quietly forward

I don't want to share her anymore.

Initials traced on sidewalks, birth date carved into wood.

MARGOT WAS HERE, inked on my forehead.

Dropping her name like rain, sprinkled over the city, in grocery stores and preschool and dinners with acquaintances.

Neighbors. Bartender. Old friends.

I have another daughter, I'd lament, with downward eyes, searching for a remedy.

It was like this in the beginning. Shouting, screaming, knees in the mud, heart on my sleeve, anything to feel some sort of connection to her.

For months and a year and more months, I wore her story around me like a cloak, heavy and tattered from the daily grind, dark material, drenched in sadness and anxiety. I didn't care how messy it all appeared. There was no choice to put on the cloak, or to share her, to sprinkle her around the city. Grief doesn't give you a choice. I woke up to life without her every day and that reality felt like all there was.

Somewhere along the ticker I’ve gone quiet. The pulse of my sorrow still beats, steadily, methodically, but sharing her so freely feels uncomfortable now, like it’s a violation of our intimacy.  

Shhhhhhh Daddy, I imagine her whispering, they don't need to know.

Suddenly I’m overcome with this urge for privacy, for things left unsaid, for the cloak to whither and fall, for the sidewalks to wash away, for the wood to rot. I want her all to myself. I want the ways she has changed me to be something that I alone know the extent of. I want my thoughts about her kept only for us, sacred secrets between a father and daughter. I want her ashes, the rocks from her river, the remnants from her brief existence to be tucked away, hidden from bystanders, hallowed ground reserved only for a few.

It’s now in the quiet where I find closeness with her, in the whisper of her name, in the privacy of my own thoughts, in the ways in which she has changed me.



Do you ever feel quiet? Do you feel like not sharing your children so much? If so, what brought that on for you? I wonder if some of you might feel somewhat off by the idea of being quiet, of not sharing your chlldren so freely?



Youngest Kind of Pain

Since this is Valentine’s Day, I figured it would be appropriate to introduce a song I wrote about the most depressing date ever: the first one Terra and I went on after our first daughter, Roxy Jean, had died.

I honestly can’t even remember exactly what we did, except that we found ourselves walking along the same sycamore and maple-lined campus avenue where we’d first begun dating, some 16 years prior, as two gutter punks trying to find a way to get drunk outside of Spaceport Arcade (yes, we are that old). We’d fill our Styrofoam gas station cups up with such a strong ratio of vodka to red kool-aid (hey it was 1991, and we were broke) that we had to drink it quickly in order to keep the alcohol from disintegrating the cup from the inside out. We’d run wild through the night in a pack like wolves. Sometimes between the buildings, sometimes through the woods by the lake, and sometimes we’d lie around on the dirty floor of someone’s smoke-filled apartment, listening to The Misfits or The Violent Femmes. I smoked Winston cigarettes. She never did.

But I digress. This song is not exactly about those days.

It’s about the night that we walked like ghosts through a past that seemed to belong to other people now. We didn’t want to drink vodka out of Styrofoam cups while running through the night air looking for adventure. We wanted something stronger. We wanted to go home. It was too quiet without our 4-year-old son to distract us and especially without out the baby we should have been losing sleep caring for. We just walked, and the silence surrounded us. We were paralyzed by our shared pain and we did not want to be alone with it.

Oh my God, Oh my God, this is the place we used to walk
When the darkness had yet to leave it's darkest kind of mark
And we were strange
We were borderline deranged
And you had eyes that held the water like saucers full of rain

Through the lotus went the light and I saw something new revealed
I saw the scars from the fight
I saw the wounds that never heal
So strike the stage, I guess nothing can remain
All this running, fucking running, and we're no farther from this place
We're in the youngest kind of pain

We save the softest words for strangers
Because we don't know how to say it
And we don't know what the name is
No baby sleeping in the manger

And there's no one here to save us
There's no one here to save us
There's no one here to save us 

What was your first date like after the loss of your baby? What was it like to try to be romantic? 


Wild Nights

The Irish, I am told, are fond of sex during wakes. This is very likely one of those gross cultural abstractions, one that bears no resemblance to the real world.

And yet, in those early days, I understood the terrible and fierce appeal of celebrating life and love in the midst of death. I understood carnality.

I wanted my husband in a way that I had never wanted him before Gabriel’s death. I wanted him because I wanted to shake my fist at death. I wanted to proclaim the wonder of life and lust and joy in the midst of such sorrow.  I wanted to get back to what I only enjoyed for a brief period.

I don’t think I have ever told him this.

