Saturday, February 26, 2011

She Should Be Here

She is everywhere.

We are at Hudson’s Poppy’s house for the weekend (this is why I haven’t written in a few days). This place is so very changed from when Hudson was here.

There are times when I can be driving down a road that is now very familiar to me and I have a flash of memory of what it was like to drive down that stretch of road for the first time. I can remember what it looked like when I saw it for the first time and I can compare that memory to what the stretch of road looks like now that I have driven it so many times.

This is much the same. I walk around this house and can remember exactly what it looked like, how it felt, when Hudson was here. And I sense, quite intensely, how different it looks and feels now. I guess it is different from our house, because we live in that space with her memories every day, whereas our visits here, though relatively frequent, are far enough apart that every time we walk in the door, it is like being reminded all over again that she is gone.

My dad moved into this house when Hudson was about 5 months old, so with the exception of a few visits when she was very small, this is the house we associate with her visits to see Poppy. This house never existed in our family without her. Above the garage is a bonus room with a bedroom, bathroom and large closet off to the side. Whenever we were here, we slept in that bedroom and Hudson slept in the adjoining closet (which is really just a small room, twice as big as her nursery at home). For her first visit, Dad had set up a changing area and a pack-n-play for her, and had hung a sign over the door that said “Hudson’s Room.”

She is everywhere. She is still in the closet/nursery, where all of her toys still sit, unused, on the shelves. Her little voice still echoes through the door in the morning, when she would wake up in the dark and start talking to let us know to come get her. She is still in the bathtub, where Poppy had put a large inflatable duck bathtub that she was afraid of the first time she sat in it, but then grew over time to love it and how it quacked when you squeezed its beak. She is still on the two carpeted steps down from the upstairs bedroom into the small hallway to the bathroom, where she practiced going up and down. She is still on the dining chair behind the couch, to which we always attached her highchair when we visited. She is still on the carpet in the living room, where we have pictures of her sitting when she first learned to sit up. She is still sitting on the piano bench, banging the keys with her daddy. She is still sitting on her daddy’s lap at the dining table while her cousins decorate Christmas cookies. She is still sitting out on the deck, where Dad had a kid-sized papasan chair and umbrella just for her. She is still learning to float on her tummy in her daddy’s arms in the pool, excitedly kicking her feet behind her, the ruffled butt of her bathing suit sticking up out of the water. She is still standing next to the large landscaping rock out in the front yard, leaning on it with both hands as she had just learned to walk.

She is everywhere. But of course, she is not here.  And without her here, this house looks and feels so very different than when we first saw it. Quiet. Empty. Sad. She should be here.

She should be here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


There’s a first time for everything, right?

Here is the first article of clothing I have ever made. Shorts for Jackson. They are so imperfect, it’s not even funny. I have a long way to go just to get better at sewing in a straight line. The hardest part was trying to get the hems on both legs to be the same length. And I didn’t. Not quite.  And next time, I think I’ll try a print that doesn’t require matching at the seams.

But I figure they’re not too bad for my first time out, particularly considering that a three-month-old will be wearing them, and probably only for a few weeks before outgrowing them. They even have pockets.

The fabric was cheap, but special. Every time I look at these, hopefully I’ll smile, thinking of when Hudson would lay on her changing table, look up at the yellow crab stuffed animal hanging nearby and say “Cab!”

Oh, how I miss her.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Created Space, Space To Create

Well, we did it. We rearranged Hudson’s memorial space to make room for me to knit and sew and organize all of my supplies. Once I made the decision to do it, I was eager to get it done before I lost my motivation (nerve? commitment? absence of terrible feelings about it?), so I took President’s Day off with Ed just so that we could spend the day working on it.

The disassembling and reassembling of the memorial table itself was not terribly difficult emotionally—in a strange way, I felt like I was taking care of Hudson as I did it, trying to figure out which items should go where in their new space on the other side of the room, deciding which things did not need to remain in the space permanently, making a new home for Hudson’s ashes, her Elmo, and so many other special things.

Here are the before pictures (again) and the after pictures.



  • My sewing machine (a rental while my mom’s is getting serviced after 10 years of non-use)
  • Some of my favorite pictures of Hudson
  • Hudson’s lamby (named “Haha”—her dad asked her what the lamb’s name should be and she laughed, so from then on, he called it “Haha”; he used to sing her a song he made up, singing “Haha the lamb loves you!”) wrapped in a washcloth, because that is what she always did with him—she laid him down to “sleep” and covered him with a “blanket”
  • The monkey fabric (on the right) that I bought and used as a tablecloth for Hudson’s birthday party—I now plan to make a quilt out of it for Jackson and the future Hitchcock Chaneys as another way to remember their big sister 

Most of the contents of the memorial table, with Hudson’s ashes, in their big Elmo hug, on top

A beautiful plaque my high school girlfriends had made for me last summer

A collage of some of our very favorite photos of our girl

A gorgeous pencil drawing my sister had made for us from Hudson’s Easter egg picture, one of our favorites

A nameplate for Hudson’s room that my dad had my nephew create for me for my birthday last year (each letter is wrapped by an animal that begins with that letter) along with some of Hudson’s artwork

Hudson’s first and last artwork:  the first (on the right) was made in her old daycare when she was about seven months old; the last was made at St. Ann’s just a week before she died, a gift for Mother’s Day. 
Look how much her little hands had grown.

I am happy with the way the room turned out.  It is imperfect, but the only way it could be made perfect is if Hudson were still sitting in it.

Slightly harder than rearranging the table was going through all of her toys (in baskets under the table in the before picture), sanitizing them, and packing them away. For as much as they filled that space when strewn about (as they often were), they ultimately fit into one plastic storage box and two small, soft-sided handled baskets, as well as a laundry basket full of her books to reshelve in hers and Jackson’s room upstairs (“their room”—I wonder if I could just get used to calling it that all the time). I had forgotten about many of the toys because it had been so long since she had played with some of them, especially some of the little baby toys that were still hanging out in the playroom.

