Monday, February 28, 2011


Ale woke me up on the 14th, and I went through the usual paces of getting him out of his crib and trudging downstairs to the couch for our morning feed. On the staircase landing I glanced out the east-facing window and was awestruck by the most unbelievable sunrise. The sky was audaciously pink and orange, mixed with small shards of the most electric turquoise. It was not the stuff of poetry and postcards, but Vegas. Four years ago, at approximately this very hour, my daughter's heart failed and I was informed shortly thereafter that "we're there now." "There," the point of not saving, not doing heroic measures, but slowly somehow allowing her to die. Bizarre doesn't do justice to how I felt now, staring at this incredible jumble of color while holding a fat, hungry infant.

On the 18th, around 5:30 p.m., there was a small space of time between whatever and dinner, and so I went out in the yard with a baby on my hip to kick a soccer ball around with Bella. Who was in shorts. It was in the 60s.

Our game was interrupted by two over-the-fence conversations: One with the UPS guy about why he decided not to wear shorts, and one with a neighbor who was out walking the dog. From all corners lilted the sounds of children -- laughing, playing, whining and crying, no doubt because it couldn't possibly be time to go in for dinner yet, and no, I don't want to wear a jacket tonight, mommy, thank you.

Maddy is February, and February is Maddy, and both are marked by white (ranging from blinding to dirty) arctic chill. The morning her heart stopped framed by the horizontal sleet; the night we finally left Children's empty handed, exiting through the swishing doors into the dark frigid blast. The days following were clear but wretched, my Southwestern-based family wondering how to deal with single-digit windchill. Hell, hath frozen.

This? Outside my window this February? Was May.

It was as if the Universe was testing me, taunting me, daring me to remember -- daring me to conceive of a time and place so incredibly horrific and inextricably bound to the weather. It couldn't possibly have happened like that, it couldn't have been that cold, did it snow? Am I remembering this right? Did it happen at all? It couldn't possibly have, on a night bright enough to play soccer in the evening, warm enough that my neighbors set up tiki torches in the front yard in anticipation of the monthly party.

Bella and Mr. ABF went to the party, I put the baby to bed, lit Maddy's candle and huddled on the couch. And the winds came. The front came through carrying with it hurricane gales, extinguishing the tiki torches and driving the party inside. The next day, the gales continued, tree branches fell like rain, and the 45 degrees felt decidedly worse given the stinging wind.

She was here, after all.

I'm pretty sure of it.


Midnight the 14th, possibly early early on the 15th we were awakened by . . . well, I believe now we were awakened by a crash and woke to the sound of an alarm, but as it was, we heard a deafening-close car alarm. Mr. ABF jumped out of bed, determined it wasn't our car, notified me that there were some people across the street but everyone seemed to have their cars sorted out, and we went back to sleep.

The next morning, at the same picture window where 24 hours earlier I stopped to gape at a sunrise, I was greeted by the sight of my neighbors' two cars, both smashed into awkward twisted shapes, one assuredly totaled. (Drunk driver. Thankfully, he got stuck on the second one allowing the police to get there and arrest him on the spot instead of driving off and killing someone.) I let loose a stream of profanity, followed quickly by a hosanna of thanks for our off-street parking, and then in wonderment, Wait, isn't this sort of shit supposed to happen to us this month?

February has not left us unscathed -- in the waning hours, Ale and I have succumbed to some horrible cold virus avec fever which dropped me in the fetal position, unable to breathe, shaking from chills, wondering about that promise I made to myself about not being a breast-feeding martyr this time around. (I could just go chug a mugfull of cold-n-flu with a chaser of sudafed, rim-lined with crushed painkiller!) Neither of us has slept in days, but the fevers have broken so now I presume comes the discharge of snot and the hope that it will not fell Bella and Mr. ABF. At least quite as badly.

In like a Lion? The Lion, she's been lurking here all along. Waiting, waiting, blowing my nose impatiently, for March.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Matter of Taste

When I was deep in mourning, I often felt I was mourning far more than my daughter. I lost so, so much it seemed. Near the top of the list, probably because it was so mind-blowingly obvious to me, was my sense of taste. I lost the ability to taste my food.

