Sunday, October 31, 2010

And Here's Another One For Good Measure

Not in Halloween costumes, but taken on Halloween, at her favorite time of day.

Her little face is just so beautiful.  And these images are just so precious.  Sadly, they are much more precious than they should ever, ever be. 


Happy Halloween, My Little Monkey

Halloween was never a big deal in our house growing up. Sure, I trick-or-treated and carved a few jack-o-lanterns here and there, but my parents never really got into decorating the house or dressing up for trick-or-treaters or anything else like that. A dear friend from high school recently sent me some old pictures of us back then. One of them is of us dressed up for Halloween. She is wearing a fabulous joker costume (that I think her mother made) and I am just wearing black tights, candy corn boxer shorts, a black shirt, and cat ears. It’s a pretty good example of how un-Halloweeny the Hitchcocks were. My costumes never got much more complex than what you could do with a sheet and some glitter. So I never thought I’d be much for Halloween, either.

Until I had a child. Having Hudson changed my perspective on just about everything, and Halloween was no exception. Last year, Hudson was too little to understand anything about what was going on, so we didn’t go all out, but I was definitely already planning future Halloweens when Ed and I would decorate the front of the house, have snacks for Hudson and her siblings that included witches’ fingers and the like, make Halloween cookies with them, dress up to take them trick-or-treating, take them to haunted houses and hayrides and corn mazes, and help them come up with really clever costume ideas once they got old enough to think about those things themselves.

We had no idea that her first Halloween was the only one we’d get to spend with her, so I’m glad that the memory is a very happy one that we documented well with pictures.

The first part of the Halloween celebration was at St. Ann’s, her school. They had a Halloween party and asked parents to send children in with homemade costumes. Well, I’ve never been very crafty (see story above) and was stumped for what kind of homemade costume I could do for an 11-month-old. (I’d already bought her a monkey costume on sale but was determined not to send her in a store-bought costume if everyone else was going to be wearing homemade. I should have known better, or at least checked around with parents who’d been around this block already). In desperation, on the morning of the Halloween party, I cut the finger puppets off of one of her favorite books, Old MacDonald Had a Farm, and pinned them to the front of a pair of Carhartt overalls her Aunt Jess had given her. So that no one would be perplexed as to what she was, I also cut off the fabric title page and pinned it to her back. (I felt bad about cutting up her book, but as it turned out the cut-off finger puppets became favorite toys later on. I now keep the cat in a side pocket in my purse and touch it every once in a while when I think of her.)

Here is the damning evidence:




Turned out to be sort of cute, but still totally embarrassing and totally reminiscent of the pathetic costumes I’d worn as a kid. (It was partly because of this that I decided Halloween would be a blow-out affair at our house in the years to come. My kid wasn’t going to be the embarrassed one with a lame costume!). I felt especially ridiculous when we got to school and saw TONS of kids in their store-bought costumes. Sigh.

As I mentioned, I’d already bought Hudson a costume before the homemade idea was made clear to us. Originally, we were thinking about a turtle costume, but as I’ve said before, although Hudson was “the turtle” while she was in my belly, she was not very turtle-like when she emerged. She was so much more like a monkey with her playful ways that I always called her “little monkey,” so a monkey costume seemed much more in order. She sported the costume to a Halloween party hosted by a member of our Brookland moms’ group. Halloween was particularly warm last year, so I spent most of the day worried that she was too hot inside all that stuffing.

But what a precious little monkey she made. Forgive all the pictures, but I know you parents understand the dilemma of trying to weed out photos that look alike.  Her smile, her gestures, the embraces—each is just different enough that you feel it’s worth sharing several photos of the same general subject matter.




(She loved, loved, loved this rocking horse.  She was rocking on it like she’d been doing it since she the day was born.  It is still one of my biggest regrets that we never got one for her to play with at home.)







My sweet girl. My little monkey. How I wish you were here with us to go trick-or-treating with your buddies this afternoon so everyone could ooh and ahh about how adorable and precocious you are. How I wish you were here so that we could have scooped out pumpkin guts together and made a mess making jack-o-lanterns. How I wish you were here so we could have spent the afternoon spreading sticky icing on Halloween cookies and getting it all over ourselves. How I wish you were here so I could see the expression on your face when you tried a piece of candy for the first time.

How I wish you were here.

I miss you so much, my girl. These pictures and sweet memories of you with me and Daddy are my One Good Thing on this sad, sad day without you.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Run-In

We ran into some neighbors tonight at a new restaurant on our street. We only know them from walking our respective dogs and haven’t run into them since Hudson died. The wife looked at us and put up her hands jokingly and said, “Where’s Hudson?” clearly expecting that we’d say she was at home with a babysitter or some other natural explanation. This was the first time this had happened to us, in this way, at least. My face fell and my heart seized and I said, “Oh… actually, she passed away in May.” Tears sprang instantly to my eyes and to hers. She came around our table and gave me a hug. We explained what had happened, and she told us how she always loved to see Hudson standing in the front door with Bess, waving at her as she walked by with her dog. I said that lots of people have told us that. 


 
We were on our way out and as soon as we got to the car, I lost it completely (for about the 20th time today—my eyes are burning at this point). I just kept saying the same thing to Ed over and over again:

“I just don’t want it to be true.”

Hibernation

It is Halloween weekend. Overnight, the air (finally) turned decidedly chilly. Many of my friends (whether they have children or not) are excitedly preparing for Halloween with pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns and house decorations and costumes and candy.
But not me. I just don’t have it in me. The most festive I could force myself to get was to buy two large potted red mums on impulse at Costco. Even those, blooming cheerily and brightly at the bottom of our front steps, seem hollow and false, as if they are trying too hard to hide somehow the sadness within the house behind them. Ed and I were at the grocery store on Sunday night and, seeing the rows and rows of Halloween candy, I asked, “Are we going to do anything for Halloween?” And by “do anything,” all I meant was “Are we going to give candy out?” I already knew the answer was no. We talked about whether it would be enough to just keep the front porch lights off, hang out upstairs and ignore the bell if it rang, or whether we might need to actually leave the house and do something else. Either way, it is just awful. But I just don’t think I can bear all the shiny, expectant little faces and all the cute costumes at the door. As it is, I think I will probably just have to avoid Facebook altogether for the next several days.

I know that this is just the beginning of what is going to be a long, sad season. My mother-in-law sent us an email last week with plans for Thanksgiving Day, and my heart just sank in my chest even thinking about it. The week after Thanksgiving is Hudson’s birthday, and although we will still celebrate it, it will be a very different celebration than it should be, than I am desperate for it to be. And only a few weeks later, we will have to endure the saddest Christmas of our lives. I have already been thinking hard about how much decorating for Christmas I can stand to do, even though decorating the house has always been one of my favorite parts about Christmas. I’ve been contemplating several scenarios by which I might avoid having to sit through the unwrapping of presents on Christmas morning (I’ve always loved watching people’s faces when they open the gifts I bought them), including going on a vacation and skipping it altogether.

