Hey Jude — Raising Your Siblings

Dear Jude,

I can only assume you’re here and you see it all. In fact, I saw a cardinal today. It flew across the road as I was about to make a right turn into the cul de sac, and I immediately thought Jude bird. I simultaneously recognized the absurdity in believing that every male cardinal that crosses my path is you sending a message or watching over me while also feeling comforted by the notion and assured in the belief that –yes, it was you.

Anyway, as you also know, Lillianne has been carrying Jude Bear around with her for over a month now. Not the white one-and-only Jude Bear I got at the hospital, the one that realistically, some emotional employee pulled from the gift-shop shelves and pulled a wooden stick that held a tiny mylar balloon with the hopeful “Congratulations” message on out of his neck (there’s always been a hole in my Jude Bear’s neck, and this is why I think it’s there). Then, they carted the white bear upstairs to become part of the hospital’s bereavement kit. Something to give me as an agonizing consolation for the fact that you weren’t there. That you couldn’t be there. That no amount of drug-induced sleep would lead to me waking up and finding that it had indeed all been a bad dream and that you could and would open your eyes and suck air into your lungs. In moments like this, when I remember, the pain of it is overwhelming, and I’m paralyzed by the unfairness of not having you here.

I digress, lest I get lost in memory. The bear Lillianne carries is the birthday gift I got for myself last year. With a handy donation, I was able to procure a Molly Bear. I placed the order on my birthday, the day I turned 35, the day I felt sure would lead to a (somehow) better, more successful me. This Jude Bear weighs exactly 4.2 lbs, the same weight you were when your soul left this earth, darling. I cried the first time I held him because it was like holding you again. It was so bittersweet. Too soon, that Jude Bear came to rest on a shelf until recently when Lillianne started to cry about you.

I’m not sure what has provoked your very dramatic sister’s emotional torrent as it pertains to you. She is conflicted about life and heaven and all of the things that must have transpired for you to be there and not here. I assure her your leaving us was peaceful, as peaceful a death can be. I assure her that you’re with her–I know you are, darling, I know you are, and I assure her that one day, she’ll see you. I promise her that you wouldn’t want her to be sad. Life is for the present, not the past nor the future. We live now.

I sometimes wonder what I should do differently or better to help your sisters accept and understand our unique family dynamic; however, I can think of nothing better than the truth. No sugar-coating. No needless sensation. Just…the truth, which is that for some reason, you are there and we are here, but despite that, we are together. I think it sends a beautiful message that there is wonder and greatness just beyond the veil fo what we can see and experience in this life. These sufferings give us strength to help others. That we are in it together means that we can grow and learn together, and one day, as we each go through the veil in our own time, those who remain can be at peace knowing that in that moment, all is right and as it should be, even as we weep and even as we mourn what we must ultimately wait for.

I love you, sweetheart. Thank you for this understanding and growth and experience. I’m selfish, and I’d rather have you here in a literal way. But, I live now, not then nor in what has yet to come, so all I know is my love and gratitude for you the way you are to me. My perfect, beautiful boy. I miss you, Jude.

Until forever,


Hey Jude — It’s Over

This is something I struggled to write one month after we had our last baby, Lucia, on 12/21/17. I couldn’t put my heart into words because I hadn’t arrived at the right understanding, and it’s possible that I still haven’t. Along the way, there have been many events that have forced me to reflect on my situation.

First, a little background. On 12/26/14, we lost our son Jude at 33 weeks. Jude’s heart stopped while he was on the monitor in the hospital. We don’t know what happened. After years of reading and investigation, I speculate that had Jude been delivered and cared for in the NICU, he might have lived; however, this is pure speculation, and I will literally never know. My burden to bear, right?

After Jude physically came into my life (i.e., was born sleeping), he did everything I’d hoped he would. As it turns out, life has a way of getting you down, of making you hard, and of making you bitter (worse than Alanis’ jagged little pill). I wasn’t in a happy place when I was expecting Jude (I will always wonder if my stress / discontentment didn’t contribute to his loss). Jude was my first choice for Jude’s name, and when I really listened to the lyrics of “Hey Jude” during a Beatles Tribute concert, all I could think about was how much I wanted the baby inside of me to help me feel and to be brazen, emotional, passionate…all of the things that I felt so distant from at that time. I felt like an emotional stone, and I didn’t like it, but I had no idea how to get back to feeling. And then, I lost my son.  I came out of anesthesia following an emergency C-section in which the baby could not be saved, and I started to feel again. And it hurt.  Jude brought me to life and took me to places I never knew were possible. I understood the depth of grief.  I looked over the precipice of the abyss of absolute devastation, and I—thankfully—didn’t topple over, but I could feel what it felt like to go in. It was wondrous and terrifying.

Just like that, Jude gave me the gift of empathy. Since then, he’s made me more compassionate.  I’ve cried for people I’ll never meet. His life has influenced mine so positively that it’s a little sad that I can’t hug him and tell him thank you.  Likewise, if not for Jude, his siblings wouldn’t be alive.

When we had our first “rainbow”—the baby after him, she was born via unscheduled Cesarean delivery because I was having contractions that I couldn’t feel and because I was dilated. I was almost 37 weeks—technically, she was preterm at the time. When they delivered they said I had a ‘window’, which meant two of the three layers of tissue that make up the uterus were ripped away; they could see the baby through the “window” in the thinned area of the lining. Had those phantom contractions continued and had we not had extra monitoring, it’s doubtful I would’ve made it to 39 weeks without rupturing, something likely fatal to the baby and potentially fatal to me. Instead, on January 27, 2016, I delivered my biggest baby, Eilie, at 7 lbs and 7 ½ ounces, and above all other consideration, she was alive and healthy.

Even before Eilie, we’d always talked about “one more”. We never tried for a boy (I’m not sure how you do that…do you do it standing up or eating beer cheese because I honestly don’t know); we just wanted one more. Actually, we were planning to wait a couple of more months when we found out we were pregnant with baby four, i.e., last baby.  I was beyond ready to end the anxiety of pregnancy. At Sean’s request, we chose to not find out the gender of baby four.  The baby, dubbed Mystery Baby, was scheduled for delivery at 37 weeks, which happened to be on a Saturday (12/23), and because no one does that kind of thing on a Saturday (hello, last minute gift shopping, people), we were scheduled for a Thursday delivery (ultimately) on 12/21.  The “window” from Eilie’s delivery was the reason for the preterm decision.

For the better part of eight months, I knew in my mom bones that Mystery Baby was a boy. The baby carried low. The baby’s heart rate during NSTs was in the 130s / 140s. I had these awful migraines like I did with Jude. Everyone in the City of Mobile except for one weird girl at the park was 100% convinced it was a boy. I waddled onto the elevator after one checkup to stand next to a venerable African-American woman who asked about the baby.  After she realized I didn’t know the gender, she said as confident as an ultrasound, “Oh, it’s a boy.  I can feel it it’s a boy,” as I made to assure her we’d be happy no matter what, she cut in, “That baby is a boy.”  Yes ma’am, I thought, smiling at her enthusiasm.  People are nuts, but yeah…I kind of think it’s a boy, too.

And then, there we were…the day of 12/21.

It was 5:00 a.m., and I hadn’t slept. No one sleeps when they know they’re going to have a baby the next day.  It’s impossible.  It’s like saying, “Just so you know, tomorrow, when you wake up, your life will change for ever. Get some rest.”

Instead, I woke up shortly after 2, finished some work, and then wrote a letter to Jude that really did need to be written. I’ll call it the ‘before’ because in it I had the conviction of a woman who was going to have a son and of who was getting her tubes tied and that was the absolute thing she wanted.

On the way to the hospital, I talked about how much I loved the name Maxim, the name I’d name my son.  Maxim Emil.  I was so excited to tell the story to the world about his name.  For one, I’d have a baby named after a literary character, Maxim DeWinter from Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, one of my favorite novels and movies of all time. (It was Hitchcock’s first film.) Maxim was also in honor of the great grandfather I never met, a man named Maximillian who lived in Germany during WWII and who was put into a camp for being outspoken against Hitler, refusing to salute Nazi generals, and for inciting a riot.  I said, “I want my son to have that kind of legacy…to have the courage to stand up against wrong regardless of consequence.”

