Monday, August 31, 2009

Thank You

Thank you for everyone for making this weekend, Ezra's weekend, so incredibly special. Thank you for all the cards, the emails, the blog comments, the calls. Thank you to those who gathered with us, and to those who held us from afar.

Ezra's weekend was horrible and wonderful all at once. Saturday, the one year anniversary of his death was tough. We made no plans for Saturday, knowing intuitively that we would need to allow the day to just unfold. All day I just felt off, grumpy, sad, moody, just missing my Ezra. I didn't feel like doing much, but I did plan on baking treats for the gathering we were holding on Ezra's birthday. Baking is something I love, something that comes easily, something I wanted to do for my Ezra. So when I destroyed not one, but two separate cakes, it put me over the edge. I sobbed and sobbed, deep wails that haven't come out in months. I sobbed until I felt like I was going to throw up. All those feelings of failure from early on in this grief journey came rushing back...I'm such a screwup that I couldn't protect my Ezra, I can't even bake a cake. Not rational I know.

My sweet David insisted we go on a walk. I didn't want to go, I didn't feel like doing anything, just wanted to feel sorry for myself. He said it was nice out, I thought it looked grey. We started walking, I said it looked like rain, he said no. A few blocks later, I heard the rumble of thunder, he thought the storm was far off. Another couple rumbles later, I insisted we turn back. And a block later, the skies opened. It didn't just rain, it flooded. We were instantly drenched. And despite myself I started to laugh. And suddenly I knew that this was Ezra's way of lightening my mood, of making sure I didn't sink too deeply into my grief. Later I read Angie's post about the rainbow Ezra showed her and her family during the same storm, and I knew it was true.

Sunday, Ezra's first birthday, we gathered with family and friends to unveil Ezra's gravestone. In Jewish tradition, the gravestone is usually placed 11 to 12 months after the burial. Together with our friends and family we sang songs, read prayers, and heard stories and poems which we had chosen for the occasion. Before we read Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, we said out loud the names of many of the babies of our babylost parent friends. It was a gorgeous day in every way imaginable.

At the end of the ceremony, as is tradition, each person attending left stones on Ezra's grave, symbolizing the permanence of his memory. But many more stones were left than people were present, as we experienced a hug that spanned at least 4 continents. Stones, pebbles and shells had been sent by friends across the globe - babylost friends in the blog world, friends in our real lives. It was so incredible to see how many lives our little boy has touched.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

On the Occasion of Our Son’s 1st Birthday

Words aren't coming easily today, the one year anniversary of Ezra's death. I wrote this poem weeks ago in anticipation of his birthday tomorrow.

Please remember our son, our Ezra Malik
He lived 8 months in his mama's belly
He lives forever in our hearts

Please remember our son, our Ezra Malik
Speak his name always, as nothing brings us
More joy than to hear his name out loud

Please remember our son, our Ezra Malik
He is and will always be our firstborn
Your grandson, nephew, cousin, friend

Please remember our son, our Ezra Malik
We are his mama and his papa
Honor that we are parents too

Please remember our son, our Ezra Malik
Born sleeping August, 30, 2008
Precious and loved always

Thursday, August 27, 2009

19 weeks, 5 days

We learned yesterday that Sunflower is...HEALTHY...and a BOY. I guess Mother's intuition is sometimes wrong...he had us very convinced he was a girl. Here's some pics:

Saturday, August 22, 2009

From Grief to Gratitude?

This week began the Hebrew month of Elul, the month which leads up to the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the holiest days in the Jewish calendar. Traditionally this is a period of intense reflection and preparation for the spiritual work we must do during these days – drawing ourselves closer to God through self critique, asking forgiveness, and setting our intent toward change.

Last year Ezra died just weeks before the High Holy days. Shell-shocked in grief, David and I went to services, weeping throughout at the beautiful melodies and prayers. A young member of our congregation, a young man just 16 years old, gave a meaningful speech about the work he’s done organizing his fellow public school students for equitable school funding…and David and I just sobbed and sobbed, knowing without speaking that Ezra would have done something like this and now would never have the chance. In retrospect, I don’t even know how or why we made it to services – I was barely leaving the house at all at that point – but somehow we were drawn to, needing to be held by community, setting our intent on finding our spiritual center, even if at the time it felt completely elusive.