I have a post up at Glow in the Woods. Won't you come let us know what else you lost and if you've found it yet?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Birth Day, IV

There's something so bizarre about four years. It's close enough that it's surprising -- I'm startled by how much I remember about that week. The smells, the food left on trays, the name of the nice nurse at delivery hospital whose name I remembered because she was a character in Little Women. The ice machine, the sound of jackhammers outside my window (what could they have possibly been working on in a snow storm?), the un-smart phone I was using in those days. I remember how to buzz into the back at Children's, the freezer where I banked my milk, the out-of-the-way restroom that the nurse pointed out to me, the cafeteria bowl of oatmeal I ate for breakfast the day she died. I don't know whether to be thankful or not for these memories; mostly not, truth be known, because it's like reliving a nightmare. The memories still have a way of making me feel as though someone just punched me in the solar plexus. I still pine for a lobotomy, a way to forget those six days and the nine months prior and the whole mess frankly. A way to look at my family and my life without the bright orange traffic cone warning everyone of the chasm that lies beneath ready to swallow you whole should you veer too close.

And yet. It is at the same time so out of body, so other-worldly at this point, that I often wonder if it indeed happened to me at all. At times I can take out the whole week like a foggy movie in a crystal ball, and just stare at it in wonderment that such shit actually occurs to anyone. Maybe it was just something I read in the New Yorker.


I've had a few nightmares and dayscares this week -- of horrible, lethal things happening to the two living children under my roof. Wayward knives, shallow diving boards, rip tides, broadsides . . . the words "be careful" are uttered more frequently than profanity -- which says a lot. I understand why; why the anxiety ratchets up this week when my brain is sated with images of tubes and wires and oxygen meters and those cataclismic conversations about removing my baby from life support. I know exactly why these feelings are here, and I know they'll ebb once the week is past. It doesn't make it much easier, though.


When I went into labor last May, in addition to spending (apparently too much) time folding laundry and packing Bella a lunch, I meticulously removed my Maddy bracelet and put on in it's stead the blue plastic one. I worried it would get caught on an IV drip, or snagged on bedding, or someone would tell me to take it off -- and people, that bracelet doesn't come off -- or lost or stolen or wouldn't feel terrific while holding a newborn (should it come to pass) or otherwise get in the way.

Crazy how sometimes life hands you the metaphor, huh.

I had realized around 30w that I was quickly approaching a place where I could no longer wear my wedding ring. Which drove me up a tree. Rather on a whim I decided to order tiny id tags from here for Bella and Maddy and wear them on a chain with my wedding ring. Dead or alive, I'd add another tag in a few weeks I figured. I had a choice as to whether to put hands or feet on one side of the tag, and I opted for hands for Bella, feet for Maddy. When Ale showed up I got him a tag with hands on it as well.

I can wear my ring again, but since I'm still carting around and feeding a baby I've kept on the rubber bracelet and only wear the other one if I'm going out. I wear the necklace with the tags on occasion, and more often, more recently.

The other night Bella was looking at it and reading everyone's statistics and turned them all over.

"Why did you put hands on mine and Ale's?" she asked.

"Because I can touch you," I replied, and burst into tears.


I realize now that remembering and missing are really two different things for me. Remembering comes with a host of ugliness and terror. Remembering comes at a cost; remembering makes me want desperately to forget.

Missing though, is something else. Because underneath the strata of hospital smells and medical personnel and the the cruel twist of fate that today will always signify for me followed by years of profound grief lies, quite literally, the most beautiful little girl. It's hard to say I miss her because it means I must miss all that other bullshit, but I don't. I don't want to go back there. You couldn't pay me enough to go back. I want only today to miss the being at the center of the medical mystery, her wispy hair, her button nose, her clenched fist. I've known four years now that her fist is a sign of seizure, and I still decide to view it as a sign of defiance. Now that I'm plodding through the infant stage(s) and phase(s) again, I miss that -- I miss not feeding her, not holding her nearly enough, not bathing her except right before she died. I miss having another girl. I miss the middle of my family where puddles still form. I miss saying her name. I miss her.

Somewhere in this nightmare was a small girl who was mine, and I was hers, and we were all we had.

I love you so incredibly much Maddy, and always, always will.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Walking in My Shoes

It sounds extremely sacrilegious to start a grief post with a good, nail-biting super sale story, but, um, er, I'm gonna go there.

Buckle up.

A neighbor and I and Ale-Crawl bundled up last Saturday and ventured out to a "clearance" "tent" "sale" (please add your own word that expresses "Really fucking cheap! Practically Free! Throwing these out unless you take them!") thingy for a catalog company that I don't want to print out here because I get enough spam as it is. Let's just say, super cute, a bit wacky, British, caters to women and kids, and if you're like me, you rarely buy unless you can get a sale. odenBay for my friends who speak fluent BaconLatin.