We arrived at the hospital at 5:30, right on schedule.  I was vacillating between exhilarated awaked-ness and total and utter exhaustion.  I wanted to fall asleep, but then I couldn’t even as I settled into our room to await the start of the scheduled delivery–the first time we’d ever scheduled a delivery and it had gone according to plan.  My rest was disrupted by the disappointment Sean and I had after getting into a room was the realization that we weren’t going to be in the big rooms. Springhill Memorial Hospital has a fantastic maternity ward with glorious postpartum suites; however, C-sections, like me, were in super small rooms (though, the beds were fantastic, and it’s a shame my insurance wouldn’t let me take it home with me).  Sean was crushed.  He’d been gushing to our families about the big rooms and the USB plugins in the maternity wards for months. At least our toilet seat was heated.  That was pretty swanky.

Cut to…the moment before the big cut.  Sean was had to clear the room while they did the spinal tap. I had a great moment where I got to clapback on the anesthesiologist who told me that my spinal headache after I’d had Eilie was “not really a thing”.  My throbbing brain from circa two years earlier begged to differ.

So, as he was going in to do the spinal tap, he said, “You’ve got a nice, thin back. I like a thin back,” and I quipped, “Hey, everybody’s got a thing,” which caused the OR staff and my OB to giggle.  I’m not sure if people laughing is the best for major surgery prep, but there we were…a room full of adults giggling over bony-back fetishes. (Note, he didn’t puncture my spine resulting in a spinal headache, so many thanks to him.)

Surgery was about to begin, and Sean came in.  He stood next to me behind a partition. I felt pushes and pulls.  It was announced that there was another window, or rather, the same window that had been there with Eilie was still there; it never healed.

“Thank God we decided to deliver early,” someone –probably my doctor—said. Push. Pull. Nudge.  Tug.  I felt a familiar wrenching, and then Sean said, “It’s a little girl.”

He didn’t say another, but in my mind, I feel like the word is there.  The partition dropped.  There it was, a baby body. She looked just like Eilie, arched, covered in white goo, and screaming.  Fwip. The partition was back up.  My body below the partition was tugged and pulled and vroooom, vacuumed. A baby wailed in the background.

At my encouragement, Sean rushed over to see the baby.  Our new baby girl.  I laid there alone with my mind, everything below the chest numb. Numbness trickled into my mind.  It’s overIt’s a girl.  It’s over. It’s a girl.  I cried. I shook as the doctor maneuvered. I felt nudges through the anesthesia.  It’s over.  It was over.  I wanted to scream, “Stop! Wait!” because I wasn’t ready for it to be over.  I’d been pregnant since September 2012. I was stopping something that had come so naturally to me, getting pregnant (something I never once took for granted). And it was over.  I cried.  Not crocodile tears…but dry, quaking sobs that come from the depths of being so fatigued and overwhelmed and so damn confused that the only recourse is ludicrous sobbing.

The baby, who we named Lucia Susanne, was 6lbs 7oz and perfect.  Thank God.

After we came home from the hospital, I looked around the corner and stole my only glimpse into postpartum depression.  I was in our bedroom and holding the baby.  The room spun.  Whose baby is this? This isn’t my baby. I haven’t had my baby yet.  I’m supposed to have a boy.  It’s all wrong. This is not my baby. Logical brain intervened. This is your baby. You had a little girl. You will never have a little boy.

And there it was. The thing that I really did come to terms with when we were expecting Eilie, the possibility that we might not ever have a son to raise on Earth.  Of course, when it’s a reality, it’s a whole different experience.

Jude turned three on 12/26/17, five days after we had Lucia.  I went into Hobby Lobby to get silk flowers for Jude’s gravesite. I’m buying flowers for my son’s third birthday instead of planning a party, I thought, selecting the hydrangeas. On the way to the register, I picked up a little stuffed turtle with big, shining brown eyes.  “How are you doing?” asked the cashier.  I shook my head and then I cried at Hobby Lobby.

Sean was waiting next to the truck when I got to the parking lot. I buried my head in his shoulder as he hugged me.  I wept.  “It just doesn’t get any easier.”

When we placed Jude’s flowers in his vase at the cemetery, Sean carefully put Jude’s turtle in the middle of the arrangement.  He looked into the eyes of the turtle and no doubt pictured the eyes of his son and the sweetness and excitement they would hold if we were giving him that turtle as a gift on this third birthday, and for the first time in almost three years that I’m aware of, he cried because it doesn’t get any easier.

Regarding my husband, there is something that I will never fully understand because I have daughters to raise. I have little girls, little people who are my gender, to share the things that are uniquely female with.  Respectfully, I’ve always said I wanted boys like Jo March in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, but I have girls, and I’m very thankful for them.  Sean, though, when we had Lucia and when my tubes were tied, lost something that cannot be replaced.  While he loves his little girl –all of his girls—there is a loss in realizing that he will never fulfill his boyhood dreams of teaching his son how to change the oil in a car or how to properly treat women.  The loss is something undefinable.  When you’ve envisioned the thing your entire life because that’s how things are supposed to be, it’s devastating.  I felt his pain.  One day, when we were getting ready and he was tying his tie, I started crying because I understood.  He will never teach his son to tie a tie.

The pain of this aspect of loss frustrated me because none of my babies were relegated to a gender.  I truly had always wanted boys. I’m not sorry I have girls. I wasn’t trying for a boy when we got pregnant with Lucia. We just wanted three babies. I don’t want to untie my tubes to have “another baby”.  Even if I’d had two boys after we lost Jude, I’d still feel the pain of his loss. I disliked feeling so confused.

I’ve finally reconciled that the immense pain. I felt was simply the agony of grief.  It was stronger than it had been in the past two years, and I wasn’t prepared.  It was also a period of massive change.  I had postpartum hormones at the time my only son would’ve turned three, and I’d made the (appropriate) decision to medically ensure I couldn’t have any more children. With two windows, this was the smartest and safest thing I could do. I don’t know how many times a woman’s body can endure pregnancy with a “window” and not experience a tragedy, but I think I was right to cash in my chips when I did. Also, I think I’d have been kind of a nut if I’d had more than the number of babies that I have.

After all, I love writing, and I love the idea of growing and moving forward with life—life post-pregnancy years.  I want to spend time with my career, that thing I’m so passionate about it sometimes takes my breath away. I want to have the ability to focus on my marriage, that thing I look at like a weird little pet as I try to understand all of its messes and wonders.  I want to be able to start making really fun memories with my children as we all experience things together—vacations, camping trips, summers, marathons, and whatever else we can get into.  For ages, we put the brakes on things like camping or just doing more because I was pregnant, or we had an infant. I’m sure that wasn’t necessary, but we did it.

At any rate, now, here we are. It’s over…and it’s also just beginning.


Dear Jude,

I’ll never not wonder ‘what if’. I’ll always miss you.  I’ll always think about what could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. I’ll always appreciate what you do for me, and I’ll always be open to the ebb and flow of grief no matter how difficult it is.  This year was so hard, but I’m glad it was hard because it reminds me of how much I love you.  I hope heaven is lovely this time of year. You’ll have to tell me all about it someday.

 I love you forever,

your adoring mommy,




Hey Jude – Medical Records


Over a year ago, I paid roughly $140 to get my medical records from Providence Hospital in Mobile. I was—at the time—evaluating a theory that low blood pressure was instrumental in losing Jude. We were approaching finding out the gender of our rainbow, Eilie, who would be a girl, and I’d come across some research that implied that hypotension could be as health-hazardous to a fetus in pregnancy as hypertension.

