Thursday, November 26, 2009


I have anxiety about being home alone. I don't like it, really. I know, I know, I'm an adult and all that, but I've never lived alone--I went from my home to college (lived in a dorm) to teaching at a boarding school (alone?? What's that??) to living with Chris and our roommate, Ken, to being married...I've never lived alone. That said, I'm fine (really) when I am alone. I take the normal precautions--we live in a very safe state and a very safe neighborhood, I lock the doors, double check the windows and we do have a fairly protective dog. Normal precautions. The anxiety I feel stems from reading the newspaper daily, listening to the news and also knowing a handful of people who have had their house broken into (including one family friend whose house was broken into while they were sleeping!). I know the danger is out there--I know this--and it does cause me some anxiety.

A few weeks ago at a conference, I met a woman who was injured and whose husband was killed during a violent home invasion decades ago. Despite the fact that I read the paper and know these things happen, despite the fact that all of us have heard about these things on the news, and despite the fact that I openly admit to being somewhat nervous about being home alone, I know that I don't - I can't - understand the level of this woman's anxiety regarding this issue. Instead, I talked to her about the courage it has taken her to continue on with her life while she talked to me about how truly, deep, deep down, she has an issue with weddings. She hates them. She wants to "shake brides and yell, 'Don't you know what could happen??'" (Sound familiar? Most Babylost Moms have a deep-seated urge to shake pregnant women and yell, "Don't you know what could happen??")

My point here is that everyone has had losses in their lives and everyone has anxieties about things related to their past. I get that. Babylost Moms have a very unique perspective on pregnancy and birth--one that is not and cannot be shared or understood by anyone who has not heard the soul-crushing silence that falls on a room after a doctor announces "Your baby has died." or "Your baby will not live." There is a huge difference between normal "mothering" anxiety and Babylost Mothering anxiety. Most cannot understand, just as I will (hopefully) never understand the anxieties of the woman above.

I know, also, that the vast majority of people who say, "I understand" (when they really don't) are not saying it to be mean. They truly want to help and are completely at a loss as to how to go about it. In fact, the most common question I get at the seminars I lead is, "My friend just lost a baby - what can I do? What will help her?"

Two words: compassion and validation. Saying you understand is not the same as saying "I imagine this must be extremely hard for you." Asking, "Is there something I can do to help you through this holiday?" is helpful. Saying, "I know this would have been your baby's first Christmas," is helpful. Better yet, sending cards on special dates (due dates, birthdays, holidays) and remembering to use the baby's name when everyone else has forgotten. I cannot even tell you how much that would mean to a Babylost Mom. Please, don't try to minimize the loss, belittle it or take the pain away--you can't. And feeling the pain is part of the healing--it is a way to feel closer to that loss--closer to that little being that never was. And when that mom calls you sobbing because everyone in the world has moved on and she feels so left behind, just listen. Tell her you remember. Give her permission to talk about that baby--because that baby is a part of her life, a part of her family, a part of her soul.

No Babylost Mom is expecting you to understand, really. We just want compassion--compassion and validation for the piece of our hearts that will never mend.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Welcome to the world baby girl...

I'm not sure how to say what I want to say without A) hurting someone's feelings and B) sounding like a bitter, jealous and all-around horrible human being. So I guess I'll start by saying that if you are not a Babylost Mama, you will probably not understand how hard these feelings are--so please don't read this. I would hate for you to think less of me.

For those of you who are still reading, I need to say that the person I'm talking about is such a dear, dear friend. In the months after Sophie died, she was my lifeline. She was the one who always knew exactly how to put my feelings into words--not just because she is a gifted writer, but because she also lost a daughter. I'm hoping she will forgive me.

This dear friend of mine, this woman who is also babylost, this woman who was my lifeline for so long, has birthed a baby--her fourth--and it is a girl. A beautiful, healthy, very hard to come by, wonderfully loved little girl. And the awful part about it is that when I heard the news, I felt a pang of jealousy. A girl. She got a girl. How ridiculous is it that instead of overwhelming happiness (which, for the record, I also feel), I felt this little twinge of sadness?? I mean, here I am cuddling and nursing the most fantastic miracle of my own making, a little boy, and I'm jealous of this baby girl? How does that work?

Sophie died in January of 2007. In October of 2007 I was pregnant again--that lasted 10 weeks and ended in December of 2007. In April of 2008 I was pregnant. That lasted until May 13th. When I found out I was pregnant in June of 2008, the only thing I felt was fear--not joy, not hope, not excitement--fear. Fear and anxiety. Fun stuff. And who was there for me? Who else. And do you know, I kept telling her that I needed this baby I was carrying to be a boy. I needed it to be a boy so that it would be completely different from Sophie--completely different so that maybe, just maybe, I would get a living baby out of it. And it was, and he is. A wonderful, miraculous, loving, happy, amazingly alive baby boy. I can't even begin to describe the amazing place he has in our family and the amount of healing he as brought to our hearts. I never wanted anyone but him. Never.

