Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Paperchase on the precipice

So here it comes-- the precipice. A year ago I was going to sleep and feeling pretty sore from the intense acrobatics A had engaged in that evening. I had had a good day, including an event that my old office puts on every year. Every year before last it had failed to include a very important class of people. A coworker and I argued forcefully for the inclusion, and we got it. So a year ago my former colleague was included in the event, a first for anyone with her job description. The event went great, and I was thrilled. In the evening A was doing so much turning that I asked JD to bring his guitar and play for us. Monkey danced. Monkey and JD came to feel A kick.

I was thinking recently, as I was reflecting on all the kind and thoughtful comments on my entries about the yahrtzeit and the final week, the comments that all urged me to keep doing what I need to be doing, so I was thinking that the firsts don't end with the anniversary. Cobblestone said it, and I have seen other widows say it too-- second year, at least the start of it, can be tough going, tougher than the first to some extent. For me there will be the anniversary of the funeral, and in a weird twist of timing my OB appointment is scheduled for then. There will be, I am sure, other days that will sneak up on me. Maybe something about the milk, coming or going. Maybe when I went back to work. And then there was the day we got the autopsy report. I don't remember the date on that, but it was a little more than four weeks later.

So I was thinking about that report. I found out the report existed on a Friday, but didn't get to hear from Dr.Best until the next Monday. I didn't get a copy until my six week follow up appointment. And a weird thing happened then. I knew what it said, in broad strokes from the phone call. As I am a scientist, I was actually looking forward to reading the report. I thought of reading every word, asking questions, knowing everything there was to know. And I did, later the day of that six week appointment, at my desk at work. At least I started to. I read the first of the three pages. I started on the second. And then it occurred to me, anew, what I was reading. And I had to put it down. I remember being on the phone with Aite later that day and telling her that it got to me, that it wasn't something you are supposed to have-- an autopsy report on your child. So maybe don't read it for now, she gently suggested. I won't, I agreed. And I didn't, for a while.

Another piece of paper-- the birth certificate. They gave us paperwork for that at the hospital last year. For nearly a year I didn't know what I wanted to do with it. It seemed pointless to get one. I didn't think I wanted it. There was a big discussion of the issue on the deadbaby blogs some time in the spring, a lot of moms told stories filled with love and pain for why they got one or why they wanted one, and I was just nowhere with it. Aite told me then that A has such a lovely name she'd get it to just have another paper with his name on it. That touched me, but didn't move me to a decision. She also said she thought maybe my future children would like to see it some day. As weird as it sounds, that was the first thing that made me realize there will be (I hope, I hope) children in this house one day who won't just know about A, whom we will have to tell.

Last week I suddenly knew what I wanted. I wanted to get the damn thing. Not for anybody else, but for myself. For the weirdest reason-- I realized that I wanted the next one we get after this, the one for our next child, to be the third one we get. Not the second. Stupid, right? A gesture is all this is. But this is the gesture I want to make.

Thus commenced days of looking for that folder from the hospital, the one that had the paperwork. Not by my bedside, not in my office, not in JD's office, not in any of the random places we had thought to look. Had I written this entry yesterday or over the weekend as I originally meant to do, it would now conclude with me telling you that I will probably have to call the hospital for a replacement thing, soon. But I am writing today, and today I gave up and called the hospital.

Labor and delivery receptionist was not warm, but she was careful and she said she needed to transfer me downstairs, to the birth certificates office. She gave me their direct line too, just in case. The receptionist on the floor where the birth certificate office is (which turned out to be the post-partum floor-- oops) was far less with it. She wasn't being mean on purpose but she was ignorant and kept telling me I can't have that-- it's only for babies who are born alive, and was mine not alive? not even a little? I wish I was kidding. I wish. But I didn't scream at her-- way to go maturity. I was pretty confused, actually, thinking this can't be the person in charge of the birth certificates. And eventually she clarified things by saying that she will transfer me to the birth certificates office. That explained it.

