Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday Memories Do-Over

I’m reposting these videos as links from YouTube—apparently my newfound love of Google Video is misplaced, since many of you reported that you couldn’t watch them.  And if you’ve already seen them, you can look at them again if you’d like.  I can’t get enough of them myself.   

Christmas with Hudson: 2008 and 2009

Hudson’s First (Sort of) Steps

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

Well, our trip to Paris has served its primary purpose: taking some of the sting out of what I knew would be terrible pain during this Christmas holiday. We arrived in Paris on Christmas morning, but we’d never have known it given all the hustle and bustle of this major European metropolis that does not really even stop for Christmas.

But as so many of you seemed to anticipate with your comments and well-wishes (I hope Paris will make Christmas a little less painful...), this trip has been little more than that—a brief, and inadequate, distraction. I cannot shake the sense that we should not be here, that we should be at home in North Carolina, still enjoying the remnants of a white Christmas with our snow-loving child (seriously, hearing about the snow on Christmas Day felt like the biggest middle finger the universe could have flipped us right now). As I told Jessica in an email earlier this week, this all just feels like a grand charade. Just as the city itself puts on a big show of lights and sparkly things at Christmas to try to liven up the dreary gray of urban winter, so too, am I putting on a show of going on a “vacation” that is no more than a predictably futile attempt at escape.

And good grief, there are children everywhere. Not that I expected this vacation to be child-free, but I just wasn’t thinking too hard about the fact that I was coming to a city where 2 million people are also raising kids, not to mention all the tourists who have come here to celebrate their holidays with their little ones. And while we would never have brought Hudson on this kind of trip at her young age, I am still filled with longing as I see parents toting their exhausted little toddlers in their arms or holding sleeping children in their laps while the rest of the family tours an exhibit. I have never wanted to have tired, aching arms from carrying a child so much in my entire life. My arms ache for the lack of ache. And seeing children of so many ages touring the city with their parents hurts, too—watching the different ways they interact at age 4, age 10, age 13 only reminds me over and over that we will never know Hudson at these ages, will never get to show her the wonders of Paris or any other such place. She is everywhere we look and yet she is not here.  We’re not Catholic, or even religious, but we lit a candle for Hudson inside Notre Dame and cried—it was all we could do.

This is not to say that I have not enjoyed anything—I have. The city is old and beautiful and enchanting—it just doesn’t have the kind of spells I need. Nothing looks like it should. Nothing feels like it should. Everything has a dull finish to it. I wrote before that I am fundamentally altered—being in another city across the ocean doesn’t change that. The old me would have wanted to document this trip in words and tons of photos. Now it’s the best I can do to hold feebly still while Ed takes pictures (an art in which he still finds meaning and joy), dreading the expression I know I will see on my face when I look at the resulting image. I am not myself. And I hate looking at these pictures of myself, because I can see and feel the pain and effort behind the expression. It is effort that I have never before had to muster for a photo in my entire life. And it hurts to look at that.

I feel ridiculous and terribly ungrateful to have this opportunity that many may never have in their lives and yet be so morose, but as I have learned during this course of this terrible journey, the grief will be what it will be. And all I can do is let it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

30 Days of Thanks—Day #30

I am grateful to be leaving for Paris this afternoon, to have the means to do so, and to have a family who understands my choice, even if it makes them sad. When we first made the decision to go, I was torn about it. Our departure day is here, and while I feel some regret that I will not be with my family opening presents tomorrow, I know that we absolutely made the right decision. Although this trip doesn’t magically turn Christmas into “just another day,” I’ve at least been able to avoid spending this entire week filled with dread and sorrow in anticipation of a Christmas celebration without Hudson. Tomorrow will still be sad—how could it not be? But it will be sad in a different way, I hope, than just biting my lip and staring into the giant hole where Hudson should be with her cousins on Christmas morning. I hope.
And that’s my 30 Days of Thanks.

