Parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: come here to share the technicolour, the vividness, the despair, the heart-broken-open, the compassion we learn for others, having been through this mess — and see it reflected back at you, acknowledged, understood.

Many thanks to artist Stephanie Sicore for allowing us to feature her little bird in our banner.

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The fall

One after another, again and again,
They fall.
Their origin the same,
Their motion similar,
Grace, music, beauty
In the wind.

A slow dance, a soft rhythm,
A carefree, winding journey,
A bursting opera of colors.
These leaves, like ballerinas
Swirl over the stage of the earth,
As they usher in the beginning
Of an end.

The end begins, lightfooted, glorious,
Jubilant, no, not sorry or sad
For what is to come.
The color of the season almost screams
Its disowning, its denial, of the winter white.
The leaves weave,
They gather, fly, carry, bury
The story of a fall.


Not our story, though.
Our fall was not gentle,
Not colorful, or carefree.
No grace, glory, or music for us.
Our fall has not been a journey,
One after the other, leaving, weaving,
On a well-lit, welcoming stage.
Our fall has been hard,
The savage dance of death.

Its sound loud and clear,
Its motion swift and strong,
As we fell,
Heavy, rotten, crashing,
Like a felled tree.

We did not see the beginning,
Only the end. The end. The end. The end.
As we lay on the cold, hard ground,
We knew what was to come.
We owned it, we extended our arms to it,
We welcomed its darkness.
As we buried our offspring,
And carried their stories,
We crept, like reptiles, our hearts cold,
Into an eternal winter white.


No, fall, all your falling leaves
Cannot equal the fall
Of a single babylost life.


The season is changing. After your loss(es), what does this mean to you? How do you feel in fall? Do you relate to it in any way? If you do, how? If you don't, why not?



During the second or third day of Zachary's life, as we were adapting to the NICU staff, their schedule, their protocols for involving parents in the care of their child(ren), I was able to change one of his first poopy diapers.  I lifted his legs, exposing the mess, and tried to gently wipe away the sticky and stubborn meconium.  Procedure required that we track Zachary's "output" and I began to stack the dirty wipes into his used diaper so that it could all be measured together.  Every time I wiped, the pressure of his raised knees against his abdomen..., well, I suppose it helped to push and prod the tar-like substance out of him.

The pile of wipes that accumulated in the dirty diaper was stacked so high it started to look like it would topple.  The nurse was laughing, glad it was me, not her, dealing with the mess, and thoroughly amused at the prank my son was pulling on me.  Zachary's father was cheering him on, astonished at the volume of poop and elated that his son was living and thriving and ridding himself of waste. 

Zachary's innocent and penetrating eyes looking for my voice, the fact that he was completely unaware of the hilarity of the diaper changing scene, evoked some of the warmest feelings of gratitude I'd ever known.  I couldn't have been more thankful that his systems were functioning, that I was able to revel effortlessly in this mundane task of diapering our new son.


I want to love this funny memory, one of many precious moments I was so fortunate to have with Zachary during his first week of life, before all hell broke loose.  I want to be the bereaved mother who dwells on Zachary's life, not just his death.  I want my memories of Zachary to bring me comfort and to help assure some kind of legacy for him.

It's just that every memory I have leads to the same senseless and traumatic end.  Only one week after that hilarious diaper changing scene, my son's body was overcome by sepsis, a gram negative infection he acquired in the hospital environment - hauntingly, from E.coli bacteria.  His presenting symptoms were essentially ignored at the most critical time, implying a grievous delay in his diagnosis and treatment.  Zachary died on his fourteenth day of life because of a microscopic piece of shit and an unforgivable series of human errors along the way.

This is how it is with my memories of Zachary.  They are precious, beautiful, and smeared with the ruin that followed, by all that was neglected and the severe price he (we) paid for it. 

