Oct 28, 2010

The Year of Magical Thinking

I'm reading this book called The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.  In my humble opinion, I dare say it may trump A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis for honesty in detailing the process and effects of life after loss.  My favorite part about this book, for its many validations, is its title.  To me, it's validating just to have in the title that I get a whole year. 

The magical thinking comes from our feeling responsible for the event, that we had some control over it, albeit rationally we realize that we didn't.  Outsiders verbally relinquishing us of said responsibility is just infuriating.  I know I didn't allow her to die.  But, outsiders cannot reach my magical mind.  The thoughts there are untouched by rationale.  Other magical thoughts are sensations that we were left behind by our loved ones.  Grief, she writes, is something you don't recognize until you are there.

Didion talks about how after 8 or 9 months, she begins to feel fragile.  How at this point, we see our continued cognitive deficits, anxieties, whatever creeps in at this point, our sadness, as self-pity.  As "failure to manage the situation."  I have felt extremely pressured (by myself, by my assumptions of what others are thinking) to appear as though I'm "managing."  For some things I am.  Other things are worse than even those first weeks.  Other things are the same.  At times I even enjoy the intimacy and liberties of being part of the Damaged Goods Club.

9 months ago today, I was driving to my final midwife appointment, the one from which in many ways I've never returned.  On the drive, I played I'm Yours by Jason Mraz repeatedly, singing along for Brynn, who I assumed was still alive, and thought of another song, by Roger Whitaker, I'd like to sing to her.  I would sing it to her when I held her for the first time.  It would be my song for her:  "Hey.  Did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world?  She walked out on me.  Tell her I love her.  Tell her I need my baby now.... tell her I'm sorry."

The walking out on me part has indeed made this our song.

Today I took Shane to the doctor.  She noticed my belly and asked him if he was going to be a big brother.  I absolutely love how he answered these questions.

Nodded head yes and said, "This is another boy."  What are you going to name him?  "We ALREADY did name him Noah.  And Brynn died because she came too early."  (he has countless theories for why Brynn died, each as magical and possible as anyone else's guess.)

He doesn't hesitate to tell his story, our story.  He doesn't stop to consider how she will react, how the energy in the room will shift, what will be said next and by whom.  These thoughts, in so many daily situations, fill my head with pressure and anxiety.  I don't befriend any of the other moms waiting outside of Shane's story group, for fear of the dreaded question that I still can't answer honestly:  Is this your 2nd?

Oct 14, 2010


She would be 8 1/2 months now.  Maybe starting to crawl.  Eating solid foods.  We would know her preferences well.  She would smile and have chubby baby legs.

I will share what I do know about her for sure, from my pregnancy.  She did not like meat of any kind.  I could eat the most bitter vegetables all day long with her.  I'd have an over-easy egg on a bed of dark greens with balsamic vinagrette for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I drank gallons of lime-ade mixed with coconut milk.  Some mornings I'd have a lime-coconut popsicle before breakfast.  I had never done that before in my life.  And grapefruits every day.  And greek yogurt.  She was an efficient and healthy eater.

She would always move when I sang Shane to sleep.  I was singing to Shane the last time I felt her move, actually.

She was super active.  My nickname for her was "Kicky."  Early on in her movements she seemed to be searching for the exit.  "Buscando la Salida," I used to say.  I knew all along that I was in for a huge challenge with her.  I told a friend recently that she will ever be my most challenging child.  I had a sense that she was very strong-willed and independent.  Not the type to put up with fences.

Over the summer I got this impression of her, like a teenager exasperated with me, "Mom, when are you going to stop being mad at me for dying?  Get over yourself, mom, I didn't mean to!"  She's a no-nonsense, in-your-face kind of spirit.  Then again, I sense an impish side.  After all, she's part of this family, and we are an irreverent bunch.

So, that's my baby.  I wish there was more, but I'm grateful for what there is.  In a way that I wouldn't understand otherwise, she is alive to me, in her way.


This is the eve of the international Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  It is suggested that we light a candle at 7pm in all time zones to create a world-wide wave of light.  Apparently I missed The Walk to Remember in my area, which was on October 2nd.  I figured I would have been alerted by one of the people or groups ...  There's always next year.

I meant to write sooner.  It's not for lack of things to talk about.  It's more that Life has become very confusing and I like to be at my highest and best here, in order to honor Brynn.  My subjects for discussion as of late are a little too real, even for a blog about a dead baby. 

Noah's 28 weeks in utero, doing well.  We're all fine, sort-of. 

I had a dream awhile back that I was living alone in a hotel, some kind of transient life, and a stranger, or someone I had met once at some sort of women's group placed a marker on my lawn that signified that I was the mother of a child who had passed.  It meant a lot to me.  I asked her if I could hug her, and I started sobbing, but even in my dream I would not allow myself to say the words that were burning in my throat.  Simply, "I miss her so much."

Nobody wants to hear that.  Nobody wants to be burdened with my ongoing longing that they can't fix.  But keeping those words in is unhealthy.  And so today I say to you, I MISS HER SO MUCH.

I guess after any traumatic event, when you get back to your busy life, the trauma has a way of sneaking its way back in from time to time.  Say, in a tick, or an act of violent rage that really seemed to come out of nowhere.  Our family has gotten out of sync, each member attempting to withstand the normal pressures of life whilst under the pressures of grief for our daughter and anxiety for our new son's well-being.  Not to mention dealing with a house full of other crazy people under the same intense pressures.  We're starting to crack, as a unit.

So, I am finally engaging in the luxury that is mental health counseling, with a counselor who has personally been down this road.  This to me is a great blessing, and for me there is already a high level of trust and understanding for eachother.  It always urks me when people say things like this, but I will allow myself to urk some of you because: Unless you've been through as devastating a loss, you can't really guide a person through the process.  I've had grief counselors and well-meaning friends in the counseling profession attempt to encourage me by essentially telling me what chapter in the book I'm on.  I was told, "You're meaning-making, that's great."  Thank you, that's helpful.  Reduce my efforts to honor my daughter to a multiple-choice answer on your mid-term.