It’s hard to know how to wrap up this 30-day exercise. Like so much of the time since Hudson died, these past 30 days seem to have both crawled and flown by (but honestly, they have mostly crawled). I began my 30 Days of Thanks in search of healing during what I knew would be an incredibly difficult time. This time has been even more difficult than I thought it would be (despite the time and energy I spent trying to “prepare” myself), but deliberately engaging in exercises in gratitude has been tremendously helpful. It has not been easy to find something to be grateful for every day, for which I feel a little bit ashamed. Having lost my child, there are many days where it is so much easier to focus on all that is missing from our lives—indeed, there are many days where it is difficult to see much else. Which is exactly why I gave myself this assignment. Because I know that even though our loss is immeasurable, irreparable, and still unimaginable, I also know that we remain so incredibly fortunate in so many ways. Primary among them is that we got to have Hudson in our lives at all—even though we were allowed far too short a time with her, I would not trade a single second of that time to be rid of this pain. It is the deep and abiding joy we experienced with Hudson and the deep and abiding love that we felt for her that make this grief so very excruciating. But there’s still my joy. There’s still my joy.

I can’t wrap up this exercise, done during the time for giving thanks and celebrating family, friends, and love, without saying again how grateful we are for all the love, support, and friendship that we have received from so many people all over the world, known and unknown to us. You have sustained us in every way, picked us up over and over when we have fallen in our grief, and most importantly, helped us keep our precious girl’s memory, spirit, and light alive in the world that she loved so much. For every person who has ever read an entry here, who has ever left a comment or sent us a message or gift of any kind, who has ever thought of us or of Hudson even in a passing moment, who has kept Hudson alive in their hearts or in other ways, for each and every one of you, I am grateful. I think I said long ago that I needed a new word for “grateful,” but I hope that it adequately conveys how I feel. Because of you, I am alive. Because of you, I have survived what seemed unsurvivable. Because of you, Hudson’s sweet spirit will live on forever.

Thank you.  And Happy Holidays. 

First (Sort Of) Steps

Hudson took her actual first steps on Thanksgiving Day 2009, a few days before her first birthday. And then for the next four weeks, she showed no further interest in walking whatsoever. Maybe she just decided she wanted to spend a little more time in Mom and Dad’s arms before taking off. But on Christmas Eve, again at her grandma and grandpa’s house, she took some more steps, and this time she meant business. We weren’t ready with the camera right at that moment, but this video was taken the day after Christmas at Poppy’s  (her other grandfather) house.

She was ready to go, as you can see. So proud of herself and excited to explore her new skill.

I miss her so much—all the milestones we’ll never see feel so very heavy right now.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

30 Days of Thanks—Day #29

After I posted yesterday’s slide show, I realized how lucky we are to have thousands of images of our girl, starting from the day she was born. Our camera has a continuous shot function that basically allows us to take the equivalent of a video in still shots, which means that we were able to capture all of Hudson’s many, many expressions in photos, and as you can tell from the relatively few I have posted on this blog, our child had an incredibly expressive face. Each month, as I culled through the hundreds of shots we took at different times (often that continuous shot function would result in 50 photos from a 30-second timeframe), I had terrible difficulty deciding which ones to pull out to post on Facebook, because to me, they were all different and they were all precious. Even then, I often posted 5 or 10 photos of the same pose because I just could not choose. Now, of course, they are more precious than they should ever be. But I am so grateful that in addition to all my favorite images—the ones I’ve posted here, the ones we have framed all over the house, the ones I keep as the wallpaper on my computer, the ones I use whenever I change my profile picture on Facebook—in addition to all those, I can sit and look through thousands of photos of my girl making thousands of different expressions.

Her beautiful face is indelibly seared into my brain—I can call it to mind any time (in fact, it rarely leaves my mind), but I am so lucky to be able to gaze upon it in all its many glorious forms with the simple touch of a button.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

30 Days of Thanks—Day #28

I’m grateful for those things that come along right when I need them.

Earlier today, I was thinking about what I was going to write about tonight, not the daily gratitude post, but a separate post I was going to call “Those Happy Days.” The other day, I sent a Facebook message to an old friend. The last message I’d sent him was a year ago, December 4, 2009. We were catching up for the first time after many years, and I wrote, “How are you? I am about as good as I could possibly imagine,” and then proceeded to tell him all about Ed and Hudson.

I was so struck by this when I read it again. How much can change in a year. And what I’ve been thinking about since I read it is the fact that I won’t ever be able to say that again, because for the rest of my life, there will always be someone missing. There will always be a way that I could imagine my life being better, if it only had my oldest child in it again. I was feeling so sad about this today, because it is still a reality I have difficulty facing. It makes me so angry to not even be 35 years old and to be able to say with absolute certainty that my happiest times are already behind me. I know there is so much joy still to come, more joy than I can imagine right now, but I also know that that joy will always be tempered somewhat. Because it will live side-by-side with this terrible pain for the rest of my life. It is an awful truth.

