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My second child and our first daughter, Camille, died and was born on June, 30 2011 when I was full term at 38 weeks pregnant. I gave birth to my rainbow baby, a second daughter, on August 31, 2012. This is me trying to figure out how to be a mother to my living son and daughter and function in society after our tragic loss.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Trying Too Hard

My therapist gave me a book to read. She tells me at almost every visit how well I articulate my feelings which she thinks helps me cope with my grief. I joke that my verbal ability doesn't seem to be helping. She said I get a gold star and we laugh. She said "you remind me of a woman who's blog I follow and she wrote a book I think you might like to read." The authors name is Joanne Cacciatore...I said" that name sounds familiar". My therapist said "she started the MISS foundation". Okay so I borrowed the book. The book title: Dear Cheyenne. I had it in the car and kind of forgot about it. We went out today and Daryl was driving my car and so I picked the book up because it had been in my passenger seat. I think I got about 3 pages into it before I started crying. I mean CRYING. I sometimes feel like I am doing well "can't you tell by the smile on my face...I am doing really well, REALLY WELL" I can tell myself "I am doing REALLY WELL" but that really well is also very relative. How quickly the facade deteriorates with a few pages read that reach into my heart and remind me just how full of pain I am.

Remember this crushing feeling? the one where you can not breathe? remember your daughter, the one who can not be forgotten with a few good days or weeks? Remember the name you mistakenly said instead of Harlow because Camille is forever present on your mind?

 I couldn't even keep reading, I knew my mood was immediately shot. Exchanging Daryl's sweater for a bigger size seems so ridiculous right now. I am going to write out the passage I was reading. I don't think everyone is going to run out and buy the book but I want to write it down.

Page 3

A pink stripe-positive, innocent unknowing
Destiny prevails
Screaming, "This shall be!"
ten lunar months
With or without her participation

She engages in the battle of denim
The expanding belly-The Victor!
tearful quest
For acceptance of herself
And elastic waistbands, instead

Danger: Nicotine. She smells it.
Looking for the source, nearby
Quickly changing seats
She drowns in primitive awareness
The role of sentinel

Tup-tup, tup-tup, tup-tup
their eyes dance to the beat
Of their unborn sister's heart
Lessons esoteric
And then off to the sandbox

What is happening?
Could it be? A gesture of life
Maybe just her stomach? Must be indigestion
No! Again...the flutter of her baby.
No words. Just silence and a moment. A sacred moment. tear-beads accessorize the day.

Dancing bears and mint green lambs
Adorn the walls
The bassinet awaits to become the warm, safe place
Second only to the nest of her arms
Three weeks remain
She travels down roads of visual imagery
The sterile room
Pain, the joy...the incredible moment of birth
Her heart beats, races without ease
Deleting calender days in her mind
But serenity steps in the door, and brings a morsel of patience along

Barely re-transitioned
To the repose of slumber
Her only escape from the suffering
2:00 a.m. six pillows and bathroom run three
Tiredness creeps in
Stolen reserves
Her ankle bones hiding beneath the swollen tissue
Sacrifice of self. trapped in this foreign body. Vulnerable. Frightened.
Naked and aching
The journey has taken its toll

Two more days
An eternity, at least
She gently strokes her abdomen unaware
As their hands meet with holy intimacy-
She knows her mother. Better than anyone. they are one.
Love, only love, wakes her slumber

Morning saunter is slow
But this day will be different
She falls to her knees as if to pray
A pain, indescribable
Her body convulses
"Oh my God!"
Too fast....it is all too fast.
Rushing, rushing...get the doctor
"she is term, contractions every minute....she'll be going soon!"
Excited, yes, but scared too! It is happening so fast.
Culmination of timeless time will soon end. Her laborious months
Finally yielding the reward

"It was all worth it," she thinks silently

She smiles through the pain, with renewed assurance that it will all be over soon
A hodgepodge of clinicians, in and out
Unrecognizable faces sharing in the moment
Schooled by choice to be surrounded with new life
With brazen confidence the man who will guide
the passage from the womb's safety meets her glance
Strapping charcoal bands, cold, tight
Around the infants swollen domicile

Sudden change. Faces transform. Silence-
Their smiles break like glass
Searing through the faces of the white costumed staff
Glances unfamiliar to her
Once again, her body not her own

"What is happening?"


they team up. Together. Screaming repetitions of nothingness
"What is happening!?"

Their secret code fractures her spirit.
Fear begins to ravage every cell in her body

His heart is callused like a laborer's hands
the synopsis, detached
"Your baby is dead."
                                                 "Your baby is dead."
                                                 "Your baby is dead."
                                                 "Your baby is dead."
"Your baby is dead." (Please, please turn the volume down.)

