Friday, December 14, 2012


last year i bought a tree from the church lot up the block. i dried the roses from nathaniel's service and put the petals in clear ornaments, and decorated the tree with these. we put lights on the house. the energy of the grief pushed me forward. nathaniel was gone five months christmas day.

this year, the living room is full of boxes. empty and flattened, most of them right now. we've spent most nights these past months at the farm. i commute about 40 minutes to and from the city now.

i honestly don't know how i feel about it. most days i just feel confused and overwhelmed. we bought a farm. i moved my city chickens out there. the dogs. the cat. we have some furniture at the farm house. books. my art supplies. i bought and have been raising 10 ducklings. i bought 4 geese.

i like the birds. i hate the commute.

i'm trying to get the city house packed up but every time i try i get so stressed out. i don't know if it's going to happen. there's a deeper sense of inertia now - some leaden force that binds me in place.

i try to motivate my world by imagining some beautiful life that probably would have never been had nathaniel lived. 11 acres on an island. my own studio. but it feels like someone else's life that i'm trying to put on, like a jacket that looks great on the model but might not fit me. like some shitty consolation prize.

i don't know if it's just because of the holidays or if it's something else. if my body reacts to the moving with anxiety and pain, do i just then stay put? or do i push forward through the pain and try to imagine a different life? try to invent myself again?

i am still grieving in my body intensely. the pain is back in my breath today. i've actually had some success working with my breath for about the past month, which is amazing because i couldn't work with my breath for more than a year after nathaniel died, and my breath had been my number one coping skill for years. i've had some success with just slowing waaaaay down. walking very slowly. bringing mindfulness to my movements. but some days the anxiety just picks up and shakes my being, and it feels like my world could come apart with one or two sentences.

i know the stress is not good for my fertility. i know the stress is not good for me at all. but i can't seem to get away from it.

what do you do to manage the stress of grief?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

mom face

recent conversations about faking it inspired this piece

mom face

nose to nose with a living baby
baby smiles
baby kisses
baby gurgles
baby face and mom face reflected together
this is how we both learn

raising a living child
face to face
my son knows this mom face
is his mom's face

when my baby died
my mom face still
expected connection
first eye contact


muscles involuntarily
twisted in a mask of pain

this revealed a new story
in my mom face

black eyes
broken teeth
swollen, beaten down

my living son witnesses his mom's face
by his own brother face


i try to smile

remember my mom face
the unbroken story
of childhood
and motherhood

i hide

can he see me? what does he see?
my body takes over and i cry out


i cannot be lost.
i am completely lost.


peer closely and see
my own little girl face
her baby is gone

peer closer and see
his little boy face
lost without his little

two lost children
playing mom face
son face
searching for baby brother's face

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


i have a five minute break in the middle of drawing class. the coffee shop is a block away. i left class quickly and started a very slow jog, quick walk, down the hall. a toddler coming the other way saw me with my silly run and grinned. as i passed her, she turned around and copied my run, chasing after me. the *before nathaniel* brain kicked in, smiled at her, and said, come on! and we ran down the hall together, giggling.

my *after nathaniel* brain said don't ask. you don't want to know.

"how old is she?" i asked anyway.

"15 months."

i'm an idiot.


i didn't get through the front doors before the tears hit and i was plotting to never leave my house again.


"get a goose," she said. "cut it up into 20 pieces, wrap each piece separately, and put the pieces in the freezer. use the whole goose. head, feet, everything. every day, make a little soup. put one piece of goose in the pot with some water, cook it up, and then drink the juice from the bottom. don't drink the top - that's all fat, and you don't need that part. drink it up from the bottom. just a little soup. you'll have a healthy baby. one month, two months."

this, in response to the sentence, "we're going to try to have a baby." a sentence i had never uttered before. words like marbles in my mouth. a new language.

i don't know if i believe it. i try to sense how i feel when i say the words.

we didn't really try, but we didn't prevent. i'm not pregnant, and that's okay right now. i think i have to wade slowly into the land of maybe baby. this month, i drank more coffee, more wine, and consumed more sugar than i've had in the last year. which isn't much, but i surprised myself with my behavior. what am i doing?

it's so complicated. so many layers of this and that. yes, i'd love to have a baby. i haven't held a baby since nathaniel. i've never been in a better position to parent a child. i've travelled the road from birth through high school already. but there are so many risks. many other factors to consider.

two living children graduating high school this year.

one of my closest friends from jr high and high school just became a grandmother. i'm 39. three of my older siblings are grandparents.

if we had a baby, he or she would have only one living grandparent.

i bought the goose. it did not come with either a head or feet. i took it apart with a big knife. i started making the soup every day - my family called it my goose juice. i made it for six days in a row. it was disgusting.

and then i stopped.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

have you seen him?

this is a picture of my baby, nathaniel. i've put photos here before, but i wanted to share his little face again.

