Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Nay, We Are Four!"

When I was pregnant with Hudson, I signed up for weekly emails from babycenter.com called “My Pregnancy This Week.” Each week, I received an email telling me what was going on in my belly, what my baby looked like that week, how things were growing, what things I might want to be thinking about. Once Hudson was born, the emails kept coming—I entered her name and birth date into my profile, and they began to send me weekly emails (“Your 6-month-old: Week 3) about what was going on with my baby developmentally, what questions I might have, and easy games to play with her.

After Hudson died, the emails kept coming. When the first one showed up, it was one of those bewildering moments where I did a double-take and wondered if it had really happened, if Hudson had really died. It didn’t take me long to go back to babycenter.com and stop the email notifications.

Once I found out I was pregnant again, I pretty much swore off “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” remembering how many ridiculous worst-case scenarios that book examines, and how much more worried it made me than anything else (see yesterday’s post for evidence that I do NOT need any more help with that). So I figured I’d sign up for the babycenter.com emails again, because usually they just told me about what was happening each week, without so much doom and gloom.

So I went back in and put in my estimated due date. So now, each week, I get an email with the subject “Your Pregnancy: 8 Weeks.” The email gives you just a little blurb, and then you click on a link that says “Read more about this week” to go to the website for more details.

Here’s what the website looks like when you get there (you may have to click on it to see it full-size):

You can imagine the first time I saw one of these several weeks ago. “Hudson (21 months)” on the right of the dateline. “Your Child (5 weeks)” on the left. “My Family” in the far right sidebar, with both children listed underneath, including some new tips about Hudson’s age and stage. I inhaled sharply and immediately started to cry. The last thing I wanted was a constant reminder of how old Hudson should be, all the things she should be doing right now, all the things she will never get to do.

So I tried to figure out if there was some way to remove Hudson’s name and progress from the date line. I’d gone through this before on Facebook. In the profile section there where you list “Children,” it only asks for a birth date, so that Facebook can keep your friends up to date about how old your kids are. It seemed way too sad, and somehow just wrong, to let Facebook continue to track the progress of her age when she would never age past 17 months and 12 days. There was no way to put in a death date, and I certainly couldn’t just delete her. I ultimately just removed her birth date altogether, and in the spot where I listed her name, I listed in parenthesis the dates of her birth and death.

No such luck on babycenter.com. Not that I fault the website for having no mechanism for a mom to annotate the death of her child—there seems little reason to, and we live in such a death-denying culture anyway, particularly when it comes to the death of a child. But my only editing option was “Remove.” Remove? REMOVE? How can I REMOVE Hudson from “My Family”? I know it may seem ridiculous to put so much stock in these symbolic gestures, but in my shoes, it feels so much more than symbolic. My only other option would be to create an entirely new account with only the new baby’s information in it, but symbolically, this is no different than “removing” Hudson—either option results in a “My Family” that doesn’t have her in it. As if we’ve just erased her and started all over again. As if those glorious 17 months and 12 days with our precious, amazing, beautiful child never happened. No way.

So I’ve just left it like it is for now. Today when I saw it, it seemed to hurt a little less, but that’s probably just the day. I even clicked on the link to (22 months) to see what was there. Glutton for punishment, I guess.

Jess told me a poignant story the other day about picking her three-year-old son, Elliot, up at daycare and seeing a family tree he’d made. It included his mom, dad, brother, and all four grandparents, including his Grammy Toad, Jess’s mother who died suddenly about 6 weeks before Elliot was born, so Elliot never met her. Elliot said to Jess, “Grammy Toad died but we still love her, so she’s still our family.”  Jess thought about Hudson’s little sibling saying the same thing in a few years.  Out of the mouths of babes.

A thoughtful reader posted a poem as a comment a few weeks ago. It hasn’t left my mind and I wanted to share it with everyone. It seems appropriate today.

“We are Seven” by William Wordsworth

A Simple Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage Girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
Her beauty made me glad.

"Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be?"
"How many? Seven in all," she said
And wondering looked at me.

"And where are they? I pray you tell."
She answered, "Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.

"Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother."

"You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet ye are seven!--I pray you tell,
Sweet Maid, how this may be."

Then did the little Maid reply,
"Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree."

"You run above, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five."

"Their graves are green, they may be seen,"
The little Maid replied,
"Twelve steps or more from my mother's door,
And they are side by side.

"My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.

"And often after sun-set, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.

"The first that died was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.

"So in the church-yard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.

"And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side."

"How many are you, then," said I,
"If they two are in heaven?"
Quick was the little Maid's reply,
"O Master! we are seven."

"But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!"
'Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, "Nay, we are seven!"