I know I shouldn’t be thinking and worrying and dreading all of these things now. One day at a time and all that. But they are all part of a greater dilemma I have been facing lately. I’ve long been a person who believes in living life to the fullest. From the moment I first watched Dead Poets Society at the tender (and highly impressionable) age of thirteen, and heard the phrase carpe diem, and listened to the words of Thoreau, I’ve “wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” I haven’t always done very well at this, but I have always kept it as a guiding principle. And now more than ever, I feel strongly that I need to live well, to live fully, to live the very best life that I can, for Hudson’s sake, because she will never get that chance. So it is terribly hard for me to feel like doing nothing more than curling up with a book, the television, or the internet. It is hard for me to wish I could just ignore my favorite holidays as they pass by, as if by ignoring them, they won’t actually happen without Hudson. As though if I wait long enough, she’ll be back and we can celebrate them with her then.

After my post a while back about how exhausting it is to be grieving and pregnant all at the same time, a friend of mine told me that it was just fine for me to “hibernate” until the spring. And truly, part of me does feel like my life might actually begin again in the spring when this baby comes and I get to be a mom again. Not that my life will start over, but just that it will restart. And part of me does just want to phone it in until then.  Because being a mom who doesn’t actually get to be a mom, who doesn’t get to dress her little girl for Halloween or carve pumpkins with her or take her trick-or-treating or watch The Great Pumpkin with her or decorate paper turkeys with her for school or talk about things we’re thankful for with her or buy Christmas outfits and gifts for her or make Christmas cookies with her or read The Grinch or The Night Before Christmas with her or help her pick out a Christmas present for her daddy and grandparents (and don’t even get me started about snow and our birthdays and spring and the kite festival and the cherry blossoms and Easter)… well, it feels pretty much like sleepwalking anyway.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Wee Hours

Rough, rough day. It started when I woke up at 4:20AM to go to the bathroom. Those middle of the night hours are the worst. I wake up and am immediately reminded of the fact that Hudson is gone (something the brain can sometimes turn off when sleeping). If I can’t go back to sleep right away, then I’m almost always caught immediately in the throes of thoughts that will never let me go back to sleep. This morning, after I crawled back in bed and tried to get comfortable, another thought hit me about 4AM on Monday, May 10. The other day, I was feeling comforted by the thought that if the pediatrician had not known we needed to go the ER at 8AM, how could I have known we needed to go at 4AM? I’m still comforted by that. We just couldn’t have known, and Hudson’s behavior at the pediatrician’s office and her normal white blood cell count during that visit were certainly not indicative of a serious illness. But I was struck, not for the first time, that perhaps her symptoms progressed so rapidly through the night that by morning, her white blood cell count WAS normal, but had dropped precipitously from a raging high number that would have been indicative of an aggressive bacterial infection (this is probably the case, since her temp spiked so high on Sunday and again during the early morning on Monday). And perhaps her symptoms progressed so rapidly through the night that when the doctor examined her at 8AM, she was so lethargic that she wasn’t responding to any painful stimuli (like when I touched her leg four hours before)—that certainly seemed to be the case since she barely flinched when they stuck her to draw some blood.


So in the middle of the night, this brought me back to my original theory that perhaps if I’d taken her to the ER at 4AM, she’d have exhibited symptoms then that would have been cause for concern (even though she did not show such symptoms later)—the leg pain, a very high white blood cell count, the eye swollen from a sinus infection behind it, the unrelenting fever—altogether, maybe these would have pointed the ER docs towards a possible meningitis infection, and they’d have tapped her and started her on IV antibiotics 12 hours sooner.

This is not guilt anymore. It’s not. I think I have mostly let that go. And it’s no longer a ridiculous expectation that I somehow should have just known that her condition was that serious and that I needed to take her to the ER right away. It’s neither of those things. It’s not even the vague feeling of responsibility that so often washes over me. This is just wishful thinking, just wanting so much to be able to rewind the clock, try it a different way, and see if the outcome might be different. In some ways, this is no different than the times I’ve thought, “What if I hadn’t taken her to San Antonio Bar and Grill on Friday night? Is that where she picked up the strep bacteria? What if I hadn’t taken her to music class on Saturday morning with all those other kids? Did she get it there? Maybe at the thrift store later that day?” This is just me wishing that I DID have magical powers, that I DID somehow know that she was dangerously ill so that I could have saved her life and she would still be here with me. This is just me wanting to rewrite the story so that right this instant, I would be sitting in the bathroom watching her splash and listening to her talk incessantly instead sitting at the computer crying hard.

I tried hard to close these thoughts out of my head at 4:30 this morning. One of my tricks when my mind starts to wander where it shouldn’t at that hour is I try to prepare recipes in my head—I picture myself in the kitchen preparing the ingredients and putting them together in the right order. I try to pick complex recipes with lots of steps in hopes that by the time I get to the end, my mind will be drifting back off to sleep.  This morning, I tried to do my chicken soup and also brownies. 

I was awake for at least an hour, but I guess I finally fell asleep, because I had a dream during the last hour of the night that, coupled with my middle of the night ponderings, kept me in a morose mood the rest of the day. In the dream, I had not one, but two children—Hudson, whom I barely saw except in profile as someone was trying to get her to lay down to sleep on a big bed, and another child, a 6- or 7-year-old boy with blond hair and gangly limbs. In my dream, I knew that both of them were going to die. I sat with the blond boy straddling my lap with his arms around my neck and his head tucked under my chin. We were both so incredibly sad knowing that he wasn’t going to be with us much longer. If you’ve ever had a dream that involves grief, you know how palpable the feeling can be, even when you are asleep. We talked, but I don’t remember anything we said. Later in the dream, but with no logical connection (dreams are so non-linear), Ed and I were in the car, with him driving and me crying in the passenger seat (this is a familiar picture), wondering out loud why we should have to suffer the death of two children? Why? Why? Anxiety dreams are so obvious sometimes.

The rest of the day, I had trouble focusing. I was just beset again with intense grief reactions: “No. This could not have happened.” “How did this happen?” “Why did this happen to us?” “Where is Hudson?” “Why is she not here with me?” “Do I really have to live the rest of my life without her?” “Is she really never coming back?” “How do I live with this pain forever?” Over and over and over. I had finally brought some pictures of Hudson into my office this week, and spent today not wanting to look at them because they made me so incredibly sad, and yet not being able to tear my eyes from them, as if by looking at them long enough, she might spring to life right out of them. I found myself actually drawn to all the ghost stories rampant on the internet two days before Halloween—suddenly, the prospect of spirits being able to linger with us somehow seemed not scary, but wonderful. I felt insane even seriously entertaining the idea.

I’ve spent the rest of the day in the same funk. The reality of forever is sometimes just too much for my mind to take in, so it revolts again. And as I’ve said before, the feeling of disbelief is sometimes the worst of all, because in brief instants, I have actual hope that maybe this isn’t really real after all, only to be crushed by what I know to be true a moment later. It’s a wretched, terrible cycle.