Friday, September 7, 2012

baby stuff

we're packing up stuff in the city and moving out to the farm. slowly. a friend came over today to help pack for a couple of hours, and she ended up putting all of nathaniel's things in boxes.

all of his stuff from the corner of the basement. after he died, i lugged it all from the living room to the basement and draped baby blankets over everything so i wouldn't have to look at it.

the stuff out of his drawers. onesies, night clothes, diapers. hand-me downs we got from friends who are out of the baby phase themselves. i walked in the room and it just felt so different. i don't know why - the drawers are always closed anyway. but the energy of the room is different now.

my heart is so heavy. i know that at some point, i'm going to have to decide what to do with  it all. if we have another baby, whether or not to use it. if we don't have another baby, what to do with it all then?

generally speaking, i'm not really attached to material things. i don't have a problem getting rid of clothes or household things that we no longer need. i don't know why i'm so attached to nathaniel's stuff, and why it brings up so many emotions for me.

maybe by putting everything in boxes it's admitting that he's not coming home. and that is truth that i still can't wrap my head around, and i don't think that my heart can ever come to terms with that.

Friday, August 24, 2012

13 months

had he lived, i'd say that he is 13 months old. 13 months tomorrow.

his one year angelversary was as peaceful as it could have been. he was born at 12:55am on july 25th, 2011, and he died about a half an hour later. this year, we went and sat on the beach during that time. i needed to be by the water in order to breathe through it and try to feel close to nathaniel. my living son sat on my left side, my husband on my right. the moon reflected off of the ocean, and we watched the stars. i breathed in the air and listened to the waves. it was warm outside.

a bit before his time of birth, i started crying, remembering labor, my experience of childbirth, and having him placed into my arms. but then i stopped, and i tried to remember him before he was born.

what came to me was how much he loved chanting. when i taught yoga during my pregnancy, we would chant at the beginning of every class, and i had the distinct impression that nathaniel liked the chanting. i would bring my breath deeply into my lungs, and allow the vibration of my voice to resonate through my whole body, especially through my chest cavity and my abdomen. nathaniel's little body would resonate as well, and my whole body would fill with a sense of pleasure.

during my pregnancy, my chanting took on a deeper quality. more resonant without being louder. another teacher asked me to lead the chants in her class, and i was happy to do it. before i was pregnant, i was always a little nervous when i led chanting. but with nathaniel in my belly, for some reason, i had a sense of confidence and pleasure when chanting.

when i have thought about certain chants or tried to chant since nathaniel died, i have immediately started to cry because of the pain of missing him. but in that window of time - around 12:55am - 1:30am pst this year - i chanted in my mind and i remembered how much it pleased nathaniel, and how his little body resonated with my voice.

when we left the beach, i went almost directly to bed. and then the day of the 25th was very low key. we spent most of it on the beach, just sitting there.

i made it through. my only intention was to just breathe through the day, and i did.

For sunset, we went to Polihale Beach, which is where the ancient Hawaiians would send off the souls of those who died.

My big boy. But he's still my little boy.


but a month has passed since then already, and there have been good days and there have been bad days. i've been on a stretch of bad days.

yesterday i was bawling for a couple of hours. i just miss him so much.

i am having a really hard time imagining what my life is going to be like now. i left my career teaching high school 3 years ago and i don't really want to go back. we bought this farm in january, and i thought at the time that i would love it. i drive out there now and think about how beautiful it is - the light, the agricultural space - but my heart is just not into it and i don't know why.

i can't plan for the future. i can't decide if we should try to have another baby or not. some days i think we should and then other days i'm not sure. both my living son and my stepdaughter are going to be seniors in high school this year, so it's not like we're starting our reproductive lives together. if we have another baby we would really be starting over. if we don't have another baby, i don't want to be a farmer, and i wonder if i could ever heal in certain ways. i know women lose a baby and they don't have another and their lives move forward anyway. but i'm stuck and i don't know if having another baby is the answer. i don't think i could survive losing another baby, and isn't that the risk you carry by getting pregnant?

i'm trying to see my life both ways and i'm having a really hard time with it.

i'm still just lost. 

on the bright side. . .hmmm. i've been making a lot of jams from the fruit on our farm: plum, peach, and wild blackberry. i also made a plum gewurztraminer vanilla confiture that is pure bliss - it's one of those things that you put in your mouth and your toes curl. we've harvested figs and eaten every single one. i pick figs by putting two in the bowl and then one in my mouth, and that is heaven.

