Friday, December 28, 2007

Eyes Wide Shut

I can't say I was an optimist before Maddy died. However, despite my cynical and sarcastic streak, I was not a full-blown pessimist either. Cautious optimist? Realist? Hard to even remember. I will say at this point though, I tend to fall on the glass nearing empty side. Color me experienced, or jaded, or knowledgeable, but I do know now exactly how that glass can get drained in the blink of an eye.

For a few months after Maddy died, in addition to everything else grief threw at me, I experienced severe anxiety issues regarding my husband and daughter. I suppose it's not remotely unusual for someone in my position to fear losing the rest of my family, but I just wasn't quite ready for the graphic nature of these day-mares. I'd cling to my husband, not wanting him to get in the car for work in the morning, and then approach hyperventilation imagining him in a horrific accident. And the vision didn't stop there -- now that I know what the interior of an intensive care unit is like, I could easily envision him, with his eyes closed, hooked to this monitor and that ventilator and what drips would be going through the IV, and how his color might look . . . it was all a bit too real. The same was true for Bella. It wasn't simply fearing that she'd run into the street, it was the entire scenario from start (car hitting, sound, body flying, sound when body lands) to finish in the most minute of detail.

While the visions have let up considerably for Mr. ABF (stops typing to find wood to knock), they still occasionally abound for Bella. Most traumatic for me are household accidents of an obscenely freakish nature -- falling off her bed and breaking her neck, tipping back in her chair and smashing her skull, that sort of thing. Every other word out of my mouth is "Be Careful." And not in a paranoid mom kind of way, but in a desperate, can't-lose-my-one-last-ray-of-light kind of way. Last Saturday, Bella had raging pink eye. Sunday night, at 2 a.m., I was awakened by her screaming in fright "Mommy, I can't open my eye!" I cradled her head, put a warm washcloth to her swollen lid, and suddenly my heart stopped and my eyes flooded with tears. She was Maddy, Maddy was her. A struggling girl without the ability to open her eye, her mom gently dabbing her lid, willing them open. It was a flashback of the worst sort, and it took a fair amount of brain lecturing heart to convince the latter that Bella's white matter would not liquefy overnight. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the night curled up right next to her, not sleeping through my nightmares. I certainly was not there for her sake.

Meg got me thinking about the New Year
, and the adage in the deadbabymomma-verse that "it certainly can't get any worse." But sadly, I know it can. I know now exactly what can happen when you least expect it. I know the universe can fuck you over no matter how careful you are, and despite everything you do to prepare yourself. I know that medical science is incredibly advanced, and yet royally lagging in certain aspects. I know what's it's like to sleep in a hospital chair. I know what it's like to watch a human die, in my arms. I know now that those we like to think we can count on for support in good times may very well not be able to handle the bad, and may abandon the duct-taped lifeboat for the Cruise Ship with nary a wave goodbye. I would like to think that I've reached the bottom of this particular cesspool, but recent events have proven that this isn't necessarily the case.

I don't wish anymore. I don't dream anymore. I've given up hoping for anything. I like to say I don't have a horizon, nothing to look at off at in the future. There's nothing I really want there anyway, and any such dreams would likely end in futility. I would like to think that '08 couldn't get any worse, but I'm certainly not putting any bets on that. It damn well could. Let's just use any scintilla of hope I have left and hope it doesn't and leave it at that.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas, Live Blog

6:45: Bella awakes. Let the games begin!

7:10: As a preface to this entry, Mr. ABF finally wrote an email to the asshats. It was so mature, and honest, and straightforward -- as one of my friends who got a gander of it said, it left nothing between the lines. It was also loving, welcoming them back into our lives (and Bella's, most importantly). They have yet to respond, I'm sure thinking we have "cut them out" or some such. Let's see if they call this morning. As of now, no call.

7:15: Bella bursts into tears (well, not really, but did become a little forlorn on the phone with a g'rent) because live pony is not under tree, despite mom's repeated (and I do mean repeated) warnings that Santa does not bring live animals. Still no call from the asshats.

7:30: Break for coffee so I may thoroughly enjoy the Onion world atlas.

7:36: Bella seems to be enjoying her sustainable bamboo unleaded gifts. But not nearly as much as the bullshit bought from Target (we caved on 2-3 items that she specifically asked Santa for). Damn.

7:41: Just realized we do not have music on. In fact, we have not played Christmas music all month. And people, we own at least 30 Christmas CD's from the wild to the classical. Just seems . . . . pointless.

8:10: I decide reading the Times is infinitely less depressing than watching Bella open presents by herself. Still no call from the asshats.

8:31: Mr. ABF gets a bit annoyed that I am chattering to myself about QEII on YouTube rather than paying attention to the wrapping paper pile growing under my tree. Sigh. Open a sweater. Return to story.

8:47: Mr. ABF discovers live blog and pre-empts entertainment (and possible betting fun) by calling the asshats himself. Killjoy. They don't answer. Duh! Game still on.

9:01: Florida relatives call. Not the asshats.