As I was getting ready to write about this tonight, I got an email from Jessica’s cousin Deedee (over the course of our friendship, I have grown pretty close to many of Jessica’s cousins—Jessica’s other cousin Caroline, along with Deedee and Deedee’s mother and sister, basically planned and executed Hudson’s entire memorial service in North Carolina, a task for which no one in my family was equipped, and one for which we will always be deeply grateful). In it, she told me about a song on the new Indigo Girls holiday album. “There’s Still My Joy” was written by Melissa Manchester, but this cover is extremely powerful. Although the “tiny child” Manchester wrote about was most certainly Jesus, this song has an entirely different meaning for me.  You will see why when you listen and read the lyrics.

So I’m grateful to Deedee (maybe Jessica’s ESP extends to her entire family when it comes to things I might need) for this much-needed reminder that although the happiest times in my life may in fact be behind me, there’s still my joy: the joy of my memories with our amazing oldest daughter Hudson and the joy our future children will bring us.

There’s Still My Joy

I took my tree down to the shore
The garland, and the silver star
To find my peace, and grieve no more
To heal this place inside my heart

On every branch I laid some bread
And hungry birds filled up the sky
They rang like bells around my head
They sang my spirit back to life

One tiny child can change the world
One shining light can show the way
For all my tears, for what I've lost
There’s still my joy
There’s still my joy
For Christmas day

The snow comes down on empty sand
There’s tinsel moonlight on the waves
My soul was lost, but here I am
So this must be amazing grace
One tiny child can change the world
One shining light can show the way

Beyond my tears for what I've lost
There’s still my joy
There’s still my joy
For Christmas day
There’s still my joy for Christmas day
There’s still my joy. 

Hudson’s many faces in her Christmas dress for the one-year turtle pics

There’s still my joy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hudson’s Room

It won’t be Hudson’s room for much longer. I am finally being forced to start coming to terms with that. If the world were a different place, if this terrible thing had never happened, it still wouldn’t be Hudson’s room for much longer—we’d be preparing to move her into a new room of her own so that her little brother or sister could move into the once-again nursery in a few months. But oh, how different that change would be. That would be a graduation, whereas this is just… I don’t know what this is. As much as I don’t want it to feel like a replacement, that is what it feels like nonetheless, even though I know in my heart that is not what it is, nor what it could ever be.

We’ve done nothing to Hudson’s room except move a few of her toys in there. Her clothes are still folded up in her drawers and hanging in her closet. Her diapers and wipes and cream are still in a basket at the end of the changing table. Her books are still on their shelf at the end of the crib. We haven’t emptied the clothes hamper, which still holds the fuzzy pajamas in which she woke up early on Mother’s Day, burning up with a fever, and the outfits she wore the few days before that and on Mother’s Day itself. (The clothes she wore on Monday, the day she was admitted to the hospital, a pair of pants with whales on them, a light blue top, socks and her tennis shoes, are still in the diaper bag they came home in, which is still under the table in Hudson’s playroom where her ashes sit with her Elmo and other toys, books, and pictures. Every so often, I open the diaper bag and pull the clothes out, pass them from hand to hand, wondering what the hell happened here. I haven’t been able to bring myself to do anything but put them back in the diaper bag and put the bag back under the table.) We haven’t even emptied the humidifier of the water that was in its tank. I do go in there fairly often just to sit, or cry, or talk to her, or run my fingers over the crib rails, or lean over into the crib and pat her bears, just like I used to pat her when I would say goodnight. I just don’t move anything anywhere.

Conventional wisdom is that it is “unhealthy” for bereaved parents to keep a “shrine” to their children. I’ve certainly heard stories of parents who have kept their children’s rooms unchanged for the rest of their lives. I have no idea whether this is “unhealthy” (or what that even means in this context), nor would I ever make such a judgment about how any parent decided to honor their child’s memory or deal with their grief, but I absolutely understand the instinct to leave everything completely untouched. My general plan in all this was to leave Hudson’s room as it was until there was a reason to do something different, which most likely would mean making room for another baby. Once we actually got pregnant, I decided I could put it off until we found out whether we were having a boy or a girl, at which point, if we were having a boy, we could go ahead and pack all of Hudson’s girl clothes away, hopefully for another little girl down the road, or, if we were having a girl, we could sort them into age piles and put the infant clothes back into the drawers again.