Contractions every thirty seconds
No time to think. No La Maze. Too much pain.
Unimaginable pain
Physical. Spiritual. Mental. Emotional.
"What? No. No. No. No. NO!"
She tries to get up from the bed

They hold her down, like a prisoner
What crime has she committed?

"No. I cannot do this. I want her to stay within me. Safe and warm...
No. I don not want to have my baby now! Let me go home. Lies, all lies!"

She fights in hateful protest
But the contractions bound her, and kick her,
And punish her.

Corrosive sweat
Rains like fire from her temples

"Push, push, push."
She can feel her child being born.

Head, elbows, chest. Finally her feet emerge
From her Judas body
Someone puts the camera on slow motion.
Frame by frame, outside herself she watches

Eyes clenched tight

Awaiting, baited breath.

"Cry, baby. Cry for mommy," she pleads helplessly

Negotiations. What can I give? What sacrifice? My life? Money? Time?
She is gone.

"What is happening? I don not understand. PLEASE take me! Take me!" she implores
No one throws her the life jacket. She drowns in agony, and
Dresses her lifeless baby in bear pajamas that match her room
The pajamas say, "I love mommy" all over
But mommy has failed. Mommy couldn't save you.

Pink, white, and blue are the choices
Not for lacy dresses but for caskets- they ask her to choose. "Choose? A casket?"
Looking around, planning her escape
For there are too many tiny caskets in the room closing in
She cannot see, as the tears asphyxiate her
Falling to the cold tile
"This cannot be, this cannot be."

The second hand is in a hurry today.
She begs it to stop, but the time has come.
Reluctantly she places her into the pastel casket.
Carefully, as she bends over to kiss this child of Heaven

Milk burns at her breast in disapproval
Her body doesn't understand
Her body must feed her, hold her, nurture her
A visceral need unfulfilled

Beautiful- eight pounds, dark curly hair, porcelain baby
She closes the casket cover
And falls down in fetal position
One being. She remembers when they were one-
A loss so physical, so permanent

Now death has transplanted her organs with despair
Today, she will bury her precious child.
Cathedral flowers tied with ribbons of sorrow
Black limousines stand at attention
Her anesthetized consciousness fades
In and out, as the sun dances
Between summer clouds

And from the earth that swallows her child
She begs acquittal

Stepping in to assume the role her body once played so well
Her mind becomes the stranger now
Evolution, bursting, dragging her through the muddy waters of grief
Swallowing the poison,
Blinding her, confusing her

Senseless propaganda in her ears
Stinging reminders around every corner
Disinterring the immortal hours...
Her body bleeds defiantly, still,
And her spirit lay mortally wounded
Amongst the shadows
Curled up
On the dark closet floor
Where her elastic-waisted garments hanged,
Anointed with French vanilla

And where no one witnessed
As she invited Death to come.
But He declined her offer
Another time, perhaps?
He leaves her in the carnage.

Like Gretel, looking for crumbs of hope
To guide her through the forest,
Through the passages of the deepest torment she will ever know
Not one in the millions
Of peoples, languages or philosophies
Can begin to speak the truth of
The torment of a mother

Whose child has been ripped, without mercy
From her burning arms

2,190 days
Six phantom years but love does not decompose as flesh
Memories try to sneak away when she is not looking,
The alarm sounds and quickly she brings them home
Edges of the photographs are time-faded and worn from too much handling

So she juxtaposes scenes from two worlds
And escapes to the voices of a thousand ghosts

Yet, in the underground passages of her mind
Through the only pardon from darkness
Shines the light of hope
And the gifts of angels, immortal

Now she walks the forest thick with grief
Leaving crumbs for the others
To discover the passage to peace and courage
To discover and to help change the world
Destiny prevails and whispers, "This shall be"

And so this is why I couldn't stop crying....I didn't need to read this. I lived it. EVERY SINGLE WORD. I lived it. The memories try to escape, but how quickly I regain them. A snippet here. A tidbit there. And Bam! I am back to June 30th 2011 and every grief enveloped day since. I haven't read any more of this book. The book could have been simply those several pages. the end. It would have been enough. My heart aches for Joanne, my dear friend whom I have never met...because I know too well the path she travels and the forever ache in her heart.

As the holidays are upon us, I realize that with all the merriment, and present buying, the decorations and preparations. I am trying too hard. Trying hard to make up for last year. But there is no make-up and the trying is exhausting. It isn't fake, it's just somewhat contrived. If I force it, it must be. If I am happy, it must be. If things are joyful, I must be. But it doesn't work like that. my heart can not be so easily tricked. But the tricky lies in the fact that happy, and joy form the padded walls that protect the sweet memory of Camille. I don't know how the joy lives so intimately with the sadness but they do seem to be the best of friends. And so I will kiss my children and breathe in their pure aliveness, and will wrap my arms around them and be filled to capacity with love. The love I have for Camille pushes out against the aliveness of the others and I feel as though I cannot possibly contain any more. Take a deep breath. In and out like the sun meditation. As the breath is taken in, the light from the sun in my chest expands. With each breath the light fills up more and more of the body until its radiance shines through us in all directions. That is the meditation I will do tonight. But right now oh how the pain hurts.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Thank You Letter

I have a lot to be grateful for. I know many times I have thought that everything good in my life was not good enough without my daughter here and than I would chastise myself thinking that it should be good enough. It is difficult to feel thankful for anything surrounding the death of my daughter because of how completely tragic it is.

