Sunday, December 14, 2008


Halloween was hard for some reason. It all started off perfectly well - the children had a ton of candy and went completely nuts - D puked...

Actually that's an even worth diverting the course of this post slightly for. D managed to cram his little tummy so full of sweets that by the time he'd reached Grandmas house he was fit to burst. There were some girls from some kind of organization coming up the garden path, and before Grandma had chance, D had turned and spewed into the full bowl of candy... Needless to say, he wasn't very happy about it and neither was Grandma at the time, but it was classic nonetheless and we all laughed about it later on - how could you not? Mind you, perhaps we won't raise that one with him for a few years...I think he was pretty mortified.


I, three weeks after the cesarean, dressed up as an Egyptian queen. I felt it would be sensible, given that Egyptian queens are supposed to be very strong, powerful women, and here I was, attempting to be strong and powerful. I felt better in my costume than I had all day - maybe because it gave me legitimate reason to pretend to be someone else..someone a little more fun than I had been. The heavy green eye makeup really helped with the disguise and I suddenly wished I could be transported back about 3000 years, to the time of the ancient Pharaohs, where stillbirths were commonplace and the babies were mummified just like the rest of the human population...gently laid in sarcophagi of gold and never referred to as fetuses.

I remembered the little white coffin that Josie went into the ground in, and thought how much nicer it would have been if she'd had a gold sarcophagus like the ancient Egyptians. How much more majestic that would have been to lay her to rest like that. But then, I remembered, we had buried her with various artifacts including a picture of all of us together as a family, and, I supposed, that was similar.

Harry dressed up as leatherface and scared all the local children. There he is, hiding at the side of the house. I'm absolutely certain he was responsible for some enormous nightmares that night!

My mother dressed as a witch and had a splendid black pointy hat to go with her costume - she had found it in a store the previous day and was very pleased with her find.

We stayed in for the most part and gave out candy, which was fine with me because I certainly didn't feel like socializing properly - I had nothing to say to anyone - I really hadn't since Josie had died. With me, it's always "if you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing" and I didn't have any good news to share with the general community all of a sudden, which led to me really not wanting to share at all.

In the end, we went to bed pretty early. But I couldn't sleep. I stayed awake and got progressively more and more upset. I got out of bed at about midnight and sat in the chair next to the bed - the chair which until recently I'd affectionately referred to as my "nursing chair". I sat there under a blanket with a box of tissues, getting more and more weepy until I'd surrounded myself with snotty tissues. I felt so pathetic and very overwhelmed. This was the night the two worlds would be closest, and I was spending it in tears instead of in spiritual rapture. I missed my Josie so much that night and would have given anything to reach across the veil and take her back - but that was impossible and I knew it.

I got angry then - so angry, like a tiny child with no public emotional control, screaming and throwing a fit on the floor of a large store. I made raging noises among my tearful sobs, red faced and growling like a dog. I could have taken the pillows off the bed and ripped them into pieces, feathers flying everywhere.

In the end I went out of the bedroom, took my big body pillow and sat on the sofa in the living room with another box of tissues just sobbing so hard my body shook. I turned on the TV because the silence was frightening me. despite my best intentions, by 2am I was still completely awake and getting even more upset, so I made a decision and went to get the bottle of percocet I hadn't taken any of for almost two weeks. I got some milk and two Oreo cookies, and swallowed two percocet for the express purpose of being knocked out. Tears just ran down my face - I felt so weak - such a failure for having to take narcotics to knock me out. Like a hysterical 19th century woman in a tight corset being tranquilized by worried family members.

Mind you, it did the trick. Perhaps two pills were more than enough though, because I ended up waking up partially about an hour or two later, feeling as though I had been removed from my body and was floating about a foot above it. I heard my own breathing and wondered who the hell it was. Nevertheless I was calm, and went back to sleep on the sofa ther until about 6am, when I finally crept back into bed, feeling wrung out and mentally exhausted.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Of course after the funeral, there were things to be taken care of. Our whole house was filled with people until about eight at night, drinking coffee and talking. Since we were the people who had lost, we were the center of attention and thus, wherever we went, we were followed as though we were the only ones with flashlights in a labyrinth of darkness.

So, people would gravitate toward us until the end of the proceedings. Not that it was unpleasant - in fact, we had a few very nice conversations. But, at the end of it all, I was ready for some alone time, and that's what we got.

I wasn't sure how I'd sleep because I'd had a dream the previous night about a baby, crying in the dark somewhere, and it had frightened me. I took benadryl and slept quite well, to my surprise.

