Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Down Yonder at the Lake

We're visiting David's grandparents for the long weekend.  A weekend that is extending through Wednesday, when his g-pa is having a pacemaker put it.  They live on Table Rock Lake, near Branson.  Right now, Table Rock Lake is up so high that it's practically knocking on their back door.  The water is going back down now, so we spent the weekend chain-sawing a fallen tree, picking up debris (sticks, leaves, and a dead fish) in their yard, cutting and edging the grass, and creating a big burn pile.  His grandpa is usually very active, but has been feeling really poorly lately (hence the need for the pacemaker) so we were glad to be able to come down here and help them out.

David's grandparents were both raised in the Ozarks and although I think that since Missouri was never an official part of the confederacy that it is technically above the Mason-Dixon line (is that right?  I really have no idea), Southwest Missouri might as well be deep in the heart of Dixie when it comes to Southern twangs (and certain cultural phenomena, like mega-churches and obesity).  Anyway, the point is that accents are contagious 'round these parts and I keep finding myself saying things like "yonder" and "holler."

Being here is nice because it's beautiful and we can sit on their sun porch and eat breakfast overlooking the lake.  We've been able to be useful and tackle lots of big and small projects (in addition to yardwork, David helped his grandpa purchase and set up a new television, we set up a Wi-Fi router for our own convenience when visiting, and I brought my sewing machine and got a couple of projects done).  We've also had plenty of time to sit on the swing on the back patio and stare at the lake or look up at the stars and talk or not talk, which has been relaxing.  And even kind of romantical.

But being here is also hard because we had talked a lot about visiting there with Eliza and there have been moments when I miss her so much my stomach hurts.

David and I were swinging and looking at the lake when he said that it's just that the bad times are worse than the good times are good.

I knew just what he meant.  It's like my basic level of operation before was pretty good.  Whatever else was going on, my base level of feeling was happy.  I could go up or down from there, but resting at zero was still a good place to be. 

Now I can still go up or down, but my basic operating level is so much sadder than it ever was before.  So it's harder to feel happy and it's easy to feel sad.  I'm doing a much better job at living these days, but life is rarely the pleasure that it was before.

I miss that, but at the same time, I think, I don't want happiness back if it means I have to find a way to be contented without Eliza here. 

There's a post up at Glow in the Woods written by a bereaved mother who's more than two years away from her loss.  I think it's beautiful.  She writes that the living--the surviving--that's the easy part.  It's the thriving, the joyfulness, the happy that is so much harder.  I love that it demonstrates the transforming power of this experience but also suggests that it is possible not only to survive but eventually to find a new way to thrive.  Even in the wake of a tragedy that we had been unwilling to imagine.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Right Where I Am: 5 Months, 3 Weeks

I am writing this post as part of the project started by Angie at Still Life With Circles.  Accounting for where I am in this moment shouldn't be that difficult, considering that's sort of been the point of this blog all along.  It's recorded where I was at various moments since 2008.  Worrying about my dissertation.  On vacation.  Celebrating something.  Embarrassing myself and laughing about it later.  Expecting a baby.

Now, I'm trying to make sense of where I am five months and three weeks into whatever this is.  Grief.  Mourning.  Sadness.  Life.

It's been like living in a time warp.  The days are long.  The weeks are short.  These months have felt like an eternity because I feel like I have aged a million years since December 6th.  I can recall those hours in the hospital as though they just happened yesterday--in vivid detail that makes the bile rise in my throat.  The gleeful, smug happiness of my pregnancy feels much farther away.

I think that I should make Eliza's death mean something more than great sadness.  It should teach me what it means to be truly alive.  How it feels to be continually astonished by the beauty and destruction in this world.  Grateful for the people who support me, the comforting things that surround me.  The connections I've made with strangers who have become confidants almost overnight.  Crying this hard, this long, means that I'm living.  I'm right in the thick of it and I'm struggling to make meaning out of a loss that, by all rights, should have simply done me in.

The thing is, I don't feel one bit like the wise woman who can speak of the way my daughter's death taught me what it means to love.

Mostly I feel like the whiny brat who wants to scream "UNFAIR!  DO OVER!  I WANT MY BABY!"  Oh, God.  Do I ever want that baby.

Oh, and I will scream it.  Except it doesn't do a bit of good, and it kind of stresses David out.

I've moved from zombie on my sofa, crying buckets of tears, my body wracked with heaving sobs I can't control, to, five months and three weeks later, a mostly functioning person whose tears are close to the surface but usually kept appropriately in check.  I find myself laughing.  I make David laugh.  I have moments that feel so good I can't believe it.  I can't believe this happened to us.  I can't believe we are two ordinary people whose baby died just when she should have started to live with us.  It's impossible.

Except the truth of it hurts my heart.  All the time.

It's not just in my head.  It's not something that I can turn on and off at will.  Yes, I can function better now, keep my tears to myself most of the time.  But sometimes it's the biggest thing I've ever felt, and there's nothing I can do to escape it.  It has nothing to do with willpower or mental attitude.  It's an anguish that knows no bounds.

I'm grateful for my friends who have not let this pain scare them away and who promise me that they're not going anywhere even though the give-and-take of friendship has me just taking these days.  I'm grateful for my mom, who has the astonishing ability to never say or do the wrong thing when it comes to Eliza.  And for my dad, who hugs me tighter every time he sees me.

I'm disappointed in the few people who have taken my sorrow and made it about them, about their life experiences, about what they believe, about what makes them uncomfortable.  I know I'm lucky those people are so few.

I'm in awe of the people I know in real life who were where I am fifty years ago, twenty years ago, ten years ago.  Who remain vibrant and kind and interesting and happy people.  It gives me hope that I won't become a broken shell of my former self.

I don't think I'm doing a good job of articulating where I am now.  I'm not sure this is at all coherent.  Which seems appropriate.  I'm kind of incoherent these days.

Right now, I'm scared.  I'm scared of trying to have another baby.  I'm scared of losing David to some random, unforeseeable accident.  I'm scared of losing everyone I love.  I'm a reasonable person who can't abide by probability or statistics.  I can feel God sometimes, but I have a hard time praying.  I don't sleep as well as I used to, but I am sleeping.  And eating.  And vacuuming.  And ironing.  These tasks were impossible for a while; they're more manageable now.  I still have days when it's all I can do to drag myself out of bed, and I cry almost all day long. But these are fewer, and further between.

