little box that it would be bought a woman who would hold onto it for the right time, and that it would make the best final resting place for my tiny son's remains. But it does, and for that I am grateful. A weight I did not know I felt has been lifted.

Thank you all, my hos, for that gift, which is bigger than you can have known when it was sent.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Question For You

For anyone who is reading this. Just curiosity, really, as I feel ready to begin exploring this topic for myself.

Do you believe in God? What God? What religions, what denomination? Do you practice actively or no? Tell me why you believe what you believe.

I thank you in advance.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What Hurts

It's astonishing the things that slip through. I protect myself by avoiding certain things (like, baby sites, like stories with happy pregnancies, people who suck, etc), and I try to be forebearing and find grace.

You know, last night I watched FlashForward - which I LOVED and highly recommend, btw, which may doom it to cancellation, but it's really awesome - and there is a pregnant woman shown, with the possibility of seeing a lot more of that. It didn't phase me at all, except to make me roll my eyes a bit at the unrealistic portrayal of of a couple of things.

But doing expense reports? That made me cry. I was approving expenses and came across a very odd one - supplies for the lactation room. It was actually listed as 'breast pump parts and supplies' and I thought it was funny. I showed it to a coworker and we chuckled over it and over the accounting coding used for it. And then I went back to my office and it hit me dead in the chest . . . that is the lactation room I was supposed to use this spring, those are supplies that I should be using. Except I will not get to breastfeed Gabriel. I only got to go through engorgement and drying up and leaking and all that crap.

Why that? What is it about seeing a receipt with breast pump supplies makes it feel like someone has reached into my chest and squeezed my heart in a vice?

For DH, it was Easy Mac. I ate a lot of Easy Mac between 7 and 12 weeks when morning sickness was at it's worst, it's one of the few things I could stomach. I haven't had any since then that I can remember. Months have gone by since I ate Easy Mac and he knows that, but he teared up in the store in the middle of the aisle because he saw it.

It's what you don't expect, what slips through the careful defenses you construct, that leaps up and reminds you forcibly (not that you ever forget, of course) 'You have a child, and that child is no more' . . . you have no idea how much that fucking sucks.

It's just one more side-effect that is awful and terrible and, for lack of a better word, unfair. Like the engorgement and morning sickness that in the end was not, in fact, worth it, and the bleeding (during pregnancy and now, still, over a month later). Like all the baby crap sitting in our house, waiting to be used. Like the medical bills I apparently have to pay, despite having nothing to show for the costs incurred.

I told DH this afternoon . . . it's like some really awful outing. We get together with all these people and we get to go on a picnic. Only instead of a nice meadow or pretty stream, we get stuck having to climb a rocky mountain trail with rocks that make you roll your ankles and poke your feet through your shoes. And when we finally get to sit down and open our picnic basket, it turns out that instead of this great gourmet meal, we got stuck with the vegetable sandwich - with brown sprouts, wilted lettuce and overripe tomatoes, salt and vinegar chips, and no drinks. And a note that we have to return the picnic basket and pay for the pleasure, while everyone else gets to keep their basket.

Basically . . . it sucks. It's not just losing Gabriel, it's losing all the experiences we thought we would get to have. It's taking away from his pregnancy and from the things we have left. Fuck it all, it sucks so much. And I hate it. And it just pops up to punch you in the face all over again when you least expect it.

Target receipts for breast pump supplies and Easy Mac. Who knows what is next. I assume at some point, that sharp, stinging pain will become less sharp, less stinging and there will be fewer random things, or it won't matter as much. I can't make up my mind whether that is something I long for or never want to happen.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

One Month Later, To Gabriel

I miss you.

I love you.

I want to touch you again, run my finger over your tiny cheek, pass on a kiss from my lips to your lips of mine. To measure your feet against my thumb, your arms against my fingers, to memorize every bit of perfection that was you. To look more closely at your perfect hands, with little fingers and tiny nails, to kiss your head, your tummy, your feet.

I wish you to be with me, in flesh and blood, alive again, to hear all the things I could not say, to feel all the touches I could not give, to be held and loved again, always, forever.

The ache of your absence is ever present, as you were ever present in my body. The pain left in your wake washes over me like the sea – constant, uncertain, in waves, sometimes pouring over me unexpectedly, sometimes lapping gently at my feet, at times grabbing me and pulling me and drowning me, at times gently holding me up. My tears are salty like the sea.

I loved you imperfectly, but I loved you. And I miss you, my precious son.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Possibly one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.

So I went out for coffee today with my friend Jo. She is also my former boss. We've been friends for a long time, but don't often get to meet up, but it doesn't change the basis of the relationship. She was one of the people I called from the hospital when we lost Gabriel and she fed my cat while we went home for 10 days, even though she lives a good 30 minute drive from my house.

Today was a good day because my boss was gone, so if I took a longer than normal break (and it was over an hour and a half, all told), it was no big deal. We met up and went to Starbucks and sat down and the whole story that she hadn't heard poured out. From the beginning. Through the end.

It was cathartic. It was good to talk to someone face to face about it all and talk about how I feel about things and how tired I am. I told her some of the assinine things people have said to me (preview of another post to come: 'You're young! You can have more kids!' 'When you are meant to have children, you will.''God has a plan.') and I told her about how much comforting of other people I do and how tiresome I find it. I told her about the disagreement I had with some friends about seeking therapy and gave it a pretty detached analysis of the ways in which I was right and wrong and how I could appreciate their motivations. I told her about how difficult it can be to figure out what to do about certain things. I told her about how DH and I are coping differently and how we sometimes get lost in our own worlds because we have different methods of dealing with our grief. I told her about how lost I feel sometimes, and how I don't know how to do this all and how the fact that I have to do it forever just makes me feel physically tired. I told her how uncertain we are about trying again, and how I simultaneously want to try immediately and never again. We talked about the discomfort I feel in finding new doctors and how hard it is for me to let go of out of hospital birth and of midwifery care in favor of more medicalized care - I need it, of course, but not only do I not like it, I find the idea of stepping foot in a hospital again horrifying and terrifying. We talked about the care I received and my plans now.

Tears were shed, on both sides, inappropriate comments were made, laughter was shared. She skipped a meeting to stay longer.

But the thing she said that sticks with me and warms me in a lot of ways came when we were discussing other people and their reactions and how I was doing things. I told her that I often find myself in a conflict because on one hand . . . I want to talk about Gabriel and how important he is, imprint him on the minds of other people, but I don't for a lot of reasons - because I don't want to see their reactions, I don't want to deal with their baggage, I don't want to comfort them, or as I read so eloquently put elsewhere "[he] is not for polite conversation." I told her that it was a hard balance, comforting other people when they are stricken by my news but that I find myself doing it anyway. Just like I found myself offering to go see and help a friend who just had a baby who was having a rough time. I have to be honest - I didn't want to. But I heard what she was dealing with, and I knew it was the right thing to do . . . and I have never in my life been more relieved when she absolutely would not hear of my coming over, because I was so not ready to see her newborn baby.

