The voices here will arrive and depart, like tides making new sandscapes of the same beach. We need this place like food and air and then one day we open our eyes and with a nod to the others, we step from one side to the other, across a foggy sort of before-and-after boundary we hadn’t been sure we’d ever find.
From I am completely lost to a deep breath and I am not completely lost.
Following are the voices of Glow in the Woods, both current contributors and what we call the Glow emeritus -- founding writers whose words still live here, but who no longer contribute on a regular basis. They'll come back from time to time to sit with us, and tell us how things look from further down the path. We honour them all, and we're so blessed with their company.
Porcelain. Gypsum. A book of mica. Those sugar crystals you grow in elementary science on a fuzzy piece of yarn. A thin sheet of seasalt, water evaporated. The slow seeping drip of water in a limestone cave, and the fragile tiers of rimstone bubbling out of a hot spring. After the stillbirth of our son, these are the things I am made of.
My daughter was diagnosed with a fatal birth defect. I continued the pregnancy and welcomed my daughter, Agnes, who lived a few hours on this side of the world. Here I write in the aftermath of my loss, hoping to transcend some of this darkness into light.
I didn’t really think we would lose another child. Of course, I hoped B.W.’s death and birth would be our single massive unfathomable tragedy. Over seven years and one healthy living son later, Zachary was born healthy but premature.
He sailed through his first week of life until he somehow acquired a bacterial infection in the NICU environment. He suffered tremendously. His body fought the sepsis, it looked like he would recover, and then they scanned his previously perfect brain. An incredibly rare and horrific bleed. Zachary was just two weeks old when we removed his life support. I thought I could imagine what a second death would do to me. I was wrong.
Very much a creature of water, I am still drawn to the flame. Campfire, the symbol of many a good thing about growing up in the Old Country. Candle, the symbol of many a thing to many a people. To me, always, and more since we buried our second child, our first son, A, to me-- a fragile, finite, ephemeral, but necessary focus point in the dark. When there is nothing else to do, I find myself lighting a candle.
Our story begins the same way most others do: at the end of another. The narratives of each pivot from a single phone call, a trembling voice and disbelieving ears. After 34 rather ordinary weeks of waiting to meet our daughter Lydia, her heart stopped beating as a result of a constricted umbilical cord. The divergent life that follows after is filled with the unnatural need to balance both death and life.
Before stumbling out of the hospital and into the cold rain of November, I kissed my daughter one last time and told her that I love her so very much. The kind nurse rocking and singing to my daughter looked up at me and said, "She knows." The words I collect here in this small space is just one way I make sure she never forgets.
She is the beginning and the end of many things, the death of innocence, the birth of reality, the acceptance that great sadness does exist, the denial that love ends when a heart stops beating. In losing her I found so much more of her and so much more of me. In finding her I began my search, for meaning, for purpose, for a way to live without. I lost her body, all that remains is held in a wooden box in my home, but I find her, every time I share her story or reach out to another soul shattered by loss. I bare my soul willingly.
In the bitter cold of Winter 2013, she silently arrived, 5 weeks before she was due. Three cold Winters later, I am still here loving and remembering a little light I once carried within me. She is with me always. My Zia. The thought of her still filling me with joy, the loss of her still shattering. I go by many titles, the greatest of these being mother, my son with me, my daughter I carry in my heart.
Knots in my hair and bags under my eyes, caustic soap, institutional green. Ben grunts in his cot, almost ready to come home, and the lost baby heart-trinket given to me by an NICU nurse as she took Liam away hangs on a string around my neck, warmed by my skin.
Raahi was my dream come true. She was everything I ever imagined in a daughter, and much more. She was the restoration of my faith in my life, the completion of my family, the one to take us on a spectacular journey. After twelve grueling weeks at the NICU and two surgeries, she came home healthy and happy. Eight days later, she wandered on, alone, leaving the three of us to only trace her path. As we imagine all the time what it would be to walk with her, we live every day what it is to not be able to. I try to walk with her in bringing up her big brother Aahir, whose hands she holds forever, and whose life and name she will eternally be entwined with. Together, they are AAHIRAAHIRAAHIRAAHIR. A perfect equation, a never-ending poem, my children. I walk with them through my writing, and I am AahiRaahi’s Mom.