But a girl...a little baby girl. And it isn't even like I've never gotten a living girl--I have two of those myself. But what it comes down to is this gut-wrenching feeling of longing for what you can't have. As my friend snuggles, nurses and hugs this new little girl, you can bet she is thinking about the sister this baby will never know. As I watch her holding a baby girl, I'm thinking about the baby girl I never got to hold. And yes, I recognize that my friend has these pangs of jealousy every time I mention my happy, wonderful, energetic 6.5 year-old who is mere months older than her lost baby girl would be now. See? It hurts all around.

My husband and I are pretty sure we are done having kids. The anxiety, the pain of loss, the is just too much to do again. So that means that every baby girl that I know of from now on will bring on this pang of jealousy and sadness...this desire to get back that which I will never get back. Because the truth is that I could have another child, I could have 10 more children, all girls, and they would never, never, bring back what I lost. And that is just how it is.

Are you babylost? Do you understand what I mean? I hope it doesn't sound like I'm taking away anything at all from this new little life and I equally hope it doesn't sound like I'm taking anything away from the love I have for my own little boy. Let me know.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Isn't he a bit young for that?

My 9-month-old son likes to crawl under a small, wooden desk used by the girls. He often gets stuck and he often bumps his head and fusses about it. Today he crawled under there and as I was trying to get him out I said, "Silly boy, this is how you bump your head!" and he responded with a noise that sounded exactly like, "NUH-UH" with that teenager inflection of defiance. When I said, "Yeah-huh!" back at him, he smiled and said again, "NUH-UH" with the same inflection.

I'm in trouble....

Friday, November 13, 2009

Trying Something New

Have you read the book, "Simplicity Parenting"? I have, twice. It is the first book I have found that really put into words so many of my values as a parent. With this book as our guide, Chris and I are working to simplify our house and our lives. This is a tall order considering how little we already have, really. But we think it would be better for our kids to have fewer choices when it comes to clothes, toys, books and things like that. It is simply too much right now--one does not need 10 pairs of shoes! This process is difficult given how anxious change makes Erin, but if I do it when the kids aren't home, they truly do not notice the change (how sad is that? Do they really have so much that when you take half away they can't name what is missing??)

So I started in their closet. Both girls are links in different chains of hand-me-downs, so they are very well off with clothing. Too well off, in fact. When I took out the jeans that they never wear, the shirts that were "too scratchy" and the tights that "itched," I wasn't left with that much. From there, both girls agreed to try a month where they had only 8 outfits available to them--basically one for each day of the week (mix-and-match depending on weather) and one extra, as well as 3-4 favorite dresses. Erin was anxious about this idea, but she picked her 8 outfits carefully and packed up the rest. Megan was easy--she picked out her stuff for Stripes Day and Yellow Day and Dots Day and then a few dresses. All was well. And I can tell you, it has been over a month and Erin finds it SO easy to get dressed in the morning! Megan, who has always been pretty easy going about clothing, is also totally fine with this new system. I will say the one kink in this system is that when Chris and I fall behind with the laundry (which is pretty regularly, I admit), there can be issues. Not so many as to cause stress yet, but I can see how that might happen. I'll keep you posted.

Toys...they simply have too many! Now, because of our firm belief in not buying them stuff, most of it comes as hand-me-downs and, of course, gifts from our fantastically generous, loving and quite large extended family. At first, I didn't mind because everyone who buys them gifts was generally quite accepting of our no-plastic-made-in-China-crap request and usually got them educational, fun toys that used their imagination. This was good. But it has gotten to be too much. Our basement playroom looked like a toy store and the dress-up bin was so overflowing it was getting stressful for them to play dress-up! I took boxes down there and quickly took away nearly half of it--things they don't use, things that are broken, things that only have one purpose, that kind of stuff. Then I took another box and packed away things that Evan will probably use someday, but it doesn't have to be out right now. Finally, I created a Toy Library for the girls--they can take a toy off the shelf and bring it into the unfinished, storage side of the basement and trade it for a toy I had taken out. This way they have fewer choices out, but they can get "new" stuff when they want. I was able to remove three cubbie shelves from down there and, again, the girls have hardly noticed. Their construction toys are still there, their musical instruments are still there, the dress-up stuff is still there (though there is less of it) and they are so much happier to play down there now. It feels good!