A rough day. I knew this post would be rather meandering, as my thoughts and emotions were just all over the place today. It was one of those despairing days where it seems that truly all I can think about is how much I miss her and how much I want things to be different than they are.  I look forward to going to sleep tonight, in hopes that I, along with all those thoughts and emotions, will stay asleep all the way until morning.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stepping Back From The Brink

This morning at work, I surfed over to the website for one of our news channels in the Triangle, just to see what was going on at home. I scrolled down the page glancing at headlines until my eyes stopped dead at this one: “Duke Medicine: When to take your child to the emergency department.” Before I could even stop myself, I clicked on the link, even as I was telling myself not to. Still looking for absolution. From a website. Idiot.

Under the section titled “Fever,” this is what it said:

Fever

While the vast majority of children who have a fever do not have a dangerous illness, fever may be a marker of a serious infection such as meningitis, pneumonia or urinary tract infection. Children with fever are often tired, much less active, and less interested in eating and drinking.

Giving your child weight-appropriate doses of acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin; do not use if your child is less than six months old) may make your child feel better and more interested in eating and drinking.

You should bring your child to the ED for evaluation if your child:

• Is three months old or younger and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 F (38 C) or higher
• Has a stiff neck
• Is dehydrated (mouth is dry, no wet diapers in 18 hours, eyes sunken, soft spot sunken)
• Has a condition which makes him more susceptible to infections (for example, receiving chemotherapy, sickle cell anemia, on daily oral steroids, or has a central line in place)

Call 911 immediately if your child has a fever and:

• Is difficult to arouse
• Has difficulty breathing
• Has a seizure


A few things jumped out at me. First, Hudson fit in none of the categories under “bring your child to the ED if…”  So that was good.  Second was the “children with fever are often tired, much less active, and less interested in eating or drinking.” OK, great. All good there. This is exactly how I interpreted Hudson’s signs and symptoms at 4AM. She was fighting off a nasty fever and so was very tired and obviously less active, given that it was also 4AM. Not once did I interpret her demeanor as lethargy or “excessive” sleepiness. She seemed the right amount of sleepy given the circumstances.

But then I went down to “Call 911 immediately if your child has a fever and is difficult to arouse.” Had she been difficult to arouse? Did I so badly misinterpret her slumping against me as I put her in the cool bath? Was that more than her just being really worn out? After all, she’d been just fine the night before, and even just a few hours ago, when she’d been chatty in our bed after a dose of Tylenol.

And yet. And yet. And before I knew it, it all came rushing back. My grand idea that a 4AM trip to the ER would have magically saved her life. Before I knew it, I was crying. Again. In my office. Again. Begging someone or something to let me go back and do it over.

And then I took a breath. Through my tears, I went back to my first post about this. I didn’t read the post again. Who needs to? Every single memory and emotion is burned into my mind forever. No, I went straight to the comments. And read them all. Read some of them twice. And nodded. Especially at the comments (and a separate Facebook message from a friend) that reminded me that Hudson’s pediatrician examined her fully at 8AM and did not send us to the ER, so how could I possibly have known that she needed to go to the ER at 4AM? Then I sat and thought about the fact that Hudson was NOT unresponsive, either at 4AM or at 8AM. In fact, when we left the doctor’s office at 8AM, she both waved and said, “Bye bye” when I prompted her to. She had NOT been difficult to arouse at 4AM—in fact, it was her crying in the bed that woke ME up, not the other way around.

I was talking out loud to myself in the office at this point, talking myself down from that most terrible of ledges.

And it worked. It actually worked. Rather than letting the grief take me over the ledge like it so often does, I was able to hang on and pull myself back up. Within about 10 minutes, I was OK again.

The only reason I was able to do that is because of the incredible people who continue to read and comment on this blog. As soon as my brain started heading down that road, it occurred to me to come read all those comments in hopes that I could pull myself back from the brink.  And thanks to you, I did. I am grateful every day for every person who reads here, who bears witness to this awful grief, and who comments when inspired to do so. But I have never been more grateful for you than I was this morning in my office.

Thank you.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Exhale

I had my second OB appointment today. Even though it has been only three weeks since the last one, the wait until today was interminable. I had all but convinced myself that we’d get there today and there would be no heartbeat. My symptoms this go round have been much less pronounced and a little bit different, and they have fluctuated off and on, where I might go for a few days feeling very little queasiness or fatigue. Instead of just feeling grateful, my explanation for this was that the baby had stopped growing soon after the last appointment.

I’ve worried about this from the beginning. Since Hudson died, the most relevant online support cohort I’ve been able to find are groups of women who have suffered pregnancy losses. Even though their losses are very different from mine, there is still something fundamentally the same for moms who outlive their children, regardless of whether their children ever took breaths. I’ve been so grateful for the support, but engaging with these moms also meant I was exposed to a whole other world of tragedy that I had really never contemplated before.

After I announced that I was pregnant, I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as the congratulatory messages started rolling in. I thought, “What if something happens now? I will have to break all of these people’s hearts all over again.” Ed and I had talked about whether we should share our news so early (I was just past 7 weeks along at the time), but ultimately decided that if something terrible were to happen, we’d certainly be grateful for the same kind of support we’ve received ever since Hudson died--miscarriage must be one of the most silent griefs there is. And something I’d learned from my online communities of grieving moms is that there’s really no “safe” point in pregnancy—certainly things get “safer” and the odds of anything bad happening go down significantly after certain points, but terrible things can still happen after the first trimester, at 20 weeks, at 24 weeks, all the way up until delivery. And frankly, once you’ve been on the bad side of the odds like we have, it’s hard to put too much stock into them. So the idea of keeping a secret for what now seems to be an arbitrary 12-week period did not make a lot of sense anyway.

But because we’ve already been burned so badly by the odds, I’ve had a hard time letting myself believe that this pregnancy is going to be OK. I spent the last three weeks trying to prepare myself for the worst. I’ve been thinking about May 24 mostly theoretically, like we might have a baby then, and we might not. I’ve been preparing in my mind what I might write when we found out that I was going to miscarry. And on and on and on. This is still the sad work of a deeply grieving mind.  It is yet another layer of our loss—the loss of the innocent, carefree spirit with which we were generally able to approach our first pregnancy.  Now, everything looms dangerous on the horizon. 

So you can imagine (well, maybe you can’t) my relief, my amazement, and maybe, just maybe, a tiny bit of joy, when the doctor pulled up the ultrasound picture and not only was there a heartbeat, but damned if we couldn’t see an entire little tiny human being, head, arms, legs, and all, squirming away like crazy on the miniscule in-office sonogram machine. The doctor remarked several times how active it was. 

For the first time since I found out I was pregnant, I really exhaled. I know there are still no guarantees (so many of my friends are heartbreaking evidence of that fact) and I will probably still irrationally fear many more milestones during this pregnancy as they approach. But my rational mind knows that once you pass the embryonic stage and hit 10 weeks with a strong heartbeat, the risk of miscarriage drops to 2 percent. Two percent is not zero, but it is very, very small.  My rational mind also knows what I’ve already learned in the very hardest of ways—that there is only so much that I can control. And with the exception of keeping myself healthy, I have absolutely no control over what happens from hereon out. So I’m going to try to relax and exhale some more.