I told Jo about this and about the other and looked at the ceiling and said, "The thing is, half the time I'm doing this stuff, I'm thinking 'really? MY baby died, why am I trying to make you feel better? what about me?' or I'm sitting there listening to someone talk about their problems - which really don't stack up to mine, you know? I mean, I think 'God, your baby is still alive, you think this is a real issue?' and I have to stop and remind myself, that yeah, it is. They don't compare, really, but it doesn't make their problem less of a problem or less valid because it isn't on the same level. I could stop and yell that out loud, I could stop and demand that people comfort me, and I think at this point, I'd still be within my rights to do so. Gabriel has only been dead for about a month. But then I think . . . I don't want to go down that road. I don't want to be that bitter or that self-centered. That's not the person I want to be. So I try not to. And it's exhausting. I find it taxing and wearying to do it this way, and sometimes it makes me so angry. But that's what I do. One foot in front of the other, I guess."

Jo gave me a strange look then, and squeezed my hand and said what I think may truly be one of the best, nicest things I've ever been told. She said, "You know what? In all the years I've known you, in all the funny, quirky, emotional, oddball and off the wall and deadly serious conversations we've ever had, I have never ever thought that you were more sane than this moment. I'm so proud of you."

Trust me . . . Jo would know about the sanity. She's been there for a lot of my adult life, from DH's suicide attempt to my struggle against depression in the middle of my job search/search for the meaning of life and our decision to delay trying to conceive for a year.

So that, from her, tells me better than anything else . . . someday, really, I will be ok. And right now, I'm doing pretty fucking well in holding it together and putting the pieces back into something resembling something recognizable.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dead Baby Mama

I've been thinking a lot today about how compartmentalized my life is beginning to feel, how I feel that I have split personalities at times.

One of the reasons I didn't want to go back to work is that I knew going back to work meant letting go of Gabriel. Oh, I know, I know . . . I will never let him go, he'll always be in my heart, I will always love him and he'll always be my son.

But going back meant I can't see his picture whenever I want, I can't stare at him as long as I want. I can't open up the box with his footprints and hats and blanket and touch them whenever I want. And I certainly can't talk about him whenever I want. Oh no. People immediately look very uncomfortable - afraid of me crying, breaking down, not knowing what to say . . . afraid of catching the dead baby virus, maybe. After all, can there be more bad luck than that?

All day long, I sit and work on reconciling the previous month's transactions and talking about the clean up that wasn't completed while I was out and I pretend to care about fixing telephone charges, mask of Normal Worker firmly in place and at the end of the day, I think . . . really? I just spent all day acting like any of that mattered. And it doesn't. Gabriel . . . he matters, but he's not here and I can't talk about him. I just lock him away in a box, like I'm going to do with his ashes and his things and all his pictures, only to be opened alone, when no one is around to see what happens.

I wonder what will happen during the holidays. Will we stay home for Thanksgiving per tradition, when we'd said we'd be there? Will we go for Christmas - when there is time and everyone is there and we are expected - when we'd said we'd stay home? I was looking forward to Christmas at home, by ourselves. But that was predicated on being full-term and possibly near labor. I don't think we have an excuse anymore. We're not even sure we want to celebrate Christmas this year, and I anticipate a lot of difficult moments and family can be . . . trying.

And I begin to wonder how things will go in more long term future. Will we always say we have a son named Gabriel who died? Will I bite it back not to see that look of horror and pity? What if we ever manage to have a baby who lives? How will we incorporate Gabriel in our lives so that they know they have a brother that we will love forever, who is no longer with us?

That's the crux of it, isn't it? How do we incorporate our son into our lives when he no longer exists in flesh? How do we walk the fine line between acknowledgment and comfort? How do we manage the precipice between morbidity and dwelling and living with a full acceptance of how things are?

I can remember my discomfort with an acquaintance in a similar situation and remember how shocked I was by how they chose to introduce their new child to their dead baby . . . the first trip somewhere outside of hospital or home was the grave, the first pictures were staged to be the same pictures taken with the dead baby . . . I tried very hard not to judge, because I knew then I did not understand every piece of the puzzle (and God, how I hoped I never would). I did not think they should adjust their own comforts and grieving process to my comfort level or what I thought I should do, but neither could I completely shake my vague discomfort at it all. And here I am, contemplating the same things.

How do I become a good parent to a dead baby? How can I be a good mother to Gabriel? How do I honor his memory, and keep him in my heart and in our minds and relevant without losing my shit and going completely crazy? How do we do this? I don't have an answer, only a feeling that if my current path continues, I will snap from the strain or the guilt.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Proof of Life

Just so, you might say to them: "The proof that the little prince existed is that he was charming, that he laughed, and that he was looking for a sheep. If anybody wants a sheep, that is proof that he exists."

-The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Today was a little rough.

It was the day of the regular staff meeting, where I was finally face to face with everyone for the first time. Everyone goes in order to speak about what is going on briefly, so we all talk. There are people I have talked to already, people who know the whole story, people who have not brought up Gabriel at all but have said hello or acknowledged that I was gone and now I'm back, and people who had not yet looked me in the eye or given me even the most basic courtesy greeting.

I briefly mentioned what I am working on, thanked everyone for their thoughts and prayers, for picking up my slack while I was gone, for the plant they sent. I said I wasn't ok and would not be for some time, but was glad to be back and have something else to think about.

I realized later that I had not said one word about Gabriel, including his name - which I know not everyone knows - and I had just given the impression that I did not wish to talk about him. I could've kicked myself. It did have the effect of unfreezing some people who presumably hadn't any idea what to say. But it feels like it also had the effect of shutting the door on the subject of my son. I do not always wish to speak about him, but I usually do.

It comes down to a matter of great importance for me, which is acknowledgment that my son existed. That he lived, however briefly. That he deserves as much respect and dignity as any other human being who draws breath on this earth. In short, that he mattered, too.

I crave that validation. I need that reminder, both that he lived and breathed and that I am not crazy, that this has not been some horrid nightmare that I invented to torture myself in some psychotic break of epic proportions.

And I shut the door on it today, unconsciously, inadvertently. I understand why people don't know what to say (and so do entirely the wrong thing by avoiding me), that they are afraid of upsetting me or ending up in that social hell of seeing me cry and having no clue how to stop it or help. I understand how difficult it is to let me open up and take off my mask of Normal Person, and let the anger, the sadness, the loneliness, the rage, the depression, the bewilderment, the bafflement, the sheer volume of strong, unfettered, ugly emotion out and be strong in the face of it all.

But it doesn't make it hurt less when someone completely sidesteps the issue or does not acknowledge me at all. It doesn't hurt less when my son is not mentioned or avoided.

I needed to know today that Gabriel matters, that his existence is noted and acknowledged, outside of my husband and me.

I was trying to explain that to a friend.

She responded with the following:

"Ever since I saw Gabriel's pictures, I have been searching for a stuffed toy kangaroo for him. Why a kangaroo? Because of Gabriel's FEET! I keep thinking of him as "kangaroo boy."

The kangaroo should have a cream-colored ribbed corduroy belly, with the rest of it a soft sage green cloth. I checked Etsy for one, but the only halfway decent ones were knitted, and that's no go.

I have never wished more that I knew how to sew, because if I did, I would sit down right now and start that damn kangaroo for Gabriel. Not only does he exist, I know exactly what his baby present looks like."

Thank you Kate.