9:20: complete opening lovely stemless martini glasses from Mr. ABF. Point out that they would be stunning with a berry/cream dessert in them. He rolls his eyes.

9:21: Realize bottoms of said glasses could hold a copious amount of blue-cheese stuffed olives. He's right. I don't know what I was thinking.

9:30: Presents opened. Dog 3, Presents 0. Ah well. At least the dog enjoys sustainable bamboo. Whoever had 9:30 for the asshats, you're out.

9:30-1:30, play with toys. Bella returns to bamboo stuff and really seems to enjoy it. In fact, she really seems to enjoy everything. Phew. Read book.

2:30: Head to recently re-connected relatives with the baby for dinner. No, really. Because I'm a sadist. Of the nth magnitude. Begin to seriously doubt this decision in the car. Thankfully on road where it's easy to pull over and throw up. But dude, if baby shows up at the table with a "Baby's First Christmas" bib, you will see pot-roast fly.

3:11: Arrive, looking v. much forward to discussion with cousin who has had two miscarriages, two failed IVF's, and whose husband just announced he's leaving her. She jumps into chocolates, so I think we're golden discussing the Worst Christmas on Record. Except she's really into the chocolate and doesn't have a historical bone in her body so she's really not interested in ruminating over possibilities of worse Christmases involving wartime or pestilence. Plan self on couch to watch Bella open another round of presents.

3:34: Is is just me, or do you feel people give your children things that they feel you deprive them of as parents? Bella is opening an extraordinary amount of pink commercial crap. I had told this particular branch of the family that dress up clothes would be most welcome, and while I have nothing against a princess outfit in the mix, I guess I think kids would also like the opportunity to dress up as pirates and firemen. They, it turns out, do not, and have given her no less than 4 princess outfits replete with high heels, and one very pink ballet outfit (she doesn't do ballet), which I am pleased to announce to everyone that the shoes are too small. I clearly have been suppressing my daughter's inner princess this year. Fucking dead baby.

3:37: NEWSFLASH: Bella is ALREADY BORED with princess and other commercial crap, and wanders off to play on the Wii with her Dad! THAT'S my girl! Breathe sigh of relief.

4:14: Distant relative, but now my BFF, turns on NBA game. Yesssssssss.

6:02: Mom of baby asks if the asshats have called, I give her the "what do YOU think" stare. She then launches into diatribe against other relatives of Mr. ABF's side. Good news: She and husband have been our strongest, smartest, most loyal and understanding supporters. Bad News: They've had to be because the rest of the in-laws have apparently gone batfuck crazy. I'll spare you details, but Mom of Baby actually at one point put her hand up to interrupt a relative and said, "excuse me, but all I'm hearing is you you you. This isn't YOUR tragedy. It's THEIR tragedy. And YOU need to support THEM." That was in addition to pointing out that certain delusions wouldn't have come true even if Maddy had lived. I probably didn't need to hear this I realize because now I'm really upset. Wonder if I should go find cousin with the chocolate.

8:00: Head home with trunk full of product placement, and one extremely cool gift from the people with baby. (Figures.) Another evening of "hide the baby," but again, it seemed to work. Sinuses are f'ng killing me.

8:31: Because Bella fell asleep for 20 minutes in the car, according to the Bella exponential sleep deprivation calculator, this means she will be up an additional two hours now. Mr. ABF tries to call the asshats again. They don't pick up. He leaves a Merry Christmas message. Boy, I'll say.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


We found our current neighborhood rather by accident. Having chosen to move back into this general region "for family" (you just snorted coffee up your nose, didn't you), we then set about looking for great old houses. We moved here from the 'burbs where you didn't talk to your neighbors unless it was prearranged. If you needed a saw, or an egg, or emergency babysitting, you called a contractor, or hopped in your car and went to home depot or the store. And you dragged your kid with you or rearranged your schedule. I used the paths around my house to walk my dog and run, but I rarely saw anyone other than the dogwalkers. Part of what attracted to me to this place was simply driving around and seeing people outside running, walking, walking their dogs, pushing strollers, checking out yard sales, half-jogging to the train. And after we signed the documents and I went online to check out what on earth we had just done, I found our new home referred to as one of the best, tight-knit, most fun, party-lovin', oldest, closest neighborhoods in the region.

We moved into a house where the previous owners wore the neighborhood mantle well: we'll just call them the "Fun Bobby's" (a la Friends), and we were, for months, "The people who moved into the Fun Bobby's House." We rolled our eyes. Wondered if we would ever fit in and be accepted for who we were. Even the kids wouldn't let me forget how cool Young Fun Bobby's Room was, or the fact that they had a cotton candy machine at Young Fun Bobby's birthday. But hey, we were boring. Mr. ABF shuffled off to work, and I putzed around monitoring contractors and trying to lay low during a rather stressful pregnancy. Not to say people weren't nice: within hours of moving here, people were walking up with cookies, and scraps of paper with all their relevant contact information on it. One neighbor brought us an enormous bag filled with food from her favorite local shops, and included business cards of said shops. Another neighbor handmade a slate sign with a cat on it that says "Welcome." I have never, ever felt welcome in a home before. I remember once heading out to take Max for a walk with Bella and arriving home 30 minutes later with six children, three parents, another dog, and a Guinea pig in tow all headed to our swing set.