So far, my girl Emily has given me super simple advice that has really helped.  Read this book.  Take Unisom when you can't sleep (It's approved for pregnancy, and WHY didn't anyone tell me this sooner, like 2 years ago??).  Add structure to your day, schedule breaks for yourself.  Duh.  But I wasn't doing it until she told me to.

So, slowly, we begin to rebuild our fragile selves, and from there our fragile relationships, with less than three months before adding a newborn into this mix.  We can most certainly use your prayer.  And we are feeling more hopeful.

Aug 24, 2010

In Dreams

It's been raining for three days straight.  I do miss the sun, but the rain is my weather now.  It reminds me that we wait and hope for our rainbow baby after the storm.

I've been dreaming about Brynn for two nights.  I remember only having one dream about her before, an untouchable sleeping newborn swaddled tightly on a hill of blanket.  These past two dreams have been wierd.  In both, Brynn's body was ours to keep, not decaying, just lifeless like a doll.  In the first, it was bed time and her lifeless doll body was sqwaking until Jimmy jostled her slightly and then she was silent and I asked him to put her away.  Apparently we had a box to keep her in.  In last night's dream, I had memories of carrying her around when she was alive, but in the dream "now" she was again lifeless, and she had this full head of hair cut into this really bad mullet haircut, and she had big flakes of baby dandruff, which I attempted to clear away, wondering what on earth posessed me to have her hair cut like that.  That was it.

During these same nights, Shane has dreamed of Noah.  We sleep in the same room, and he talks in his sleep.  The first night, in his sleep, he asked me why my new baby had fins when he first came out of my belly.  Last night, in his sleep, he asked to touch my belly, and when I put his hand on it Noah moved around wildly, as if he was in on it.

Last night I also dreamed that there was a disturbance outside our bedroom window.  I thought it sounded like a moose, but Jimmy bent down to look out and said it was a democrator, which was some kind of large, wild cat.  About an hour or two after waking from this dream, I heard yelling outside my window.  I got scared and woke Jimmy who bent down to see a man and a woman fighting loudly in the street.  Watching that image from the bed jarred me, I had seen the exact same thing in my dream hours earlier.

I don't know what any of this means, but all the same it seems significant.

Before bed last night, Shane and I were talking about Heaven.  It's a huge and heavy concept for a little boy, and I remember how anything religious seemed to make no sense at his age.  But, nonetheless, his sister lives there, and he's curious.  He asked if we were going to die someday.  I said yes.  He said he was scared, and I said it seems scary because we've never seen what heaven is like, but for the people who have died, they find out that it's pretty awesome, and better than here.  I told him how there is no sadness, no tears, and no pain.  And no crusty blood (his words).  And no hormones (mine).

He asked if God was dead there.  I said no, and he said, understandably, "Oh, I thought that everyone in Heaven was dead."  Hmmm.  I told him the people in Heaven were more alive than we are, and that God is alive here, we just can't see or touch him like we could in Heaven.

It occurred to me that in reality, if you believe in the heaven of the Bible, that that is actually the real place and this is the dream world.  It's been around far longer than Earth, and we will live for eternity there, when we're only here for a short time.

So take heart.

Aug 9, 2010


Guess what this is ;)
What an interesting, serendipitous day.

I'll start out with a little foreshadowing to show how serendipitous my prenatal care has been this time.  In that first week after I peed on that most serendipitous of pee sticks, I sat in front of the computer and said aloud, "Guide me."

I didn't know where to go for care.  It was clear to me that my previous midwife didn't have the technological or the mental/emotional resources to deal with my post-stillbirth pregnancy.  I wanted someone strong, someone who could walk this delicate line with me between natural midwiferous care and high-risk options.  Glory be for google once again, I googled high risk midwife south shore.  One practice came up over and over, with glowing recommendations.  I called and the receptionist even said Sorry for your loss which may seem run-of-the-mill to some, but in my experience with healthcare professionals, it is unusually nice.  I got a call right back, from a midwife, who low and behold grew up a missionary kid in Africa and graduated from my small, private, Christian college in Wheaton Illinois!

So today was my 18 week ultrasound, sandwiched in between a genetic counseling appointment and a consult with a Maternal Fetal Medicine Doctor (aka high-risk OB).  BOTH of these professionals had late losses.  I KNOW!!  In my strange new world this is good news.  And Dr. Achilles Athanassiou is obviously Greek, which means that there's a 99.9% chance that he's Orthodox Christian, which means even more to me in terms of being in the same club.

They are taking such good care of me and my baby Noah Matthew, and he made sure to point out that not only is that a penis, but that it's fully erect.

PS - Please don't ask me if I'm sad or mixed that it's not a girl, or that this child's life is precipitated by Brynn's death.  I will hate to answer it, it will bring me down.  Baby gender is the small stuff that bereaved parents just can not sweat.  It is what it is and it does absolutely no good to dwell on what could or would have been.  Nobody knows, and it doesn't matter.  My feelings for Brynn and my feelings for Noah are not intertwined in my head.  I think of them as my Irish twins.

PPS - Jimmy already promised that if we have a boy this time we get to try again for a girl, which is the only way in this life I could get 3 living kids out of him, so don't you be sad either.

Aug 8, 2010


If I have attended your party or other such gathering in the last 6 months, please understand how important you are to me.  As I've stated recently, social situations are still hard.  Small talk with casual acquaintances is anxiety-producing, and there's almost always a baby there who reminds me of the little girl I didn't bring.  If I've had a bad week, I usually cancel.

Thanks be to God, via Amy, and Jen, and Erin, and Melissa, and so many others for all the support around the Mary Madeline project, (You bring honor to God, to my daughter, to all things good) this was a good week, and I am very proud to say that yesterday I attended my first baby shower since the one my neighbors and close friends threw for me just days before Brynn died.

I ended up having to bring Shane, which I was at first sorry about and ended up being glad for, as he was the only other person I knew there other than the guest of honor.  I channeled my inner socialite that has been buried for some time, and both of us had a great time.  I won too many of the games, and was also rewarded with little kicks from within.  Shane was well-behaved and brave enough to go to a playground with the dad-to-be for most of the party.

It felt so good to be so normal that I spent time at our neighbors' cookout that evening, and I even held a baby boy named Lucas while I casually talked about my three pregnancies and how different they all are.