And yet even as I finally begin to allow myself to feel some excitement about this baby, I grapple mightily with what that excitement means for my grief and for my emotional bond with my precious Hudson. I curse and cry every single day that this is my life now, that this is how I have to spend my emotional energy, instead of cheerily getting my sweet girl ready for Halloween and thinking about how and when I will tell her that she is going to be a big sister. It is just so very, very wrong.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

You’re Missing

Everything is everything, but you’re missing… ~ Bruce Springsteen

It’s been a long week of missing my girl. It began at Topsail Island with Jessica’s family, just like our trip last September. Jess and I had talked at length about how hard the beach trip might be for Ed and me—we discussed the possibility that we just might not go at all or that we might leave early, depending on how we felt. There we were, at the same spot, with the same group of kids who were all together last year (Jess’s two boys, and her brother’s son and daughter), except for Hudson. All four of the other kids were a year older, a year bigger, a year more independent than they had been last fall. And no Hudson. No Hudson to follow around the bigger kids or boss around the one kid a few months younger than her.

But Hudson was also everywhere—in the flocks of pelicans swooping low over the water (“Peh-cun!”), in the gentle and constant motion of the waves, in the beautiful migration of monarch butterflies up the coast, in the near-full moon over the ocean on our last night there. Still, all I wanted was for her to be there in real life, snuggling with me in a warm towel in the chilly ocean breeze of the late afternoon, finding seashells and polished stones, and chasing the waves in and out.

On Tuesday night, the kids (ranging in age from almost 6 down to 19 months) played “kids charades,” where an adult would whisper something into a kid’s ear for them to act out for the rest of the adults. Animals were the natural subject of the charades, since most kids know most animals and how to act like them. One by one, the kids acted out Hudson’s favorite animal noises—elephant, cow, dog, cat, duck, owl, chicken, snake, lion. It was almost more than I could bear. I could just picture her there, leaning close and holding still as someone whispered into her ear (“What does a lion say, Hudson?”), peering around at the rest of us with just her eyeballs and a little grin, knowing that she knew something we didn’t, and then turning around and yelling “RAWR!” with her perfect guttural effects, to erupting applause as everyone said “Lion!” She’d grin that huge grin of hers then come bury her head in my lap in a fit of shyness at being the sudden center of attention.

When the game was over, I went back to our room on the other side of the duplex and sobbed for a long, long time.

Equally hard was the total sense of idleness I felt at having no child to care for. All around me, adults were feeding their kids, putting sunscreen on them, taking them swimming, putting them down for naps, cuddling them after a fall or a perceived slight by another kid. And I had no one. All around me, the cries of “Mommy!” echoed over and over again, and not one of them was for me.

I love Jessica’s family almost as much as I love my own, so it broke my heart to feel so ready to leave them.

We came back to the Triangle on Thursday night and made plans to go to the State Fair on Friday. On Friday morning, I remarked to Ed how much Hudson would have loved the fair, especially all the animal exhibits. Ed, my dad, and I spent about 2 hours there last night, wandering around, marveling at all the crazy food offerings, and cooing at all the sweet animals. Hudson would have been especially taken with the goats (she’d met goats last October at the pumpkin patch and then met some Icelandic sheep at her aunt’s farm this spring just a few weeks before she died), as well as the rabbits, the baby pigs, and the baby chicks (none of which she ever got a chance to see). I found myself wondering which of the kiddie rides she’d have been tall enough to ride, feeling oddly disappointed when the height requirements were too big for her and oddly relieved and happy when there were no height requirements as long as an adult rode, too. This from a person who refuses to ride rides at the fair as a matter of personal safety. The pony rides in particular caught our eye—Ed and I could both picture her utter glee at riding slowly in a circle with four or five other kids on the backs of ponies. She’d smile broadly and through her teeth, she’d let forth her little giggle that sounded like “Sssst!”

The fair food gave Ed a hankering for Cracker Barrel, of all things. I was having one of those first trimester days where nothing sounded good (I ate nothing at the fair, but bought some fudge and a caramel apple in hopes that I’d want them later), but chicken and dumplings from Cracker Barrel actually sounded rather appealing. So we headed there for dinner. During the 20-minute wait for a table, we wandered around the country store. Dozens of little girls’ Christmas outfits were everywhere—simple, festively colored corduroys with snowmen or reindeer or Christmas trees. Neither of us could resist picking them up, running our fingers over the cloth, imagining how sweet our little girl would look in them, desperately wishing she was here with us so we could buy one for her.

It has been a long week of longing. The longing is so intense and still punctuated by a sense of total disbelief. It’s still difficult to rid myself of the notion that she is just away somewhere (though I can’t imagine where she might be) and will somehow be back soon. It is still near impossible to embrace the notion that she is gone forever.

But in every place where I could see Hudson with us, I could also see our future kids with us. It was a long week of seesawing between missing Hudson terribly while also looking forward to the days when I will do all these things with my children again.

I am dreading returning to work next week. All I want to do right now is to be someone’s mommy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On Writing

I realized today that I’ve only written on the blog once in the last week. That’s the longest break I’ve taken from it since I started. Some of the break has been due to travel—in the past six days, I’ve driven 900 miles, from DC to my dad’s house, up to the NC mountains, back to my dad’s house and then down to Topsail Island, where I am now. Some of it has been because it’s been a busy six days, full of friends and food and visiting. But most of it has been because I haven’t felt much inspiration. When I began the blog, it was a incredibly helpful way for me to organize all the thoughts and feelings about Hudson’s death that otherwise threatened to overwhelm me. For a long time, some kind of theme or story would just emerge from the tornado, making it easier for me to express, even to myself, how I was processing it all.  These days, those thoughts and feelings are less like a tornado and more like a constant rainstorm, drumming in the background of every day.

And then I went through a period of time where I felt like I had to write on the blog every day. I think some part of me felt like I owed it to Hudson, as if writing every day were the only sure way to keep her close, to keep her memory alive in my heart and mind, and in the hearts of minds of many other people. I’ve since learned that that’s certainly not true. Here I’ve only written once in the last week, and yet I’ve thought about little else but my girl during that entire time. The missing, the longing, the remembering—none of it changes one bit whether I write about it or not.

And then I worried about my readers, wondering whether people would stop reading if I stopped writing as often. On many of the earlier days, this was a good thing, encouraging me to write even when I didn’t feel like it, as long as I had something to write about. On many of those earlier days, I needed to write as much as I needed to cry. Now, although I still cry every day, the gut-wrenching, sobbing kind of cry comes less often. And I don’t get the same intense pain in my chest throughout the day that I used to get at the beginning if I went through the day without crying. And I guess my need for the writing is the same—I still need it, just not as intensely. And I have to remind myself that although I appreciate every single comment I have received on the blog, the comments and responses have been an unexpected gift of writing—I didn’t start the blog for the purpose of getting them.