Thank you for reminding me of The Little Prince. I wanted to read that to Gabriel. I started with Winnie-the-Pooh, the day before his birth, because I couldn't find my copy of The Little Prince, and hell, I love Pooh. Gabriel moved and kicked and we enjoyed it while I waited for DH to return with lunch, and I regret that I didn't start it sooner and that I never finished the story for him. I've read The Little Prince again since losing Gabriel and it is even more poignant and heart-breaking than when I read it the first time.

But it had reminded me, as Kate has reminded me of what is important.

The proof that Gabriel existed is that he had long arms and legs and his mother's lips and his father's face, he had big kangaroo feet that kicked his mother when she read him a story about a bear who loved honey, and my friend wanted to give him a baby gift of a soft stuffed kangaroo that was sage green with a cream colored corduroy stomach. And if anybody wants to give a baby a soft sage green kangaroo with a cream colored corduroy tummy, then that is proof that that baby - my baby, my son, my Gabe - exists.

And if he existed, if he exists, he matters.

Update on the ring

My husband called the company (I was afraid I would start crying and technically, we used his debit card for the purchase).

He explained the situation, that the engraving was wrong and the person looked up the order and said that DH was correct, it was mis-entered on the work order, and the company's fault and they are terribly sorry. A new ring with the correct inscription should be here in 7-10 days as well as a prepaid envelope to return the incorrect one.

So, James Avery has made good and I didn't fuck it up and it will not cost us any money at all.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Honestly? I have no idea how to react to this.


I ordered two rings to wear for Gabriel. I've talked briefly about this previously. One arrived last week and I wear it all the time. The other one, which I had engraved with his name and birthdate, and went to the mall to have sized appropriately before ordering in a small piece of hell, arrived today.

I opened the package to see it shining there, picked it up, and read the inscription.

Gabriel Rose - August 24, 2009





Wait. What?

Indeed. The wrong name.

I went through and found the invoice shipped with the ring, and it clearly states that the engraving was to read Gabriel Rose.

I went back to my email for the confirmation I received and it doesn't have the inscription listed. Just the number of characters to be engraved and the cost for that.

I have to assume the error is mine, as I typed the message. But I checked it. Twice. I can't prove it was my error and I can't prove it wasn't. Certainly if Gabriel had been a girl, his middle name would have been Rose, so it is not out of the realm of possibility that I mistyped it and in looking it over (twice) I missed it because I expected to see Ross and that is only one small letter off.

Problem is, I also can't do shit about it. Everything I have clearly states that engraved items are special order and therefore non-refundable and non-returnable and non-exchangeable.

Fuck my life.

I honestly don't whether to shriek with laughter or cry hysterically. Or do both at once.

* * * * *

Perfection in imperfection. That is my problem, that is my dilemma with this.

On one hand, I see humor in this and part of me laughs. I mean. God, my life is so fucked up right now. And so naturally this is fucked up too. Of course it is. It's inevitable.

On the other hand. . . for fuck's sake. I have next to nothing left. A pile of ashes in a cardboard box. Nine pictures that are poorly taken because of a shitty camera and a bad photographer (that would be us). We are lucky to have them at all, because it was only sheer dumb luck that the camera was in my purse at all. I don't even have a memory of what he looked like or of how it felt to hold him. There is a box with his footprints in clay that has cracked as it dried leaving only very light impressions left for us. A blanket that never touched his skin and smells like disinfectant. Two hats that are ugly and were too big for his head. A blank birth certificate. A small prayer the chaplain wrote for us, on which his name is listed incorrectly because I never took my husband's name and so Gabriel's last name is not there, just my last name.

You would think the least of what I could have is a ring I wanted to wear in his memory, in honor of him, to be fucking spelled correctly. The fact that I was the likeliest person to misspell it only makes me want to scream. Have I mentioned the peridot ring is also flawed?

When we lost Chickadee, I got a tattoo on my wrist. I regret it now. Only because I can't think of that baby and that pain. It faded, and I am consumed with Gabriel and he overwhelms that poor lost baby. I'd rather have something to honor Gabriel on my wrist in that spot. Regardless. At the time it felt right and it will probably feel right again at some point. But it didn't heal well. I should have acted on my own instinct and kept it more covered and wet than the tattoo artist advised. Between the lack of moisturizer (per his instructions) and the fact that it was in a location where the skin around it was stretched more often, it scabbed over. Which meant that I lost some ink as it healed and there are a couple of places where the color is splotchy. It's so small though that I haven't done anything about it, it's not really noticeable. I sort of felt like, in the end, that was right. Chickadee wasn't perfect and neither is my tattoo.

But this time, in this instance, Gabriel was perfect and this is not. And I feel like it should be, damn it. Everything surrounding him that is left should be fucking perfect because it's about him. And this is just one more way, a voice whispers in the back of my mind, that I have fucked up perfection in regards to my son. Just like he was perfect and healthy until I pushed him out of my body, so to this one thing I wanted to do to honor him is something I've fucked up.

Yeah, I know. It's stupid and twisted and self-hating.

I still feel it back there.

So . . . laugh or cry. Or both. I don't know. I just stare at it. It's just a ring. It's not like anyone can see the inscription, as the inside of the band is what is engraved. I just . . . well. Fuck. That's all I can say. Fuck, and I shake my head.

* * * * *

You know, I think, in thinking about this, that in many ways, it's like a wedding day. I wanted my wedding to be perfect, whatever that was, and it wasn't. And that day, I did not care at all. There was a lot that went wrong, actually. The best man wasn't there. My brother was not there. Ross wasn't there. Several guests, actually, and the groom's entire family weren't there. I was late, hours late, for the pictures and it was boiling hot. And remained quite warm all night. Then it was windy, and our floral arrangements blew over during the pastor's remarks. And the processional music was completely off because we never had the chance to practice with the violinist. We couldn't get the tapers for the unity candle lit and the candle itself stayed lit only long enough to read the scripture we'd chosen. Oh, but there was a fire in the back when a tablecloth was blown over on top of a lit candle. And then the bubble machine my mother had rented didn't work, but when she returned it, it was magically working again.

And you know what? I didn't notice until much later and I didn't care, because it was such a great event for us (and provided good stories). But I will never forget that my mother cried when she told us about the bubble machine. She sobbed and sobbed, so hurt. And when I was concerned and tried to understand, she choked out "I just wanted everything to be perfect for you, and I wanted you to walk through this magical thing, surrounded by bubbles and colors everywhere and the stupid thing didn't work, but it wasn't broken. It wasn't perfect." She was so hurt by that.

That's sort of how I feel about this.

Also coming to mind? The perfect nursery. Which I've also sort of mocked. After all, the kid doesn't care about these crazy big murals and stuff. And usually when they are old enough to express opinions they hate it and want the baby stuff gone. But so much energy is poured into the creation and the staging and the setting of the room in which the baby will sleep. And in the end, it doesn't matter because the baby is there, the focus shifts to the actual event of caring for and raising the baby and the staging is unimportant.

But my arms are empty, my nursery is going to continue to be used for storage. There is no rush now, no reason now, to remove the old exercise equipment or to paint the walls and repair the place where someone had clearly hung a curtain rod. No need to go through the final boxes of crap that were thrown together when we moved and have remained as they are for three years. No need to assemble the crib that is laying in pieces, or wash the diapers that are stacked on the changing table, or put away the baby clothes in the dresser or bring down the stroller that is folded up and lying on the floor.

