Friday, October 2, 2009

The Eve

Although I've been silent for most of the summer, you knew I would write again around this time, didn't you? So many things about the turning of the calendar to October draw me back to my thoughts and the act of writing them down. I sit here in my office, windows wide open, the first scented breeze of fall greeting me (I love that smell), Fiona Apple in the background:

"Pale september, I wore the time like a dress that year. The autumn days swung soft around me, like cotton on my skin. But as the embers of the summer lost their breath and disappeared. My heart went cold and only hollow rhythms resounded from within."

Somber, but fitting for my mood. Although out of the context of the song I used them for my purposes for a lot of last fall...the contemplative notes, the descent into sadness and the beginning of winter, the piano so simple.

Here we are again, is all I can think of. Tomorrow was the big day, the most amazing day of our lives, shortly followed by one of the most horrible days of our often does that happen? I can't help but think of how different our lives would be with her here; she was supposed to be here.

At the awesome news of my sister-in-law's pregnancy a few weeks ago, I realized how much I had not let myself feel for a long time. Yes, I grieve, and I think I do a pretty good job at it and I'm open to talking about it and I think about her a lot. But, not until the reality of Shey's pregnancy was staring me in the face, did I realize how many memories and desires and emotions I had just packed away for another, happier, day. I was waiting to pull them out on my terms, when I had happy news to share, when my good fortune could couch the sadness I knew I would feel from reliving those amazing, hopeful pre-Octboer moments. But, it didn't happen that way. That suitcase got thrown wide open that night and my precious memories, that I had so carefully packaged away, spilled all over the floor...and it was exactly what I needed. It was what I needed to realize the selfishness and envy that had built up in me in a year since losing Elise, trying to find our way, trying to have another baby, trying to answer the unanswerable questions.

I am on more even footing these days...what a process this is...and I've discovered so much about myself in a year. Nothing is more important than family and friends, I love good real food (and canning it!), I love Christian rock (who knew?), I love my gray hair (thanks mom) and I don't need to color it, I do want to be a mom again and we're (hopefully) getting closer to that reality, I miss my daughter and that's not going to go away.

Oh Elise, if only you were here so we could be your parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends. If only you could turn 1 tomorrow with us and a birthday cake and the old polish tradition of choosing between a knife (doctor), rosary (nun), money clip (banker) and shotglass (town drunk)--I'm not kidding--instead of being in an undescribable place and all we have are a few photos and a trip to the cemetary. If only so many things my head hurts. But, it's not what happened and we live with that reality and we learn to love again and to live with you in a different way.

Tomorrow we celebrate your life and the amazing gift you are to us...Happy Birthday, just a few hours early.

Monday, July 6, 2009

It's amazing to me how our own pain can be put into perspective if we stop thinking about ourselves all the time and look around.
Mom recently has had two friends with tragic news related to their sons. One lost her son, an experienced diver, in a deep sea diving accident after a freak malfunction of his equipment. The other's son was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme, a very serious type of brain tumor which usually carries a poor prognosis, even with the most aggressive treatment.
Finally, I heard a story that has preoccupied me since I learned of it. A story about us, basically, but not exactly. A story so like ours that I know I have a role to play. We learned of a couple in Nashville, friends of a friend, who lost a baby girl after 4 days of life. For 24 hours, she started her life perfectly healthy and then the news came, and 3 days later she was gone.
I relived our 4 days with Elise. I felt it all over again. Of course it hurt...but not as much as it used to...and the more powerful emotion was of the hope that, through my pain, I could maybe help someone else's pain, just a little. That I might just give a little wisdom or a little comfort or something. It's not like taking solace in another's pain but like knowing what the experience might bring. Maybe it's not about me anymore, maybe it's time to wake up to this amazing, ugly, colorful, screw-up, broken world and come at it, not with a hammer, but with ears to listen.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Happy Birthday (?)