My neighbor's daughter was my postpartum nurse after Camille died. I knew her, I would see the mother and daughter walking and we would talk. My nurse went to elementary school with my husband's older brother. Small world. She was the one who finally took Camille from Daryl and I. The last time I got to kiss my daughter, she was there. I am thankful that I knew the woman who took my daughter away. I am glad my daughter was taken by someone who would love and respect her. She was not with a stranger. I never wrote her a thank you letter. I wrote about 1000 of them in my head but I would completely block when I would try and physically write one. How do I say "I am thankful" for anything surrounding my daughter's death? It makes me cry just to think of it.

Well this nurse was also my postpartum nurse with Harlow. How lucky! I felt like I wanted to thank her for being respectful of Camille's memory while helping me welcome Harlow into the world. Tricky, very tricky. I knew she liked marshmallows and so I made a bunch of fancy marshmallows dipped in chocolate and various sprinkles. I made rice crispy treats and wrapped up little cute baggies of marshmallows. I put them in a pretty box that had a beautiful design on it including butterflies and it said wish hope dream. I knew I had to write a letter but I just kept procrastinating...but the treats were going to get stale- ha. So I texted her and asked if she was going to be around and she was at work but said she would pick up what I had for her from her mom's house. I knew I was stuck now and had to write that dang letter. So I grabbed some stationary and a pen and sat down. I hand wrote a 2 page letter telling her how I felt about Camille's death and her compassion, about her wheeling me out of the hospital with empty arms, about my broken heart and journey of grief. I wrote of my gratefulness for her love and how she held my hand and my heart. I wrote of my appreciation of her caring for me with Harlow and how difficult it was for me. No rewrites, no spell checks. I read the letter once, I wish I had made a copy so I could reread it but I forgot because I was sobbing as I wrote the letter. I put it in the pretty box and walked it down to her mom's house. She texted me later that night saying how grateful she was to be a part of our lives, how she will remember Camille's beautiful face for the rest of her life and how grateful she was to be able to help me and our family through the darkest time in our life and how glad she was that she got to be there to help us with both Camille and Harlow's birth.

I am thankful that I had the courage to write that letter, that I got to finally say what I had been wanting to say for a very long time, that her kindness and compassion did not go unacknowledged.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


It was one of those moments
the kind of moments so filled with magic and joy that you can feel yourself experiencing it.
You know while it is happening that it is special
that your hippocampus is on overload with the instantaneous ignition,
of a bright and fiery memory that will be fixed in your mind for the rest of you life.

Through the process of pregnancy, the death of Camille, pregnancy with Harlow and than the first couple months of Harlow's life...there are recurrent thoughts...One of them is how much I wanted to grow my family, how much I know I will love all of my children completely. Another thought which I know is common among second or third time mothers (even mothers who's first child died) is the worry about the love that will be taken away from the first child , the one who taught you what true love really is, when another child is brought into the family. I was worried I would not be able to love another child as much as I love Kai, but I do. I was worried, while deeply grieving, about the way it would affect him. I worried that I was damaging him by being so damaged. I worried that I was not able to shelter his heart, now I worry that I won't be able to shelter two hearts...because mothers want to do this. I have shed tears in the past couple months about guilt over not being able to give him the attention that an only child is accustom to receiving. He requests to cuddle and I have to say "please wait, I have to finish nursing Harlow, burping Harlow, changing Harlow". I know it is not a bad thing for a child to develop more independence and what time I have to split up between care for my children will hopefully be made up in companionship of a sibling. 

I have been thinking of ways I could retain, sustain, build my relationship with my son. Ever since Kai was a tiny baby we have read to him, he has his own shelf completely packed with books. In our library downstairs he has his own shelves. We read to him throughout the day, after bath every night and before bed. We started with board books, and then short stories, we have moved on to more involved short stories. Kai is 3.5,  he says things like "well actually" and "I suppose", his vocabulary is extensive and that may be because he is exceptional or because we talk to him like a person and not a baby, or because we read a lot of books...maybe it is a combination of all of these things.