My son is not going to use those things or sleep in that room. I do not have the distraction of actually raising Gabriel.

All I have is the staging, the details that no one else will notice or care about. My imperfections won't be covered by a cooing baby or go unnoticed in the mess of baby toys. All I've got are those nine blurry, poorly lit pictures, that blanket that smells like disinfectant, two ugly hats too big for his head, a pile of ashes in a cardboard box, a blank birth certificate, a birthstone that is the wrong gem and a ring with the wrong name.

I wanted everything to be perfect for my son. Nothing is perfect. And I have nothing with which to hide those imperfections. They are glaring in his absence, the biggest imperfection of all.

Monday, September 14, 2009

How are you?

I am exhausted. Most of the time, I tell people 'I'm a mess.' and give them a wry smile and they seem taken aback - by the honesty? by what they think is sarcasm? by the matter of fact way in which I say that I'm fucked up?

It came up a lot today, because I went back to work today. I don't know what to write about it, about the struggles I went through coming to the decision, let alone actually going.

I have trouble verbalizing everything I want to say, even (especially?) here, in what should be my safe space to say whatever I want. One moment, I am eager to return and let out all the anger I feel. Or I want a safe place to continue to grieve, because safe places are harder and harder to come by. Or I want to explore something but feel held back because I know people might read and might not understand. Knowing that people are reading, weighing, judging never makes it easy and I find I care more than I would expect. I lost a reader this weekend, or so my dashboard informed me. I'm honestly not sure who or why, and I felt both vaguely guilty and a little angry (too much anger and sadness and lost? why the fuck do I care? that's my life right now). Knowing that friends have read here to glean some insight into me because my communication has been . . . lax (strained, one-sided, incomplete, take your pick) also makes me guard my words and leave off somethings I might say otherwise, makes me want to say I'm doing better just so people can feel better, even when it's not true. What a mindfuck. And yet, what I put out here is truth - full truth? Who knows? It changes by the minute sometimes, and I stand by all the 'ugly crying' that goes on here, and i stand by the moments of peace too. This is one of my 'necessary spaces' and I'm exploring what that means to my healing, to my darkness, to my lightness.

It's been hard the past week (the past three weeks). Time has flown and crawled and I just wanted it to stop. Friends have expressed concern that I am headed to a dark place and that I seem to be content with curling up and staying at rock bottom. I have argued that it is my prerogative as a grieving parent to do whatever the fuck I want and the fact that I have been making relatively good choices (ie, get out of bed, eat, don't oversleep, don't take up alcohol, try and express what I'm feeling, don't bottle up or push away the emotions) should count for something. We are both right. I have been staying there, at the moment of Gabriel's death and I have not done much beyond existing. I was not ready - I am not ready - and that is ok too. Grief takes time and it also takes energy that I do not always have and it takes a will to continue living that I have yet to find for continuous stretches. I haven't sought for that. I have not wished it.

I have not been ready to admit that I have to live the rest of my life without my son, let alone attempt it. I am not ready to let him go and be . . . what? A memory? A piece of me? What? I don't know.

I am still angry. I still blame myself. The fact that I know now that the care I received was negligent has not removed the blame, in some ways it intensifies it. I have trouble shaking loose of those questions and wondering how it would have been had I made different choices. Possibly no different. But . . . at least I'd know that all avenues had been exhausted. I am still ridiculously sad and I still feel like there is a huge hole in my heart.

I was having panic attacks last week, contemplating returning to work. Last night was more of the same; as was this morning. When it came down to it, I begged my husband not to make me go. He said he wouldn't, but he wanted me to try anyway. So I tried. I drove to work. I sat in the car and cried. He held my hand and walked with me all the way, even back to my office. I cried most of the way - feeling with every step that I was walking back towards normal and away from Gabriel, also remembering that the last time I was there, I was pregnant and still believed everything would be fine and I would have a baby boy in January (well, December, maybe). I was terrified by the mess I'd left behind me and how I could overcome that. Not to mention all the people who would want to express their sorrow to me and how little I wanted to hear it, because my compassion and social grace are fucked through right now and non-existent.

And all of that . . . I made it through. It sucked. There were thoughtless comments and people who avoided my eye. There was repetition and there was mourning. And I will go back again tomorrow.

Step by step, rebuilding life. Whether I want to or not. I don't, most of the time, and I won't apologize for it. I'm doing it anyway, and eventually, from what I remember and what I'm told . . . it will take over and sweep me on my way. Until then, I bide my time and mourn my son. Some days I find some peace, for a time. Some days I laugh and even enjoy things. Most of these moments are private, with my husband. But they happen. I think they are small points of light in the darkness and maybe someday there will be hope again.

How am I?

I am a mess, fucked up, not ok . . .

. . . but also trying, and still alive.

Some days it hurts to breathe, some moments I have to cry. Some days I lay down and I don't want to get up again. Some moments I feel him near me and I have some peace. Time is marching on, and I am reluctantly dragging my feet behind it. And that is good enough for me for now.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Gabriel is home.

We went and picked up his cremated remains from the funeral home this morning.

What a surreal thing to say. More surreal to do.

We didn't have a lot of time to decide about our options after he died. I was given a list of funeral homes and cremation societies while still in the labor and delivery room I was moved to after his birth. In other words, while he was still with us. My focus was on Gabriel and not what we would do with his 'remains' - how could I think about that while still holding his body in my arms?

We did decide pretty immediately that we did not want an autopsy done. We may regret that later, but as all indications were good that he was healthy and the problems were with the placenta, I did not want that thought. My husband was very opposed to it, so we said no.

My discharge from the hospital was delayed because the social worker had not yet come to see me. When she did, I was given a packet on the stages of grief, reminded about the list of funeral homes and told to call her when arrangements were made, because Texas law requires that any baby who is born alive and lives for any amount of time, be that one minute or one day is required to have a burial or cremation. Good to know our legislators have focused on the important things in life.

It took only a moment's discussion to decide on cremation. Given the torrent of tears when we thought about our son lying alone and cold in a morgue, we knew instantly that burying him would bring us no comfort and probably a lot of nightmares. Cremation was not a choice I wanted for him; I've always had a very visceral reaction to the idea of being cremated myself, and the thought of Gabriel being burned up to nothing more than ashes was terrible. Even if I knew that it was only his body and that he was dead and would feel no pain. There don't seem to be any right answers in death. The thought of having his ashes back though - that decided it. We knew then that we could take our time deciding what was best. We could have him with us forever if we wanted, we could find a beautiful place and spread his ashes, we could bury them with a tree or shrub or someday with us.

Perhaps it was a warped moment of foresight that led me to notice that we happen to live between three funeral homes - though living across the street from a hospital perhaps makes that less of a shock. I had particularly noted the two crematory societies within walking distance of our home just days before he died, and idly wondered if we would still live here when he was old enough to read those signs and ask what they meant and whether that might give him nightmares, to live so close to funeral homes. So it was little thought that went into choosing the place we pass on our way home from work daily.

