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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.

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


  1. ...I thought I was the only one...I don't like the holiday either :/

  2. Love the costumes through the years. I am the opposite--I love Halloween. Skeletons are part of Day of the Dead celebrations in our family, but I hear that from people--that Dia de los Muertos and calaveras are creepy, morbid, etc. To me, they are honoring and communing. But I also understand why one thinks that. We are painting ourselves as dead people. It is a little strange.

    Sending love. We have the extended dance remix of Halloween, so our trick or treating is Monday, and today is the parade at school. I am getting a tad sick of Halloween myself now. Love to you. xo

  3. I actually never thought of that. Any of that. The dead... everything. I mean, something got to me the last two years as I stare at the decor on houses, but I couldn't pinpoint it. That's it. It's all about dead everything. Making light of something I live daily and hate. Hm. Perhaps that's why this holiday was harder to stomach.

    This: Kai was a hot dog and we were...the very sad parents of a hot dog.

    A little funny and totally sad. I agree. That picture says everything about your grief. Your husband staring off and Kai just sort of "being" when your family was just trying to keep your heads above water.

  4. I love this post. Every heartbreaking bit of it.

    I hate that store and I hope it burns down.

  5. So sorry you had to deal with all of that...amazing how things have such different meanings to us these days.

    This year's halloween was odd for me as well. My kids are older so Halloween is the next best thing to Christmas, and their excitement and joy makes it hard to be down, which is a good thing. But, it was the first time since 2009 that I wasn't pregnant and it just felt different...not real sure how I feel about it.

  6. I cannot believe the displays in that store! I would have freaked out too. I feel the exact same way about Halloween now. Never had a problem with Halloween before, but this year was different. Now, I have to live with death every single day and it is not all fun and games to me. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law live next door to us and love Halloween. They set up a stupid fake cemetery, tombstones and skeltons sticking out of the ground. I just told my husband the other day that that stuff is not funny to me. Not when you have to bury your child and the cemetery is now a sacred place. Anyway, this was on my mind just a few days ago so love the post.

  7. Renel, you are such a lovely mother. That . . . sad parents of a hot dog. That just about broke my heart. Because you tried so hard, you love them so much, Kai and Camille, and you still dressed him up as a hot dog, to have a good time, even though you were a grieving, aching, heart broken vegetarian. And, if that isn't love, I don't know what is.

    I LOVE the Hungry Caterpillar and butterfly costume. You both look so beautiful. Kai and Harlow looked super sweet this year too.

    And I'm so sorry that you stumbled upon that store display. This sort of thing just makes me want to say, 'REALLY?" to somebody. Even reading about that giant tree with the babies on the swings make me feel ill. Let alone seeing it. How awful.

  8. I feel the same way Renel. Halloween used to be one of my favourite holidays but not anymore. Seeing my neighbours lawns decorated with tomb stones is no longer whimsical. I am glad that your son could get into it though and that is one cute parrot you have!

  9. Oh my. I read a local Blm post about a display of a dead mother rocking a dead baby with creepy lullaby music playing in the yard. She freaked out and I did too, just from reading about it. I cannot imagine if I had seen what you saw. I had to talk to my counselor just after reading about it. I don't get it either. I never really loved Halloween but after Hayes died, I definitely began to find skeletons and fake graves and stuff offensive and upsetting. :/ sorry you had to see all of that. I love all of the pics. The hotdog/bench pic did indeed say so much. So sad. Love y'all.

  10. After reading Brooke's comment I can't top that. So. . .ditto.

  11. I want to send that store hate mail, and lots of it. I'm traumatized just reading about it.

    On the other hand, you are clearly an amazing mother. Love seeing Kai in his different costumes and your adorable little parrot, too.

  12. You wonder who came up with the dead baby display...I've never been a big halloween person because I've never liked dressing up. I found it interesting this year because E is almost 4 and really, really into the idea of dressing up and trick or treating. She was a princess and we took her out but she didn't last long because so many of the houses were decorated so spookily - huge spiders dropping on kids, people made up to look dead rocking slowing in chairs on porches, the Grim-f***ing-Reaper standing stock still on one doorstep and then jumping out to scare. I wonder who Halloween is for these days? Grown ups who don't want to grow up, I think. We took E home early. And of course, all the time, I was remembering trick of treating last year, 18 weeks pregnant, and imagining what it would be like this year. Not what it was like at all, as it turns out. Your family is beautiful!

  13. I loved the butterfly and the caterpillar. And this year...that adorable parrot, and the man child pirate. Love it. You were a brave family last year. So strong for your little one. "sad parents of a hotdog". Oh, that got me.

    I didn't ever put too much interest into Halloween. I liked looking at pictures of friends and family dressed up at parties, a d I didn't mind the innocence in collecting candy with little ones running about in their family friendly neighborhoods...

    But now. All the dead. All the death. I can't quite really enjoy the festivities.

    And that store? What the hell was that? Honestly... I'm so sorry you had to see that. I'm so sorry some people's minds work in that way. Horrible.

  14. I've never really thought of Halloween like that before... I remember dreamily looking forward to dressing Seamus up for Halloween. So this year was pretty painful, because, for the first time, I had to swallow down my sadness for Hugo's sake - he deserves me to give him everything - including a first Halloween (even though he isn't really conscious of it and won't remember - I wanted him to have photos to look at). So as much as it made me ache to dress him up - I did. And it was that awful happy-sad I've come to live with now. And that's almost 18 months after Seamus died. How you managed to dress Kai so soon after Camille's death... I just don't know, but I admire your strength.

  15. Isn't it funny how one line that's maybe just the simplest way to say something is one that resonates the loudest? No fancy vocabulary or pulitzer-winning prose... "and we were...the very sad parents of a hot dog." With the accompanying picture, well, it's more than pulitzer worthy. Oh Renel.

    For what it's worth, I'm impressed and delighted with your son's costumes. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is darling and I thought I wanted to copy it until I saw the hot dog and then I wanted to copy that.

    I love Halloween, not having thought about it related to death but about children's delight in dressing up. I've cried every year since we started trying to have children 7 years ago, trying to hang tough but ultimately locking myself up in my office halfway through the kids parading their costumes through the hallways. Even this year, when we finally DO have a living child, for the one that should be 3 this year. What would she have been this year?

    But that store. Again, Brooke has it. Burning down would be a start. How are dead babies hanging from trees possibly ever in any corner of the world thought to be something appropriate, no matter the time of year or theme? I hope your therapist DOES talk to them. Someone needs to.

    A beautiful post, Renel.


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