And then the shit hit the fan. We'd only lived here roughly 6 months when Maddy died. The entire neighborhood had followed my pregnancy, even the anonymous dog walkers. We were soooo not the Fun Bobby's anymore. In my old neighborhood, as nice as they were, I can imagine one friend actually coming in to talk to me. Maybe a couple casseroles left at my door (in disposable containers so I wouldn't have to face them to return anything). But since no one talked anyway, this would be rather easy to contain. Not here. Within hours, the doorbell was ringing. People were coming over (in a few instances, together, as couples, or families) delivering hot chicken dinners with mashed potatoes, chocolate cakes, more letters with phone numbers. The neighbor across the street came over and practically took Bella home with her so we'd understand it was ok to do this, at a moment's notice, whenever we needed. For the first month, she kindly had Bella over so we could attend the therapist's together. To this day, Bella STILL wants to go over to Ms. C's house, "for a playdate." One neighbor dedicated a church service to Maddy. A dogwalker rang my bell one day, and explained that she had lived in Greece and wanted me to have a tear jar. And since she couldn't find one, she made one for me. And she didn't know my name, just my dog's, but she asked what my daughter's name was -- so she could think of her. They respected my silence, they nodded when I told them I felt like crap, and a few of them even continued to ask how I was really doing, months later. They hug, they kiss. One grieved with me, as her brother died right around the time that Maddy did. They continued to invite us to events, and expressed nothing short of glee when I finally started accepting invitations. We're back into the incestuous social fabric of this neighborhood that does everything together: looking after each-other's kids, playing poker monthly, dogsitting, fish-sitting, book club, spontaneous brunches and dinners and cocktails. When I had to face Bella's birthday and our anniversary, the thought of sitting alone in my house was suicidal. So, I invited over the entire neighborhood, and we drank champagne and ate cake until early in the morning.

Once a month, the neighborhood gets together for cocktails on a Friday evening. The host house provides booze, everyone else brings noshes. And little did we know when we signed the contract, for 20+ years the Christmas party was held in our house. We did last year's, when I was eight months pregnant and had only lived here 5 months, and people were astounded. And last night we did it again, complete with the ghost of Christmas past that I knew everyone was thinking of when they saw me putting down champagne. We gamely decorated in anticipation for this year's, which I didn't really mind because it forced me to make the house look nice, and I know my toddler appreciates that. And frankly, of anyone, these are the people that I'd like to do something for, for Christmas.

Last night, 70+ people came over in waves. All were kind, all were appreciative. By 1:00 a.m. when they left, most were a bit inebriated. A few people commented that they can't believe I do this party "on top of" the usual Christmas nonsense. To the few that I knew well, I informed them that this year, this WAS the Christmas nonsense. This was it. And today it starts coming down, and getting packed away for another year, and I'm officially moving on. Tuesday will just be a Tuesday where my husband doesn't drive to the office, and my toddler opens gifts. My neighbors got me through another death-versary-iday, and for that I am most grateful. Maddy would've loved this place.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

And a Craptastic New Year!

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you: those are indeed, "Merry Motherfucking Christmas!" cards. If only they sold Reindeer Roadkill stamps, I might've taken the plunge with these or some of my own making:

Hope your new year isn't nearly as shitty as our last!

Joy! (Not!)

Peace on Earth . . . at least, to everyone else but us.

From our family (minus one) to yours, hope your holidays aren't emotionally fraught

Here comes Santa Claus, and hey, is that a glass of bourbon in his hand? And why is he crying?

Baby's First Dead Christmas
[photo card, of course. Hmm, which to use: Maddy alive on respirator, or Maddy recently deceased?]

Friends and Family:

Wow, can you believe 2007 is almost over? Time for the banal generic holiday message that informs you how ridiculously cute, intelligent, witty, well traveled, and dead our children are! Let's get started!

We were most blessed this year to welcome into our family our beautiful new daughter, Bella's little sister, Maddy. Who then up and died. Whoops! Looks like we guessed wrong on last year's holiday cards, eh? Our bad.

So, um, lessee, February-March-April-May-June-July-August-September-October
-November were pretty much spent crying, going to therapy, checking out antidepressants (they work! I did get out of bed! Just don't ask me to remember you or where you live or who YOUR kids are, because I don't remember any of that like I don't remember what I ate for breakfast), going to therapy, staring at a pile of hospital crap related to our dead daughter, crying some more, trying to lose baby weight without a baby (totally fun!), trying to socialize without feeling like the Deadbabymommy in the room, more therapy, blogging about dead daughter, wondering what to do with ashes of dead daughter. Oh, and in July we went to the beach for a week.