What stopped me in my tracks was finding her purple sun hat (one of two—the other one is still at day care where it lived with her diapers, wipes, diaper cream, and extra change of clothes) in one of the laundry baskets of her toys. She wore it often, and is wearing it in one of our favorite pictures of her and her daddy in the azalea garden at the Arboretum (on the top of the new memorial shelf next to her ashes). As happens so many times, I was just struck by the impossibility that the hat, which used to rest on top of her precious head, will never touch her head again. I was hit again by that very familiar feeling of She was just here. I turned it over and over in my hands, teary, dumbstruck once again by the horror of it all.

And then there was the diaper bag. So many times I have sat down on the floor beside Hudson’s table, opened the diaper bag, looked through it, cried, and closed it and put it back. I have been unable to do anything else with it. This time was no different. After everything else in the room had found its new place, there it sat, in the same place under the table where it has lived for the past nine months. I picked it up again, opened it, and looked again. And there they still are: the clothes she wore on the day she was admitted to the hospital. Little navy and white whale print pants. An aqua polo shirt with puffed sleeves. A pair of white socks tucked into her pink Nikes from Grandma. And something I hadn’t remembered seeing before—the maroon fleece sweatshirt embroidered with flowers that I had picked up for her at a consignment sale last winter. She wore it all the time—she is wearing it in the photo at the top of this blog where she is sitting on my shoulders last March at the kite festival. I stood there and stared into the bag, then closed my eyes and began to shake with soft sobs. Ed came in and I said, “I can’t do anything with the diaper bag.” He nodded, tucked his head into the crook of my neck, and held me as the soft sobs turned into hard ones.

I closed the bag again and put it right back under the table, where I suppose it will just stay for now. I’m not sure why I can’t bring myself to empty it. Maybe it is just a portrait of a moment in time that I wish I could go back to and freeze, at least until I can figure out how to change the events that followed so that I spent yesterday straightening up Hudson’s well-used playroom and organizing her clothes to make room for the new round of 2T sizes we just bought this weekend, instead of figuring out how best to remember her as I make new use of her old playspace. As long as those clothes stay in the diaper bag, that moment still exists, I guess, as does the possibility of the different outcome. Probably not very healthy, but I figure I can only handle so much at one time.

So we did it. One big, hard task down. So many more to go in the many years to come, the first of which will have to include rearranging things in Hudson’s room (their room?) to make room for Jackson’s clothes and things, organizing and storing Hudson’s clothes, and sorting through and cleaning all the baby gear in the basement to get it ready for Jackson’s arrival.

I have a new space to create things. I share it with my precious girl, who so fills the room that I can’t help but feel her there with me. One day soon, Jackson will join us in there, sitting on the same playmat and playing with the same toys and reading the same books his big sister loved, while I sit with him and sew or knit. I have many things in mind to create, things for Hudson, things for her brother, things for her other future siblings, things for all of them together.

And in the middle of all that, in that room I will share with both of my children, I will be creating something for me: all the space my heart needs to love and parent them forever.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I’m Sorry

I find myself saying this to my sweet Hudson all the time.

I’m so sorry, Hudson. I’m so, so sorry.

I’m sorry that I didn’t know how sick you were.

I’m sorry if you were scared when you were in the hospital.

I’m sorry if you were in any pain.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t save you.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t hold you in the hospital when you wanted me to.

I’m sorry that we didn’t bring you your bears before you went into a coma.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t save you.

I’m sorry that you are missing out on so many wonderful things in this life you loved.

I’m sorry that the world is still spinning, that we are still living, without you.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t save you.

I repeat these refrains over and over in my head all the time. Many, many times a week, I say them out loud, often crying as I do.

Today, I finally put the finishing touches on the blanket I started for Hudson before she was born. I had such mixed feelings about finally finishing it—another tangible sign of how I am somehow going on without my precious child. Here are some photos, including one of it draped over Hudson’s favorite rocking chair.

I’m sorry that I didn’t finish this blanket for you before you were born.

I’m sorry that I didn’t finish this blanket for you before you died.

I’m sorry that you didn’t have anything handmade from your mommy to keep as a lovey.

I’m sorry that you didn’t have something special like that to hold when you were scared in the hospital.

And Hudson, most of all, my sweet girl, I am so sorry that you are not here now, now that I’ve finished it, so that we could play peekaboo with it, so that I could snuggle you close with it while we read our bedtime books, and so that you could always keep it as one of many ways to know how much I love you.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t save you.

I am so, so sorry.

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's All Right

So I just had one of those moments where it felt like Hudson was really trying to tell me something. Or maybe this time it was Jackson. Or maybe it was both of them. I don’t know, but I had to write about it immediately.

This is the current state of my “craft corner”:

It consists of several retail store plastic bags of fabric, notions, and patterns that I have picked up as I’ve been learning to sew, as well as my knitting bag, which also holds the blanket that I started knitting for Hudson a few months before she was born and finally finished this week (I am starting a new knitting class on Sunday learning how to make hats, and I promised myself I would finish Hudson’s blanket before moving on to another knitting project that will most likely be for Jackson). The bags are just piled on a spare chair in our dining room where I can grab them as I go out the door.

