Dead babies from the time before


Baby Cosmo


When I was


They made

A documentary

About him

We saw his image

On the screen

Of a 30 pound TV

But of course

He never breathed

And we just saw

His ghost on our



He wasn’t the

First dead baby

I had been

Aware of, grieved

My cousin William



The womb of my

Uncle’s wife

While they were

Far away

Unseen by me

But missed

And wondered over.

I imagined

Her hurt

Felt something

Approaching empathy

Although I was

Still young enough

To find the whole

Birth thing

Faintly obscene


And then another loss

Not mentioned

To me personally

And so I will not speak it here

It is not mine

To share

But I was aware

And felt keenly

The broken dream

Of another family


And then some weeks before

My baby died

I spoke to my friend

About her infant brother

Lost just days after

He was born

And we mourned

For him a little

In the car

On the way to work

I remember as we turned

Onto the road

With the lovely violin shop

On the corner

That I felt a sudden


I just knew

That one day I would know

That feeling too

I didn’t realise it would be

So soon,

That I would come to

Speak with such


About small corpses

And their consequences


But those four came before

When dead babies were a rarity


What was your experience of babyloss before your baby or babies died? When you heard their stories did you ever imagine that it might happen to you?

Coming Home

Sapphira's first child, Shoshanna Clementine, was born at 37 weeks on March 23, 2011. She suffered from pre-eclampsia and went to the hospital to be induced.  After a placental abruption at the cord upon pushing, Sapphira ended up having an emergency c-section.  Shoshanna died three hours after delivery. She shares about herself, "I don't have a blog and hardly write, but I am so grateful to the Glow community that I thought to submit something as an expression of my appreciation and love." In April 3, 2012, Sapphira delivered her second child Julia Zahara. Please welcome Sapphira to this space and join the conversation below. —Angie

"Metaphor is a kind of mental changing room, where one thing, for a moment, becomes another, and in that moment is seen in a whole new way."  —Dr. Mardy Grothe

After Shoshanna Clementine was born and died, I tried to digest what was happening in my life by trying on all kinds of metaphors to explain, understand, or reframe events and emotions surrounding our loss. Different ones worked at various times.  For a long while, I was Indiana Jones jumping from stone to stone, feeling secure and strong with each step, but the earth was furiously shifting up and down, right and left, underneath me, as I ran endlessly to safety.  But none of these metaphors felt lasting, and none of them truly captured what was going on.

Then, one day I was painting with a friend, and a visual metaphor started to emerge, although I only saw it a day or so after the picture was complete.  I painted grass at first—the solid ground.  The pond that was to be next turned into a sea.  The sky followed, vast, taking up more than two-thirds of the picture.  I had to put in a moon, of course, a nod to my father who I always think of when I look at the moon.  As I stared at the open space of sky to the right, a teacher at the studio where we were painting came up to me and suggested I add birds to the scene.  With my permission, he lightly made some squiggle lines, and there was my metaphor.  The three birds were Shoshanna, Seth, and me.

Shoshanna is the largest oneindicating she is closest to the viewer, the one closest to shore, the one leading us back home.  "Let me show you the way," she encourages us.  It is dusk, and I am grateful she is taking us backback to our home that we love so much and back to our hearts--to find that the broken heart we endure is actually more whole than ever before with her help.

I feel like I have been out to seaaway from the worldfar, far away.  With all the navigation systems we have now, I've been able to stay in touch (emailing and texting, lunch dates and movies), but it has been isolating.  And yet Seth and I haven't been alone, really, because there are other people out here on this seaon the waves with us, flying with us in the sky.  Others who have lost a child too. And while I've felt so far away, I have heard the cries of friends and family from the shore and the whispers that have traveled across the waves to let us know that someone else's heart aches too, that someone else misses Shoshanna besides us.

I'm waiting for this metaphor of coming home to shift and no longer apply, another one to replace the next emotion, the next phase.  But, maybe if I also look at my painting as going the other waythat Shoshanna is behind us, as we lead her out to seathen I can give myself the permission to come and go as I please, that I can come home when I need to and go out and cry into the ocean when that is what I need.  For isn't that what being home means?

What does home mean to you? Do you have a painting, song or other metaphor that represents your grief and loss? What is it and how has it shaped your understanding of grief and your life?


I open my mouth. The scream escapes. It is a primal, ancient scream. The Banshee wail that precedes death and mourning. It has been building inside of me through all of my tragedies, humiliations, fears. But the death of my daughters propel it forward, out of me. It is also the scream of Demeter. It comes from deep inside of all women. The goddess roars through me. It is hardly a noise one knows before a child dies, it is something entirely different. A different cry, an animal sound, a wild rage that tears through normal ears. It is the hurricane. The volcano. The typhoon. It is in the Ancient Greeks, the Druids, the Celtic gods, the old Norse and Inuit tales where I find my story into the underworld. We babylost are no longer of this era and we should stop trying to be. We come from the distant past. The grief goddesses inhabit us to retell their stories. We channel their woe, their anger, their cries. We are transported to a place halfway between heaven and hell, the blessed and the cursed, the living and the dead.


