Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thank You Notable

I have a long list of people who should receive a thank you note from us. People have been so kind - the books I've been reading say that people can say things that hurt you, or your friends and family could disappear when you need them most. So far that hasn't been true for us. My sister has been a rock, of course. She is the person you want with you when the shit goes down, we can all agree. Friends may not know quite what to say, but so far they seem to know enough to keep calling and asking us to do things, keep writing those emails (Hi Cara) even though we don't write back. Keep letting us know that they are thinking about us.

Since on some days I find it impossible to think of anything else, I am relieved and yes, comforted to know that others are thinking about this, too. Other people know that we had a son, that his name was Robert Paul, that we lost him. That we don't know what the fuck to do with ourselves now.

When I was in the hospital I thought of my great grandmother, who died when my mother was in high school. I've heard so much about her through my life - my mother and her sisters and her father, cousins, aunts and uncles adored her. She made beautiful quilts. My sister was named for her. My mother managed to commandeer her rocking chair and it has always been in our house. She buried two babies. Even though I never met her and know her only through the slanted memories of others and stories I've heard through the years, and at least one of those babies died more than 90 years ago, that is one of the things that I knew of her. She lost two of her children.

I wrote my Aunt Mazine a note today to thank her for sending a check when RP died (in her note she mentioned that I should use it for whatever I wanted to use it for, since she knew that I also lost my job in this big shuffle) and I told her that I thought of her mother when I was in the hospital. I told her that I knew that my great grandmother had lost two children, even though it happened 80 years ago or more. I told her that I can only hope that my son would be as much a part of our family as those sons are - that it is my prayer that my great grandchildren would know about him. That he died before I gave birth to him, that Kelly and I always loved him, and that our family and friends remember too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Okay, so I'm not fine. Kelly isn't fine either. We probably won't really be fine any time soon - even when we get pregnant again, even if we are able to have another child or three other children. I mean, yes - maybe we'll be fine then, but it will mean something different than it meant before.

That is what is sinking in for me, I guess. That yes, all sorts of things might happen eventually, but those things won't erase or make better what has already happened.

What has already happened - after months of trying, we got pregnant and expected to have a healthy baby. I had a "high-risk" pregnancy, but it was healthy and normal. I didn't gain too much weight, I had regular ultrasounds and all looked good. We bought a crib, people threw baby showers for us, and we had the nursery painted and the glider ordered (still waiting for the call to let us know that it is ready to be picked up, by the way). Then - well, scenes from the days before keep replaying in my mind. I try to think about it, and try to remember when was the last time I felt him move, when I thought something might be wrong, why I didn't consider the possibility that he had died.

I try not to blame myself for not being panicked, for not noticing sooner that something was wrong. Even now, I can barely process the idea of what happened and I've been living with it for a month. How could I have considered it then? When I think about the future though, I wonder - how could I ever NOT consider it?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Angels of mercy ... seriously.

The hospital bills have started to trickle in. On first thought, this seems like just about the biggest kick in the head one can imagine. I mean, we came home without a baby and I've got to write checks?

But when I think about the people -- the professional caregivers -- involved, I can't imagine any money better spent or more deserved. Unlike us, this wasn't a first for any of them, but I don't think that really made it any easier. As far as days at work go, they were pretty rotten ones for everyone involved.

But I don't see how we would have gotten through those first two days without them and their particular care and compassion.

Jenny, Michelle, Laurie, Polly, Debbie, Mary, Lanell, and Burt.

Thank you.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Other possibilities

So today was the due date, and in certain alternate universes, we are either sleepless and bedraggled from caring for a healthy newborn or there's a bag waiting in the car packed with clean underwear and other things that we did not take to the hospital in this universe.

In this reality, it hasn't been a bad day. I skipped work, started yet more seeds for the herb garden, and cleaned up and put away our onion harvest. We got out and had our fill of chips and enchiladas for lunch and went to the nursery and found some plants for the bed in front of our house that has been practically bare since we moved in.