At almost twenty months out from his death, the ruin, the perfect storm of errors and omissions that led to his demise, seems to have left the most lasting impression on me.  All those bottles of milk I pumped to feed and grow him, the happy milestone of having regained his birth weight: obliterated by the knowledge that he was never fed again after the sepsis diagnosis.  His mighty grip on my fingers, the beauty of his wide-open eyes searching for his mama's voice: violently stripped away with the neonatologist's insistence that we medically paralyze him during his illness.  The evidence that his body was beginning to recover, the quiet and hesitant celebration at having made it through the worst of it: completely extinguished on the very same day by a scan indicating a massive, irrecoverable brain hemorrhage brought on by the severity of Zachary's illness.

It doesn't help that the timeline of his entire life, all of the highs and lows, happened in the course of two weeks.  The close proximity of the good and the bad times melds them together in a way that destroys my ability to compartmentalize them, to look back on even the best ones with the clarity and purity of emotion that existed at the time. 


My support group newsletter says we will discuss "joyful memories" during our next meeting.  This meeting topic feels like some kind of cruel joke, a subtle way to dissuade parents of dead infants from participating at all.

Most of the bereaved parents in the group have years and years of memories with their child to draw upon, significant chunks of time where things were happily sailing along.  For me, there is the two weeks with Zachary, the second of which was mostly horror-filled.  And with B.W., our son who was stillborn in 2006, my memories are limited to the time he was in my womb and the few hours after his birth.

I think I'll sit this one out. 


How do you feel about your memories with your child(ren)?  What influences the way you experience your memories?



The weight of your box of mementos: 10.5 pounds

Three times the weight of you


The photos of me holding you: 4

Blurry in that dim delivery room

My father in the background

Our faces stricken


The number of sympathy cards on the occasion of your birth: 99


The people who touched you: less than 10

Visitor restrictions lifted

They gathered around the bed

I think my mother said a prayer


The pages of your birth story: 6


The people who saw you—really saw you: 4

A midwife, two nurses, and my sister

Behind the curtain, taking pictures with her cellphone.


The weeks you have been gone: 139


The times I have looked at your photograph: 7

Trying to see my little boy behind the vernix and the purple

Trying to feel your weight

Trying to imagine you


It’s all I get to do, imagine you. 


What do you have of your baby(ies)? What are your numbers right now?


from the archives: after the transformation

Reading through the archives, listening to the chorus of cicadas outside, I came across this piece by Gal, first published on August 23, 2009. The timing seemed right to bring it to the light again. These are only excerpts. You can read the full post here.

Oh, ppphhhhhh… 

What do I do now?

She’s been gone longer than she was here, even counting the time she was inside me.

I’ve passed all of the first anniversaries: her ultrasound, the day she was born, the day she died on both the Jewish and Gregorian calendars.

We’ve anticipated her arrival.

Hoped deeply.

Said hello, welcomed our second child to the big world.

Loved unconditionally.

Taken her outside to breathe fresh real air.

Said goodbye.

Buried her fragile little body in a tiny coffin in the ground.

Her box of memories is full, her photo album is made. Her special soft things in jars, still smelling a little bit like her. Everything put away in the trunk that sits next to me in the sunroom, keeping me company.

Her quilt is coming along, something I am not in a hurry to finish… When I work on it, I feel close to her.

I still haven’t framed and hung her photos, but I will… soon.

Her headstone has been made, set and unveiled. Flowers planted with her placenta. Her DNA and ours stored at the hospital for research. Her birth and death certificate are in a safe place with other family documents, confirming that she really did exist, always a part of our family.

We’ve moved away and settled into our new home across the country.

Our new chapter has begun.

Now what?


Today I watched as two cicadas completely left their exoskeletons and began a new chapter in their new skins, so bright green they were almost turquoise. They hung there from the branches of a tree, clinging still to their old shells, transparent wings spread, contemplating new destinations, new purpose.

It was stunning… I’ve never seen anything like it. For three weeks now I’ve been listening to them singing their songs outside, surrounding me with constant tropical melodies. I’ve just never seen a cicada before, not even in a photo.

Everything changes, nothing stays the same.