A friend asked the other day if I had thought about starting a new blog that would focus just on this new pregnancy. I have thought from time to time about whether, at some point, I would feel the need to wrap this blog up and start a new blog about our family as it grows or maintain two separate blogs, one about Hudson and one about everything else.  I’ve never gotten very far in that thought process. I mostly worry that our future kids will somehow feel “less” than Hudson, that she will end up seeming larger than life in her death. When I originally set up the blog, I fretted over whether making the URL “hudsonsonegoodthing” (“onegoodthing” itself was already taken) would somehow make our other children feel slighted. I’ve had to remind myself that it will be a very long time before our kids are even aware of such things and hopefully by the time they are, they will understand and think Hudson is as much a part of their lives as I do. This process of parenting after such a terrible loss will be much harder on me than it will be on them.

My instinct is that “One Good Thing” has become a life’s work, that making Hudson and her lesson an integral part of our family is the best way to honor her spirit and keep her alive in all of our hearts. So I think that this is my blog. My only blog. While its focus over time may shift, part of it will always be about Hudson, and how my love for her and my grief for her loss has shaped all of our lives. Forever.

I may not write every day. But Hudson is always here with me. As are all of you. And for those things, I am grateful.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Forward Motion

I am in Hendersonville, NC, at Kanuga Conference Center, to celebrate the 90th birthday of Ann “MaTante” Elliot, who is Jess’s grandmother. I call her my adopted grandmother—I hope she’s OK with that.

Yesterday, after I arrived and had lunch with Jess’s family, she and I took a walk down the road to Camp Kanuga, where I spent about a month every summer between ages 10 and 15. Some of my very best memories of my young life were made at that place. Shockingly, it looks largely the same as it did nearly twenty years ago during the last summer I spent there in 1991. We wandered around, in and out of buildings, and found my signature on the session boards hanging in the dining hall. I also spent a week every December and June between 1991 and 1994 here at the conference center, where Episcopal youth from all over the Southeast gathered to explore concepts like faith, justice, service, identity, purpose, and choice, all in the safe and comfortable environment of a tightly knit community full of good friends, music, and the beautiful setting of these North Carolina mountains. I have been simply awash in memory.

It is strange to be back here for the first time in more than 15 years. Even though I no longer consider myself Episcopalian or Christian, I can still almost physically feel the sense of community that drew me to the church in the first place when I was younger. It’s even stranger to be here to celebrate an entirely different part of my world—although we learned much later that I had crossed paths with Jessica’s family in the Episcopal world long before I met Jessica, in my mind, Jess and her family are in a different sphere of my life than the sphere that once included Kanuga.

MaTante is a force of nature. Four children, eleven grandchildren, and seventeen great-grandchildren (so far), and a personality almost bigger than all of those people combined. And almost all of those people are here this weekend.

Time spent with the Elliot clan is always fun, always a little chaotic, and always inspirational. I didn’t know how I would feel being here this weekend. The last time I was with Jessica’s family was a little over a year ago, when Ed, Hudson, and I spent a week at Topsail Island with them and then went to Jessica’s cousin Caroline’s wedding (Caroline had become a good friend of ours separately in law school—the Elliots’ tentacles are far-reaching). Hudson’s absence is conspicuous, at least to me. My arms feel so empty without her among all these parents and their children.  She would have had such a good time with so many playmates, with MaTante’s great-grands ranging in age from 12 down to 5 months old. I can see her now, watching the older kids carefully, trying to figure out what they were doing, smiling and laughing at them, following them around, and mimicking them when she could. And while I hope she would have been over it by now, I might have had to be watchful to keep her from biting anyone.

And while it has been sad, I’ve also felt very keenly the sense of life’s forward motion. Last night, after dinner, a female bluegrass trio put on a concert for the conference center guests. Near the end, they played a song called “My Baby’s Gone” (I didn’t realize until I went to look it up later that it has been recorded by many artists from Willie Nelson to Elvis Costello). It took me a while before I tuned in to the lyrics. The chorus goes:

Hold back the rushing minutes
Let the wind lie still
Don’t let the moonlight shine
Across the lonely hill
Dry all the raindrops
Hold back the sun
My world has ended
My baby’s gone

And the rest of the song is a variation on the same theme—that the world should not keep spinning around when the singer’s love is gone. I, of course, immediately thought of my own baby, and how very much I felt that my world had ended after she died. As I listened to the song, I waited for the tears to come. But they didn’t. And as I sat there, I thought about how my world did not really end when Hudson died. A giant hole was torn in it, certainly, a hole that will never fully be mended, but as much as I felt so at the time, my world did not end.

Life moves forward. Here I am, in the place of some of my oldest and best memories, celebrating a woman who had some of her oldest and best memories here, too, many years before I was ever even born.

Life moves forward. MaTante’s youngest great-grands are a set of twins who are 5 months and three days old today. They were born on the day Hudson died. And here they are, grinning and drooling and capturing everyone’s hearts.

Life moves forward. Jess’s mom, Caroline, is also conspicuously absent from today’s celebration, having died three years ago from a sudden and terrible infectious disease just like Hudson. But Jessica has stepped into her shoes and filled them so well, writing a fifteen-verse song all about MaTante, to the tune of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain,” that the family will sing to MaTante at the birthday party later today.

Life moves forward. Last night, after the family rehearsed MaTante’s birthday song, they also practiced singing “Hark the Sound,” (MaTante is a die-hard Tar Heel also). I sang with them, thinking of my sweet girl, and her giggle at the end when she heard “Don’t go to Dook!” Jess handed out One Good Thing bracelets to everyone in the family (they had been special-ordered for the birthday celebration). She told everyone that the bracelets were in memory of Hudson, who heard “Hark the Sound” every night before she went to bed, and that they were also to help us remember all the good things that MaTante had brought to all of our lives.

Life moves forward. Today, the day we celebrate MaTante’s 90th birthday, my mom would have celebrated her 65th birthday. Who knows why some of us live to 90, some of us to 57, some of us to only 17 months? All we can do is cherish each and every day we have with our loved ones, never knowing how many days we will ultimately get.

Life moves forward. I am growing a new baby, Hudson’s little brother or sister, and as I spend time with all of these little ones here, cuddling the ones who will be cuddled, chasing the ones who loved to be chased, chatting with the ones who pretend to be too big for either, I look forward to the days when I get to do all of those things with my own children, who will carry a little bit of Hudson in them, too.  I hope one day, my children and grandchildren (and if I’m really lucky, my great-grandchildren) will be celebrating my 90th birthday, and that our Hudson will still be with us all.

Life moves forward. I hope that somewhere, my mom, Jess’s mom, and sweet Hudson are together, watching over us, smiling at us, loving us, looking forward with us. I hope.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

And One For Good Measure...

Though not at the pumpkin patch, my October memory wouldnt be complete without this one...

Five Months: Remembering

Five months. Another month gone by without our girl. I’ve been dreading writing this all day today and now I know why. Somehow, most of the day, I was able to stave off the intense grief that these anniversary days and these memories usually inspire, and I was worried that writing tonight would open that door. I was right. As soon as I wrote the first two sentences, I began to cry. The last few days, since Sunday morning, have been hard ones. Days where it’s hard for me to look at her pictures or even think about her without tears. Recalling how much fun we were having this time last year. Mourning over how much fun we should be having this year.