But I started the day at 4:30 this morning awakened from a dream that I'm recounting here really for no other reason than to remember it (caution, graphic imaginary birth imagery ahead, as well as inevitable total downer):
Fayrene was pregnant again and we had arrived at the hospital and been given a room (one which, incidentally, was outdoors with a sidewalk around the bed and a grass lawn outside of that). She promptly discovered that the baby was on its way and needed to start pushing and oh my god, we forgot to call Lanell (our doula)!

I stepped over to the grass to make the call. Lanell told me she was kind of busy and wasn't sure she could make it, [note, this would never happen in real life] but I had to hang up the phone because Fayrene had already pushed out the baby's head and had decided she needed to walk down to the nurse's station to find somebody to deliver the baby.

I hit the nurse call button a couple of times with no luck and told her she wasn't going anywhere and needed to get down on all fours in the grass so I could deliver the baby. About a second later, the baby was out, water bag still intact [this does happen sometimes in real life] and the cord around its neck, not in an alarming dangerous way, more like how a guy might have a towel around his neck in a sauna.

I moved the cord away and pulled the membrane away from the baby's face as if I was peeling off a mask. As I did, she (I checked and I think it was a girl, although it can be hard to tell right out of the gate like that) began to cry and I held her for a moment before handing her to Fayrene.

Somewhere in there, I noticed that our real-life boy was there in the room, lying in the newborn baby bed just as we had last seen him along with the white remembrance box we were given by the hospital.

Also, Lanell had shown up, I believe almost immediately after I had hung up the phone.

Your guess is as good as mine.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cheese of Internet Kindness

Did y'all know that I fancy myself a crafty craftster? It's true - I have been known to do a little knitting, quilting, and even the embroidery business a couple of times.

Actually, I spend far more time online exploring other people's crafty websites than I do making stuff IRL. But the impulse is there.

One of my favorite knitting blogs is that of the Mason-Dixon ladies. I have their book, I've made a log cabin baby blanket, I've made their warshcloths for Christmas presents. We generally see eye-to-eye on what makes knitting cool and fun and worthwhile and what projects are worth knitting. Also, I like patterns that are really mostly ideas and guidelines so they aren't as easily fucked up, and that is their speciality. Because if gauge and little details like number of rows and stitches and particular cast-ons are important, it is likely that I will fuck that part up (see the earlier one-skein wonder).

Anyway, Mason-Dixon Kay posted a little something on Mother's Day that totally hit my button. As I've said - cynical as I am, I have truly been touched by every little gesture that all sorts of people in our lives have made to us since our child has died. Her story has a happier ending than ours (she has an "LC" = living child in the bereaved parent message board lingo, I've learned) but the point is the same.

How this is about knitting, is that sometimes when somebody (like you and I, for example) starts a drive to knit blankets for people in an overwhelming situation, my first reaction is "what a stupid idea to think they could make them feel better with a stupid blanket." (My inner voice does sound a lot like Napoleon Dynamite. Gosh! Idiots!) But the Mug of Human Gestures of Kindness begs to differ. It somehow does make a difference. And a knitted blanket is a whole lot better than a mug, I gotta say. (No offense to mug-givers out there. I really appreciate the mug. I am not letting go of this mug.) Whatever it is, it's somebody putting something in your hand and saying, here, this is all I could think of and I hope it helps you.

Luckily, she posted this just as I was finishing up some mitered square blocks and didn't have enough for a full afghan. I wasn't really sure what to do with them but I have been knitting them up anyway, as they are fairly easy and I couldn't come up with a better idea of what to knit. So now they will be a baby blanket and they will keep an Afghan baby warm.

We have received our own versions of the Mug of Human Gestures of Kindness - flowers, fruit, a huge honey-baked ham. I shall not name them, but someone sent two Central Markt Foood Baskets of Guilt and a Flower Arrangement of This Can't Be Our Fault. We even received nearly 10 pounds of Cheese of Internet Kindness. And let me tell you - Loving Cheese tastes very, very good. Also, it totally counts as a meal.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Forgetting you was easy ...