my dogs are sweet and need baths. my living boy is hilarious. my chickens lay beautiful eggs.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

upcoming first birthday

i don't know exactly where to start with this post.

in april i told my dh that i was going to hawaii for nathaniel's birthday. he was welcome to come with me, but he didn't have to. i gave that same message to my living son. they both ended up coming with me.

so here we are for the week, on the island of kauai. when we arrived yesterday, i was tired and hungry and ready for the world to end. but then i ate and had a nap. it's probably good that we came.

for the past couple of weeks, people would say things like "are you *excited* for your trip to hawaii?" and i couldn't fake it. i couldn't say "yes (exclamation point smiley face)" so i would just say no. when they asked me in person and my face would contort into grief, i wouldn't have to say anything. i'm not here on vacation. i'm here because i needed to get away, and i know myself well enough to know that i needed to get away.

i was talking to a dear friend and fellow blm the day before we left, and i told her how i was feeling a little bit anxious about the fact that i wasn't *doing* anything for nathaniel. like, some people take toys to the local hospital on their child's birthday. other people i know have had the memorial service on their child's first angelversary. she told me that since i've already had nathaniel's service, and i've done other "external" things in his memory, maybe this week i can just focus on my relationship with nathaniel.

when she suggested that i started crying, and i told her that it's just so painful. but it resonated like good advice. 

when i've lost other people in my life, like my dad, it was hard, and it continues to be hard, but i always felt like he was there, just beyond the fabric of the material world, and whenever i needed him i could just "tune in" to his presence. and then i could talk to him and ask him questions. i used to say that i felt like i had more of my father after he had died than i had while he was alive. 

but with nathaniel it was different. it is different. i had a *very* distinct sense that he was *here* and then he was *gone*. gone gone. i could get a feel for him once in a while, but not very often, and i had to try really hard. and it was just so painful. there were several months this summer when i would meditate with the mantra: in breath - nathaniel is inside of me, out breath - i am inside of nathaniel. and for many weeks, this was one of the only thoughts that would soothe my nerves.

so much of my faith and my felt "knowing" of the world has been completely called into question over the past year, and that has undoubtedly impacted my relationship with nathaniel. also, i have so much guilt and shame that it's hard for me to look him in the eye.

so i guess that's my task - to bring myself more wholly and more honestly into my relationship with nathaniel, if i can. but how to start?    


there was a little girl on the beach today - about 14 or 15 months old - not much older than nathaniel. i watched her for a while. she wore a red pocka-dotted sunhat and had sand all over her legs, arms, and belly. i watched her toddle all around. my dh caught my eye shortly after that and smiled. i felt like i was caught trying to be brave, trying to look at a baby without getting upset. And this made me crumble into sobs.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


caught between nathaniel's due date and his birth day and his death day. he was due on july 8. he was born july 25. he died that same day. god, he was so sweet and beautiful.

i don't know what is up for me - probably one of the horrible faces of grief. i'm so angry. sometimes i spend the bulk of the day fantasizing about a one-way ticket to india. that perhaps if i just go to india and wander around until i'm done wandering around, then i will be whole and healed and through the other side of this horrible nightmare. even if that takes me the rest of my life.

maybe i should move. anywhere. fly away.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

right where i am 2012: ten months six days

my fingers tap and reach out through the ethers to try to connect. this internal landscape can be so isolating.

i breathe in and out. i can feel the mark of nathaniel's life and death in my lungs and heart.

i mourn. i wake every morning at 5:30 and journal for about an hour. i scratch out the anger and the rage and the jealousy and the despair and the gratitude and the grace and the fear and the love. i keep a close eye on the wound and probe it, try to keep it clear of debris. i treasure the honesty and truth nathaniel's life brought me. i hate the honesty and truth nathaniel's life brought me.

i take mourning seriously. it has seriously kicked my ass.

i draw almost every day to escape the limitations of words and sentences and to spend time with nathaniel.

i went to vancouver bc over the long weekend - just me and my living son. i laughed - honest, genuine laughter. i only cried a little, in the mornings. yesterday, on our drive home, i was struck at the realization that i hadn't been thinking about nathaniel, his life, his death, loss, or grief, for several hours. it was the first time that happened. i think about nathaniel all of the time.

i've planted hundreds of vegetable seeds this spring and nurtured them under lights. i reflect a lot on the miracle and wonder of what lives and what doesn't and why. my yard used to be lovely, but now it is an urban experimental farm.

i have not gone back to work. my work insurance coverage has lapsed because i don't have plans to go back to work. i don't know when i'll be ready.