I was ripe, verdant when I was pregnant. After years of trying to not get pregnant – living life a bit shriveled up, convinced I would be the teenager, the young woman who ruined her life getting pregnant. (If only I had known.) I lived with the baggage of a Christian background, guilt and miasma heaped on me. It isn’t that I never enjoyed sex, but I never fully let go. I may have been married for 7 years, supposedly able to copulate guilt free, but there was no revelry.

At the end of my first trimester, and in a way I had never understood in all my 29 years, I just relaxed. I enjoyed, luxuriated. I loved sex. It was spectacular. My body had finally performed as warranted, and it was my time to revel in this. I told you I felt verdant – but it was more than that. I was full, round, fruit ripened in sunshine.  I was soft and lush - fecund.  I felt not just sexy, but sensual. I loved that word then and I still almost hate it now.

Would it shock you to know I was angry I lost this after Gabriel died? I wasn’t verdant after all. There was no ripeness in me.

I wondered, worried, fretted, freaked - was I forever destined to yearn and dream for that feeling of fullness again – all of that roundness and all of that ripeness – would I never taste it on my lips again, feel my body laid back and splayed out in glory? Maybe 24 weeks, well, 12 weeks of good sex maybe that was it.  And if that was it, if 3 months had been paradise and I was in paradise lost, why on all of this green earth hadn’t we had sex every day? Why hadn’t I rolled around, found satiation every chance I got?

I haven’t really looked back like this – applied the careful thought to sex that I do to grief. I have found the experience remarkable. I have found that the words, the images and the adjectives that spring to mind to be surprising.


Continuing the discussion from Jess’ post, as yourself or as anonymous. Use words or images or snippets of poetry. Do you regret? Yearn? Wish? Is there loss in this as well?

One blushing shame, another white despair

We are in a cafe. I blush and stutter. I look through my eyelashes at our neighbours, laughing into their lattes. I murmur, fearing their ears.

We are at my house. I breathe in and unseal my lips in a tiny gesture of anticipation. We are friends, confidantes. You are unshockable in the presence of my grief and rage. But now I am aware of the couch we sit on, the bedrooms above us.

So perhaps it is better that we are in neither of those places. You are there. I am here. This is silent noise. You can adjust your features so that they appear neutral, impenetrable. No one need know that this is what you’re reading. Unless you blush too.

Because here is the thing, the topic, the theme, the issue, the matter at hand. Here is the subject of this post. It’s... it’s... it’s... sex after loss and there is no pretty or dainty or literary way to say it other than that:

Sex after loss.

And what a complicated and difficult subject to address. In grief you yearn. You yearn for a little body, a milky mouth, a tiny foot in the palm of your hand. Is there room for that other yearn, that other want? To need, to desire: they have different meanings now. And now sex becomes about another baby, or not another baby; about bodies that don’t do what they’re supposed to. Bodies mean pain, or sick, or tired. Bodies are small and covered in wires. Bodies are still and cold. Bodies are not the colour of your lover’s skin, but mottled and blue.

Some people are drawn together and some are wrenched apart.

We were wrenched apart, but still we came together. We wanted our baby and so we were naked in our nakedness. And so another baby came. But that is not a given for our kind. There is no guarantee of fertility or of the end result. The end result: the one that seemed so certain to me all those years ago as I stomped up the stairs of the sexual health clinic in second hand army boots, for condoms and pills and other armour.

We are all different. You might believe that my kind of sex neither takes its appropriate form nor serves its appropriate function. You might have stomped up stairs for the same reason I did, or you might find that abominable. You might have loved it, or not. You might have shared it with many people, or with one. It’s political, it’s personal, it’s universal, it’s fucking everywhere. There’s fucking everywhere. In the same way that in those early weeks after Iris died every woman was pregnant, every commercial was for baby paraphernalia, every goddam Facebook status update came with a fuzzy ultrasound photo. Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere, until sex WAS loss and its expression evidence of the distance between us.

I pause and exhale. My hands push in to my eye sockets. I wish we were in that cafe, or at my house, or better still at a bar with an infinite  line of tequila shots and a cute bartender, and I would shout ‘SEX!’ too loudly, and everyone else would blush,  and we would cackle instead of cry.

But instead you are there, and I am here, and now I have to ask: how was it for you?

Has sex changed for you in your grief? Why? How? In what way? Be frank, be euphemistic, be anonymous, be however you want to be, but please tell me.

