Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I've been struggling to gather my thoughts as this year draws to a close. I'm completely ambivalent about whether I'm ready to bid the year goodbye. 2008 was the year of my greatest happiness and joy...bringing Ezra into this world and carrying him for eight months. But as Elizabeth McCracken wrote, "This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending." 2008 also brought the greatest depths of despair and sadness imaginable.

I'd like to say I have hope that 2009 will be better. And I do have hope. But if I've learned anything from losing Ezra, its that we can't predict when life will throw us a curve ball. Just when I thought life couldn't get any worse, 3 months after losing Ezra my Dad needed quadruple bypass surgery. Thankfully his recovery is progressing, but my faith that 'everything will turn out ok' is pretty much shattered. In my life without Ezra, nothing is taken for granted.

I've been reflecting today on where I've been in New Years Eves past. In my fun carefree years living in New York City, New Years meant splurging on a fancy night out dressed up with my dearest friends. In the years since I found my besheret (or soulmate) David, New Years has brought quiet dinner parties at home also with dear friends. 2008 started off inauspiciously, as the morning of New Years Eve, someone attempted to break into our house, kicking in the back door. While the alarm system did it's job, scaring them off, we spent the day scrambling to get our door fixed and feeling incredibly unsettled that the sanctity of our home had been disturbed. Within a few weeks after that we conceived Ezra, and our joy made us feel untouchable.

But as this year is almost over, that unsettled feeling has returned, but now magnified a zillion times. My baby died. I've not only lost my precious son, I've lost my confidence in my place in the world. No matter what happened each of those previous years, on all of those New Years Eves in years past, I felt grounded, confident in my purpose, my being. Now I'm not so sure.

So my prayer tonight is that 2009 brings love and laughter, hope and faith, peace and purpose for myself and for all of us.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

4 months...

My baby boy is 4 months old today.

Being a first time mom, I'm not 100% sure what milestones he'd be accomplishing right now
If he were here in my arms.
And I certainly can't bring myself to look it up.

I can imagine though...

Yesterday the 4 month anniversary of Ezra's death passed with so much numbness.
I kept myself busy and tried not to relive the events of that terrible day.
But today, 4 months from his birth, I am just so very sad.
I physically ache with the pain of it all.

Again I go back to the disbelief.
How did the most joyously beautiful time of my life,
turn so wretchedly devastating?

This I will never understand...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Losing My Baby Forever

There’s a sad irony involved in my losing Ezra
That I haven’t written about yet
In part because my thinking on it hasn’t shifted much
From hours after Ezra’s death, until now.

The irony is what I do for a living
Which is provide legal representation to parents, mostly moms,
Who are accused of abusing or neglecting their children.
Moms who are at risk of losing their babies…


Sometime after I had been induced, but before I gave birth
A crazed thought flashed through my head:

How will I ever do my work again?

Many of my clients defy all odds that they will have healthy babies.
They get pregnant by accident,
Delay getting prenatal care,
Abuse their bodies with drugs, alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy foods.
They are physically abused by lovers or family or friends
And yet…
And yet they have healthy babies.
And even if their babies are sick, they aren’t dead.
Despite the odds, their babies don’t die.

But my baby died.

When children & youth services (cys) comes for those babies,
I fight like hell to make sure those babies can stay with their mommies.
Because a baby needs her mommy,
No matter what her mommy’s faults,
More than anything else in the world.

Representing parents involved with child welfare is the only law I’ve ever practiced.
I’ve been doing it for years,
And had no plans of changing what I do.
At least not now.
Now was about maternity leave and poopy diapers and playtime
About long walks with a stroller and nursing.
Now was to be the first time in my adult life,
That career didn’t matter.
Being a mommy is the most important thing.

People have said, “oh of course you can’t do your work anymore,
You work with those moms who don’t love their babies,
who intentionally hurt their babies.
And you love Ezra so much, you would never hurt Ezra.”

And that so misses the point.

Because most of the mommies I work with DO love their babies.
They love them to pieces.
And they would never intentionally hurt them,
Even if they did hurt them.

And yet…
These mommies are extremely poor
They have limited opportunities and resources
And are often left to make choices between bad option A and bad option B
So no matter what, it will seem like they have bad judgment.
They don’t use drugs because they love the crack more than their baby
But because their lives have been so hard, so traumatic,
that they just can’t handle the pain any longer.
They have disabilities, illnesses, addictions, life circumstances,
Which get in the way
Of being the best mommies.

