Milestones.

[The absence I miss the most is captured milestones].


 Year one – 11.2013

 First birthday.

I am empty and poured to entirety. I compromise values to ease the pain of uneaten, baby-pink cake and silent nurseries.

I befriend demons.

They take,

and take

and take. I am kidnapped from sanity. I teeter in the waves of grief amidst a pirated ship.

I still haven’t gained my sea legs for such a zealous voyage.

Year two – 11.2014

Left or right handed?

Thirty pounds of body shed –

I wish for the addition of your weight instead.

Sometimes, lightness is captured like Christmas morning’s unwrapping.

And other moments, I still correct my footing;

Knees akimbo – hoping the deep arches of my ballerina feet attach in strength and poise.


For every experience, I wish to take yours instead.

Because I know my greatest adventure will always be you.

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Bubble Gum Cigar

A bubble gum cigar left on my desk today.

Taunting me; baby-pink with bold letters:

It’s a girl.

II

I never understood cigars as celebration for new life;

The men with their smug grins, patting each other on the back

As if they were responsible for anything other than spitting their seed into a womb.

As if they have control over things like babies dying or mothers grieving

The pride of predictability reeling to snatch up their hopes and dreams

for their unborn carbon-copy.

III

It’s a girl.

Her Kermit-legs flopping from the sugar of Sunny Delight

Kicking her way into our hearts; she is no longer a blob on a screen.

I am unable to possess the self-control to keep it a surprise.

It’s a daughter.

Later that day, I accidentally refer to the ultrasound pictures as “her”

And my family bursts into laughs and exclamations of joy

All of us mapping the future for this long-awaited miracle.

IV

You never understand the life you willed for someone

Until that life is taken.

Who was I to have plans from the start?

Who am I to assume the better in this worse world?

V

Baby pink balloons

kissing the sky where you rest.

I was never able to be showered with celebration for your arrival

VI

I chew up the bubble gum;

it tastes like powder and envy

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

“I’m sorry.”

The look on the face of the doctor as she responded to the lifeless chamber of my daughter’s heart will forever be etched in my memory.

The rest of the events would be a chaotic blur – tainted by cruel decisions… “Would you like to birth your dead child tonight, or tomorrow morning? Would you like pain reliever? What are your burial plans?” Amongst the swirl of devastating questions, a name of an organization mixed into them. I had never heard of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, and at the time, the idea of inviting a stranger into the sacred time I’d have with my daughter’s motionless body seemed invasive and assaulting. Luckily, divine intervention placed a nurse in my path that had been through the same thing not two months before. She talked about how she regretted being unable to obtain professional photos of her son after his birth. She softened the sting of shock by showing me some photos of her beautiful Benjamin that she’d taken on her cell phone. I needed to provide an answer soon. The on-call photographer had to be notified as soon as I was expected to deliver. With a reply that didn’t yet feel firm, I agreed to allow a NILMDTS photographer to come into my hospital room and document all the tiny features of my precious Carlie Wren.

Brandy entered my room with sensitivity and utmost respect. I remember not even sensing she was there. She moved around the room as if she were an extension of it; like she’d been there through the whole labor as a silent support.  I can’t explain to you the comradery I felt immediately. She was careful and intentional as she gently took my Carlie Wren’s body and looked her over. Carlie was my child, perfect in my sight. However, I knew to others, she might be a shock to look at. My stomach twisted as I wondered what she was thinking, her gaze whispering across my baby girl.  I’ll never forget the words that came out of Brandy’s mouth, like a breath of fresh air over this solemn occasion.

“She’s has such pretty features!”

Those words were a salve to my wounded Mother heart. I felt my heart swell with pride that should’ve come months later; the pride I expected to flood over me as I gave a squirming baby to relatives, wrapped in a hospital blanket. Still, Brandy validated my daughter as beautiful, and for a moment, I forgot my pain.

Brandy gave me a preview of her photos mere days later. I remember my heart catching in my throat, gasping at both the beauty and raw grief captured in a single photo. I cannot tell you if I’d ever forget Carlie Wren’s face or every aspect of her tiny body. But I do know that the photos Brandy captured were a time capsule I desperately needed. Photos are meant to freeze-frame moments in time. Though many aspects of her birth were traumatic and gut-wrenching, I never wanted to forget how she looked. As Mary Poppins says, she was “Practically perfect in every way.” Brandy preserved vulnerable, precious moments with dignity and respect. For that I will be forever grateful.

– Guest post I wrote for Brandy Smith Kemp documenting my experience with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.

Biography unknown (but attempted)

Who am I?

I wish I could say it in concise sentences. Sometimes, I trick myself into thinking that I can.

The truth is, my whole life, I’ve always been a shape-shifter.

