Friday, June 21, 2013

A Patch of Green Grass

Looking at the photos of these "rainbow babies" together never fails to make me smile.

There's so much joy here--so much life and activity and so many little personalities.  

After we lost Eliza, we hoped and prayed and wished for another baby.  We wanted a chance to bring home a baby, to be The Mommy and The Daddy, to do all the things associated with raising children.  We were parents already, but we only got to experience a small sliver of what that meant, and the vast majority of our experience was choked with grief.  We had the huge love for our baby, but we also had the huge emptiness she left behind.

So of course Zuzu was a dream come true.  She gave us hope and brought us joy and she continues to be a delight and a challenge.  She's everything I could have asked for.

But she's not her sister.

And just as I could never wish Eliza back to take Zuzu's place, I can't expect Zuzu to fill the emptiness Eliza left--at least, not entirely.

It's easy to assume that having another baby has "fixed" us.  We are happier now, and Zuzu is a big part of that.  Our grief rests easier now, and some of that is Zuzu.  A lot of that is time.

Rainbow babies are freaking awesome, but they don't fix the loss that we experienced, and seeing all those rainbow babies together underscored how lucky we are to have them, and how unbelievably tragic it is that we don't have their siblings.

It seems that the grief that results from having a stillborn baby can be hard for some people to fully comprehend.  How do you love a baby you never met?  Even for a baby who died in infancy, some people may try to diminish the agony, as though the length of a baby's life could possibly be in direct proportion to the grief experienced by her parents.

What happened is this:  We had a baby.  For nearly nine months we poured our heart and soul and love and energy and plans and dreams into that child and then for reasons no one can explain and no one could predict, her heart stopped beating and we never got to bring her home.  We had a baby.  And our baby died.

It didn't just happen to us.  It happened to far too many other parents.  Good parents.  Smart, educated, successful, loving, generous, hilarious, intelligent, sensitive, compassionate people.  

My friend Julie Serena was reflecting on the photo of all of these babies.  Her daughter Catherine is on Zuzu's left in the picture below (her hat has the two purple pom-poms).

Julie's first daughter, Anna, died suddenly during her delivery due to a cord accident.  She was perfectly healthy until the moment her cord got pinched and deprived her of oxygen.  She was so loved.  She was so wanted.  And she was almost here.  And then she was gone.

Julie's comments about this photo made me realize that maybe the best way to describe to someone else the unfathomable reality of our loss is to show them this picture.  She mentioned that looking at it highlights both how amazing these babies are AND how equally amazing their brothers or sisters would have been.  In depicting our greatest joy, it illustrates our greatest sorrow.

Look at this picture:

And then imagine a blank patch of green grass where all those babies were.  An empty lawn instead of so many sweet babies.

Because, as Julie pointed out, That's what happened.  

We give it labels:  stillbirth.  infant loss.  cord accident.  sids.  unexplained fetal demise.  None of that changes the reality that the picture above represents fourteen gorgeous babies AND fifteen little lives cut short.  Each baby in a rainbow hat had a brother or sister whom we fully expected would be here and alive and present and taking up space on their patch of green grass.

And then all those babies were gone.

The death of a child, whenever it occurs, leaves a void that nothing can fill--not even the most beautiful siblings we could dream into life.

The babies we lost were just as magical, just as beautiful, just as unique, just as full of potential, and just as real as each one of the living, breathing little persons wearing rainbow hats.  We carried them for months and months, expecting we'd carry them home.

And maybe the most concrete way to understand that loss is to see their siblings and then imagine the empty expanse of green lawn.  So many babies brought into this world, wanted and loved.  And then they were gone.


  1. Haunting. Since Julie said that I have been looking around our home and seeing all of her things disappear. It could have happened again. It did happen! At times I feel haunted by our tragedy, our loss, hellp.

  2. First of all, those kids are all adorable, and those are fantastic hats.

    Second, what a great explanation/ illustration.

    When Harry was in the PICU, people kept saying to me, "Oh my goodness, I cannot even imagine what you're going through." That comment-- which is something I have certainly said before to others-- started to drive me CRAZY because of course they could. Maybe they didn't want to imagine having a critically ill child, but they certainly COULD. Anyone who thinks the birth of a gorgeous baby could erase the loss of another is thinking along those same I-cannot-even-imagine lines.