Fast forward to two days ago. Sean and I do natural family planning (Creighton method). Not to over-share, but two cycles within the past five months have been indicative of low progesterone and / or infertility. **Spoiler, we’re not trying right now, so I can’t say if infertility is an issue**. The first month was while I was weaning Eilie, so I attributed the incident to her changes in nursing. This month, I have no excuses.

As I started to look at the indicators of low progesterone, I realized that me during Jude’s pregnancy matched well with those indicators. These things were abnornmal for me but included:

  • Extreme, frequent headaches
  • Low **nudge, nudge, wink wink** drive (seriously, any nudging had better mean that I get to go to sleep early)
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Irritability / depression

Oh, and a few other things. Anyway, for anyone who’s ever been pregnant, thinking of being pregnant, or is pregnant, you know that being fat, achy, and fatigued are all pretty darn normal. Sean and I were in the roughest patch martially we’d been in. We’d just renovated a house together (so stupid). We were recovering from the growing pains of our first child’s first year in which I felt completely neglected (in that, I had no personal time to so much as shave an armpit…I did, in case you were wondering). I was working passionately to mount a new career as a freelance writer so that when we had Jude, I could start working from home. Because I was visiting Lillianne at Mom’s store during my lunch hour at USA, I’d lost my hour to exercise.

Of course I was fat, cranky, and tired. Who’d want to have a squelch after that? And honestly, I have NO idea how Sean felt. He was probably as unhappy as I was; however, when one is unhappy, they have limited time to actually assess how unhappy the other person is.



We were at the precipice of a slippery slope. Throughout Jude’s pregnancy, Sean had commented he’d barely felt the baby kick because he we never spent enough time together for him to feel Jude’s baby bump. I, on the other hand, felt Jude kick all of the time. He was such an active baby. I knew he’d give Lillianne a run for her money. I mean, if we thought Lillianne was a climbing monkey, Jude was going to be a cirque du toddler. We’d need helmets…and padded mats.

Then, as you know, on December 24, we went in for a 9:00 a.m. check-up. Sean, Lillianne, and I looked at Jude’s heartbeat on Dr. T’s handheld device.

“He’s going to be a chunker,” she said. I felt the same way. I knew that like my brother was to my mom, my second baby—my boy, was going to be a meatball. I couldn’t wait.

Without any intelligible reason, I candidly asked Dr. T as she left the room, “Do you think there’s any chance he’ll come early?”

She tilted her head and scrunched her face thoughtfully. “No, I don’t see any reason,” she said.

Why did I ask that? What a stupid question. I had no reason to ask that; however, it was prophetic and my second indicator thus for of things to come; though, I didn’t realize it at the time.



On December 26, after noticing decreased fetal movement, I called and went in. On the way to the hospital from west Mississippi, I had reassuring movements. It’s a false alarm. I’m still going in, I thought.

We checked in…Jude had a heartbeat. There were some indicators on his BPP—like the lack of lung activity and my slight excess of amniotic fluid (polyhydraminos) that were causes of concern.

The doctor on call told us that our baby was actually small…lower 5th percentile. This was when I started to cry. My parents had come to take Lillianne with them, and we bravely blinked back tears in face of the news. How was my doctor so wrong about his size?

The setting sun was visible through the windows at Providence Hospital. Sean and I were hand-clasped as we followed a nurse toward the hospital where I’d be checked in for monitoring. Meanwhile, Lillianne…a little over 18th months, held hands between Mom and Dad and walked in the other direction. I looked back to see my golden-haired daughter walk away from me. I had no idea that it would be the last time she’d be in the same room as her brother while he was still alive. If I had, I’d have let her hug him goodbye.

What followed for me from my experience has been documented; however, the medical records…the data story tells of a different narrative and one in which I feel says the opposite of what I’ve been told, which was, “We don’t know what happened.” If I read this accurately, and mind, I’m not a medical doctor, I think it’s clear what happened. Jude died of hypoxia. It’s not apparent WHY this all happened (I’m inclined to think hypotension and possibly low progesterone were factors, but there’s literally no way to know); however, I think what happened might be easier to discern.



*A use of ***indicates I’ve skipped perfunctory detail

5:49 p.m. : Patient admitted to ‘Provid:0703’


6:33: Fetal Monitor: UA REF (So, the baby is on the monitor, too, I guess?)

***I received an IV. My BP was higher than normal (123/63 and my BPM was 90).

7:00: Decreased variability

7:00: Average contraction duration: 40 seconds in the last 30 minutes; intensity, mild

7:00: Accelerations: 2 in the last 30 minutes

7:00: Decelerations: 1

7:00: Baseline: 150 bmp in last 30 minutes

7:00: Variability: Minimal – detectable <= 5 bpm

7:00: Contractions: 6 in last 30 minutes

7:00: Contraction frequency: 2/ 10 min in last 30 minutes

7:05: Dr. F notified of poor variability; IV orders changed from heplock to LR at 125ml/hr

7:05: Fetal tachycardia noted, reported to Dr. F (Dr. F. is the doc on call who I met with previously who indicated Jude was small.)

7:24: FHR1: TACHYCARDIA (tachycardia detected)


7:30: Contractions: 4 in the last 30 minutes; 1/10 in last 30 minuets; 0 accelerations in last 30 minutes (FHR 1)

7:30: Dr. F called to check on patient; informed that FHTs has improved; however, variability is still minimal, *** and she denies feeling any contractions or abdominal pain.

7:33: PT sitting up, eating; family brought dinner and visiting.

7:53: FHR1: SIGNAL LOSS; Please adjust FHR sensor

8:00: Contractions: 6 in last 30 minutes; accelerations 1 in last 30 minutes; baseline 155 bpm in last 30 minutes. Av. Contraction duration: 70 seconds in last 30 minutes

8:07: BRADYCARDIA: Severe Bradycardia detected

8:12: TACHYCARDIA: Tachycardia detected

8:16: RN Nurse remarks: I went to the phone to update Dr. F about decelerations and variably. Dr. F called to inform of another pt on the way and I updated her. I was told that we would continue to watch her and more lab work would be done in the morning. I expressed concern about the decelerations and minimal variability.

8:30: Accelerations: 0 in last 30 mins, 155 BPM in last 30 mins, contraction duration 108 seconds in last 30 mins,

8:57: FHR1: No Transducer

9:00: Contractions 4 in last 30 minutes…


9:00: Up to bathroom (me, the patient)

(I was put back on the monitor. This was the longest 50 minutes of my life. If I were to swear to it in court, I’d way it was 10 minutes).

9:06: SIGNAL LOSS. Please adjust FHR sensor

9:06: BRADYCARDIA; Severe bradycardia detected

9:12: O2 applied via face mask at 8L per (nurse) (What they haven’t noted is that at least half an hour to an hour earlier, I requested to be moved to USA Women’s & Children’s. I was advised when I stabilized, that would happen. It. Never. Happened.)

9:14: O2 applied via face mask at 10l/min

9:15: BRADYCARDIA: Severe bradycardia detected

9:19: FHTS audible; fetal movement audible

9:20: SIGNAL LOSS; Bad FHR signal; please adjust FHR sensor

9:22: PT discussing how much baby is moving and states that she things it is because she has just eaten for the first time today; fetal heart tones audible 140s; fetal movement audible

9:22: Doppler at bedside; FHTS audible; fetal movement audible; begin using Doppler to aide in placement of efm so that it will trace

9:23: SIGNAL LOSS; Please check patient and FHR sensor

9:23: FHR1 measurement method: No transducer


9:24: Nurse (RN) remarks: Pt states that it is hard to believe she went to the doctors office for decreased fetal movement this afternoon when he is moving so much since she has eaten while attempting to audit monitors fetal movement is visible and audible. (In hindsight, I believe Jude was in fetal distress, which is why I felt his movements. My poor baby. I wish so much that I’d have done so much so differently.)


9:33: Dr F notified of patient status and requested for her to come assess fetal monitoring strip. She stated she was on the way and to have ultrasound ready in pts. Room. Dr. F informed that FHTS were audible and fetal movement was audible and visible per RNs as well as the pt and significant other; however, we were uncomfortable not being have be to have the monitor tracing the heart tones.