Bella continues to astound us. Despite the fact that her mother was completely emotionally checked out, she managed to become potty trained. And while other children are learning about, oh, seasons, animals, and manners, Bella mastered the subject of death! Her giftedness on the subject really knows no bounds. We can't wait until she surprises her teachers and school chums with the information that her sister is d-e-a-d, dead! She started school in fall, which I'm sure is as much a relief to her as it is to me, and I finally have time to exercise again and try and lose this fucking weight. (Don't get excited, I ramped up too quickly, blew my plantar fascia, and am only now losing the weight that I lost, and then gained back.) She is cute though. And alive!

Tash's job was trying extremely hard to remain upright, not let Bella stick her unattended fingers into light sockets, and not to turn into an alcoholic drug-addicted trash heap (so far so good! Phew!). Mr. ABF's work has been stressful, unsupportive, and chaotic and that's without having to grieve as well. Fingers crossed for a bonus, y'all!

We'd send you a picture of the family, but couldn't decide how to decorate Maddy's box of ashes or who would hold it, so we gave up -- use your imaginations.

Hope your year wasn't as shit-tacular, and as for 2008, we can only hope it doesn't get any worse.


[handwritten comments:] The pictures of your kids? Wow! They're so big! They totally look like they came home from the hospital! And grew up! And are still alive! And when you said "Happy and Healthy," you were being facetious, right?

Sunday, December 16, 2007


The babies in Mr. ABF's family came at the end of summer. Mr. ABF, who had been doing rather well all things considered up to this point, took a self-imposed break from his family, close and extended. A month or so into the silence, he received a phone call from a mediator relative, speaking the "concerns" of others, who told Mr. ABF that perhaps he should "quit moping, suck it up, and get over it." Mr. ABF nicely told him he was grieving, not moping, and he'd deal with it on his own sweet time, thankyouverymuch. (There might have been a few more swear words in there.) The overall message came through loud and clear: according to a number of family members, six months was really time enough to mourn a child, and now it was high time to return to happyville where people danced and rejoiced in the streets about live babies and bought them copious amounts of Carters.

Days after this conversation, Mr. ABF received a text message from the mom of one of the babies, and arguably the closest relative (and spouse) we had cut out, both emotionally and geographically. She informed Mr. ABF that mediator relative of the rude phone call did not speak for her, and we should take our time. Mr. ABF wrote back something about reconnecting, and she shot back: "It's not reconnecting. You will never have to 'reconnect' with us. It will always just be hello." We knew these two, and baby, would be patient, kind, and have our backs even in our silence.

Last Sunday after the other side of Mr. ABF's family stood us up at Maddy's memorial service, I had an epiphany: I thought we had a supportive oasis in them, but I realize now the only thing going for the asshats was that they didn't have children. On the other hand, the relatives with baby would have gone to the service with us. In driving snow. We could've told them that space was limited, and they would have gone anyway, walked to the top of the parking garage, and lit candles there. And so I decided: Baby be damned, we need them. We need the support. Mr. ABF needs the support. Right now, it's more important that we be around people who give a shit. I told him to call them.

And yesterday they came for dinner. My last full conversation with them was February 18: they were in the car on the way to deliver dinner to Bella and the caretakers, and I told them we were removing Maddy's life support. When I came home that night, I simply asked them where Bella was, went upstairs, and that was the last I saw of them until yesterday when they entered my house, now with their son. It was a bit familiar, and a bit awkward, and a bit sad. There were the proverbial laughter and tears, and at times one intermingled with the other. They tried desperately (and at times, rather comically) hard to shove the baby in a corner and not discuss him (which actually worked fairly well seeing as he slept a lot of the time), I desperately tried to peek at him occasionally, gauging my nausea, and had Bella run and pull a toy out of the outgrown toybox for him.

The dagger in the heart came when I was making salad for dinner. I opened my refrigerator and there, on the middle shelf between the milk and peanut butter, was a baby bottle. And the entire six days came flooding back in a millisecond. All I could see were the tiny, yellow-topped plastic, carefully labeled bottles of breastmilk waiting to be transported to the hospital. And the memory of opening the freezer a few days after Maddy's death and finding a couple of bottles tucked in there that were summarily washed down the drain and forgotten until yesterday. And the never-before-thought wonder if any baby had been able to take advantage of the milk I had donated. And the abysmal realization that I will in all likelihood never feed another baby again.

It sucked horribly. It hurt like hell. But we'll see them again, the rellies with the baby. I'm not sure about the asshats. We're trying to work our way through that landmine as I'm sure they have no clue they did anything wrong, or that we're remotely perturbed about last Sunday. I'm fairly sure they think they're doing us some sort of favor by not calling and "interfering" with our "private time" or whatever the hell.

This time of year is just so magical, isn't it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Don't Look Now . . .