I've discovered that when I'm talking to an acquaintance I know who knows, it helps to just bring Brynn up.  Just to say something about her, nonchalantly allowing the subject to enter the conversation.

Tomorrow is my 18 week ultrasound, and I need to talk about another milestone before I find out if I'm carrying a boy or a girl.  In the beginning, I so boldly announced that this is a girl and shall be named Zoe.  As the weeks progressed, I slowly realized that just because I lost a girl, and this child is a miracle, and I really want my girl back, that I am not owed or guaranteed a girl.  And, if I'm honestly comparing pregnancies, signs point to a boy.

I have become more than fine with that.  I just can't wait to know!  I have beautiful and meaningful names for either.  Zoe's middle name will be Noel, which means on the day of birth, so appropriately her names together mean Life on the Day of Birth.  Never to be taken for granted again. 

My boy names are equally powerful.  In my little community of pregnant-after-stillbirth moms, our new, live babies are called our rainbow babies.  This term represents the gift of beauty after the long and tragic storm, God's promises of mercy.  It's funny, but we had already picked the name Noah before I knew any of this.  The name also means comfort, so appropriate for who this child is to me.  His middle name will be Matthew, after Jimmy's grandfather who is the salt of the Earth.

Reading Angie Smith's book, I Will Carry You has inspired another recent milestone for me.  She so boldly just kept on loving her child full force, even when she knew she couldn't keep her, that it really convicted me.  I had been trying to balance appreciating this baby in the now, knowing this is all I may get, while maintaining a protective emotional detachment, you know, just in case.

Guess what I realized?  This is so important.  Detaching emotionally does not decrease pain.  In fact, an emotionally detached life may be more painful to live.  So, I have decided to lean into it.  This week I put up the mobile above the changing table, I'm making a special frame for my 12 week ultrasound picture, I'm creatively and actively loving this child as dearly as I possibly can.  This feels like bold relief.  I feel closer to this baby than I did to Brynn in my womb, through the lessons I learned from her.  My daughter has many lessons to teach me, and I'm so grateful that death does not stop her. 

I want to leave you with a passage from Psalm 139 that I've always loved, but holds much more meaning for me now:

For you formed my inward parts;
You knit me together in my mother's womb. 
I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 
Marvelous are your works O Lord, and that my soul knows very well. 
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, and
       skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. 
And in your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

Jul 29, 2010

Buried in a T-shirt!!??

Diving deep into the wreck this week, friends.  I didn't intend to be such a mess but it feels fine to me.  I'll make this quick so I can stop ignoring my son, left alone to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse once again.  I've needed this week to do/have something tangible for Brynn, and someway of connecting with her as well as the baby in my belly, who both feel just like figments of my imagination lately.  I've become increasingly curious about what Brynn was wearing to be buried in, one thing that did not occur to us in all our shock and grief during the week between her birth and her burial, six months ago today.

I've been meaning to contact that beautiful soul of a funeral director, Matthew O'Neil of Middleboro MA, and ask him if I could buy the same gown she had worn.  He was gracious as he always is, but he said he didn't provide anything.  The hospital had provided an "outfit."  He didn't know the name for it.

No problem, I'll just call the hospital and ask them.  It's almost comical, when I call the maternity ward and introduce myself as Teresa Foley, whose daughter was stillborn there on January of this year, "Uh, can you please hold?"  I got transferred around to a voice mail, and called back.  Once again, I was immediately put on hold.  Clearly, nobody wants to talk to the dead girl's mom!

Finally, a nurse got on and I was able to ask what theydress stillborns in.  She said all they would have are T-shirts.  ARE YOU SURE?  Yep.  What about a diaper?  Maybe.  Now, most people don't know this but stillborns still poop.  Brynn did all over the blanket they initially wrapped her in.  A Mother F-ing t-shirt.

I keep telling myself it's just more thing I have to let go.  I could have bought her something, I could have given them her take me home outfit I had packed and with me at the hospital.  Brynn, I'm sorry.  I know you don't care but I do.

Thanks be to God for google.  What did we do before google?  I looked up baby burial gowns and found this wonderful project http://www.marymadelineproject.org/ that takes donated wedding dresses and volunteers lovingly make burial gowns for premies and stillborns, and they are right there at hospitals ready to go, no need to contact anyone, think about anything.  I contacted them, joined their cause on facebook, please consider doing this, which is what they need more than anything right now as they are close to having the coveted status of 1500 supporters, and I'll be sending them my wedding dress. 

I got a reply over the weekend - they will send me a gown for whatever comfort that will bring me, and will put Brynn's name in the tag for any and all gowns made with wedding dresses donated in Brynn's honor. 

As one of my fellow pregnant-after-stillbirth moms told me, It's not enough but IT HAS TO BE.


These ladies sent their wedding dresses in Brynn's honor.  I know of others who have sent dresses, too, and I'm sure there are those I don't know about still.  Thank you, you have alleviated some pain in the world.

Jul 27, 2010


This is not going to be a "feel good" entry. I usually wait until I'm out of a funk like this before I write, but I've already waited awhile and maybe sharing this with you might help me through it.

Where do I begin? With the thing that hurts the most. At first I didn't string anything together, but in the past few months, I have lost contact with some previously very close friends. These aren't my only friends, thank God, but they made up the majority of my inner circle. These friends had all been there for me fully in the early weeks after Brynn's death. They don't know eachother, they don't even all live in the same state, but one by one they each stopped returning calls, and last week I couldn't help but notice this pattern.

I've asked other moms in my position and this is a very sad but typical side effect of surviving a tragedy. It's not just that people get back to their own lives. We had been a part of eachothers lives for 10 - 20 years already. I've started to feel like they are deliberately distancing themselves from me. I know I've changed.  Maybe I became aloof. Maybe I scared or offended them.  I suspect I may have gotten a little too real once or twice in my coping process. I suspect that possibly they are coping with my story by removing themselves from it. It feels unfair.
Now more than ever, I value and protect my self esteem too much to attempt to maintain a friendship that's not reciprocal. I truly wish you all the best, I love you, I forgive you, I cut you loose. I work with the willing.