And so they are taken to court
And threatened with losing their babies forever
If they don’t clean up their act.
They are given a year or so to fix problems that took a lifetime to create.
And some of them just can’t do it.
And their rights as parents are terminated

I don’t hate my clients now that I lost Ezra.
But there’s a new emotion there which scares me a little.

I’m jealous.

I’m jealous that their babies are alive.
That even if their babies are temporarily out of their care,
That it is in their power to get them back.
If they just meet a series of goals,
A judge will give them back their baby.

How I wish someone would give me a bunch of goals,
And Ezra would be back in my arms!

The rational me knows how absurd this new jealousy is.
How can I be jealous of women whose lives are so miserable?
And the lawyer me knows how nearly impossible it is to get your baby back,
Even when you work hard on your goals.
That temporary placement in foster care, can often be a one way ticket,
To losing your baby

Yet if losing Ezra has taught me anything,
It’s to listen to my own emotions.
So the emotional me is jealous.
And the jealousy is real.

So where does this leave me?
I’d like to think that I could return to this work on my own terms,
In a more meaningful way.
Certainly I understand firsthand how much there is to be lost.
Perhaps it could even make me a better lawyer?

I have watched babies be wrenched from their mother’s arms in a courtroom.
Listened as a judge has ordered that mothers never see their children again.
But I’ve dealt with this emotional trauma by rationalizing
That sometimes I’m just meant to lose
Some children need to be in foster care
And some mommies shouldn’t have their babies.

But how can I rationalize now?

Because I’m a mommy that doesn’t have her baby,
And I can’t accept that that’s the way it is supposed to be.
Because a baby needs his mommy,
No matter what his mommy’s faults,
More than anything else in the world.

So much about surviving this journey,
Has been about pointing myself in the right direction,
And hoping the emotions will follow.
About setting the intention of where I’d like to be,
And praying the healing will ensue.
And remembering that the process is not linear
So that one day’s gratitude may be the next day’s grief.

But here I just feel stuck.
How can I integrate losing Ezra and all that it encompasses
Into my professional life?
I don’t want a new job, a different focus
All I want is to be a mommy.
Being a mommy is the most important thing.

So where does this leave me?

Has anyone else had trouble integrating your loss into one particular part of your life? How have you handled it?

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Meditation for Today

David and I knew our first son would be named Ezra Malik,
Long before we knew we were serious about spending the rest of our lives together.
And since Ezra chose to name himself for his two great-grandparents,
Eugene and Marion,
Who lost their firstborn, a son
Was Ezra Malik never destined to be of this earth?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ezra's Great Uncle

Tonight I am amazed
and overwhelmed
At the souls of my ancestors swirling around me.

Tonight I learned that Ezra had a Great Uncle
My mom had an older brother.

He died.
Just as he was being born, he died.

I never knew.

And my grandma Marion,
For whom, Ezra got his middle name Malik
Never forgot.

My Granddad Eugene, for whom Ezra is named
always remembered his first son.

I never knew my grandma Marion
She died just after I was born
After many years of being sick.
Too young to die.
My mom deprived of her own mom
just as she became a mama herself.
Depriving me and my brother of a grandma.

But I was very close to my Granddad
He died in 2001
A brilliant man
He delighted in life
And could always make me smile.

Tonight I was telling my mom of a visit I had this week from a babylost mama
Her son died 34 years ago, just 2 weeks before I myself was born.
I was telling my mom of the wisdom and perspective her visit gave me
She still talks of her son with tears in her eyes.
And my mom says,
"Well my mom felt the same way, she never wanted to return to Tacoma, because that's where the baby died."
My heart stopped.
What baby?!

My mom insists she told me
In fact, David confirms that she did
When I was still in the hospital
Out of my mind with the drugs and the hormones and the grief
I have no recall
I would have remembered something like that.
(Makes me wonder what else I don't remember from that fateful weekend)

Grandma Marion went into labor when she was full term
And it was taking too long
So the doctor went in with forceps
And the baby died

65 years ago.

He did not have a name
He's buried in a Jewish cemetery somewhere in Seattle
Baby Boy Bereston

I wonder how my grandma managed on her grief journey
A stranger in a city not her own
Living in Seattle as my granddad served his duty at an army hospital
As the world conspired to destroy itself
Through the toxicity of world war

My heart aches that my grandma experienced this pain I now know
And the tears that are pouring as I write are no longer just for Ezra
The tears are for Baby Boy Bereston.