  1. Mandy--
    I'm so glad you discovered this poem. I have a friend from high school who died in a tragic accident 4 years ago, and one of his 3 remaining siblings, his sister (who is also my friend) has had this up on her Facebook post since he died. The first time I read it I found it very poignant, but perfect for her family. Because there are 4 siblings in her family and there always will be.

    Fast forward to your post about your new little one who is on the way, and this poem immediately flashed into my mind, and how it would have so much meaning for the new baby in your belly once he/she were older. I almost sent it to you at that instant, but I forgot. I'm glad you discovered it anyways.

    Thinking of you, as always.

  2. When we were in the hospital yesterday, MaTante asked the nurse how many children she had. Without missing a beat she said "My oldest is 26, my baby is 19 and my middle boy will forever be 20 to me, but he's had 4 birthdays with the Lord." She said it so elegantly and sweetly that I knew she had found her way of answering the dreaded question, and was so comfortable with it now that it put everyone at ease. I thought of you, and hope you find your way, too. Hudson will always be a part of your family, and nothing can change that.

  3. Earlier you wrote of having a two and a half year time-line between Hudson and Tiny Baby HItchcock-Chaney. I applaud your decision to leave the progresso'meter up for now. I think it is tracking a lot more than just what would have been.

    In the context of including Hudson in your lives as you go forward, the time-line keeper hits a distinctly magical (though bitter-sweet) note, because her place is literally marked in time along with yours and the little Butterbean's.

    On the other hand, I see how tough it is to maintain balance in the struggle between constant painful reminders and the need to never forget.

    I hope her name being up there as part of the whole process will help bring some truce.

    "Nay, we are four!" Indeed.

  4. Nay, you ARE four, and you always will be. That Wordsworth, he always knows just what to say.

    What's funny about this post to me is that I actually deleted my entire babycenter account (not an easy feat) because it wouldn't let me alter the things I needed to alter. Ironic,yes?

  5. Nay you are four, and perhaps the future of more. Hudson remains with us always. Renee

  6. Four you are and four you shall be unless you choose to increase that down the road. Hudson cannot be erased by something as simple (and horrible) as death. Her spirit, her heart, her soul live on through her wonderful and loving parents, her family (present and future) and the large community of friends who surround her. Wishing it were different, but hoping for so much joy to come,

  7. I knew as soon as I read the first sentence where this was going because I used the same tool for my last pregnancy and have older children as well. I applaud your decision to leave Hudson's info on Babycenter. You are still 4, indeed.

  8. I love that Wordsworth poem.

    This post hit home. Sadly, many people I encounter refer to my son as my third child. Even the L&D nurse during Ryan's delivery kept referring to this as my third delivery (and I had JUST told her that our third child died in infancy). I don't know if this sort of behavior is a reflection of our society's complete denial of death and particularly the death of children, or that people are just idiots and don't really listen. Probably both.

    Anyway, Hudson will always be your first. Don't let the world forget that.


  9. It's rather harsh that a dead child is not an option at babycenter.com. They live and thrive or they disappear?

    Not cool.

  10. Mandy, what a beautiful post. I see light coming from the darkness, and your babies are revealing it to you. When asked about my children, I begin with my oldest and then share about losing Joe in Afghanistan. I feel responsible for moving the conversation along and will then talk about his little girl. Hudson will be a part of you and Ed and every one of your children forever...that's the ONE GOOD THING! Love, Helen

  11. Wow that's a beautiful poem. Hang in there Mandy-just keep reminind yourself how hard the beginning of pregnancy is - I'm sure it is making everything more difficult to bare. But it will get better. And as far as number #2 is concerned, I prefer to think that she feels all your love for hudson - not the grief.

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this poem - it's amazing. I love how fiercely loyal, incredibly persistant, determinedly loving, and wise beyond her years that "Simple Child" is. I know someday this little one you're growing will correct a daft stranger's assumptions and take pride in acknowledging his or her love for big sister Hudson. Your deep love for Hudson is such a wonderful gift that you can share with this new little person.

    I had the same experience receiving emails from babycenter.com after Naveen died. I didn't think about what would happen in subsequent pregnancy - just like you, there's no way I'd be willing to remove him either. I'm sorry you were faced with that extra painful reminder but inspired by how you responded to it. As always, I'm so impressed by the amazing job you are doing on this journey that no one should have to endure.

  13. Having once been in your shoes I can appreciate all the encounters with heartache that ordinary (to other people) things can bring. Blessings to you on this difficult journey. (from a friend of Melynn)

  14. Mandy,
    It is not too much not to want to "remove" Hudson. She will forever be a part of your family, nothing will change that.

    I also met the wonderful nurse that Dabney spoke of in her comment. (MaTante often forgot who she had spoken to, so I guess she asked this poor woman the same question more than once). But she asked "how many children do you have?" The nurse answered "I have 3, 2 are with me and one is with the Lord." I thought it was a thoughtful way to answer a hard question.