Today, I'm feeling more like my old self.  I'm actually interested in this little project of redecorating my living room.  I'm doing more reading and less TV watching.  I have more energy.  I can think about the future more than two days in advance (I'm still not looking too far ahead, though).  I'm taking pleasure in some of the things I used to love--caprese salad, my favorite jeans, a new purse, clean sheets.

I still feel sad, heartbroken, lost, and angry.  But I also feel more wistful these days.  There are still horrible moments of gut-clenching fear and sadness, but there are more moments of a softer kind of longing.  I'd be doing that if Eliza were here.  We wouldn't be making these plans if Eliza were here.  I miss her, but this is now.  I have to make do. 

Maybe this is what they mean by the acceptance stage of grief?  It's not that this will ever be okay, or that I'll ever be better.  But it's starting to feel like maybe, eventually, this could be a sad and tragic part of my story instead of the wrong life all together.

Even as I want to get to that point, I resist that idea.  The possibility of accommodating this huge and terrible thing into life's series of ups and downs, it feels so wrong, like it diminishes how much we loved Eliza, how much we wanted her,  how many plans we had for her.  I know that my love for her doesn't have to be wrapped up in this great pain forever, but right now those two feelings are still mostly inextricable. 

It's been 5 months and 3 weeks.  I'm really, really sad.  I miss my baby girl all the time.  But I'm mostly--surprisingly?--doing okay, a lot of the time.  I don't know how to resolve that contradiction, so I'm just learning to live with it.

P.S.  I should add that, having written this and clicked "publish," I immediately burst into tears.  I am so tired of being introspective and self-reflective and trying to keep my shit together.  Maybe I could have written this post in one word.  How am I, at five months and three weeks?  Tired.  Sick and tired of being so sad and tired.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

25 Things You May or May Not Know About Me

When I got my hair cut last week, I was indulging in the latest issue of US Weekly (I cannot resist it) and there was a picture of a celebrity (I can't remember now if it was Katherine Heigl or Jennifer Love Hewitt even though they obviously look nothing alike) picking up an issue of US Weekly from a newstand.  And so then I was thinking about how weird it would be to read US Weekly and actually know the people who were pictured in it.  Like see them at parties and talk to them and maybe go out to dinner and stuff.  It would be more like a high school yearbook or something where you know most of the people in it.  Except these people are way hotter than your average high school yearbook, obvy.

Anyway, so one of the features of US Weekly is that a celebrity fills out this column with "25 Things You Don't Know About Me."  So then I was imagining what I would put in that column if I were a famous celebrity and people actually wanted to know 25 things about me that they didn't already know.  Then I remembered that I pretend this is the case all the time whenever I post on my blog.  So here you go:

25 Things About Me

1.  My driver's license is one of the best pictures I have ever taken.  Seriously.  I love getting carded so I can show it off.
2.  I am allergic to beef and pork.  Eating them makes me break out in hives and feel like I can't breathe. This had been an infrequent (though occasionally alarming) experience growing up, but I didn't discover the cause of the problem until I was in college and ate toasted ravioli after being vegetarian for a year.  Had to go to the ER and then had bloodwork done. 
3.  Now I'm a vegetarian for health and environmental and ethical and grossed-out reasons. 
4.  I still love toasted ravioli if it's the cheese version.  It's a St. Louis tradition!  We like our Italian food even better if it's deep-fried.
5.  I love to shop for David's work wardrobe.  Buying men's dress shirts with matching ties is super fun for me.  I bargain-hunt at Macy's and I usually spend less than $10 per item.  I like to mix and match his shirts and ties when I iron his clothes.  He is a sharp-dressed man and I love it when he reports back that his co-workers complimented him on his clothes.  Because really they are complimenting me.  He's just the clothes hanger.  But a very cute one.
6.  I would rather do laundry than cook, so David does most of the cooking and I do all of the laundry.
7.  I want to be a decisive person but I am always second-guessing myself.
8.  I hate filling up the car with gas.  For the first six months that I had my driver's license, I didn't really know how to do it, so I always made my brother or my boyfriend put gas in my car for me. 
9.  I am a feminist. (But I like it when a boy puts gas in my car for me.)
10.  I love coffee but I am super sensitive to caffeine so I rarely drink it because it makes me jittery.  And, let's be honest, I'm wound a little tight even without it.
11.  I am mildly obsessed with all things British, including the Royal Wedding, Victorian literature, and books about Henry VIII.
12.  I have repainted my living room twice in six years and I'm still not crazy about the paint color.  We might be looking at Round 3 this summer.
13.  I miss performing in community and college theater.
14.  I have a running list in my head of people who offered us condolences when Eliza died and people who remained conspicuously silent.  I know it's not about keeping score.  But I'm just saying.
15.  I have a soft spot in my heart for all animals (see #3) and once when I was a kid, my dad took me fishing and I cried when I realized we weren't going to throw the fish back.  Good times!
16.  I like high church.  Latin and bells and incense and robes.
17.  I think Jason Stackhouse is way sexier than any vampire on True Blood.
18.  When I was little, I was scared of clowns.  Actually, I still am.  Creepy buggers.
19.  I'm stubborn.  But only when I think I'm right.  Which, let's be honest, is a lot of the time.
20.  I'm married to my best friend, but I would say we've grown into that part of our relationship.
21.  When I'm not beside myself with grief, I like to think about clothes.  A lot.
22.  I think it's hard to have good table manners when you're really hungry.
23.  My favorite food is caprese salad with bread and olive oil.  And wine.  It's a favorite meal, really.
24.  I love to go to university libraries in the summertime when there aren't all those pesky undergrads around.
25.  I am doing better these days, but I miss Eliza so much it still takes my breath away.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Is it really so?

A strange passion is moving in my head.
My heart has become a bird
Which searches in the sky.
Every part of me goes in different directions.
Is it really so
That the one I love is everywhere?
                                                                - Rumi

This poem was posted today on the Pink of Perfection.  I'm sure lots of people read it, but I think it meant the most to me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


My heart breaks for the people in Joplin who are reeling from the disaster.  I heard about the tornadoes Sunday night while we were at the Fox theater seeing Jersey Boys (a much more enjoyable theater experience than last time).  When I went to the ladies room at intermission, I had TWELVE text messages (contrary to how cool I seem on this blog, I am not normally that popular).  One of my dearest friends (who shall go unnamed) is The Severe Weather Watchdog.  She had sent me several texts to let me know that Joplin had been blown to smithereens and St. Louis was about to be hit by the mother of all severe storms.  I called her a fearmongerer, but then again I was in a dark theater and couldn't see or hear anything going on.