On Yom Kippur, I remember feeling utterly embittered, unable to muster any of the humility necessary to identify mistakes I’d made over the past year in the spirit of teshuvah or repentance. The Universe had just taken a giant crap on our heads – 8 months of excitement, hope, expectation, dreams…only to have it all wrenched away in a split second. Try as I might, I couldn’t conceive of the notion that I owed anyone anything – as far as I could tell the Universe owed ME – one son, healthy and alive, as it was supposed to be.

This week marked the anniversary of Ezra’s death, known as a yartzeit, on the Hebrew calendar. This year has been such an unbelievable journey. On Rosh Hashanah last year, I remember brashly saying ‘It can’t get any worse, it can only go up from here.’ And then a couple months later my dad needed quadruple bypass surgery. And a couple months after that David lost his job. About 5 months later David’s dad got sick, and a month after that he died. And slowly it has dawned on me that just because the worst has happened (and I definitely maintain that losing Ezra has and will always be the worst thing that could ever happen), the Universe doesn’t give us a pass, not in the least.

Early in this year’s journey of grief, two amazing mamas, Gal and Aliza, each recommended that I read Miriam Greenspan’s Healing Through the Dark Emotions. The book was a turning point for me, not because I was suddenly “healed,” but because it helped me see, at least vaguely, that there was a path through. That somehow I might one day emerge from the raw grief and despair a stronger person, a more spiritually connected person, a more compassionate person. I am most definitively still on that journey. It will take me a lifetime to grieve for Ezra, just as it will take me a lifetime to evolve into that better person. I am not there yet.

One of the most compelling chapters in Greenspan’s book is titled, From Grief to Gratitude. I remember reading it with great skepticism – what do I have to be grateful for? My precious son is dead. The only thing that would make me truly grateful is to have him alive in my arms. I have struggled immensely with the entire notion of gratitude throughout this year.

Today we went to synagogue to say Kaddish (the prayer for the dead) for Ezra, as is traditional on the Shabbat (Sabbath) closest to the anniversary of a loved one’s death. In keeping with the themes of Elul, we were asked to reflect silently on for what we were grateful. For these things I am grateful: the deep love I share with David; the Sunflower growing in my belly; the community that has held us in love throughout this year; all the many lessons about life and love that our sweet son Ezra has taught us. I was surprised to notice that the gratitude is there.

There is some letting go that is surrounding the approach of Ezra’s death and birth days. Saying the Kaddish, which since the beginning, was so difficult for me, brought no tears. And yet at another point in the service, we were asked to say out loud for what we were praying in the coming year – I said I was praying for the baby I am carrying to arrive safe and healthy…and the tears came. There is an emotional shift that is happening….an acceptance that Ezra is gone, and yet such intense swirl of fear and hope surrounding our Sunflower.

This entire year has been about slowly letting go. I guess the process began from the moment I heard the words ‘your baby has passed away’, through birthing his adorable yet lifeless body, and all the many emotions – shock, grief, despair, rage, sorrow--that have followed. I still miss my son with my whole self, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Ezra. I guess I’m just learning to live with that pain.

Next weekend we have planned an unveiling ceremony for Ezra, where we will see his gravestone for the first time. We will be surrounded by family and friends, and in an odd way, I am looking forward to it. I am grateful that for once we can do something for our son.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lev River

On this day one year ago, Lev River, precious son of beautiful Aliza and Arik, came silently into the world. I wish so deeply that his first birthday was so very different for his amazing mama and papa.
Remembering Lev River with love, today and always.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What baby?

On Glow in the Woods this week, Tash wrote this resonating post about finding out her sister-in-law gave birth, having never been told about the pregnancy. I know the feeling.

The world keeps spinning by. Of course Ezra is still dead. And I've lost count of how many live healthy babies have been born to people in our social circle within the past year...pregnancies of which I was never told...babies which I learned of after the fact. Like the 3 month old I only learned of this week...I never knew she was pregnant. I've talked to these people...spoken on the phone, emailed...this information was carefully left out.