Of Birds and Bees

We all bring a set of issues to the table of grief, whether it be a side-dish of marital problems, a salad of anxiety, or an appetizer laced with previous tragedies which this seems to compound. There's the bottle of money woes, the dash of low-esteem, and perhaps even (hidden under the napkin) the telltale odor of previous bouts with depression. All of these shade and color our experience, and shift our individual abilities to cope with babyloss. I'm not here to rate which are at least edible, and which could stand to be thrown into the compost, but I am going to discuss one particular problem many bring to the table and set down with a thunk, with the grace of an overcooked, 25 pound stuffed turkey.

That would be infertility.

Babyloss after -- during -- infertility is it's own peculiar injustice. For starts, infertility in and of itself can create it's own side excursions into mental trauma. As one avid reader here said to me in person recently, infertility is its own kind of grief.  For starts, what comes naturally in the pickle commercials and to your friends who seem to just look at each other naked and procreate, for you is not meant to be.  Frankly, that alone deserves some mourning.  There's the monthly reminder of failure, which you try hard not to internalize, but it's hard to go through more than a year without getting a bit mopey about overall body image and capabilities. Add to this the strain on marriage, which you try and avoid by making sex fun! And unto itself! But seriously, you're both eyeballing the calendar and know and wonder when it will be fun again, and secretly debate who exactly is letting whom down. Meanwhile all of your friends are pregnant and having babies and wondering what in hell you're waiting for? Time's a ticking! You go to your thousandth baby shower with a stiff upper lip and cry on the way home.

You finally go to an RE (that's Reproductive Endocrinologist) who runs you through a pantheon of testing. If you're lucky, you've climbed online and read up on this stuff so you're prepared for the discomfort of mulitple blood draws on various days of the month, watching radioactive dye run through your fallopian tubes, or having your uterus filled with liquid and monitored via ultrasound, or an uncomfortable uterine biopsy. There's the indignity of going in on day two of your menstrual cycle for a vaginal ultrasound to check the status of your ovaries, and the ever-popular post-coital testing where you run into the office when you should be lounging naked with a glass of something and a cig, and have them take a sample of everything that you didn't leave on the mattress to see if sperm can indeed make it through the secretions that you produce. And don't get me started on the discussion with your husband, which starts with "Honey, I really want to have a baby" and ends with "And so you need to go into the office where they'll hand you a jar. If you're lucky, this office may even have some inspirational magazines for you as well."

And that's just to get a diagnosis. If there is one to be found. Like so many things medical, after all of this, the answer is often "unknown."

Because now we know, maybe, or at least have an idea, there might be surgery to rid of endometriosis or fibroids or a blocked tube. Or IUI (Intra-Uterine Insemination -- you know, the old fashioned way, except with a turkey baster). Or if your husband presents a problem in the equation, IVF with ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection. Say that 10 times fast). Drugs are dispensed, often to yourself with syringes and detailed instructions on what needs done intramuscularly. Sometimes you skip right to IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), and sometimes there's a mind-blowing discussion about dead or absent sperm or a lack of eggs or a misshapen uterus that ends with the RE telling you about gamete donors and/or surrogates. Sometimes there's the unexpected surprise that all of these miscarriages you've been having are caused by a genetic problem carried by you or your spouse. Sometimes there's simply a vial of pills, sometimes there's the fluke of luck while waiting for the next round of shots to start, and sometimes there's the hellish conclusion that this will not end the way you intended when you walked in.

I should pause here and remind people who are staring at this jumble of acronyms and procedures like hieroglyphics that much of this testing and prodding and medicating and inseminating is not covered by insurance. Unless you're lucky enough to live in a small handful of states (or countries) that have rightly deemed infertility a medical problem necessitating treatment and hence coverage (and you're lucky to have insurance to begin with!), you're paying for this out of pocket. According to Resolve, the average IUI runs $865, depending on the medication needed; IVF's average (that's average) $8,150K, NOT including medication (which runs, on average, an additional $3,000-5,000). (For the record, I just used some banal progesterone, apparently necessary to keep embryos attached to my uterus but not covered by my insurance. The cost per 4 weeks of a daily single dose was $800, and I needed 8 weeks. And I consider myself lucky that's all I needed this time around.)

I know people who took out second mortgages for ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology), and people who used inheritances, and people who drew out of their retirement accounts and/or borrowed from family. All to achieve what many can do after turning off the late night news and climbing under the covers.

But let's say you get lucky, and get pregnant.

Worth it, right?

And now let's say your baby dies.