i'm not pregnant, not ttc. many in my cohort of loss, both on-line and irl, are either pregnant or actively ttc. i go to real-life support group and there are all new faces. the other parents who lost when i lost have graduated to the subsequent pregnancy group. many of my internet pals are either pregnant or ttc, and their journeys are now informed by pregnancy and new babies. i feel like i'm stuck in remedial grief, and frankly, i'm afraid. there doesn't seem to be an easy way forward. . .

i am changed because of nathaniel, in ways that i can try to describe and in ways that i can't. i'm both more bitter and more loving, more open and more closed. i'm more agitated, and i am not yet more peaceful. i am changed in that i kiss more people. i am not afraid to take pretty much anyone in my arms and plant my lips on their face or their lips. i kiss more people than i did a year ago. i want to.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

a quote i like

"During mourning, we have the opportunity to strip away parts of our self-image that are not authentically our own, to bring clarity to our relationships and determine how strongly the deceased has influenced us. As we do this, we begin to reclaim our lives."

From Mourning & Mitzvah by Anne Brener

Saturday, May 19, 2012

trigger words

today, my trigger words have been pediatric hospice.

pediatric. hospice.

two words that do not belong together. a phrase that brings my mind back to some kind of breaking point. denial? bargaining? torture? comfort? relief? surrender? peace?

whatever happened to goonies never say die? don't we fight until the end and insist on fighting?

the choice was given to me while i was still pregnant. doctors nurses genetic counselors chaplain all nodding heads as i made, what i believed, the best choice. a path of nonviolence. a path of peace. ahimsa.

but the choice has haunted me. even though i'm more than nine months away from my loss, i still play the what if game. it's less torturous now, but still there.

i ask my mom, what if i would have taken a washcloth and wiped his face while he was still alive? made him open his eyes and try to look at me? i wish i could have seen his eyes. she says to me, sweetheart, we don't know if his eyes had even developed. if they were even there. what we did was right.

i ask my midwife, what if we would have suctioned out his mouth and nose and tried to get him to breathe? encouraged him a little bit more? she says to me, sweetheart, that baby needed a lot more support to start breathing. a lot more support. what we did was right.

we made arrangements for nathaniel's body while i was still pregnant. knowing he would likely die (but of course hoping hoping hoping he wouldn't, that he'd fight and breathe and live), we went to the cemetery while my belly was still full of him and made plans. picked out an urn. talked to the balding guy who was about my size and so earnest so earnest so earnest.

i thought that i'd have more peace about this, but i don't. my clinical brain completely understands. my heart absolutely does not.

pediatric. hospice.

making arrangements for nathaniel's body while i was still pregnant.

clocks melting. furniture twisting. time dripping.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Nine Months

it started happening a few weeks ago.

i would see new babies in the grocery store or in stroller on the street, and i would think to myself, these babies were newly conceived when nathaniel was born. zygotes. embryos. but they had something in common with my boy. they were on this planet, in utero, when nathaniel was on this planet, in utero and out.

this little generation shared the world with my son.

pretty soon, the babies coming into the world and the grocery stores and the strollers will have nothing to do with nathaniel. they will have been conceived after he was gone already. when he was here, they were just eggs and twinkles in eyes and other raw material, but not a unique entity with their one-of-a-kind custom mix of dna.

maybe it's happening already.

i went on-line and calculated gestation time from nathaniel's birth and death date. it's not a perfect science. nathaniel was due on july 8th, but he wasn't born until july 25th. i have a vague idea about when he might have been conceived, but no way to know when the real magic happened of sperm meeting egg.

and then there's this limbo of his due date and his birth date and his death date and the days we learned he probably wouldn't survive outside the womb.

but there's something there. there. in the sliver of this generation, from the children conceived or born starting early october 2010, to the full-term babies coming through birth openings about now. this is nathaniel's generation. children that crackle and burn at the edges when i look at them, with a painful, confused fascination. children that agitate an ancient, animal part of my brain.

they shared the world of gestation with nathaniel. maybe, somehow, they knew my son. know my son. maybe, somehow, they are his friends. would have been his classmates.

my hope and my prayer is that the sharp and pointy existence of this generation softens in time. i know, and love, too many people who have had babies in nathaniel's gestational group. babies i have never met, may never meet. i wish wish wish to cultivate a love for these little beings - an energy of love and lovingkindness that resonates through my heart and being.

i also hope and pray and wish that this new group of little ones, who will soon just start to be born, won't jab at the still-fresh wound that is the absence of nathaniel.    