I can only really muster worship to the goddesses of grief--Demeter and Hecate, the Norse goddess Frigga, the Aztec goddess Coatlicue. There is a distinguished lineage of goddess grieving. She rarely behaves well. I learn the lessons of grief from mythology. I starve the world. I punish others. But the earth people will be restored. It is me who withers again when Summer leaves, every year, when I am reminded of my daughter's death. It is me who curses the most human parts of myself.

The chill moves through me. I nod to Autumn, bow to her, make elaborate arm gestures to welcome her through my life again. Autumn equinox marks Persephone's descent--her return to Hades, the god who abducted her all those millennia ago, raped her, held her captive in the underworld, fed her pomegranate to seal her fate. Her mother Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, begins her long walk around the world weeping, mourning, taking the life from the crops. Autumn equinox marks my descent too. I walk into my grief season, seizing the harvest, choking the life from everything around me, falling into a deep darkness. It is a welcome turn, when the earth and sky match my insides. It is my slow trudge until my daughter's death day on Winter Solstice.

This veil is thin now in October. Do not underestimate its power. The ancestors step just out of view, like through a gauzy film, whispering: Be better than you think possible.

I shake my head and rub mud into my skin. I light bonfires and bring them forward. "Oh, no, I mourn now, grandmothers. I am my shadow and myself. Two people mourning. Weep with me. Share half a tear, half a cry with your half-daughter."

On the first year, when the earth opened and swallowed Persephone, Demeter walked the earth for nine days searching for her daughter. She ate nothing. She drank no ambrosia. She refused to bathe. She just hunted her only daughter, desperate and possessed with the finding. There are rumors that Persephone screamed before she was taken. Hecate heard it, in fact. And they ask Helios, the sun god, who tells them it is Hades who stole the virgin, raped her. When she was told what happened, she enlists the help of her friends Famine and Petulance to punish the humans until she can see her daughter once more. They are the withered old hags of goddesses, but powerful nonetheless. They delight in cauldrons of poison and starvation and cackle to themselves. And Demeter, a compassionate goddess, felt justified in her actions.

Persephone is allowed to return home only if she has eaten nothing. But she could not resist the allure of the blood red pomegranate, sexy and furtive. The juice drips down her chin, and Hades licks it off her, sealing her fate to return for six months every year.

photo by zenobia_joy.

I find myself jealous of Demeter, seeing her daughter for six months, exacting her grief in such a global way.  And the jealousy reads like a sweet nectar of what could be. I drink in the hope. Lucia ate pomegranate in my womb. Or rather, I did. I pulled the seeds from the membranes one by one until my hands were sticky and stained. I didn't know better. The seeds shone like garnets in my hand. And I, gluttonous and greedy, ate more of the underworld. I couldn't stop at six. I ate the entire fruit and then more. I ate resentment and anger, grudges and hurt egos, swallowed them whole. They were still alive and writhing when they hit my stomach, inches from where Lucia slept.

When she died, I walked this liminal land, the space between the dead and the living. The land running alongside the river Styx. I barely heed the warnings of those who came before me:

Do not pay the ferryman if you see him. Do not approach him. But wave across to the others, vacant and plodding through the dark. Ask for your child. Wail, if you must, the shriek of Demeter will be recognized here. But do not get on the boat. And for the love of everything holy, do not eat any pomegranate seeds yourself any longer. They mean something different now, love. Even though they taste like Lucia. They mean something different.

I have existed in liminal spaces for a long time. The borderlands are my patria. My homeland. I am half white and half-Latina. Half-American and Half-Panamanian. I am half a believer, half a skeptic. I am half straight and have AB positive blood. The creatures drawn to me wear horns, and tall boots with twenty-seven buckles, and white make-up, wooly vests and listen to songs about vampires, but work in a corporate office during the day. I live in a suburb, a small town that feels like mid-town. Halfway between city and country. We have a farmer's market and tattooed vendors who smile at your bike trailer and say, "Right on."

After the first snow without her, I became half a mother. Half a breeder. Half of my children are dead. I have half a song. It is about winter, and the triple goddess, and pomegranate seeds which I suck just enough to be allowed visitation rights. She is gone and my summer never comes. Just space and time until I grieve again.

It is half a myth without an ending.


Do you feel between worlds? Which ones? Do you feel close to certain myths or stories now? Has that changed since the death of your baby(ies)?