But I've been meme'd. (Sounds gross, doesn't it.) Actually, I always thought it was pronounced "ME ME," as in, "LOOK AT ME ME ME! ME! SELF PROMOTE, ME!" but apparently that's not the case. Interestingly enough, Wiki makes the analogy that a meme propagates "the way in which a gene propagates from one organism to another as a unit of genetic information and of biological evolution." So if someone has put ME in charge of this, all we can say is, uh oh. Anyway, rather thankful to have something to put up because my kid is a bit barfy (ahem) leaving me no time to do anything creative or constructive or otherwise snarky. I will in all likelihood screw this thing up and meme someone who already has been, so let me know, and I'll try and adjust on the fly accordingly. So here we go.

I've been meme'd by WhichBox (Which, is an amazing blog title, btw. Just saying). Lovely to think of me, thank you very much.

1. I'm Tash, aka ABF, or Awful But Functioning, my about me page is here, but also in full view on the side. I began this blog rather selfishly to just get some emo out because I'm sure my husband, daughter, therapist, dogs, cats, walls, and interior of my cranium are getting rather bored of the whole thing. And lo, I actually made a few friends in the process, and I'm forever grateful that I get to bounce my ideas off such smart, humorous, and equally blue people. Y'all make my day.

2. Um, I guess I'd like to be listed as a mom/family blogger? If mom = "a bit checked out, still not entirely finding unadulterated joy in my live child," and family = "Family, rather f'd up at the mo." I suppose it's better than "Health" ("Comma, Mental") (or, help us all, "Health, comma, genetics"). All things considered I'd love to be listed under sports, but that's just not happening right now, is it.

3. I've been blogging since the second week in September, just 3.5 months ago. My kid went to school, I ditched my meds, I began running again (briefly, until I messed up my foot royally), and started a blog. A flurry of self-help, if you will. I am truly, truly impressed by those with loss blogs who blog almost immediately, like, within the first 3 months. I NEVER could have done that. It really took me until September (7 months after Maddy's death) to have anything coherent to say.

4. Tagging others. I'm going to play a bit fast and loose with the "Mom/Family" title here. For starts, in my opinion (F*&K-us on the fam.bly be damned), if you're in a loving relationship with another person and live together under one roof, you qualify. Even nicer if you have pets, but I don't discriminate that way. And if you've given birth to a baby you're a mom in my book, even if the baby -- for the sake of argument, just to be hypothetical here -- died. And so my first tag is Stitched Up for the 2nd Time, who I like reading because I love how she weaves her feelings about her yoga practice into her life both practically and spiritually (Damn, do I need to start that up again), love/hate reading about her feelings about her lost son, Harvey, and plus she's in Europe. And I love reading about somewhere else. Because that's just cool. My second slightly slippery entree is Searching at Searching4Hope. Who would like to start a "family." But let's be serious here: on her job as a NICU nurse she is more a mom than many. For poor kids like Green, whose crack-addicted mother gave birth to him early and then left him at the hospital to die, Searching is the only mom this kid ever knew. Then there are the kids who are so bad off, they really need 5 moms, and she steps in and becomes mom #2. And damn, is she good at her job, at being a mom. Lastly, sadly a new blog for me because I wish I had been reading it all along -- I find myself reading and saying, "I could've written that!" is Mrs. G. at Broken Heart Diaries.

And now for the small print legalese:
BlogHer Me and Mine Meme 100 directions:

1.) State the name of your blog, your real name or your online name, and link to your "about me" page.
2.) Say you want to be profiled on BlogHer as a family blogger and link back to this Me and Mine 100 original post, here.
3.) Tell how long you've been blogging.
4.) Pass this meme on to three other bloggers that you think should be profiled/interviewed, and ask them to do the meme. (Kindly link to the bloggers you select.)

Monday, December 10, 2007


Yesterday may have been the first time in this nonsense that the anticipation was worse than the event. (Usually the anticipation is bad and the event/holiday/-iversary supersedes my expectations and is fucking miserable.) But I was helped here in no small measure by a couple of Mr. ABF's family members who called us early yesterday morning to say that -- after accepting our invitation 2 months ago to attend the memorial service, and knowing full well it was held outside in December, and there were space limitations and so we could only take 6 people including ourselves -- they would not be attending last night.

Because it might rain.

And so, Mr. ABF was left without family representation because his fucking jackhole lousy bastard sorry excuse for humans incompassionate, unfeeling, ungrateful emotionally vapid inconsiderate relatives couldn't find their umbrellas and warm socks handle emotion -- theirs or his -- and waited until the last minute to tell him. Ironically or not, the other side of his family was confabbing a few miles away, and I knew someone there would want to come and be with him/us, but we didn't want to pressure and guilt them at the last minute. We wanted (call us crazy) people to come who actually wanted to be there. To remember their relative, Maddy. To support us.

My breakdown came earlier in the day in the car, on the way home from grocery shopping. I thought seriously about calling someone from Mr. ABF's family, and changed my mind. I got the sad and angry part out then, the part about missing my daughter and having to do it alone, and by last night realized that I was Mr. ABF's support, and acted accordingly.