They were very kind. They gave us a large discount on their normal costs and politely did not notice my uncontrollable tears, except to provide me a box of Klennex discreetly. They are the only people to get his full name and get it correct - with both our last names in there, but not hyphenated. They did not discuss urns with us, and perhaps we ought to have brought it up, but I appreciated that there was no upselling when I was too distraught to speak. They took care of everything for us and called yesterday to let us know the remains were ready.

So we made the short drive and were handed a cardboard box just a little shorter than Gabriel was himself. His ashes are inside that box. We brought it home, and it started raining, and I appreciated that. Though I know that it's rained all week and there is a large tropical depression sitting on the coast depositing more of it, it was nice to feel for once that the world was mourning with us. We arrived at home and sat in the car and my husband made a face.

I asked what that meant and he said that it meant what he was thinking the entire time. What do we do with this now? I have no idea. A fancy urn, that might be easier to decide. This little box that seems like a cardboard coffin, because I know that Gabriel could have fit there, if he was all folded up like he sometimes was inside me, what do we do with it?

I have no idea. I held that box while I cried. It was strangely warm, and my hands tingled. It's the first sense I've had of any kind related to Gabriel since he was born and died. How odd that it is related to his ashes. We've set the box where I imagine we will set an urn if we choose to buy one, or perhaps a box that these may fit inside - on the fireplace mantel. I imagine there will be quite morbid black jokes about that when we feel a bit more recovered.

And now . . . that is done. One more thing on the pathway that we've now passed by. Again the question looms. What do we do now? Continue on, I suppose. But I hate it all. If I'm honest, I'd rather just sit still for another few days, and hold that box close to me until I'm ready to move on. But since my husband has pointed out that I will probably never be ready to move on from our son, I will leave it on the mantelpiece and wipe my eyes and meet our friends for dinner and try to smile. There isn't much other choice, whether I like it or no.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I spent much of the day crying.

I hadn't really cried since leaving my mom's house. I usually get teary when I leave her behind, waving. This was no exception and was perhaps worse.

I don't know why today. I just feel a great deal of pain in my heart and sadness today. I've cried, I've screamed, I've moaned, I've shouted.

The pain is still there.

I realized today that I will never know what Gabriel would have looked like as a newborn, or as an infant, or a toddler, or a boy or a man. I will never know what his favorite colors are, what his dreams are, whether he likes carrots or broccoli or neither. I will never know what color his eyes would have been.

I will never know how he would have sounded or smelled, or how it would be hold him close to my chest. I will never know if he would have liked basketball or some other sport or no sports. Or whether he preferred playing with blocks or trucks and whether he would have liked to read as much as I do or preferred playing video games like his daddy.

And it kills me. He was so small and alive for such a short time that there is very little to Gabriel. He was my son and I loved him, but there is so little I know about him. There is so much I wanted for him - to learn about flowers and to go swimming and to play with Jonah and to love and share and to be loved and to be kind and gentle.

And none of that is what he got to know. I hope a lot that he wasn't in pain or scared when he was born or when he was left alone on that tray or when he died. I hope a lot that he knew his parents held him and heard us tell him he was loved and wanted and perfect before he died and knew somehow what that meant. I wish I knew where he is now, if some part of him still exists somewhere, but that is one of the downsides to ceasing to believe in God - you aren't sure really if there are souls or where they go after death if you don't believe in God. I guess that's why I haven't made up my mind yet what I think, because I want to believe that he is out there somewhere, safe and in no pain and I can see him again.

How can it hurt this much and how can I still be alive?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Not much to say.

Some things are slowly getting a little easier - I went to Target today and only cried once in the car. I did avoid the baby section of course, but even the sight of a pregnant woman with baby clothes and a woman carrying a small infant boy didn't completely unhinge me.

I nearly lost it standing in front of Little Debbie snacks, of all things. I don't know why. It's not as if I eat them a lot or ate even one that I can remember while I was pregnant. It was just the same thing my husband said happened to him. I stood there holding a package of Oatmeal Pies and thought 'This will not bring him back.' And I teared up.

Still, better Oatmeal Pies than booze.

One of my rings came yesterday, the peridot ring. It is really lovely. I can't say that it brings me comfort, because I'd much rather have my baby boy with me still; his birthstone ought to have been garnet. But it's one way of keeping him near me all the time, for which I am grateful.

Things are harder in other ways. An unexpected call from work (not unreasonable at all) inquiring as to my return gave me a panic attack. Full on claminess, tightness in my chest, difficulty breathing. I called my husband in tears. I have no idea what the hell I will do Monday when I actually have to return. Start looking for a new job maybe. Doing what? No idea.

It's hard to care about much. There is just a lot that feels pointless right now.

I did screw up my courage to call a new OB to schedule my 6 week post-partum check. It was really hard to do, and I couldn't get in to see my first choice of the practice I called, but the OB I am seeing is reputed to be good. The staff member I scheduled with was pretty kind. A little baffled by the oddity of my request, but seemed to piece enough together to understand. I have to request all my medical records from my prenatal care and from the hospital. I have not yet gotten up the courage to do that. That is going to take a lot of energy, I think. I wanted to chicken out. To avoid an appointment at all, or just return to the OB I saw or the mw. But I can't. I don't trust them and I don't care to make small talk with them.

Seeing someone new is hard, given how few good experiences I've had. I already feel fear about lectures on my weight, on my choice to see a midwife, etc. But I need answers. About what caused the pre-term labor, how likely it is to recur in future, what testing we need done before we try again, how long we need to wait, what my care will be like in future, etc. Then we can make a better, more informed decision. We have a rough, loose plan in place, but neither of us can see going through this again. So if they tell me this is likely to recur or that it can't be prevented or it can't be known, we'll have to reconsider our current plans.

We've been told six months. In some ways that feels far too long, in other ways, not long enough. It's true that over the course of three pregnancies, I have been pregnant long enough to have a full term baby in the last year, but I don't. So I suppose some rest for my body is in order. And there are days I think 'never, ever again' because the pain is simply not worth it, the fear and anxiety are simply not worth it balanced precariously against a thin tendril of hope that this one might work out.

I have laughed some in the past two days. I think my husband has made it his mission in life to try and make me smile and his face lights up when I laugh at something outrageous he's said. So . . . this is it then, the point at which we start to move a little out of the darkness.

On the other hand, since our return, I am not sleeping well. To be fair, I was sleeping very poorly at my mom's house, but I chalked it up to barking dogs and an uncomfortable futon. Two nights here and the best rest I've gotten is from daytime naps, which will obviously cease to be an option on Monday. It's a mix of things. Nightmares plague me nearly every night, but not all night long. I get hot, then cold. I hear my husband breathing and his rhythms disturb mine. The cat complains about his atrocious lack of care (we don't rise immediately to procure him more tender vittles or refill his water bowl with cool, fresh water for the fifth time that night, and we are evil and keep the lids down on the toilet bowls), the dog is scratching and rattling his crate, or I am thinking about Gabriel. Maybe tonight I will try a sleep aid and see if it helps. I'm sure the naps are not helping, now that I'm nearer a normal schedule because DH is working.

There isn't much to add. I am drifting. This is the time I expect everyone says has to pass between devestation and a new normality.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Stop Using That Word.

There are many words I've come to despise. 'Sorry' is high on that list, but I understand why people say it and bite my tongue because we have so few words that are adequate to express what people wish to say to someone like me. I do it too.

