Sunday, March 29, 2009

One Year Later

On March 27th, 2008, the truck I was riding in slid across the center line on an icy highway in Idaho, and was hit by a semi. My dad and my 9-month old son were killed. In the days following the accident, while I was in the hospital healing from my injuries, I began the journey of writing this blog.

The one-year anniversary of that day just passed.

Because this was also spring break week, I was able to spend the days leading up to the anniversary at a bed and breakfast, giving myself the gift of solitude and reflection. On the second day of my little retreat, March 25th, I took a long walk, thinking a lot about Dad and how he would have enjoyed this kind of walk. I remembered one of his favorite quotes, "All who wander are not lost" (J.R.R. Tolkien, I think).

Later, I went jogging and then stopped by a restaurant for lunch. While I was there, I realized in a rush of panic, that I was bleeding. I am three months pregnant, and I know so many people who have lost pregnancies . . . I can't begin to express the horror that washed over me.
I called Michael, and he rushed over to take me to the hospital.

While I waited for him, I kept thinking, how can this be happening? Why is it happening now, two days before the anniversary of losing Sage? How can Michael and I possible withstand the loss of another child?

When we got to the hospital, I was terrified to see the ultrasound screen, not knowing whether the baby would be alive. Michael and I held hands, trembling. The tech didn't turn the screen toward us until she'd had a glimpse. She pointed out the baby's strong heartbeat, and we saw the baby moving.

A doctor explained that I have a hematoma, a blood clot. It was probably jarred by my jogging, which may be why it started bleeding. We were told that while there is some increased risk for miscarriage, most likely it will not affect our growing baby. I was told to "be a couch potato" and to see the doctor or the midwife weekly for the next few weeks.

After we left the hospital, as the reality that our baby is alive and healthy sunk in, I felt so full of gratitude that even the lingering fears had little sway over me. Since finding out that I was pregnant, I have been awash in such a tangle of emotions, that I was unable to settle into the expectant joy of pregnancy. Now, finally, in this week of remembrance, I find myself really able to embrace the gift of this new child.

On the morning of the anniversary, I awoke from a dream with the words, "The baby is dead," in my mind. I told myself, "No! Don't even think that. The baby is just fine." And then I realized the baby referred to was Sage. And in that moment I began to grasp the reality of two separate babies, one dead and one alive, both loved.

So, there is the horror of "The baby is dead," and the overwhelming gratitude of "The baby is alive." There is the longing to be able to walk with and talk to my dad, and then there is the gift of the other people who make my life full and rich.

Someone is writing something new in the ashes of my life. This is where I find myself one year later.

The Journey

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

Painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
inscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

small, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving
you are arriving.

~ David Whyte ~

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Special Gift

After my last post, a dear friend of mine left the following comment. I wanted to share it, because I know several bereaved parents who struggle with fears about how they will parent subsequent children, or their other living children. Thank you, George, for reminding me that while grief changes who I will be as a parent, it does not diminish me . . .

You are the exact perfect woman
that this baby needs to mother it.
Your loss will be this child's gain
even though it doesn't feel like it right now.
You are its "perfect mother."
With all of your woundedness and pain,
you will bring a special gift to this special child.

Saturday, March 14, 2009



The time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer
and I did not die.
Surely God had His hand in this.

As well as friends,
still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it-
books, bricks, grief,-
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled-
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep wave,
a love
to which there is no reply?

-Mary Oliver

I have hesitated to post this extraordinary poem. I have been waiting until it felt real to me, until I found myself once again lingering to admire the things of this world. After the accident, it seemed like beauty and sacredness were all around me, and as immense as my grief was, it was made more bearable by gratitude and awe.

Lately, I have felt mostly just the heaviness.

And maybe it is the same heaviness that I have carried all along, but now more than ever, I want to throw it off and just be happy. I want to celebrate my pregnancy and the existence of our precious second child. But when I go to my appointments at the Birth Center, I cry and cry.

This baby doesn't seem real to me yet. Or . . . the baby feels real, but my heart has not yet grasped the fact that I am really a mother again. Unlike all the babies that I hold each week at work, this one will stay with me . . . hopefully for 18 years or so.

Over the last year I have found great joy in holding other people's babies, and I have practiced releasing them, as I must, back to their parents. In some small way, each time I do this, I am recreating the experience of losing Sage - loving and letting go. And I guess I have done this instinctively, to heal myself.

How can I begin to trust that I won't have to let go again? And I don't mean all the small ways we as parents have to let go, but . . . let go of ever seeing my child again, of watching him grow up, of ever, ever hearing him say a word.

This is where I am. I am pregnant. The year anniversary of Sage's death is two weeks away. I think it was one of my BabyLoss friends who commented that her pregnancy after her loss involved not only bringing forth that baby, but also bringing forth herself as a mother - a new, different mother than she had been before.

So, I will practice carrying the weight, and one of these days, maybe sooner than I think, I will startle myself with laughter again.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Tonight my sister, Sarah, and her daughter, Oceana, and I had a Girls' Night Out. We went to Footloose, the spa where Sarah works, and we all got foot treatments (a foot soak and massage). Oceana helped by putting the flower petals in the foot bath, offering us foot-shaped chocolates, and just adding her sweet effervescence to every part of the evening.

After the official massage, Oceana gave both me and Sarah an extra foot massage. Her expression while she was rubbing our feet was serene and thoughtful.

Sarah and Oce reminded me tonight how good it feels to do something for p
ure pleasure. When I got home, Michael handed me his ukulele, which we both have been learning to play. I practiced a few chords and was thrilled to be able to play "Happy Birthday" and "Twinkle, Twinkle."

How is it that I forget sometimes that these simple things - laughter, human to
uch, a little imperfect music - these are the best things in life?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Swing on Down to Me

When I walked outside Friday morning to go to work, I saw a star very near a beautiful crescent moon. The Internet has since informed me that the star is really a planet, either Venus or Mars. When I saw them, I thought of Dad and Sagey.

Then on Saturday night, Michael and I went with some friends to see a Donavon Frankenreiter concert, and he played the following song.

Swing on Down

In the morning when the sun's still shy

And the last star lingers and the pale blue sky
That's when I know you're around

And in the evening when the light comes to the trees

And the birds sing a song as if they're singing to me

That's when I know you're around

I want to know if you would
Swing on down, swing on down to me
Every time I see something like that

I want you to swing on down to me

Baby won't you just swing on down
wing on down to me

Every time the rain comes out
But the sun still wants to shout

That's when I know you're around

And you know all the colors they just speak to me
Tell me stories of how it used to be

When you were still around,
I wish you were still around

I just want you to

Swing on down, swing on down to me

From the clouds won't you just
swing on down to me
Baby won't you just
swing on down to me.