Friday, October 31, 2008

Names and faces

Monkey has great many nicknames. One that is older than most, acquired in fact just about the day she came home from the hospital, is kitten. Trite, yes, but she looked it-- tiny, content, very snugly-- perfect (biased? who, me?). At the time, and for a while after, even though I freely used the salutation, I thought it was in all honesty a cheat. I mean, don't all babies fit the bill? Turns out, not exactly.

We tried out a few nicknames while still in NICU. Nothing in particular was sticking. For one thing, he did not look like a kitten. It's not that he was particularly big. He was smaller than Monkey was when she came home, but a kitten he was not. Small and cuddly-- check, snugly too. Just not a kitten. Not entirely un-catlike, you understand, but decidedly not a kitten. And then, a day or two after we came home, I picked him up just so, and his head went kinda like that, and we got it-- a small kitten of a very large cat. Lion Cub, or the Cub for short. And that is what we will call him around here too, from now on. But first, today, there are other names to name.

The Cub, he is 11 weeks old today, two and a half months. Which makes this post two months late, give or take (I know-- shoot me). His birth day, the 15th, is as far away on the calendar as a day can get from his brother's birth day, the 31st, without being closer again on the other side.

It's twenty one months today, a year and nine months. A year ago today the nine months thing was kicking my ass, and I was just relieved to survive Halloween at the same location I spent it a year prior, visibly pregnant and waddling. Ironically, stab for stab, today might have been harder-- the Cub, in his stroller, and then in the sling, underscoring that neither of them was here last year, and that one of them never will be. My dead son's would-be best friend calling JD by name today, for the first time ever, and to his mother's obvious surprise and delight, underscoring that we will never hear one of our children say anything for the first time.

I can't be any more clear in my own mind that my boys are different people, one not a consolation prize for the other. I am so clear on it in fact, that I needed to voice it for all to hear, lest anyone be tempted to say or imply otherwise. And yet to me they are undeniably connected, both in their similarities and their differences.

While the Cub was still in utero we knew he had his brother's nose. That kinda freaked me out because I didn't recognize that nose. Where did it come from, and why do both of them have it? After the Cub was born my mom mentioned, all matter-of-factly, that the nose was my paternal grandmother's. Smack forehead. Of course-- DUH!!!! How did I not see that? Weirder still was the relief I felt at that recognition-- the part, it turns out, was from the Standard Family Catalog of Parts. What does it matter, JD asked. They still have eight great-grandparents, the same exact gene pool, and this was still the same part for both of them, fished out, as it were, of that pool. I know, I know. And yet it seems less freaky now that it has a back reference than it did when I thought it a product of a random re-mix of the two families' genetic makeups.

The Cub looked a lot like A when he was first born. And now he doesn't, most of the time. I'll have you know that never take pictures of sleeping babies, didn't even in the time before thanks to an Old Country superstition, but I did take one of the Cub a few weeks ago. Because sleeping as he did just then, he looked so much like A.

He is very substantial, my younger son. There is substance to his whole being. Right down to the little fingers. Long, like his brother's, but... well, let's just say that to look at his hands, you'll never mistake him for a poor eater. He chows down on those fingers too, goes at them with gusto. I can't blame him-- they are positively delicious looking, and I wouldn't mind a nibble myself.

He grabs our fingers when we offer those to him. Most of the time I am right there in the moment, but every so often I am also back in that hospital room feeling my heart break because A's beautiful fingers won't ever grab anything. It sucks so much that I am the only one who knows, has a physical memory of, how strong he was, and how vital. The Cub holds his head pretty much without needing support, has for a while-- an impressive feat among the 0-3 months crowd. People tend to comment on that. Every once in a while I want to tell them that his brother was big and strong too. I never do.

They are separate people, without a doubt. But the fact is that you are here reading about the Cub because his brother died. Because his brother died, and I needed to write. I read blogs for years before then, but never needed one of my own, until. And for some reason that cries out to me for some kind of fairness-- fairness to them, to you, or to myself, I am not sure. For some reason it compels me to give voice to their proper names, just this once,* for some kind of record. So here they are, my boys.