Back up for a moment to what this reader said to me: Infertility is it's own kind of grief. It's a monthly dash of hopes, a monthly reminder of promises gone down the drain, often with the checking account. It's the thought when an embryo is tucked safely inside you that this is it! This is life! This is our life.  This blob will be my child! Only to be greeted by one line and blinding white two weeks later. Multiply this over, and over again. Possibly for years. Possibly having set your limit -- your emotional and financial finish line on the next attempt: this one is the last one. This one works, or we grieve never having children of our own, and move on to something else. Hope and faith and trust and marital communication may have left the building long before the death of a baby. You may have been desperate, on that last attempt, bargaining, wondering if anything would work.

In that regard, the death of a baby is part of this winding vine already invading your life. It's another loss, another dash of hopes, but this time on a much larger scale because . . . well obviously, it's different to hold a dead child than to stare at a negative pregnancy test, but there's also the thought that That might have been it.

Because you can't simply wake up one morning and say, Let's try again. As hard as that discussion is to have another baby after the death of the last, if you're infertile it's more complicated. There isn't the subconscious knowledge that Well of course this will work again like it's supposed to.  You need to pick up the phone and explain to people what happened, and what you'd like to do next. You need to go through a lot of the rigamrole again. You may need to alter how many embryos you transfer, or depending on why your child died, move to gamete donation or surrogacy. Perhaps you need to now fork out for PGD (Pre Implantation Genetic Diagnosis) (Incidentally, another average of $3,500 on top of your IVF expenses) to make sure any genetic problems aren't being passed along. You need to set to set a new limit, a new finish line, and further deplete your bank account. And each month that passes with an HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadtropin) test of two or less, you sink further into a bleak place. Perhaps that child was it. The only time this would work.

And sometimes, that is it. There are people here in this community, who read here, who reached the end. The end of the line. The money tree dried up, their emotions were frayed after years of trying and failure, and they needed to stop and move on. Move on with another life than the one they originally envisioned when they simply set out to have a baby of their own making. And that, putting behind not only a dead child but the attempt to have another of your own, is it's own crucible of grief. Inextricably wound up with the death of a baby that we're all familiar with, but branching out and encircling so many other parts of your conscious and marriage and identity and being. And like any loss, this deserves its own moment of grief, too.

Did you seek Infertility treatments in order to get pregnant with your child(ren)? Are you having to with a subsequent child? For you, how does your babyloss fit in with infertility -- does it stand alone, or has it become a chapter or branch within a greater struggle? Do you have limits? Have you met them already? 

from our side

Late for work, late to bed, dishes in the sink, beer bottles strewn through the house like a breadcrumb trail to my evening flameout is how I roll. How about you?

I was ready to start complaining about how tough it was to work after being up all night with that little bugger screaming my sleep away. I was ready to become a machine calibrated only for the mom/baby show to shine.

Instead, now, I'm part therapist, part rock, part disaster, part ogre.

But in the end I can only do so much. No matter what, I'm still something of a spectator to the deep well of grief that my wife inhabits. She can't help but feel this more profoundly because of the specific physicality of her experience. Our emotional trauma is roughly equivalent, but my physical self is essentially unchanged. Sure, my shit is liquid on those mornings when I wake up devastated and insane. Yes, my neck and shoulders are crimped and twisted by this invisible, relentless weight of sadness. There is no question that I have grown fat and lazy on a diet of avoidance and lassitude.

Frankly, I'm psyched when I can get up and do anything at all. The laze comes easy to me. Stayed in bed until noon the other day. Noon. By the time I had breakfast and finished coffee it was time to start thinking about dinner. Lunch didn't even make it into the rotation. Poised on the brink of parenthood, I've been tossed back into a life where sleeping until noon is actually an option. And I choose that option only because facing the day is more difficult than feeling bad about wasting it.

For those of you that already had children, this all must be completely different. I'm sure it is easier to focus on the living children than the one that didn't survive. But for those of us whom our lost offspring is our first, the wrenching denial of everything that was to come is nearly overpowering. I've never been one to descend to the depths of "Fuck Everything" that I now sometimes swim through. Sure I touched on it here and there. Perhaps dipped a toe into that boggy morass of nihilism and disregard during a rough patch, but I never submerged into that particular muck. Wasn't my style at all.

Now, somehow, I have to make this muck into a home. Losing your child is a lesson in how to make Shit Houses. Here's a pile of crap, live in it.

And not only live in it, but you have to share this Feces Condominium with someone else who is probably in many ways even worse off than you.

Are you a patient person? Can you listen well and respond without anger? How do you fare when you see someone that has everything you want, but complains about how tough it is? Are you capable of letting go of expectations and accepting the World at face value? If so, a career in having your child die just might be for you. Everyone else need not apply.