9:40: Ultrasound brought to pt room, plugged in and turned on

9:42: Nurse: Explained to pt that the ultrasound was brought in because Dr. F is coming in to ultrasound her and assess the fetal monitor strip. RNs alternating assessing FHTs with EFM and doppler—pt states that she feels baby kicking, fetal heart tones audible 150s fetal movement audible, significant other has been at bedside.


9:50: Dr. F at besides. Ultrasound reveals no fetal movement and no heart rate per Dr. F. Pt requests stat c-section and states, “Please do all you can do.”



After that, I was rushed in for an emergency Cesearean delivery with the hopes…the hopes that a miracle could happen and knowing it probably wouldn’t.

I was in shock and convulsed in panic as I was wheeled in to L&D. I rhythmically changed, “Oh God, oh God, oh God,” on the way in. I looked into a light that was a facsimile of the Kingdom of Heaven—a big beautiful bright light—as I took what could’ve been my last gulps of air in the hopes of saving my son. In those moments, I also prayed to be spared so my daughter, Lillianne, wouldn’t grow up without a mother.

Lillianne’s mother survived. I pulled out of the sandbag of medicated sleep and asked Sean, “How’s our baby?”

Sean clasped my hand. “He didn’t make it. I named him Jude. Jude David. Is that okay?”

I started to sing, “Hey Jude.” And Sean started to sing with me. And then appeared a man of God whose name is also David, Father David, our Priest, and he prayed for and with us in our darkest hour.



I keep thinking I’m finished looking for answers, but then something happens, and I’m on the hunt again. I know this is the writer in me. The bloodhound that sees mystery, intrigue, and questions to be answered at every turn. I m insatiably curious about the what-ifs of life. Respectfully, in the case of my son, I am curious not for causes of morbid fascination but to (1) get closure; (2) to help others; and (3) to know what to look for if we get pregnant again.

I have increasingly become of the opinion that hypotension is undermonitored and undervalued as a complication of pregnancy; however, as one who suffers from this sleeping giant, I know for a fact that Eilie, our rainbow baby would have died had it not been for increased monitoring and the solid instincts of my regular OB, Dr. T.

I miss Jude so much…every day. He would be such a precious age now. I loved seeing Lillianne at two. I imagine my boy at this age…just two months away from two and a half. He’d have been so cuddly and beautiful; however, he’s among the angels, and he blesses me every day. I know God took Jude for a reason. I no longer believe Jude’s death was a miraculous ascension into heaven (I never thought that per say, but I also had no idea “what happened). Now I know that there were variables that might have influenced our outcomes. What if a different doctor was on call? What if we went straight to the high risk facility, USA Women’s & Children’s? What if I just ripped that darn IV out and drove myself to Women’s & Children’s? Would Jude have lived? But then, would he have died in minutes? Would he have suffered greatly? Would he have lived but with traumatic brain defects due to lack of oxygen?

To every question, all I can say is, maybe. That’s the bitter-sweetness of hindsight and begging the “what-ifs”. I could go for days. At the end, this is my life. This is my world. We lost Jude. He’s in heaven, but he’s such a beautiful addition, and he’s such a real part of my family and my life…it’s as if he was still right here every day.

Jude has given me drive and strength. I’m going to continue exploring my research about hypotension in pregnancy. I’m going to raise money for women and prenatal support particularly in the area of raising awareness for women who fall into this category. Jude will not have gone in vain; he gives me strength to do something good for all of woman and their unborn children’s kind.


Dear Jude,

Goodness, how much we’ve grown in these past two (and almost a half!) years. You’ve taught me so much. You’ve made me everything I hoped you would and more. You’re so amazing my darling. Please keep inspiring me and moving and motivating your father and me. Help us to be our best selves for Lillianne, Eilie, and you…and that last baby if it’s meant to be. Jude, help us learn and use your story to help others. What’s more, help me find real and accurate information and researchers who can prove my theories or lead me to better ones so that you and I can be instruments for raising support and awareness to help other mommies keep their angels on Earth so long as that’s where God intends them to be. 

I love you, sweetheart.

Until we meet in heaven.



Hey Jude- 22 Months

I have continually agonized over how to write the complexities of being a PAL because one year ago, I carried Jude’s sister who –thanks to him, is here now.

I’ve agonized over telling the stories I know I need to tell. I’ve become frail, fragile, fragmented, and fearful…so many things that you, Jude, rescued me from.

Then I heard your song, and I remembered you wanted me to be rave, to be an adult, to be inspired through every fiber of my being.

I’m slowly returning to where we started and to where you want me to be. I know I’ve embraced some things you’ve imparted to me, but I know I’ve allowed myself to fear when I know I shouldn’t.

I love you, Jude. I know I’ve got nothing to fear because you’re in me and with me. I’ll always be a nerd. I’ll always be offbeat. I’ll always be oblivious. I’ll always be with you. You’ll keep me forever young and forever with you.

I’ll always be 31 years old. There will ne a viable part of me that is always living in December 26, 2014. 

I love you. I’m happy to be forever young with you my love. Happy 22 months. May you always live in me and through me and -I through you.  You’re my heart.

Hey Jude – Just a Note

My darling boy. I miss you and love you so much, I just needed to tell you. I’ve cried more for you lately than I have in quite a while. Certain songs that I know I should turn off but don’t make me see your face and cry.

The idea that you’d be 21-months today and would be so very close to the darling age of two causes me to pause. You. Two. You’d be so darling, darling.

I have so much to say but even more to ask. Thank you for dear Eilie; look after her  always. Help give Lillianne peace. She’s such a nut; she needs you.

Really, thank you. You ground me as well. I miss you so much and my heart is sad for what we can’t have. I’ve seen your face more lately. I’m okay with that because the pain is worth the memory. You’re my heart and my world, Jude. I miss you, sweetheart. I love you so much. You’re my baby boy.

I love you and your sisters forever.

Hey Jude — Billie Jean

The women of my grandmothers’ generation were iron clad. These women endured under the direst of straits and in the worst of times and emerged 70-plus years later smiling and most likely wondering what we were so upset about with our video games and our Lisa Frank notebooks and our Saturday morning cartoons.

My father’s mother, full German, was raised in Ulm and Berlin during and after WWII. She and her family were not Nazis. In fact, they were sympathizers to war victims and often gave away food and resource to help those without. Tried for treason among other things, her parents suffered substantially during the war. Post-war, well, it’s likely to assume that my Oma’s elementary school days were consumed just being thankful you had food and a roof.

My mother’s mother, full southerner, was born in Tupelo and lived throughout Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee before settling in Mobile. I knew her as Memaw. Her name was Vonnie Lillian Opsal. She had dark, auburn hair and blue-grey eyes, plump cheeks and thin lips, and a figure for days. The plaque over her grave says she was born in 1912, but that’s a lie. She was born in 1915; I have the erased and re-scrawled documentation to prove it. No, she lied about being born in 1912 so she could marry at a scandalously ripe teen age to a guy named Curtis.

I like to envision she and Curtis were young lovers…full of innocence and stupidity, like most sweet first love. They were kids playing house and the reality of adulthood swooped in like a thunder strike. Shortly after marriage, Vonnie got pregnant. She was a married ingénue in the late 1920s, and she was pregnant. Curtis had a job with the railroad. It wasn’t much, but life was good. At least they had real love.

When he left for work in the morning, Vonnie was already in the kitchen, barefoot, swollen with child, her flush belly swaddled tightly with an apron. She and Curtis kissed. She smiled warmly as her dear husband left for work, already anticipating his return, as brides do.

He never returned. Curtis was killed in an accident at the train yard. The news he was dead was more damaging than if she’d been clubbed. The oxygen in her lungs compressed, and she couldn’t breathe. He would never come home. She was dizzy. Never would she hug or hold or kiss him again. Lights flashed. Gone forever; dead. A bright light and then nothing.