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Number 4

three years ago, i quit my full time job teaching high school. i miss my job. (sometimes) i miss having a job. (sometimes) but this post isn't going to go down the rabbit hole of juggling career with the other roles we play. . .

most of all, i miss the other teachers. my favorite people in the whole world: teachers. funny. real. a bit crazy. in my last position, i shared an office with about 20 other teachers. we were all in there before school and after. awesome people. 

a few months after nathaniel died, i learned that a counselor from that school had a baby in the NICU. after a harrowing battle and two surgeries, he died.

yesterday, i learned that one of my favorite fellow teachers in the world lost a baby to HELLP in January. 22 weeks gestation. 

another teacher friend of mine had a baby a few weeks ago. she was born early, but not too early, and they thought she would make it. but she didn't. she died yesterday. i just found out. 

i shared an office with the last two losses. that's four infant losses that i know of in less than a year from a fairly small pool of humans. 

what kind of world is this?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

going down and coming up

recovering from a virus. slowly. my doctor - an older Chinese woman - diagnosed the cough that was keeping me up at night and did acupuncture on my shoulder. Gave me horrible, bitter tasting herbs, that have helped so much, and i have full mobility of my left shoulder for the first time in months.

celebrated a birthday - i'm 39 now, and my biological clock ticks so loudly sometimes i can't think of anything else. can i handle the stress of pregnancy after babyloss? am i ready for that? my body hands me clues of fertility. i do know that if i did get pregnant i would be beyond overjoyed, but it still may be too soon to try. and i may not be able to get pregnant if we do try.

i spent four glorious days in southern california. sunshine. sunshine. sunshine. four days away from the persistant rain. i sat for hours just looking at the horizon. i laid on the beach and listened, with my fingertips, to the waves crash. i watched the sun set behind the ocean every night. i breathed. i watched bad tv. it was the best thing i've done for myself in a long, long time.

starting to plan nathaniel's one year angel-versary. i must go someplace warm. by the ocean. sunshine. breathing. three and a half months away.

the pains of grief come and go in intensity. sometimes it's still too overwhelming to go out in public. i don't know when that will change, so i am slowly shifting my energy away from the bustle of errands and appointments and into things i can do within the square footage of my house and yard. imagining a life where i don't leave the property for days at a time. perhaps committing to a year of no driving. envisioning domestic projects and activities, both with a new little one, and without.

what i do know, and what startled me, is that i felt whole today. only for a few moments. i didn't want to nag it or question it or push it away. but it was there, in drawing class. not a nathaniel-never-died wholeness, but a new wholeness.

and so i touched hope:)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Approaching eight months. Nathaniel would have been eight months on the 25th. 

About three weeks ago I started having heart palpitations. It happened, for the first time, when I was laying in bed. My heart made one large thunk, then a series of little tink, tink, tinks, and then paused for a long time. It kept going erratically like this for a little while longer, and finally settled down into a normal rhythm. 

It was scary. This has never happened to me before. But I know Kate said something about having heart palpitations. 

I started having these episodes several times a day. My heart would just start beating erratically, and my arms and hands would numb. My mind would start to race, trying to figure out what to do, if I should go to the emergency room. 

David's birthday party came and went. It was *beyond* stressful leading up to it. But once it was over it was a success and the guests, and David, had a good time. 

The following morning we went to a Bar Mitzvah. I'd never been to one, and I cried several times during the ceremony. The worst part was seeing my friend's baby, born only a few months before Nathaniel. We would walk together when we were pregnant. I held and cuddled her baby while I was still pregnant, before we knew about Nathaniel's condition. I thought our babies would be friends. 

And when I saw this nearly one-year-old, I entered into that white tunnel of searing pain. 

At the luncheon, the baby was sleeping in her car seat. My friend came up to me and held my hand across the table. I buried my face with my other hand and sobbed. I hate public displays of emotion. Hate. Hate. Hate. Humiliated. 

She asked if I wanted her to take her baby and sit at another table. I said no, that's ridiculous. I am ready for things to be okay. I need things to be okay. 

They're not okay. 

At our table, we had two other babyloss families (with many years between now and their losses), and then the friend with her nearly one-year old and her older boy. I don't think it helped to know that the other babyloss mamas knew exactly what I was going through. I think it made it harder for me to perform being okay. I felt transparent.  

And then I felt like that crazy woman whose baby died and who cries all of the time.  

I should have stayed at home. 

That night, I had a three hour long episode of irregular heart beats. I honestly thought that I might die, and David and I talked about going to the ER, but then what? They hook me up to all of the monitoring devices, try to figure out what is wrong, and then find something that is wrong? Or find nothing that is wrong? Which would be worse? I know the irregular heart beats are about Nathaniel. And then I'd be a crazy woman hooked up to machines in an emergency room with my heart beating erratically and there is really nothing that they can do.  

And I figured if I was destined to die I was probably going to die. 

After that night, Saturday the 10th, I surrendered. I gave in.

I've been trying trying trying to do my part to make sure everything is okay. And it's not. 