Over the next weeks, it would be a struggle to remain focused on conversations, or on people, for any great length of time. I would get up, and crash out after four hours - exhausted and in need of sleep. My patience was non existent but I tried not to take it out on people, rather, to just sleep when I needed to. I slept an awful lot.

Every day was different. Every day felt a lot like uphill walking through mud with lead boots on at first. Doing normal things had suddenly become exhausting. I couldn't load the washer for a couple of weeks because it seemed like such an impossible task. The same went for the dishwasher, but I did figure that one out sooner because we needed to eat. The children stayed with grandma for the first week. At the end of that first week, my mother came over from England and proceeded to lift me up out of the bog and place me on higher ground, away from the proverbial snakes, while she cleaned house and did a wonderful job making everything flow fairly normally. It was enormous that she'd come. She, having lost a son herself, understood my emotions perfectly well, and having her around was incredible. Emotionally, I had fallen apart into pieces like a broken bowl. She helped me find the glue to mend the most basic parts of myself, and when she left at the beginning of November, I could once again perform menial household chores - nothing to celebrate normally, but after a period of not being able to do anything, these small things became huge things.

I crawled through my life...slowly coming back to reality. At first I couldn't go out of the house. But H put me in the car and would drive me around just to get me out. He nudged me along like a mother horse would with a newborn foal. I'd sit in the car when he went into local stores, to avoid that horrifyingly pitying stare from people. I couldn't bring myself to go into the stores for about two weeks. Then, I braved a local gas station on foot with a good friend of mine, C. We walked in and of course, the cashier came around and gave me a hug and told me how sorry she was. I couldn't take that more than once a day and so I made the decision to visit a new place once every two days.

So there we were....bumbling along emotionally. But physically my recovery was different again...

The immediate aftermath....

Well, so there I was. Suddenly unsure of my purpose. I had been preparing for a life as a new mother and was gone. I told H over and over again that I didn't know what my purpose was any more. I felt like I'd been run over physically and emotionally.

We got home on the Sunday, after making a trip to HyVee for my ultra strong 800mg ibuprofen and my frighteningly overwhelmingly strong percocet. The percocet made me feel completely stoned and I had to take them with food to keep them down. Gnarly stuff - but I did need them because the pain from the emergency cesarean was pretty tough to bear. I would later try to cut down (the next day actually) and realize I wasn't ready at all. I finally came off them about a week later. They made me feel completely stoned - perhaps not a bad thing under the circumstances, but I was aware rather quickly of the fact that they were indeed narcotics and rather highly addictive. The last thing I needed on top of everything else was to become addicted to painkillers. I wasn't going to have that, and I knew it.

Monday came, and H and I sat and watched TV together. He made a nice cooked breakfast for me - bacon, eggs and pancakes...half of which ended up in the toilet later on. Very unfortunate. He'd made me a nest in our bedroom and put the crib and baby things away in an upstairs closet - something I was very grateful for. We sat there and passed the time in each other's arms.

Three O'Clock came, and that was the time for the funeral gathering at the funeral home. We went in the Jimmy. I wore a black, sleeveless polarneck shirt and a pair of maternity pants. I had to wear a constriction bandage around my chest because my milk had come in. So, bundled up and above the clouds on percocet, off we went.

I felt so self conscious walking into the funeral home. There was no easy way of walking in there really. I clung to H's arm and we were greeted by lovely and very kind funeral home staff, including the man who had come to take Josie away on the Saturday. They were all clearly very affected by the occasion.

There were people there already, sitting in the chairs and at the end of the walkway between the chairs was a little table, and sitting on it, a tiny white casket made of thick, shaped plastic. Surrounding her were flowers - flowers everywhere. They were on stands, on tables, on the floor. I coulnd't believe how many flowers had been sent. they came from everywhere - just everywhere. Almost every team I worked with at work had sent a huge bouquet or a potted plant that would continue living and I was stunned. There must have been at least twenty of them. Beautiful daisies, roses, vines... She had been surrounded and cradled with beautiful nature - she looked like Ophelia sailing down the river, surrounded by blossoms.

I went to each and every one and looked at the tags, and the flowers. There were framed photographs of Josie among them as well, from the wonderful hospital photographers who took such artful shots of her. There was a board with more photography on it, and angel ornaments, candles and all sorts of things on a table to the right.