Time elapsed like a dirge and, then, it was time. The baby. She was there, at the hospital. Then came the twilight sleep, and when she awoke, “I’m sorry ma’am but your baby was born still.” No, she heard the baby cry, but years later, she swore she did. It was a girl, she was told. She never saw or held her baby girl, who she called Billie Jean, and she never believed –not fully—that the baby had died.

I grew up with a wisp of the story of Billie Jean in my ear, and it was never from my Memaw. This story descended to me through my mother. Memaw was a woman of her generation. You didn’t dwell on these losses. You didn’t let them cripple you. You sucked it up. You had…responsibilities. Except, really, she didn’t. She was on her own, bound by loss, my Memaw, at such a young age. A dead husband and a still baby. I regret that I was never able to ask her and to hear her side of this (likely) defining aspect of her life. My grandmother, Vonnie, was my favorite person, truly. The woman effervesced; she lived, and was she ever inspiring.

Her other two children, mom and Aunt Linda, came nearly 13 years after Billie Jean. Their father was an alcoholic and an abusive husband, and Vonnie went toe to toe with him like it was her job. She worked in a restaurant on Mobile’s Dauphin Street that she later purchased. It was called The Home Kitchen. Yet still later, she remarried a seaman who was often deployed. Unconventionally, not only was she a divorce, but she also never begged or groveled or needed a man. My mom’s stepdad never paid child support, and Memaw never sought it. The woman had scars as deep as gashes, but you’d never have known it. The only indication I ever got was when I was a toddler, and she persistently advised to “never let a man take advantage of you.” She was like a ship, ironclad. Made of steel. She deftly sliced through turbulent waters, and if it compromised her an iota to do so, only God would know it.

Having lost Jude, I realize that being destroyed from the inside-out doesn’t defeat you. It imbues you with resolve, a fervor to thrive and survive. I’ve been reduced to ashes on more than one occasion; though, losing Jude was and is still the most significant trauma of my life. Sometimes I wonder if I fully “get it”, but I can’t worry about if I do or don’t or if I’ll have a nervous breakdown one day. All I can do is polish my armor and be a fighter like our grandmothers were. That which does not kill us makes us stronger. Of course, it does more than that. It defines us. I miss Jude with a passion every day, and lately, I’ve talked about him to many people. I still have my time that I’m cry and when I’m sad, but when I talk about him…I’m just happy. How does such a harrowing loss become a source of joy and strength? I mean it when I say that only God knows and that God is indeed mysterious in his wonderful ways


My Memaw was a blessing to me. When I was born in 1983, “Billie Jean” was the number one song in the nation. It’s really more of an irony, but it’s sentimental to think that my departed Aunt Billie Jean was already looking down on me from heaven and that she is holding my Jude and singing in his ear, “Hey Jude….”



It’s been 17 months since you left me, and you’re still so much a part of me and so real to me. I’m sad that I don’t have new pictures to share of you or to see how you’d look at Eilie’s age. She’ll be four months tomorrow. Four months. Hard to believe. She’s such a happy baby. She smiles all of the time, and boy, I bet you’d have smiled, too. Like a champ. I saw a baby at the park today. He smiled at Eilie. He had brown eyes, too. All I could think was how much he reminded me of you. You’re so loved, darling, and you’re so missed every day. I love you now as much as I loved you the day you were born. I love you forever and for always. You’re always my baby, and you’re always with me. You’re my joy, my baby boy. Keep heaven warm for me.

Love, Mommy

Hey Jude – Somewhere Over the Rainbow

I’ve always liked the expression that life is stranger than fiction because it is. In fiction, scenarios are contrived. If you want it to, love conquers all; the boy gets the girl; the bad guy gets what’s coming to him, and the good guy wins in the end. In reality, life is dirtier and messier. Bad things happen to good people; some bad people never get their just desserts. Life can seem unfocused and random at times, which is why many people believe that events in life are purposeless.

Without saying that everything happens for a reason, I believe it’s possible to find meaning in most things. Losing a baby, losing Jude, wasn’t one of those things I was going to try to find meaning in beyond what joy Jude had, has, and continues to bring to my life. You see, when someone suggests to a grieving mother that she lost her baby for a reason, there are very few conclusions she can and will arrive at that don’t lead her to conclude that she’s a terrible person.

After we lost Jude, some very well-intended people suggested that perhaps it was a wake-up call for us, which I reasoned if I needed such a powerful “wake-up” call as losing a baby that I must be a terrible, horrible human being completely unfit to so much as breathe the same air as everyone else; however, I realized that though well-intended the suggestion (as it aimed to give some purpose to the nightmare of suddenly and without explanation losing Jude), it wasn’t accurate. Pain and punishment aren’t doled out to bad people just like riches and rewards aren’t doled out to good ones; this was something that our priest talked about during church on Sunday and is something that we –humans—struggle to understand.

Thus, I was content to accept that no special meaning or greater purpose had to be attached to Jude’s perfect life. He was pure, innocent, and he was love; there didn’t need to be more to it.

When we became pregnant with Eilie five months after losing Jude, I knew their due dates (Jude and Eilie’s) would be close; you’d think it would’ve been difficult when I found out that Eilie’s gestational due date was February 11, 2016 one day and one year off of Jude’s gestational due date of February 12, 2015. It was even more ironic since Jude’s scheduled C-section would have been February 11 as it’s my mom’s birthday. I took the situational irony with a raised eyebrow and a grain of salt.

After all, Eilie and Jude wouldn’t come close to sharing an actual birthday; Jude was born still on December 26, 2014; Eilie would hopefully spend at least six more weeks in utero to be born on February 4, 2016 at 39 weeks.

Like her brother, Eilie was scheduled to be delivered via C-section. Other than my copious anxiety during her pregnancy, everything relative to Eilie’s development and pregnancy was perfect (this is the actual word that my doctors used). I did a weekly non-stress test with my regular OB and a weekly biophysical profile with my high-risk doctor. Toward the end of the pregnancy, I sheepishly told Dr. B. that, “I felt bad seeing a high-risk doctor with such a healthy pregnancy when there were women out there (with losses) with real problems (in their pregnancies).” He kindly told me I was right where I needed to be.

On Tuesday, January 26, 2016, thirteen months after losing Jude, I wrote my monthly letter to Jude. That afternoon, I went to see my regular OB. Like clockwork, I was hooked up for the non-stress test. After a while, my doctor’s nurse came in and said, “Now, I don’t want you to freak out….”

“I know,” I cut in. I smiled wryly. I’d had a feeling something wasn’t right; Eilie hadn’t done her usual gymnastics during the non-stress test. So, just like I’d done with Jude, 13 months and almost to the hour before, I allowed myself to be escorted to ultrasound for a biophysical profile of my baby. I was surprisingly calm. I texted my mother who would call my aunt who was watching Lillianne to tell them I’d probably be late and to have my dad pick up Lillianne when it was time for my aunt to leave. I called Sean who was leaving work an hour out of town right to tell him not to panic or to rush but that we were doing a biophysical profile…that I was sure everything was fine (even though I wasn’t completely sure).

My doctor, Dr. T., sat through the biophysical profile with me. Everything was gradually checking off of the list of requisite things for them to observe. Fluid levels and Eilie taking a breath were the two things I was most concerned about; those were two abnormalities in Jude’s biophysical profile. It felt like an eternity, but Eilie finally took a breath. And after roughly 20 minutes, the BBP concluded with Eilie hitting all of her points. During the test, I tried to envision myself going home that night, going to bed, and sleeping. It was so conceptually absurd. I mean, there was just no way I’d sleep.

We walked back to the office, and instead of being checked for dilation (typical at 37-38 weeks) as we were planning, Dr. T took me into her private office. “So, I don’t know how you feel about this, but I’d like to send you to the hospital for a couple of hours to sit on the monitor. It would just make me feel better.”

“Yes, I think that’s a good idea,” I concurred without hesitation.