My current working metaphor is that the grief has been like something holding me under water, and I have been fighting and fighting and fighting to come up for air. And there have been days where I have felt like I could breathe - Nathaniel flavored air, but air. But after the stress and the party and the Bar Mitzvah and the heart palpitations, I just gave up. 

And it's okay. 

So, for the last 10 days, I haven't left the house much. I thought I was grieving well and taking good care of myself by getting regular massage and acupuncture and exercise and going to therapy and the groups and processing and talking and writing. 

But now I'm not going anywhere. 

I'm crawling the line between grief and depression on my belly and elbows. 

I'm trying to stay out of bed during the day. I will sit or lay on the couch. I drink tea. I draw. I eat when I'm hungry. 

Allowing myself to do less. Nothing, if possible. 

Being held under water and not fighting it. Making the effort to not fight it.

The heart palpitations have stopped for now. The leader of my support group said that the palpitations are anxiety. 

And that's where I am. Not knowing whether the loss is going to kill me, or if I'm going to grow some gills. 



Monday, March 5, 2012

where is he now?

nathaniel died on a monday.

he was cremated wednesday morning. i know because i felt it. david was out of the house. i was alone. i writhed and howled and cried on the bed because he was being cremated and i could feel it.

the funeral director called david wednesday afternoon to tell him he could come and pick up the ashes.

he was gone. my sweet boy was gone. his little voice, his little presence, his little body i held in my arms and saw for only a few hours.

on friday he came back to me - burning in my mind's eye - about 4 or 5 years old. energetic. playful. with dark curly hair and 4 or 5 year-old teeth. we ran together and laughed and played tickle. i sobbed while i drove the car over a bridge. he was right there.

he was skinny like his dad - i put my hands on either side of david's stomach now, his shape, nathaniel's shape, right here.

the distance between shoulder and nipple like my (living) son. he's right here.  

i don't always have him with me in my mind's eye. i can't always feel his presence. i don't entirely understand the heaviness of the grief in relationship to *him*. who is he, where is he, how is he now?

do you imagine your baby? how old is he or she in your mind? what is your relationship like?  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


This is kind of a silly post, I admit it. But it's relevant to me right now.

One of my hens, Cluck Norris, has gone broody. When a hen goes broody, she stops laying eggs, and she sits and sits and sits trying to hatch eggs. She's grumpy, has only one thing on her mind, and does not want to leave the nest for any reason.

Cluck is a beautiful bird. She has black feathers with a green sheen in the right light. She's an Australorp by breed, and a reliable layer (when she's not broody).

One day last week, she collected all five eggs laid that day from five hens, and she collected the five golf balls we use as "sucker eggs" to show the hens where to lay, and she plopped herself down on all of them and went broody. She put together a full clutch of 10 "eggs" - only one of them was hers - and decided it was time to become a mother.

But we don't have a rooster. She can sit on those eggs (and golf balls) all she wants and none of them will never hatch.

So I took the eggs and removed the golf balls from the nesting boxes, but she's still broody. She just sits there, all day, in an empty nest box. If another hen lays an egg in another box, she'll go and sit on that egg. When I approach her to remove her from the nest, her feathers hackle out. All she wants to do right now is just sit. She prefers to sit on eggs, but if there are no eggs there, she'll just pretend that there are, and still sit.

This morning I picked her up to move her off of the nest, and I noticed that she has plucked all of the feathers from between her legs, and so her soft chicken skin can be directly next to the eggs, and she can keep the eggs, and baby chicks, warm. I do not delude myself in thinking that she's aware, at all, of this process. It's all in a very basic part of her very basic brain. But feeling her soft, warm chicken skin, and seeing the few feathers still there, I thought of the pain I've endured to carry and birth a baby, only to have no baby to raise. And of the mothering hormones and instincts that snap in to place whether the baby lives or not.

In my 10 minutes of facetime with my partner today, where it was nearly 9 pm in Italy and not even noon here, I told him about Cluck's chicken skin, and that it makes me sad. He told me that she's just a stupid chicken and I should stop anthropomorphizing her.

My hackles went up.  

Cluck's feathers hackling up. 

Ready to keep baby chicks warm. I did bring her in the house to take the photo. She plucked herself so clean for the task. It reminded me of a bikini wax. 