Impermanence... I see it when I look in the mirror. I look different than I did last summer. I look different than I did two summers ago. I think I look different than I did a few months ago. I’ve reluctantly left my exoskeleton, sometimes hesitating to leave it completely behind. Longing for it, for simpler times.

My old shell consists of all the mes I’ve left behind, said goodbye to, willingly or not.

It’s this next place I’m not so sure about. This after the transformation place. I can so easily tell you how changed I am from the person I was before I knew Tikva. I can describe in vivid detail how she transformed me, and for the better. But I’m not exactly sure what that means for me now… now that I’ve been transformed by knowing, loving and losing my child. Now that I’ve undergone a change I never in a million years would have chosen. Now that I’ve gotten kind of used to this new person that I am.

* * * * *

It’s almost the new year on the Jewish calendar. The biggest time of the year. This is supposed to be a time of reflection, of going inwards, of making amends, making peace. I always find this time tumultuous inside, unsettling, unsettled. I guess that’s the point. I don’t know if I’m ready for a big time right now. I’m feeling especially un-Jewish right now, which is ironic as the wife of a future rabbi. Really, I just feel like climbing under the covers and not coming out until October. Until the new year, a new season.

Last year at High Holy Day services, less than two months after Tikva died, I alternated between sitting next to Dave in the sanctuary, crying, and running outside to cry alone. I resented everyone dancing in the aisles all around me. I felt no joy, no peace, no serenity. I felt isolated, empty, lost. Dave wrote angry messages to God in his journal. I did not fast on Yom Kippur. Dave and I got into a fight about something, I can’t even remember what. Afterwards I went with a friend to a candlelight vigil for babies who had died. It was one of the saddest days of those first few months after losing my Baby Girl.

I don’t feel especially compelled to fast this year either. I don’t feel especially inspired to do much that is Jewish, to be honest. Keeping kosher – in the limited way we’ve been doing so for several years – feels kind of trivial after what I’ve lived the past almost two years. That is not how I connect to something bigger, by eating my meat and my dairy separately… by fasting on Yom Kippur.

* * * * *

There is a new layer of sadness churning deeply in me right now, a layer I’m not quite ready to shed. A space I just need to exist in for a while. I’m not entirely sure what it’s all about, but I do know that it’s less tidy, more raw than I’ve felt in many months.

It’s not the part of me that wondered how I would ever survive losing my child, terrified at the thought of forever having to hold that experience. I’ve survived, relatively intact. But I’m not settled. In fact, I’m feeling rather unsettled right now. In a new kind of limbo, an in between place.

Now what?

Now life goes on. Now life continues.

That’s it? It just continues? Just goes on, business as usual, except that I’m completely transformed in the middle of a world that hasn’t really changed much at all?


How come I have to adjust to the same old world around me, and no one has to adjust to me?

Because you’re not the majority.

I’m not? I know and know of so many parents who have lost babies, our numbers grow every day, and we’re still just a minority? But this is all I know. What am I supposed to do with the transformation I just went through? With this new self I am sort of used to and still getting acquainted with?

* * * * *

Tikva? Are you there? Are you still close? Is that you in the giant yellow and black butterfly I saw yesterday? In the turquoise under the transparent wings of the cicada? In the tiny bird eating an Oreo cookie outside the ice cream store yesterday?

What do I do now… still without you?

I will let myself cry for as long as I need. There are no rules around how long is enough before being done with the sorrow. You are never really done, are you? Here in this place, we know better than to create those kinds of boundaries. Here we feel what we need, when we need, how we need to.

I miss you, Tikva. I miss you differently now. But oh how I miss you still, my Tiny Love.


How do you feel you've transformed? What feels new? What have you gotten used to?



This past winter, the winter that set the record for snow days and pretty much shut down our commuter rail for a good long while, I was in a car accident. On my way to work sitting at a red light, my car was hit from behind. A minor accident, one out of I won’t even hazard a guess how many others that day. After a major snowstorm things like that just happen.