I've been meaning to apologize for that precious-moments-style bird story since even before I wrote it. I mean, that's some pretty maudlin shit there. In my defense, I did run it past Fayrene and Emily before I published it, hoping for some prior restraint, and they both responded "It made me cry, publish it."

So I've come to realize that for those of us most intimately involved in this little tragedy of ours, to make somebody cry is to give them a gift. As we've muddled through the past couple of weeks going to work, watching TV, playing videogames, drinking boxed wine, hanging out with friends, and just acting normal, I've sometimes longed for a little of the in-your-face pain we had plenty of those first few days. I've recalled, dare I say fondly, the day-later visit I had with him in an empty delivery room, sobbing over his tiny pink body. Ahh, now there was a good cry.

Fayrene and I got away this past weekend and left behind the distractions listed above. I don't know what we were expecting to find, but I did have at least one realization. Putting the horrible thing out of your mind isn't hard at all, particularly when every person you see and talk to has no way of knowing what to say and only wants for you to be happy again. It's the remembering that's hard.


Well, we survived Mother's Day weekend. First significant date down, only a lifetime more to go. Let's see - today is three weeks. Friday is my due date. Then it will be four weeks, then a month, then Father's Day, on and on and on. I even know when he was conceived, so there's that, too.

Although this experience is completely different, of course it brings me back to my father's death. (this is apparently common, as the book I'm reading so helpfully told me). It's only human to try to find something to refer to, some experience to guide you through when you've been knocked upside the head with the tragedy stick.

First: it is too big. I can't really conceive of it fully. The thought overwhelms me, and I either sob uncontrollably until it goes away, or I just close it out.

Second: numbness. By many measures I am "doing well" - trying to exercise (thank you friends who ask me to do this - I am trying to say yes to all offers) and get out of the house. We go to the movies, I go to the grocery store, I knit, I have a list of tasks in case I can't think of anything to do. But I am not really talking about what happened, and my thoughts about it are completely fragmented. Mostly I feel like I am just trying to step, step, step through the day. Busy, moving. This works roughly every other day. I can do that one day, but then the next maybe I can't leave the house. I can't or don't cry every day, but some days I feel constantly on the verge of tears, or they roll freely down my cheeks (today may be one of those days). By the end of a numb day, I feel like maybe I need a release. But about halfway through a weepy day, I wish I could shut it off again. Showers aren't a predictable activity.

Third: people who love you want to do something. Of course, the problem with this is that there really isn't much to do for someone like me. Food is good, if a little overwhelming in the beginning. After a couple of weeks, though - it is nice not to have to figure out what the hell to eat for dinner (see numb vs weepy days above - neither are especially conducive to well-thought-out meal plans). I am a little surprised at how much I appreciate the sweet cards and flowers that we have gotten - especially now that the big rush is over, there are some people who keep sending little things and yes, it helps knowing that other people are thinking about this, too. I feel up to answering the phone maybe every third time it rings. I don't call or write people back, but I don't want to be cut off, either. I am cynical, and so for every person who says something that I find comforting, there is another message that makes me think "whatever" but - I know perfectly well they both come from the same place. Love, concern, connection. That is what it all means and I am not too cynical to feel that. Even people who I don't know have reached out, which more than makes up for those that haven't. Not everyone understands that saying "I don't know what to say" is plenty.

There are probably other parallels to my other grief experience (hello wine!). And there are plenty of things that make this manifestly different - not better or worse. I think that comparing tragedy is a dangerous game - should not be played with others or oneself. Kelly and I are going through this together, but I am trying to remember that it is still a personal thing for each of us. And that's okay {/stuart smalley}

Thursday, May 10, 2007

It's like Tony Soprano and the ducks, right?

As we were heading out to go to dinner the other night, I was getting into the passenger side of the car and was startled to the point of yelping by a young white-winged dove that was perched on the luggage rack directly in front of my face. He flew off, bumping the eaves of our carport and landing in the Crepe Myrtle, but not before taking a couple of steps on what I've come to know quite familiarly as his lame left foot.