One of my favorite childhood memories is sitting on the couch with my older brother and my mother while she read novels to us . She read us Black Beauty, Sea Star, Misty of Chincoteague. She read The Boxcar children and Peter Hale.  I remember my mothers voice and her inflections, feeling warm and safe, loved and taken to another place. I loved the evenings on the couch.... and so the other day I decided to start reading him chapter books. I wasn't sure if he was old enough or his attention span long enough, but I thought that maybe this would be the way I could spend some special time with Kai, help ease my guilt as well as be something we could both look forward to. So while I was shopping at the money suck store (Target- go in to purchase welcome mat, leave spending $100) I decided that our first chapter book would be Charlotte's Webb. I told Kai that we were going to start reading chapter books, there weren't a lot of pictures but he would like to listen to the story. He was excited and asked to start reading it when we got home.

I sat down on the couch and had him sit right next to me. Harlow was laying in my lap. I read the back of the book to him, and told him what the book was about. I read the title and then began reading the book. I started choking up and had tears in my eyes. I knew it was one of those moments that I would always remember. I knew that this was going to be an ongoing experience that he will look back upon with joy, just as I do. I read two very short chapters and said "should we read some more later" Kai said "No, keep reading" I kept reading, I kept checking in with him asking if he wanted to be done. We ended up reading 60 pages! I told him it was time to take a bath so we could make dinner but he didn't want to, he wanted to keep reading. While he was in the bath he said "mama I like reading chapter books, I was using my imagination to think of what the pictures would look like" I told him how thrilled I was that he was enjoying the book and how much I enjoyed reading to him. When he got out of the bath he was in his robe and asking for me to read again. We read more while dinner was cooking. At bedtime we read one of his usual short books. He said he was looking forward to reading some more of Charlotte's Webb tomorrow.

 I will never get to have any more magical moments with Camille. I did have a few, before we ever officially met. One I specifically remember was during an ultrasound. Daryl and I were both there and she was beautiful, yawning, and then she stuck her tongue out at us. We laughed and my heart filled with joy. These moments, these magical moments...I grasp on to them with both hands and squeeze them tight. I breathe them in as deeply as I can while I close my eyes. I want to remember the details.

And so it has begun. I hope we successfully instill a love for books, imagination and knowledge in our son. I hope that this will bring us closer in a new way. I already have a list in my head of novels we will start in the next couple of weeks. I am so excited.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Kai was a pirate for Halloween this year. Harlow, a parrot. I was hoping our whole family would dress up like we have in previous years but we just didn't get it together. I have never been a big fan of this holiday. I find it kinda creepy. The little kids are cute with their costumes and innocence and of course their love of candy, but the dark death side freaks me out. So last weekend when I was wondering if maybe we could get D and I into our own pirate paraphernalia we went into a Halloween store. What a HORRIBLE idea. It was a BIG store and decked out! They had HUGE displays and one of them was a giant tree with about 5 or six swings rotating around it with dead babies on the swings. There were huge signs that said baby zombie and all kinds of dead baby everything. I HAD TO GET OUT OF THERE! I cried and cried. Who would think this was a good idea? Don't people know how tragic it is to actually HAVE a dead baby?

It is not a joke, it is not a costume, it is not something funny and not something that should be put on display.

I cried off and on all day. I was so completely shocked and unexpectedly blindsided by the display. I was seriously traumatized. I ended up telling my therapist about it and she said she wanted to go and have a talk with the store.
I hate seeing fake gravestones and skeletons, I hate that people decorate their homes with ghoulish things that represent death when I have to live it everyday. I hate seeing skeletons and references to things dead. It freaks me out. What are people playing at? It just has a whole different meaning for me now.

You know because we had Kai already, and since Camille was our second child, we continued to "celebrate" holidays even in the wake of her death. Even if our smiles were fake and we dragged one foot in front of another, we did this for our living child.

This year Halloween was better than last year but it's still not my favorite and it has an extra edge of creep that I look at sideways and try to disregard.

Kai's first Halloween: Skeleton family. -Now I don't think this would be a very good costume.
Downtown Santa Cruz- We look so happy.

Kai's Second Halloween:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the Butterfly


And than last year Halloween was 3 months after Camille died. Our whole world was upside down but we still had a 2.5 year old who wanted to dress up and get candy. We just wanted to hide and cry. So we did what many parents do. We swallow hard and look after the hearts of the small people. You know that comedian who says "you know you're a redneck if..." It is kind of a joke with us now, a year later: "you know you're grieving when a family of vegetarians dress their child as a hot dog for Halloween...Right?
So... Kai was a hot dog and we were...the very sad parents of a hot dog.
The hot dog Downtown Santa Cruz- This photo really says so much to me.
There doesn't look like very much happiness.

Posing with the hot dog.

This year Kai was a Pirate captain and Harlow was his parrot


I made this costume out of a onesie, boas and felt

This was the first time Kai held Harlow

so much love
 So this year we have two babies to dress and a 3.5 year old who still thinks it is great fun. I look sideways and pretend it is fun but inside I hate Halloween.

but painting pumpkins is fun