I'll fully admit that other people's pregnancies and babies haven't been the easiest thing for me to deal with this year (ok understatement of the century). It has also gotten easier over time. But as I've explained to each of the friends, acquaintances and colleagues who have shared their pregnancies with me this year, 'I'm happy for them, just sad for me'. Even though I'm now pregnant again myself, other women's pregnancies still make me sad and anxious...but that doesn't mean that I haven't been able to share in the joy with them.

I can't find words to describe how awful it feels to be treating like a pariah, a freak of nature who is considered too fragile to share in what should be one of life's greatest joys. Do people really think they can make me sadder than I already am? That if I don't know about their pregnancy I won't remember that my baby died? It's true I might go home and cry. I might be jealous. But these darker emotions are normal, and are intermingled with the lighter ones.

Who is being protected by not sharing this information? Certainly not hurts way more to find out after the fact than to be told directly, no matter what my reaction. Is it the pregnant women themselves? As if deadbabymama is a contagious plague. Often it feels this way, when even friends who have shared their pregnancies fall away, particularly in the later months.

The reality is that a few friends and colleagues have shared their pregnancies and new babies with me this year...and its been just fine. Its true I can only hear so much...I have wonderful friends who have respected the boundaries I need and not shared information for which I didn't ask. In fact, the more respectful my friends have been, the more able I am to hear more, to meet their babies, to share in the joy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August 19th

Today is the birthday of two people who are very precious to me.

The first is the lovely and magnificent Danielle, mama to sweet baby Kai. Danielle and I have connected soul to soul on this horrible journey without our babies, and I absolutely can't imagine surviving it without her. She is one of the few true gifts to come out of this unbelievably dreadful year. I wish her a gentle day and a new year where dreams blossom.

The second is sweet baby Hope, beloved daughter of Sally and Simon, who on this day last year, slipped silently into the world. Sally and I found each other early on this journey, and she has been a true friend, despite the amazing distance between Philadelphia and Australia, both on this journey of grief, but also on the journey of our subsequent pregnancies. I will remember and miss Hope always. I hope this day brings peace.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

18 weeks, 1 day

We're home from vacation. I can't say I'm happy about it. We packed up this morning, said goodbye to my parents, got in the car and I burst into tears. I don't want to go back to our real life, where I'm one of the saddest most anxious people I know, with the exception of other babylost mamas and papas....where I wake up in the middle of almost every night worrying about money and whether Sunflower will survive...where the only things I have to look forward to now are Ezra's 1st birthday and my terrifying (for me at least) 20 week ultrasound. Its been a very weepy day.

Despite the waterworks, we managed as always to find some quiet peace...a walk on a beautiful beach, a delicious lunch, even a little 'retail therapy' (aka new shoes).

The approach of Ezra's first birthday is hitting me hard. I miss my little boy, and all the time we were supposed to have together. On some level, I'm revisiting the disbelief...I can't believe this happened to us, that our baby boy isn't here.

In better news, the Sunflower is growing and beginning to move more and more. I feel her kick and move several times each day. Here's a belly shot taken today:

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Things We Have Lost

We haven't been on vacation for a full year. Two months of 'disability' leave after Ezra died didn't count, particularly since I was barely leaving the house at that point.. We've had a couple beautiful weekends away which brought some peace and gentle moments. But packing up and leaving our house for a full week...that hasn't happened since this time last year. It finally happened again this week.

Heading to the shore, I felt layers of stress falling away with each mile we drove. Its been a week of no 'have tos' and no 'shoulds'. Just a beautiful house, ocean waves, evening crickets, long walks and doing as we please. A week of my nephew's giggles and my niece's snuggles. A week of afternoon naps and time to read. A week of finding peace. We both feel rejuvenated. Our only wish is that we could stay here longer. I think if I could spend the rest of my pregnancy here, I might actually make it through without losing my mind. Sadly, we go home tomorrow.

The week has also been hard at times. Listening to my dad tell my nephew he's his favorite grandson felt like a knife to the gut. Watching my niece try to nuzzle up to my breast to breastfeed broke my heart. To the extent our days had any schedule, they revolved around toddler time (lunch at 11:30am, nap at 1pm, dinner at 5pm), highlighting all that we don't have. Other than with each other, we really haven't had an adult conversation in a week.

