Friday, September 04, 2015

Rainbows in the Midst of the Storm

We are excited to finally officially announce publicly the coming of our new daughter, Eleanor Newby, due at the end of the year.  We actually found out on the 6 month anniversary of Lyddia's death that we were expecting again.  We have been hesitant to share this publicly because of all the mixed emotions, however, we are getting to the point where it is no longer really something we can hide.

Henry and George are very excited and talk about baby Eleanor (who we are thinking about calling "Ellie"; named after my amazing Aunt Eleanor)  all the time. Henry loves to talk to her and tell her good morning, and letting her know "This is your big brover Henwee."

There are so many emotions- some that I can and some that I cannot describe.  I have a friend that lost her sweet baby boy a few months before me, who is also expecting.   She shared with me that it's hard to really call this a 'rainbow baby' (a term commonly used to refer to a baby that comes after loss) because she still feels like she's in the midst of the storm. I totally agree. Some days I am giddy with excitement, and other days I feel numb and reluctant to bond and be excited about this baby.  When we first told Henry he was very excited, jumping all around the kitchen and then he just stopped and looked at us and very matter-of-factly said, "I hope this baby doesn't die."  Me too buddy. Me too.  But this is his reality.  He has two siblings, one alive and one dead.

I still miss Lyddia very much, and know that I always will. We are coming up on fall and there are so many things that keep reminding me of her, of the time surrounding her death and the subsequent months.  Since she was born on Oct 30, just the mention of Halloween has become a trigger for me- something I never would have thought about before. It is the nature of life that there are often babies in my facebook feed, and babies all around that are similar ages, and I see them and think about what she would be like.  I wonder if I will do this for the rest of my life- watch for babies, little girls, teenagers, adults who would be her age.  For now, I try hard to focus on the blessing of the life growing inside of me, but the hole of the loss is still very real.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Death Comes Knocking

You can smell it when you walk
through the halls
nursing homes
old people
lives lived
love gained and lost
heroic actions mix with moments of regret

You can hear it


The end is near.
Preparations made.
Relatives on call.

The hiss of oxygen tanks
the beep beep of a living pulse slowing down


But sometimes
death comes in
the night
while still in the womb
no knocking
movement transformed to stillness
inhale and exhale cease
memories never made
a live unlived


preparations for life
preparations for death

birth outfits
death garments


Monday, January 05, 2015


It's hard to believe that it has been over 2 months since we lost Lyddia.  I guess it is like all time- in some ways it feels like a lifetime ago, and other times it seems like yesterday.  2014 was quite a year for us.  From the minor to the major, a lot happened.

-- I bought a bike and started riding it, doing my first duathlon (run, bike, run)
-- We bought a house and worked on it and worked on it...and eventually moved into it.
-- Adam and I went to England
-- I taught my first college class... in the US, that is

This was my first pregnancy that happened in the full span of a single year.  From Feb to October, Lyddia was with me every day.  Sometimes I think about what a full life she lived with me, in just that short 9 months.  She was with me as I painted (and painted and painted) all the walls in our house.  She travelled with us to Europe.  She was with me on visits to Orange Beach, Atlanta, Denver, Little Rock, and Memphis.  She was with me watching my nephew graduate.  She danced inside me when Katie took me to a Michael Buble concert.

Her life was so short, but I am glad that we got to share so many exciting moments together.

I miss her every day, but I guess it is a mercy to know that she was so loved and got to be a part of so many important milestones.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bringing Lyddia Home

One thing that people do not often talk about when dealing with death is that there are so. many.decisions.  Decisions you don't even think about when you are not used to doing death. Decisions you do not want to make. Decisions you do not know how to make.

One decision we had to make was whether or not to let the boys meet Lyddia.  I did not know whether this would be weird, morbid, to pass around a dead baby.  I was scared of the questions they would ask.  Would they be gentle?  Would they even care? Surely they would not understand.

Bu we felt that they needed to meet her.  To see her.  To understand that this thing they had been talking to for months and months was real.  To see the hands that moved and the feet that kicked them when they touched my belly.  To see that her ears were real, and they heard their words of love and excitement they spoke to her.

