Rowan’s Birth Story

Rowan was due on Aiden’s birthday.  I always loved and hated that.  It seemed so perfect that they would be almost exactly 4 years apart, no matter what.  I could also picture inevitably angsty teenage boys shouting “no one ever thinks about ME!!” and slamming doors during birthday week.  We intentionally planned Aiden’s birthday party a couple of weeks early to hopefully avoid the chance of my being in labor at that time.

Ironically, I spent Aiden’s early birthday party and the next couple of days in “prodromal labor”, which we intermittently thought might be the real deal.  Aiden’s birthday/Rowan’s due date came without incident, and we settled in to the notion that we’d have another late baby, and that the boys birthdays would hopefully be separated by a few days.

Continue reading Rowan’s Birth Story

9 Unusual Gratitudes from 2013

I was inspired this week by a friend who posted on Facebook that this year, she is grateful for the ability and chance to battle depression without medication. While she was not advocating that this is the right path for everyone (nor am I), she was bravely transparent about the fact that it is the perfect healing journey for her. Her courage and honesty about something that a) might ignite criticism and b) doesn’t fit into the conventional mold of a Thanksgiving gratitude list really got me thinking. Her gratitude was unusual.  It struck me.

It’s no secret that this has been a hard year for us. We’ve faced our older son’s prolonged and complicated illness, the death of our second son, and a handful of other concomitant difficulties. I’m thankful for some obvious things this year, like a strong, amazing family that has stood by our side, friends like no other, regained health, etc. But if I go deeper, what am I really grateful for? Continue reading 9 Unusual Gratitudes from 2013

I’m Really Good at Being a Mom

So why do I think that I’m not?

About a year ago, we had some new friends over for dinner.  They were lovely, their (3) children were lovely, and we had a lovely time.   As I was newly pregnant with Rowan, I was closely observing the wife’s parenting-several-children-at-one-time-with-MAKEUP-ON-and-NO-YELLING skills.

At some point during the evening, as she and I were discussing our lives as mamas and all that it entails, she commented, “I’m just really good at being a mom”. Continue reading I’m Really Good at Being a Mom

3 Months – Dreaming of Rowan

I don’t ever dream of Rowan.  I didn’t when I was pregnant either – and during those months, I felt a little alarmed at the seeming lack of subconscious connection to my baby.

Now, I know better.  I mean, I actually wish I would  dream about him – kind of like being a teenager and believing the idea that if your last conscious thought was of your unsuspecting crush, that you would have magical dreams about them all night long.  I do that.  When I say I know better now, I mean that I understand that dreaming of something or not says nothing about where it fits in your soul. Continue reading 3 Months – Dreaming of Rowan

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

I actually didn’t know about this day until this morning, when our dear next door neighbor, who also experienced stillbirth at full term, posted about it on Facebook.  But alas, it turns out we have our own “holiday”, as she put it – a dismal, dreary kind of day that usually includes candlelit walks and I imagine, a fair amount of wine.

I don’t know if a day like today is more for those who have suffered such a loss, or for those who haven’t – a way to help them see, to know.   Some kinds of grief aren’t easily validated in our culture, and people instinctively rush the healing process, moving on for the sake of the world around them.  Many people never know about those around them who have lost a child, or at least never get a chance to acknowledge it. Continue reading Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Homemade Coconut Milk

Since our son doesn’t tolerate milk very well (not even raw milk – more on that some other time), we’ve experimented with a variety of dairy free milk alternatives.  We’ve tried almond milk, hemp milk, rice milk, and even flax milk.  For one reason or another, we’ve foregone each of those after a while.  More on that later as well, but suffice to say that we’ve landed on coconut milk due to the winning combo of taste, nutrition and digestibility.

Coconut milk is naturally sweet, has a great consistency, can be used in baking, and on cereal/etc.  It is also super nutritious and is usually tolerated really well even by individuals with food sensitivities or digestive issues. Continue reading Homemade Coconut Milk

Sharing & Comparing Grief

There are a lot of different kinds of loss, and a lot of different kinds of grief.  When you experience a loss, people come out of the woodwork, seeking connection, hoping to bring comfort.  As is human nature, the natural starting point is to share ones own experience, and so, in a time of pain, you become very aware of all the myriad layers of loss and suffering that are woven throughout the lives of those around you.