But the hardest part has been being left alone with my own head. Although much of the usual chatter has quieted this week, I can't help but reflect on our time here at the beach last year. I was 31 weeks pregnant, already feeling like an elephant, but a very happy elephant. Our lives felt so full of hope and promise...we were weeks away from meeting our precious son, Ezra's daddy had a new job, our family members were healthy...the world felt whole and ok.

And how quickly that has all unraveled. Not only have we lost a son, a father, a job...we have lost our grounding, our faith in the future, our sense of belonging in the universe. Our hopes and dreams have been crushed and replaced with sadness, anger, and anxiety. When I fully consider all we have lost, all I can do is weep.

I've also been reflecting on what we still have. A deep deep love for each other. The ability to know what matters in life. The capacity to appreciate quiet moments of beauty and peace. A Sunflower growing inside. We may be broken, but we haven't forgotten how to hope or dream.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Samuel Marc

Today I am remembering Samuel Marc, handsome son to Monique and Norm. Wishing Sam's first birthday were so very different for his beautiful parents.

I wish so deeply that Monique and I never had to meet. That we didn't lose our firstborn sons to stillbirth within weeks of each other. That there wasn't something so eerily familiar about her post on an online babyloss board that made me feel compelled to reach out and meet her. That we didn't pour out our despair and anger in reams of emails and calls in the weeks and months that followed. I wish we didn't share this bond of having had sons who got away.

And yet I cannot for one minute imagine surviving this journey if it weren't for Monique. She is a true friend, a sister in this disorienting world of babyloss. I love her dearly and I will remember sweet baby Sam forever and always.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tikva Ahava

Today I am remembering a sweet baby girl, Tikva Ahava, who one year ago today, slipped away from this life. Gorgeous daughter of wise Gal and Dave, sister to beautiful Dahlia, her precious life will be remembered forever.

Gal has given me the gift of so much wisdom, love and strength on this grief journey through her writing and her friendship. I am holding Gal, Dave, Dahlia and Tikva so very close today.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Guest Post By Ezra’s Daddy: What a Year!

I have this image in my mind of something that did not take place. I imagine that someone visited me a year ago. He had special powers and insights, as if he could see into the future, if not visit the future. He sat down with me and said to me: “I have some bad news to tell you. Lots of terrible things are going to happen to you over the next twelve months. You will lose your son.  You will never get to see him grow up. You will lose the father you’ve known for your entire life. And there will be other things that throw your life into a tailspin, change you fundamentally as a person, and make you question yourself and your path in life.“  

“Can I wake up from this nightmare now?” I asked him. “I’m sorry, it’s not a dream,” he responded. “Why are you telling me these things?” I asked him, in a scene eerily similar to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or something like that. Anyway he didn’t answer, and he just moved along and left me in my state of shock and disbelief.

We are blessed—or cursed, depending on your point of view— because most of us mere mortals cannot see into the future. What would I have done in that situation, how would I have reacted, with the knowledge of the tempestuous journey to come? I keep asking myself this, and I have no answers. Indeed, it has been quite a year for the family, with Dad and Peanut Boy leaving us, not to mention that my sister-in-law’s mother passed away just a few months before Dad. And Peanut Boy’s other grandfather had open-heart surgery, which was a big scare, and thankfully he recovered. Throw in the personal impact of a severe recession, and you have, well, quite a year.

To be sure, there is still ample time to cry, and cry we will—and often. And yet, there is also happiness. There is still time to laugh and to joke, to look forward to what the future brings, to savor those small morsels of joy, and to enjoy the sunflowers as they grow. I’m still here, I say!

What I take from the experiences of the past year is that it is important to enjoy the ones you have while you have them. Appreciate the good things and the good people in your life. Help those you know, and help those you don’t know. Maybe you can give them a leg up, or fill in some of the potholes in the road of their life’s journey. That’s all I have for now.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I have a cousin who was due the same week as me last year. I'm not especially close with this cousin, although our dads are first cousins, and they are very close -- so we've spent a lot of family time together over the years. She and her brother are close in age to my brother and I, and when we discovered our babies would be born so close together, everyone rejoiced that the cousins would once again be able to grow up together. Sadly it was not meant to be.