Soon, I was on the monitor, and Sean was there. “Did you know you’re having contractions?” a nurse who fluttered in asked.

“Really? No, I had no idea,” I said, amused at the phantom contractions. I’d had some great inner thigh cramps because of how low Eilie sat in my uterus throughout the pregnancy, but I certainly hadn’t had any contractions I was aware of (other than Braxton-Hicks). Because Eilie had resumed her usual level of movement, I was at ease.

A few hours after we’d been checked in, there was no indication we were leaving anytime soon. Dr. T came back to the hospital and checked me. I was 2-3 cm dilated…something else I wasn’t aware of. The “wait and see” game was thus extended to morning.

Given that we were one day away from being full term (38 weeks), I rationalized that Dr. T would want to wait until at least Thursday if we were going to deliver early…maybe longer because women dilate all of the time and aren’t necessarily in labor. I mean, I wasn’t in labor; I had labor contractions with Lillianne, and believe me, I know what labor feels like. So, needless to say, it felt like the air had been sucked out of my lungs when Dr. T came into our room, sat down, and candidly said, “I think we’re going to have a baby today.”

For the first time in the past 24 hours, I was so flooded with emotion that I nearly cried. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“Yeah, just a little shocked…and overwhelmed. Why now? Why today?”

“You’re having contractions that are about 7-10 minutes apart, so rather than send you home knowing you’ll be back, I’d rather go ahead and deliver you.”

Having lost Jude, I wasn’t up for taking risks; I trusted Dr. T implicitly, so the next question was, “When?”

Half an hour later, I was in the OR getting the spinal tap while nurses and other medical staff requisitely prepped for a C-section delivery. I laid down; the partition was raised, and Sean came in wearing his yellow “husband scrubs”. Unlike Lillianne’s C-section, I was attentive to every detail of this delivery. I was aware of the cover over me. I was aware of the numbing sensation that was gradually overtaking my lower extremities. I was aware that the procedure was starting. I must’ve been oddly quiet because the anesthesiologist kept asking if I was okay. I was fine. I was occasionally vacillating between wanting to burst in to tears and to laugh out loud…but mostly to cry…but I was fine.

“Oh wow, you can see her face,” someone said. I looked up at Sean who was peering over the partition with a look of absolute wonderment.

“You can see her face,” he confirmed. I wasn’t quite sure what was so impressive about this other than the fact that Eilie had been sitting incredibly low in the birth position for the better part of the last two and a half months, so perhaps they were marveling that the face was the first thing they saw in lieu of a back end or something like that.

As the procedure progressed, I overheard a few whispered words among the medical team on the other side of the partition, “…that was really thin….” Were they talking about my c-section scar? Because Jude and Eilie were so close, I worried constantly that I would experience dehiscence or rupture.

Finally, the unmistakable sputtering wail of a newborn pierced the air. And suddenly, there she was. At 7 lbs, 71/2 oz, Eilie Colette was born…one year, one month, and one day after Jude.

The next day, Dr. T came to check my recovery, and I inquired about the procedure, “I overheard someone say something was thin. Was it the scar?”

“Actually, it was the area below the previous scar; it was like a window.”

Oh. “Do you think that if we’d have proceeded with waiting the outcome might have been different?”

“It’s a possibility.”

“I know you know we want to maybe try to have one more….”

The uterus, she explained, will thicken as it heals. She believed that this thinning most likely occurred because Eilie was sitting so low and because I’d been having contractions for such a long period of time (during a “panic” visit in later November, I was told while hooked up to the monitors at the high risk hospital that I’d had a couple of contractions; I couldn’t feel them either.).

I was unable to ignore the fact that had it not been for Jude, Dr. T most likely never would’ve chosen to deliver when she did. After all, had it not been for Jude, Eilie’s pregnancy wouldn’t have been regarded as high risk. I never would’ve had a non-stress test that day; had it not been for Jude, Dr. T wouldn’t have made the cautious call to get on the hospital’s monitor after a normal BBP. We would’ve never known about the contractions, and well, the outcome may have been very different for Eilie.

When I recounted this story to another mom, she suggested that the outcome could’ve been different for me, too. “You could’ve died,” she said. “He was looking you, so you could be here for your family.” While I agreed, as maternal morbidity is a possibility with uterine rupture, I never felt like my life was in danger (ignorance is bliss?). I have more than once looked at Eilie and seen Jude. Especially when she’s sleeping, she looks like Jude when we buried him, and it’s absolutely jarring.

After all of this transpired, I recalled a much earlier conversation with a friend in that I pointed out that without having lost Jude, I wouldn’t have (then been expecting) Eilie. Had Jude survived or made it to his due date, Sean and I would’ve never conceived another baby in May of the following year. My friend said she felt that her babies were her babies and would be no matter when she had them. While I understand what she means, technically, that’s impossible. The genetic material that created each of my babies was unique and wouldn’t have been in existence at another time of conception; that baby would be and is a different person entirely than Jude or Eilie.

That said, I do believe that both of these babies were meant to be my babies. We chose both of their names –Eilie and Jude- when we were expecting Lillianne. Eilie was an uncommon Irish name. Jude was a name that we really liked. Lillianne ended up being Lillianne, but I already felt that I’d one day have a Jude and an Eilie. These babies were meant to be mine, and I think there’s a reason their tiny lives and beginnings have played out thusly.

While Jude’s purpose is far from through, I believe that part of his reason for being was to save his sister’s life. I support this belief with the unplannable “stranger than fiction” reality that they were due one year and one day apart (2/11/16 and 2/12/15) and were impossibly born one year, one month, and one day apart (12/26/14 & 1/27/16) after I was hospitalized under nearly identical conditions with both pregnancies (a non-stress test, a biophysical profile, hospitalized gestational monitoring, unscheduled Cesarean delivery).

Yes, life…it’s stranger than fiction, but it has purpose. Every drop of it, and it’s by no means random; rather, it’s being orchestrated in such a beautiful and fine way that we can’t always make sense of it; at times it’s like like jazz. Other times, such as in Jude and Eilie’s case, it’s a classical composition in which we can see how the notes connect and interact, and we can make sense of the music.


Hey Jude,

 I know that somewhere over my rainbow, there’s an angel looking down on us, and it’s you.

Thank you, my baby. I love you, and I miss you, and I keep you in my heart. Always.

(Left: Jude 12/26/14; Right: Eilie: 1/27/16)

Hey Jude – A Tree of Life

Author’s note: Please keep in mind that the contents of this piece are a reflection of my observation and of events and relationships as I perceive them; others may feel differently; however, these are my perceptions and thus my reality just as another who observed these events may have different perspectives. As Albus Dumbledore once said, “Of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?” Thus, this forum for expression reflects my reality as wells as of how I’ve managed certain important relationships.

I feel that promoting certain food items as “foods that heal” is propagandizing Mother Nature. Of course there are foods that heal; there are foods that inherently battle cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, and a plethora of other disorders all of the time. Rather than just eating naturally and healthy, I feel the majority of our society has become enslaved to trends. For example, at what point did it become sensible to obsess over kale and its many uses and properties versus just, you know, treating it like any other leafy green? Obviously, kale, spinach, endive, collards, arugula, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Swiss chard and any other green / green variant can “heal”.


Making Memories with Cereal & M&Ms

Of course, in addition to their nutritional value and ability to defend against physical ailments, I’ve found that, more importantly, food can act as a balm on emotional wounds, which is why comfort sweets are most often sought when people go through a breakup (not to be cliché) or when they get home from work and are tired (it’s no secret that Sean has an M&M jar that he beelines for when he gets home each day (though, he does usually have a small bowl of whole-grain cereal with Lillianne when he gets home, too, which is a little tradition that I find to be very charming). That said, while food can soothe emotional wounds, it can also trigger them.



Years ago, my dad got into a habit of buying a fresh pineapple for me at the grocery store when they were in season. I love fresh fruit and pineapple has always been a favorite; though, I found the gesture to be incredibly random because at the time, I was in my mid-20s; I was living on my own, and I hadn’t knowingly revealed that I really liked pineapple…dad just started buying them.