The day after my daughter died, eight weeks and two days after she was born with a body that was too fragile for this life, I wrote to her: I am forever changed because of you, my Sweet Tikva. Changed in a way I can't really explain. Changed in an irreversible way. Changed in a way I needed to be changed. I am a stronger, wiser, more humble, more patient, more grateful and more loving soul because of you, my Tikva.
More than a year later, I still imagine what she would look like if she had lived, how it would feel to carry her against me in a sling. Now I see Tikva in the birds flying gracefully, playing within the gliding arms of the wind. Lucky spirit.
This is the third spring of buds on the birch trees we planted in our backyard my first Mother's Day...nine days after Finn was born, eight days after he died.
When I see birches bend to left and right/across the lines of straighter darker trees/I like to think some boy's been swinging them. —Robert Frost
Of course, it will not be him.
The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
World crashed when he died. Picking up pieces and trying to fit together a puzzle without having any idea what the completed picture should look like.
For nearly two years, we tried to get them here. Then they were. Then they weren’t.
On March 21, 2009, the first full day of spring, M. and I lost our twins, Zoey and Gus. They were born and died after our week-long hospital stay, which had followed M’s membrane rupture, which had followed a challenging pregnancy, which had followed an even more challenging stretch of infertility.
We mourned. We began trying again. Sometimes in that order, sometimes not. After months of facing failed pregnancy tests and other people’s pregnancies, and one year after conceiving Zoey and Gus, we conceived again. Another set of twins, another boy and girl: Zoey and Gus’s brother and sister. They should be here soon. It’s a lot to keep in the head at once.
She was going to be our wedding present, but after a difficult early pregnancy, my body gave out at the half-way mark. With no answers to be had, and no little girl to bring home, I just keep writing, hoping to mark my trail, hoping to stumble into the light. Most days it feels like I’m more lost than she is, but I keep up the search.
We had no idea she would leave us. Six weeks old, sweet cherub cheeks just starting to smile in spite of a heart that simply couldn't cope. Now I'm left, forced into the dark, reeling with shock, empty arms hanging at my sides.
I ache for my lost purpose while I force one foot in front of the other. Trying my best to find a way back to new and utterly different light.
I went to the Gynecologist for an IUD. I came out with fertility drugs and an innate sense that this was the right time. Conception with drugs was easy. The pregnancy was easy, right up until the moment it wasn't. Gabriel was here for 30 minutes. Nothing was easy after. Not the grieving and mourning, not the four subsequent miscarriages, not the reconciliation of living without children. It is better now. It is not necessarily easier.
Just your average sports-watchin’, foul-mouthed, cynical mom who after five years of a miscarriage, infertility, infertility treatment, and a healthy toddler, decided to try one more time for one more baby. Be careful what you wish for. We are left with a gaping hole in our lives following a harrowing six days of our baby’s so-called life. This is me coping, grieving, trying to mother a live, inquisitive three-and-a-half year old, as well as the memory of my dead daughter. I wax profane on the limits of science, bad odds, my inbred cynicism, and my overwhelming sadness.
Mother to twin girls born over sixteen weeks too soon. One of my daughters emerged from the shadowy world of the NICU but, sadly, her twin sister died there. A part of me is still waiting for my other daughter to come home. Still standing in the very spot where we said goodbye. It's going to be a long wait.
My baby died. I never knew her. I wish I did.
Winter solstice. My daughter died before she was born.
She was perfectly healthy, they said. Just dead.
Since her death, I am more of who I once was, which isn't always a good thing.
My daughter, Roxy Jean, was stillborn on August 1st, 2007. Her 7 plus pounds are still etched into my arms. I sing for her and I write for her so that I may always keep her with me.
Just as the anticipation was nearing climax, after the build up and the longing and accumulating love and the physical hardship and everything else that went into those thirty-eight weeks, my partner tripped and fell on the sidewalk. Her placenta ruptured and Margot died. A new life is slowly emerging, one filled with overwhelming sorrow and an iTunes playlist that no longer includes Beyonce. I write here to join the society of the suffering and to keep my second daughter close.
Our boy lived for less than thirty minutes after he was born. It takes me longer than that every morning just to make my coffee and eat breakfast and yet his brief life has completely changed the landscape of my own in ways that I am still trying to understand.
My son Silas died the day he was born. There are two halves to my life, now. The words I write here are an attempt to reconcile who I was with who I have become, and to keep my missing son close. There are so few ways to hold him. This place is one of them.