We’re now two weeks away from finding out what we’re having. I know there is nothing about that day that means I all of sudden have to pack up Hudson’s room, but the inevitable is still looming out there. Once we started receiving gifts for the Penguin, I was purposely avoiding putting them in Hudson’s room, as if once we started doing that, it was just a long slippery slope of changing it into a room for a different child. But then Ed put one of the outfits in there, which broke the ice for me, I guess. So this weekend, I pulled together all the penguin outfits we’d received, along with the ones I’d bought from Gymboree (which ultimately I didn’t even want to go through—I realized I didn’t want to risk getting too excited about the adorable little girl clothes unless there ends up being a reason to, so all but one of the outfits, which is unisex, is still sitting unwrapped in the box), and went to put them in Hudson’s room. I put the Gymboree box on the floor but wasn’t sure what to do with the other clothes. I couldn’t put them in the drawers yet, because the drawers are still full. The changing pad still had the same cover and waterproof pad on it that were there on May 10, the last day they were used. I pulled them off and threw them in the hamper and then laid the new outfits on top of the bare changing pad.

And then I ran out, sobbing. Putting the new baby’s things into Hudson’s room is a very tangible beginning to accepting that a new baby will live there and Hudson will not. Hudson won’t live anywhere in our home again, at least not physically. Our two babies will never know each other, at least not here on the earth.

Even though the time will come very soon when I will have no choice but to accept this reality, I’m just not ready. Not yet.

30 Days of Thanks—Day #27

I’m grateful that after a week of anti-inflammatories, Bess’s tail has gotten much better. The vet was very pleased at her checkup tonight. Fingers crossed that it keeps improving and she gets all the way back to her old, windmill-tail self. 

If only healing our hearts were so easy.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Party

This afternoon was the law school holiday party. I got the invitation several weeks ago, asking me to RSVP with the number of children who would be attending from my family, and their ages, because Santa would be making a visit from the North Pole. I ignored the invitation (as I had already done for the law school Halloween trick-or-treat—it is so bizarre to wish that Hudson were here for these events, because if Hudson were still here, I would never have quit my old job and wouldn’t even be working at the law school). But then I got an email last week asking me if I was planning to attend. I wanted to ignore that, too, but had to respond that we couldn’t make it (which was, of course, not true).

The party started at 4, which is the time I usually leave. I had totally forgotten that it was even happening until I ran to the bathroom before packing up to leave and heard the Christmas carols wafting down from the atrium upstairs. I went back to my office, packed up my things, and put on my coat and hat. As I was leaving, I said my customary goodnight to the others in the office, and my boss said, “You’re not going upstairs?” I had not exactly been prepared to answer questions about the party. I said, “No, I’m not much for holiday parties.” And then I thought, “Well, that doesn’t sound right. I used to love holiday parties.” Before I could stop myself, I blurted out to all three people still there, “Well, not this year, at least. Not when there’s going to be a Santa and small children.” No one really said anything. One coworker asked if I’d be in on Wednesday (she only works Mondays and Wednesdays), and I said I would, and then we all said goodnight again.

After I left, I felt awful for having said that. I generally hate putting people on the spot, and I would never purposely want to make anyone feel bad for saying something without thinking. And yet, because I came to that office four months after Hudson died, I feel like no one there really gets it (with the exception of the person who hired me—I cried in her office during the interview and even though she’s moved to a different position and is not the boss anymore, she still regularly asks me how I am doing). I feel like, to them, Hudson’s death was just an event that happened sometime in the past, before they knew me. I guess I feel like maybe they don’t understand how much of an effect it still has on me, how hard it is for me to get up and go there every day, where every single one of my colleagues has children, most of them little, and I have to listen to them talk about what their kids are doing, or even meet them when they bring them in. So in that instant, I guess I just wanted to remind them that my incredible child died only 7 months ago and even though I am pregnant again, now visibly so, and even though I can put on a pretty good front most of the time so that no one has to feel uncomfortable around me, I am still really, really hurting in this world without my little girl.

Again, this is where a sign around my neck would really come in handy.