My “craft corner” is not much of a corner at all. It is a big mess. I have not set up any place to keep this stuff organized or to use my sewing machine (so far, I’ve just been sewing on the machines in my classes). The reason I have not set up any place for this stuff is because there is only one possible place for it all to go:

This 6-foot table in Hudson’s playroom currently holds all of her memorial things: her ashes, her Elmo and some other favorite toys and books, her keepsake box from the hospital, many framed photos, two peace lilies and several other special gifts we’ve received since she died, some other mementos we have picked up since then, and the book of guests who visited us at home and who came to her memorial services. All of this rests on top of the large piece of monkey-patterned fabric I bought to use for a tablecloth for her birthday party, which had a monkey theme. Underneath the table are laundry baskets holding the vast majority of Hudson’s toys, as well as the diaper bag that still contains the clothes and shoes she wore on the day she was admitted to the hospital. Hanging on the walls in this room are the banner of Hudson’s turtle pictures along with a turtle wind chime I bought after she died, a framed collage of some of our favorite photos of her, some of her fingerpainting masterpieces, and the beautiful painting I gave to Ed for Father’s Day as a symbol of hope for us during this incredibly dark time:

I have really been struggling with this. I knew that at some point we’d have to disassemble the table. Maybe it wouldn’t be until we moved, but at some point, we’d have to take it apart. More likely, it would need to be a little sooner than that, as we will want Jackson to have the same great playspace that Hudson did. But part of me never wants to touch it, never wants it to change at all, unless we are adding something to it, because taking the table apart or changing it, just like packing away Hudson’s clothes one of these days, will be a very visible and tangible symbol of our lives moving forward without her, even against our will.

But now, I find myself needing the table and the space for something new, something that nurtures my soul and is helping unlock some creative force inside me that has long been dormant (since long before Hudson died), something that I believe will continue to help me heal and therefore be a better mom for Hudson’s little brothers and sisters when they arrive. But I don’t want to take the table apart at all, let alone for a selfish reason like making room for my new hobby.

After a long talk with Jess today, and a subsequent conversation with Ed, I began to try to open myself to the possibility that we can change the space without taking Hudson out of it. Jess and I talked about how there could be room for both our precious mementos of our girl and my new creative space, and that in fact, it might be really nice to have my creative space be in a place I can share with Hudson. And Ed suggested that we could rearrange some things in the room, maybe get a smaller table or shelves for all of our memorial items, so that we can keep everything in there and still clear the table for my knitting and sewing space. And that idea started to sound appealing.

But still, thinking about changing the room and looking ahead to actually doing it are two totally different things. And part of me still very deeply and strongly objects to changing it at all, for any reason.

Here’s where my sweet girl, or my sweet boy, or both, come in. A long while ago, probably sometime late last summer or fall, I was reading another mom’s blog who also rather suddenly lost her first child, almost exactly the same age as Hudson, and then gave birth to another child about 8 months later. They are Beatles fans, and when her second daughter was born, her “theme song” of sorts for the event was Here Comes the Sun. I had certainly heard the song before, but had never really listened to the words. But once I did, I was moved to tears thinking about the birth of another baby in our family one day. Here are the lyrics if you don’t know them:

Here Comes The Sun

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...

Little darling, I feel the ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right

It’s all right

These last few weeks, as Jackson’s arrival gets closer and closer, I’ve been meditating on it often, thinking it will have to be one of “his” songs.

Then today, we broke a high temperature record here in DC. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and after three long months of below-normal temperatures and gray skies, the sun was out, it was 76 degrees, a warm breeze was blowing, and Bess and I took a long walk with me in short sleeves. It was simply glorious. I hadn’t felt that good in a very long time.

And then, just a few minutes ago, as I was sitting here at the computer paying bills and taking care of some long-overdue administrative tasks, I was listening to Pandora. I was listening to an Erasure channel I had created, so I was hearing a lot of 80s pop like Erasure, David Bowie, Cindy Lauper, the Smiths, the Cure, and Duran Duran, with a few oddball artists like Weezer thrown in here and there. I had been ruminating about the playroom all afternoon and evening, trying to decide if I was ready to change it, wondering if my new need for the space was a sign that it was time.

And then I got a real sign. Out of nowhere, Here Comes the Sun came on. A song off an album from 1969 and in every other way totally out of whack with the genre on this particular Pandora station. Instead of bursting into tears, I broke into a smile, in total disbelief that this had just happened and yet feeling immediately that one or both of my children were trying to tell me something very important. Jackson’s song. Hudson’s message.

As I just wrote the other day, I often find myself poking in the dark corners of this grief, because the idea of going on without my incredible little girl just seems so wrong, and clinging to the pain is one way of staying connected. I don’t want to go on, but I also don’t want not to go on. It is quite a terrible place to be stuck in. But as my fellow grieving mama Judy so astutely observed, we are going on, whether we like it or not. We are forced to go on without our children because there really is no other choice.

And what happened tonight helped me begin to feel like going on just has to be okay. It’s not moving on, it’s not getting over, it’s not getting past. It’s just going on. And it has to be done. Life has to be lived, not just because I am still here living it, but because Hudson is not, and I owe it to her to keep living good enough and big enough for the both of us.

Whether I like it or not, whether I’m ready or not, the ice is slowly melting. And today, Hudson or Jackson or the two of them together were telling me, “It’s all right, Mommy. It’s all right.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Big Sister

I was pregnant with Hudson at a boom time among my friends and neighbors. I had more friends than I can count who were pregnant with me in 2008 or thereabouts, let alone all the moms I met here in the neighborhood after Hudson was born. It’s a little over two years later, and naturally, many of those same friends have already welcomed their second children or are currently pregnant with them. As one after another of Hudson’s contemporaries welcomes a younger sibling, my heart breaks again and again at every picture of them kissing their newborn brothers and sisters on the foreheads or holding them gingerly in their laps under the watchful eyes of mom and dad. This is a picture we will never take with Hudson and Jackson. How is that possible? How did we get here?

I already struggle mightily with how we will help Jackson and our future children have a relationship with an amazing sister they never got a chance to know. I have been heartened by the stories people have shared with me here and elsewhere about grown adults who still actively remember and embrace their siblings who died before they were born. I fervently hope that we will know the right things to do to cultivate that kind of relationship without risking our younger children feeling overshadowed by Hudson’s life and death, and the enormous impact both will have on our family and our lives forever.