When I finally got to talk to the person actually in charge, she was kind, and professional and very helpful. Said she has the paperwork for us right there, and we made plans for us to get it. JD has an appointment at the hospital tomorrow, and she will meet him and give him the envelope, so he doesn't have to go up to where her office is, on the post-partum floor. I told her about the receptionist, and she apologized profusely, sympathized, said she disliked it when people talk about things they have no clue about instead of just transferring the call to those who do. She will make sure the receptionist gets some sensitivity training together with some subject matter refreshments.

So here we are. The day before. I have no idea what tomorrow will be like, or Thursday. I don't even know what to mark as an occasion. The day he died? The day he was born? Neither was supposed to be his birthday--that was still weeks away. And how do we mark it? What do we do? I think we are taking Monkey to the cemetery tomorrow, and we will light a candle at home. I will tell friends who ask that they are welcome to drop by either tomorrow or Thursday. I don't want these two evenings to be like any other evening, but I don't know how to set them apart. We are not the cake and candles type of people. I know many of you are, and maybe under different circumstances we would be too. But this is too confusing-- how do you celebrate a birth day that happened after the death day and weeks before it was supposed to happen? This is late, I know, but if you have suggestions, I am all ears. Or eyes.


Lori said...

I will be no help at all, I'm afraid. I have yet to figure out what to do with my twin's birthday (?). I call it their birthday because it was in fact the day they were born, but it still never feels right. I do encourage you to find some way, even a small way to set these days apart. I have had both experiences, those where I planned something and those where I haven't. I always feel worse after the anniversaries when I have done nothing.

I really empathized with your feelings of wanting to get the birth certificate now. Each year I have found myself motivated to do something that I have put off until then. Their first birthday I had their birth certificates framed, their second birthday I took care of preserving their photos, and their third birthday I had the garden stones made. This year we made a donation in their name, but I wish I had come up with something more tangible. It always feels gratifying to actually *do* something on their behalf. So, I am glad you have found something you can *do* for A, and for yourself, during this poignant time.

You are in my thoughts and heart right now.

niobe said...

I am thinking of you during what must seem like an endless run of anniversary days and hoping that you can find a way to commemorate A that will bring a little ease and peace to your heart and your family's hearts.

passingwindows said...

I am no help either, I can't suggest anything that has helped me. I usually notice the day and try and remember him in my mind and do something that is easy and nice for me, like going to a bookshop or having a nice lunch, and I think that is his gift for me. I just try and make it through without sinking into the swamps of gloom so I can't give you any constructive ideas.

I hope you find something that satisfies this need for you and gives you some comfort and even a little joy on this hard, sad anniversary. A loved music it seems, maybe you could incorporate that?

Thinking of you.

kate said...

Your plan sounds good -- candle, cemetary. The first year we bought Nicolas' tree but then it sat in a pot for a year+ until i could plant it and nearly died, so, well, not such a good idea in retrospect. I make cupcakes every year, and that's about all i do. That's nice what Lori said about doing something for her twins that she had been putting off. I have been debating a tattoo, myself, not sure what i will do with that.

Oh, yes, the death day/birth day/ due date quandry. I notice the other days but basically mark only his birthday. If he had been born alive and come home with us, that is the day we would celebrate. After much deliberation, that is what feels right to me.

Snickollet said...

All these significant dates at once! I'm so sorry. Do whatever you need and want to do to honor your feelings. Easier said than done, right?

christina(apronstrings) said...

maybe you could have a four day, short week of mourning, acknowledgement every year? with a specific tradition for each of the four days.
it's tough, eh? i mean, how to muster the energy to mourn, when grief has taken so much of it.
love to you and a wish for strength.