(Editor's note:  Ahem, it occurs to me after finally hearing from a few of those afformentioned distanced friends, that I may have jumped to conclusions about why I hadn't heard from them.  Turns out summer can be an extremely busy time if you're used to having kids in school, and perhaps not everything is about me all the time :)
All that, plus my sleep and work and parenting a very active four year old schedule, affords me little time to socialize, even with my husband, and our marriage has grown strained as it did in my last pregnancy. And socializing with anyone other than my closest friends is still exhausting. Exhausting because I have to pretend to be fine. Because I feel like I have to protect acquaintances from thinking about my dead baby, and it feels too restrained to purposely avoid talking about her, she is as much my life as my son is. So, this leaves me feeling very alone.

I've lived in Massachusetts for ten years now, and I will always feel like an outsider. I'm reading a book now called I Carried You by Angie Smith, who's daughter Audrey Caroline was diagnosed "incompatible with life" at her 18 week ultrasound, and lived for 2 hours after she was born. Angie felt like it was wrong not to tell her whole story to any stranger who may have innocently inquired about the pregnancy, or the occassion for the dress she was buying for Audrey's funeral. She must live in the South or the Midwest. I think that I would like to try to do that but I just don't think the people I encounter here in Massachusetts could handle it. I feel like it would be rude to do that to them. There are so many mysterious codes for small talk here, and such a general fear of depth, especially too soon, that I have infered that this is something you just don't do here. I started working at a school in April, and no one there knows my story. When I consult for my home party business and people ask me if Shane is my only child, I say yes. But he isn't. And every time I say it, my lonliness compounds.

There is a strength to showing how vulnerable we are, and I think if I could embrace that more, I'd do better.

Today, on my commute to work I was crying, pleading with God for some relief. I could harldy see the road through my tears. I gave in to my sorrow, to my lonliness and isolation, and I let it all out in the only moments of the day I had to be alone. In the same moments I slowed on the highway as traffic built up behind an accident. Then I stalled out. Then my car would not start. I grabbed my things and started walking toward the accident to wave down a police officer and ask that they push my car over. I snapped back into confidant mode and handled the ordeal bravely, not even letting the state cop bully me into taking a tow truck he called when my freebie was on the way.

What was the point of that? I don't know. I'm good at that sort of situation. I'm good at holding back my tears, my hurt. But I don't want to be good at anything anymore other than authentically me, broken, lonely, grieving, heart broken, and crazy. It is far far too exhausting to pretend to be anything else.

Jul 12, 2010

Her Feminine Influence

I have a friend who is, what's the word without sounding too woo-woo, well, I'll just show you. She met a lady at Target shopping for baby swings about a year ago. Somehow, they exchanged numbers and became fast friends. When their friendship was still new, She asked her Target friend who Ann Marie was. Her Target friend was taken aback. My Father's wife, why? My friend was receiving messages from this woman's father, who had died a year earlier. She somehow knew secrets that only her Target friend and her father knew, up until then anyway.
No joke.

So since Brynn died I was hoping for some kind of exchange like that with her. I finally got one. At Shane's party, and at a playdate the week prior, my friend told me that it was like Brynn was attached to me like a koala. As if I was wearing her in a wrap. Brynn has felt closer to me as of late. I find myself casually mentioning things to her, "this is yours, Brynn," or "where's my earing, baby?" When I feel her near, I take more care in my appearance.

Actually, I've embraced her influence in my appearance since the first week. I wanted to look as good as I could for her at her burial. I wore makeup, jewelry, and a pink overcoat. I was overwhelmed with this instinct that girls like their mommies to look pretty.

I remember kind of fighting the color pink when I was pregnant with her. I didn't understand why EVERYTHING for a girl was pink. It seemed oppressive to me in a way. What occurred to me after hours of observing little girls was that they do it on their own. Little girls embrace the inherently feminine. This is something I fought against for most of my adult life, but now, that's changed. To honor Brynn, or simply to go with what feels like her influence, I wear jewelry, a little makeup, and my prettier tops that hardly got any wear last year. I bought pink mary janes. She is in my thoughts now for every accessory purchase. I adorn myself to honor her, and all that she would have shown me. It feels like a relief to cease fire on the color pink.

Jun 8, 2010

Things We Can't Ask

If you haven't been here in awhile read The New Natural first.

Alone in a hospital room on a dark night in late January, I dared to ask God the question I knew there was no answer to. I knew it wouldn't do any good, that the question may lead me in a bad direction, and that I really needed to steer clear of any outcomes that bad direction may have led me to.

But I allowed it to enter my mind, and pen to journal just once. HOW COULD YOU LET THIS HAPPEN? In that moment I went further to ask What God was prepared to give me in exchange for my baby girl. I knew then that I didn't deserve anything special just because my baby died. I knew that I wasn't guaranteed anything that I asked or hoped for. I know that better than anyone now. But, even so, I feel that He was listening to me. We have had so many blessings in the past months, I'm challenged to deny that He hasn't been bestowing special blessings on my family in exchange for my baby girl.

And now I'm pregnant again. But the one thing that is hardest for me to pray for is a healthy, live baby. Sometimes, I just feel destined to repeat the tragedy. I have faith that God is with me, that I can get through anything with His love and the support of the people strong enough to go through it with me.

I ask for your prayers today. That this pregnancy will be successful. All the way. That the child within me will grow to old age. That we be given peace for the journey. And please let me know how I can pray for you.

Thank you

May 31, 2010

The New Natural

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, scientists sent down to assess the damage noticed something peculiar. Amidst all the devastation, Magnolia trees which normally only flowered in Spring, were in full bloom in Autumn. Somehow, the trees were aware of the urgent need to germinate new trees in order to survive as a species, or perhaps because the landscape needed the beauty desperately. For whatever reason, this phenomemon gives me hope.

Only three months after giving birth to my little Brynnie, I discovered that I was pregnant again. Is it natural to get pregnant this soon after giving birth? Not for mothers of live babies. But for my community of mothers, like the Magnolias blossoming at the wrong time, it is quite common.

We take it as a gift. We feel blessed, forgiven, second chanced. We are ecstatic. We are terrified. I am doing everything different this time. Getting all the elective screenings and ultrasounds I so smugly turned down in previous pregnancies. Retaining the option to induce early if I'm absolutely crazy in those last weeks, but hoping to have faith. Praying vigilantly for a child that will live to old age.