30 Days of Thanks—Day #26

I am grateful that my belly has finally popped just a little bit. Apparently, I’m in that stage where I’m big enough that people notice but not so big that they are willing to ask—i.e., the stage where I just look a tad pudgy around the middle. But that’s OK with me. I just like the feeling I get when I walk by the mirror or look down and can actually see where the Penguin is growing. I’m glad for those moments that help it feel more real and not quite so far away, those moments when I can look ahead and smile, even for a instant, even if it is through tears.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

30 Days of Thanks—Day #25

I am grateful for my mother’s life.

My mother, Carolyn Hudson Hitchcock, died on this day 8 years ago, just 8 months after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. She was 57 years old. I was 26. The picture above was taken Mother’s Day weekend 2002, a few weeks after her diagnosis. I had come to visit and saw her for the first time since we learned the news. On one of the days I was there, she got violently ill and could not stop vomiting, so I had to take her to the hospital, where she stayed for a day or two until they could get her symptoms under control. I hung the yellow streamer over the fireplace to welcome her home. She hated having her picture taken (this is one of only a handful I have of the two of us together), but I think she gave in for this one because she knew I would have a limited number of opportunities left to take pictures with her.

Six months later, I visited my parents for Thanksgiving in 2002, and ended up staying there with my oldest sister, Diane, for the next three weeks, helping my dad take care of my mom during her final days. Until this year, those were probably the hardest days of my life. My mom and I had a difficult relationship, but at its core were two women who loved one another deeply. I counted on her more than I ever cared to admit. I was not prepared to figure out how to grow up the rest of the way without her. Although it happens rarely now, there are still moments when I wish I could pick up the phone and call her, including this past Mother’s Day, when I could not seem to get Hudson’s fever under control and didn’t know what to do.

Before Hudson was born, I wrote about my as-yet-unresolved feelings about becoming a mother without a mother of my own, particularly when my feelings about my relationship with my own mother and her death were also still unresolved. Two years later, those feelings are still unresolved. I don’t know how long they will remain unresolved, although during the short time I was given to mother my daughter, I definitely began to develop more confidence that I would be able to be the mother that I had always wanted to have. But Hudson was a most easygoing toddler—she was very easy to mother. I didn’t get the chance to mother her into her teenage years and adulthood—I guess that would have been the real test. As I wrote before, my mother taught me by example a lot about mothering, both about what to do and what not to do. My hope was that when it was my turn, I would know the difference and be able to do a lot more of the former than the latter.

After my mother died at such a young age (relatively speaking, at least), my biggest fear became that I would also die young and leave my children bereft of their mother, perhaps at even a younger age than I lost my mother. I certainly never dreamed, ever in a million years, that I would face something worse than leaving my own children motherless (leaving Hudson motherless would have been awful, but at least she would have been given the chance to grow up in that case). I never dreamed that only seven and a half years after holding my mother’s hand as she died, I would hold my small, beautiful daughter in my arms as she died. All before I turned 35 years old.

I have no sense of what kind of companion my mother would have been in this grief—she had a lot of trouble managing intense and difficult emotions, including her own. But I feel pretty sure that having a mother around when something like this happens would be better than not having one. I suppose all that is left for me is to try to find some comfort in the idea that maybe my mother and Hudson are together somewhere, the grandmother and grandchild who never got a chance to meet on earth. Since my mom can’t be here to take care of me and since I can’t be there to care of Hudson, all I can do is hope that my mother is somewhere where she can take care of me by taking care of Hudson for me.

Even though this is supposed to be a gratitude post, I can’t help but wish we were all just here together.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

30 Days of Thanks—Day #24

I am grateful for these little gifts for the Penguin and for the friends who sent them.  Thank you for helping us get excited about our new little one’s arrival even as we continue to grieve our sweet Hudson so terribly.  It really does help. 

From Keely

From Jake and Andrea

From Aunt Emily

From Lindsey

From Rebecca

From Jess

Also from Jess

From Kiva

From Dan and Eva

From Brandon

Thank you, friends. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

30 Days of Thanks—Day #23

I am grateful for my Ed.

I have been putting off this post because I knew that even with as much writing as I do, there was no way I would ever be able to express in words how grateful I am to have Ed in my life and why.