Right as we got to the hospital, despite the throng exiting the parking garage, I ran into another mom I knew from a support group. So I rather immediately felt at home, where the elephant disintegrated, and no one was pointing at me in hushed whispers. Bella behaved marvelously, and deciding her glowstick was "for babies" she opted for a real candle. She spent some time standing up luminaria that had fallen in the wind and then slalomed through them. We listened for Maddy's name, and my momfriend's son's name, and the litany of other babies and children. Whereas last April I would've been horrified, last night I was somewhat pleasantly surprised to see people mourning children who had died as long ago as the year I was born. I don't want to be debilitated that long, but I would like to remember that long.

The weather was crisp, cold, overcast, but no rain.

My scraps were safely ensconced in a ziplock, tucked in my breast pocket. And they did help. Everyone helped. I came home, put them in a bowl on my entry hall table, and lit a candle next to them. I'll probably do this a few more nights until the Christmas whatnot and the bill pile defeat the shrine for space. But I've decided I'm going to do this again, carry everyone's weight and memories with my own. I'm still livid about these relatives. If this is how they treat the dead and the living, I want no part of them and I'm not going to jump through hoops to connect with them, especially this month. I'm just sorry that the support we assumed to possess appears to have been built on smoke and mirrors.

At the service, Children's Hospital handed out books with pictures of children and, if their parents wished, a message, or poem, or song for their children. A dissertation could be written on these submissions: they can be classified quickly into "you're now with God/Jesus/Allah" letters; bad, and (surprisingly) good lyrics and poetry, both borrowed and self-composed; straight letters of despondency (one with the word WHY studded throughout in capital letters); and even a few poignant missives in hip hop - ese ("U'R missed"). We submitted the following:


You weren't just wanted, you were already here: you were a sister, a daughter, a pet owner. You were loved. You were read to, shown photos of your entire extended family, lectured to about where your ancestors came from and how your parents met. Your sister gave you a Valentine, and thanks to a lovely NICU nurse, you gave her one too. You left us footprints, handprints, a lock of hair, and some grainy pictures taken by thoughtful staff in poorly lit environments. You put up with your mother's sobbing, and your father's thoughtful silence. You never met your sister, but she knows you -- she can locate you instantly in a crowd of baby pictures, and she never seems to mind the number of tubes and wires around you. She pronounces your name perfectly, makes pages for your memory book, and waters your tree. In your short time here, you taught us that even the littlest among us have the strength of giants, and that every day on this earth is precious. You are a memory, a future lost, a chasm in our hearts, and a canyon in our identity as parents. You were only here six days, but you will with us forever, as you should have been from the first place. We love and miss you so much.

Mommy, Daddy, and Bella

Thursday, December 6, 2007


On Sunday night, I will attend a candlelight service at Children's Hospital, sponsored by Compassionate Friends, in memory of Children who have died. Needless to say, I've been dreading it. We never had a memorial service for Maddy -- we were too dazed, in shock, and in such different states of grief that we couldn't reconcile anything. And so nothing happened. And so, in April, when Children's Hospital held their biannual service for children who have died within the last 6 months, we felt compelled to go. It was awful. It was held in an auditorium, and the air was so thick with grief that my toddler burst into tears immediately upon entering the room without anything happening yet and not really knowing what was going on. It was claustrophobic and oppressive. A stranger had to come sit with me when Mr. ABF left with Bella to play with balloons. Which was lovely of her, but to think I looked to be in a state to need such companionship . . . .well. There was no catharsis, or closure, or "honoring her memory," or anything. It was just a fucking wretched couple of hours and left me feeling like I had been hit by a car. For a week.

So what possessed us to go to this upcoming one, I have no idea. Probably guilt that we STILL haven't done anything on our own for Maddy, so thank goodness these things pop up that we can attend and assuage ourselves for a few hours. People I know who have attended both say this one is much, much better -- that although sad, it's somehow uplifting to be outside, under the sky in the cold weather, looking out over the sea of candlelight. They claim instead of the enclosed room with the circling green cloud of bereavement, the emotions seem to have space to drift upwards. I really hope they're right, because my anxiety level about this is increasing by the hour. I realized my face hurt, and it's because I'm clenching my jaw.

And then I had a thought. In my last comments, Whatthefu*k (well, formerly known as; now "Trying to have") asked about the service and it got me thinking: I have so many children to mourn now. In three short blogging months, I have come to know so many of you, and your lost babies. And so I decided out of nowhere that I'll put your babies' names on scraps of paper and carry them with me to the service on Sunday evening. On the one hand, this is increasing my load. I mean, it's tough enough mourning one baby, let alone a football squad worth, why throw more stones in the sack? And maybe I shouldn't distract myself from my own child and her brief life. Surely this is some (sub)conscious diversionary tactic. Focus, Tash. On the other hand, though, the thought of these scraps somehow disperses the load, makes it less intense, and thus easier to bear. Kinda like when two tiny, geriatric, professional piano movers can swiftly and easily move a grand across a room and out the door: they know exactly how to distribute the weight so that the lifting and moving is easy. (Watch a couple beefy guys with no clue try and move it, and you'll see what I mean.) When touching these names I'll know I'm not alone in my journey through hell. And though I don't believe in the afterlife, I'll also feel somewhat better that Maddy's experience wasn't singular, and she is not alone now in death -- literally.