And I will not complain about this pregnancy. But I want to say something about pregnancy for those of you who have not experienced it first hand. It is harder than we make it look.

Only a woman would say, "YES! Please make me feel sick and grow significantly fatter for a year (or in my case two) so that I may have someone to depend on me for their very existence, and all things otherwise. Let me waddle around for months in my once ambulatory hips, so that I can stay up all night listening to incessant screaming. Let me give up my sanity to hormones for the rest of my life. Yes, please please please let it be me!"

No matter how much I thought I knew about it before becoming a mother, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. And motherhood begins at conception. And it is every bit worth it. Please pray for this child, who I decided a week after Brynn died will be named ZOE, which means LIFE!

May 16, 2010


Click on:


and vote for both goals everyday until May 31 for the Pepsi Foundation to fund the Mother's Day Project:

#1 - Better Fetal Monitoring for High-risk pregnancies

#2 - Birth planning and support for parents whose babies have died.

For me, there was very little support "in place" system wise, and I could have easily fallen through the cracks if I didn't have a few very strong friends and faith reserves of my own.

A Good Day

Today was our Memorial Service for Brynn. We had given ourselves enough time, I guess, and somewhere in the past three months, without even noticing, peace happened. For now. I know the pain will always be there, and will resurface from time to time, but today was not sad for me. I am so proud of my daughter, and thoroughly enjoyed sharing her a bit today. I had beautiful prayer cards made, we displayed a pencil portrait in an engraved frame (thank you again Melissa). There were lots of flowers, but not funeral flowers. The party was fun and there was plenty of food.

This week I feel this message from God: When you are struck with a tragedy and celebrate anyway, I will give you reason to celebrate. Out of the blue to us, Jimmy went back to work electrical this week after being laid off for almost two years ... and it seems like he carried a reputation for being a great electrician, he was told he came highly praised.

I have been working at a great part-time job for the past month, in a kindergarten class where I only have to worry about one kid, and he's a peach, and the pay is good. I made my own hours and Shane's grammy volunteers to hang with him for the two days per week, taking him to playgroups, libraries, and the children's museum to see the animals every week.

There are lots of other things happening in our family life to celebrate, big and little. Too many to list.

And Brynn is incorporated into our family life. When I can't find her ID bracelet or my angel necklace I ask Brynnie to help mommy find it and she always does within seconds. I tell her I love her all the time. We talk about her. Her spirit is very near. Having Brynn has somehow made it very easy for me to take care of myself. Her love for me is as tangible as anyone else's. Moreso. I hope we keep the simple perspective on life that we've gained from Brynn.

I took the thing that I considered to be the hardest thing anyone's ever had to do in life, and we did it. I found the support I needed, I learned to speak my truth easily. Not every day but some days, Brynn has meant a great accomplishment to me. Her name means hill. How appropriate. Love you baby.

Huh. I just read my Uncle's comment and today is my Grandpa's birthday. I've felt his presence often this year. Happy Birthday Grandpa! I bet you and Brynn are wearing your party hats in heaven, double jumping all over the place together.

Apr 22, 2010

Bad Days

I recently wrote in my journal that Acceptance is a Tear Count. Every tear gets me that much closer to the goal, which I guess is acceptance.

Accepting is tricky though. There are many levels to cross. Some days I still have some fantastic delusions that I can somehow get Brynn back, even 12 weeks after learning that she died. At times I find myself clinging to things that shouldn't matter, and later realize it had some small remembrance of something that happened when I was pregnant, events are categorized pre and post calamity. My highs are higher, for some reason. My lows are frantic and wild. I don't recognize myself.

As I grow stronger I take on tougher tasks, which bring me back down to a vulnerable state. Today I spell-checked her name and confirmed her birthdate for the head stone. I also researched funeral poems and designed the prayer card for her memorial service. I should have expected this would make my day hard. But I didn't see it coming.

I felt sad and lonely all day, desperately insecure. I was not nice. I tried to get myself out of it with music, reading, extra coffee (admittedly not the best idea). A few petty things happened today and almost threw me over the edge. I actually roared at Shane. Like a lion. He ran away crying.

I don't want to be like that. For a moment today I played the grief card. People should be nice to me because they know I'm grieving. Life doesn't work like that! I still have to be the bigger person sometimes, I have to forgive more often. There's a really good reason for my bad days now, but it doesn't excuse my bad behavior. I have even better reasons to rise above the mucky muck. I have two children and a husband to honor today.

I find it wise on these days to go with the flow, knowing that really awesome days often follow the bad ones. Some days the best we can do is to survive them. And now I sing The Sun"ll Come Out Tomorrow at the top of my lungs! Sing it with me!

Apr 18, 2010

We Celebrate

A few weeks ago the Resurrection of Christ was celebrated. A friend had asked me if this special time of the year gave me some hope and encouragement. I expected it to, I told her. Even though I was warned by those who had lost babies before me that holidays were hard, especially the first one after the loss.

In the week earlier I had experienced a small miracle, if you can even call it that. I do though. I had missed church throughout all of lent. There was a particular hymn traditionally sung during this time to Christ's mother Mary, who we in the Orthodox Church refer to as the Theotokos (God-bearer).

I leafed through every page of my prayer book hoping to refresh my memory of the words. I read every word in the lenten section and couldn't find it. Just before giving up I said aloud, "I'd like to sing you this song, but I can't find it." I looked down at the page I was on, and my eyes went right to it.

She was with me. I felt at once calmed and desperate. Tears came, I said thank you and please stay. And then I sat there for a long time, wordless. And then I sang to her.

Here is the song: I wish you could hear the melody, it is as hauntingly beautiful as the content.

All of creation rejoices in you.
The assembly of angels and the race of man.
Oh hallowed temple and spiritual paradise ...
of whom God was incarnate and became a child
He made your body into a throne
and your womb He made more spacious than the heavens
All of creation rejoices in you
Oh Full of Grace, glory to you.