One of the things I grapple most with is how we will talk about Hudson with Jackson and our other children when they are very young. This is still so far off, but it is still something I think about every day, and since kids often begin to understand things far sooner than we realize, I’d rather “start as I mean to go on” if possible, at least until they get old enough to talk intellectually about things like death and what happens to us when we die. I’ve read entries on several other grieving mama blogs about these conversations they’ve had with both older and subsequent siblings of the child who died, and everyone’s approach is very different, as it should be.

My biggest problem with this, of course, is that I have no idea where Hudson is, if she is anywhere, or what has happened to her, if anything. I know what I would like to believe. I know what makes me feel better to think about. I know how much comfort I get from the little things that happen that make me feel like she is with me. But I have no idea how to talk about these things with a small child who wants to know where his big sister is. (And I am still rather disbelieving that I will eventually face such a terrible circumstance.)

My inclination right now is that when they are very young, the most important thing is for our future children to feel, from a very early age, like they have a special relationship with Hudson. This may very well mean that for some period of time, I will have to be okay with talking to them in some kind of concrete language about her, even though there is nothing concrete about our ideas of what happens after we die. It just seems like it would be so much easier for them to feel close to her if they perceive her as being somewhere specific (heaven?), always close to them and watching over them (like an angel?). These seem like fairly straightforward ideas for a child to latch on to (if not fully comprehend), at least from my 10,000-feet point of view. And maybe it will also give them language with which they can talk about their sister with other people, which I think will be very important for all of us. And later, when they are more intellectually curious (and capable?), maybe that will be the time to start thinking and discussing things from a more spiritual perspective, along the lines of how their dad and I don’t really know where people go after they die, but that we feel Hudson’s spirit with us all the time in special ways, and that she is their sister no matter whether she is here on earth with us or not.

Argh. (What an understatement.) I really can’t believe that I have to think about this. And yet I must.  This is my life, my family’s life. Hudson will always be the big sister. Forever.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mommy, Interrupted

I first used this tag line co-opted from Susanna Kaysen last summer, after spending the Fourth of July with my nieces and nephews, a weekend during which I did all kinds of mommy-like things, except with children who were not my own.

I am now very visibly pregnant, but without an older child in tow or injected into the regular stream of my conversations, it’s natural for people who don’t know me or my story to assume that this is my first child. Although I am constantly on guard for the question “Is this your first?” I’ve thankfully only been subjected to it a handful of times. I usually just say, “No, my second,” unless someone asks another question, at which point I tell them about Hudson.

What I didn’t expect is how defensive I would feel about people assuming this is my first child. My job is pretty insular, in that it is contained within the career services office and I’m pretty much on my own there. I mostly interact with the six women in my office, the handful of students who stop by to see me in person, a few faculty from time to time about pro bono projects, and the security guards, custodians, and cafeteria staff. The vast majority of these interactions are limited to “Hi, how are you?” and pro bono-specific talk, which is fine with me. As odd and awkward as it feels to spend my days in a place where so few people know about Hudson (and the few who do know no more than the basics), I have to admit that it allows me to feel somewhat normal when I’m there, even though I am anything but.

So I was surprised at my own reaction to a conversation I had with a colleague a few weeks ago. I was tabling in the cafeteria during lunch, getting students signed up for the pro bono program, when a young female professor approached to chat. She and I had spoken before on several occasions, so we were familiar with one another, but this was probably the first time we’d talked since I started really showing (to the point where someone would feel confident mentioning the pregnancy). I had seen her a little earlier with a young boy I assumed was her son, and I asked her about him. She explained that yes, he was her son, and that he was out sick from school. She then said something like, “Something for you to look forward to if you are entering this world,” and gestured to my belly. A totally natural thing one would say to a presumed first-time mom. I nodded and said, “Oh, I know.” She didn’t pick up on that and went on explaining the situation and as I sat there, I thought, “Should I just let her assume that I have no children, that I have no experience with what she’s talking about? As if Hudson didn’t exist?”

At the next break in the conversation, I blurted out, “Yeah, our day care closed with the Prince Georges County schools, so last winter’s snow was just awful.” She looked at me in surprise and said, “Oh, you have an older child?” I replied, “Yes, we have a daughter who passed away last spring at 17 months old.” I started tearing up like I always do whenever I have to say that to someone, but I managed to keep it together. She, of course, was caught totally off guard and began to cry herself, and I immediately found myself apologizing. I didn’t feel bad for telling her, but I always feel bad for the shock it causes people, even though there is no way around it. We talked more and it turned out that she has a little girl not much older than Hudson was when she died. She later sent me a very kind email telling me again how sorry she was for our loss.

Thinking about it afterwards, I realized that even though it all happened in a matter of a few seconds, I had made a very intentional decision to say something that I knew would lead to questions about Hudson. It was as if my brain just could not accept a conversation based on the false assumption that I have never been a mother, that I don’t know the frustrations of being a working mom, that my amazing little girl never existed. It just could not participate in that particular conversation, so it changed the conversation.

I am a mommy. I have two children, but you can’t see either one of them right now, so you assume I don’t know anything about being a mommy. I know all about juggling day care closings and sick days with work. I know all about sleepless nights followed by hectic work days. I know all about breastfeeding and pumping at the office. I know all about changing diapers and swaddling and switching over to solid foods and shopping for big-girl car seats and cheering on first steps and teaching new words and buying the right size baby clothes and where to get the best deals on baby gear. I know how incredible it feels to have your child say, “Mama!” and squeeze your neck and snuggle into your chest as you sing to her before she goes to bed. And unlike most mommies, I know what it is like to watch your child slowly die right in front of your eyes, to hold her while her heart beats for the last time. I know all of those things. What I don’t know is what it is like to celebrate a second birthday, or hear my child speak in full sentences, or help her potty train, or deal with the terrible twos, or bake with her, or accommodate her first toy obsession, or fix her long hair into pigtails, or prepare her for the arrival of her little brother. I don’t know about any of those things, even though I gave birth to a daughter 26 months ago.

