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.