Neither of us was looking for the other, or for anyone at all, when we found each other. We’d met in passing ten years before and neither of us had given the other a second thought in the meantime. When we met again, if anything our relationship came at a most inconvenient time. I was in the process of ending a marriage, he was ending a semi-serious relationship, and we were in the boiler room that is the first year of law school. As my first marriage came to a sad but amicable conclusion after six years, I feared what fate lay in store for a 28-year-old divorcee. The very idea of having to introduce myself to anyone and explain that I was divorced made me cringe. Ed, having endured the ending of a marriage himself (as well as the death of his mother), was a good and true friend through this process. And as our friendship rapidly and very naturally turned into something more, he taught me so many things: how to laugh again when everything seemed so very sad, how to dream about the future again when the future seemed so bleak, and how to open myself to love again when I wasn’t sure if I would be able to. He made me want to be a better person at every moment, and with him as a partner, I began the slow process of becoming the person I’d always wanted to be. That process is ongoing, as I still have infinite room to grow and become an ever-better version of myself, but in the meantime, I’m so grateful to have him by my side cheering me on every day.

While Hudson’s death has caused me to question everything I used to believe about how everything happens for a reason and how things that are meant to be will be, I have no doubt that Ed and I were meant to find one another at the time we did. Had we met earlier, had we not endured the events of our twenties before we met, we would never have been able to appreciate one another in the way that we do now.

That Ed was an incredible father hardly needs mentioning—anyone who reads this blog regularly already knows that, both from what I have described and from the many photos that demonstrate the very obvious love and affection that Ed and Hudson shared. I don’t know the intimate details of how other men parent, but it’s hard for me to imagine a father more engaged, more knowledgeable, and more in love with his child than Ed. Even though I was the “primary” caretaker (given that I was breastfeeding and working part-time), Ed was every bit as involved in Hudson’s life and care as I was. He was always eager to feed her (we called her breakfast every day “Daddy’s special”—a delightful combo of plain yogurt, smashed fruit, and baby oatmeal prepared with much love by Ed every morning), bathe her, put her to bed, spend time with her—ours was as shared a parenting relationship as a couple could have with a breastfeeding mother and a working father. Ed knew Hudson’s schedule and preferences and how to soothe her just as well as I did. And boy, did she love him, again, as is obvious in every photo ever taken of the two. She was a very, very lucky girl and her siblings will be just as lucky to have Ed as their daddy.

And now, as our ability to endure suffering is tested beyond the limits of what anyone should ever have to experience, we are only growing closer and stronger in our love. Although it is actually a myth that most couples end up divorcing after they lose a child (a terrible myth that is irresponsibly perpetuated in the media and popular culture), I never once had any doubt that we would survive this terrible thing. We grieve very differently to be sure (that men and women generally do so is NOT a myth), and it’s often hard for me that I continue to feeling so very fragile much of the time (this is also hard for Ed, who hates nothing more than to see me in pain, particularly when he can’t take it away). But we know ourselves and each other well enough, and more importantly, we love ourselves and each other well enough that we can give each other space when we need it or hold each other close when we need it, with no expectations of any “right” way to grieve our daughter’s death. It is not easy, and there are no doubt many more hard days ahead for us and our relationship as we learn to parent again after this loss, but I can’t imagine trying to do that with anyone else.

I am grateful for my Ed. If he had not taught me early on that we can still laugh when faced with sorrow, that we can still dream when dreaming seems futile, and most importantly, that our capacity for love is infinitely expansive, I don’t know how I would have ever lived through Hudson’s death, how I would still be living through this grief every day, or how I would ever be able to mother another child.

I love you so much, my dear husband, and am so very fortunate to have you.
The first picture we ever took together (October 2004)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

30 Days of Thanks—Day #22

I am grateful for the hundreds of cards and letters we’ve received since Hudson’s death. I spent several hours tonight going through them again—they are full of love, support, friendship, comforting words, beautiful images, poems, memories, personal stories of heartbreak, and stories of how our sweet Hudson has impacted so many lives. They come from all over the place, from all the corners and eras of our lives, and from many, many people we’ve never even met.

It brings me great comfort to know that on days when I need a tangible reminder of how many people our girl has touched, I have these beautiful pieces of paper that I can hold in my hands and open and close, and in them, I can read Hudson’s name over and over and feel her spirit as it continues to shape the world around me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Penguins and Turtles

I just learned that there is a name for the tight huddle that Emperor penguins form to keep one another warm in the frigid Antarctic.