Mile markers

When I first went to see what would become Monkey's school, I was visibly pregnant, with A. At the open house I chatted with the then-head-of-school, partially about how she thought it was really nice to have a girl be older than a boy in a family because sometimes girls mistake their brothers' age-related competencies for gender-related ones and begin to believe they can't do things their brothers can. I hadn't thought about a dynamic like that before, but for some reason it stuck with me. A couple of months later, after we applied to the school, Monkey had her own interview there. By that point I was huuuuuuge and rather a slow-moving vehicle. I remember plopping down on the bench in the lobby, grateful for its existence, uncushioned hard surface and all.

That bench is still in the lobby, in that exact same place. But A is not. He was dead barely a week after that interview, more than five and a half years ago now.

Monkey loves her school. Not likes, loves. We love it too. And most of the time we are very happy with it, too. Most families at the school send all their kids there. Which, all of it, is making this a tough fall for me.


We have so many hopes and dreams for these little people. Some are general and vague, like that big one, that they be happy. Others are more concrete. We taught Monkey to swim and to ski, and I had some ideas that we would, some day, splash in the water together, A included, or race down black diamonds, me trying to keep up with the rest of them. Hazy, but not too hazy. No date and time certain, but I would've guessed something like that would be happening by the time A was five. There are no guarantees, of course. The boy could've broken a leg, ending a season before it began. He could've even, gasp, hated the whole exercise of skiing and refused to partake. Worse things, too, could've befallen him and us. But statistically those dreams are more likely to come true than not once you hear the heartbeat. And, you know, certainly by ten full weeks past viability.

And then comes The Day. The day their little hearts stop, the day we learn that we will not get to bring them home. All these dreams, visions, plans-- they all come tumbling down that day. We may be too shell-shocked to realize it right away. We all know the big one's gone. But it may take us some time to pick up the pieces of all these other dreams, to name them, and in naming them to mourn them. In that big pile of rubble it may be hard to find the individual pieces. It may be hard to tell whether the shard you are holding is from the play with cousins dream or the holidays at the grandparents' dream or even from the often underappreciated until it's out of one's grasp my family, all under one roof, fed and content dream.

Whether we choose to bag the whole pile and put it on the curb for the next garbage pickup, or to spend the time carefully looking through, from time to time, an errant glimpse of a shard or some semblance of it is likely to catch our eye and pierce our heart. I remember sometime during my first year, there was a post from a babylost blogger who was a good bit further into the process than me, about how she got stymied at a video store by a gaggle of teenage boys picking out a movie. Because suddenly, at that moment she knew with ridiculous clarity the many things, big and small, her son had missed out on because he died-- growing into a boy and then a teenager, and a young man, friends, messing around, movies. You can't plan for these. You might guess what landmine will get you one day-- I fully expect, for example, to some day fog up my ski goggles because of something that will inadvertently unearth a shard of that dream, but you don't know when or exactly how it will get you.

Then there are the perma-mines, the baked-in-the-cake grief mile markers. When we get up in the middle of the rubble, some of these are staring us right in the face-- you know, the family affair where you were supposed to show off the new addition; some are regular and predictable, clearly visible amongst the suddenly bare landscape-- the monthaversaries, the anniversaries, the hangings of the Christmas stockings, if that's your thing.  And then there are the one of markers-- the ones that were there from the beginning and never moved, even if they were, then, too far away to see.


I had a tough time coming up on the fourth anniversary. For some reason, four was shaping up to be qualitatively worse than three, and I was not doing well. The whole month was dreary and difficult, dragging and draining. It sucked, ok? And yet, in the middle of that slow dance of misery, in one bright moment of realization I knew that as bad as this buildup to four was, it was going to be a soft landing compared to what would have been A's first day of school. See, Monkey loves her school. We had decided she was going there before A died. Which means that unless something extraordinary would've happened between his birth and this fall, A would've started Kindergarten at the same school right after Labor Day, about five weeks ago now. In that very same moment of realization when I first saw the start of school marker staring me in the face, with 18 months or so still to go, I also knew, I just knew that on that day I would throw up.

Coming up on the school year I was a wreck. It didn't help that the Kindergarten class has three siblings of Monkey's classmates in it. It didn't help that I knew it would before Monkey ever started at the school, five plus years ago, thanks to the unthinking remarks from a mother of Monkey's then-future classmate. I didn't want to meet new families at the school-- the K class was oversubscribed, and I know that my head would keep reminding me that one of these families wouldn't have been at the school had A lived.

The first day of school came. We brought Monkey to the school, and we hung out, and I didn't throw up. I came close a couple of times, but I didn't. And now I think I wish I did. Maybe then I would be able to walk through the lower school and carry on a conversation at the same time. Maybe then I would not want to shut my eyes every time I see the K teachers lead their charges down the hall. Maybe then I would be done with this, the almost-final perma-mine.