(Her response:  This is not fearmongering. This is serious.)

When the show got out, it had obviously rained but there was no storm damage, so obviously the worst of it missed St. Louis.  It was barely sprinkling as we walked to our car, and I thought maybe The Severe Weather Watchdog had exaggerated the damage in Joplin.

Yeah, not so much.  Every time I watch the news, I find myself blinking and shaking my head slowly back and forth because I just can't believe what I'm seeing.

I'm sure most of you have seen the news footage, too.  It is unreal.  My heart has gone out to the victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami, to those in Alabama who suffered the effects of a tornado; I know that bad things happen every day.  But Joplin is so close to my hometown--this wasted city is one that is very familiar to me.

I grew up an hour from Joplin, but it was totally our secondary stomping ground because it was the closest shopping mall.  And also the nearest town with more than three restaurants.

I got my sixth grade Anti-Van (read: school-sponsored Halloween party that kept kids occupied so they wouldn't egg and toilet paper people's homes) outfit at County Seat in the Joplin mall.  It was a pink skirt and a pink and green Southwestern print shirt and a green cardigan.  Yes, it was totally cute at the time.  At least I thought so.  I felt so cool dancing with my sort-of middle school boyfriend, who was a head shorter than I was (and I was not a tall girl).

My mom took us back-to-school shopping in Joplin every year.  My brother and I always got Sbarro pizza for lunch and drinks from Orange Julius in the mall food court.

My high school boyfriend and I used to drive to Joplin in his little white pick-up truck to go to Hastings and buy used CDs.  REM and Pearl Jam and the Grateful Dead and the Ramones.  I still have those CDs.  Sometimes after school, we'd drive to Joplin just to get Little Caesar's crazy bread (He was crazy about those breadsticks.  Also gas was like $.89/gallon.  Because that was a million years ago.)

I took my little cousin there shopping for back-to-school clothes--we cruised down there in my 1968 Plymouth Valiant, listening to Alanis Morissette and Jewel on a cassette tape, ready to hit the fitting rooms at J.C. Penney and the Limited, Too.

My friends and I would drive down to buy jeans at American Eagle and underwear at Victoria's Secret and eat at Garfields, which was attached to the mall food court.  We were sixteen and unstoppably awesome.

My speech and debate team (shuddup) would stop there for pizza if we'd done well at a weekend tournament.
Joplin was the closest thing we had to civilization, if by "civilization" you mean Applebee's, which, in this case only, I do.  Going to Joplin was always a treat.  It was a smallish city, but it held all the promise of new wardrobes and high school romances and the freedom of drivers licenses and alternative music.

On our first date, David suggested we drive the hour to Joplin to eat at Olive Garden.

My only connections with Joplin are fleeting, superficial, short visits for shopping and eating.  But every memory I have of that city is a good one.  Seeing the destruction on TV is just unbelievable.  I mean seriously, you guys.  It is UNreal.  It looks like the whole frigging city was built of balsa wood.  And they're saying on TV that more severe weather is on its way.

It is a stunning reminder of how quickly things can change; how life can just turn upside down in an instant.  No promises, no guarantees.  You can't know for sure that you get to keep your family, your home, your sanity.  It could all be gone tomorrow.

OMG watching the news right now--just saw a family pull their little dog out of the wreckage of their house.  The thought of these lost pets just slays me.  How scared and confused these little animals must be.  Of course, the loss of human lives is another tragedy I just don't even want to wrap my head around.

I know that so many of you reading this have been sending your love and thoughts and prayers my way.  While you're at it, please send some down to Joplin, Missouri.  Because tragedy strikes in all different ways and Nature is incredibly imaginative when she sends destruction our way.

It's another moment to be grateful for what is.  If this news footage has shown me anything, it's that I am certainly not alone today in mourning what has been lost.

Monday, May 23, 2011

It happened.

Somebody who doesn't know me asked me if I have kids.

David and I had just had a conversation about what we would say and both agreed that our answer would depend on the situation and that was okay.  David said that it is a question he will never again ask anyone.  I said I guess I would only ask someone if I was willing and able to tell them our story.  And then today it happened.

I was getting my nails done.  Just my fingernails.  Because when I have a manicure and my nails look pretty, I think I look like I'm the sort of person who has her shit together.  Which clearly I am not at the moment, but there's at least something to be said for keeping up the facade, right?  (It's just like how surprisingly normal and clean a lot of people look even though they are on Hoarders look.  You could never tell that their bathroom is dripping black mold because their hair is done and they seem to wear deodorant and everything.)

So anyway, I was getting my nails done.  Just my fingernails.  Because I painted my toenails myself yesterday, although the girl asked me TWICE if I was sure I didn't want a pedicure and I was like, "OK, so you think my home pedi sucks, obviously, but no, just here for the $9 manicure, thank you very much."

Anyway, she's an Asian girl and I'm not sure where she is from but, based on the foreign language I heard her speaking on the phone, it's not Japan and it's not Korea.  It sounded more like she was speaking Chinese but I don't think that was it either.  Maybe she's from Taiwan?  I think Taiwanese sounds similar to Chinese/Mandarin. 

Point is, she has a pretty strong accent.  I had to ask her to repeat herself a couple of times (so perhaps she thought I didn't understand when she asked if I was sure I didn't want a pedicure the first time) but I like talking to people with accents, including this girl I work with who is Chinese and whose name is Lily, but her accent made me think her name was Liddy when she introduced herself, and she was too shy to correct me, so I kept calling her Liddy until I saw her name written down and now I am mortified because it must have sounded like I was MOCKING her accent by mispronouncing her name on purpose.  Which I was not.  Obviously.  Despite such foibles, I would say that I am actually more inclined to make small talk with people who have accents.  I'm not sure why this is.  Maybe it's because I'm miserable at speaking other languages so I'm totally impressed when anyone is bilingual.  Whatever the reason, I don't mind chatting with the girl at the nail place.

So she asked me about my job and I told her I teach college students.  She appeared shocked by this news, which I chose to believe was because I look like a college student myself, and not because I look mentally incapable of holding a position of authority in an institute of higher education.

She asked me what my husband's job is.  She seemed uninterested in that answer.

And then she dropped the bomb and asked if I had children.

And I took this big dramatic breath.  The nail salon was empty except for me because I went right at the tail end of this raging storm that came through town.  I guess with all the talk of the rapture, I figured if I wanted to get my nails done, there's no time like the present.  And if there's a raging thunderstorm going on, I might as well tempt fate by sitting in a glass-paned window-front retail location.  Because WHY NOT.