The one I mean now is 'miscarriage' - I do not want to hear it again.

The attending OB at the hospital was gracious enough to explain (while my son was left lying alone on a tray in my sight, while I begged to see him and was repeatedly told they were checking him or cleaning him up for us - as if I cared - but I could see that there was no one with him) that I was a tough case to classify. Because technically, miscarriages occur before the 20th week of pregnancy and pre-term losses occur after 21 weeks of pregnancy and I was in-between with 20 weeks and some days. But he was considering it a miscarriage. How fantastic for us.

I got home today. I didn't want to come. But I did.

There were flowers, mostly dead now. A stack of cards. A bill for my ultrasound, notices that my insurance will be charged for my hospital stay and my 'care' there. As I sat down and forced myself to open all the cards, I found one from the OB I saw. I wanted to rip it up instead of opening it, because I feel that if he had returned my mw's calls in a timely manner (she called at 1:00 pm to consult him about the suspicion that my water had broken, despite the negative nitrazine test, and again at 3:00 when I called to say I was definitely having contractions and what should I do? Where should I go - the nearest hospital or the one across town where he practiced? He did not return either call, despite the second one clearly being an emergency situation until after 4:30. I want to scream when I think about how I should have just made up own mind and gone to any fucking hospital at that point instead of waiting to be told what to do) then Gabriel might have had a chance.

Certainly, Gabriel was alive until birth, and those extra two hours or so - more if he'd returned the first call and sent me to a hospital for an ultrasound check as my mw ought to have done but didn't - might have given us enough time to recognize labor before it was too advanced and try to stop it. I will never know if it would have made a difference or if Gabriel would have been born regardless, but not knowing if it could have made a difference (just as I question the care, or lack thereof, I received in the hospital - they did not check dilation or water breaking or use a doppler to find his heartbeat or try a monitor for contractions. I was there for over an hour before I was seen by the resident, who despite clear evidence of contractions sent me to radiology. I was not checked until about ten minutes before his birth, at which point I was over 6 cm dilated and it was too late. Have I mentioned that after being informed I would deliver soon and there was nothing to be done to stop it for Gabriel, I was left alone in triage? I delivered Gabriel alone with my husband in triage, screaming for a nurse, at least two other pregnant women nearby. I wake up in the mornings, reliving it and wondering if something might have been done if they had moved faster, checked me sooner, done something)... that makes this so much harder to process and deal with.

It leaves me feeling a lot of guilt (I should have gone in sooner, I should have insisted on an u/s, I should have called the OB myself, I should have gone to the other hospital sooner, I should have done something differently) and it leaves me with a lot of anger. It is one of those things . . . to have to question if my son would be alive now if it were not for the care I received, if it were not for the trust I placed in other people being trampled . . . it's hard to accept that this is how things are, because there is a possibility it could have been different. Perhaps a remote possibility, but the never knowing aspect eats at me in the early morning light.

But I don't want to talk more about that. I went ahead and opened the card and read it.

I want to talk about what the card said. "I heard about your miscarriage and wanted to express my sympathies."

My miscarriage?


This was not a miscarriage. I've had those. They suck. They are sad and awful and painful and I do not wish that on anyone. I've been told (as I explained above) that I was a hard case to classify, but the doctor would call it a miscarriage. Like I give a shit. I don't care if this is technically listed as a miscarriage.

I was in labor for at least 5 hours, probably more. I had painful contractions, I dilated and I gave birth vaginally (against my will, but so it was) to my son. My son was born alive, moving, with a heartbeat and trying to breathe. He lived for at least half an hour after his birth, and died in his parent's arms.

That is NOT a miscarriage. That is a birth and a death. To use the word miscarriage in that way implies that my son was not a baby, was not a human, did not live, and does not matter. It implies that there was never really a baby in existence. And there was. MY SON. Whose name is Gabriel Ross.

I do want one more medical professional to dismiss me and dismiss my son's life by using that word to make it neat and clinical. I deserve better than that, though after the 'care' I received from all of these people who were supposed to help us and look out for our best interests, I do know why I am surprised by this. But for fuck's sake, my son deserves better than that. He deserves to be acknowledged and respected and honored as a human being who lived on this earth, no matter how briefly.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

'God is Prolife!'

That was the sign I saw today while going to get lunch. People in Texas can be very religious and especially so in smaller towns. This was near a religious center (not a church though) and I have driven past there probably a thousand times and I've likely seen similar anti-abortion messages there before. Hell, I've driven by there at least ten times this week and I did not notice the big red letters placed over a grinning bright eyed baby of indeterminate sex until today.

And holy mother of God, did I see red.

I am what I think is a bit of a rare creature. I have had several pregnancy losses, but would consider terminating a pregnancy that had a child whose prognosis was incompatible with life. I know from my sojourns on pregnancy loss boards that a higher number of 'us' are opposed personally to termination, even if they remain generally pro-choice. That's fine - I used to be very pro-life in my younger days when I thought I knew everything and had the right to pass judgment on other people without knowing their situations or stories. That is not to say that that is how I view people are not pro-choice - only how I was when I was not.

But that sign. Oh, that sign.

So God is pro-life, huh?

But my baby is dead.

Smaller letters order me to choose life. I thought, full of bitterness, I DID; apparently, God or the Devil or the Universe or Fate (I am not sure what I believe in at this point anymore) made other choices and now my son is dead.

Way to back the very religious people up there God.

I thought about writing the center a letter and politely request that they kindly explain why, if God is indeed pro-life, I am not currently pregnant and rubbing my belly as I talk to Gabriel. That despite the pleas to God, and prayers made a number of people who have a better history with him that I do at this time, my son is not alive. Or, more philosophically, why is it that death was ever created (because it was, or at least that is how I remember it from Sunday school) if God is all pro-life?

I suspect I would not get a satisfactory answer.

I wish I was brave enough to do it though; perhaps they would rethink such trite sayings that don't stand up to a brisk wind of doubt, let alone the hurricane raging around my thin threads of faith right now. It's all just too much to see something like that and not want to shriek in fury. It's hard enough to keep my composure when I think of the number of babies that are born into broken homes, into bad situations, that are unwanted or unloved without hearing on top of it that God is apparently all for the life of babies, unless they are mine.

Fuck this all.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Stepping on toes

Another thing I've learned in the last week is how easy it is to step on my toes. I fully expect that in the coming months, I'll step on just as many.

Grief is a hard thing to navigate, and there are unfortunately no maps to guide through treacherous waters. Already, things meant to help have caused pain, and while I recognize the good intentions and the sincerity, good intentions don't make the pain less, only make me feel worse for feeling it.

And already, I see how my own confusion and honesty cause pain, when I admit that I can't be around pregnant women or children. The first baby was born yesterday, the one located in the same city as me. The mother, my friend, has been more than kind, offering to com and be with me, even while she was in early labor. I cannot stand the thought of seeing her with her son. It causes my chest to tighten up and my body to break out in a cold sweat. Seeing her son - born a over eight pounds heavier than my own - is too much right now. I believe she will understand that as she is an understanding, generous person.