In any event, the kids selection was massively picked over by the time we got there (sadness), but there were still deals to be had in women's -- if you fit into their clothes. (Those Brits are NARROW! I tried on a shirt that I couldn't fit my shoulders into. Ah well, try the next size up, I'm not proud: just as narrow, but with more fabric from front to back. Huh? Do they simply grow potbellies and boobies as they grow taller? Am I really that wide?) I found a couple steals, neighbor had a pile of cute things to try on, so I told her I'd meet her by shoes.

And there they were.

The color grabbed me first: bright green. Bright green, knee-high boots. In my size. I picked them up and all but wept, surprised that the buttery leather didn't melt away in my warm grubby paws. Tried them on, perfect. Perfect! And I stood there thinking, "Oh my god, bright green boots, HOW FUN! How alarmingly FUN! Whee!" I may have clapped. It may have been the baby. A stranger walked by me with her stash and said, "I paid retail for those. They're my favorite pair of shoes, and I get compliments every time I wear them." I smiled at her and I think managed to get out a coherent sentence, the upshot of which was "FUN!" I was so getting those boots. And then I looked at the table again and . . .

there they were.

The same exact creamy, beautiful, use-as-a-pillow soft pair of boots . . . in purple. Also in my size.

Now I had a decision to make. They were extremely well-priced ($50) but not so well priced that I felt like taking them both. Which color? Fun and safe-r, or FUN? The kids sitting against the wall bored out of their minds weighed in: it was a tie. The stranger woman passed me again and said, "Green." Another woman chimed in "that purple would go with anything." Ale was grabbing at the purple. I set off to find my neighbor and showed them to her. And midway through our debate she noticed something: the purple pair? Was marked $25.

We made sure the zippers worked and they were the size as posted and turned them all over and they were perfect. "If you don't get both for yourself, I'm buying you the purple pair for your birthday," said my neighbor.

I came home with two pairs of boots, both fun, one FUN. (My crazy-ass neighbor managed to jam $25 into the side of my bag when I wasn't looking, so I need to do a reverse pickpocket and deposit the cash back in her possession.) I mentally put together a few outfits (lord knows, no creamy dreamy leather of mine is going out in 15" of melty dirty ice-shellacked snow) and went to bed.

At some point the next day, I wandered into the closet to check out my Fun! boots. And it hit me like a dropped piano:

I just did something because I thought it would be fun. Fun. Because they made me smile. Because the outfits I envisioned, on me, made me smile. I haven't bought or frankly thought fun in . . . years. I haven't wanted to look happy or fun because god knows I wasn't feeling it (see: closet full of black and gray clothing). What on earth possessed me to do this? Am I ready for this?

Perhaps it's like the rule of yuk: You know how after the bad shit happened that Big Bad Things rolled off your back and tiny bullshit problems made you rock and cry and tear your hair out? Maybe there's a Joy Corollary? That it's hard to wrap your arms around one big ball of joy (say, a holiday) and really feel it, but the little things kinda work their way in under the sill and make you giggle? And possibly even clap? And before you realize what it is you're smelling, you're feeling pretty awesome?

Want to clap more? These retailed in the ballpark of $270. Joy Indeed.


I suppose my new found sense of Fun! was surprising not only in the aggregate, but because well hey looky here, it's February. It's cold. There's some mix of snowy rainy sleety shit blowing sideways out my window every five days or so. Tomorrow's to-do list includes "order flowers," which I do every year for her and me. Her name gets dropped a bit more frequently, my jaw gets clenched for long periods of time. There's a little tension ache right in the center of my back and my shoulders feel the weight of world. That could be because the Steelers' center is out with a broken ankle for the Super Bowl, but I kinda doubt it.

I'm on the verge of four . . . four! years and as Julia so simply and succinctly put it, four years ago today I was just another pregnant woman. Green shoes on deep discount probably would've made my heart go pitty pat, but I certainly wouldn't have had the introspective couch session with myself afterwards. I would be nonplussed to feel joy and express it through footwear. I suppose if anything marks four it's that crazy sense that I'm ok in that crazy sort of way, tinged with the disbelief that those flashbacks still appear and sting as much and as clearly as they do. There's more oscillating I suppose, because the highs are getting a bit higher -- which all things considered is better than the alternative of stumbling a few inches off the curb and straight into hell which is where I felt I was just a few years back.

It does get better, I realize now. I will have fun (sorry, Fun!) again. I will also still feel pretty down come February. And I suppose the truth is in reconciling those emotions and realizing that's ok. That's just how it is.

We'll call it: Mourning, with Fun Boots.