Amazingly, it’s called “turtle formation.” 

Thanks to Krystin, a former colleague of Ed’s and a fan of the One Good Thing page, for this very meaningful tip. 

A Dog Without Her Tail

This is our Bess.

Bess came into our lives by a grand stroke of good fortune in September 2007, only a month or two after we said goodbye to two other beloved dogs, Franklin and Eleanor. She won us over so quickly with her loving demeanor, her laid-back manner, and her enthusiastic tail. Seriously, her tail is so much a part of her personality that when we were naming our “zoo” in our clever blog post announcing our pregnancy with Hudson, we called Bess “Princess Windmill de Rotten,” because her tail could practically generate power. She always wears it proudly, up high and curled back over her body, and waves it excitedly just about all the time. Her tail was often the unfortunate victim of an innocent grab by an unknowing little Hudson, but Bess just calmly walked out of reach whenever that happened. She was such a good friend to our sweet girl.

About a month ago, I took Bess for a walk and noticed that her tail was down, almost tucked under her bottom. When she crouched to poop, she yelped in pain. I was immediately concerned. We took her to the vet, who diagnosed a soft tissue trauma of some sort, and put her on anti-inflammatories. These worked for a while, but then she got worse again. So I took her to the vet again earlier this week. This time, she got a full work-up with x-rays and the whole nine yards and still, it looks like she only has soft tissue trauma, and perhaps re-injured her tail before it had fully recovered last time. So she’s back on anti-inflammatories and pain medication. I can’t tell you how sad it makes me to see her little tail tucked under like that. She just doesn’t seem like our Bess without her signature tail wag. But all we can do is wait and see if it gets better.

Why am I telling you all this on a blog about my grief? Because I looked at Bess the other day and she reminded me of myself. She’s still our Bess. She still loves to go for walks and curl up on our laps and prop her paws up on our knees for a scratch when we walk in the door, but she just doesn’t seem like herself. Without her tail to express herself, she seems fundamentally altered from the dog she is with it. Even she seems to know this, I think.

And that is how I feel. Like a dog without her tail. I am still me, but I am fundamentally altered. When Hudson died, I lost one of the most important parts of who I am—it is not my heart or lungs, or my arms or legs, or any of those other practical things that allow me to keep breathing and moving about in the world. But it is also something so essential to my being that one can’t help but notice how very different I am without it. I am just not myself, even though I am also still wholly myself. And while time and the love and support of so many people in our lives will eventually take away some of the rawness of the pain, I don’t have the hopes of a full recovery like our Bess does. No matter how much time goes by or how much I write or what I do or what happens to me, a part of me is fundamentally, irrevocably, and conspicuously changed forever.

No matter what, I will never again be the me I was before I lost my daughter.

30 Days of Thanks—Day #21

Today, on what seems like the umpteenth day of near-freezing temperatures and single-digit wind chills, I realized that I haven’t even expressed my gratitude for the basics. When it is this cold outside, and particularly when it is this cold for so many days and nights in a row, I can’t stop thinking about all the people in the world who don’t have a warm place to spend the day or sleep, all the people who, while I am putzing around on the internet, are trying to figure out where to spend the night or how to get some food or how to get clean.

I am so very grateful that I have never known want, not a single day of my life. I have never had to think about where I would eat or sleep or where I would get clothes or a bath. I have never been faced with the choice of whether to pay my electric bill or buy groceries.

I have been incredibly fortunate in so many ways, my entire life, but particularly where the basics are concerned. Tonight, when I crawl into my bed in my heated home and pull my sheet, my fleece blanket, and my comforter up over my shoulders, I will be thinking of all those who don’t have these comforts. And I will be grateful.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

30 Days of Thanks—Day #20

I am grateful for Jess. If you read here regularly at all, you will already know most of the reasons why, but if you don’t, you can read about her here and here. Today, I’m grateful for her because she always seems to know just what I need when I need it (even when she doesn’t necessarily know that she knows).

Yesterday, like I seem to do most days, I stood in front of Hudson’s picture and cried and told her that I really hope that she can hear me and that she knows how much I love and miss her. Later in the day, I received a package in the mail from Jessica that included two wind-up toys (a turtle and a penguin) and a beautiful children’s book. Her note said that before Hudson died, her plan had been to send Hudson a different book every year for Christmas, and that this year, she almost sent the book to Hudson’s library collection, but decided that Ed and the Penguin and I needed it more.