But it hurts me to know that I react this way. It hurts me to know that I might cause her pain. I want to be graceful and charitable and generous; I fear becoming shrewish and temperamental and enveloped by bitterness. And even while I feel battered by trying to make other people more comfortable, squashing down my desire to stand on a table and yell my son's name over and over, telling people who inquire that I am ok or fine or the phrase my husband uses a lot, 'getting better'. . . sometimes I pause and think of an article/blog entry I read recently that stated how I sometimes feel quite succinctly - "Fuck Grace."

Sometimes I just need to let other people go and stop caring whether they are disturbed or bothered or hurt or think I'm crazy or taking too long or whatever and just scream (in my mind anyway) FUCK IT ALL. Reassuring other people is so tiring and so tiresome. Sometimes, in fact most of the time, I, ME, I need that reassurance that maybe someday I won't need to see Gabriel's face first thing in the morning or last thing at night and that maybe someday I can laugh without feeling guilty and that I won't burst into tears at something stupid like getting a new phone.

It would all be easier if I were able to articulate what I need from people - leave me alone for a bit, call me and make sure I'm ok, I need to talk to someone, let's avoid mentioning babies/children/pregnancy/Gabriel/anything, please I desperately need to hear someone say his name and acknowledge his existence. I can't tell people that what I really need is for someone to clean my house for me and send me books to read to keep me occupied. I can't tell people when they've hurt me because it's too complicated. I can't explain when I just need to talk and have someone hear me without trying to fix it. I can't express what I need most of the time, which leaves the people who love me bewildered and floating.

And so, toes get stepped on, and hurts pile up. And it's just one more thing that makes this totally unfair. I fear losing all my friends because I just don't know how to be friends anymore. It's not that I don't want to, it's that I honestly don't quite know how to manage the landscape, when it's all been changed by this earthquake that is Gabriel's death, and is still shifting and unstable.

It's such an isolating thing, losing your baby. Even the most loving, compassionate and well meaning people in my life can't understand it, however much they want to. Even my husband, the other person who knew Gabriel nearly as well as me, the only other person to hold him and love him in his brief life, can't follow everywhere I wander. It makes it frightening and even more lonely, feeling marked and set apart and scarred by it all, not knowing what is truth and what is perception, what is filtered through the lens of grief and what is unvarnished. Such a peculiar feeling.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mixing with the world fail.


What has been reinforced over the week I've spent at home is that I am not superwoman and I am not ready to leave my safe places yet.

I feel such an incredible amount of pressure - from where I don't know, from everywhere, from inside my head, who knows - to try and speed up this process and get going. I feel like I need to get back to work, but I'm not sure another week will be enough time to get me ready (or if I'll ever be ready to go back). I feel like I need to hurry up and be a more fully functioning human.

And I've learned I am not ready yet. It actually makes me a little angry.

Yesterday was a bad day at home. By evening, everything was better and both my mother and I sent silent messages of love and apology and we're ok.

Today was a bad day outside the home. The short version is that I needed to go to the mall. Because there is a ring I want to buy. I've already bought a ring with a peridot, which is the birthstone for August. And I want to buy this ring, and have Gabriel's name and birth and death date engraved on it. And then I've always got something to wear, right? It's a small thing and a first step, but something I wanted to do. The problem is that while I can order it online (easier), I didn't know what size I needed. So I had to go to the store. Joy. That was at the mall. While there are several locations in Houston, the only near us was the mall we went to two weeks ago to buy Gabriel clothes he will never wear. I am nowhere near ready to go back there.

But there is one near my mom's house, so we went there.

And . . . I might as well have gone to the one at home. Because it was an exercise in how to not attract attention while you sob helplessly into your husband's shoulder. I cried in the car. I barely made it out of the store without sobbing (and God Bless that very kind saleslady who made no commission and was gentle and sweet), and I didn't make it through lunch. While I recovered in a bookstore (I guess there is still one place on earth I can feel a modicum of peace for a short time at least), DH went to a toystore. He's always on the lookout for what I refer to as his dolls - various action figures he collects. He came back and found me in line at the bookstore, pale, shaky, sweaty and tearful.

What a terrible afternoon for both of us.

I thought if I could get out there a bit, I might become more immune to the cry of a child or the sight of a baby and the shell would harden some. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. I'm just so tired of feeling isolated and damaged; I know that won't change anytime soon. In fact, there will always be a scar or 'limp' if I ever do heal. I just . . . I'm tired of sadness and grief, and find no escape from either. And then I feel guilty for wanting it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

An awful day

My mother made me cry twice this morning, hurt me terribly, very unintentionally. She started talking about things I've already said to my husband. That I should work on getting back to the gym and eating more nutritiously and lose some more weight, that it might help me get pregnant more easily and make another pregnancy more healthy. Coming from her it felt like criticism from a quarter I didn't expect. It cut me badly. And from there, I started crying again, going over the same territory I've gone over and over and over.

Later, after I'd pulled myself back together, she gave me a website to check out. Recommended by people as a place to go after a loss like mine. I've already been directed there and elsewhere. I know, I know that she was trying to be useful and helpful and make up for our earlier conversation. She had no way of knowing that last night after she went to bed, I cried to my husband about how much I hated being directed to websites like that or being asked if I am looking for or have found a support group for preterm labor or infant loss or if I've yet looked for a grief counselor or a therapist who can help me out. Because while I logically know that people are trying to help me and trying be useful and really aren't equipped in themselves to deal with this kind of loss and devastation, what it feels like is something else entirely. It feels and sounds much more like 'Please, do you mind just picking up and going over there? You are crying all over the carpet. You are making a mess with all this grief and sadness. Perhaps if you just go over there and deal with it - preferably behind closed doors - it would be better.'

I already feel so alone and cut off and to get this sort of feeling from my mother too was just too much. I started sobbing again, and it was obvious how upset she was that she had somehow upset me. I felt awful, because I know she doesn't understand what hurt me or why, just that I had been wounded by her.

Later on, Dh and I went out and ended up at the little place we were married nearly 4 years ago. We sat down and started talking and in our conversation, somehow I led Dh to believe I was asking for a divorce. The pain and resignation on his face nearly killed me. It's the farthest thing from what I want - but I don't know quite how to get on from here. We're both in pain and he wants me to be ok and I want to be ok for him and cause him less pain and I've tried but I can't just will myself to be ok. It hurts me to cause so much of his pain on top of what he feels. He said he cannot live with losing me. I can't promise that that hasn't happened already, because what will I become? What if the new person I become is unlovable? I don't want him to be tied to a miserable, bitter hag for a wife. I want him to be happy and contributing to his unhappiness eats away at me.

My life is so unrecognizable right now. It feels like some horrible dream, except I look around and know I won't wake up from this. Somehow, I've got to find a way to pull it all together and make it resemble something like a life. How can I do that when there are so many pitfalls and landmines all around me? When even the two people I love most in the world cut me to the quick (to be fair, it's a far shorter journey than it used to be) and I can see how much I wound them?

I saw someone say somewhere - and it's probably an adaptation on some pearl of wisdom passed down through the ages - that this sort of thing can't be gotten over or around or under - that the only way past it is through it. But it's like an underwater tunnel and just a brief way in I already feel like I'm drowning and can't find which way is up to get light and air.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I just don't know what to do with myself.

