Tuesday, February 12, 2013

back to work

i (finally) went back to the yoga studio where i was teaching through my pregnancy. i had exchanged emails with the main teachers there during my loss. i emailed them as we found out about nathaniel's conditions. we've had a few email exchanges in the last year and a half. but i hadn't been able to go back to the studio.

i have been mad at yoga for not saving me from the pain of my loss. before he died, i knew how to ground myself and breathe deeply. i have survived hard things before. i could sink my energy and breathe. but when he died i couldn't breathe. every breath was so, so painful. and my breath cycle adjusted to accommodate the pain. my nervous system was destroyed like i had survived a bomb explosion.

but in truth, my very sick baby boy died peacefully in my arms.

none of it makes sense.

my first class back as a student, i was held by friends who knew what happened to nathaniel. i sobbed for a bit, but i made it through the whole class without exploding.

my second class back, i ran into an old friend who didn't know what happend. the last time i saw her, i was big with nathaniel. she came up to me with a big smile and said how is your family?

i thought fuck. she doesn't know. i was hoping that she had found out through. . .someone else.

i had to tell her that my baby died. where do i even start?


few people know his story. i have shame, or something, about the fact that he was sick and we didn't know. i'm absolutely embarrassed, even here, about the fact that i was 37 years old and i didn't have any kind of ultrasound or genetic testing. please know that i wanted to, but i didn't for complicated reasons.

the truth percolates down to the fact that my husband is afraid of doctors and the mainstream medical establishment. he has a degree in science from an ivy league school, so ignorance is not the issue. just fear.

in retrospect, i should have had the testing i wanted, the testing i knew was best practice, considering my age. considering his. but i wanted more to have a baby with him. i wanted for us to be together. and he wasn't going to get on my side of the issue.

so i agreed to a homebirth, for him. i agreed to no testing. and then at our 36 week appointment, when the midwife suspected our baby was breech, she requested that we get an ultrasound as soon as possible to confirm position.

and the story of our loss begins there.

and now i don't know how to tell nathaniel's story to my friends. the fact that he was sick absolutely colors the loss. the fact that he was sick somehow doesn't ease my grief.

it doesn't make sense.


my third time back to the studio i talked with two different friends, both of whom knew about nathaniel. one of them had gone to nathaniel's service, and i hadn't seen her since. we hugged and kissed and hugged and kissed and laughed to see each other. the other friend was the photographer at my wedding, and i had run into him at the grocery store about six months ago. i told him there that my baby had died. i don't think he knows the details.


when i think about how to tell other people about the loss, i don't want the fact that he was sick to dismiss or diminish the loss. i don't know what details to include. i don't know what details to leave out. i don't know if i can show them his picture. some people think that a photo of a dead baby is morbid.

how am i supposed to talk about nathaniel? it's still so awkward and the narrative is pocked by vulnerabilities, shame, embarrassment, and challenges within my relationship. it's also marked with making difficult medical decisions. about life. about resources and statistics, about complex and controversial medical procedures. about severe, global disability. all of that is part of nathaniel's story as well.

how do i tell his story? what story do i tell?


  1. I hope you'll show his picture. He's gorgeous. I'm so glad you've shared some pictures with me.

  2. Oh, I wish you didn't feel bad about the testing. I completely understand why you do, but I wish you didn't. I find it hard to tell people that Anja died at 29 weeks, or to mention her weight (it seems so pitiful), because I feel it diminishes our loss. Somehow - and this seems terrible to say - it seems like if you can say, my baby was full-term, perfect, and s/he died, then you have earned all the pain and horror of the loss (from others), but if you say, my baby was sick, or my baby was not full term, it is so much easier for others to say, oh, well, then...Maybe this is not exactly what you were getting at and I am reading into your words my own experiences and neuroses, but in case it is what you are saying...oh, I get it. How to tell the story? What details to share, what to leave out? I don't know either. I seem to tell it differently every time and it is always somehow wrong, completely awkward. I went to (another freaking birthday) party this weekend and none of the moms talked to me and I left thinking, well, maybe that's a good thing because it hardly ever ends well, does it? I hope the yoga felt good. It's a big deal to go back there.

    1. yes, that is it exactly. exactly what i was getting at. that because he was sick, the well, then...

  3. I've noticed that people do that... they do the whole "ohh he was sick..." like that is some sort of answer. at least to them it is.
    You are not alone in emotions of telling his story. I experience the same kinds with our story. This may sound back but i have just become vague in a sense that they will understand the severity of the loss like i need them to.... I say "he died at three days old." they usually ask what happened and i say "we don't really know, no one say it coming."
    It isn't a lie but it isn't the entire truth either. It's a white lie though because it all goes back to getting them to understand and the meaning behind his life which otherwise they might have blown off.
    We didn't do any genetic testing either. and both me and my husband are science-nuts. If you would have known do you think that you would have done it any differently? It's so hard to say.
    I'm so glad that you are back at yoga. it's awfully brave of you. I still have yet to return to the things that i loved before my heart broke.

    1. i'm tired and not spell checking.... bad- not back.... saw- not say
      Lots of love to you.

    2. I do this too, sometimes: tell little white lies. 'We had a daughter who died at birth,' is not really true, but to me it's the same (she was supposed to be born but she died) and I feel like outsiders somehow, like you say Laura, understand the severity better when I just leave it at that.

  4. People wants answers... just like we do.

    I don't let them off the hook for that. Sick or not. Small, medium, large, no ultrasounds, 400 ultrasounds... it doesn't matter.

    Nathaniel is your son and you deserve the right to grieve and share him with others. I don't share Andrew's picture unless people ask-- not because I don't think he's beautiful, but because I don't like the idea of people gawking. I want them to revere him and respect our family. I want him to be special and showing it to people who have the balls to ask is the only way I can do it. Lots of great people have asked. And many have not.

    I don't want others diminishing Andrew's death either because he never took an outside breath, so I tell them we lost him at birth-- to really drive home that he was literally on the cusp of being here. Every single thing was ready for his arrival and we were ready to parent him. He is not something we just let go. How do you let your firstborn GO?

    You have much of the same questions I still ask myself. Love to you. Nathaniel is very loved.

  5. Oh Suzanne, baby loss is so effing difficult as it is, but to throw in all these other issues of choices, illness and spousal support is beyond torture. I am sorry this is so complicated.

    I love Nathaniel's photos that you've shared and I feel honored to have seen his sweet face.