Sunday, January 1, 2017

9 Years

In the past 9 years I have lost a daughter, a father, and a brother-all too young, all in horrible ways. New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and Columbus Day- all tainted.  Holidays spent on a labor and delivery floor holding my dead baby, watching my father being wheeled away for the last time, seeing the outline of my brother’s body underneath a white sheet.
            Ritual is something that gets me through these horrible anniversaries.  All of these deaths are intertwined.  I think of all of them daily, and it can be so hard to focus on one person, one life lived.  But tonight I focus on the one life that was never lived.
 I remind my girls that tomorrow is Julia’s birthday. Ruby thought I was talking about their babysitter- and my heart broke a little more.  They don’t know who she is.   They never will, and neither will we.  She is a figment of our imagination. 
She would have been 9.  She would have been in 3rd grade.  Such simple facts that break my heart. 
I am forever grateful for all that I have.  I am truly happy in life.  But tonight I allow myself to feel angry, bitter, and so sad.  I look at the clock.  Nine years ago at this time she was still alive. I get panicked.  She was still alive- why couldn’t it have turned out differently?  Why couldn’t someone have done SOMETHING to save her?  Why did this happen to our baby?  I am still so angry.  Angry at those who deal with the hazards of pregnancy so casually, angry with anyone who has three children, angry with people whose children will turn 9 this year.  The anger fuels me tonight.
Tomorrow it will be okay.  Tomorrow I will wake up and she will be dead.  The awful night before her death will be over.  All that will be left is the ritual of remembrance.  Remembering death is easy.  It’s the remembrance of hope that is excruciating.  It’s thinking back to that person who walked into the hospital ready to have a baby.  It’s remembering that broken woman who left 4 days later. 
So, tonight I allow myself to be irrational.  I allow myself to think about the “what-ifs.”  I allow myself to feel the raw pain of grief.  It’s an old friend, and it will always have a place in my life. 
Tomorrow will be easier.  But I treasure tonight.  Tonight- for just a brief moment- I get to have her close once again.  Tomorrow it will be gone. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Isabelle and I were talking about our plans for Julia's birthday and I mentioned that we needed to pick up a cake.  Isabelle asked, "What was Julia's favorite kind of cake?"

And my heart broke.

Julia would have been in first grade. She would have had a favorite color, and movie, and hobby.  She would be into princesses or not.  She would probably know how to swim and ride a bike and tie her shoes. And yes, she would definitely have a strong opinion on her favorite kind of cake.

Seven birthdays missed.  Seven years of life going on without her.  Seven years of remembering her and it never being enough.

But also...

Seven years of indescribable joy.  An amazing life that we don't take for granted.

Happy Birthday to my beautiful baby girl.

You are missed.  You are loved.  You are not forgotten.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Day

Valentines Day was always a special day in our house.  My earliest memory is of my mom giving me a life-size pillow in the shape of a doll.  I loved that odd-shaped pillow and kept it well into my adult years.  In college I received a yearly package from my mom on Valentines Day, filled with those addicting candy hearts, stickers, and other seasonal odds and ends.  Now, my almost 4 year-old daughter eagerly awaits her holiday packages from Nana- filled with sweet treats and the stuff of childhood dreams that come from the dollar bins at Target.
  On February 14th, 2011, my dad died of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  After stopping treatment, we had thought his final days would be quick.  They weren’t. He was still alive, and we were filled with horror and guilt.  Did we make the right decision when we put him in hospice?  Should we have fought harder when he said that he was done fighting?  Finally, he passed.  And as my mother and I drove home through the deserted streets that night, she said, “I can’t believe he died on fucking Valentine’s Day, my favorite holiday. ”
Two years later, I still find myself trying to explain things to my little girl.  She is a child who knows more about death than most kids her age- having grown up learning all about her older sister who died shortly after birth, and being alive just long enough to have some memory of her grandpa.  We read books about death; we read books about Valentine’s Day.  We talked about going out for pastrami sandwiches on the 14th, because that was grandpa’s favorite thing to eat.  We talk about being sad-but not too sad.  We talk about missing him- but not too much.
I have experienced the deaths of my daughter and my dad.  I love talking about my daughter- sharing her story, showing pictures of her, counseling others who have gone through a loss.   I can’t talk about my dad.  I can’t look at pictures of him. I can’t watch videos. I can’t read over old emails.  I can’t watch my wedding video.  My daughter’s death has become a part of me.  My dad’s death is something my body and mind refuse to accept.  Memories of him bring about a physical pain and longing. 
This past year I have taken up running.  I run outside, and I run a lot.  My dad would have loved this.  When I run, there is a moment when a great song is on and the light is just right, and I feel he’s watching me.  I have to believe he is.  I have to believe he is with my daughter.  I have to believe he is incredibly proud of who and what I have become.  I have to believe he knows that I am happy.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Four Years

This is Josh. In honor of my little girl's fourth birthday, I just wanted to share some memories I wrote down when thinking about her the other day.

I remember that I was scared going into the room. I wasn’t scared, I don't think, of her, but I do remember being terrified of looking into the bassinet. It was like being in a horror movie, coming slowly around the corner, like a camera shot. I slowly saw her face from the top down, and she looked just so close to being alive. Like the right burst of breath into her lungs might just start her up again. I didn’t want to touch her, but Elizabeth asked me if I wanted to, and I knew I had to. There was a lot during those first days that I “had” to do, it was the only way to get them done. So she picked her up and then handed her to me. I remember that she was still warm, or maybe I only remember her in relation to a few days later, when I held her on the day of her funeral. But it quickly became easy to talk to her.