The routine of being gifted a pineapple whenever I saw my dad got to the point that I once half-joked to a friend that one day, when my dad wasn’t here, a breakdown in front of the pineapples at the grocery store was imminent. I say half-joked because I really did think that if something were to happen to my dad at that time, pineapples would’ve triggered an emotional crisis

This was at a point in my life where I would sometimes lay in bed and think about that inevitable time when my dad would only be alive in my memory, and I would cry for the 22 years spent living with someone I didn’t know…for the 22 years of time wasted not getting along.


Disciplinary Roots

Some have suggested that the reason dad and I didn’t get along is because we’re “so similar” (it’s a common misconception for many who don’t see eye-to-eye); however, that’s not why we didn’t get along. Truth be told, I had a craven desire to be a “daddy’s girl” and to feel approved of and emotionally validated by my dad as a child and young adult, and it took a long time for me to understand why our relationship was so full of static.

Dad was raised by two people who –by today’s standards—would be considered abusive parents. I love my dad’s biological parents, but they were both products of their hard life-circumstances and (I believe) often too self-involved to have better-prioritized their only son’s emotional well-being. Dad labored on the family farm at a very young age…he was capable of driving a tractor at age 5; even though he was an extremely well-behaved child, his parents were fast to blame him for any kind of disruption and even quicker to physically punish him. In addition to this hard-knock approach to child rearing, his parents never supported or nourished his individuality or talents throughout his childhood and young adulthood.

Thus, the product of their “parenting”, my dad, was a Red Foreman-type (That ‘70s Show). He was a hard, manly man who knew how to work hard. Period.

Children in dad’s world were to be seen and not heard. We did as we were told or we were yelled at…or spanked…or both. To this day, the sound of vacuum cleaners agitates me because I only remember being yelled at for the way I vacuumed and the arguments that ensued. We had an industrial-strength Kenmore; it could’ve sucked the wallpaper off of the walls (pity it didn’t). It left visible lines in the carpet; you could clearly see where you’d cleaned. This is the gist of an exchange as I remember it:

Dad: “Vacuum like this.” (Demonstrates uniform lines as one would mow the lawn)

Me: “Why? I can see where I vacuumed.” (Gestures to vacuum lines)

Dad: (annoyed) “Because I said so.”

Me: (genuinely curious) “But why is that better.”

Dad: (irate) “Don’t smart-mouth me. Just do as your told.”

Further “challenges to his authority” as he perceived them would merit a quickly-administered spanking (there weren’t second, third, and fifth chances or mere threats of spankings; if a spanking was promised, it was delivered without hesitation). The thing is, I wasn’t being a smart mouth; I was a really inquisitive kid; I truly wanted to understand why in the name of all things sacred it was vital to only vacuum a certain way. Was it better…did the floor get cleaner? Did it matter that it might have been more expedient if I didn’t necessarily care about being the fastest I could be? Of course, the answer was no. The floor wasn’t any cleaner nor did it matter if it was the fastest way, but it was what he wanted. Questioning that incited a reaction.

Once when I was in elementary school, I made the mistake of asking if our neighbor could stay for dinner in front of her. We’d been advised to not do that. We understood there wasn’t always enough food for a guest and that it was impolite to ask in front of the guest lest the answer need to be no. In my childish exuberance, I brashly asked if our neighbor, K, could stay for dinner in front of her. And dad punished me in front of her. I tried to run, but he grabbed me; I tried to get away, but this made it much worse. I ended up in the air, suspended by my ankle, being spanked and humiliated in front of my friend who consequently remembered the incident (and reminded me of it) at our 8th grade “graduation”.

Despite this southern-fried style discipline, I want to assert that Dad wasn’t cruel or abusive. He never berated or insulted us; he didn’t not love us; he was who he was… a product of his ignorant parents’ emotionless and harsh “parenting” methodology.  Again, while I love both of my grandparents for reasons that are very detached from who they were as parents, I realize that it was their fault that Dad was the way he was during my formative years; it was their selfish preoccupations with their addictions and with their dysfunctional marriage above being loving and supportive parents to the person they were designated to protect.

This actualization alone made it possible for me to forgive my dad for “wanting to break” my inquisitive, left-handed creative, expressionistic spirit for the entirety of my life under his roof. (While I can’t remember the context of the argument, he did once say verbatim that he ‘tried to break me’, I assume like you would a horse; oddly, I’m very proud of this because as a woman, if your own dad can’t break you, it’s a certainty no one else can.)


A Relationship Re-Rooted

Dad and I hit a wall in my mid-20s, and between my ability to look past the past and the fact that I was maturing as a human being, we were able to form an actual relationship. Today I see my dad as calmer. I’ve gotten to know him as a wise, reserved, and reflective individual. He’s a really good person who is highly intelligent and who has overcome a lot (more than I realized or have communicated here); I understand him a lot more and find it very easy to love him and to advocate for him. I can also understand why he had a lot of anger and frustration for so many years.

Admittedly, I wish this version of my dad was the version I had known as a child. I didn’t need the McGoo namby-pamby, pleated-khakis, feel-good heartfelt emotional lessons with the sappy music Danny Tanner dad (shudder) ; heck, even though I was a Clarissa in a Babysitter’s Club world, I didn’t even need (or want) an artsy Marshall Darling dad.

What I needed and wanted was a dad who wanted to spend real time with me. Perhaps, if our relationship hadn’t been tainted with perpetual discipline and resentment, I would’ve cultivated some of our similar interests sooner. Perhaps I would have learned how to discern weeds, to plant a garden, and to work in a flowerbed sooner. I love gardening; my dad is an excellent and skilled gardener who always has beautiful lawns and flowerbeds that look professionally landscaped. I could’ve also learned about some of the mistakes he made before I also made them…and maybe I could’ve avoided them all together (maybe not, but there’s no way to know).


Surviving the Winter

Alas, none of that happened, and dwelling on it and wishing it did is frivolous. Holding onto it is also silly because it threatens any new growth we’ve cultivated.

A (now former) student who, one year ago this January, lost his 21 year-old daughter to illness made all of this even more poignant; the only time he had with his daughter was roughly the exact amount of time dad and I wasted. I couldn’t help but wonder, What if that had been us? And then I was just thankful that it wasn’t.

My student has a son in his mid-20s who suffers a similar illness to his daughter. Before acknowledging what’s kept us going after losing Jude, I thought, “Why waste your time with school when what’s important is so obvious?” However, I quickly remembered that we keep going because that’s what we do. We keep going because when our only options are to lie down and to die or to keep moving forward, we just keep going…harder and stronger. We don’t let the things that try to break us break us.

That’s what this man (my student) did. That’s what Sean and I did after we lost our beautiful Jude. That’s what dad and I did after we didn’t get the first 25 years right.


The Grapefruit Tree

I started reflecting on all of this (foods that heal, grapefruits, pineapples, and my relationship with my dad) on Dec. 26, 2015 when I ate the first grapefruit I’d had that year from my dad’s tree. Often prolific, the tree produced only a handful of the nourishing fruit because it sustained a lot of damage during last year’s hard and harsh freezes. For me, my dad’s grapefruits are not only most delicious, but they also hold powerful emotionally soothing properties for me.

When Jude died, when we were at the hospital, in addition to his tears of grief for his only grandson and emotional support for Sean and me, Dad brought a bag of grapefruit, and I sustained on nothing but the fruit for least a week. Though other food was brought for me to eat while I numbly “recovered” in the hospital, it usually ended up uneaten either because a sympathetic visitor would arrive and it would be cold by the time they were gone; or because I was sleeping when it arrived, and it was unappetizing by the time I woke up.

Instead, the only activity that I could manage in my shattered state that held any peace was the satisfying labor of pulling away the grapefruit’s skin, then peeling away thick layers of pith before pulling the fruit apart and quietly eating the pieces at my leisure. Nothing spoiled. It was never cold or unappetizing; it was, in fact, the only thing that had any flavor to me.