So, heaven was close that week. Saturday night I lovingly made tiramisu for the big party. But when I woke up Easter morning all I could think about was an Easter outfit that my baby girl would not wear today. I had nothing for her. This thought would not leave. I had to include her in our day. I decided late in the morning that I had to go to her grave immediately, an hour away. Gratefully Jimmy was willing to change the day's course with me. We hurriedly showered, dressed, and sat in Boston traffic with a potted pink hyacinth for our daughter's grave. Shane blew bubbles for her while we were there.

We left and sat in more traffic on the way to church, so much so that we missed the service alltogether and headed straight for the party. Within 5 minutes of our arrival a poor unsuspecting parishoner asked if I'd had the baby. For some reason, when I'm feeling especially vulnerable, this makes me mad. I held it together well enough to say "No, she died... They announced it in church weeks ago... It's OK, you didn't know ... thank you ..." endured the obligatory hug and made a beeline for the door. I did not set foot back in the house, fearing that this would happen again. I asked Jimmy's cousins to sit outside with me and protect me from all of the happy people. They did, adding several bottles of wine for insurance.

Today I am making invitations for my own party. They have an angel, a wedding couple, and a graduation cap on them. We will have a memorial service on May 15, followed by a celebration in honor of our daughter, our ten year wedding anniversary, and Jimmy's completing five years of school to become a journeyman electrician. It occurs to me that this is a strange mixture of honors. That some people may think it odd, even inappropriate to celebrate them all at once. This is the best part about the transformational process I've gone through recently: I don't care. Brynn is part of our family, our marriage, our life together. We have reason to celebrate! And so we shall.

Mar 20, 2010


A friend and I were laughing yesterday at my little essay on what I find helpful. She offered her insights. She said that people may feel like they are being dishonoring to Brynn by not being sad for her death. I thought that was interesting, but I totally disagree.

I think it honors Brynn to hear us laugh. Our pain is not helpful to her. When in the dregs of my deepest sorrows, I had a sense that I should be protecting my baby from my distress. Just in case she witnessed my tears, I would say aloud, "I just wanted you to stay with me. I just miss you."

It's in the happy moments that I feel closest to her. When I'm getting silly with Shane, or doing something nice for Jimmy. She has re-opened my eyes to her Dad. I feel more accountable to be good to him now. This honors Brynn.

I've been told that people will take their cues from me on how to be around me. Most of the time I feel like being happy. I hope that doesn't offend anyone.

Mar 13, 2010

The Leprosy of the Situation

"Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like the lepers."
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

In those first weeks, I was amazed myself at how well I was doing. I truly felt as though I was physically being upheld by Grace. Lately, it has felt like that grace was wearing off...

Post-partum hormones replaced my grace. Then, among other things, Jimmy's uncle died after a long battle with cancer. Out of love for my husband, and his family, I attended the services, though they sent me over the edge. It meant seeing large quantities of people that knew our baby had died. Quantities feeling so sad for us, and maybe wanting to hug me a little too hard and a little too long and squeeze tears out of me and perhaps a public sob. Too much public.

This event began a spiraling realization, fueled by crazy hormones, that my mere presence makes people sad and awkward. All those casual acquaintances in our neighborhood, at the bank, at the grocery store who saw me as pregnant, will want to know where the baby is. Then I have to retell the horror story that ruins their day, as evidenced by their expression. Then I feel sorry for doing this to them. And I feel like a leper.

Speaking of leprosy, no other entity has made me feel more like a leper than the professional support community. When you deliver someone's still born baby, you should send a card to the mom immediately, then call a few weeks later and a few weeks after that. You should make sure that there are support groups that actually meet and support contact people that actually call back. At the very least you should return said mom's calls and emails in a timely matter. Honestly.

The one counselor that did initially call back, did not keep her arranged subsequent phone appointment with me. When I called her this week, I gave her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps I misunderstood but I thought she was going to call me.

"I probably did say that," she said cooley, "And I just must have forgot. I'm apologizing."

And she was the best of the bunch!

OK. I've since discussed my disappointment with both of these ladies, and all is forgiven. People make mistakes, even when I really need them not to. In my midwife's previous experience, moms with losses don't want to hear from her. She is grateful to know that the system in place, which truthfully is hardly ever necessary, did not work for me. She kept saying "thank you." She is a good person.

Research has shown that doctors spend less time with their patients who are dying. Perhaps it's to spend more time with patients that have more of a chance. Perhaps it's because death to doctors has some stigma of professional failure. I think it's that most people are quite simply afraid of death.

But you know who isn't afraid of death? Those who have had near death experiences. In his book, Closer to the Light, Dr. Melvin Morse interviews children who have been so sick that they have lost heartbeats for several minutes. Their experiences during their time "outside" their bodies not only comfort me but inspire me. It seems that all we hope heaven to be has been confirmed. There are past relatives, there is a flooding of love and knowledge. There is the most powerful light, guardian angels and happiness. These kids can't wait to go back, and they all seem to be more content with their earthly life for their experience as well. My baby is there!

So, that helps me not to fear death. It's only hard for those of us left behind.

Mar 7, 2010


To me. Linked by a cord
buttoned to your belly.

Your spirit set free
like a ball in a game.

The winning point made by God himself,
smashing it loose from the pole.

I lose.

I bare the weight
pounds added to my flesh
like lead to every step

I bare the weight
blood draining out of me
growing you from within

I bare the weight
cloudy head, hormones,

I bare the weight of empty arms
your absence from them
too heavy a load

I bare the weight
my heart sinks like lead
lowered out of position

Lady, my love for you is as boundless as your spirit is now.

Feb 28, 2010


Yes, really. We are super blessed. It occurred to me several times during those first days in the hospital. Yes, we lost our baby on this earth, but we are left with more than enough. Our grief is deep, and yet our life as a whole is a happy life. At times I do feel angry, and filled with sorrow, but today I feel comforted.

Having Brynn has been a transforming experience. I am amazed at the support we've received. A stranger from Cincinnati sent me a gift card this week to lift my spirits, after an old friend from high school shared our story in her small group. Things like this keep happening, and it all really helps. Friends far and near have been so effective at communicating their love, and I feel at times that I am physically upheld by this.

Other moms are spending time with their newborns changing diapers, nursing, pacing through hours of squawking. I am left with other responsabilities; such as researching umbilical cord anomalies and studying God's promises of heaven. I want to know what I can actually count on.