    I love reading your blog, and this post is great.

  3. A perfect illustration.

    I have been doing this with M - looking around at all the space he takes up in our apartment, our lives, and knowing that A would have taken up just as much, but didn't get to.

  4. Wow. I have goosebumps and a lump in my throat. I have seen that picture before and I know all the stories. I am one of those stories and I know that while my very own rainbow is in that first picture that my daughter would not be in the second and even knowing that I found myself not wanting to scroll down to see that empty grass. OMG the empty grass. This really is a good way to explain it to someone else, but damn I hate that part of our reality. Missing them, missing them all. Xoxo

  5. Sometimes I do things with Jo Jo, put her in hand-me-downs from my niece, take her places, introduce her to people... and feel that other reality where I was doing the same exact thing with Avalon, but never got to. It's so haunting, so surreal, and so unnerving.

    What keeps me sane is knowing that Avalon's legacy is not gone, it lives on through another equally amazing, precious little girl. She didn't take Avalon's place, and she isn't a "replacement" baby. But loving Avalon opened my heart to loving Jo Jo, and so she is here because of her sister's existence, not instead of it.

    You showed me that, Brooke.

  6. I'm sobbing. And I just skimmed it because I can't fully concentrate just right now due to said beautiful Rainbow Girl.

    I knew this would be amazing. You never disappoint, Brooke.

    Will read it For Real when I have the time and space to really "go there".

    So much love to all who are reading this blog and missing their children.

  7. Wow this gave me chills. So true.

  8. seeing the last pic left me breathless...

  9. that made me cry:(, but a good way to describe the loss and emptiness.

  10. Ugh. That empty patch of grass really is haunting. Even though I had already read Julie's comments and visualized it - seeing just the grass just makes my throat tighten up.

    I miss all the babies who I wish could have filled that space. And all the other spaces they are missing from

  11. That first picture fills me with joy and the second just breaks my heart. All those beautiful babies that were so wanted...just makes my heart ache with sadness.


  12. I AH-DORE those hats. I didn't realize with the first post (I was crying buckets, right now there's only sprinkles.) that all the hats were different! And the colors!! WOW. I just love them.

    Not the point of this post in the least, I totally get that. But right now I needed to see the beauty in the first pictures, the tiny detail of those hats. So I'm going with it.

    Beautifully hauntingly written. I ache for us all.

  13. Wow. That's laying down some powerful truth - I hope some people who need to understand these things see this post, and come to realize how hurtful they (I hope they) didn't mean to be but were.

  14. OMG. I'm crying.

    Because it's true. Because it could have happened again. Because it did happen again to Becky.

    Because I'm so grateful that they're here, but so sad that their big siblings aren't.

    That patch of grass makes me sick to think about.

  15. So powerful and wonderfully written/illustrated. Actually seeing the empty patch of grass took my breath away. I had to scroll back up to our rainbow babies for a moment to remember how much I have in spite of what we lost. The void left when we lost William & Ethan can never be filled, and it is unfair to spect that of Maxwell. However, Maxwell has certainly carved his own space and brought us joy we were afraid would never be ours.

    I am so grateful for all of these rainbows!

  16. Looking at those babies does make realize what a richer place the world is with so many lovely little beings and yet, at the same time how impoverished it is by all the missing siblings! life's twisted misfortunes. Who knows who or what talent the missing babies had? Each one of them was uniquely gifted with immense possibilty, that we will never know;can only imagine.

  17. This is beautiful. You are all truely amazing. These babies are beautiful. I just want to thank you being here for my sister. My newphew in the pics above is Maxwell. I am so very happy she had the opportunity to meet all of you and become not only great support but friends. Again this ias beautifully written!

  18. It's amazing how something so simple as a photograph of grass can evoke so much emotion. ~Lindsay

  19. Beautifully written. This is exactly what people don't understand about loss, and exactly what I have been trying to tell people everytime they tell me that I should be grateful for the one child I have. Thank you...

  20. So so so true. The places I notice the most are the places that Luke is missing from. That emptiness...can never be filled. There will always be so much that's just gone.

    This gave me a lump in my throat too.

  21. Oh...

    That last picture made me cry.