from glow in the woods for the new year:

Join us for a Winter/Holiday/New Year’s 7×7, won’t you? Here are the questions:

1 | Welcome to 2009. What have you left behind in the year just past?

pregnancies. i am finished being pregnant and am so happy to be done with that — the pregnancy sicknesses, the post-partum weight fluctuations, the agony of worrying whether my baby is going to die, the sorrow of babies dying.

What do you hope to find in the year to come?

more joy. myself. more joy in being myself. just today somebody told me i looked nice. “what’s the special occasion?” she asked. “nothing,” i said. “it’s just time to be me again.” it’s hard to explain to people who don’t know. but i know you all do.

this is not to say i wasn’t me in 2008. but i was a version of me that’s best consigned to history.

2 | We’ve just come through the season in which our culture touts cheer and peace and family togetherness rather relentlessly. How did your child’s death impact your experience of the “holiday” season, personally or culturally?

two christmases ago — three, now, i guess — my f-i-l made an ornament for each grandchild. almost. effie did not get one, although he did confess to me in private that he wanted to make one for her but wasn’t sure about it. now, of course, there is mae, too, who needs one. i’ll always be a little sad when the grandkids’ ornaments come out and only the living are celebrated.

in christmas 2007 mac’s family gave us lots of space, knowing our grief from mae’s death was fresh. not so this year. i am learning that the grief that swells up during the holidays will take other people by surprise, and that i’ll have to be forceful about making space for it, and finding ways to make others let me make space for it.

in all previous years, though, i have missed the girls who were not with us. not so — not as much, at least — this year. i have a feeling that my family is complete. missing some pieces, but complete. and, as i’ve said before, if i had mae i wouldn’t have boo, which makes it bittersweet to mourn her.

3 | If you celebrate in any way through December, are there ways you include or acknowledge your lost baby/babies?

effie and mae each have a special ornament. those are the first to we hang every year.

i would like to do something that remembers them, especially as boo and bitsy get older and can participate. but i want to find something that creates a nice balance between morbid and sentimental on the one hand, and heartfelt and maybe even sad on the other. i don’t want bitsy and boo to grow up feeling like we’re always talking about dead sisters they never knew. but i want them to know to remember them. i guess i’ll be learning how to do this for the next, oh, lifetime.

4 | Through the year are there any holidays, seasons, or parts of what were once cherished rituals that have changed for you because of your child’s death?

actually the living children have made more of a change here than have the dead. mac and i used to have very private, homey christmases. now there are kids and cousins and aunts and uncles; it seems unkind to say “we’re staying at home by ourselves all day long” when folks have traveled a long way to see us.

but being in family crowds makes it less possible, or at least comfortable, to remember the girls. the rest of the family certainly doesn’t want to be reminded. i think they would be respectful, but also a little confused. and frankly, that just isn’t worth dealing with.

so for now, i’ll take my quiet christmas morning with my kids, my louder christmas afternoon with extended family, and quiet memories of effie and mae. that seems to jive with the dailiness of being a dbm, after all.

5 | Do you do anything to remember your baby/babies’ birth and/or death day? Or will you?

on the girls’ birthdays we write them letters for their scrapbooks. i am surprised, when i write, how easily the tears flow from missing them, since i no longer cry about them on a  regular basis. it is lovely, too, to look back at what i’ve felt in previous years — good reminders of where i’ve been and how i’ve changed, and how long and deeply i’ve loved them.

6 | Is there anything about the winter season (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere right now) that lifts your spirits? Is there anything that especially brings them down?

the fading light is hard on me. it is hard to get up in darkness and go to bed in darkness, especially since i’m in a psychological space where that isn’t comforting. i want light. i want my girls, but i’ll settle for light. in the winter i have neither.

7 | During your hardest times, how have you found your way forward?

mindfulness. when i forget to mindful i am difficult to live with, even for myself. and i’ll be honest: there was a lot of that going on in 2008.