So I took this big dramatic breath in the empty nail salon and I felt like it really was a moment of great suspense.  I wasn't even sure myself what my answer would be.  It was like a movie when there's a dramatic pause and the music swells.  (Except in this case the music was a kid singing on the Ellen DeGeneres show.)

Will I decide that it's a passing moment with a girl in a nail salon who certainly doesn't need to hear the details of my grief but is just trying to make pleasant conversation given her limited English language skills and just say no?

Will I just shake my head silently and simply pretend to be enthralled by the Ellen DeGeneres show, thereby killing all further conversation?  (Which, to be fair, I do actually love Ellen but I was not crazy about the song "Unfriend You" that this kid was singing.)

Will I just say "Not at the moment," which seems vague enough that it might suffice, even though it's a weird answer, but obviously English is her second language so she'll probably assume it's normal? 

Will I say yes and pray that she does not ask me to elaborate?  (But of course she would ask me to elaborate... isn't the follow-up question always "How old?")

As I was considering these options, the dramatic pause was long enough that the poor girl thought I didn't understand her and rephrased the question:  "Children?  Child?  Do you have baby?"

And then I said, "Yes.  No.  Yes.  I had a baby but she died."

My eyes filled up with tears but they didn't spill over and I kept my voice steady.

And the poor girl working at the nail salon who has limited English language skills and was now unwittingly caught up in my dead baby saga said, "Oh I am so sorry.  How?"

I said, "It happened before she was born.  When I was still pregnant."  I blinked furiously to keep from crying and looked up toward the ceiling, which was convenient because Ellen was on a wall-mounted television that was up pretty high.

She shook her head and said she was sorry again, and I said, "It's okay.  I'm sorry, too."

Everyone on Ellen was clapping.  

Then she said, "No other children?"

I was like, mercy lady, don't you think if I had other children I probably would have led with that?  Or at least mentioned it already to try to help ease the awkwardness?

But instead I just said, "No, not yet.  Maybe someday.  How about you?" 

I took a deep breath and stared at Ellen's happy studio audience, willing myself not to cry.  Successfully.

The nail salon lady told me she has a three and a half year old.  "Big girl," she said.

"Oh, yeah.  I bet that's fun," I said. 

But no, it appeared I wasn't understanding what she fully wanted to communicate, which was that her three and a half year old was a big girl.  As in FAT. 

So she stops filing my nails and whips out her cell phone to show me a picture of a really fat little girl.  Keep in mind that this lady doing my nails is super tiny.  So it's kind of like she is Eva Longoria and this little girl is the actress who plays Juanita on Desperate Housewives.  It was funny to discover that this tiny lady had such a chubby daughter.  At the same time, I thought this was a really weird way to respond to the fact that my baby died, like this was some kind of attempt at consolation:  "Your baby died?  Well my kid is super fat." 

But then I thought maybe I was over-thinking it.  Either way, it actually made me laugh.  I said, "Oh, she is a big girl."

And then we talked about gel manicures (Evidently they do last longer--can anyone else attest to this fact?  Are they worth the extra expense?) and the weather (big storm here).

What I wouldn't give to have pulled out my cell phone and shown off a picture of my fat, happy, healthy baby girl.  At the same time, it felt kind of like a healing moment, to be able to talk about Eliza with a stranger and not start sobbing uncontrollably.  But it hurts to heal.  It hurts a lot.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Phasing Out the Plaid

I finally did it.  I've been talking about this for years and I finally did it.
I ordered slip covers to cover our plaid couches.

Pictured:  The plaid sofa.  Also, David showing Cooper how to steal cars and punch hookers.  Wholesome family programming on the Playstation.  Poor Coop-doesn't he look confused?
These couches came with the husband, and (unlike the cute husband) they are an eyesore to me.  David bought these couches when he was furnishing his house as a young bachelor and he evidently felt that he needed to assert his masculinity by buying everything in plaid.

I'm not kidding.

Plaid sofas, plaid bed spreads (guest room AND his room), plaid placemats, plaid towels, plaid curtains.

OK, the curtains were solid.  But seriously.  Everything else was plaid.

These sofas are comfortable, but the plaid is just not my style.  I like patterns--stripes, florals, jacquard, chevron--but this plaid is just not my favorite.  It just makes me thinking of a log cabin--these plaids would look right at home in front of a stone fireplace in a log cabin somewhere.  But I do not live in a log cabin.  Also, we watched This American Life (you can instant stream through Netflix) and in the episode about the guy who lives in Salt Lake City and looks for dudes with beards to model for him in Biblical tableaus so that he can paint them, his girlfriend's parents get interviewed.  They are devout Mormons and they have the same plaid couch.  So, our couch is famous.  And it's also Mormon.

Cooper sleeping on our Mormon couch.  GO CARDS!
Anyway, the couch is wonderful in that its plaid upholstery hides all manner of stains so we can eat in front of the TV if we like (and we do like, especially since I use TV as a mind-numbing pain reliever these days).  It's also great because we have given up on disciplining the wildabeasts that we house, so the dogs make themselves at home on the sofas (Cooper snuggles with David and me on the big couch, Little Mac prefers to have the love seat to herself).

She's a small dog, but she needs her space.
Considering that our living room decor includes bobbleheads and autographed baseballs, I think that when you put the plaid couches and the big TV in the mix, the decorating aesthetic in our living room can only be described as frat house meets log cabin meets Mormon tabernacle.  And (this may come as a shock) that is simply not an accurate reflection of my personal style.

I would LOVE to buy new furniture but furniture is expensive.  And the truth is, I'd rather buy plane tickets than new sofas.  Plus, David (ever practical) insists that someday we'll move into a house with a basement and these plaid sofas will be perfect for the basement and there's no reason to get rid of them since they are comfortable and in good shape.  (Except that they are PLAID).

So I am in the process of making over the living room.  As inexpensively as possible.  With cream-colored slipcovers (so as to best blend with the fur-babies) and cute throw pillows and some rearranging of what goes on the walls.  That may be the trickiest part.  I'm kind of tired of the stuff we have up right now, and I think moving some things around would make them feel fresh, but I always stress about where to hang things (including a case of autographed baseballs).  I also want to repaint, but David is not a fan of that idea, so it just depends on how motivated I get.