I am a mommy, interrupted. But a mommy, just the same.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nine Months: Remembering

It has been nine months. Three-quarters of one year. More than half of the time that Hudson was alive. That is probably the most shocking thing of all. She has been gone for more than half the time that she was here. One of these days in the frighteningly not-too-distant future, in less time than has already passed, she will have been gone longer than she was here. She has been gone for such a very, very, very long time already.

Last February was full of some of our favorite memories with Hudson. There was the massive blizzard in DC, which I’ve already written about, during which we learned that our girl was a true snow-lover. There was the UNC-Dook game, the traditions of which she fully embraced, even though she had no idea what they meant (but she would have learned soon enough). And then a few weeks later, when we were still digging out of the last remnants of the snow, Hudson’s Grandma and Grandpa came to visit from North Carolina for a weekend.

What a day we had out on the town. We didn’t let a little cold and snow get us down.  Grandpa and Daddy took turns with her in the backpack and we were unstoppable.  Well, with the one exception being that we didn’t have any mittens for her (not that she’d have kept the little toddler mittens on) and it was really cold. We brainstormed about what to do and were almost about to stop at one of the tourist gift trucks on Constitution Avenue to buy some socks (which we’d learned during the snow were highly resistant to removal by a toddler) when Ed said she could just wear his gloves. Hence this silly look. But hey, whatever works.


We started the day at the National Building Museum, one of my favorite places to take Hudson. The building itself is beautiful, with a massive atrium forming its center, perfect for little ones to run around with wild abandon. In the middle of the atrium is a fountain, so any time spent running around the atrium also meant keeping her from running straight into the fountain, which I have no doubt she would have done if given the chance. She was fascinated with it. The real attraction of the Building Museum for kids, though, is the Building Zone, a small room off the center atrium full of toys to construct things with. There are cardboard bricks, bean bags, bags full of scrap fabric, a toy house, Tinker Toys, wooden blocks, large stuffed blocks that kids can stack high and then knock over or fall into, and many more. There’s also a kid-sized house with a kid-sized door and kid-sized windows and kid-sized windows chairs that little ones can explore. The Building Zone was always a favorite with Hudson.

Unfortunately for us, on this particular day, the Building Museum was hosting some sort of science and engineering expo for middle schoolers, so the Building Zone was closed and the atrium was packed with people and displays. Did that stop Hudson? What do you think? No way. As soon as we put her on the floor, she was off. I used to worry that she had so little fear—she’d just take off not even knowing if we were behind her. And when we went after her, she just tried to go faster. Miss Independent. That’s exactly what she looks like in these pictures.

Since the Building Museum was a bust, we headed to the Museum of Natural History instead. The mammal room was always a hit with Hudson. So many of her favorite animals were there, including some massive lions, in front of which she was always eager to stop and practice her signature “RAWR!”

Once she’d had her fill of the Museum of Natural History, we headed across the street to the ice skating rink in the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery and stopped to watch the skaters for a bit.

Then we happened to see the carousel on the other side of the mall. Somehow we’d never really noticed this before, and we were surprised to see it open in the winter. Hudson had been on a carousel once before, but it was inside a suburban mall and wasn’t nearly so grand as the one on the National Mall. Grandma and Grandpa decided they had to take her. Very few people were in line for the carousel in the middle of February, so we didn’t have to wait, and there were probably only one or two other kids on the ride. Grandma and Grandpa loaded her up on the best “horse” of the carousel, a beautiful dragon seemingly colored just for her. Her daddy tried hard to catch a good photo of her each time they came back around to our side, and her Grandpa kept trying to get her to wave at Daddy, but the carousel was going just fast enough that it was hard for her to pick him up in her line of sight in time to wave before they had already passed by. The series of photos are priceless in spite of, or perhaps because of, this silliness.

As we wound down our adventures on the Mall, we headed to McCormick and Schmick’s for dinner. A chain steakhouse with massive mahogany walls and white tablecloths might seem like an odd place to take a toddler for dinner, but as it turned out, it was just perfect for this particular toddler. As we waited for our food, and throughout our meal, at any time when Hudson would get a little antsy in her highchair, one of us would just pop her out and do a little lap around the restaurant. Hudson was loving it, and everyone loved her (imagine that). She’d walk, stop in front of a table, peer up, and turn on that Hudson smile, at which point every person at the table would break into a huge grin and begin talking to her. She was a hit. She was so magnetic—it’s amazing to think about where that personality would have taken her if she’d had the chance to grow into it.

It is February, which means that I only have two more months’ worth of these memory photos from Hudson’s happy toddler days to share, plus one final photo we took in May the day before she got sick (one you’ve seen many times if you read here regularly). It means that in three months, we will begin making new memories with Hudson’s little brother that will not include her, at least not physically. That makes my heart so very heavy. The idea of continuing to move forward without her is sometimes just so overwhelmingly sad that I don’t even know what to do with it. I am so grateful for every single memory with her—they still play in my head just like high-definition movies—but I remain inconsolable that we will never make more. It is all just so very wrong.

I miss you, my girl.  I miss you so incredibly much.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hudson Chaney on Dook

Tonight is the first of two matchups between Dook and Carolina this season. Like any two double Tar Heel parents worth their salt, Ed and I worked hard from the very beginning to indoctrinate Hudson in her role in the greatest college basketball rivalry in history.

It started the day she came home from the hospital:

(I recently went looking for a new UNC going-home outfit for Jackson and nothing, absolutely nothing, came close to being as awesome as this. Initially I had some reservations about sending him home in the same outfit that Hudson wore, but now I think perhaps it will be another one of our family traditions for each of our kids to wear it on that special day).

It continued in February of 2009, when Hudson geared up for her first big game day.  Note that the sleeper she wore home finally fit her more than 2 months later—their newborn size was huge!  And check out her sweet kicks, courtesy of her Aunt Lindsay:

And then she stayed up with us to celebrate the victory (yes, that says 101-87... remember those days?):

And in March 2009, her mom and dad got lucky enough to get tickets to the Dook game at the Dean Dome. Hudson stayed home to watch the game with her Poppy, decked out in more of her Tar Heel finery. I love how she looks so worried in this picture, like she really hopes they pull off the V.  They did. (This was probably the most consecutive minutes she ever spent in front of a TV.)