As I finish my 33rd year, I can't help but reflect on the life I've been able to make. It's crazy to think back all those years to all the things you did that you loved and hated and thought would never happen again and thought was the best day of your life...or the worst. I think of all those experiences and it's overwhelming....the first sip of a good glass of wine in Fort Wayne, the first time AJ and I held hands or fell asleep on the couch together, the first time I heard real bluegrass at Jen's wedding, sitting in an ice bath after my first 20 miler, an amazing nap on an anchored boat in Missouri, kissing Natalie's forehead for the 100th time, kissing Natalie's forehead for the last time, Mom knowing exactly what to say, the smell of Dad's cigarettes on my 21st birthday on the boats, feeling Elises's weight on my chest after she was born, reading a book that changed my life, Rocky's rough licks when there's something sticky on my face, Rocky's snores which gave us our first laugh after Elise died, hearing a song that brings you back to someplace and sometime that you thought you could never feel again, the tears that would never end...

And that's where I'm stuck today, the tears. This birthday can't be happy and that's OK. It doesn't stand alone, but in comparison to last year. I was 6 months pregnant with what seemed like only good things ahead of place, new town, new job, new stuff. And now I'm here, not pregnant looking back and not ahead. Nothing is new here, I've been over the same ground many times.

So this is my unhappy birthday and it will be fine when it's over. I know I can't make it go faster or slower, it will just go, and my new year will start tomorrow.

Monday, June 22, 2009


I was sure by now
That you would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day

But once again, I say "Amen"
And it's still raining
But as the thunder rolls
I barely hear you whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

And I praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
You are who you are
No matter where I am

And every tear I cry
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
Though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm

--Casting Crowns

Saturday was stormy, both literally and figuratively. Joc and I awoke to ominous skies and a radar forcast that predicted inevitable soggy shoes for the Baltimore 10 Miler that morning. As expected, steady rain came down as we toured Baltimore's neighborhoods from the zoo to Lake Montebello and back.

The gospel this Sunday taught us the story of Jesus who calmed the stormy seas while he and his disciples were out fishing. Father continued with the metaphor of the storm and encouraged us to look at storms not as something to be avoided (impossible!) but as an opportunity for growth and character development. God wants us to depend upon him and call on him at those times and use him for strength. That reminded me of both the Casting Crowns song and a plaque I have on our dresser:

"Sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Sometimes, He lets the storm rage and calms his child."

I remember seeing that plaque so many times on my mom's dresser and it always gave me pause, and peace. Recently, she sent it to me and it continues to give me (and AJ) something to think about.

So the storm metaphor was everywhere, is everywhere, and works well for me...I feel so much that I'm still living under a rain cloud. I can't help but look at these last 9 months as rain that won't let up, darkness that won't lift. Of course I have good days, most are good, but the shadow follows. I don't know what will make that go away...I have suspicions, but I also think it's ok if it doesn't go away totally. It's part of me.

I am still learning to live with things I cannot control and that is really frustrating, maddening. Trying to plan what the next few months and years will look like with a ? in the air goes against everything my schedule/calendar believes in! Do we take that trip? Do I start training for a marathon? Do I leave that part of my work schedule open? Do I enjoy that glass of wine? I don't want to do things half-assed or not at all waiting for something that may/may not happen. I will try to keep you updated on my growth...or lack thereof.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


So many new babies in our lives the past few much I feel I should be joyful about. So many people who seem to weather pregnancy and childbirthh (and thereafter) with ease and beauty and confidence and an awesome carelessness. Maybe a little less careless since they know our story, but nonethelss, you never really believe that could happen to you...unless it did.

And here I stand, motionless in a world of activity, life passing on both sides of me. I have the same memories, I look at the same pictures, I cry over the same moments...the same memories. Some days I feel that all I have is memories, a complex web of dimming and graying snapshots, of smells (the lotion I put on my belly every day) and sounds (her first cry!) and sore body parts and prayers and then Elise herself is everywhere my mind goes.