I'm going to save the big reveal until it's all completed (and don't hold your breath... doing this on the cheap requires patience!).  And no, I'm not kicking out the bobbleheads even though they are threatening to outnumber the space in their special glass case.

So many bobbleheads... so few decorating options.
 Right now, my focus is on improving the look of the slipcovers by customizing them as necessary (I may add some velcro to help them fit snugly in certain places).  I also want to re organize the barrister bookcase so that the shelf we have designated for Eliza's baby book and memory box and other things looks more attractive.  Then I'll pick out the perfect pillows (I might make my own, but I'm also going to be scouring Etsy).  I'm hoping it will all be finished by the end of the summer. 

In the meantime, I'm going to make the most of this distraction.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

This One's for the Girls

I saw Bridesmaids a couple nights ago.  Loved it.  Especially loved the part where Annie makes a toast to her best friend, Lillian, and ends up singing, "That's what friends are for..." (I still know every word of that song and also the accompanying sign language, thank you 6th grade music class).

Since losing Eliza, I've met some amazing women who are also walking this path and have forged genuine and meaningful friendships with them.  These relationships are true lifelines and I can't say enough about the way they have lifted me up.

But this post isn't about that.

This post is about my old friends.  My high school friends, my college friends, my grad school friends, my friends from my previous life, my lucky life, the life in which I expected a lovely, screaming, wiggly baby instead of a lovely, silent, still one.

I have chosen good friends throughout my life.  And I think that I've been a good friend, too, because I've managed to hang on to most of them.  My closest friends and I have been there for each other through the best and worst of life experiences, and all of the complicated stuff in between:  parties, concerts, canoe trips, vacations, sleepovers, and nights out dancing.  Boyfriends, engagements, weddings, the ups and downs of married life, and mother-in-law drama.  Also, co-worker drama, new jobs, new homes, graduate school, unemployment, and job promotions.  We've seen each other through parents divorcing, grandparents dying, parents coming out of the closet, and parents dying.  The last couple of years have seen struggles with fertility, planned pregnancies, surprise pregnancies, and new babies.  And now, the death of a baby.

We've stuck by each other through all of it.  Of course.  That's what friends are for. 

When Eliza died and I plunged into that black pit of grief (from which depths I am ever-so-slowly emerging, but prone to slip back into pretty often), in those early days, my friends would often say, "I miss you."

I was very absent from all the places I used to be--happy hour, shopping trips, dinner parties, chatty phone calls, rambling voice mails.  I didn't think I'd ever get back there again.  I felt so completely altered.  I wasn't sure how my friendships would last because I felt like I had turned into someone else and the qualities that made me a good friend--being thoughtful, being funny, genuinely caring about other people's problems, being able to hold a conversation about something other than Eliza or my grief or the plot of a TV show--these are qualities I seem to no longer possess.  I'm sad about that, but I can't see any way around it.

I am a bad friend right now.
I don't call.  I don't write.  I almost always depend on other people to initiate an e-mail exchange, a coffee date, lunch at a Mexican restaurant.  I make plans that I may or may not cancel at the last minute.  I don't inquire about babies.  I would rather rip out my own fingernails than hear about a baby shower or a baby's newest milestone.  I don't remember anniversaries.  I don't send birthday cards.  I can't remember other people's schedules (I can barely remember my own).  I can chatter about superficial nonsense or I can cry about Eliza.  There is little in between.  It takes great effort for me to remember that I should ask, "And how have you been?" when someone asks me how I'm doing.  When I have "normal" conversations, I mostly feel like I am running on autopilot.  I love my friends, but I feel like I am too tired to care.

My friend Jamie said to me once, "It sucks that this happened to my best friend."  She said that because she loves me and she hates to see me hurting like this, but also because it sucks for her, too.  As my friend Beth said, they loved and lost Eliza, too.  And complicating that grief is the haunting idea that in losing her, they also lost me.  The friend I used to be.

Jamie had a baby boy in October.  I have seen him three times since he was born.  If Eliza had lived, I would have seen him at least every couple of weeks.  I still haven't even met my friend Carol's baby who was born on Christmas day.  And I feel guilty about that--guilty that I don't want to see pictures, guilty that I don't want to hear stories, guilty that when Jamie tells me Owen has gotten so fat, it makes my stomach feel cold and tight because all I want is MY fat, happy baby.

It sucks.  It sucks that I can't bear to hear the play-by-play of the baby minutia that would have otherwise enthralled me.  It sucks that I am essentially missing out on Owen's first year.  I'm not attending his baptism next weekend.  I don't know how I'll feel this fall when the birthday parties start, but I can't guarantee that I'll go to them.  It fucking sucks.  It sucks for me, because I'm sad to miss out on this stuff, but it also really sucks for Jamie because she deserves to have her best friend there, and she deserves to have a best friend who can put her own problems aside and celebrate with her and be happy for the life of her beautiful baby boy.

But, because she's my best friend, she will forgive me for being in too much pain to do that.  She will forgive me for being small and mean and self-centered about my grief.  She will forgive me for putting up limits in order to protect my broken heart. 

She has to, or we won't stay friends.  Because my baby fucking died and I simply do not have the capacity to be strong or generous or brave or considerate of other people's feelings. 

I am a bad friend because right now I am first and foremost a bereaved mother.  My baby died, and I am absorbed in my grief.  I don't know how long I will be like this, but my friends have to learn to accommodate my pain just like I do.  It's what friendship means.  I am sorry it has to be this way, and I know it isn't easy for them, and I know they won't be able to do it perfectly all the time.  But I love them for trying. 

And when I look at this objectively, even though I feel guilty about my absence, I know that if they didn't try--well, that's on them.  The thing is, I need a friend but I can't really be one right now.  Most of my friends get that, and I'm so grateful. 

My best friend Monica sent me a text one day that said, "My sympathy will last as long as your grief."  I wonder if she realizes what a commitment that is.  Because my grief has no end in sight, and I know that it is hard to feel sorry for someone for an extended period of time.  After a while, we want them to buck up, to put on their big girl pants, suck it up, and get on with life.  I dread the day that my friends lose patience with me.  Because I am coming up on six months, and although I feel better, better still feels really shitty.  I worry about becoming a broken record.  I miss Eliza.  I want my baby.  There's nothing I want in life as much as I want that baby.  When will people finally get tired of hearing it? 