Sunday night, in addition to my own child, I will be thinking of the brief and extraordinary lives of* Natan, Apollo, Artemis, A___, Nicolas, Matthew, Georgia, Mira, Ben, Harvey, Joseph, Lily, Amelia, Beatrice, Survivorgirl, Wade, Katie, Charlotte, M., Birdie, Paige, Georgia, Green, Charlotte M., and Peanut Diva.

If you have commented here, and I have overlooked yours (and for those with more than one, I may not have dipped back far enough into your archives to derive a name, please forgive me), please tell me -- that's what the comments are for. Tell me if you lurk and you'd like your child to be included. Tell me if you'd like me to remove your child's name or encrypt it to keep nosy family members away from your blog (hence my decision not to set up links for these). Tell me if you'd like me to use a nickname, or a real one instead of an initial. Tell me, please god, if I've spelled someone's name wrong. Tell me the names, and I will gladly, surely, solemnly, add a name to a scrap of paper to keep in my pocket and close to my heart.

* Edits to list will be made in Italics.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I'll tell you what to do with unpasteurized cheese

I keep thinking maybe, just maybe, I should try the baby thing. No, heavens, not HAVE one you sillies. Communicate, in person, face to face, with people who do. There are some holiday functions that would probably go a bit more smoothly were I to take a deep breath and take a plunge. How bad could it be, really? I've already done the hard stuff, right?

I'm at the gym today, on the bike because my foot is still fucked up, plugged into my iDevice and intently watching the TV set to Sportscenter. Penn loses to North Carolina. Tell me something I don't know. Yawn. Attention gravitates to the next screen, and thanks to grossly misspelled captioning I now see that Giada -- you know, Italian chef with the teeth? And the gauzy slightly porn cooking show? -- is on some morning show. And she's pregnant. And coming up after the break, she's going to discuss what in hell she can possibly eat in this condition. Talk about the accident I can't stop looking at. Thankfully Sportscenter in very timely fashion has some soccer highlights. But then THEY go to commercial. So I'm back watching Giada, to my own soundtrack, while she picks and grimaces her way through salmon, cheese, and (I'm not making this up) health bars marketed just for pregnant women. There really aren't enough health bars on the market right now, are there. And I start thinking to myself, you know, it just doesn't matter. I could've sat down to a jigger of bourbon and some soft imported very (deliciously) moldy Brie every night of my pregnancy, and it wouldn't have made a fucking whit of difference. I might as well have ingested PCB-laden salmon and flushed my iron pills down the toilet. At least then my memories as they were would be foggy blurry drunken reminiscences of tasty food. (Why oh why does ESPN have so many fucking commercials??) And then, the kicker: at the end of the segment, everyone walks onto the set to admire Giada petting her belly through her clearly expensive bespoke maternity wear, and they hand her a baby. I guess he was left over from the previous segment on . . . . I have no idea. But there she is holding the baby, and says, "So this is how it will end up!"

Yep, Giada, that's how it ends. IF THE BABY DOESN'T DIE!!!! I practically scream. In my head. Look around to make sure nothing came out. Phew, no one staring at me, no one calling security. But clearly, not so ready for the babies yet. Not so ready.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dead (Kids of) Presidents

I'm observing the current presidential primary hoo-ha with both personal and political interest this year. Putting aside my political angle for a moment, I'm especially interested in the paths of three candidates (that I know of, please correct me if I've missed someone) that have lost children: Joe Biden, John Edwards, and Fred Thompson.

In 1972, when Joe Biden was 29 and had just been elected to the Senate for the first time, his wife, daughter, and two sons were involved in a horrific car accident the week before Christmas. His wife, Neilia, and infant daughter, Naomi, were killed, and his two young sons were severely injured. On April 4, 1996, John and Elizabeth Edwards were informed by a policeman who drove up to their house that their 16-year-old son, Wade, had been killed in a car accident. And in January 2002, Fred Thompson's adult daughter, Betsy (from his first marriage), died of an accidental overdose. Thompson actually made the decision to remove her from life support.

Politics aside, these three individuals jump out at me, and I comb their words and expressions for signs: I'm wondering, to put it bluntly, how are they doing? How do they cope with this loss? How do they possibly move on? Do they love and find happiness again?

Biden remarried and had another daughter. He also takes off on the day that his wife and daughter died off every year, irregardless of his schedule, and goes to the cemetery and to mass. When a Sunday morning talking-head asked Biden if this godforsaken day was a "defining moment" in his life, Biden responded no. It was his worst moment, certainly, but he did not want to be defined by it. I think of this line, and often wonder if I will always be defined as she who lost her baby, by me and by others.