I float throughout the days. Sometimes I go places and do things. I got my hair cut and styled for the first time in years. Normally I don't bother, because I never take time to style it and it's too wavy to work on it's own. And I've always been a little afraid to cut it again, lest I hate it. This time, what did it matter? It's only hair. I haven't yet washed it to see how it will look. I don't really care.

I went to breakfast with my mom today. Nothing fancy. IHOP. There were three little boys in my section, ranging from a about a year old to about 3. I just stared at them and wondered what Gabriel would have looked like. Nothing like them, of course - one was African American, another Hispanic - he had beautiful eyes and a smile to melt your heart. He beamed at me and I wanted to die.

I sleep a lot. Sometimes, when I'm just falling asleep or floating back awake, I feel him near me, get glimpses of how he might have looked. It makes me want to stay in bed all the time. I don't dream of him. From what I've read, that's probably a good thing. I know of people who only have nightmares about their children, or feel they lose them all over again when they wake up. But those moments . . . I long for them.

The thought of going back to work . . . if I could quit I would. I do not want to go back. Not only do I feel an incredible amount of guilt over things that were not finished before I left and the burden I piled on coworkers and how awful I feel about trying so hard for months to get onto a good footing and stay there and how useless it ended up being . . . I don't care about my job. I've often said it doesn't matter, and I think if Gabriel had lived it wouldn't have. The job paid the bills and allowed us to have a baby. What it was didn't much matter so long as I didn't hate it. Now? It matters. I have no desire to waste my life doing something unimportant that I really don't care about. I don't know what I can do instead, and so I know I will go back, but I feel my throat closing up when I think about it. One more week at least before I can face it. I try not to think about it.

Beyond that. . . what do I do? Our days were filled with work and with planning for this child who is gone. My free time was filled with baby talk - among my friends and on sites like thebump. I haven't been there in a week and can't see going back again really. Different person, different life. The registries are still there. I haven't yet been able to go delete them. I suppose it doesn't much matter either way. The crafts I worked on. . . a blanket, letters for his name. . . no point now. I feel useless, a lump.

I am sad most of the time. I get caught staring into space - I am thinking of him. Replaying his birth and short life, regretting something, wondering about how life should have been, pondering how to keep putting one foot in front of another and forcing myself to go into the world and work on hardening this shell I am going to be living in.

I am a ghost. Existing, but not really living, I guess. I just don't know how to do it yet.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

No, I don't have any children.

That is what I told the manicurist today.

I swore that I would never deny my son and his existence. Little more than a week after his birth, I've already done it.

I don't even know why I was there. All summer I kept saying I needed a pedicure but there was no time or money or I was on bedrest. So it never happened. Dh went to see his family and was kind about me staying behind - a universal relief, I think. He was candid, saying that he knew I didn't want to share my grief with them, that we weren't on those terms. My mother was at work and so I was at a loss. I thought I might as well go do that.

I sat there and tried not to cry. What was the point? Gabriel is dead. Who cares what my toes look like?

And then I moved to the manicurist and she pushed up a sleeve. Of course I still have bruises from the blood draws. I always do. They gasped and asked what happened. I said it was from the hospital when I had blood drawn. They asked if I had been sick and I said yes. They asked if I was well now and I shrugged and nodded.

Then it came. The question I knew would come someday and that I was prepared to answer . . . someday. Did I have any children?

And I said no. No, I don't have any children.

And I screamed inside my head 'Yes, God yes, I have a son and his name is Gabriel and he was born last week and he died just after his birth and I am completely shattered and I don't know how to live the rest of my life without my son.' And I felt like a coward.

When I was done, I sat in the car and I cried and cried and begged him to forgive me.

I'm still crying hours later.

But I couldn't do it. I couldn't throw my son out there as casual conversation. I couldn't take my precious son who was born only a week ago and parade him in front of a stranger who doesn't know and doesn't care and won't remember me or him. He is too special and precious for that. I could not protect him long enough for him to live more than a few minutes, but I can protect him now, at least a little.

And yet, denying him . . . how could I? My sweet baby boy. . . I am so sorry.

I don't know how to navigate this. Who to tell and when. On one hand, I want to shout about him from rooftops, so everyone knows about Gabriel and how much I love him and how devastated I feel without him. And on the other hand, I cannot share him or my grief with just anyone. It is not for the world's consumption. It's hard enough without watching people look away, step away, as if you were contagious, as if the bad dead baby luck might rub off on them if they touch you or look you in the eye. And yet. . . Gabriel.

I want to curl in a ball and let the pain pour over and around me and bury me.

It's been a week.

I have survived this long.

It is clear to me that I will not die. That I will find some way to continue living. What sort of life that will be I don't know, which is terrifying. A part of me died with Gabriel, my heart has been shredded, and I can see that I am at the beginning of a transformation. The old person and her dreams and hopes and worries and life is no longer, and there isn't quite a new me to fill it yet.

I know my husband is worried about me, but he relaxes some now. There is so much hope in his eyes when he looks at me, that it crushes me. I don't know how to live up to those expectations. I wish to be better for him, though he doesn't press me or rush my grief. I can honestly say that it was probably for him that I didn't lay down and quit. Now life has reclaimed me and it's too late to do anything but find a way to live, a way to walk again.

I asked DH how you get through life as only half a person, because I do not think I will ever be whole again. He said, "You hop." I laughed. He said the closest he comes to remembering happiness is when I laugh at something he says.

I find myself overwhelmed a lot, sometimes the tears fall whether I want them to or not. I am always sad. Dh says I look so bewildered and lonely. It is how I feel. It's been a week, and I am shattered still. I miss Gabriel so much I can't express it. I spend hours staring at his pictures, which I protect fiercely. I am unwilling to share him with everyone, and keep his picture - all that we have left of him - from anyone who cannot love him.

And yet, I can't talk much about it anymore. I can't repeat the story of his birth much, though I've relayed it several times now. It's harder a week later than it was. I find myself pulling away, unable or unwilling to talk how I am. It is unreasonable, but I feel like it's been a week, and I have to move on now. I don't want to, but I can't talk about him, or me, or DH; I can't force that on other people. There are emails waiting response, compassionate people who wish to know how I am and help me and they are unanswered, because what can help? I'm not going to die now and I don't know how to live and that hasn't changed and won't change for a long time. I feel cut off and isolated from my old friends. I know the barrier is one I put up, but I can't seem to find a way around it. Maybe it's protection - 6 of my friends will have their healthy, living children soon; two of them are boys who were due within two weeks of Gabriel. How can I continue to be their friends after this? I cannot be of use or support to them, and I don't know if I can handle the pain of my loss against their children, healthy and perfect and alive.

Again, the old me is gone, and there is not yet something in place. At least, I am here, but I am broken, cut up, breaking down.

Already, the subject of trying again has come up. No decisions are made or can be made. I need to know more before we can approach it, and six months is the minimum before I can be pregnant again. I do not know that I can do it again, but there is an urge that is strong to try again. Not because another child could ever replace Gabriel - never - but . . . I don't know. I just don't know and I am not making a decision now. But I think about it a lot already.

This is so rambling and I haven't said much have I? I guess there isn't much to say. It all comes back to the same thing. I'm still trying to make sense of Gabriel's life and death, and I do not understand it.