A\/ G1de0n, A


L.i0r S0l0m0n, the Cub.

And finally this, the last bit of what I wrote the night before Cub's bris, a brief note that came surprisingly easy to the fingers, but much harder to the lips, when it was time for me to read it outloud:

We did not set out to find a name for this son that would connect with and honor the son who came before him. Naming our babies has traditionally been a difficult process for us, replete with complicated sets of requirements and aesthetic preferences. So when we discovered that both of us liked the name L.i0r, and that it fit our criteria, that alone was a reason for celebration. But the fact that this name shares a common theme with the name we gave our first son was more than a little significant to us.

Our two sons will never get to play together, or to cause trouble for each other or their big sister. They are, for us, connected by the family bond, and by their uncanny resemblance. And now they are also connected through their first names. A\/ means the father of light (or of the candle). L.i0r means my light.

P.S. Last Halloween was the day for the lovely C. Please stop by and remember with her as she marks her one year anniversary and Callum's first birthday.

*...even if I am still using funny characters to minimize the likelihood of being found via a search... I am not that brave.

Monday, October 20, 2008


It's in the fine print, this obligation. You know, the part you click "Agree" under without actually reading it, because if you don't agree, you will just have to go looking for a different blog platform to sign up with, and then where will you be? Reading another agreement, in a different small font, that's where. And if my hunch is correct, it will be there too.

It of course is the provision, located I believe right next to the "the blogger shall, when the opportunity presents itself, bake apple pie. Further, the blogger shall expound on the experience in a long and winding post, prominently featuring mom" provision, that requires the very selfsame blogger to, from time to time, post pictures of fall foliage. Waxing poetic, melancholic, thoughtful, or enigmatic is optional.

The enigmatically poetic, thoughtful, and at times melancholic Niobe has, of course, already fulfilled her contractual obligation. With one picture and with but a title word. Because that's how she rolls. But honestly, with a picture like that who needs words?

It seems that, in stark contrast, I have already run my fingers off with rather a few words. So how about I stop and present to you a few shots of the fall in a battleground state near me.

Oh, what the hell... One parting bit of waxing, cause I can't resist:

It appears that while the grass is rarely greener somewhere else, the sky certainly seemed bluer on that side of the border.

So what has this fall been like for you so far?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Today was the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I wasn't home at 7pm, to hit the wave of light part, but I figured my time zone was likely well represented.

For me, from the very beginning right alongside my own pain was this realization, this dull knowledge, that every day there is more of us, that the number can only go up, and that it does so all too fast. The ever growing chain of babies and families who miss them. Last December Tash brought the names of many of the blogosphere's lost babies with her to a memorial service, to share and lighten the load. If she was to do that today, there would be so many more... The chain has grown. The chain is growing.

And so I did my lighting later, finally putting to use the long candleholder we've had since the New Year (I find that Yankee swaps are a lovely way to update home decor, don't you?).

There are twelve candles burning over my fireplace tonight. Twelve candles to remember so many more.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


It is not uncommon, nor, I believe, unexpected for bereaved parents to go about their day with a subsequent baby while a second thought-track plays on. Would he have snuggled like so too? Would he have had more patience? Would he have insert any one of a million little things here? It is a new way of missing, sort of a granulation of the missing. All those things we never got to know about the baby who died now playing out with this new baby. And we wonder.

It is subtly different to watch that new baby, as it happens with me from time to time, and as it happened tonight while I was getting him ready for bed, and realize that he didn't have to be here either. There are no guarantees, remember? Anything could've gone differently at any point, and then we wouldn't know any of these things we already know about him.

Breathtaking thought, that. And it takes me to a place other than my usual duuuuude, but we got ridiculously lucky this time.

In the early days and weeks I unknowingly worried that I loved A less, and was greatly relieved to realize that it wasn't the case. So suddenly tonight I am thinking of that very common way parents talk about their babies, the "I am falling more in love with her/him every day." Suddenly tonight I am thinking about how that implies change over time, and not just in the speaker. Babies change so fast, they grow so much. From one day to the next there is a million ways a baby could change. That saying above seems to indicate that the more they develop and change, the more you get to know them, the more you love them. That bothers me. It bothers me because if that's how it goes, then, logic dictates, we love our dead babies less. But I am sure that I am not the only one who doesn't.