Bon said...

i don't know that i have any real suggestions...but i like the candle and cemetery ideas you mentioned.

we have not yet established our own ritual of any kind, almost three years in. Finn's anniversary (which in our case is birth on the 29th and death on the 30th) came the first year only a week after O was born, so i was still staying in NICU with O, and in the midst of a wake and funeral for an old friend who died of AIDS. the second year, we were all in Prague. so this year, in April, will be the first year at home...and i too am unsure what to do to honour him, to mark the days. because it is early spring here, i think we may dig around his trees in the backyard and prepare them for summer...and i like to think, maybe, of O and Dave and i making cupcakes. but i could not include anyone else in that, outside our little circle of three.

i think, for many of us, creating these rituals feels a bit contrived and yet, for myself at least, i feel the need to do something...to not let the days just pass.

i think the birth certificate plan is lovely...and the order makes good sense to me. something about Finn's birth certificate is very precious to me...proving he was, indeed, here.

thinking of you and A today and tomorrow.

Amelie said...

I'm sorry that receptionist was so clueless. Good that you brought it up to the other nurse, though. I imagine both conversations must have been hard, especially in these days.
Thinking of you, and hoping that you can find some peace.

Wordgirl said...


I just found my way here through Niobe's blog...and I'm glad to have come...

I find that, for me, the ritual is what is the touchstone for me -- sometimes just a moment carved out of the day to sit with the emotion of it.

I wish I had more eloquent advice.

Thank you for your beautiful honest writing.

Magpie said...

I have no suggestions. But know that I'm thinking of you and Monkey and JD.

Aurelia said...

Maybe you don't need to do anything formal. Maybe you just need to go with the flow; do whatever occurs to you.

Take care, and know that I am with you thinking about this, always.

Karen said...

I've been thinking of you. I like what Lori said. It's nice to have one or two tangible things to do, to have. I'm hoping you are finding the just right things for this time.

Tash said...

I too am circling around, surfing the net for 6 day death rituals -- or rituals of any sort, or anything I could possibly do that would feel "right." I want to do it all, I want to do nothing. I guess in the end I'll end up doing whatever I feel like in the moment. I like what you said about the birth certificate, I may actually rummage around and try and find maddy's. Sadly, the death people are way more efficient, and I think the birth and death certs arrived within the same 48 hour space about a month later. Whatever you do will be perfect, I've come to believe what I do every day has to be. There is no other way. Thinking of you so, so much.

Amy said...

I am so sorry for your loss. I have no words of comfort or suggestions. I am just so sorry for your loss.

S. said...

I'm thinking of you this week.

My mind is blank on suggestions, but I thought you might find this link helpful:


We've gone to RitualWell a lot when we've been thinking about how to be in the space of transition or high emotion.

stat763 said...

I hope these days are peaceful for you. I am of no help either. I've been through 3 anniversaries and I still don't know what to do. We do light a candle each year and go to the cemetery either on or near the day. We have found it easier not to plan anything because we never know how we will feel when the day actually arrives. My thoughts are with you.

meg said...

Julia, I am completely unhelpful as I do nothing every year.

I am not the cake and candle type either, but I think it sounds like a nice idea. I think you should just go with whatever feels right.

I am thinking of you, JD, Monkey and A.

Beth said...

You have been very much on my mind lately ... I hope it helps, a little, to know that we are out here.

For myself, personally, the only thing that has ever generated meaningful commemoration (and how helpful it will be to read this, I don't know) is to create art, specific to each lost child. This tends to erupt rather randomly, though. When I sit and try to create, intentionally, it simply doesn't work.

Do you find internet hugs strange? Well, have one or two anyway. {{hugs}}

charmedgirl said...

i dread those days in september. the best i could come up with (or i should say, what we planned in the hospital) is getting the heck out of here. as more and more time passes, though, i'm not so sure i want to be away from my kids for it. i'm not so sure of anything at all.

it seems it never ends, and i certainly have no good ideas. but i am thinking of all of you.

thrice said...

Sorry, no suggestions here either. But I can so hear your love for A. It's easy to see why A's Neshama picked you as his mother. That is, if you believe in that kind of stuff.

Thinking of you.

Lynnette said...

I just wanted you to know that I was thinking of you during this hard time. I wish you peace...

sweetsalty kate said...