One of today's eggs. I love the color. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

seven months today

we woke up this morning before 5am. i had to drive my husband to the airport, so he could fly to southern italy to teach for the week. i wish i could have made him take me this time. he's only been home for five days. i need a vacation.

i'm grounded at home with: 2 dogs, 1 cat here, 3 cats at the farm, my 16 year-old son, eight chickens in the yard, one chicken at the farm, seeds sprouting, tiny starts growing under lights. i'm not going anywhere right now.

i have a list of projects to distract me while he's away. today, i've accomplished none.  

i've cried a few times. not torrentially. partly cloudy with cloud bursts?  

undoubtedly the worst event of the week was learning that a close friend had her baby, and seeing pictures of the baby on fb. the baby she told me about the week nathaniel died. the baby was sweet and pink with a head full of dark hair.

i went to bed and wailed because my sweet baby died.

i miss him.

this is a picture of me and nathaniel right after he was born. 

this is a picture of the test announcing that nathaniel was coming! 

this is a picture i drew of nathaniel during our first trimester while i was traveling with my husband. i was trying to imagine what nathaniel might look like. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

perpetuum mobile

there are things that i have to do most every day. meals - prep, serve, clean. errands. appointments. laundry. 
drive the car in the rain.
the best chance for a shower is if i take a yoga class.
hygiene has taken on a new, changed standard in grief.

moving my family forward with the calendar and clock.  

the wallpaper of the world peels.


My husband is turning 50 next month. I did not want to throw a party, but my mom encouraged me. Told me it was important to celebrate and mark his 50th.

So I'm planning it. Striving to be a good wife and all. Trying to put on a good face and create a memorable event for my partner. 

talking about it with a friend:

friend: "I was glad to get the invitation to David's party and see that you're celebrating life again."

me: "I want people to come to David's birthday party, and I want them to dance and have fun, and not be completely sad."

friend: "Quit projecting. No one else is going to be sad. Everyone else is over it."   

me: silently scratching the name of this friend off of my ever-shrinking friend list. suuuch a bitch!


i feel like my body moves forward in time, but moves through the grief, sometimes, by sobs. sometimes i sob so hard i can't breathe. my lungs exhale completely and my diaphragm spasms and my whole body just shakes for a long time.

the only other time in my life that i remember sobbing like this was when i was very little, and it was frightening when i would cry so hard i couldn't inhale or breathe. i sob like that now, but i'm not afraid. 


how does your body grieve? what do you notice about your body and grief?

Theme song for the week.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Wild Geese

This poem by Mary Oliver comes up for me again and again. . .


You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the praries and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

I've loved this poem for years. I came to it a thousand times before Nathaniel to find a sense of freedom. I do not have to be good.  I only have to allow the soft animal part of my body love what it loves.

Now I come from it troubled.

What if the soft animal part of me is bloodied and battered? What if the soft animal part of me has been taken behind a back street and beaten? What if the soft animal part of me is not alive, but not entirely dead? 

The soft animal part of me loves my baby. That's the truest thing.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Themes of the day

how does the human spirit survive this loss?
will i?
negative space.
the world of the lost.
wisdom i never wanted. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

6 months 1 day

Yesterday was Nathaniel's six month birthday. It was the first thing that I thought as soon as I woke up.

Six months old. Six months not old. Six months lost. Six months gone.

I missed him. Fiercely. But not in the way that I was howling. I had howled the day before.

Yesterday, and today, I missed him from a place of love, which is easier to bear. I just love him so much, and I can feel the openess of the love and belonging. Today, I even felt happy, simply because I was not in excruciating pain.

We bought a farm. The 25th of January, six months after Nathaniel was born and died, was the first day that we owned it. It's a small farm on an island. We went out there today and I just cried. It's all about Nathaniel.

I cried while I was out there and wished that I had my baby strapped onto me in some way - in a sling or backpack. Some way to hold him and feel his little body and warmth. I wish I had a collection of little hats for his head.

I think about everything I want to show Nathaniel on the farm.

I wish I could teach Nathaniel about chickens and rabbits. We could start seeds togethers and grow a tremendous garden of flowers and vegetables. Raise a goat or a lamb or a horse.

It's all about him. It's all about Nathaniel. The farm is all about finding ways to keep him near.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Eleven days shy of six months.

Before Nathaniel, when I needed some advice that I wasn't getting from other people, I would try to access my inner 50 year-old: the person who I imagine I will be when I'm 50. There have been many times when I have imagined sitting down with her in the garden and asking her for advice and direction.

I cannot access my inner 50 year old now. After Nathaniel, I have no idea who I will be when I'm 50, or if I'll even get there. Grief has changed all of that.

I can't imagine the future right now. I'm just moving forward, sometimes minute by minute. Sometimes hour by hour. I'm trying to get some volunteer opportunities going. I think that if I do some volunteer work I can become something more than I was before.

I wonder if I need a better attitude, or to try to have a more optimistic outlook. I have an aversion to sentences that start with "my therapist says. . ." but here's one anyway: my therapist says that it's too soon, and that I don't have to worry about trying to be optimistic or having a good attitude. My baby just died, and that is tragic.