I floated through the people and accepted condolences, trying to hold it together to get down to my daughter although I knew her spirit had already left. And there she was all of a sudden in front of me, dressed in the clothes the children and Daddy had picked out for her. She wore a christmas dress with a tiny pair of pants underneath that I'd always found so amusing. They were white and had a bunny tail on the butt, with little bunny feet at the bottom. She had her little pink and purple bug from her crib in with her - you pull it's tail and it plays tinny music and has little red lights that light up and glow in the head. She had been placed in two blankets - one of them bright pink and made of fleece; the other a very soft pink and textures with moons and stars....very soft material. She had a little white satin cushion on her, and there were tiny roses on it from her Grandmas. They had makeup on her, and at that moment with her face all relaxed, she looked so much like me, I had to hold my breath. her lips were just like mine were as a child. I looked but did not touch.

The service went on, and the kind Catholic Father who presided conducted it in such a nice way. There were so many people there - probably about eighty. Almost every seat was full. H and I sat there with a box of tissues in between us and we held hands and we cried. Our lovely midwife sat to my left and having her there was great because she continues to be such a rock and a light at a very shadowed time.

At the end of the service, I walked up to Josie and I kissed my hand, and then I placed it on her forehead. I walked back up and out of the funeral home.

We drove to the cemetary as a big procession. So many cars, so very slowly and flanked by a police escort. The day was cool but not rainy. We got to the burial site and there was a little green mat over her grave. The hearse pulled up, and we were behind it. Everyone got out and we stood by the grave site while H went to the hearse and bent and received Josie's casket. He held it in both hands and walked up the slope, looking completely broken. Tears came out of his eyes and I was in awe of him. He gently set her down and I went to him as he was coming to me. We met in the middle, arms intertwined and stood there. He had to support me because I couldn't move a lot yet due to the cesarean.

We stood in a circle and said a prayer, holding hands around the little grave site. There were many babies in that area of the cemetary. I could almost feel them welcoming her into the next life - as though at the other end of the ritual we were peforming, they were there bringing her out into the light of another world.

We finished, and took flowers from her wreath - they were tiny white and pink rosebuds. And then it was over.

Introducing "The Event" that changed everything...

So I mentioned earlier (well, a few days ago I suppose) that there had been one single event that had changed my life in the recent past. And this is what I will write about here. It doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman - young or old or anything else - if you don't read the following, then everything else on this blog will make a whole hell of a lot less sense, I expect - at the very least. So here we go - and please, keep in mind that this is just the beginning - and it's not the beginning of a path into the depths either - it's the beginning of a different life altogether.

The beginning of 2008 brought us an unexpected surprise. I found myself pregnant and we were really overjoyed about it. The beginning of new life was a welcome exchange for the rather serious difficulties we'd had in our lives in the last few years, so we welcomed our "rocket bean" as we called her, before we knew she was a girl.

The rest of the year passed in a haze of picnics, fishing trips, long, languorous days in the sun and much love. My belly grew fat and full of kicking as I carried my girl - my "jumping Josie" along with me every day. She had a mischievous personality...sometimes I'd catch her laughing in her own little way at things I'd say, especially when I felt amused myself. We journeyed together every day - my job took me on the road and we saw many things, from the inner cities to beautiful winding stretches of river and big lakes full of waterfowl and skies containing eagles and red winged hawks.

She saw everything I saw and it became a part of her somehow. Shaping and molding, on she went, living her little life in utero and sleeping happily at night with me. She never woke me up kicking - not once in the whole time we were together. We would speed together through the day and I would talk to her all the time.

We liked listening to music together. Josie would react and give me a little kick if she liked something. Certain music made her very excited - like ACDC - she seemed to like that quite a lot and would dance around in the car. Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks relaxed her and Kate Bush always sent her to a peaceful slumber no matter what. She laughed at Peter Gabriel in total joy, and became passionate whenever I played any kind of Celtic music - Clannad, for example. She liked that music a lot. Two days before she was born, we had a bath listening to Clannad for two staight hours. That was a nice time.

She was my baby and my love. She opened up my life and my mind to something enormous. Had she stayed around here, I have no doubt that my path would have changed profoundly anyway. However, as the following will tell, she couldn't stay around after all.

She was meant to be born at home, in the water, with our lovely midwife and everyone around her. I had no problems with pain, or my body - trusted everything completely.

Now, in hindsight, my problems started at work. While life at home was lovely, my job became more and more and more stressful, until it reached an insane peak in August after I returned (at over 30 weeks I believe) from a conference. Sometimes I'd leave the house at 6am and get back at 11pm. I spent my last week working before maternity leave on my hands and knees on the floor (and doing other things I shouldn't have been, being that pregnant). So in a nutshell, the last couple of months of my pregnancy were insanely stressful - stressful enough that I lost my mucus plug at 35 weeks. I do attribute what happened later to the stress, because it was extreme and I can't imagine any other reason for it, really.