This is where we are most human – in our reaching for each other, our fumbling to find a way to ease each others pain, and in turn, our own.  As woefully poor as our culture is at embracing grief and loss, you still see the shining moments, the way people put aside their own spinning world to help you find your feet in yours. Continue reading Sharing & Comparing Grief

2 months ago

2 months ago, you changed our world.  We always knew you would, we just thought it would be in a different way.

We thought we would be rocking and shushing you to sleep at night and putting you to bed in our room where we would have to tiptoe and whisper and use our iPhone light to stumble around so we wouldn’t wake you.

We thought I’d be waking up with you several times a night and holding you to my breast as I stared at you, mesmerized, and tried to remember how long it took for Aiden to sleep through the night.

We thought we would be putting you in the carrier and walking Aiden to school together in the morning, enjoying the sunshine and shenanigans of your older brother.

We thought we would be playing with all the other babies at the park, watching you try to figure out the world around you.

We thought you would be losing your shit at Aiden’s swim lesson/the grocery store/the sight of mom’s back.

We thought we’d be gently teaching Aiden not to sit on your face anymore.

We thought you would be a great snuggler.

We thought we’d be taking turns holding you during the evening while we made it through the nightly chaos of dinner, playtime and bedtime.

We thought you would adore your big brother even though he was going to be an asshole to you sometimes/every day.

We thought we would be collapsing at the end of the day, exhausted, but so happy to be your mom and dad.

Instead, 2 months ago, you showed us that love and pain are sometimes inseparable.

You taught us that 9 months carrying you, 1 night bringing you into the world, and 6 hours holding you will never be enough – but it was still a gift.

Miss you so much, baby Rowan.

Back to School

This kid.  If you know him, you know he is something else.  Like, really something else.

He’s particular.  And articulate.  He’s particularly articulate about his particularities.  I shall call him…. particulate.


This is the kid whose clothing phases have included:

  • wearing only pajama pants tucked into long socks that could NOT slide down with rubber boots, oh and also socks on his hands.  This one was a doozy.
  • several layers of superhero shirts at the same time, regardless of temperature or obvious filth
  • wearing only pajama shirts during the day and only regular shirts at night time

He still wears his underwear backwards.  It results in a lot of wedgies, skidmarks and plumbers crack.   I let it go almost completely, although every now and again I mention that he might be more comfortable if he wears them the other way, to which he replies, “I will tomorrow”.

The reason for this preference?  He wants to be able to easily see the superhero emblazoned boldly on the back of his undies.  It really might actually be a smart move.  Too bad he has to make his mother crazy.

So, last week was back to school (preschool, technically).   Fortunately, other than the backwards undies, his only real clothing preference right now is that he’ll only wear shorts.  I mourn for the drawer full of super cute “little man” pants from h&m with buttons and suspenders and patches oh my, but I got smart and just bought a truckload of shorts with elastic waistbands from Target (we can talk about buying “local” and “sustainable” another day – when one has to buy shorts in bulk that will only be destroyed or outgrown in short order, one must learn to compromise).

We survived the week with a manageable number of wardrobe-related meltdowns and a somewhat less manageable number of summer-vacation-is-over-now-back-to-the-old-grind-related ones.

We knew that Back to School week was going to be hard.  Our second son, Rowan, was to be born this summer, and we had spent our pregnancy anticipating the commencement of preschool in the fall as a marker of normalcy and routine that would be welcome after the chaos of summer vacation and adjusting to a growing family.  When we lost our son in childbirth, our lives really fell into chaos.  I instinctively knew that Aiden’s first week back at school would be very difficult as I would be faced with the emptiness of each moment that Rowan was so eagerly expected to fill.

But what we didn’t count on was that returning to a routine with mom at the center would be such a challenge for Aiden.  He had spent the last several weeks with dad taking on the primary caregiver role, and a constant flow of family members in our home to help pick up the slack and keep him entertained throughout the day.