So I think it's like this-- the love, it's already there. And it's deep and infinite, as always. What happens with a live baby, I think, is that as we get to know them, we get to see that love reflected differently, anew, in each new day and each new thing. If you think about it, though, it happens with the dead ones too-- something in our world strikes us anew, makes us miss them anew, shows us this new to us facet of our loss, of our love.

So much in this post can probably be labeled semantics. Seems tonight, just like the day I started this blog, semantics are important to me.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Shana Tova

"So this is the time of year for getting there, eventually." So said the chief rabbi of my congregation in his Rosh Hashana sermon yesterday, about two sentences after I finally made it to services. The pause, right before "eventually" was measured and delivered for maximum effect--lightening the mood mixed in equal measure with The Whole Point of the Sermon, or so I deduced not having heard most of the thing. He used to be a litigator, you know, so he is on top of this dramatic pause business.

You know you are reeeeaaaaly late to services when you get there for the tail end of the sermon. But, you know, as the man said, we got there, eventually. We went home after. But an hour and a half later we were back, in time not just for the community Tashlich ceremony, but for the walk from the synagogue to the pond. Tashlich is a ceremony where we throw breadstuffs into living waters, a focal point, a way to acknowledge the things you want to do better on, to name them to yourself, and to begin the long hard slog of actually doing better.

Well, this is what it's supposed to be. Watching the kids gleefully lob chunks of chalah into the pond yesterday, it was hard to believe they were up to such lofty self-examination. On the walk back to our car I asked Monkey what she was thinking of as she did the lobbing. And holy crap-- the child actually had a list, a reasonable list of things she wants to do better on. I tried to act like I fully expected her to say that, but really? Wow.

For my part, I was thinking almost exclusively of my good and dear friend procrastination. I have always procrastinated, as far back as those elementary school papers and projects. I have also had periods of great productivity in my life, some brief, and some much more prolonged. In the wake of A's death, though, I somehow found procrastination to be mostly a warm, familiar blanket. When you have a lot to get done, there is a lot to think about, and procrastinating on all of it keeps all of it available for thinking about. Not exactly the same magnitude as the black hole in the middle of your soul, you understand, but we take what we can get.

The trouble with procrastinating, of course, is that the shit piles up. At work, and most certainly at home, I have projects galore. In other words, I need to get my rear in gear. I don't expect to magically get on top of things and stay there forever and ever, amen. But I am going to take a stab at it. This new resolve comes at a good time. I think in fact it has been bubbling up to the surface for a little while now-- last week I started making those to-do lists that have been the staple of nearly all of my productive periods, and have even crossed some stuff off already.

Not that you do or should care about my new found resolve, except that I have also been procrastinating here, in my electronic home, to an unfortunately large degree. My younger son is now almost seven weeks old, and for five of those weeks I have been trying to write a post of proper introduction. Layout, some sentences, and even small passages of it are in my head, but, so far, no electrons have been harmed in the making of that post. It's a big one, that post, and committing it to writing is, judging by how long I am taking, a big deal. It's on my list though, with the title and everything.

My brother in law proposed a toast yesterday in which he said that this past Jewish year, as far as our immediate family goes, would be hard to beat. On paper, he is absolutely right-- they got married, we had a live baby. Unfortunately, this was also the year our cousin got his heart broken, stomped on, and fed to the dogs. And this is the year when our grandmother's Alzheimer's stepped up from difficult to profoundly disabling. But here's the thing-- even for those of us with the shining and brilliant outcomes the road has not been easy. It may be that my sister and brother in law have managed to exhale that great big clusterfuck to the chupah that was planning their wedding, but I don't think I can honestly say that I have exhaled my past year, yet. (Though today's services helped. I cried. That's probably all you need to know.)

So it's been a hard, but a very good year. Which certainly beats the pants off a hard and bad year any day. And in the end, at the very end, this was the year that I flew.

But that is a story for another day. Soon. For now, though, have a happy and sweet new year, everyone, Jewish, academic, or arbitrary.