That nurse. Hmph. I think I would have wanted to climb over the desk, reach into her pants and pull her underwear up over her head.

You wrote "...I realized that I wanted the next one we get after this, the one for our next child, to be the third one we get. Not the second."

I know, I know. Yes.

As for what to do, I'd be unsure, too. On the twins' birthday, of which I'm already kind of terrified, I think my instinct will be to spend the day with Liam wrapped up cosily in my imaginary mei tai, one hand on his rump and one hand on his head.

Shit. There I just went and made myself cry.

Which I'll probably do plenty of on that day, and I'm just going to go ahead and say fuck it, neverminding whoever sees.

If I were you I would do two extremes. I'd surround myself with people I love, and just be with them, being ordinary and doing favourite things. And then I'd take some of that day and be completely alone in a beautiful place, and be with him, and speak to him, and cry, and be a mess.

I'm not making any sense. I just wanted to say I feel the same way, confused about how to honour him, and how to get through that day with the memory of such a catastrophe. Blessed and loving, mourning and raging. But that is our lot, isn't it?


c. said...

Like charmedgirl, I think I'd just like to get away when the anniversary of C@llum's death and birth come around. Running away has always been an effective coping strategy for me, although I know it is so wrong. Especially in this case. I don't know if I'll be able to bring myself to do it when the time comes.

You and your family are in my mind and heart today, Julia, and over the next few days as the anniversary days unfold. My heart feels heavy just knowing you have reached that dreaded one year mark. Like the past year hasn't been difficult enough.

Thinking of you...

Beruriah said...

Thinking of you today my friend.

I'm without advice, but I wish you peace and healing during your cemetery visit and candle lighting.

Stupid receptionist.

missing_one said...

*hugs* I have no suggestions, just thinking of you!

I know a friend of mine releases white balloons every year.

Emily said...

I am here via Niobe.

I have no helpful insight on how to mark these days.

But in my own house, in my own corner, I will light a candle for your little one.

Peace and blessings to your family.

CLC said...

I have no suggestions, but I am thinking about you and your family today. I hope you did something special that provided you with some comfort on a difficult day.

kalakly said...

I am empty...isn't it awful, all these dead baby moms and none of us have the first clue what to do to mark the passage of time. I think it may be because we all know, no matter what we do, the outcome is still the same.
Whatever you do, I hope it brings you some measure of comfort, however small, and that you are surrounded by those who love you and have shared this devestating loss with you. No one should grieve alone.

Betty M said...

To mark the anniversary of my brother in law's death we had a picnic and all the children released balloons. I am thinking of you over the coming days and like the others hope that you find a way of commemorating that gives you comfort.

Anonymous said...

Thinking of all of your during this terrible anniversary. No matter how you mark it, it won't be wrong, so go with what feels best.

ms. G said...

I know exactly what you are saying, I felt the same about M's birthday. I don't want it to be like any other day, but I struggle with what to do on it. I don't have a specific suggestion, just to find something that works for you. We pick out our tree, light a candle, take a walk on the beach, no matter how cold. I find just spending time with Mr. g, talking about M is part of our day too. Something you all do as a family would be nice, even if it is something that seems to have no relation to A's memory.

As for entering the second year, the other part I personally found difficult is now you are going through things for the second time and I felt that passing of time sharply. It became my second Easter without him, my second spring, etc.

Just last year, my state finally passed a bill to allow us to get birth certificates. Starting Jan. 1st, I was able to get one. I am getting one, because I have always wanted that proof somehow, Yes, he was BORN.

Thinking of you and A today.

Wabi said...

I know the candle won't dry any tears or lessen the ache, but it strikes me as a lovely idea.

Thinking of you and the sweet boy you lost.

Anonymous said...

I came over thru niobe to wish you peace thru this tough week. I do love what everyone has said of rituals -- I find that creating the time and space to reflect and remember is quite powerful. I like using candles too. I also planted a lemon tree for my angel boy, but the season isn't great for that now... thinking of you. ~luna