I told Chase, a few days before school started, that I was ready to go back to the routine, which meant waking up with Aiden in the morning, making breakfast, getting ready for school, etc.  The next morning, we resumed our old roles.

And basically, Aiden rejected me.

I didn’t expect it.  I wasn’t ready for it.  I was so hurt – it felt as if his reaction was more unfair than even our recent loss.  He didn’t want anything to do with me – would say hurtful things, be rude and aggressive, ignore me and constantly ask for his dad instead.

A great deal of reflection (and conversations with my therapist and close friends) have helped us to wade through the last couple of weeks and find each other again.  I’ll probably never understand exactly why he reacted this way.  But we’ve learned through experience the last few months that Aiden struggles with transition, and we were foolish not to sense that this would be a big one for him.

If we could do it again, we’d probably do things a little differently.  We’d probably make a more gradual transition, maybe having me get up in the mornings with the boys while they continued their routine for a few days and slowly taking over some of the tasks.  We’d probably talk to him about the upcoming changes a little more.

I’ve also learned that while yes, we need to find our daily rhythm and that certain things are non-negotiable (like manners or washing our hands), that the way back into his day and into his heart wasn’t by being the tyrant that had more expectations of him than all of his caregivers for the last few weeks combined.  It would be by gentleness, lots of time together, patience and a few extra snuggles at bedtime, and more than a little respect and space offered as recognition of the new way of life he’s needed to find in my semi-absence.

This week went better than last.  I’m proud of us, of him, of our whole family.  I think we’re going to make it.

We Lost the Baby

“We lost the baby”.

“He didn’t make it”.

“Our son didn’t survive childbirth”.

As far as I know, I’ve pretty much exhausted the list of possible people I could run into that wouldn’t know about Rowan.  The only remaining person I can think of, who I’m avoiding, is my chiropractor.  I even returned some books I had borrowed from her after hours, surreptitiously slipping them into the mail slot of the door.  Part of me doesn’t want to have the conversation, and it’s one of the ones I can control, unlike someone I randomly run into at the grocery store or park.  Another part of me doesn’t want to lose the ability to have that conversation, just one last time.

But the hardest part of the conversation is always how to say it.  I wish there were specific words that always worked – you could rehearse, saying them over and over again until they conveyed just the right thing, with minimal emotional backlash.  You could even be caught off guard and just rattle off the magic words, effortlessly.

The problem with this is that you can’t control how you will feel at the moment you are asked, “how’s the baby?!”  Well, the baby’s not good.  Not good at all, actually.  And thank you so much for asking, crazy park lady with TWO BABIES.  I’m so glad we’ve spent the last several months chasing our kids around the park and making occasional small talk so that you could ask me that question today.  I especially love the look of horror on your face and I’m glad we left the house today.

That’s the other problem – people’s reactions.   Half the time, that’s what you feel yourself bracing against, involuntarily – not the onslaught of memory and emotion, but the navigation of THEIR reaction.  Most people are sensitive, compassionate.  Even when so, they rarely know what to say and desperately try to find something.  They want to do something, to make it better.  There’s nothing they can do.

It helps when you are able to deliver the news in a pre-emptive and strategic way.  Chase learned this the hard way after calling his mom at 2:00 in the morning while I was in labor, and of course she thought he was calling to share good news.  To go crashing from that high is too far to fall all at once.  The rest of the calls he made that day were pre-empted by a text message that said, “are you up?  I need to talk to you, I have bad news”.   At least that way, the actual conversation begins with a somber expectancy, the ability to be intentional for both parties.

So, what do you actually say?

I can’t bring myself to say the words, “he’s dead”.  Not because it feels too final, I don’t think.  And not because I’m that crazy mother pushing an empty stroller (although don’t put it past me) or staring vacantly at babies or burping an imaginary child.  It’s because, like I wrote about in this post, right now I want to remember that he was born more than that he died.

I prefer to say “when Rowan was born” rather than “when Rowan died”.  Fortunately, the day he died and the day he was born are the same so I can avoid any logistical slip ups.   I don’t know how it sounds to people.  It just feels right to me, at least for now.

But we did lose the baby.