One year ago on this past Sunday, on Columbus Day weekend, we took Hudson to Homestead Farms out in Maryland to pick apples and pumpkins. In the past few days, I’ve seen many friends post Facebook pictures of their kids at the pumpkin patches this past weekend—it’s apparently the right weekend to go. I have just been overwhelmed with longing to post new pictures with Hudson—even though I’d thought about it before, I don’t think it ever really set in until the past few days that I will never get to post a new picture with her again.  I change my profile picture occasionally, but only to old pictures of Hudson.  I’m already thinking about the days when we will post pictures of the new baby—I’ve already wondered, bizarrely, if there might be some way to photoshop Hudson into them. Because she should be there.

On these month anniversaries, I try to just remember a happy memory, not dwell in my grief. Until I actually sat down to write, I thought that would not be much of a problem today. I was wrong.

I need a new phrase for I miss her.” That is the most inadequate phrase in the English language.  Heartbroken” gets closer, but still can’t even touch the depth of this grief.

Our trip to Homestead Farms is one of my favorite memories—as I mentioned a few days ago, September and October were when Hudson really started to get fun, to interact and play in different way than before. I look at our pictures from that trip and again am left to wonder how it is possible that that precious creature is no longer here. I am feeling overcome right now, utterly heartbroken looking at my sweet girl’s beautiful smile, heartbroken that these are the only pictures we’ll ever have of our girl with pumpkins. I can’t write anymore. I think I’m going to have to let the pictures do the talking this month—and they speak loudly. Of what a big spirit our little girl was, even at just past 10 months old. Of our intense love for her. Of her love for life.  Of the wonder we created together as a family.























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!"

Monday, October 11, 2010

Weary

Acutely grieving one child. Actively growing another. I can’t recall a time in my life when I have been so fully drained of energy, of motivation. I was so ready for this four-day weekend that I left the office early on Thursday. And I only work 28 hours a week. I am so grateful that this week will be only a three-day work week, and then I’ll be off for ten days. I have barely been working for four weeks (again, for only 28 hours a week) and I am already desperate for a long break.

Grief, as I’ve written before, is exhausting, both mentally and physically. The constant unpredictability of my emotions, the constant awareness of Hudson’s absence, the constant longing to have her back, to have my old life back—it’s enough to make a person want to get in bed and never get out. I often wish I could.

Growing a baby, as many of you know, is also exhausting. The main pregnancy symptom I had with Hudson is the same one I’m struggling most with now—absolute fatigue. I struggle to get out of bed every morning, I struggle to concentrate during the day, I start to yawn around 2:30 or 3:00, I sleepwalk through most of the evening, and can’t wait to get to bed. 

I hate how I don’t feel like myself. Yesterday, I spent the morning with Ed, my dad, and my brother at my dad’s house, and I just felt awful. After a mostly glorious day on Saturday, I was having a terribly sad morning, just missing Hudson so much, and still tired even though I’d slept for many hours overnight. I could hear myself responding to things being said to me, and I remember thinking how cross and curt I sounded, for no good reason. Today, I’ve been parked on the couch all day watching television, not wanting to move. I’m already dreading even the three days I have to be at work this week.

Many folks have sent me so many very heartfelt messages during the last several weeks, and I just haven’t been able to muster the energy or the motivation to respond—I’m so sorry. I’ve also been on an unplanned hiatus from the all the other grief and loss blogs I usually read—right now, I feel like I’m carrying all I can carry. And that feels terrible, incredibly selfish, particularly when so many of those women have continued to give me such unconditional support and love. I’m so sorry to all you mamas, sorry that I can’t be a witness for your grief right now. It doesn’t change how much I am always thinking about and feeling for you, but I am just floundering at the moment.

To make matters worse, I just read this article in TIME magazine about fetal origins, about how scientists are beginning to believe more than ever that what happens to you in the womb can have as significant an impact on your health and well-being long-term as can anything you experience after birth. As if I weren’t already worried enough about how my acute grief might affect this little bean growing inside me, I now read an article saying that children born of pregnant women exposed to extreme stress have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia, that fetuses of depressed or anxious women show more sensitivity to stress in the womb than fetuses of women with normal moods.

The grief and the pregnancy are like the perfect storm, each wreaking its own brand of physical and emotional havoc on my heart and my body, the combination of which is leaving me pretty battered. I know from experience that the pregnancy fatigue will let up some after the next month or so, and won’t return again until late in the spring—at least I hope that’s the case. The rest of it is enough to deal with without that on top.

And then I read over this post again and think it sounds like a giant, embarrassing, incoherent self-pity party. And that makes me feel even worse. Gah. Maybe I don’t need to crawl in bed and never come out, but I’d settle for going to sleep and not waking up until May.

Friday, October 8, 2010

At Home

There is nothing like Chapel Hill in the fall. It’s even enough to soothe the system after a difficult encounter at a lunch meeting with someone who did not know Hudson had died. My colleague, whom I see only twice a year at the meeting of a law alumni committee I serve on, was asking all the usual catch-up questions: “Remind me what your practice is?” “I left practice. I’m the pro bono coordinator at Catholic Law School now.” “Where do you stay when you are here in town?” “My dad lives in Pittsboro.” “And did you bring anyone with you? Your spouse?” “He’s coming tonight—he couldn’t get off of work today.” (The red warning lights started flashing in my head—I knew the inevitable was coming.) And before I could even steel myself, before I could even prepare…

“Oh, and you have a baby, right?”

“Yes, she…”

“Is she here with you, too?”

“No, she passed away in May from a sudden illness.”

Tears. Mine. Hers. “Oh, I am so sorry.” I spent the next minute trying to keep from bursting into total sobs—after all, we were sitting at a banquet table with 8 other people. I looked around and was relieved to see that everyone else was engaged in conversation—no one was staring at us wondering what might have brought me to tears. Once I had mostly recovered, we talked more about Hudson and why I changed jobs. And then it was over. Terrible, but not as bad as I always imagine it will be, and then it was behind me.

And the rest of the day acted as a salve. It was 75 degrees, sunny, and breezy in the beautiful town I love so much. There is no other place in the world where I feel more at home. My dear friend Chad and I wandered around Franklin Street, ending up on the patio at Top of the Hill, where we sat and talked about politics, the First Amendment, and the state of American schools for an hour or two. Then I got a pedicure with a fresh coat of Carolina blue polish for my girl. And then I wandered back down Franklin Street, popping in and out of the numerous stores that sell all kinds of Carolina paraphernalia. I was reminded of a trip we made to Chapel Hill when Hudson was about 4 months old.  It was March 2009, and on a particularly warm day, we went downtown, where her grandparents indulged their urges to dress her in every kind of Carolina outfit imaginable—bloomers, dresses, onesies—she practically had a whole new wardrobe by the time we got off of Franklin Street. I have such fond memories of nursing Hudson that day on the bench near the Davie Poplar—something about that just felt so right to me. I thought about that today as I walked up through McCorkle Place. I walked slowly, deliberately, taking it all in, remembering. And smiling. That trip is really the only memory we have of her on campus and around town with us—all of our other trips home were spent mostly at the grandparents’ houses.