Yes, there is an extent to which we grow accustomed to this sorrow and the constant underlying presence of grief in our lives, and we find our old, frivolous selves emerging around it.  I went to dinner with Jamie on Saturday and when when the waiter recommended the "Ewephoria cheese" (a sheep cheese pronounced "euphoria") and I laughed and said "Yes! I want the cheese that is a pun!" and I felt for a second just like my old self, the self who regularly went to dinner with friends and loved puns and cheese.  I think, in those moments, that I will be okay eventually, and that when I am, my friends will be there--they will have never left. 

But I wonder if they are impatient with me, not that they want me to forget my grief (they would never expect that), but if they are ready for me to become better at navigating around and through it.  I wonder if they are impatient for me to be a good friend again.

I'm asking a lot of my friends right now.  Because of me, they're having to face truths no one wants to admit--that babies die, that the universe is random and scary, that bad things happen for no reason at all.  They're grieving Eliza's absence in our little world.  And they're having to figure out how to be there for a friend who is alternately sad and angry and sort of okay.

I worry that my friends will resent that I have such trouble celebrating their babies' lives even though I wish nothing but happiness for them.  I know that this sucks for them, too.  Their pain is not like my pain, but it's real and it's sad, too.

I have to remember that friendship isn't just about the good times.  It's about love and support and trust.

So I trust my friends to hold up their end of the deal while I keep trying to drag myself up out of this pit of grief.  I trust them to make me believe that however this has changed me, for better or worse, they still want me to show up for happy hour, to go to dinner, to offer my opinion about an outfit or a recipe or a crazy mother-in-law.  Right now, I have a hard time believing that anyone would hang out with me for any reason other than pity.  I trust them to remind me that I can still be fun.  I trust them to be patient with me, to keep calling even when they just get my voicemail, to continue not to talk about their babies until I mention them first. 

In this moment, even though I'm a bad friend, I trust my friends to be good ones.  To help me honor Eliza's memory, and to extend their sympathy as long as I grieve--which is to say, forever. 

Because (as I could sing for you while simultaneously doing sign-language) that's what friends are for.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thinking of You

It's a terrible thing, to learn of all the babies loved and lost.

It's a wonderful thing to connect with parents who are surviving, grieving, living, crying, and finding hope again.

As we like to say back home, I'm thinking 'bout all y'all.

I lit a candle today, in memory of Eliza and so many other babies who are in my thoughts and prayers.

Wherever they are, may they know our love.

(As I've said before, I'm not a fan of the idea of angel babies.  But we got this arrangement from my mom's coworkers after Eliza died and there's just something about it that I like. In my view, the angel is not a symbol of my baby, but instead suggests the cherubim are grieving with us.  It's the same reason I'm drawn to those gravestones in cemeteries that have the figure of a weeping angel.  Because when a child dies, heaven and earth mourn together.)

Friday, May 13, 2011


[Warning:  The word "okay" gets used so many times in this post that may start to look like a nonsense word and cease to have any real meaning.  I am using it as shorthand for "fine, I guess, all things considered."]

I was just telling someone that I feel pretty okay today.

I'm going to a yoga class this afternoon.  I'm going to start on a sewing project (a new dog bed cover for Cooper).  I've submitted my grades for the semester.  I am ready to start reading a new book.  Last night I sat out on my deck, chatting with a friend about her dating foibles and I felt... okay.

It is unbelievable to me that I am surviving the death of my baby and that I have moments--hours even, days maybe--when I feel okay.

When I stop and think about the horror and enormity of what happened, I genuinely believe there is no way I will ever be able to accept Eliza's death.  I could never accommodate such a loss into my life and ever hope to regain a measure of happiness.  I simply cannot go on as I did before--I will always be broken and damaged and scarred beyond recognition.  I am a mother whose baby has died.  How can I be that and also be my old self?

And then in some kind of silent but persistent rebuttal to those thoughts, I have these days when I feel okay.  Or almost okay.  Emotions that threaten to overwhelm me can be checked, tears can be blinked back, and I can continue with my day.  I can take care of chores or work things or errands and I am not just functioning, but actually enjoying the breeze with the windows down or the clicking sound of my new flip flops or the red beans and rice I made for dinner.  E-mails make me laugh and I experience the small pleasures of snoring dogs and sun-tea and a clean house.  I look forward to upcoming events, including a friend's graduation party.  This is what okay feels like.

But when I'm okay, I think that I should be feeling sadder, feeling worse, remembering the immensity of what I have lost.  My baby died.  How can I possibly be okay?  What sort of person can be okay after that?

And then in those other moments (less frequent, but brutal when they come), those days when I am overwhelmed by grief and sadness and every part of me longs for Eliza with an indescribable aching that starts in my throat and tightens my chest and makes my limbs feel heavy and my head pound, I feel so shattered and hopeless and the pain in so great that all I want is to find a way to feel okay again.

I don't know how to balance being okay and being broken by grief.  Because I am both all at once and each one at different times.

I'm not great.

But today, I'm okay.

And I still don't quite know how to feel about that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Emily Bronte

I like the Bronte sisters.  All three of them.

They were brilliant and they died tragically young.  They grew up motherless and their two older sisters died as children.  They loved and protected their profligate, alcoholic, rather embarrassing brother.  They began writing as children--fairy tales written in impossibly tiny print in handmade books the size of matchboxes.  They lived in a somewhat isolated little town, with few eligible men.  They were educated but not wealthy (a tricky negotiation in the nineteenth century).  As adults, they wrote some of my favorite books ever--some of the best books ever written in English (and that's not just my opinion)--but none of them lived to see the full measure of their literary success.  Charlotte got a small taste of it, but she died at age 38, shortly after getting married.  She was pregnant when she died, and had no other children.  She'd buried both her younger sisters years before.

The Brontes understood loss and grief.  They struggled to make sense of senselessness.  They created fictional narratives that allowed them to imagine and to control intense and volatile forms of love.  Critics disapproved.

It was not easy being a Bronte.

In some ways, their lives were bleak and gray and punctuated with sadness.  But the Brontes, they dreamed in color.

And as I think about the ways that having Eliza changed me, I remind myself that everything is different now, but it won't feel like a barren wasteland forever.  There will be happiness again, and although it will never be easy and light-hearted the way it was before, it will be deeper and richer and more meaningful because I know what it is to lose the dearest thing to your heart and find a way to live without it.  

My life will always be sadder for not having her with me, but I will be better for having loved her.  She's changed me forever.  I hate some of those changes.  But some of those changes are good.

I have dreamed in my life, dreams that stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind. 
~ Emily Bronte

I had a baby.  And I miss her.  And she is a dream that will stay with me ever after. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

So, that's over.