I gravitate toward the tendencies of people around me. Unless it is something I have no interest in (which is rare), I will often passionately join in whatever the group is partaking in. Does this make me a follower? Some would say it does. I tend to lean toward the explanation that I’m simply sensitive to my surroundings, and to people. I’ve been intuitive for as long as I can remember. I sometimes think I could be a medium or psychic if I’d ever really developed the intuition. But that scares me, so I refrain.

I feel the pain of others. I hate funerals, because it feels like an iron coat of pain has been placed on my shoulders. My breath becomes shallow, I cry, and I feel trapped by all of the emotions.

I’m sensitive. I refuse to watch The Green Mile ever again in my life, as it devastated me for several days. I switch the channel whenever ASPCA commercials come on. To this day, the sound of the music during the scene when Bambi’s mother dies makes me shudder. This quality of sensitivity makes me a great friend, but the lack of organization and aloofness I possess makes me a terrible one.

When I despair, I despair long, deep, and devastatingly. The things I’ve had to handle in this life make me realize that I am strong, because I shouldn’t have survived them. One event alone should’ve killed me. I do thank God for the majority of my strength. He truly is strong when I am weak. Other times I’ve gotten out just by the frantic scraping of my nails against the last bit of pulse I have left, deciding last minute to live.

I battle between whether I deserved the last two years of my life, or not. I experienced isolation in my marriage, along with finding out my partner had been lying to me about something I deemed essential to a marriage: trust and faithfulness. I was diagnosed with Depressive Disorder after relapsing in cutting for the first time since I was 15.  His confession, which I should have received with understanding and forgiveness, completely broke me. I strayed and I shut off.  I think back, wondering if I should’ve offered him more mercy than I did. I regret the way I handled things.

We quietly separated, and I moved back to Tennessee, into my previous job. A week later I found out I was pregnant. Being a woman who struggled with infertility for nearly four years, I was ecstatic. I wanted to work things out, because this miracle made me realize that I wanted my life back. I had complications very early on. I remember bleeding all over the bathroom floor, then going to the emergency room thinking I’d lost her… and my partner failed to check on me daily for the next few weeks. I felt alone and forgotten, with my precious child. That experience was traumatic, but I wasn’t even aware of what was to come. An event that would shatter any trust I had in God, or prayer, or belief that everything always works out.

July 10th, I went in to my ob-gyn for light pink spotting. I found out that I was 3 centimeters dilated. I was immediately rushed to the hospital, admitted into the labor and delivery floor, given a catheter, and told that if she didn’t come in the night, that I had a chance at saving her through an emergency cerclage. This was my first time being hospitalized. It was also when I found out I was diagnosed with Incompetent Cervix. We prayed through the night. I didn’t sleep a wink, battling between crying, fear, and feeling betrayed. I had just seen her tiny body bouncing around on a 4d ultrasound a month prior. That week was the first time I’d felt her kick. How could it all end so soon, after I’d struggled and tried my best to live for God and put this dream of motherhood on the backburner? Why would He tease me with such a gift; a gift spun from the circumstances of my active participation in putting my despairs of infertility behind me and focusing on God’s work? That’s when I decided that this wasn’t the intention at all. She must live. She is simply a miracle after a miracle. I will have the emergency cerclage, go on bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy, and it will be a testimony to God’s grace!

So we prayed. I went in the next morning after I’d dilated no further. I was hopeful, though I was scared of being given an anesthetic for the first time. The plan was to stitch up my cervix, so I could hold Carlie in my womb for at least viability (23 weeks). My body was numbed from the waist down, and I remember clear as day the look on my doctor’s face as he emerged from behind the sheet below my waist, looked at me, and said “I’m sorry.”

After that came successions of doctors, all encouraging me to induce. I had a risk for infection, and since all of the amniotic fluid had drained out, there was no hope for her survival. Her lungs couldn’t properly develop. Now the medical concern had shifted from Carlie to me. But I refused it all. With each discouraging word received, we prayed. I cannot tell you the emotional turmoil I experience as each day my hopes were dashed further and further. Each ultrasound was a little more grim, until day eight or nine (the days ran together) of being in the hospital, we saw that her feet had been raised up out of my cervix and the ultrasound technician pointed out my sweet baby practicing her breathing, even without fluid in the womb. I viewed that as a sign. My daughter had always been a fighter; defying the odds when I was, early on, diagnosed with threatened miscarriage. I just knew we would beat this and win. People joined in with our hope, sending me articles about babies who survived being born at 22 weeks. Carlie was two weeks shy of this when I entered the hospital. If I could hold out for two weeks, maybe she would have a chance.

The mental, physical, and emotional strain of this experience was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. Battling between the thought of not wanting her to suffer, questioning if she really would make it, and whether or not to induce and forsake her fighting chance is something that no mother should ever have to endure. God had mercy on me, in a sick, twisted way. I didn’t have to make that decision. Carlie passed quietly in the early morning on my 11th day in the hospital (July 21st, 2012). I remember even praying after we saw the lifeless chambers of her heart on the ultrasound that afternoon, praying to the God who raised Lazarus, begging Him for a miracle. It didn’t come.