Last year was even more fun (despite the dismal state of our basketball program at the time). Dressed in her Tyler Hansbrough jersey and UNC hat, both compliments of her Grandpa, and her “BEAT DUKE” button, Hudson learned about the silly fun of pom poms (although towards the end of this video, she doesn’t seem so sure…):

And then, the crowning jewel. Ed taught Hudson the best party trick ever learned by a toddler in all of history. This video was taken last May, a week before Hudson got sick, eleven days before she died. It is the last video we have of her. It is the only video we have of her saying any words. It is precious in every possible way, not least of which is the joy it still brings us to watch it, and the joy it will undoubtedly bring her younger siblings every year in the future when we watch it on game day:

If Hudson were with us today, she’d be heading to school in a Carolina shirt for game day (just as her mama is wearing a Carolina blue sweater and her dad a Carolina blue tie). Maybe we would have made Tar Heel cookies for her to share. She’d be trying to teach all of her friends to say “NOOOOO!” whenever she said “DOOK!” And I’m pretty sure she would probably be able to sing the entire alma mater and fight song by now, too, since I sang it to her every night before bed. I bet she’d be especially forceful with her ending: “DON’T GO TO DOOK!”

How I wish she were here to do all of that.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Never Close Enough

I’ve been thinking on this post all day and I still don’t quite know how to write it. Maybe because this is just another variation on the same post I’ve already written more times than I can count and I’m just running out of ways to describe these same emotions.

I’ve had the longest string of fairly good days that I can remember having since Hudson died, I think largely because I’ve tried to keep myself busier than usual. I’ve found that staying busy in the evenings and on the weekends makes the time go just the slightest bit faster. It’s not that I haven’t had sad moments, lots of them, but for the first time, those moments don’t always turn into sad days like I’ve grown used to expecting them to.

And how do I react? I pick the scab. I go looking for the sadness.

Back when I used to work at the firm, I had a minimum number of billable hours I had to meet every year. There would be days, even weeks sometimes, when the work would slow down. Others would often tell me to just be grateful for those times while I had them, for things would inevitably get crazy again. And yet I couldn’t help but still be stressed during those times, I guess partly for fear things wouldn’t pick up again, at least not enough, and I would come up short on my billable time at the end of the year.

Now, during these days (well, weeks, I can actually say for once) when I have a bit of a respite from the worst of the grief, I can’t just be grateful for the break. Instead, I find myself poking into the dark corners, especially as the respite grows longer and longer. I spent some time today reading over old entries on the blog, ones from back in June and July, just because I needed a reminder of some of those rawest of raw feelings. I stop so often in front of her pictures, which are everywhere, and just stare at them, thinking about her, telling her how much I miss her, until I feel the welcome warmth of hot tears. I sometimes find myself crossing my arms over my chest, just trying to remember again what it felt like to hug her tight, wishing desperately that she would just materialize there. Often before I go to sleep at night, I ask her to come visit me in my dreams because I am just so desperate to see her. As we get farther and farther away from Hudson’s death and nearer and nearer to Jackson’s birth (a much-anticipated event that will bring much-needed joy, laughter, and healing into our lives), I am frantically clinging to my little girl in any way I know how. And yet no matter how much poking I do, I can never get close enough.

I guess this is why grief is truly a lifelong process. I will never be able to get close enough to her again. But I’ll probably also never stop trying.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Kicking the Habit

I have not had a Coke since lunchtime a week ago. I thought this worthy of its own post. Before Hudson died, I had gotten serious about trying to kick my Coke habit. I had been in a habit of drinking at least one Coke a day, often two, for a very long time. Ever since my mom died in 2002, I’d certainly become far more aware of my own mortality than I’d ever been before, but having a child completely changes your perspective on these things. I didn’t want to miss out on my daughter’s wedding, or her first child, or watching my grandchildren grow up, and while I’ve now learned the hard way that there’s only so much of that I have control over, at that time, I was at least going to try to exercise control over the things I could. My first attempt was last year right about this time. I’d done well for about 2 weeks, cutting back significantly without cutting out Coke altogether. And then it snowed. And we were all in the house together for several days. It wasn’t stressful—it was special. It felt like a special occasion to me, so I figured why not splurge? Well, there’s a very good reason why not—I slipped right back into my old habit. Then, a few months later, about two weeks before Hudson died, I read this article about a huge longitudinal study done in Singapore that showed a significant association between pancreatic cancer and sugary soda consumption. People who drank two or more sodas a week (remember, I was drinking about that much every day!) were some huge percentage more likely to have pancreatic cancer than people who did not drink sodas. Granted, pancreatic cancer is still extremely rare, and out of the 67,000 people in this study, only 180 or so had pancreatic cancer. But still, an association, with or without an actual causal connection, between my main vice and the cancer that killed my mom at age 57 kicked my motivation to quit drinking Coke into overdrive. And I gave it up. I’d been off it again for almost 2 weeks when we landed in the hospital with Hudson. And, well, you can pretty much imagine the rest. About two months after Hudson died, I tried again, and did well for a few days until I had one very, very bad day with the grief and was right back there again. I also gave it up for the first few weeks of this pregnancy, and then as soon as the OB said that caffeine was OK in moderate amounts (which I already knew, of course, but wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth), you know I went right back out and got a Coke that day for lunch. And then a month ago, when gestational diabetes was mentioned, I cut way back again, but still had the occasional Coke.

Friday (and this is the really good news in this post), I learned that I passed my glucose challenge test, so NO GESTATIONAL DIABETES! Which is excellent news. You’d think this would make me want to go start guzzling Coke. And I do kind of want to. But I won’t. I keep telling myself that I can handle just drinking it in moderation—just on weekends or just when we go out to eat, but honestly, I know better. If I can just rid myself of the craving altogether, I’ll be much better off. The on again, off again just makes it much more likely that I’ll end up permanently on again.