John and Elizabeth went on to have two more children. I was particularly impressed that on what would've been Wade's 17th birthday, they went to the pool and bought ice cream for every child there in a rather party-like atmosphere. I'd love to think I could be that thoughtful and magnanimous to include other children in the memory of the death of my own. But certainly not this year. The Edwards are both known to say, emphatically, that they have 4 children, and include Wade in the tally. When Elizabeth announced her cancer recurrence earlier this year, and John decided to stay in the race, there was a frenzy of media debate: was this a good or bad thing? Was this done merely for political purposes? And I simply said: I cannot judge them for what they do, because they have lost a child. They get a pass. They have been through the worst hell imaginable, and I'm sure this situation doesn't reach that level (yet), so they can make the call and it will be the right one for them. To quote "Wag the Dog," "THIS? Is nothing." (For what it's worth, Elizabeth credits her friend in the computer for keeping her sane while grieving.)

I don't know a lot about Thompson's family history other than the dates; his daughter died in January, 2002, and that summer he married his current (second) wife and proceeded to have two more children. I don't know his relationship with his adult daughter at the time of her death, or her mental status, but in a lot of ways, it just doesn't matter. He was there at the end, she was his, and he made a decision no parent should ever have to make. It's hard enough bringing them into this world, we shouldn't be the ones left coordinating their exits. Having lived through this nightmare, Thompson -- in contrast to some naively inexperienced members of his political party -- believes end of life decisions such as these are issues best left to individuals, not politicians or governments. (Amen.)

As it happens, I'm also an American Historian. And so, I got to thinking about Presidents who had lost children. I'm normally not one for Presidential trivia, or Presidents in and of themselves for that matter. I typically don't gravitate toward biography, instead preferring the sweeping generalizations of the masses and the subgroups therein. And yet now that I've actually looked up the following (god bless the internet), I'm a wee bit curious to read up on some of these guys and their wives and their families and see how everyone fared. There are a lot of them -- dead kids, and presidents with. There was a time not too long ago, when children dying was -- how to say this -- commonplace. Disease happened. There weren't vaccines and NICUs and whatnot, and without antibiotics and even antibacterial soap lots of creepy shit happened. Think what you will of Coolidge (boy, I know I did) but he lost his 16-year-old son, while in the White house, to a case of blood poisoning caused by a simple blister. But, advancements being what they are, the number of losses earlier-on is a bit larger than those in the last century. Many of the infants and toddlers on this list died of cholera, diphtheria, typhoid, and numerous childhood maladies-- including early delivery and blood poisoning -- that are now extinct thanks to medical advancements. Many of the adult daughters on the list died of complications in childbirth (the leading cause of death of women until well into the 20th century). All men, somehow survived the losses (in some cases, many, and in one case, all) of their children, although some not for long.

I wasn't so into cross-checking that I determined who lost children before, during, and after their terms in office (although the during was somewhat obvious, so I labeled a few of those). But I have to think if you survive the loss of a child, you're pretty much set for anything life has to throw at you. I marvel that people can carry on, and stand in front of others without screaming from the rooftops. How did they grieve? Did loss shape these men? It was so hard for me to get out of my house, can you even imagine grieving in front of an entire country in the most personal of ways? I'm not one to gravitate toward the powerful white men in history, and yet this intrigued me. Here, without further ado, a list of Presidents who lost children during their lifetimes, and the children they lost. If nothing else, it will be interesting conversation at your next Deadbabymama cocktail party. What, you don't have those?


(Note: List below updated 1/25/09)

John Adams: daughter, Susanna, age 2; Elizabeth, stillborn daughter; adult son, Charles, an alcoholic who died of cirrhosis at age 30.

Thomas Jefferson: Jane, one and a half years old; stillborn son; Lucy (I), 5 months old; Lucy (II), 2 years old; Mary, who died as an adult from complications from childbirth.

James Monroe: son, age 2.

John Q. Adams: adult son, of suicide; one year old daughter.

Martin Van Buren: adult son.

William Harry Harrison: 5 adult children, one child, age two (6 children total)

John Tyler: had 15 children in all (!), and lost three, two adults and one infant.

Zachary Taylor: 3 daughters: one 21, one 3, one 1.

Millard Fillmore: 22 year old daughter

Franklin Pierce: lost all three of his children -- one infant, one four year old, and his eleven-year-old son who was hit by a train.

Abraham Lincoln: three year old Edward, eleven-year-old Willie (while in office).

Andrew Johnson: two adult sons: one from a horse accident, and one from suicide.

Rutherford Hayes: 3 sons under the age of two

James Garfield: 3 year old daughter, 2 year old son.

Chester Arthur: 2 year old son

Grover Cleveland: twelve-year old Ruth, while in the white House.

President McKinley: lost both of his children: three year old Kate and infant Ida.

Theodore Roosevelt: twenty-year old son died during WWI.

Calvin Coolidge: sixteen-year-old son, while in the White House.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: infant son

Dwight Eisenhower: three-year-old son

John F. Kennedy: stillborn daughter; Patrick, two days old (while in office, and four months before the assassination of JFK)

Ronald Reagan: daughter, one day old

George H. W. Bush: three year old daughter