There is no one set of rules and instructions to help us deal with the loss of our child. For each person, this path through grief and despair is utterly solitary and painfully unique. And even though we get it more than anyone else our wives know, we still don't get it like they do. And that pisses me off, too.

I am the necessary, vital partner, but secondary to the vessel that carried my son. Without me she would crumble, but I am a hot breeze away from disintegration myself. She wants me to be there, to help her, to discuss the steaming pile of shit that is our shared life, but all I have been doing all day is fighting back the relentless demons that plague my every thought. By the time I get home I've finally won, and there suddenly is a new battle for me to fight. It's not me against her, it's us against her own horde of demons, but sometimes I've got nothing left.

There is no easy way to say "I've spent the last 10 waking hours thinking about our dead son and I simply cannot hear any words pertaining to said awfulness. Everything you say I have already thought, and I've chosen to keep silent. When you speak these words, they rip me open doubly, once because I know, I know I know, and another time because I know how destroyed you are too."

Can't we just watch TV? Can't we just sigh together and let that be enough? Can't you see how I move slow through the world and lash out at every obstacle? Would it be easier if I showed my true emotions and dismantled this entire reality with my own bare hands? I can destroy everything, you know. I can do it. There's nothing left anyway, so it would be easy to take that next step and show everyone how nothing everything has become by destroying everything in sight.

It wouldn't even be a rage thing. I wouldn't hurt anyone at all. I'd just start with this keyboard, move to the desk and then piece by piece sledgehammer this house into rubble. Sidewalk and street would be next but it would be the car that would really take some time. Those things are built to last. It wouldn't though. Not in the path of my focused pain. Helpless to help my son be alive, I could demonstrate to everyone the futile emptiness of this life. At least it would be action with an end result.

Look, I could say. Look what I've done for us. Now everyone knows what the World looks like from our side. Our desolation is now obvious and clear and we don't have to talk about any of it anymore.

I don't do that, though, and by not I am showing you how much I love you and want this World to work out somehow. The containment of my rage is an act of love. The daily denial of vomit and insanity is proof of my commitment. I can keep standing up and moving forward with you, but every millimeter of motion and attention takes the entire focus of my will.

The big picture of this pain is impossible to comprehend all at once. All I can manage to figure out is the very next thing in front of me. So each next thing that comes my way, I try to make it as good as I can. I know what makes me happy. Simple things I can control like sleeping until noon or steak grilled to perfection gives me pleasure in a world where joy is rare and fleeting.

I don't aim for joy anymore. I aim for contentment, I aim for an absence of pain. The problem is, to get there I sometimes have to shut down so many systems and thoughts that I can barely speak. If I am quiet and distant it is because I have spent the day raging against my pain. When I am brusque and bitter it is because of how much I hate what we have been denied. I know she is not my enemy, but there is no one to battle against to right this terrible wrong. Caresses and communication are sometimes collateral damage to the trauma of this experience.

I cannot take away her pain, so it feels like I can't do anything worthwhile at all. I couldn't stop what happened to our son. I could not fix him before he was gone. I cannot go back and get him and bring him to her, and I cannot alter the awful truth of every single day.

But excuses suck and I can always do better. I can share the simple pleasures with her, and listen even when the words shred me to pieces. I've been shredded so thoroughly by now, another tear doesn't hurt much at all. I can hold her and touch her skin and say nothing at all and be certain it was exactly what she wanted and needed right then and there.

We are not enemies here. One or the other is never to blame. All the tools and methods we had for working together have been tested to the limit or thrown out the window along with our hopes and dreams, everything except for one thing. That One Thing is that there is no one in the world except for her, my wife, and I would do anything and everything to take away all the pain of these last nine months.

I'll do the dishes. I'll sweep this Shit House. I'll drive to the store and buy organic strawberries and fair trade dark chocolate and I'll feed it to her piece by piece and listen quietly while she rages with tears against her internal, implacable demons. I know she'll hold me when I can't fight them either, and she won't make a racket cleaning up my detritus when I'm sleeping till noon.

She knows that in my dreams I just might find our son. It's one of the only place left I have to look. The other place is in her eyes, and I always find Silas there. Sometimes, though I cannot handle that either. The pain I see inside her breaks me to pieces, too.


What do you and your partner fight about? How do you each handle stress and pain? What do you need most? What is the worst part of your every day? How do you help each other deal with grief? What could both of you do better? What are you awesome at together?