This was the almost final "for sure" marker. I've hit a few of these before. From here on out, I think there is only one more, and the date is less than determined. Had A lived, sometime on or shortly after his 13th birthday, he would've had his Bar Mitzva. I know that will nail me too, probably at Monkey's ceremony first, and then on A's anniversary that year. And maybe a few more times for good measure.


Have you encountered any grief mile markers? Of what variety have they been and how has it gone for you? Are you from a family that celebrates Thanksgiving together every year? Or is it more that you have been stung by sudden recognition? If you can see a marker looming in the distance, how do you prepare? Or do you?

glass castle

Jessica is a mom to five, four in her arms and one in her heart.  After the loss of her infant daughter in 2007, she left the corporate world behind, vowed to soak up every living moment and found her writing roots again. I've been reading Jessica's beautiful blog for many years as she has grappled with life after the death of one of her triplets. You can find her wearing her heart on her sleeve at her personal blog Four Plus an Angel. —Angie

photo by Ayrcan

You have played that game, on the computer, the phone, in life, where the water is rushing through pipes and you have to turn the pipes in the right direction so they fit and the water can continue to flow.

You find a straight one, then one that turns to the right, then to the left, some that cross over each other and some that turn back the way they came and then you ultimately get to the end. Finding a piece that will connect it all, you realize that once it is placed, once you slide it into the correct position the flood will come. A path will have been sealed and the pressure that began at the start will find its way through your maze and seep out. It may trickle or gush or pour in buckets but once you have chosen to open gates so carefully guarded you will drown, you are sure of it.

So you don't complete the path, you leave that last piece tilted a bit to the right or jutting back to the left or you just keep picking up pieces and putting them back, knowing they are not where they should be and the pressure you have never released continues to pulse in the maze of your mind.

Life keeps rushing past even though yours stopped. You lost a child and with her went your optimism, your faith. You move and walk and breathe but not fully in or out or forward. Sometimes you want to scream at the world for continuing to spin and sometimes you want to whisper a question of how exactly they all manage to do it.

You are never fully anchored to the ground, your mind and your heart are divided between the earth and the sky and while you wish for a day to just cry, you are pretty certain that a day or a month or a year would not be enough.

Continuing to walk on ground left shaken, you tiptoe around cracks or stomp at the injustice and squelch the desire to pound your fists, because the walls might just come crashing down this time.

Grief and loss have become your glass castle, buried feelings and put off tears your pipeline that may never find land. You are suspended yet buried, trapped in a world of living without someone who should be. 

Does life after the death of your child or children feel like water rushing past you? Or rather, do you feel swept away with life? Do you feel untethered, or grounded? Jessica refers to grief and loss as a glass castle, do you see your grief as a building, and if so, what kind? 


In a departure from my usual style for Glow in the Woods I have written and recorded a poem. You can hear me read it here:


Do I sound sad?

Can you hear it in me?

When I utter banalities

Or common courtesies

About inclement weather

Or paying bills, or other

Everyday utilities

Is that all I’m saying to you?


Or do your ears twitch at

A catch, a crack

A different quality

So “Tea or Coffee?”

Comes with neither milk nor sugar

But rather a side of

“Your choice doesn’t matter to me because neither will bring my dead baby back to life”

Or when I ask

For someone to email me some


Does my reply seem to be

In some kind

Of dolorous code

Thanking them for

Distracting me

From my melancholy?

Or when I say

“A return ticket to the city please”

Perhaps you’d be aware of the silent addendum

“Not that she’ll ever return to me… because she’s DEAD”

(These are all thoughts I’ve had by the way

So please laugh at me and

My ability to



And generally


The grief-pudding-of-my-eternal-sense-of loss

Some things deserve derision

Occasionally. Maybe.)




Four years out

My subtext

Has truly



I no longer

Shout my pain

In every word

I even talk about

Sad things

With an air of

Warm reassurance


Then I eavesdrop on myself


A fragment

Of my voice

On someone else’s

Answer phone

Or notice something

Alien in my

Sister’s tone

That used to be so

Similar to my own

But now seems

Less familiar.


And I hear it plainly.


The sound

Of ancient


Rasped across

My vocal chords

And I wonder

How it’s possible

That people can

Hear me speak

And not weep?

How anyone can

Ever answer me

Without their own

Remembered grief

Bursting out

Until we are all wailing

At the sky

Sorrow’s choir

Swelling loud

Out out up

Wildly shaking the world

Hurling us about

So we’ll never

Forget her or anyone!

Lost names thunder

Against the horizon

And burst the

Eardrums of the lucky ones

Windows shatter

The plates of the earth

Shift and grate

Teeth rattle

Trees are wrenched

From the soil

Violent noises

Siren voices

All around


Until it seems

The ground would yield up

Her dead.


Is that how I sound?

Is that how I sound?

Or am I only sad in silence now.


Do you have a grief radar? Can you hear it or see it in other people? Do you think they feel it in you?