Books. Now, here I admit that I have a major problem--my kids LOVE books. Erin devours them, reading several chapter books a day. When I first thought of simplifying their book choices, I couldn't imagine ever taking books away...most parents have the opposite problem! But then I began to go through them and, like the toys, quickly found quite a few we just didn't need anymore. Once those were packed away in a box for our local thrift store, I went through again and removed even more. These I put in a box on the storage side of the basement, again for a library the kids can go to when they are bored with the selection they have out. As with the other simplification ideas, this has worked wonders. The girls have discovered some "lost" old favorites, Erin has slowed down her reading a bit (which was actually a goal of ours, if you can believe it) and Evan delights in having his own shelf of board books. What a change!

So that is how we have started. This weekend I'm hoping to finish the girls' room and the classroom (guest room) and perhaps start on the kitchen. I know simplifying to the point I want will be a huge job, but room by room it is getting done. I think we will all be happier when it is done. The change so far in the girls has been wonderful. I think one reason I'm writing this is that truly, truly, we didn't have that much stuff to begin with--so I can imagine if it was overwhelming for me, some of you might also feel overwhelmed. And perhaps right now the change is working because it is new and interesting and perhaps in mid-February taking the toys away won't seem like such a great idea...but for now, I really do think I have happier kids. I'll keep you updated as the year goes on.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Say It Loud!

I know that at some point during the course of this blog, I'm going to get in trouble for something I said (again). So, as a warning, I'm going to list a few things I feel very strongly about and you can decide whether or not to take this blog off your bookmarks list. As I've said before, I'm not judgmental because I'm certainly not about to tell others how to live their lives, but I do firmly believe in the values I'm raising my kids with (why else would I be raising them like this?) So here it is:

1) Breastfeeding--I mean, why wouldn't you??? It is free, it is easy, it is ready-made and it is SO SO SO SO SO much better for your baby. I could go on, but I'm sure I've already ticked off enough people to make my point.

2) Baby wearing--again, why wouldn't you? I get so irritated by the millions of products on the market designed so that you can actually go from dawn to dusk with little more than picking up your baby to move him/her from one plastic apparatus to another. Babies were made to cuddle, love and hold close to your heart. I, for one, can't get enough of my baby nuzzling into my neck.

3) Gentle Discipline--please, don't teach your child not to hit by hitting them. And along with that....

4) Cry-It-Out. I HATE that. HATE IT! HATE IT with a red hot raw passion that few can understand. That is a little PERSON crying in there! A person so new to this world they don't know if they can trust it or if they are safe--and you are leaving them there alone in the dark as you sit and hope against hope that they will eventually "learn" to fall asleep??? I'm sorry, but that really bugs me.

5) Buy local and watch what you buy--this is the one that tends to get me in trouble. I do NOT shop at*, I do NOT eat at fast food restaurants, and yes, my children know to check out the business practices of a company before they buy any toys from China. We get our food locally, we try to get most of our goods locally and we live without a lot of "comforts" that many people take for granted. And, forgive me, I think we are smarter consumers because of it. Perhaps that sounded a little too "high horse" for some, but there you have it. Again, I do not expect others to be as uptight about this as I am, but please, don't ask me to do a quick spin through the McDonald's Drive Thru while we are out together--I might explode (Cathy, are you listening??)

I know there are others and I'm bound to get on the soapbox about them at some point, but this is all I will subject you to for now. Remember, though, I'm not judging!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Not much to say...

I'm having a really hard time putting together coherent sentences tonight. Perhaps it is because I'm tired from a wonderful weekend at a friend's house. Or perhaps it is because of the energy I spent at the awesome La Leche League conference on Saturday. Or perhaps, just perhaps, it is because I spent the whole day trying to home school a 6-year-old while the 4-year-old was sick on the couch and the 8-month-old was crawling around NOT napping.

So instead of writing, I thought I would post a sample of the umpteen pictures I have taken in an effort to capture the wonder and beauty of Evan's first teeth.

You can see that he is less than cooperative about it all!

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Understatement

Yesterday was Erin's home school science class. This is a fantastic class that meets at the town library and Tony, the man who teaches it, always has something really cool to show the kids. Yesterday it was tree frogs. He started by showing the kids how these two fist-sized frogs could literally climb up the door. Then he got them down from the door and put them on the floor and had all the kids sitting around them as he was describing some of the cool things about them. He says, "Does anyone want to hold one?" Erin, my brave little soul, tentatively sticks out her hand--and this is where a video camera would have been very handy. Before you can blink, one frog has jumped from the floor to her arm to the top of her head while the other one has jumped to her leg and then to her arm. Well, Erin let out a screech (that literally brought the librarian down from upstairs) and starts waving her arm and shaking her head. Tony can see that she is pretty freaked out and is trying to calm her while at the same time trying to save the frog who is clinging to Erin's hair and shirt (remember, these are tree frogs so they have sticky feet!). Erin finally shakes off the one on her arm and Tony gets the one on her head before Erin scuttles away to the other side of the room, panting and shaking. Of course you might feel badly for her, but she composed herself very quickly and got back into the group and went about her class. (Leaving us grown-ups laughing hysterically at her 30-second freak-out!)