I kept walking through campus, feeling so uplifted by the palpable sense of community all around me. Students, their parents, alumni—people of all kinds were trickling into town, enjoying the weather, preparing for tomorrow’s game. Every other person was wearing Carolina gear of some sort. As I drove home, I got stuck in a small traffic jam going up the hill by the field where the marching band was practicing. My windows were open, and as I drove by, they were playing, “I’m a Tar Heel born, I’m a Tar Heel bred…” I was so taken in by the experience, it took me several moments to recall that I used to sing those words to Hudson every night before she went to bed.

For several months after Hudson died (and to some extent still today), I felt really strongly that I couldn’t wait to move back to North Carolina, to get out of DC, where I couldn’t go anywhere without painful reminders of Hudson’s absence. Then I read a novel in which one of the characters goes to Europe for college after her sister dies, and she spends the year depressed and distraught, thrown off balance by being in a place where no evidence existed of her sister’s life. I wondered for the first time whether I might ultimately regret acting too soon on my urge to get out of DC. I wondered if, contrary to my instincts, I might feel Hudson’s absence even more acutely in a place where we had not made as many memories with her. Today helped me resolve some of those worries. Not only do I have fond and very tangible memories of Hudson in my favorite place on earth, I also see her everywhere. In every small child I see walking on Franklin Street with a Carolina pom pom, or chasing a sibling around the quad, or riding in a parent’s jogging stroller. She is always with me. Maybe even moreso in those places I love most.

My little Carolina girl.  My home.  My heart. 


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More Love

Ed and I had long discussed trying to have our second child when Hudson was about two to two and a half years old. For some reason, I’d gotten this spacing in my head as “perfect”—just enough time to let Hudson get a little bit of independence, maybe get potty trained, move to a toddler bed, and just not feel quite so much like the world might be falling apart if all the attention weren’t directed at her. So we figured we would start trying sometime in the spring of 2010. So come January, I was already plotting what clever way we might announce a second pregnancy, since we’d already used the cute blog/ultrasound trick. I was thinking what cryptic status I might post on Facebook that would cleverly give it away. I wasn’t crazy about having another December baby (so much going on during that time already), so we figured we’d wait until April to start working on it. And then the trial I was working on got continued until June. The last thing I wanted was to be in the middle of my first trimester during trial, so we decided then that we’d put it off until then.

And then Hudson died. And we were no longer thinking about a brother or sister for her, but about another child that would become the oldest, but would really never be the oldest. A child whose parents would be radically transformed people, people who had suffered the worst loss imaginable. A child who would never know his or her older sister, never know the joy of her impish smile, never hear her contagious giggle, never experience the bond of warmth and protection that an older sibling can offer, that Hudson surely would have offered.

During the early days after Hudson died, I didn’t know if I could even think about that child. Ed and I both said that while we knew we wanted more children, when we thought about being the in the hospital delivering another child, all we could think about was crying. We ultimately decided that while our plan for our family had been most horribly and irrevocably altered by fate, we still wanted to move forward with it, mangled as it was. For the same reason that we wanted to have Hudson, we knew we wanted to have more children, and soon—our love for one another was so incredibly great, all we wanted to do was share it with children.

As fate would have it, our timing was perfect. I am pregnant, due May 24, almost exactly two and a half years after Hudson was born. Except Hudson is not here. She will never get to be the big sister. She will never get to have her picture taken leaning over to kiss her baby sibling in the hospital or holding the baby on the couch under close supervision from Mommy and Daddy. She will never get to experience the mischief of teasing a little sibling mercilessly. She will never get to stand up for her little brother or sister in front of others who might tease them. She will never get to help Mommy bake her little brother or sister a birthday cake. She will never get to be a maid or matron of honor or honorary groomsman in her brother’s or sister’s wedding. She will never.

As you might guess, my emotions are all over the place. Don’t get me wrong-- they are not mixed. There is no part of me that is not glad that we are pregnant, happy that we are having this baby, already counting the days until this little one is in our arms. When we saw this little one’s heartbeat last Friday, I felt the first flutter of excitement in my own broken heart since Hudson died. But as you can tell from the last few days’ posts, there are just so many parts of me that are still so acutely grieving my oldest child. I am grieving the life we had planned for her, for our family. I am grieving the cheerful, carefree manner in which we were able to enjoy our pregnancy with Hudson. I am grieving the fact that for the rest of my life, I will have to celebrate the birth of one child within a week or so of remembering and mourning the death of another. I am grieving the fact that this announcement is so very bittersweet—this little one deserves to be welcomed with nothing but pure, unadulterated joy, but so very sadly, that kind of joy just does not exist for us. Not right now, at least.

There is no doubt in my mind that this baby will bring healing. That it will help renew us. That it will bring back some of the joy that was stolen from us when Hudson was so cruelly yanked from our lives. That gives me hope.

We have such a big job ahead of us. I can’t even begin to imagine how we will do it, but I know we can and we will. We are determined to be the very best parents we can possibly be to this baby, even if we can never again be the parents we were to Hudson. I have to keep reminding myself that there is no more that I can do except to take it day by day, or sometimes only minute by minute, or breath by breath. I am grateful, already, for the unconditional and overwhelming support that I know we will receive during the next agonizingly long seven and a half months, and that I know we will continue to receive for many moons after that.

We love you, our sweetest Hudson. We will never stop missing you or grieving the hole that your absence has left in our hearts and our lives. You will always be our first. You will always be our oldest. You will always be our precious girl. We will always be however many we are, plus you. You taught us so much and you keep teaching us every day and we are so grateful. We are so very sad that you will never get to meet your little brothers and sisters, but we will tell them all about you, and they will love you, too.



We love you, little baby. We haven’t decided on your in utero name yet, but we can’t wait to meet you soon. We are so very sad that you will never get to meet your big sister, but we will tell you all about her. We know you will laugh at her pictures and her videos just like we do. We will always let you be yourself and we will always love you for you, no matter what. And we will try our best always to bring as much joy to your life as we know you will bring to ours.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Broken Record

A day like today makes me question what I am doing in this job. This is all still so very raw, still so very close to the surface, and everything else sometimes just seems so infinitesimal and unimportant and ridiculous that it all feels like a grand charade that I want to get out of.

I guess I’ve really been struggling for several days, with just a few breaks over the past weekend. But today I had my first closed-door, multiple-Kleenex, stuffy-nosed, red-eyed, full-throttle cry in the office. Two of them actually. One in the morning and one in the afternoon (20 minutes before a meeting—lovely). The afternoon one was set off by a conversation I had with a co-worker who injured her back this weekend. She mentioned that she was going to go to the ER this evening to get something for the pain. Red lights were flashing in my head: “DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!” But seeing no way out of the conversation, I kept talking politely. “Yes, the wait at the ER is always so long.” “Yes, it’s even worse when you are sitting there in pain” (or holding your barely conscious child). Then she told me about a time she’d broken her ankle, went to the ER and had to wait too long, so she went back home, set her alarm for 2:00AM and went to the ER then. There were only two people in front of her in line then.