When it came to Mother's Day this year, my plan to was ignore it.

I did not want David to give me a sentimental card or jewelry or whatever because no.  Just no.  My plan was to pretend the day wasn't happening.

It didn't quite work that way, what with so many lovely texts and e-mails blowing up my phone (it was just like a Ke$ha song, except not really) and also real cards that came in the mail.  Love.  And, although I did not allow myself to get on the computer, all of the bereaved mothers I've come to know were on my mind.

And of course, I had to call my own mom.  Because she's the greatest. 

Here is a picture of three generations of awesome, circa 1985.

In a nod to nineteenth-century England, I chose to wear white gloves.  Also, you can't really tell but my mom is wearing gray peep-toe pumps with bows on the toes.  She had a matching gray clutch.  Even as a four-year-old, I coveted those accessories.  We're all agreed that the perm was an unfortunate hairstyle, though.  Hey, the '80s were hard on everybody.

Anyway, David and I woke up early, lounged around in bed reading, and then decided since the weather was beautiful we should go play golf.  We'd practiced chipping and hitting balls into a net the day before, so we were ready to hit the links.

We go to this little par 3 course near my house and when it's not busy (and it wasn't), we play Best of Two.  This means that each of us hits two balls from the tee and then we pick up the crappy hit from out in the weeds or six feet in front of the tee, pretend it never happened, and go on to chip and putt the good hit.  Gives me some extra practice, and lowers my frustration level.  Also lowers the score, since you only have the count the good hit!  

Even so, we played 9 holes and my final score would have been awesome... if we'd played 18.  I was just satisfied that I was hitting fairly straight and I managed to make par a couple of times.  Winner at Best of Two Golf!

Well, David actually won, but that's not the point.  He practices and he's also ridiculously coordinated so I don't even consider him my competition.  He's in a different league.  The annoying jock league.

After golf, we decided the day called for homemade black bean veggie burgers and Hoegaarden.  So that was lunch.  Then David washed the cars while I sat on the deck reading a book.  (A Maisie Dobbs book, to be precise--love, love, love).

I had dreaded the day for so long, but once it started it wasn't so bad.  The dread of it was way worse than the reality.  I cried all though last week, but not so much yesterday.

So that day's over.  Now I've just got to get through the rest of my life without her.

Which will call for some pretty heavy distractions.  Considering yesterday's activities were pretty enjoyable, it looks like I've got a summer of golf and beer and books ahead of me. 

It's not a bad deal... unless you consider the alternative.  Which is precisely why I'm keeping myself busy.

Hope the day was as not sucky as possible for everyone reading this.  Maybe it was just what you wanted, maybe it was nothing like you expected.  Either way, you're on my mind and in my heart and I appreciate your thoughts and support.  It's been five months and it's still so hard.

So there was sadness, yes.

But there was also a nice 6 foot putt that dropped right in, and a glass in the freezer waiting for my beer, and barbecue sauce on top of a black blean burger, a conversation with my mom, and the absorbing adventures of Maisie Dobbs.

Trying to be grateful for what IS, in between longing for what isn't.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

You Know What's Awkward?

This dog.

You know what's awesome?

You guys who comment on my blog.  And e-mail me.  And think about Eliza.

Thank you.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Year Ago

A year ago on Mother's Day, I found out I was pregnant.

And now all of the anniversaries that Eliza was a part of begin.

The contrast between where I was a year ago and where I am now has me reeling.  These last few days have been rough and I'm not sure when things will even out again.

A year ago in May, I found out I was pregnant, I graduated from my PhD program, my husband got a much-wanted job promotion, and I got my first academic article published.

I thought I was leading a charmed life.  Everything we'd hoped for and wished for and worked for had all worked out.  All at once!  I was happier than I had ever been.

My family came in town for my graduation, but we weren't ready to announce my pregnancy yet (I wanted to be finished with the first trimester.  Obviously the irony is more than a little grim.)  I remember thinking that there was no way my mom wouldn't notice--I took a nap in the middle of the day (totally unlike me) and bought almost nothing when we went clothes shopping. 

The robe hid my non-existent bump and I thought the high-heel-wearing months of pregnancy would last forever!

My mom was apparently distracted by the fancy robe and all the visiting family, because she was so surprised and happy when we made the announcement to them six weeks later.  Father's Day weekend.

My new summer weekend drink of choice.
We spent the fourth of July here in St. Louis, with friends of ours visiting.  They were expecting twins a week before my due date.  We all went to the Cardinals game.  Baby Duck was a Cardinals fan from the start.

The next day, the boys went golfing while the girls went shopping for maternity clothes.  And maybe a baby outfit or two.  Lindsey and I talked about how excited we were, and how fun it was that our kids would be so close together in age, and what great dads David and Dennis would be.  We were both so full of hope and excitement.  This year we both know how it feels to lose a baby.

Over my birthday, we were vacationing in Korea.  My bump was just starting to show.

ArtBox in Seoul is one of my favorite stores EVER.  We also bought a children's book about Korea at one of the museums we visited.  We imagined reading it to Baby Duck and telling her about the trip she made to Korea before she was born.

David's birthday was right before our first photo-op ultrasound.

Pictured:  One happy mama 20 weeks pregnant and the cutest ultrasound pictures I'd ever seen.

Labor Day weekend we hosted our "gender party" and announced that our Baby Duck was a baby girl.

I had not asked for this saying on top of the cake and I remember thinking it was slightly offensive--I wasn't wishing for boy or girl, I just wanted a healthy baby. 

David had just started his new job and his coworkers made him feel so welcome--they were celebrating our pregnancy right along with us and after we announced our baby was a girl, David arrived home with this:

Cookie cake is David's favorite.

We met up with my parents over Halloween weekend for shopping and golf. We took pictures at David's grandparents' house on Table Rock Lake, planning to send them out with Christmas cards. (Those cards got ordered.  They arrived two days after Eliza died.)

Introducing pregnancy fat face.  Fat and happy.
Thanksgiving week was bookended by baby showers with baby duck themes.

Make face look smaller by placing it next to enormous present.

Opening gifts with my very special assistant, Paige, my cousin's little girl.
The next weekend we had an early Christmas with David's grandparents. 

My coat barely zipped and I thought that was funny.  This picture was taken on Saturday, December 4.

And then Eliza was born December 6th and Christmas was a dark blur of tears.

These last months have been so hard.  I am not sure how to prepare myself for all of the upcoming anniversaries.  How can it have been only a year ago on Mother's Day that I saw two pink lines?  How has it already been an entire year?