That Monday, I stayed home all morning waiting for and hanging out with the tile guys who were there to start installing the new backsplash in our kitchen and spent much of that time on the couch alternately checking in with work on the computer and looking out the picture window at the front yard. And I spent much of that time watching the fledgling dove who we had first noticed the day before, before Fayrene had left town to visit her mom for a couple of days.

From the looks of things, he had fallen out of the nest in our cedar tree during the previous day's thunderstorms. He could hobble around on his one good foot and flap enough to get up on our bench or the flowerbed, but he couldn't fly. His mother initially stayed close and prodded at him to get him airborne, but since Sunday morning, her visits had become less frequent. I was pulling for the guy, but I wouldn't have bet against any of the three neighborhood cats who pass through our front yard regularly.

Monday afternoon, I came home early to check on Fayrene, who had cut her trip short because things weren't quite right with the baby. After some kick counting and calling the doctor, we got ready to go the hospital.

After I closed her door and walked around the back of the car, I stopped for a moment to look for that dove. He was hiding up under our bench, in the monkey grass. I wished him well.

At some point on Tuesday, in one of my bigger break-down crying jags, I recounted this much to Fayrene. She assured me that it wasn't at all stupid, and I hope she wasn't just saying that to be nice, because that's about the main reason I'm recounting this story here in front of the world.

A couple of days later, during our first time alone by ourselves in the house, sitting on the couch, what should we see out the window, but a mother dove and her gimped fledgling landing in the Crepe Myrtle. Much cathartic crying and hysterical self-mocking followed.

Were I someone else, I might have by now bought and stocked a bird feeder and composed some embarrassing poetry about the little angel in the Crepe Myrtle. Despite the fact that I don't believe there's any cosmic relationship at all between my child and that bird, the coincidence means something to me.

It might be a benchmark for just how sentimental I can allow myself to be about this experience. I tend to err on the over-rational side. Or maybe it's that while our child is not here with us, he existed and he exists as an eternal piece of the same nature that knocked that baby bird out of the tree. Some babies die, some babies live, that's just how it is.

This is why atheists don't have churches, people -- convoluted messages with no satisfactory conclusions.

Also worth noting is that one of our support-system-ninja friends -- the ones who fed our dogs, cleaned our house, did our laundry, and stocked our refrigerator before we came home -- who just happens to be an ornithologist, noticed the fledgling dove while we were in the hospital and, fearing cats or the next thunderstorm, moved him into a tree. He told me about this later and, being men, I thanked him politely, but did not hug him and gush about what a deep spiritual good deed he had done for me.

Bright spots

That awesome daycare we looked at -- the one with the nice-and-capable-as-can be caretakers; directly between our house and my office; $200 cheaper than our other top choice; with an organic garden in the playground and the summer kids' cooking school(!) -- had a list we should have gotten onto about this time last year.

We're totally ahead of the game now.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Hi, I'm Kelly

and I'm Fayrene's baby's daddy.

I've never had much success at all with personal blogging or consistent journal writing, but I came to a realization over the weekend that has led me here to my wife's blog.

That is, while I'm experiencing an almost-constant low-grade sadness and people treat me awfully nice, I don't really spend any time at all thinking about my son, who died before he was born two weeks ago.

I'm guessing experienced grief counselors or sufferers in the crowd would tell me that this is completely normal, along with accompanying feelings of guilt; that it's a totally natural response to the preceding week during which I could think of nothing but our baby and the circumstances of his birth and was overwhelmed by it; that I need a break.

But I have a tendency to let temporary denial turn chronic, and I think I need to nip that in the bud. I think I need to deal with this in a little more depth now rather than later.

This started with an urge to simply recount the events of those first few days. I think every parent wants to share the experience of the birth of their child. And I think every friend of a parent wants that parent to shut the hell up about it already because it's got a lot of blood and screaming and poop and also momentous, intangible importance and personal meaning that is completely unconveyable.

But most parents have a pink screaming baby who tells that story for them and often keeps his parents so busy and exhausted that they forget the story they wanted to share or they just tell it to each other so often that they disappear into parenthood entirely for a few years.