I also think that this was an important time for Adam and I.  Part of a loss like this includes the crushing loss of all your dreams and visions for the future.  I had often imagined her running around this new house we had been working on and moved into while she was inside of me.  I painted her room and pictured her gowing up in it.  So, in a way, I needed to see her here, at our house, at least once.  

The funeral home had gone to pick her up from the hospital after we left, and then they brought her to the house the next morning.  It turns out that it was a sweet sweet time for our family.  We were blessed to have another Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep photographer, Paula Davis, come and take pictures of the family holding and meeting her.  The pictures that she took are so special and something that we will always cherish.

Henry was so gentle, and very eager to hold her, as was George.  They touched her, inspected her, and asked a lot of innocent-- and some very hard-- questions.  I feel like we fielded the hard questions by just being honest.  Though this all, right or wrong, Adam and I just wanted to be honest with the midst of our own confusion...about what what happening.

There were tears, of course, but there were also some smiles, and laughs.  We all cooed over her, trying to decide who she looked like.  It was almost easy to imagine this was a normal scene.  That nothing was wrong.  Almost.

After a few hours reality set in. The people from the funeral home came.  We filled out paperwork and signed our names. We walked our baby out to the car. We handed her over, and said goodbye for the last time.  I said goodbye to my constant companion, the baby I carried with me for the past 9 months.

I was so tired.  I was one day postpartum, but I didn't feel like I had the right to rest.  Resting is for people who have babies in their arms.  Rest when the babies rest- isn't that what we tell new moms? When do you rest when your baby is dead?

For the rest of the world this was Halloween.  Children all over the country were dressing up and getting ready to consume massive amounts of sugar. You sometimes forget that when these horrible things happen the world does not stop.  People still go to work.  Halloween still happens.  You still need to go to the grocery store.  Life does not stop even when you are absolutely sure the world as you know it is crumbling.

And so for us, life went on.  The boys went trick or treating.  Family and friends came into town, and we started planning a memorial service.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Giving Birth to Death 2

We drive back to Atlanta with our precious doula, and arrive around 1:45. I have discovered that in this, the darkest of times, there are tiny specs of light that creep through to help light the way. My friend good friend Katie- a rabbi and one of the wisest people I know- shared with me that in the Jewish faith the idea of "angel" is not seen so much as a dancing infant in the sky, but rather it is interpreted as "messenger".  I believe that the support team I had with me at my birth-- my doula, my midwife, my doctor and my sweet husband-- were all angels in that moment, messengers helping me to navigate this treacherous path. They anticipated my needs without me having to ask and we worked hard, together, to bring forth birth to death.

Some people have asked me later, when telling what happened, why we went to Atlanta.  I have to say, as hard as all of this was, I don't think I could have asked for a better birth scenario, given the circumstances.  We checked into the hospital and they knew we were coming.  They showed us to our  room, and for the first time in my life upon entering a hospital, they did not touch me.  There were no 'non-negotialbles' like hep-locks, no food or drink, taking my blood pressure, temp and putting me on the monitors.  They did not touch me.  Dr. B ran interference for me and insisted I be left alone. To create a sacred space. To bring this life, this life that was so loved and then lost, forth into this world.

My contractions were there, but manageable.  With each contraction I tried to calm by body and focus on bringing her forth.  There was a part of me that wanted it all to be over.  However there was a part of me that did not want her to come.  I was not ready to walk this road that I knew lay at the end of the birth.

Childbirth is usually a time of great physical suffering we bear to bring forth life into the world.  The cries and pains bring joy at the end. The sweet anticipation make the pain bearable.  But I knew there was no joy at the end of this birth.  No high pitched cry and squirming flesh reaching for me. I don't know how to do death.