I said, “Oh, that’s a good idea.” And all I could think was this: Well, why didn’t I think of that? Why, at 4AM, when the fever spiked up again only an hour after a dose of Tylenol, when Hudson was so lethargic (or just very sleepy in my mind—after all, it was 4AM and she had been fighting this fever for a whole day), when she was crying out when I touched her little legs, why didn’t it occur to me that it would probably be a good time to go to the ER? Not too crowded, we’d get in and out quickly, make sure everything was OK. Why didn’t that nice practical reason FORCE ME TO PUT HUDSON IN THE CAR AND GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM?

I was dazed for a few moments. I tried to wrap up the conversation. I went to the bathroom. I looked at myself in the mirror. I took breaths. I went back to my desk. I called Ed and said, “I just needed to hear your voice.” And then I lost it. Big time. Sobbed for almost ten whole minutes. I don’t know when I will let go of this, but I clearly still haven’t. There’s just not a bone in my body, not a molecule in my brain, not a space in heart, that isn’t still begging, pleading, groveling for chance to go back in time and do that morning over on the chance that it would mean that Hudson would be alive right now, running around the kitchen while I get her dinner together. Everything we know about meningitis in kids that age says that a course of IV antibiotics should have cured her, that the day after she was admitted, she should have been moved to a general ward for a few weeks of more antibiotics and recovery time. I just can’t get it out of my head that if we’d just found a way to get her diagnosed sooner, get those drugs in her sooner, then she would still be with us and none of the kind strangers who visit here would even know who we are. The ER is a magical place in my head—even though the doctors have told me they think it would have been unlikely that the ER docs would have done a spinal tap at that point (and it’s not even certain that she had meningitis at that point—we just don’t know), the fairy tale in my head that begins with a 4AM trip to the ER (instead of a 8AM trip to the pediatrician and a 1PM trip to the ER for IV fluids) ends with my beautiful, happy, 22-month-old Hudson talking up a storm and getting ready for Halloween right now.

Why didn’t that happen? Why did this happen to us? Why is Hudson not here anymore? Why can’t I have her back? Why are our lives changed in the worst way, forever?

I said last week that I had nothing new to say. Looks like that is true. This is a record that is going to keep playing in my head for who knows how long. I wish I could take it out and smash it against the wall into a thousand pieces. But even then, it would not matter, because Hudson is not here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Why Can't I?

This morning on my way to drop the car off to get repaired, I heard a story on NPR about the flu shot, about how much more the manufacturers had been able to make this year and how widely it is being distributed. I thought about late last fall when Hudson got her H1N1 vaccine—we had to go to two different sites across the city on different dates four weeks apart. Both times, she cried, hard, but not for long. Today I thought about how vaccine days are one of those times when a parent is most a parent—having to endure watching your child in pain, maybe even holding her arm or leg still for the shot, but knowing that it is for your sweet baby’s own good. That is love. I would do anything to be taking Hudson in for a flu shot this week, holding her arm still for the nurse, comforting her when it was all over.  I cried the rest of the way to the dealership.

When today’s mail arrived, included was the annual Friends of the National Zoo calendar. Last year’s calendar was a staple of Hudson’s afternoon fun. I kept it on a bottom shelf in the kitchen and she would pull it out and leaf through it, tearing a page every once in a while just for fun and putting the small pieces of torn paper in the trash. I remember when we joined the zoo last fall. We got a coupon for a free stuffed panda bear. On our next trip, I took Hudson to one of the gift shops and got her little panda. She loved it. We kept it in her bed—it was one of two bears I tucked under her arms at night when she went to sleep. We brought it to the hospital, but not until after she was already in a coma. I never dreamed when I made the trip to the ER that I would need it. I never expected to stay longer than a few hours. What I would give for another trip to the zoo, another torn page in the calendar, another night to tuck that panda bear in.  As I thumbed through this year’s calendar, I cried. 

Tonight, I was watching some dumb movie while eating dinner and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” played in the final scene. Not the Iz version we played as part of the memorial service slideshow, but it doesn’t really matter. While I guess I won’t regret choosing that song as part of the soundtrack of the slideshow—it was a perfect song in many ways—it is sad that it is associated with such a heartbreaking memory. I remember one friend who said she heard it on the way to work one day and smiled to think of Hudson. I know I will get to that point, too. But right now, I can only cry as I think upon these words:

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
High above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh, why can’t I?   


Why can’t I?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Grateful

It feels like it has been such a long time since I’ve written. Somewhere in there, it became October. October. The winter squashes just started showing up in our local market and we are reminded of last year, when acorn squash with apples and cinnamon became one of Hudson’s favorite meals. Last year, October was the month that Hudson became really fun. Of course, she was a delight, a joy, the light of our lives for all the time leading up to that, but you parents out there know what I mean. Around nine or ten months, it all starts to come together. They start to get really interactive in a way they weren’t before. The developmental leaps start coming every single day and all you can do is sit and marvel. My best and favorite memories of my sweet Hudson began in October of last year. I usually love this month, but I am so very sad she is not here to share it with us.

But even though it is a terribly sad Sunday morning here at our house, full of nostalgia and longing for our life that no longer exists, I take comfort in the lingering warm glow of a weekend spent with many very good friends. We hosted two different sets of friends for Friday dinner and Saturday brunch and had such a good time catching up. It feels like I am crawling, slowly, warily, out of a dark hole. While I’ve never had difficulty laughing since Hudson died (laughter is and always has been one of Ed’s and my lifelines—we’ve never relied on it more than we have during this awful time), I feel for the first time as though the laughter is not so hollow, as though there is some fullness to it.

And then last night, Rich and Lynn Matheny had us over for an amazing meal, some fabulous home-brewed beer, wonderful camaraderie, and the unveiling of all the lovely books collected in Hudson’s memory for the D.C. Public Library. I had already seen the remarkable list on paper, but seeing all the books in person, touching them with my hands, turning their pages, reading the notes enclosed, helping place the memorial bookplates—that was an entirely different and visceral experience. We were stunned, and incredibly moved, by the obviously painstaking choices so many people made when selecting books. Each book, in its own way, was so perfectly appropriate for this wonderful tribute to our precious Hudson. The rich variety of the more than 300 titles will make such a difference at our little Woodridge library. I wish I had endless time to sit and look at and read them all and think about my girl. I can already picture in my head a small child with his or her mama or daddy reading a book they had checked out at the library, seeing the bookplate, and wondering who the special little girl was who inspired such a gift. Our girl’s light will keep shining forever on all those children.

I want to take yet another opportunity to thank Rich and Lynn, not only for conceiving of and putting together such a thoughtful, appropriate, and excellent tribute to Hudson, but also for providing a way for so many of our friends, family, and many who did not know us, to do something else so tangible and personal and purposeful to honor Hudson’s life. As Rich remarked to me, in the end, “the impact may be greater for those who gave than those who will receive.” Thank you, Rich and Lynn, for opening that door for everyone, and thank you so much to everyone who stepped through it to remember Hudson with us in such a special way.

On this otherwise-sad, chilly October morning, Hudson’s books, and all of you, are my One Good Thing. Thank you.