A year later, it was very important for me to have a grapefruit from my dad’s tree. I had a total of six this growing season. As I said, it was a hard year for the grapefruit tree; it had such a brutal winter last year…it was lucky to have survived, but it had a strong foundation and was well established. And, like the people its fruit nourishes in every sense of the word, it kept moving forward when confronted by the option to give up; it, like me and like my dad, refused to be broken when life’s winters were harsh.

Hey Jude…Thinking of You

Hey, Jude.

Today is the six-month anniversary of the day you left us.  In fact, right now, exactly six months ago, I was in surgery, and we were holding out with our last ounce of hope for a miracle.  I’ve thought about you all day today.  I thought about how you looked.  I thought about how we lost you.  I started writing about the “what happened,” which I want to share with the other families soon.

This was nice…I liked remembering how excited I was to find out about you and then to tell your daddy.

I liked remembering when we found out you were a little boy; I cried a little thinking about that sweet, beautiful moment.

I sat still while I remembered how much you liked to kick.  Oh, you little rascal.  You were so busy in there. I miss your flutters.

I regretted not knowing something was wrong sooner, and I wondered –as I will wonder for the rest of my life– if there was something (anything) I could do to have saved you.

I truly believe that losing you was something that God wanted and that perhaps there was really nothing that would have made a difference; however, I believe that God is deliberate and purposeful, so I do think that there was a medical explanation for your sudden passing as well.  I still struggle with wanting and not wanting answers.

Part of me wants to know so if it can be prevented for the future “rainbow” baby, then we can do something.  On the other hand, even if we knew and there was nothing we could have done, what’s the point in knowing other than having knowledge (which is generally good)?

Speaking of rainbows, I wanted to tell you that as far as I’m concerned, you’re also my rainbow.  I say so because you’re as bright and beautiful as a rainbow.  You bring a smile to my heart all of the time.  You’re so wonderful.  You give me this strength that I never knew I had…I have more faith, and I don’t worry about little things.  I’m more easy going.  I’m more confident.  Losing you made me grow up completely.  Yes, I was already an adult and a responsible one, but losing you lifted the veil and stripped away any remaining vestiges of childish fear that I once held regarding life, other people, dreams, the universe, fear in general, the unknown.  You liberated me, darling, which is why you’re so very much my rainbow baby.  My only qualm is that I wish I could give something to you…do something for you.

The only thing I can do for you is love you endlessly and try every day to be a better more loving and more tolerant person.  I still cannot look at other baby bumps, and sometimes, other peoples babies hurt me because they make me miss you.  I wonder what you’d be like.  I miss the things I won’t get to see you do, and I feel a bit guilty for saying that I look forward more to seeing your smiling face and running into your little arms and holding you and kissing you than any other when I go to heaven one day.

I love you, sweetheart.  You’ll always be my baby boy.  You’ll always be my first son.  When you have younger siblings, you’ll always be my perfect middle child.  You’ll always be part of our family; you’ll always be special, so special.  I pray that you sometimes visit Lillianne’s dreams and that when you feel like it, you visit Mommy and Daddy’s dreams.  I know we would love to dream about you, honey.

It’s been six months, and in another six months, it will be one year.  Time flies when your heart is aching and you wish you could rewind the clock, I guess.

If Heaven Had Visiting Hours

Recently, within the past three months, someone posted on Facebook a meme that reflected the desire for heaven to have visiting hours. As time trudges onward past December 26 (how is it that tomorrow will be three months since we lost you?), I find myself wishing more and more than heaven indeed had visiting hours.


If heaven had visiting hours, I think I would explode with joy. I don’t think I would be able to withstand the thrill of the ride to heaven. I would have to go alone that first trip without your father or Lillianne because though I have other loves in heaven (Memaw and PaPa), you would be all I could see to see. Even in heaven, I wouldn’t have the capacity to be selfless enough to share you (after all, I’m still a sinful human).


I would run harder than I’ve ever run in my life when I saw you. I would catch you in my arms and hug you so close. I would hold you and kiss the top of your head. You would be a little boy, not much older than Lillianne is now. At a year and a half, you would still have your babyish features, but you would look like you, and you would be you…an exuberant toddler glimpsing at the child and the man you would become.


You would have your father’s warm, brown eyes; they would be pools of dark chocolate (which, as you know, your sister is obsessed with). You would have his dark hair –it may even be black. You would be energetic and lively (as your behavior in my womb would indicate). I like to think that you would love to sing and that you wouldn’t be embarrassed by my bad singing.


I would like to think that when I could stop hugging you, and when I could look at you, and when I could speak, we would sing, “You Are My Sunshine.” Except, I would mean it to say son shine, because you’re my shining son. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’ve sang that to you before. I would ask you that, though, given your age, I wouldn’t expect you to really understand what I meant. I would like to think you would hug me when I asked if you heard me singing to you in heaven.


I suppose after I got myself together, I would lift you onto my hip and kiss you cheek, and we would go say hello to other family in heaven. I would make sure you were well cared for. You deserve your mother’s hugs and kisses every day; all babies deserve their mother’s love. Even in heaven, you shouldn’t be without us. I would tell you how much your daddy and Lillianne loved you and couldn’t wait to hug you.


Oh, Jude. If you ever got to meet your sister on Earth, you couldn’t ask for a better protector. She always shares her toys, and she loves to give hugs and kisses. She hugs the baby that would have been your friend, Cate, all of the time, and Cate loves it. She passes around toys during story hour, and she is quick to laugh. On the playground, she fears nothing. I know if you were here now like my God you should be, you would be watching her, little one and half month old, itching to move, and she would be more than ready to show you the ropes when you were ready.


Oh, my son. I know you should be in heaven because that’s what God chose for you, but it doesn’t help much sometimes when I miss you so much, and when I see how much love your sister has to give. When I know how much your father misses “his boy.”


You will show me the splendor of our maker’s kingdom, which I believe is more like a feeling than something we can conceivably see. I think that perhaps more than it looks like the sun rising over a dew kissed Swiss meadow, heaven gives us the feeling of such…where anything is possible. It will feel like a basket of kittens, a crackling fire, or a wave of warm seawater all at the same time. I imagine ever glorious emotion will meld itself into one in heaven, and it will be truly amazing. I won’t want to go home.


I will promise you that even though on Earth, you father and I seem okay to the outsider’s perspective, we are broken on the inside. Our depression lacks convention in terms of what most people understand, but it’s real, so very real. Moving onward is like walking on spiked ground. I suffer inside; my work suffers. You father suffers inside. Our minds and bodies suffer for longing for you.   I don’t want you to feel guilty or saddened by this as your ascension was nothing we could control….I just want you to know that outward appearances are only just that, which I feel is probably true for most people.


When it comes time to depart, as we must as visiting hours are what they are, I will hug you the same as when I saw you. I will hug you closely and kiss you on the cheeks and the mouth and the neck and the shoulders and then the cheeks and mouth again. I will press you into my embrace so tightly that I think if you were on Earth, I might break you. I’m pressing the memory of your little body into me because I want to remember you and feel you everyday.


I’m not afraid to be happy nor am I afraid to forget you, but I am afraid to lose the tingle of your touch and the feel of your little body held tightly and –if only for a moment—protected in my arms.


I would leave heaven, my heart heaving with a gaping, open wound. You live so far away from me, and it will –most likely—be so very long before I can come live with you (and that’s only if I’m good enough, which I try to be). It would feel like the day I lost you all over again. I would feel like I was gashed open and left to die for pain and misery because that’s how Earth is. Where you are, darling, there’s none of that.


I think that’s why heaven doesn’t have visiting hours. Discovering the bliss of where you are would make returning to Earth –despite its occasional strong points, completely and utterly grey. You have all of the colors, darling, and I’m happy for that because if you cannot have mommy and daddy and Lillianne’s hugs and kisses ever day, at least you have the Son, my son.