So two weeks after I left on maternity leave (to the day) I woke up at about 1.15am - very sleepy - to what I assumed was a contraction. Having had no experience of labor before and a very high pain threshold, I tried to sleep through it. Finally at 1.45 I got out of bed and sat on the toilet for...gosh...a couple of hours. It was like one big, long contraction. I called my midwife at 4am and got H out of bed. Our midwife arrived at about 5 or so, and checked Josie's heartbeat, which was lovely, strong and steady. We filled the birth tub and I got in - immense pain relief! Again, strong and steady. There I sat for just over an hour, in the birth zone. I was bleeding sightly every now and again - nothing large which we attributed to the cervix dilating. The contraction had peaks, and everyone labors differently, so what I felt wasn't considered out of the realms of normal by any means.

Then at about seven or so, I got out of the tub and said I was overheating and had to take a cold shower. I got to the bathroom, sat on the toilet and passed out all of a sudden. Midwife checked Josie's heartbeat which had dropped to about 80beats per minute all of a sudden. We decided to go into the hospital and did one more check before leaving, and Josie's heartbeat had come back up again to normal. We felt her head, which was very low and decided to monitor more frequently but that the heart rate dip had probably been normal. I jumped in the shower for five minutes and then my midwife checked me. By this time I was being sick and felt shaky, so we assumed I was probably in transition. But then my cervix turned out only to be about 3.5-4cm dilated. We checked for the heartbeat again and midwife thought she could still hear it...but all I heard was feedback...

We raced to the hospital at high speed - got there about 18 minutes later. I felt a kick on the way. The sun was rising ahead of the car and the sky was pink; red; orange and purple in a yellow liquid balm. The sunrise was bittersweet, because I knew that at the same time, something was ending. My midwife called ahead, and they were ready when I arrived.

I walked into the ER and thought my water had broken...but looked down and saw blood everywhere and realized very quickly what had been going on. I was ushered through the double doors and put on a gurney, wheeled into the OR and then everything went to hell. Nobody could find Josie's heartbeat - feedback was all I heard on the doppler and the ultrasound...I knew she'd gone, but nobody would tell me. There were people everywhere. Someone took my pants off and my OB gave my the most painful internal exam ever. At the same time there were two people - one on the left, one on the right, simultaneously trying to get veins and not having any luck. My blood pressure was down and the IV finally went into the left side at the elbow, blood came out of the right. The anesthetist was telling me to suck in the oxygen - that it would be good for me and the baby. I kept asking about my baby. They wanted me to keep still and decided to put me under general. They put the meds in my IV and down I went.

I woke up about an hour later. Everything was hazy as hell - I had no idea of anything except "where is my baby - is she okay?" and no-one would tell me. Finally I saw H, and he was crying. My midwife was also crying and she let me know in so many words that Josie had died.

My word just exploded at that moment into a million pieces - I kind of tilted my head back and just lost it. I asked what heppened and they said "a placental abruption". I wanted to know why, and they said nobody knew but if I'd been doing cocaine, that would have caused it! Of course I said "WHAT?" and just looked completely flabbergasted that anyone could ever think that, but the comment was hastily followed by "oh - oh no I didn't mean you - just that that would be one of the circumstances under which the risk would increase". Amazing what they'll say at a time like that...

They asked if we wanted to see her. I was so high on post-meds and morphine I said "wait..." - just had to take the situation in. Time passed so quickly. I was saying sorry over and over to Harry for letting our baby die...of course he was crying and holding my hand and saying it wasn't my fault. After what I thought was ten minutes but was actually 40, I wanted to see my baby ad suddenly it occurred to me that she was alone and cold all by herself somewhere.

Josie was brought to us, and she was the most gorgeous thing I'd ever seen in my life. God - she was so beautiful. I took her and held her sitting there in bed...she was 19.5 inches long and 6lb 6oz of perfection, born at 37 weeks and 4 days on October 10th at 7.54am... She was wrapped in hat actually looked like a bar towel - with green stripes along the edges. Se had a little pink hat on. She was still a little pink - just looked like she was sleeping. Had a little band aid on her hand where they'd tried to get in with an IV and had managed it, trying to revive her for twenty minutes. She had hair like a monk - short on top, long around the sides and so, so black. I opened her eyes an they were so dark, looking at me. She had long feet and pretty hands - toes almost identical to mine only tiny. Her little nose..her little mouth....just faint little eyebrows...chest...teeny butt...I looked at every single part of her and she was just amazing. Miraculous. Beautiful as the most beautiful sunrise I ever saw. And that's when she was born - just after sunrise.