Not only do we not have a baby to speak for us, but we have a lot of painfully quiet time on our hands. And our story has elements far more unpleasant and hard to hear about than poop. But I think I and we still need to share it. And that's why I'm here.

p.s. If you're a stranger on the Internet, thanks for listening. And if you're reading this because you're unfortunately Googling "stillbirth support", I hope you find something helpful. And if you're a friend of mine, don't think I'm trying to push you away by not sitting you down in person and telling you our whole tale of woe -- it's just that, as you know, I still can't put away the ironic detachment long enough to do such a thing, but here I can dole it out in bits and pieces as the mood and the need strikes.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


I keep thinking about when it may have happened. My best guess is that it happened two weeks ago, because I remember thinking that afternoon that the baby wasn't moving very much. But I laid down on the couch in the afternoon and felt a little something. By the next morning I was worried enough to go visit a friend who is a nurse at her office so that she could check my blood pressure. He was gone by that point, now I feel sure, but I didn't realize it at the time. I didn't consider that it was a possibility. Even driving to the hospital on Monday afternoon at my doctor's suggestion, I didn't consider it.

But Sunday was the last time I think I felt him move. An overcast Sunday, like today.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Day to Day

I don't know what I want. People want to do nice things for me and I can't say what it is we need, or what it would be that we would want - I don't know from one hour to the next how I will feel, what I will be up for, what would be good for me and/or K.
I only figured out yesterday that my cell phone ringer has been off all week.

Wednesday I got out of the house a lot - took K to work, went to lunch, ran errands, picked K up from work, went to dinner, etc. Yesterday I couldn't face getting out - people came over but it was pretty obvious that I hadn't bathed all week and I didn't get out of my pajamas until 2pm, and there were lots of tears. After an afternoon with Lanell, I felt good enough to take a shower.

But there is still so much that I haven't figured out, that thinking about exhausts me. Here is what I keep thinking - I know that one day, in the future, I will be able to say that I survived this. But right now, I just keep thinking that all I want is to fast forward. I don't want to have to survive this. I am willing to accept that one day I will have survived, but the actual work of surviving and making my way through - that feels like too much for me to deal with right now.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Dear Violent Femmes,

Okay, I gave up on "Blister in the Sun" a LONG LONG time ago. I understand that it was technically no longer cool when I first heard and loved it, way back in 1991. I know that somehow it has come to signify quirky, alternative, cool in a way too wide variety of movies and television shows. BUT A WENDY's COMMERCIAL?

I am afraid that I will no longer tolerate you, musing that once we had a love that I have now outgrown. You have officially crossed over into Hate territory. Where once you were trite and overplayed, now You Suck.



Filling the day is the primary objective. Get up, drive K to work so that I get out of the house. Run two of the errands on my list, but only two so that I will still have things to do tomorrow. Once home, I am alternating between sitting with my laptop interweb machine, and Doing Something.

Things Accomplished:
* made bed
* separated clean and dirty clothes in bedroom
* folded and put away K's clean clothes
* four loads of laundry (I quickly realized that I should NOT dry and wash at the same time, the better to draw out the process)
* K's clean clothes folded and put away, mine added to the pile for future sorting/organizing

Today marks a week since I gave birth. There's supposed to be a crazy storm outside right now, but the rain just comes and goes. Earlier I said it felt like it had been longer than a week to me, but K says it doesn't seem like it has been that long. The point is that time is not moving at normal speed - today took forever. At moments it feels like it happened yesterday and yet part of me feels like it has been months since I was pregnant. Can I really remember what it felt like when he moved? Right now I can only remember what it felt like to know that he wasn't moving. I can remember what it felt like to hold him, his body still warm from mine, but I worry that I won't always remember his face.

I think my body remembers, and I am glad. Having a physical reminder - my milk, stiches, bleeding. It comforts me. Otherwise I might be able to convince myself that none of this had happened. No cabbage today - my breasts are smaller, less tender. I guess the milk is going away.

Tomorrow I will drive K to work again, and I will do at least two of the things on my list.