But my heart also leaps to realize Ezra has spirit baby family
A wise soul to show him the ropes
For certainly Baby Boy and Ezra found each other
Perhaps thats why Ezra knows so much magic already
And awakens me to it daily.

Yet mostly I am overwhelmed by this legacy
Baby Boy, almost forgotten in this family
If not for Ezra's tragic death.
Baby Boy's life mattered
He is real
Just like Ezra is real

And yet our lost babies are hushed into silence
Swept under the rug to make way for happier stories
Of round bellies and pink screaming newborns
As if nothing ever goes wrong.
As if nothing could go wrong.

And yet it does go wrong.
With all that could go wrong
It's amazing it ever goes right
That anybody is born at all

Tonight along with Ezra, I miss Baby Boy Bereston
And all the loved and yearned for babies
Whose stories deserve to be told.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Physical Reminders

This is Ezra's blanket.
I no longer have it,
he took it with him underground.
In that cold cemetery where he hangs out with his Jewish ancestors.
Although no one in our families is buried in the cemetery,
we were comforted when we discovered how old it was.
Graves of old Jews dating to the turn of the century.
The 19th to 20th centuries that is.
David commented that the ancestors must be talking little Ezra's ear off.
So many stories.
Long lives, short lives.
We found a grave of a child who lived less than a year.
Hard lives.
And lives filled with joy.

Ezra is buried in the corner of what will one day be my grave.
Next to what will one day be his daddy's grave.
This is mostly because of the cemetery salesman
A man I'd prefer never to meet again.
But I do like the idea of physically being with Ezra one day.
Even if I don't believe in an afterlife
or heaven.

Of course it's only Ezra's tiny body that sleeps at the cemetery.
His spirit, his soul is here with us.
He follows us everywhere we go.
Showing us the magic that life still holds,
Even when it's hard to see through our grief.
Even when we no longer believe in magic,
he reminds us to delight
and to love each other even harder.
The way we love him.

Recently I've been focusing on all the physical aspects of Ezra I can remember
I meditate on his being,
conjuring up all his features.
His slight 4 pound weight in my arms.
His full head of fuzzy black hair
His barely there eyebrows
His miniature version of his daddy's nose
His rosy cheeks
His scarlet mouth
His little fingers and toes
And those long legs!

But what that doesn't capture is his personality
For even sleeping, we could tell Ezra had character
It was almost as if he was smiling, just slightly
We imagine he would have been quite the comedian
Always a smile on his face
Eyes dancing even when serious
Every time I envision what Ezra might look like
at 2 months, 2 years, 12 years, 20 years old
He is always smiling.

I held Ezra after I birthed him
Kissed him on the head and cried and cried
Explored his tiny body
Memorized every detail
But I couldn't do it for long
I was too overwhelmed
Too out of my mind with grief and medication and hormones.
After we said goodbye, the nurses kept him nearby,
And offered several times to bring him back to me.
But I just couldn't.
I was in too much pain.

Once a little time passed,
as we made the funeral arrangements,
I realized that I wanted to have more time with my son.
I needed to say a proper goodbye
Away from the IV drips and beeping machines
So we arranged to have an hour with Ezra before we buried him

We had him dressed in the little alligator outfit that his Aunt Rachael had bought him
Green and white striped with a matching hat
Which was too big on his head, even though it was newborn sized
We had planned to bring him home from the hospital in that outfit
But now we were putting him to bed
For good

He was wrapped in his yellow blanket
Made for him with love by his Office Grandma
At work I have a wonderful mentor who I call my Office Mommy
So when I told her I was pregnant I asked her to be Ezra's Office Grandma
It was only fitting.
Even though she hadn't told me, I knew she must be knitting a blanket for Ezra
So I asked her if I could have it
To wrap Ezra in so that he wouldn't be cold.
I slept with Ezra's blanket each night from the evening she gave it to me
Until his funeral
Ezra looked so peaceful wrapped in his blanket
Prepared to sleep forever.

We placed several other items in the baby casket with him
A photo of his mommy and daddy,
the beautiful one taken by his Aunt Syreeta
(in the column on the left of my blog)
His mouse toy, that I had bought just a week before he died
And a burp cloth,
just one item I had allowed myself to get in preparation for Ezra's arrival.
Although I wasn't 100% superstitious
And did get some things in preparation for Ezra
I didn't get a lot,
wouldn't let myself get a lot
Just the things I would need immediately
And even with those I hadn't gotten everything.