Who knows whether giving it up will ultimately help prolong my life? But I certainly know it’s no good for me (nor for poor Jackson, who doesn’t have a say in the matter). And I certainly know that I don’t NEED to drink it (despite what I often tell myself). So without really thinking much about it or setting a start date or any of the other things I usually do, I’m just not having any. None for seven days. And kind of like the sewing projects, I have the feeling that once I’ve made it this far, I want to make it farther. Again, there are just so few things that give me a sense of accomplishment these days—tiny though this thing is, it is still an accomplishment. In some ways, I feel like I am doing this for Hudson as much as for me.  I can’t really explain why, but somehow I feel that.  Or maybe it’s that she’s giving me the strength and motivation I need to do something I’ve been trying to do for quite a while. Somehow, this has something to do with her, which feels good. Let’s hope it sticks this time.  

Oh, and did you hear? NO GESTATIONAL DIABETES! I won’t go out and guzzle a bunch of Coke. I will, however, lick every last bit of frosting left in the bowl from the homemade cinnamon rolls I baked this morning.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Another grieving mom suggested this to me a while ago and it just keeps slipping my mind. But today I got some pictures of Hudson I’d never seen before taken by people in my own family, including this one of us last Christmas reading a book together, which may be the only such picture that exists.

I realized that if folks in my own family hadn’t yet sent me all the pictures they have of Hudson, then it’s quite possible that there are other people out there who have pictures of Hudson I’ve never seen (and thank you so very much to those of you who have already sent many such pictures to me). Maybe we don’t know each other well but were at the same party together (one person who is a friend of a friend sent me just such a picture) or maybe you are a close friend and have just not gone through your old pictures. Or maybe you have hesitated to send pictures like this to us for fear they would be upsetting. 

In any event, if you ever had the pleasure of meeting our sweet girl and think you might have pictures of her that we’ve never seen, I can’t even tell you how grateful I would be to get those. If you have any, you can send them to me at the email address listed on the right side of the blog.

Thanks so much, everyone.

Friday, February 4, 2011


Last night, I was reading a book our office just received called The Happy Lawyer: Making a Good Life in the Law. Since I am currently struggling mightily with exactly how to do this, I was interested to see what the authors had to say. I skipped around and started with the chapter “Happiness: A Primer,” which basically reviews what scientific research, particularly neuroscience, has to say about happiness.

Well, you’d think by now that I would know to stop at “neuroscience.” But I didn’t. I don’t even think a red light went on. I just kept reading innocently enough.

Until I reached a section about the three different “brains” and the functions of each. I didn’t get past the first paragraph. All because of one simple sentence:

“The brainstem controls heartbeat, respiration, body temperature, and other essential functions.”

In an instant, I was transported right back to those wretched three days in the PICU. I was right there by Hudson’s bedside when the nurses would disconnect her ventilator tube momentarily to change its position or clean something out or moisten her gums and lips with ointment. During those 10 seconds or so, I stared as Hudson’s chest just lay flat, unmoving, no breaths going in or out. And then they would put the vent back on, and her chest would start rising and falling again, in an all-too-regular rhythm.

In eleven short words, I was right back there by Hudson’s bedside on Wednesday morning when the PICU nurse asked me, “Does she feel cool to you?” Cool? Why would she feel cool? I touched her forehead and her tummy and she didn’t feel particularly cool to me. They took her temperature and it was below 90 degrees. (I remember thinking what kind of mother was I that I hadn’t noticed this?) They went to work immediately trying to raise it. The nurse tried to fish out the ibuprofen suppository she’d just given Hudson within the last 30 minutes. They covered her with a warming blanket, which looked like a big, clear, pool float. It was very hard to keep in one place and made it difficult to lie down and snuggle with her. They insulated her IV tubes with warmers so that the fluids they were pumping into her would help raise her temperature quickly. They put her on a continuous temperature monitor so they could keep track. About an hour before this, the neurologists had done some reflex tests and gotten no responses, but those results were completely invalid since Hudson was probably hypothermic at the time. While this momentarily gave me some hope, I quickly realized that the fact that her brain was apparently not even doing a most basic function of maintaining her body temperature was independently a very bad sign.

In one tiny sentence, I was right back there in the armchair by Hudson’s bed on Thursday afternoon as the nurses gingerly moved her into my lap and arms so that I could hold her on that last day. Her blood pressure kept dropping, making the monitor sound off ominously, until the nurses realized that one of the joints on her central line was cracked, so the medicine that was controlling her blood pressure was unstable. It was then that the attending physician asked us if we wanted them to take any extreme measures to prevent her from crashing if her body had decided it was time to stop. We said no.

“The brainstem controls heartbeat, respiration, body temperature, and other essential functions.” I read that one sentence and immediately, my own heart started racing as I remembered how Hudson’s brainstem slowly ceased doing any of those things. I got up from where I was reading, went downstairs to the room where Hudson’s memorial table is, and there, with the light off, I just let myself be back in that place. I was there for several minutes, crying and taking deep breaths in the dark, just letting it be. And then I felt better.

I have wondered many times about whether I have been experiencing some form of PTSD since our stay in the PICU and Hudson’s resulting death. I’ve certainly read articles about parents who spent time in the ICU with their children suffering from PTSD (and that was in cases where the child did not ultimately die). I don’t know enough about the condition to say so one way or the other. The main symptom of PTSD I have experienced is this repeated reliving of the worst moments of those awful days. And while I have certainly experienced some other symptoms of PTSD, none have been so dramatic or affecting as these flashbacks, and none have been truly incapacitating.