So I go through the day hollow. I take a yoga class and I breathe into the hollowness of my soul, and try to find the clearest truths I can. I react inappropriately in situations, and then isolate myself because I'm afraid of reacting inappropriately.

I guess that I'm impatient with the grief. I'd like to have some peace.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


In ancient Greece, people believed that babies came from the wind. They thought that when the wind blew in a certain way, a woman would become pregnant. 

Shortly after Nathaniel died, one of the wiser women in my life told me this. I don't know if the history is accurate or not. But it makes sense to me that babies could come from the wind. I've never personally seen a sperm cell swim.

That's a tongue twister: sperm cell swim sperm cell swim sperm cell swim.

I'm not trying to conceive. 

My grandmother told me that babies just happen. That has certainly been my personal experience, and what I've witnessed to be true for other people. All the science and math in the world can't give some people babies for no reason that doctors can explain, and other people seem to conceive and carry and birth effortlessly. I've never tried to get pregnant. I've been pregnant twice. I've had two babies. One died.

In the process of finding out about Nathaniel's condition, and trying to uncover why he had his rare chromosomal abnormality, the specialists took a blood sample from me for genetic testing. As it turns out, I'm a "carrier." Nathaniel got his condition from me.

Nathaniel's chromosomes look something like this:
47, XY, +der(22),t(11;22)(q23.3q11.2), mat

What this means for me is that I have a 5 - 6% chance of having another baby with Nathaniel's chromosomal abnormality, and about a 50% chance of having a viable pregnancy as a "carrier."

I'm 38 years old. I'll be 39 in three months. I don't know the exact statistics, but I'm pretty sure my  age also knocks down my chance of a viable pregnancy.  

One of my sisters is a known carrier. She has had multiple miscarriages. I don't even know how many. She has two children.

Being lost without my baby means that I'm a bit guano loco. Consciously, fully stepping into "trying to get pregnant" and having a baby scares me. What if I try and fail because of age, or chromosomes, or lack of wind? What if I try and succeed, and then carry my baby knowing that my baby could die at any time? I've learned that babies die for all kinds of reasons. 

guano. loco.

I do feel some pressure that, if we're going to have a baby, we should get on it because of my age, and frankly, because of my husband's age, too. He's going to be 50 in March.

At this point, I don't think that I can try to conceive. I think that maybe, in another 6 or 7 months, I could open myself to the possibility, remember that babies just happen, keep my sails in healthy condition, and see if there are favorable winds.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012


On Christmas morning, when I went outside to check on the chickens, there was a bluejay standing on the patio, about ten feet away from me. I was surprised by the sweet bird, and felt that wonder of whether it had something to do with Nathaniel. Standing in the backyard in my bathrobe I started to cry, only in part because I was sad, but more because I was hopeful for that glimmer of connection with my son.

I believe that it's possible that birds relay messages between worlds.

So I watched the bird. He was an unusual kind of bluejay -- his head was fuller, the feathers standing away, ruffled. His body was fuller, too, like he was a bigger jay, but younger somehow. His breast was grey. He only hopped around the yard; I never saw him take flight. I wondered if he's a different breed of bird altogether.

There was a second bluejay in the yard Christmas morning, so I was able to compare their bodies more closely.  The second blue jay was much more familiar, like the common jays I see regularly. He had a much sleeker body - its feathers lay flatter against his head and breast, and he hopped around but also took flight easily, moving between the air and earth effortlessly. But both of the birds were blue all over except for the breast, which was grey. They just had very different shapes and behaviors.

I watched the first bird that I saw for as long as I could. I even took a picture of him, but the picture didn't properly capture his presence or his uniqueness. It was like he was a different kind of bluejay, the way Nathaniel was a different kind of human. Nathaniel's DNA was fundamentally different from the DNA of people who thrive on this planet. He had extra genetic material, which made basic survival -- breath, food, water -- an insurmountable challenge.

For a short while, it seemed like the bird wanted my attention, and he got it. But after about 10 minutes, he didn't want my attention anymore, and he hopped around to the side of the house and tried to hide from me. So I left him alone.

A few days later David found the sweet bird dead in the front yard, underneath the windows of his office.  I don't know how long he had been there. It looked like the same bird with the fluffy feathers around the head and body. Seeing him dead made the hole in my soul whistle and moan for Nathaniel. And I don't know what to make of it. It definitely seems like some kind of sign or symbol, but I don't know what.

A reminder that all things die? That the material world and all things living are just here temporarily? Thanks, but that's a life truth that is very clear right now. That Nathaniel is not far away? Maybe that wishful thinking. I don't know how to interpret this experience, or if it's one of those things that exists only in the realm of symbol, and is not for me to solve or make sense of.

But I would really like to understand.