I remember the moment they put Ruby down in that little bassinet in the operating room, the same room Isabelle was delivered in, next to the one Julia was born in, that Ruby looked JUST like Julia. Same hair, same button nose, same tiny face. I wonder if my family would have children in the same order as my parents – dark complex, light complex, and so on. That would make me Julia. If this had happened to my mom, I would have died, and no life, no memories, no life with Cam, no Isabelle, no Ruby. What other lives were stamped out when Julia died? How many lives were changed forever for the worse, never even knowing what they were missing?

4 Years

Dear Julia,

You would have been 4 years old tomorrow. Four years of smiles, holidays, milestones, and birthdays that we never had. Four years in which we have welcomed 2 more wonderful little girls into our family. Four years in which we have had so much joy and so much sorrow.

Your grandpa died this year. My heart now aches for two people. I barely got to know you, so my sorrow with you is with all the experiences I didn't get to have. The sorrow with grandpa dying is that he does not get to see his 2 beautiful granddaughters grow up. Two lives that ended too soon. Feeling sorry for both the ones left living and the ones gone. How many times have I cuddled with Ruby or Isabelle and felt your absence? Hoped that you were looking down on us, but also hoping that you would understand why we could not give you all the love and attention that you deserved? Hoping that you would understand why the focus of our attention has shifted.

The death of my child and my father. You cannot help comparing them. The grief I felt over you- so raw and intense at first and then settling into a dull aching pain. The grief over your grandpa- a relief at first and now settling into the horrible reality of what I lost. The feeling of disbelief. The numerous times I have picked up my phone to dial him to chat before I remembered. My inability to erase his number and name from my phone.

I wear my necklace with three charms on it- one for each of my girls. Isabelle likes to finger them and say, "J for Julia, R for Ruby, and I for me." She know all about her big sister, and loves to look at your pictures and play with your music box. I watch her being such a good big sister to Ruby and think about how you would have been with her. But then again, if you were here then she most likely would not be. The "what if" game is so hard to play...

So on the eve of your birthday, I just want you to know that you are loved. You are missed.

In my dreams I picture that you and grandpa have found each other, and that is what gets me through the tough days.

Happy Birthday Baby Girl.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2 Years

Yesterday, the first day of the new year, Isabelle and I went for a walk in the early evening. She quickly fell asleep and I was left with just my thoughts. The worst part of this day is the time leading up to her death. On January 1st, 2008, at 4:45, I was just having my first contractions and everything was still all right.

The hardest part of this anniversary was not remembering her death. It was not thinking about the beautiful little girl she would be today- I think about that every day. It was remembering the time before everything went wrong. It was remembering the way I felt before she died.

A close friend of ours videotaped Josh and I when I was 9 months pregnant with Julia. Up until yesterday, we had never watched that footage. Last night, we put Isabelle to bed and curled up on the couch to watch. There were bittersweet moments, but it turned out to be the perfect way to end the evening. The video was over an hour long, and Josh and I just watched in awe.

It made me happy to recognize the two people in that video- because right after Julia's death I didn't know whether I would ever be "me" again. I remember sitting on the couch a few days after she died, staring at the screen saver on our computer. It was a picture of Josh and I, smiling at our 30th birthday party. I made someone turn it off, because it hurt too much to look at myself being happy.

It's now two years later and I feel like myself again. Part of this is due to time, and part of it is because of Isabelle. Josh looked at me tonight and said, "I have to admit that this is easier now that we have a baby." Maybe we should feel guilty for thinking like this, but we can't help the way we feel.

Even though it is only the second anniversary of her death, I feel like Josh and I have already established what this day will be like. We spend it as a family, and while we appreciate the phone calls and emails, we do not answer the phone. It is a day for us, and somehow it doesn't seem right to let anyone else in...we can do that tomorrow.

In my walk last night I stopped by the drugstore and bought a birthday card and a candle in the shape of the number two. Tonight Josh stopped at the bakery and bought a tiny cake that simply says, "Julia." We will light the candle and celebrate her birthday in our own way.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


This week was the first one of the season to feel like winter. And with the cold came the dread of the upcoming months. Last year at this time we were completing our countdown of the first year without Julia. I had thought that it would be easier this time around but it isn't. Last year I was the women whose child had died. This year I am Isabelle's mommy, and while I love that role, it is not enough.

It is hard for me to think that people don't look at me and think of Julia anymore. As I approach her second birthday, I am finding I have this need to do something that keeps me connected to her. I feel like she is slipping farther and farther away and there is no way to bring her back.

I see two-year olds on the street and I am amazed at how they are less baby and more child. Julia would have been talking and walking now, full of her own little personality. I thought it would get easier as time went on, but other people's milestones can just crush me. I hear about friends sending their children to their first day of kindergarten and it makes me cry. I watch a TV show where the mother walks her daughter down the aisle, and I am reminded of the things I will be missing for years to come.

Isabelle is growing out of the last of the clothes that were bought for Julia, and every time I put another one of her outfits into storage I get so sad. It's just one more example of how she is slipping away.