What I can say, though, is that even as recently as a few months ago, the flashbacks I had last night would have sent me into a downward spiral that might have lasted for several days. I wouldn’t have stopped crying after a few minutes. I would have crawled into bed and been up half the night continuing to relive those moments over and over again in my head until I succumbed to a fitful sleep. This time, the worst of it was over within several minutes and the only lingering after-effect was yet another anxiety dream (this one involving Bess repeatedly running into the street even as I called to her over and over again—even though it was Bess in the dream, it was definitely a dream about Hudson). Otherwise, I slept relatively well, woke up feeling okay, and have managed to make it through writing this post without falling apart again.

I realize that I’ve written about some of the moments included in this post several times already. I guess I am only just now grasping the real power of telling my story over and over again. I don’t know if the flashbacks themselves will ever go away, but over time, their quality has changed, their grip on me has lessened. And for that, I am incredibly grateful.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


That is how I feel. Really big already. Several folks have been requesting belly photos, and I put some up when I was pregnant with Hudson, so I guess it’s only fair that I do the same for Jackson.

8 weeks

12 weeks

16 weeks

20 weeks

24 weeks

But the striking thing is how BIG I am now compared to where I was at this point (and much later) with Hudson.  I told Ed I wanted a do-over when I have not just eaten a big meal.  Compare the picture above with the two below and you will see what I mean.   

With Hudson at 26 weeks!

With Hudson at 30 weeks!
Speaking of big, I had my follow-up ultrasound on Monday to check in Jackson’s growth. He is still measuring above the 97th percentile overall, but apparently that is largely due to the size of his head. His abdomen (88%) and leg (75%) measurements are now in a much more reasonable range (but still big), but his head is measuring so big that it’s apparently jacking up the rest of the measurements. Hmmm… The perinatologist then asked if either of us wear big hat sizes. I said that I do. She went and found a measuring tape and actually measured my head, saying, “Yeah, that’s pretty big.” I told her that while no one ever commented about it when Hudson was in my belly, she was always above the 90% for head circumference after she was born, even as her body weight dropped into the 25% range. So maybe our kids just have big heads (although I fear it getting to the point that people start talking c-section—I’ve got big hips and did it just fine the first time on my own, so hopefully it will never get that far). His heart rate was a good 150 bpm. The echogenic focus is still there on his heart, but the perinatologist told us that she’d just gotten back from a conference about fetal imaging where there was a big argument about this and wanted to reassure us that most every doctor in the country agrees that without other markers, it has no clinical significance.

Of course, we couldn’t get through an appointment with just good news, could we? My amniotic fluid index (AFI) is just a smidge high. There’s apparently a debate about what is considered normal. Some say 22cm, some say 20. Mine is 21.3cm. At 25 and over, one is diagnosed with polyhydramnios, or excessive amniotic fluid. Most of the time they have no idea what causes this condition (so it’s idiopathic, as in no known cause, as in “we’re such idiots, we can’t even figure it out”), but it can be associated with some birth defects that would cause the baby not to swallow the fluid like he’s supposed to (although the perinatologist said other indicators on the ultrasound appear to rule that out), or with gestational diabetes (there goes that one again), or with other things that are rare. It can also just be the result of a big baby that makes a lot of amniotic fluid, which is obviously what we will hope for in this case. Unfortunately, it can also be associated with some very nasty complications, including pre-term labor (because your uterus gets so big, it thinks it’s time to deliver even though the baby isn’t cooked all the way yet), as well as cord prolapse and placental abruption (because when the sac actually breaks, there is so much fluid in there that it gushes out and can push the cord through first, which is VERY bad for the baby, or it can tear the placenta away from the uterine wall before it is time, also pretty bad since it causes hemorrhaging). So… I’m scheduled for another follow-up ultrasound in 4 more weeks to check on the AFI. Not that I’m not happy to get a look at the Penguin as often as possible, but I’m not happy at all about the reason why. We didn’t have any issues of any kind with Hudson—I guess I didn’t realize how lucky I was.

I then saw the regular OB on Wednesday for my monthly prenatal appointment. This time, I saw the same doctor who was with us through most of our pregnancy with Hudson, and who would have delivered her if she’d gotten there in time. Instead, she just did some of the follow-up stuff—she missed the big event altogether. But she is a great doctor, and sat there patiently as I went through the entire litany of things that are worrying me right now (I had them written down)—whether I should worry about the AFI thing, a rash on my thigh (which is just eczema), feeling like I have to pee all the time and nothing comes out (hmm… pregnant much?), a pain in my upper back, which I’d become convinced was probably a symptom of lung cancer (yes, I am that insane right now—I have had back pain of all kinds for more than half my life, mostly associated with a disc problem, but this time it is lung cancer), worrying that I might be having Braxton Hicks contractions and just couldn’t tell (this one is probably a legitimate concern). She was just as kind and patient as she could be, answered all my questions, said she totally understood my paranoia, and when I asked about when we’d start doing appointments every two weeks, she said usually we start at 28 weeks, but that if I’d prefer it, we could go ahead and start now. I’m sure you can imagine how grateful I was. I also drank the disgusting orange syrup for my glucose challenge test—I am very hopeful that I pass. The doctor seemed to think that was likely since my sugars were so good when I tested them myself a month ago. Hopefully I can get those results tomorrow.  Everyone cross your fingers for no gestational diabetes.  This baby’s head does not need to get any bigger than it will get on its own. 

I keep wishing I could allow myself to just let go of all this anxiety, enjoy being pregnant (although I can’t say that I was one of those happy, glowing pregnant women the first go-round either), and really start focusing on emotional preparations for being Jackson’s mom and still being Hudson’s mom all at the same time. But I’m grateful to have compassionate caregivers and perhaps some new creative outlets that can help distract me for the next three and a half months. I’ve also committed myself to getting back into therapy—I’m in the process of trying to find a good behavioral therapist around here who can help me manage the anxiety of all of these transitions hitting at once.

Big. It’s all so big. My belly. Jackson’s head. The anxiety. The grief. Hudson’s memory. The enormous challenges ahead of us. Very, very big.