Later, when asked about her day, I hear Erin say to Daddy, "Oh yeah, and Daddy! At science class today I got to hold a real tree frog!"

Just like that.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Before you read this, please read my friend Carol's blog post from Monday November 2nd. (here).

I'll wait until you come back....

Here is the thing--I truly think most people are judgmental--whether or not they act on it is the question. All of us have values--especially parents--the way we feed our kids, diaper our kids, discipline our kids, all of these things speak to the way we live our lives and the way we want our kids to live their lives. It speaks to what we value in society. Now I could go on and on as to whether or not you think I value the right things, but it is easy to judge people who value different things. The question is whether or not that value judgment is going to be allowed to affect my relationship with you. For example, if we go out to dinner together and you order a big steak, I'm not going to let that bother me. I do not eat meat because I strongly believe that the way food is raised in this country is bad for our health, our economy and our planet. But I'm not going to stop hanging out with you because of it. If, on the other hand, we take our kids to the playground and upon the expected exhausted kid temper tantrum that happens at departure, you smack your child, I'm going to have a problem with that. Gentle discipline is something I believe in so strongly that it would make it very hard for me to hang out with you. Yes, I would be judging your family values and how you are treating your kids. I was judging your values before, when you ate the steak, but I would never act on that. It isn't about judging right or wrong--it is about judging differences. Some differences are small and some are big. Does that make sense?

Most people understand this and we tend to hang out with people who, for the most part, match our values. No, not all my friends are vegetarians, but most practice attachment parenting, gentle discipline, etc. This is great. But many of my friends have not had a loss, so our values surrounding some important issues are not the same and, frankly, could never be the same. This makes some conversations very hard, some conversations impossible and, sadly, it makes some friends walk away.

So what is it that Carol says so wonderfully that so many don't get? That all of this--all this judgment that parents tend to pass off on each other--is so different when you have had a loss. When you have a child "in the ground," as she puts it, you just see things differently and there is no way to explain that to someone who does not. I have tried--believe me, I have tried. But it can't be done. And it means that as we on this side of the fence sit and look over at the blissfully pregnant women on the other side, when we hear those wonderful happy-ever-after home.birth stories, when we hear about the baby showers and the fearless layette purchasing, we can't help but be "judgmental" and yes, sometimes bitter, about it all. We cannot change this. We see the world differently. And some of us have lost dear friends because of it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I used to Trick-or-Treat when I was a kid. My mother would bring my brother and me downtown to a neighborhood and we would walk from door to door saying "trick-or-treat" and the nice people would come to the door, comment on our costumes and deposit something yummy into our bags. Has it changed so much?

Last night my girls got all dressed up in costumes, looking forward to going to the houses on our street. But when we got there--with only one exception--we were greeted with lit-up porches with bowls of candy on them. The girls picked one thing from each container and we went home. There were no neighborly "trick-or-treat" greetings or comments on the costumes. There was no visiting or meeting the new people. The impression I get is that because there are "only" 12 houses on our street, people who live here take their kids to bigger, better places to get more loot (we don't do this--and we are also the people who give out pencils and stickers--mostly because I have it on good authority that I don't want to make my kids grow up to be the kids of the woman who gives out toothbrushes...don't worry, Melissa, I don't reveal my sources!) It is definitely sad to see this holiday turned into an exercise in going house to house to get candy, with nothing more to it. Although I will spare you a whole blog post on the commercialism of the holiday and making kids think they need the most expensive costume to get the biggest bag full of candy, I will say that I think my girls were disappointed by the lack of people who were home to greet them--they enjoy chatting with the neighbors!

The other thing that bothered me last night was the number of cars driving around my street dropping kids off at each house then driving to the next. I live on a dead end street--it is maybe half a mile long--with 12 houses on it. Really, walking from house to house is not a challenge. My 4-year-old can do it. In fact she did it when she was three. So explain this to me--why drive? Are you afraid of the exercise? The fresh air? What is it? Is it the same reason the school bus drives up to each and every house instead of picking up the kids at the end of the street? Am I the only one who actually had to walk to a bus stop? Either I'm getting old or kids are getting very lazy. Or perhaps it is both. But I digress.....

Our disappointments aside, the girls were very cute last night. Erin was Felicity Merriman (of the American Girl series) and Megan was a fairy princess/ballerina. Evan, of course, dressed up as the cutest baby ever. Underneath that costume he is really quite hideous. (NOT!)

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