I realize I have thought about these things less and less as time goes by. Of course the reality of all that is happened is there, but I find I don't think about the details much anymore. I'm sure it is a way of protecting myself so that I may actually accomplish other tasks in a day. It is only when I write here that I allow myself to go back there and be that woman again. Be the Stephanie = awesome healthy pregnant one, Stephanie = Mom, Stephanie = grieving mother then Stephanie = trying to redefine herself and rework world view, God view.

Maybe that's why it's been a's hard to go back, but necessary.

The process of 'moving on' has not been as smooth as I had thought. It doesn't necessarily get better with the passing of time. Now, it's spring, and last spring, I was pregnant. Not pregnant enough to buy maternity clothes but enough to tell our family and coworkers, enought to think about it ALL the time, enough to feel a little more confident that the miracle would come to fruition.

Ahh, I feel I am going over the same old ground again even though this is new ground! I know there is light in this darkness, I am light in this darkness, I know God has good things in store for us, there are good things now...learning to trust in the plan is the challenge.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Cemetary

Last weekend was a rare opportunity for AJ and I to do whatever we wanted for the whole prior commitments, no call, no rounds, no early morning running groups beckoning. We recieved notice from the cemetary that Elise's memorial had been installed and made plans to visit. I hadn't been there in months...probably since soon after she died; AJ had gone once by himself.

It was good. The plaque was perfect and the setting serene...a beautiful winter day, probably nearly 50 degress with sun. We sat on the grass near her grave back to back and cried and chatted and wondered. AJ's thoughts were existential, "Why did this happen to her (us)?" while mine were more mundane, "I wonder what she would be like, cranky, happy, difficult, easy." Neither of us had any answers, but it was good to talk aloud.

And then I watched as AJ cleaned the memorial with a towel and water from the car. He took such care to trace the granite indentations and remove the traces of dirt that had lodged at the edges of the stone. I watched with such sadness as the surgeon's hands, so accustomed to the delciate work of cutting tissue and sewing stitches, expertly, lovingly cleaned our daughter's gravestone.

It was really all we could do for her and, as is so characteristic of my husband, he put his energies into doing it right.

I thought about her earthly body, morbid I know, but I couldn't help it...but I also thought about her heavenly body and kept telling myself that she is the lucky one. She's the one with Jesus in the place where we all want to be. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? Too simple? But it's what I have, what I am trying, so hard, to believe.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

All The Prayers Our Mouths Have Made

Four months ago Elise was alive. Even more than the day she was born and the day she died, this time period each month, between the 3rd and the 7th, has been a time of great reflection for me. It's not disintegrating into tears or not wanting to get out of bed as it was in the beginning, but I look at her pictures a little longer and think about what it would like to be a mom to her on Earth. Our nursery is still as it was before she was born, everything in it's place. It's a wonderful room, a quiet, clean and warm place and I'm trying not to feel like a weirdo for still wanting it all put together. But, it doesn't give me pain to go there. Rocky likes the soft comforter and I like the peace. It's her room and it makes me sad and it makes me happy but overall I think it's a good place for us to see everyday as we walk to our office. To recognize all that we've lost, to remember it IS real, that WAS us and it's gone but that's our life. That's the path we are supposed to walk.

The nursery makes me want to be a mom to another baby on Earth, too. Sure, those desires cause me some guilt since my energies are not on Elise. She is amazing, our daughter, but as important as those 4 days are to us, they don't go very far when I think of all the love we want to give and the experiences we long to have. I think she would be OK with it.

I have been trying to talk more with God and it's amazing how much I have to say. When I started to make these conversations less formal and more of a chit chat, the words just kept coming. There is so much to pray for, so many people and so much pain...and so much hope. I am trying to believe that these conversations with God make a difference in the world, not just a difference in my head. I am trying to believe that, aside from our free will and human-ness, he intervenes for or acts upon us and changes us. I don't like thinking that my words dissapate as they leave my mouth and that is their end...I feel like I'm too smart to believe in something like that. At least, I hope I am.