In that hour before we said goodbye forever
David and I laughed with Ezra
We cried with Ezra
We prepared him for his journey
And told him how much we loved him
And would miss him
And we read him 'Good Night Moon'
Along with the inscription in the front from his Aunt Rachael
And we cried some more
And laughed a little
And we said goodbye.

The bright sun at the cemetery seemed shocking
The beauty of the day a stark contrast to our broken hearts
When the short service concluded
We shoveled the dirt ourselves into the grave
I shoveled a little
And then David took over
And filled his son's grave with a fury I had never seen in him
He said he was just taken over by the moment
And knew he needed to complete what he had begun.

I've been focusing on these physical reminders
Because I don't want to forget my Ezra
Not that I ever could
But having been so cruelly stripped of my mamahood
I want to remember what it is to be his mommy
To hold him
And take care of him
To see my features and his daddy's reflected in his face
It's hard to be a mommy to a spirit baby
When the world doesn't look at you as a mama
And there's nothing tangible to show
No Ezra in a sling or a stroller
No house full of toys and baby paraphernalia
The nursery door shut tight
Back at work long before maternity leave was supposed to end
Trying to piece together a life
That looks nothing like the life I'd planned
Because I certainly never imagined
a life without Ezra.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


My last post was about connections with amazing babylost mamas and papas who hold me up, but this post is about the people who knock me down.

I've been keeping a list in my head of the idiotic things that people have said to me in the wake of Ezra dying. But someone today won the grand prize. I thought it had gone to the person who sent me a card after Ezra died saying "as a health professional, I believe these things are generally for the best" (as a health professional apparently she's an idiot, there was nothing wrong with Ezra!) But a woman today just stole the trophy.

Some of you know that I'm a lawyer who represents parents in the child welfare system (more on that some other time, this post is not about my personal crisis of whether I can still do my work or not). So I run into a children and youth caseworker I know today on the bus, a woman with whom I have a friendly relationship. And the following conversation ensues between me and this dumb idiot bitch (we'll call her DIB)...i'm not usually one to call names but this calls for it.

DIB: Oh hi Sarah, how ARE you? You headed to court?
Me: Um no, I'm not handling cases right now, you know what happened right, my baby died (I knew she knew)
DIB: Oh yes, I try to forget about things like that.
...long pause while I pick my jaw off the floor...
Me: Well I can't forget.
DIB: Oh of course, you shouldn't...

DIB then spends the rest of the bus ride talking about herself. About how she still hasn't divorced her husband who hits her. About how she relapsed and went on a one month drinking binge. About how she came to work drunk and is now on probation submitting to random urine screens.

So I guess her life is screwed up. But as Barbara wrote about the other day, I didn't realize this was a grief competition. And while her problems are obviously awful, they are all fixable. Sure it will take hard work, but it is within her power. No amount of effort on my part will ever bring back Ezra. I only wish.

I don't care enough about this woman to put her in her place and tell her how inappropriate her response was. But I guess what it underscored for me is what a lonely misfit I feel like these days. I just feel so disconnected. Although some people have been wonderful and supportive, many seem to have absolutely no ability to understand that my heart will always be broken, that I will never be the same person I was before and I will continue to need lots and lots of support going forward. Gal posted a wonderful list that I have seen a few times before about how to support a babylost mama. I feel like I should have cards with this list printed up to hand out wherever I go.

Its a lonely world out here without my baby...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Tonight we went to a different support group than we've been attending, run by UNITE. We connected with amazing babylost mamas and papas, who lost their beloved babies at all stages of pregnancy and after birth, both recently and longer ago. We lit candles in honor of our grief, our memories, our love and our hope.