I didn’t feel great after, and only worse throughout the day. So by the time I saw the ER doc I wasn’t even that surprised by the verdict—concussion and whiplash. Rest and see your regular doctor for follow up. I did, and took the anti-inflamatories she prescribed to try to reason with the injury. I started PT and learned to turn my body rather than my neck to look over my shoulder. I learned to grade at a podium rather than at a flat surface whenever I could. I learned to angle my laptop to give my neck as much of a break as I could. And still, by the time April was half over I was half out of my mind. The pain itself, the aching and burning and squeezing of the scalp, the tenderness at the base, it was bad enough. But what made it truly unbearable, what made it maddening, was that the pain was constant and unrelenting. From the moment I sat up in bed to the moment I collapsed back into it, the pain was there.

My doctor didn’t know when it would get better. My PT kept talking about how incremental and jagged progress can sometimes be with this type of injury. I couldn’t tolerate even the simplest of exercises so all she could do for me was manual therapy. The one pain-free afternoon-- about four hours worth,-- that followed one of those sessions felt like a gift, and then a tease because the rest of that week was well and truly worse.

My doctor eventually sent me to a neurosurgeon who had a diagnosis, though not treatment for me—for treatment I had to go to yet another doctor. Pain clinic. Fucking A—I was forty years old and had a pain doctor. The pain doctor is knowledgeable and genuinely nice but not saccharine. I appreciate all three of those bits that every time I see him.  He confirmed the diagnosis and outlined the treatment, with all of the unknowns clearly marked. Which is to say he was fairly clear that it may or may not work.

He said another thing then, and he said it again at a follow up, and my PT had said that same thing many a time before, but it didn’t sink until the pain doc said it for the second time—he said that with this type of an injury, where I was, months out, even six months out, was still considered an acute phase. Acute, people! As in sharp or early. Sharp and early. Not the message I wanted to hear or appreciate—no wonder it took much repetition for it to sink in.

There was another time in my life when I resisted hearing that my pain was still sharp and early. Six months from A’s death someone commented on my blog then that it was so new still, and I did a double take—it had felt like an eternity. The aching and burning and squeezing of the soul, the tenderness of love I could do nothing with or about except write it out, all of it adding up to the unrelenting sadness… It took more time, months and years more, to recognize that my commenter was right, to admit that six months was awfully early, awfully acute.

Joe Biden, who’s had more than his share of burials that shouldn’t have been, in speaking to gold star families promised that there will come a day when the thought of their loved ones would bring a smile to their lips before it would bring a tear to their eyes. In those early months I wouldn’t have even known how to imagine a thing like that for a beautiful boy who never got to take a breath of air. It’s still hard, but sometimes these days it does happen. It happens most often when my younger son talks about his brother, about how we love him because you don’t stop loving someone just because they die, or about how he wishes he got to know his brother. Damn, kid, don’t we all.

A’s eighth birthday was just days before the accident. And for some reason, eight was hard. Frankly, it wrung me out. It started in on me a good two months out and man, did it take me to school-- in a creative and unusual move, eight showed me what the expression “debilitating anxiety” is all about. I could’ve lived my whole life without knowing that, thankyouverymuch. One of the things we do for A’s birthday is spell out his name and number in oversized gingerbread cookies. And let me tell you—you can be a nerd all your life, you can know that an 8 sideways is the sign for infinity, you can even know and love excellent nerdy jokes that rely on that fact, and yet neither the knowledge nor the jokes will protect you from how visceral and conspicuous that silly infinity-shaped cookie makes the forever.

The treatment for my neck injury is finally getting somewhere—after recent repeat medical procedure, the pain level is appreciably less and I am finally able to do actual exercises in PT. I am starting to believe that I will actually get better, that I may even recover rather than enter the chronic phase of this thing.  

On the other hand, the loving and missing of my son will never get “better.” It’s easier to live with these days, chronic, not acute. Integrated, part of me, part of the fabric of my life and my family. As eight demonstrated, there are flareups. Which is ok. This is not a condition from which I ever hoped to “recover.” Because after all, we don’t stop loving someone just because they die.



What stage are you in? How have you perceived time on this journey so far? Have you had your perception of where you are or have been affected by time or distance in time?