I guess we get through these days the same way we've gotten through the rest of them.  One at a time.

I know I need to keep busy.  I need to move forward.  There is no cure for grief except time.

But how can I keep from dwelling on the past when there is nothing in the present or the future that I want as much as I wanted that baby?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Public Service Announcement

Or something like that...

The other day I found myself having a really horrible dark thought that went something along the lines of, "Wouldn't it be great if [insert someone famous] had a stillborn baby?"

NOT that it would be great if a baby died.  Obviously it's the saddest story in the world.  I wouldn't wish it on anyone, famous or otherwise.

It's just that I think more people should be talking about it.  It shouldn't be a secret.

It's not that stillbirth should get publicized as something that happens frequently.  It's rare and it shouldn't cause undue anxiety.  But it's hard to figure out how to present statistics and percentages in the most accurate way possible.

The fact is that stillbirths happen in less than 1% of pregnancies.  But it's also true that a shitload of people get pregnant everyday.  (Do you like my accurate number reporting?  1% of a shitload.)

It's different from, say, a rare type of cancer that only 5% of breast cancer victims end up developing.  When you think of the relatively small portion of the population that gets breast cancer to begin with, then that 5% ends up being a really small number.

Compare that to 1% of all women who ever get pregnant in the world at any given time.

As many people have noted, membership to this club is much less exclusive than you might expect.

1% - those are slim odds.  In all likelihood, an otherwise healthy woman with a low-risk pregnancy will not experience the death of that baby.

In all likelihood, it wouldn't have happened to me.  Three months before Eliza died, we grieved with our friends whose baby boy twin died just before his sister made her own dramatically premature appearance in the world.  I thought since it happened to someone we knew, the odds of probability would keep us safe.  Once I was 32 weeks along, I breathed a sigh of relief.  Viability was good, even if we had a premie.  We were practically home free.

And then we weren't.  And I couldn't believe it.

I'm sure it was no different for the teacher at David's school, who wept for us as she drove to her own thirty-six weeks check-up, grateful to be two weeks further along in her pregnancy than I had been when I lost Eliza.  At 36 weeks pregnant, the end was in sight.  The law of probabilities protected her.  And then they couldn't find her baby's heartbeat.

I mean seriously.  What are the odds?

Slim.  Really slim.

But it's more likely that a baby will be stillborn than have Down's Syndrome.

It's more likely that a baby will be stillborn than die of SIDS.

It's more likely that a baby will be stillborn than be struck by lightening or attacked by a shark or killed in a home burglary or shaken to death or rolled over on by a parent.

But those are things we talk about.

The truth is that stillbirth is (thankfully) rare.  It's exceptional and unusual and terrible.  At the same time, it's common enough that it doesn't get any attention until it happens to someone you know.

But it happens.  For many different reasons.  For reasons doctors still can't explain.  To educated women in first world countries.  To women who take care of themselves.  To women who follow strict guidelines of diet and exercise in pregnancy.

It doesn't happen very often, but it can happen to anyone at any time and I think there should be a way to raise awareness about it without fearmongering.  Without our babies becoming names that can't be whispered in earshot of pregnant women, names you have to avoid mentioning at baby showers.

Stillbirth is not an experience that became obsolete along with with corsets and hoopskirts.  It is not an experience limited to women with few resources and unclean water supplies.

It's not something that pregnant woman need to worry about, but it is something that pregnancy books should list resources for.  It should not be used to frighten people, but information about it should be readily available.

There has to be a way to let people know that a stillborn baby will break your heart, but it doesn't have to wreck your entire life.

Because that is what people need to know--it's what I still need to be told.

I've said a million times that there is no upside to the loss of a baby, there is no silver lining, there is nothing that will ever make this remotely okay.  But there should be a way to say that this is an event that you can survive.  That this great loss can hollow out your guts and also enrich your life in unexpected ways.  That great sorrow can make room for great joy.  That you will survive this.  That it will change you forever, but not all of those changes will be bad.  That even five months later you will still hurt more than you ever have in your life, but you will also find hope again.  This sort of information should be out there.

A friend of mine is pregnant now.  She had an early pregnancy loss several months ago, so she knows something of my grief.  I mentioned to her the other day that I hate that Eliza is a horror story--instead of a sweet, fat baby who makes people smile, she's a sad story that makes people scared.  I voiced my concern that Eliza's story probably scared this friend of mine, heightened her anxiety about her current pregnancy.  The thought that my daughter has become an unmentionable source of fear and pain--I hate it.  But she said that wasn't true.  That Eliza's story was actually an inspiration to her.  A reminder to treasure every moment of her pregnancy, a demonstration of the way love and friendship can help us endure the greatest of tragedies, the way a baby can change our lives and make us love unselfishly, simply by existing.

This is what I mean when I say that someone famous should have a stillborn baby.  Because it is not a shameful secret or the natural consequences of inappropriate behavior.  It's a terrible tragedy that we can choose to make meaningful.

It doesn't happen to people who deserve it, or people who can handle it, or people who are being tested by God, or people who could have made better choices, or people who don't believe in medical intervention.  It just happens.  Randomly.  Without warning.  To people of every age, every race, every religion, every socioeconomic group, in every country, in any kind of relationship, with every variety of personal history, and every kind of birth plan (or lack thereof).

It will always be a terrible shock and the greatest of personal losses.  But it doesn't have to be an experience that makes people feel isolated and ashamed.

The point of all this is an Associated Press article featuring a few bloggers who are well known in our little circles.  Those of us who try to articulate our pain and put it out there for the world to see.

We're not alone.

We're not insane.

We're not irreparably damaged.

We are mired in grief and overwhelmed by disappointment and furious about the random unfairness of it all and really fucking sad.

But we are not so different from anybody else.  We manage to find strength even though we are not strong.  We are unfailingly generous and gentle with each other, and righteously indignant about the insensitivity of others.  Our hearts fill up and our tears spill over when we see other people putting our experiences into words.  We find ways to hold intact our sense of humor and our dignity and our marriages.  The support we can offer each other cannot be overestimated.

We may be a very slim percentage of the population, those of us whose babies have died, but our numbers are much greater than you would think.

And, in one of the cruelest ironies of all, most of us are actually really cool people.  The sort of people you would want to be friends with in real life (nerdy little folks like me generously included).

So yes, we should talk about stillborn babies, even though it's the saddest story in the world.  Because you never know whose story might be the same.

You can read the article here.