I rested off and on through the night.  About 2 or 3 Dr. B came in to see me.  He has a way about him that is just so....present.  We talked about options, he said my body was working and we could just let it keep working or we could do some other things.  I decided to wait.  To see if my body knew something my head did not.  If my body knew what it needed to do, even though my head and heart were missing that information.  Dr. B stuck around.  He stood at the end of my bed, he sat on the floor with his head between his legs.  I truly believe he sat there and suffered with us.  I learned later that he stayed for an hour, there in that room with us.  At 3 in the morning.  Like there was not another place he wanted or needed to be.

We roused a little more around 6. Adam woke up, took a shower, and we just waited.  We sat on the ball, walked the halls, came back rested a little  and walked the halls more. I wanted to walk, but I also found it was hard to walk these halls.  These halls were filled with beeps counting heartbeats, screams of new voices and the air of sweet anticipation of life.  My room did not have any of that.  I did not have any of that. My room was full of pain and tears. Stillness and silence. So we would swiftly leave Labor and Delivery and walk other halls, stopping for contractions, and then beginning again- each step a funeral dirge rather than a dance of joy.

Around 12 Dr. B came in an checked me again and I had not made as much progress as I thought I had- the story of my birthing life, right?  We talked about options again, and though I fear IVs like crazy, I began to contemplate doing a dose of pitocin.  I hated IVs and I hated pitocin even more, but I also didn't know how much more I could take.  I was tired.  My body was tired, my spirit was tired, my emotions were tired.  I had spent it all and feared I might not be able to do what I was being asked to do.

And I did not want this to drag into the next day. I know it may seem weird in the midst of all this to even consider what her birthday would be-- this birthday was not one we would be one we had to worry about planning a party for-- but I just had this fear of her being born Halloweeen....on this one day of the year that we talk about death and all things scary- but not in a healthy way, more in a morbid skeletons-and-chainsaw-haunted-house kind of way.

I decided to take an Ambien and get some rest.  My team wanted to use this time to get a little rest as well- we were all tired.  I laid down and tried to sleep a little.

As sometimes happens, just when laboring mamas think it's never going to end, things begin to pick up.  The next 2 hours are a bit of a blur to me, but I know the contractions kept coming stronger and stronger.  At some point I wanted to get in the shower, and while I was in the shower I realized I needed to start pushing.  My team was rallied, and with a few minutes of pushing Lyddia was brought earthside.

I was as ready as one can be for this moment.  I had no idea what she would look like, or what to expect.  But I was amazed by how beautiful and perfect she was. Almost perfect.  There were no screams, no rush to weigh and measure.  No one was in a rush to do anything.  I held her in my arms, against my bare chest and just wept.  This sacred moment that I had shared with my boys, I now shared with my only daughter.  That moment of holding this baby that had grown inside of me for the past 9 months, holding her skin on my was still sacred, but it was all wrong.  I knew it was all wrong.  This wasn't the way I had been picturing it for months and months.  It was beautiful, but it was all wrong.

There was a photographer from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep that came to the hospital.  At first, I was scared of taking her picture before we could wash her and dress her.  I wasn't sure I would want those pictures.  But I was wrong.  Those are my favorite pictures.  Because I can see her whole body. See her beauty and wholeness.

We washed her, and dressed her in a beautiful dress my mom had been working on for months. I'm sure my mom imagined Lyddia running and playing and spilling things on this dress.  Of wearing it for family pictures or special events.  Who knew this would be the dress she would wear in her death.  Who knew this would be the only dress she would ever wear.

We take her footprints and hand prints.  We swaddle her in blankets and pass her around.  We weep.  We all weep for this loss.  For the loss of this life, for the loss of expectations, and the loss of a future.  There is so much loss we don't even know how to wrap our minds around what we have lost.

After a few hours we learn that we cannot take her home with us, as we had thought we would.  It turns out there are laws about taking a dead body across state lines. And that's what she is.  She is no longer my baby I am carring around inside of me.  She is now a dead body.  I weep again, fearing the thought of leaving her there.  I am so tired I have nothing left inside of me.

Like a corpse myself, weak and broken, we leave the hospital.  I am amazed that, for the first time in my life, leaving a hospital, I am not wheeled out.  With whatever strength I have left, I shuffle down the halls to my car and we drive back home to my living children.