The book is Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman. I was crying by the third page. I’m tempted to reproduce the words in their entirety here, but will leave it for you to enjoy with your children if you’d like. But I will include the few verses that touched me most deeply (and I hope that Ms. Tillman will forgive me for doing so).

And if someday you’re lonely,
or someday you’re sad,
or you strike out at baseball,
or think you’ve been bad…
just lift up your face, feel the wind in your hair.
That’s me, my sweet baby, my love is right there.

In the green of the grass…in the smell of the sea…
in the clouds floating by…at top of a tree…
in the sound crickets make at the end of the day…
“You are loved. You are loved. You are loved,” they all say.


You are my angel, my darling, my star…
and my love will find you, wherever you are.

It took me a whole day to realize that these words speak to me not only because I send them out to my sweet Hudson every day, but also because I want so much to believe that she is sending them back to me.

Thank you, my dear friend. I am so lucky to have you.

Monday, December 13, 2010

30 Days of Thanks—Day #19

I am grateful that after a harrowing 30 seconds (that seemed like several hours) this morning, the OB was able to locate the Penguin’s little heartbeat thumping away. I almost cried, I was so relieved (I’m sure that the OB, knowing our history, was probably pretty relieved, too). And I’m grateful that the 20-week anatomy scan (AKA the big boy/girl reveal) is in exactly 3 weeks (mark your calendars for January 3), and that I have a regular OB appointment one week after that, so I won’t have to wait quite as long this go round for an update on how things are going (and I have a week in Paris to distract me). Hopefully, by that time, I’ll be able to feel some movement, and thus will have some indicator that the Penguin is OK during the excruciatingly long four-week wait between OB appointments. (Of course, then begins an entirely different phase of paranoia about whether the Penguin is moving enough. Sigh.)

But today, that whoosh, whoosh, whoosh was the most welcome sound I could have imagined.

Seven Months: Remembering

Somehow seven months has not hit me as hard. I even had to remind myself that today was the day. Maybe it’s because after we hit six months, which seems longer than I can possibly imagine living without my daughter, seven months seems anti-climactic in its shadow. Maybe it’s because all of December has been so incredibly hard that there’s just no way that this particular day could possibly be any worse.

It’s been a difficult few days. It still amazes me the way the grief swings like it does. After Hudson’s birthday week, which was incredibly emotional from start to finish, I began to feel like I was recovering somewhat in the beginning part of last week. And then over the last few days, it just hit me again, but this time, more subtly. Spending two full days at home tends to highlight all that’s missing from our lives, I guess. Living without her just sucks. It absolutely sucks. Sometimes, there’s just no other way to say it.

Anyway, I haven’t felt a whole lot of inspiration to write, but today is a remembering day. I’ve done an enormous amount of remembering this month already, both here on the blog and in real life. Making our holiday cards entailed going through lots and lots of pictures trying to decide which ones to include. Same with decorating the tree—we bought several ornament frames to hang her pictures on what is essentially a 2-foot memorial Christmas tree, full of turtle ornaments, Hudson’s pictures, and a few other ornaments that remind us of others in our lives we’ve lost. Because we couldn’t have a tree without a little bit of hope, there are also several penguin ornaments (a few of which we already had) and a pewter star that reads “Hope.” Lots of remembering already done, and more still to be done with Christmas coming up next week.

So once again, I’ll let a few pictures tell a sweet story of Hudson’s first real snow fun (her first snow day was actually in March 2009, when she was only three months old, so she couldn’t really play in it). It was apropos that when I woke up this morning, the back porch and entire back yard were lightly dusted with snow, since this is what I was already going to post about today. Maybe another little sign from my girl. As you will see, here and later in January and February, when I post even better snow play memories, she was a snow-lover, just like her mama.

And finally, because it is a precious December memory, and because, amazingly, it was taken exactly one year ago today, on December 13, 2009, and most importantly, because it reveals, again, what a beautiful and loving child our girl was, here’s a little video memory treat (with Uncle Jason laughing in the background):

Loving you and just missing you so very much, my girl.  Wishing with all my might that you were here to blow me a sweet kiss right now.