We held her, undressed her, rocked her, kissed her, stroked her little head...H held her, my lovely midwife (who I just adore) held her later on, and then came the family. My gorgeous stepdaughter A held her (she is seven) and her brother, the handsome and strong D (aged five) touched her but didn't want to hold her - he was so very sad. Grandma held her. Auntie B held her. The phone calls started just after I came out of the operating room. My family called from England - my mother, my father, my sister, my brother...everyone. I was so sorry she'd died and apologize to everyone over and over again. Of course they all soothed me and shushed me... Local people called - people I'd never even friends and family...

They took Josie for pictures at about 10.30am or so. They cut a lock of her hair; took her hand and feet and cast them for us (we received the casts about seven days later - perfect little replicas of her hands and feet). Later we got a memory box full of lovely things. We got her back again a little while later.

What I didn't know was that the crash cart was parked outside my hospital room all the way through the day and half of the next. I had no idea that the monitors were anything more than normal after a cesarean, but they had essentially moved life support into the maternity ward and had me hooked to all the intensive care machines. They were very unsure if I would survive. Josie's placenta had come off completely and the bleeding had been hidden until the very last moment. They told me that had I been laboring in hospital, they were unsure if the outcome would have been any different - they said she probably would have died anyway. But, the feeling I had been feeling, like a peak contraction all that time, had been the placenta coming away and me essentially hemorrhaging to death. I'd lost half or more of my blood volume. Nothing could have foreseen any of it, but the people were all there to make sure that if I died, they'd had the chance to say goodbye - but also, to try to keep me from losing hope and give me reasons to continue living.

I had no intention of dying or giving up! I knew that - I didn't want to die. I didn't know what they were assuming though, so didn't tell anyone I didn't want to die! I ended up with two blood transfusions - one on the first day, one on the second.

I held Josie and had her with me overnight as well. Just me, and her, and the morphine which I could pump twice in ten minutes and which would knock me out for about two hours. That's how I got through the first night - I just kept on with the morphine and held my baby in my left arm, snuggled against my body. They wanted me to get up and walk and I managed to get up, but them immediately hemorrhaged all over the floor again, so they nervously laid me on my left side and didn't let me move for a few hours. Finally, at 10.30am the next morning, the funeral home (a lovely man who almost couldn't hold it together) came and took her. I asked the man to take good care of her, and he cradled her like a living newborn and said that he would. His face was all concentrated and I could tell he was finding it hard to compose himself. He wore a suit. They were very kind to us - they charged us $100 for everything - not the thousands they would for a normal funeral.

I went home on the Sunday (12th) - they released me because I'd come up very quickly after the first day and a half and they didn't want me being in a place that reminded me of losing her. She was buried on the 13th, at 4pm. They'd put makeup on her in the funeral home of course, and though she was still so pretty, she was gone - I'd said goodbye to her in the hospital. I did give her a kiss though. H carried the little white box to the grave site, from the car - I never respected someone so much in my life as I did him, at that moment. I remember a casket like that when my baby brother died - also, ironically, from a placental abruption at 34 weeks back in 1986.

And so my Josie was born. And my life changed completely. You'd think perhaps life would have ended, but it didn't - it went on. My choices then were all to dow with how it went on. Did I want to let go of everything completely, or did I want to continue living? These choices were huge and had to be made immediately and every day for many days afterward.

So that is how it started. And here I sit, just a little over two months later - still alive; still creating and loving and seeing the future more clearly every day.

And here is my baby girl...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The very first post.

Well here we are. I am blogging, just like almost everyone else out there.

But in an era in which is seems the art of conversation is dying, maybe blogging is the way to go. It used to be that friends would meet up and talk about all sorts of interesting things - but there are times I feel that we are all far too busy to do anything like that, instead spending our time embedded in the grind of working for this corporation, or that corporation; worrying about how much the bonus is going to be; talking about business matters on the phone and generally spending far too much time not living, to worry about the fact that our lives are slipping away...over the horizon of forever...far beyond the reach of anything we could ever hope for again.

In short, what I am saying above is that I have made a conscious decision to stop wasting my life. To think more; love more; see more and feel even more than I ever did at any point in my life up to now. The reason for this sudden and fairly unusual (in the human race) turnabout, is something I will write about next. It's a bit of a shocking introduction but bear with me. Afterward, I will write about other things I have in myself that make me, me.