This life will pass by quickly, and there's plenty do to while we're here. And when I think of Brynn in heaven, even if she witnesses my tears, she's not worried. She's OK and is patiently awaiting our reunion. There is so much love between us, and that love still makes me happy, even though I miss her.

I am inspired to be prepared, to be a good steward of all that I've been given, and to bless others in the way that I've been blessed, although I feel it's a debt I could never fully repay. I pray that all of you reading this will be blessed for the kindness you show just in being here with us in this moment.

Feb 23, 2010


In the community of the bereaved, we speak of firsts. The first time doing such and such, or going somewhere without your loved one.

Yesterday was my first playgroup since having Brynn. My mother-in-law took Shane to the last one, and at my request gave everyone the news and fielded their questions.

As we arrived, I told myself it was just a door, and I walked through. Everything was fine at first, I was treated shyly and carefully. One mom had been out when my mother-in-law was there, and congratulated me as she could see I was no longer pregnant.

"No, the baby died." I don't say I lost her, or she passed, or stillbirth. She died. I don't see any value in mincing the words. I don't want to leave any room for confusion. The problem with my sentance of choice is that it's so shocking it seems like a really dark joke.

The mom was clearly taken aback. I started laughing at the absurdity of this moment, and to lighten the room. I was just trying to get through a 45 minute playgroup here. No one else laughed. Other moms came in to rescue me, saying they were so sad, asking about Shane.

That newly initiated mom did not seem to recover. She did not smile the entire time, nor did she speak to or look at me. Our children collided and her daughter's lip began to bleed. Fitting, I thought, now I can be the heartless, laughing mother of a stillborn and by offspring inflict bodily harm on your children as well.

Feb 19, 2010

Getting MAD about S.A.D.

Three weeks ago today was Brynn's birthday.

In the past weeks I have found (or they have been found for me) a few other stillborn/ lost infant moms to talk to at length, and to guide me in this lifelong process.

Something I notice in all of our stories is starting to make me angry. There seems to be a general lack of concern from the obstetric community as to why our babies died.

In the hospital, the response I got back was that babies are fragile, that more than half of the time an autopsy finds nothing, and chances are whatever it was won't effect the next pregnancy. As the weeks go by, this answer is less and less satisfactory.

1 in 115 births in the US are stillborn. That's 1 every 20 minutes. More than half of the 30,000 stillbirths each year in the United States have no known causes. Just because the medical report reads 'cause of death: undeterminable,' doesn't mean there wasn't a cause of death. Of course there was. Over 15,000 per year for this country alone is a lot of babies to lose and not ask why.

As far as I've found in my initial research, there seems to be only one medical professional interested in learning more about the causes of perinatal death, and in improving the statistic. His information is in the entry below.

Could Brynn's death have been prevented? I think maybe it could have been. The concerns I had during the last weeks of pregnancy, were quickly calmed when voiced to my caregiver. The strange left-side contractions I felt on Tuesday night were dismissed as indigestion over the phone on Wednesday morning. I never felt Brynn move after those contractions, and I'm now convinced that's when she died.

I didn't know at that time that there was any problem. I was confident in her health, and I didn't want to seem like a crazy worrier. I don't blame myself or my care provider for Brynn's death. Yet, I can't help but wish that somehow, we had kept her alive. I wish I had been more in tune, and had better advocated for myself and for my baby. I promise to seem as crazy as I need to be forevermore, to honor baby Brynn.

Here is some good information for pregnant moms I wish I'd had earlier:

statistics sources:

Feb 18, 2010


"Normal babies are dying needlessly during maternal sleep," says Jason H. Collins, M.D., "and I truly believe that half these babies don't have to die."

Dr. Collins is an obstetrician of twenty years and has been researching Sudden Antenatal Death (S.A.D.) Syndrome for a decade. More than 39,000 babies are stillborn in the United States every year. Research by the Pregnancy Institute indicates that S.A.D. Syndrome, secondary to umbilical cord accidents, of full term infants accounts for more than 4,000 of these deaths. Yet the cause of another 50-60% of the 30,000 stillborn babies is unknown. "This is a devastating event because the babies are normal but died," says Collins. The autopsy findings on S.A.D. babies usually result in a diagnosis of undeterminable, leaving the family with many unanswered questions. "This results in unrelenting guilt and anxiety," says Joanne Cacciatore, Director of M.I.S.S. a group dedicated to providing counseling and support to the survivors of S.A.D. Syndrome.

Dr. Collins has interviewed more than 300 S.A.D. families in his research. The research has indicated a succinct pattern resulting in his working theory that S.A.D. Syndrome may be related to fetal-maternal sleep and its effects on a baby inutero. S.A.D. can also affect infants during childbirth and in the early postpartum period. Collins points out that his research is likely to reveal many enigmas associated with early stillbirth and S.A.D. Syndrome. For more information on S.A.D. Syndrome, contact the Pregnancy Institute at 504-847-0607 or visit M.I.S.S. at http://www.missfoundation.org/.

reprinted from: http://www.missfoundation.org/news/sads120199.html

You can download Dr. Collins book, The Silent Risk as well as other literature for free at The Pregnincy Institute website: www.preginst.com

Feb 13, 2010


We are left more grateful for eachother, our marriage of 10 years, and our precious little son who blesses us with reasons for joy hundreds of times a day.

We are grateful for the great support of friends and family. I am so blessed and inspired by the strong women I call my friends. One friend (that I know of) researched infant death every night to learn how to be a friend to me during this time. I would have never thought to do that! Far better friends have I than I am. I will strive to change that.

We are grateful for the kindness of acquaintances, and of strangers. The emails and cards from people we didn't expect. Matthew O'Neil of O'Neil Funeral Home in Middleboro MA took care of everything for our sweet baby's burial. He visited with me in the hospital, he came to our home to collect the things that would stay with her, he stayed to witness her burial when we couldn't bare to watch, and never charged a penny.

For those who may have unwittingly said or done the "wrong" thing for us, we forgive you. I am sure that I've fallen into this category many a time. Losing a baby is, gratefully, not something many of us are used to dealing with. By your prayers we have everything we need.