The connections run deep between us babylost parents, we have all washed up on this lonely shore where we never imagined ourselves. I could not imagine surviving this journey without this new found community, both online and here. The reflections of myself in all of you are why I still have hope.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Candles for Our Babies

Remembering our babies and children tonight...
Bill's daughter
And many many more babies & children who are loved and missed by their parents every day...
We said Ezra's name as we lit the purple candle
And the other babies' names as we lit the candles clockwise
And the white candle in the back is for all the rest
All the babies whose lives were cut short
Who didn't live to see this day
Or any of the days to come
We miss you babies.
We miss you Ezra.
We love you Ezra,
and all your spirit friends.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Light a Candle this Sunday

This Sunday December 14th is the annual worldwide candlelighting in honor of all our lost children. The day honors children of any age, who have left this world before their time. David and I will be lighting a candle for Ezra, and also for his spirit baby friends, Sam, Lev, Tikva, Hope, George and many others with whom we know he plays every day. Too many babies, too many children, too many mamas and papas left behind. Join us in lighting a candle if you wish.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Spending the day with Ezra

In a beautiful post about a month ago on Glow in the Woods, Jen writes:

There are days that are darker than others. I want to call the office and be free to say, “Sorry, but I just can’t do it. It’s all meaningless don’t you see, because today I’ll be useless to anyone but her. She’s dead and I can’t bear to wash my hair and I really just need to stay at home to be with her.” I start to cry in the shower and hate the world for expecting me to stop and get on with it. The only her left for me to be with is not one anyone else understands.

This post could have been written by me today. Because after two days of crying on and off in my office with the door shut this week, Ezra and I decided that we just needed to stay home. Just needed time to stay home and be sad about all the things we'll never get to do together...the walks we won't have and the play time we won't get...the nursing he won't do and the friends he won't meet.

And Ezra and I are tired. Tired of hearing how strong I am or how good I look. We don't feel strong at all. We're tired of hearing people's excuses for why they didn't call or write or visit after Ezra died. An extraordinary number of people did, and for that we're grateful. My son knows he is loved and has an amazing extended community who loves him. But neither of us have the energy right now to deal with the people who didn't. Wasn't Ezra's life worth enough to take two seconds out of your busy day? It's not that we're angry at these people...we're just not interested...Ezra and I are working through enough right now without having to deal with other people's baggage. It's hard enough figuring out how to parent a dead child without adding others' expectations to the mix.

Mostly Ezra and I are lonely, and strange as it may sound, being around other people sometimes reinforces the loneliness. Grief is so isolating, because most (not all) people don't see what I see...that I carry my dead baby everywhere I go. He's with me at the office and in a meeting, on the bus and at coffee with a friend. And the people that love me and want me to heal don't seem to see that my heart is broken...forever. Don't be fooled by the occasional smile or laugh, or even the days when my mood is lighter...I'm still carrying Ezra in one arm and my broken heart in my other hand.

So Ezra and I are spending the day together.
Because Ezra needs his mommy.
And mommy needs Ezra.
We will be.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Please don't ask me if I'm better

Recently, many more people than usual have been asking me when I expect I'll "feel better." It surprises me, because even the people who have been the most supportive, and understand on some level that grief is a journey, have been asking me this question. Usually they don't ask directly, but rather ask what the timetable for 'feeling better' is like for mamas who have lost their babies. I don't get angry about this question anymore, but rather it just feels irrelevant. Mostly because 'feeling better' is not something I expect from myself right now, and given the range of emotions I feel in any given day...sadness, anger, despair, shame....'feeling better' just isn't a goal I've set for myself. It seems like our society only values feeling good as a valid emotion...we're expected to either hide or fix all the dark emotions. Slowly but surely, I've been reading Miriam Greenspan's Healing through the Dark Emotions and its very validating. Because they only way I can imagine surviving losing Ezra, is to allow myself to just be where I am right now, which is just so very very sad.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Too Blue

This week has been a hard one. The weekend of 3 month anniversaries (death and then birth) passed with a certain numbness, but Monday morning felt like I'd fallen off a cliff again, down to the low blueness of it all. I've said this to a few people individually, but I just don't feel I'm fit for public consumption. I'm just too too sad to deal with the rest of the world.

It's been hitting me this week that the world really is moving on...holidays to be celebrated, babies being born, people trying something new. And I can't share the excitement of any of it. I'm not in a celebratory mood. Still doubting my ability to feel joy again.

But its not just the celebrating thats a problem. I'm finding it pretty hard to be excited about anything. Even projects that I otherwise would have enjoyed or found interesting before Ezra died. It all seems so mundane and pointless now.

Now that I'm back working, I interact with more people day by day. The people who know about Ezra and offer the guilty platitudes about how they were thinking of me and should have called (not interested people! i know who my real friends are now). And the people who either don't know or choose to ignore and say nothing. I'm not sure how anyone can expect me to function the way I used to. Still need that sign for my forehead that says 'my baby died and i am not, nor will i ever be ok!'