My cousin gave birth to a healthy baby girl in October, right around when Ezra should have been born. She (and her brother) never called or sent a card after Ezra died. She never called or sent a card after her baby girl safely arrived. There has been radio silence ever since.

Until this past week. In anticipation of our families getting together at the beach next week, and unable to take the conflict anymore, my dad finally said something to his cousin. This shouldn't have needed to happen - we're all adults now. And honestly, the damage is done...nothing my cousins could say would rewind this past year of silence.

But of course it prompted my cousins to call me immediately, leaving overly-hysterical messages congratulating me on my new pregnancy. I took my time calling back...waited until I was in the right mental space. I didn't want to hear their explanations - it doesn't matter why anymore, it just is.

I called each of them back and tempered the hyper excitement about my new pregnancy with a dose of realism - its awfully scary this time round and there are no guarantees. My cousin who was due the same week as me immediately blurted out an apology. She told me she felt so guilty having a healthy live baby that she couldn't call. I didn't tell her that was the stupidest thing I'd ever heard. I never expected the explanation to make sense. I don't expect her to understand that I'm happy her baby is healthy and alive. I just wish mine was too.

Her brother was a bit more tongue-tied. There was no apology. He just said, 'I haven't talked to you since...since...well I don't even know how to talk about what happened to you. How do you say what happened?'

My son died, I said. His name is Ezra and he died when I was 8 months pregnant.

To his credit, he plunged ahead: How did he die? What happened? And so I explained.

I know he was just being a boy, a very uncomfortable boy whose parents had caught him in a breach of etiquette so brash that they forced him to make this call. Having two beautiful daughters of his own, he probably knew 'miscarriage' wasn't the right term, but didn't quite know what was. But does my son's death make him so uncomfortable that he can't even say the word 'death'?

Mulling this over this afternoon, I realized he had spoken the truth. What happened to Ezra and so many of our babies is unspeakable. An unspeakable truth that makes people so uncomfortable that their only response is silence. It isn't what we grieving mamas and papas need...its not an excuse at all. I'll never fully forgive those who were silent and disappeared when tragedy struck our family...but at this point it just is what it is, a part of this journey...and all we can do is limp forward.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

16 weeks

Time feels like it's standing still. Not that I want to rush this pregnancy, but for all of the emotions I've experienced so far, it feels like I should be 36 weeks not 16. Everything remains healthy and least as far as I know. The real fun begins once I'm 20 weeks and onward, which will be the riskiest time for me given my "history".

The anxiety seems to have settled into my being, a constant presence that doesn't even surprise me anymore. It's settled into my GI system, and also keeps me from sleeping through the night. I'm trying to address this with accupuncture and prenatal massage, and hopefully will start doing prenatal pilates soon (if I can ever wake up in time!)

But I also feel a little more assured in this pregnancy. At least some days I'm more able to tell people about the Sunflower, more able to talk in vague terms about my plans for maternity leave in January. I just can't wrap my mind around too many of the specifics, like birth plans (anything that results in a live baby is fine!), length of leave or what we'll do for child care. I wouldn't be surprised if I don't buy a single item in advance for this baby.

It does feel like many people are way more excited or way more sure all will work out than I possibly can be right now. I think people's discomfort with the death and loss that have defined my year causes them to be more hyper excited than necessary. I'm constantly reminding people, 'yes it's exciting, but it's also scary.' I feel like a broken record.

My relationship to my grief for Ezra has changed drastically during this pregnancy. I can't fully be present in the depths of sadness that were there before. But being pregnant has also brought out new layers of the sadness - I'm grieving the pregnancy, all the hope and expectation and excitement.

In one week we leave for a week at the beach with my family, the very same beach where we stayed for a week just weeks before Ezra died. Some of my last distinct happy memories of having Ezra with me are from that trip...waddling down the beach enormously pregnant, feeling him kick and move as I stretched out in the sun. It's also the same beach where we went on our own for a weekend in October to get through his due date...some of the few moments of peace we found in those early months. I know this trip will be emotional...but I also know that I can't help but find peace at the beach.

Ezra's first birthday is less than a month away. I can't really fathom that it's almost been a full year without my baby boy.