Feb 12, 2010

A Tender Essay on Helpfulness

I'm attempting to tread lightly here.

I've wanted to enter a little something about what's been helpful, and er, what hasn't been. It's a touchy subject, and I proceed humbly. The reason I'm doing this is for other people, for the future, so that we can all be more effective next time some unspeakably horrible thing happens to someone we know.

Some people just know what to do. Some don't. I promise I would have fallen into category number 2 had I not been fully initiated on the subject. Indeed, I probably did fall into that category many times before when people have needed my support.

And the other thing here is that what's helpful to me is not necessarily helpful to others in a similar situation. I know of some bereaved parents who wanted to talk to everyone who would listen. I've read more than one story where friends and family members were invited to the hospital to see the baby. That was the last thing I wanted. I felt the need to protect myself and my baby from well-meaning people and their good intentions. I process better alone. I wanted the freedom to be irreverent at times without feeling judged.

I didn't necessarily want hugs from every nurse that came to take my vitals. I scared the social worker, who was already shaking when she entered our room. She was tearful at a moment that we were not. "We're not being sad right now!" I scolded when she said how sorry she was for our loss. Even now it is hard for me to be around people that are sad for me, sighing, gazing pitifully at me. I can't stand it. I was afraid of strained friendships over a well-intentioned gesture that I would receive as hurtful or annoying, and I am as irritable as ever.

I like emails. I can read them when I want to, and respond when I want to. I still seldom answer the phone unless it's someone I've already talked to because I don't enjoy feeling everyone's fresh sadness for me. It makes me feel responsible for their pain, and sends me into comforting mode, or else I act more chipper than I feel so the other person will stop sighing or feeling sorry for me. It's exhausting. I need people to deal with their own grief over Brynn on their own time unless I initiate it. It's helpful when someone asks how I am. Then I can decide what to talk about. I have heard the phrase "sorry for your loss" exactly one zillion times. It's fine, but it's not my favorite. I like "I love you, we're thinking and praying for you. How are you?" Preferably in written form.

It's also not particularly helpful to me to know that you are crying. Several people (please don't take offense if you did this. please.) left me messages I couldn't understand through their sobbing. I couldn't even recognize who some of them were. I ended up just having Jimmy screen my messages.

It's not helpful to tell me that Brynn is in a better place, or that everything happens for a reason, or anything to the conclusion that this may have been a good thing. This just plain is a very bad thing.

Anyway. Most every gesture of love that anyone has made has helped. I thought it was very thoughtful when friends researched the topic of stillbirth and how to support the parents. I liked it when people shared our story with their prayer groups. One mom at Shane's playgroup told me she had done that, and it made me glad.

So many people did for us so many different things. I was put in touch with support professionals from counselors to high-risk OB's to, to a top pathologist who agreed to go over Brynn's placenta without charge as a favor to her colleague, who happens to be my good friend.

One friend is doing a portrait of Brynn from one of the few photographs we have. Some cooked meals, made jewelry, bought groceries, sent books, sent really cute cards, restaurant cards, Macy's cards, sent money. I'm embarrassed to say that all that tangible stuff really helped lift our spirits. Again, that's just what worked for us.

Again I want to say, this is just to help anyone in the future. We are so grateful for you just being here with us right now, caring about what I have to say. Honestly, that's the most helpful thing.

Feb 11, 2010


What do people mean when they say, 'I'm not afraid of God because I know He is good'? Have they never even been to a dentist? - C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

There is a term I've read in different books on the subject of miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death. Parents who have experienced one are "initiated." Everyone else is "uninitiated." I know in some way, just like with all babies, we were all awaiting Brynn's birth. And from what I've seen from even the nurses in the hospital, a baby's death is everyone's sadness. I know that Jimmy and I aren't the only ones that Brynn has "initiated."

I don't know if my faith has changed, but my perspective has. I am fully initiated into the reality that horrible things happen. It's fresh and raw and in my face. I believe that Brynn was meant to live. Her death isn't for the best, not meant to be, nor is it any consolation that she may be in a "better" place. I'd do anything to take her from that "better" place and put her back in my arms, in the clothes I had waiting for her, in my house, at my breast. There is disease, there are accidents, there is death, and no one has immunity.

I don't worry anymore about whether God did this, allowed it, or has a hand's off policy where some acts of nature are concerned. I believe He grieves with me. I believe there will be happier times for us.

And although I don't know how heaven works, if Brynn gets my messages, or even knows of me. I believe in sending them anyway. I love you, mommy loves you, mommy loves you, mommy loves you.

Feb 8, 2010

Our Birth Story

On Thursday, January 28, 2010 I was very tired, as is typical of the last weeks of pregnancy, and so ready to have this baby. Shane and I headed to my routine midwife appt. When she couldn't find the heartbeat initially, we headed down the street to the hospital to get an ultrasound.

I asked my midwife how often this happened, that she couldn't find a heartbeat. She said not very often. I asked, before I really started to panic, what would happen if there was no heartbeat on the ultrasound. She said we'd induce labor. I looked sternly at my belly, holding it with a little shake and commanded "move!"

I looked at the ceiling while the Dr. looked at the machine, and I prayed. I could tell by the silence in the room that my baby was dead, and that it was too late to pray to save her. I told God that this news would not cause me to turn from Him, but that He better not think of leaving me for one second during this ordeal.

There was nothing. Thank God I had Shane with me, to keep me calm and strong. To remind me of all that I had to be grateful for in that moment.

Jimmy came and Shane went with Grammy.

We focussed on getting through labor and tried to put all other thoughts out of our minds for the moment. I slept in a pitocin drip, and in the early morning I called in the midwife to get things going. She broke my water, my labor progressed furiously and I gave birth within the hour, at 7:30 am on January 29, 2010.

Jimmy held our baby girl and named her Brynn. I said her middle name would be Tessa, a nickname for Teresa that I always liked. She was utterly beautiful to us, perfect and heavy, weighing 6:14 almost 3 weeks early, and measuring 20 1/2 inches, taller than her brother had been. According to what we could see, and what we were told, there was no evidence of the cause of death. I couldn't help but ask her what happened, one of the few sentances I would utter to her little body. What happened to you?