I was put into labor, and I asked for all the pain killers I could have. The once hippy-minded mother who wanted to try a natural birth, now wanted to do all she could to feel nothing. I had been through so much physically already at that point — the lack of fluid in my womb made Carlie’s tap dancing antics at night, though adorable, also extremely painful. I was given an epidural, and I remember how I trembled with the fear of it. The red-headed nurse held me close to her, put her forehead against mine, and explained everything that was going on while soothing me to slow comfort. I experienced the side effects that only a small percentage of people experience — a sensation crawling up my right side that felt like a charlie horse from Hell. But then, it went away. I laid back, was covered in warm blankets, and for the first time since my hospital stay, I felt peace. It wasn’t God. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe it was. It was the medications running through my veins, alternating my reality. His peace came later.

I only felt a pinch of pain once, and I quickly pushed my medicine button and it dissipated. I got the best sleep I’d had since my stay. I began labor at midnight, and Carlie came at 9:30 a.m.

I remember being terrified to look down. After all, I had always expected to see a squirmy baby in my arms when I gave birth; not a lifeless, blood-coated corpse that wasn’t fully developed. I looked forward to that ethereal moment in movies and birthing videos; where momma and baby look at each other, and momma soothes the baby to stop crying, the baby swaddled in a hospital blanket. This reality was grim and dark. But when she was placed in my arms, all I could see was her perfection. That same perfection would infuriate me later (she was perfect! My God, why did she have to die?!) but in that moment, it was beautiful. Fuck, I don’t know how to explain to you what agony and pride flooded through me simultaneously. Admiring her features, while also knowing this is the biggest I would ever see her get (on earth, anyway). Dreading the moment when I knew I would have to give her back. When the absence of her bird-like weight in my arms would no longer be there. I understood now, very well, why some countries allow people to physically mourn over a dead body long after departure, and why we in the states sometimes have wakes. It was so traumatic, giving her to the nurse to be stowed away in some meat locker until she could be picked up by the funeral home employees.

The day after labor, we had her graveside funeral. I remember I couldn’t leave. I wanted to pitch a tent, or at least a blanket, right there beside her grave. My partner, who had been amazing through all of this, told me to look around at the surroundings. It was breath-taking. He said she had a great view, and she could see the stars that night and listen to the birds during the day. At that moment, birds chirped. As fictional as it was, to think my baby was still alive in the box and could see through it up to the view… it was such a comfort to me. I will forever be grateful to him for that. After rubbing the soil of her grave into my hands, I rose up and walked into the hardest year of my life.

Abandonment, fear, consuming depression, suicidal thoughts, insecurity, betrayal, and doubt all became close companions of mine. I had sheltered myself in God during my hospital stay, but afterward — the way Christians acted so flippant about her death — infuriated me. “She’s with Jesus now.” “God has a plan.” “The rain falls on the righteous and the wicked.” “At least she didn’t have to grow up in this world.” “You will have more children.” “God needed another angel.” “It will help if you go back to work.” I can’t tell you how the unintentional stupidity of people made me feel personally guilty for my own mourning. I felt like a horrible Christian, and I still do. I’m sorry, but no amount of scripture and good thoughts will replace the brokenness and missing piece of my heart. The one comfort I have eventually come to terms with is that she never experienced pain or suffering, and, as my wise friend Heather said, “She entered the presence of God the moment he called her name.” I’ve also received comfort from knowing in my heart that Carlie understood what her purpose was. She gave us a hilarious show at her 4d ultrasound because I believe her spirit knew she would not be with us long. All she knew on earth was the love of her mother and father. All she knew was love. How can a mother selfishly wish earthly suffering on her child in place of  pure, unblemished love? This earth is guaranteed to make you suffer.

But I’m very selfish at times.

The months afterward were a blur. To the outside world, my relationship with my partner was stronger. I believed it was as well. But just as quickly as it was built up, it was shattered again. By my downward spiral of Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and PTSD; and by his isolation, selfishness, and inability to deal with the aftermath. I was hospitalized for several days after I felt no reason to live anymore. I was given hope. Separation occurred again, but the intention was reconciliation. That didn’t happen. He gave up, and I suppose some where along the line, I did too.

I’m 27. My divorce will be finalized December 15th. I have a daughter in heaven, who would’ve been one this November. I’m still working out my relationship with God. I believe He understands my absence, and I understand His. He may never leave me or forsake me, but there are also periods of Him hiding. And that’s okay. To some, I am currently living in sin. Sometimes I feel this way, while other times I feel I’ve been given a second chance. My second chance is what I lean toward. I live more recklessly, but it’s also because I wanted to die for so long. Now I understand that as pissed off as it makes me sometimes, this life is a gift.

I just have to figure out what kind of gift.