I'm Sorry

I am told that perhaps my post below was too harsh.  Perhaps it was.  I am sorry about that.  I think that the comment made on the blog is probably true.  Perhaps people don't feel comfortable to express themselves so it is easier to tell me the empathetic things that their children say. I know that I can be just as insensitive as the next person.  I actually don't expect people to know that the things that they say hurt me.  People are often surprised by what hurts me.  I am often surprised by what hurts me.  Perhaps it is because I suffered the grief of not knowing if I would meet the right person, get to have children, have my own family...that I feel so hurt by those people who had it all way before me still having it while I don't.  I am jealous.  Crazy jealous.  And, I can't figure out what you did right that I did wrong.  You should be proud of your family and the wonderful, emotionally intelligent children that you have.  I would be proud if they were mine.

Your adorable children

You know I love your children.  Many of you started having them years ago and I loved them right away!  I have played with them, babysat them, brought presents to them, and driven miles over the years to see them (I mean you ;)).  I have been to their baby showers and birthday parties.  You know that I love them, but taking this break from them over the last nine months has been very important to me.  Please know that I don't love them any less.

Thank you for understanding.  Thank you for telling me about your baby shower or child's birthday party instead of just sending the invitation (I bought you the present anyway...of course....I am not a monster!).  I know you didn't want to leave me out and weren't sure what to do.  It was compassionate to ask.  I opened an invitation recently and it took my breath away.  I know it was sent because the sender loves me and didn't want to "leave me out" but, please know - I am ok with being left out.  I have been purposely leaving myself out for months.  Thank you for compassionately leaving us off of your Christmas card list.  It was a relief not getting reminders of the joyous season.  We did get one set of hand drawn pictures from some cousins, which I had to immediately throw away.  Sorry!  It was too much - scrawly drawings of Maxie as an angel and Ted and I standing sadly (I think even with tears) underneath.  Oh my goodness - totally way more terrible than a photo of the family would have been.  Thank you for not talking about how cute your kids are or all of the wonderful things they are saying.  Believe me - I KNOW how hard it is to resist.  Thank you for keeping your worries about their sniffly noses and 24 hour flus out of our conversation.  You must know that I envy even the poopy diapers and the late nights with no sleep.

I know that many of you have children who know about our losing Maxie.  I know how impossible it is to explain to a child why a baby died.  Heck, I don't understand at all how I actually live in a world where babies die....where MY baby died.  It shouldn't be this way.  I know your kids say "the darnedest things" about Maxie being in heaven and Maxie being an angel and so much more.  I know you love to share with me how cute it is that your living child said something about our baby who died.  It guts me.  Unless your child "sees dead people" ala "The Sixth Sense" (because I even like toddler medium/psychics) - I don't really want to know about it at this time.  I might in the future because I truly believe children are more empathetic than adults.  There is a sense of loss they feel around Maxie's passing that most adults are too guarded to feel.  Sometimes what you are telling me is less cute and more poignant - as in the case of a story my fellow SIDS mommy friend, Katie, told me about her daughter kissing Maxie's photo on the computer screen.  Her daughter lost a little brother and so she is in the same boat with us - grieving.  Poor baby!  Somehow her story was comforting and not painful.  Beth told me something profound that Sadie said, right after I found out I was pregnant with Baby M.  Sadie, without even knowing I was pregnant, said something like "Auntie Abby is gonna have another baby soon and then she won't be so sad".  It felt like Maxie had whispered it into her ear while she was sleeping.  Sadie and Max had a beautiful relationship so - I'll take it!  Sadie loved Max!  Also touching was my niece Mandy, who after Maxie's passing, cried for weeks and wanted to visit him at the cemetery all of the time.  Talk about heart breaking.  But, to know that Mandy loved Max so deeply touched my soul.  She was able to express a love and longing for Maxie that nearly no adult member of our family has been able to do.  I am very happy that Maxie was so loved by his cousins.  It is one of the many blessings of his very short life.

Most of the time, the super cute stuff your kid says about my kid's death is shocking to me, even if I smile and say, "oh, that's hard" or "I'm sorry.  That sounds tough to explain".  I am just being nice.  What I am really thinking is "Holy Sh**!  Make it stop.  Make it stop."  It is SO painful.  It was shocking to see the scribble of a little child's signature in Maxie's funeral guest book and it is shocking to hear the stories of your kids trying to make sense out of Maxie's death.  I am sorry for the lessons you have had to teach your child so early, I am sorry for the lessons I have had to learn, but please try to leave me out of it.  One woman I know has been trying to compare her grief to mine since Maxie stopped breathing by talking about how hard it is to explain Maxie's death to her son.  I know her son misses Max but I bet I miss Max more.  It is too painful for me to listen to and I know this woman cannot expect my sympathy (but she does).  I have to be the insensitive one again and say that I think you will figure it out.  Whatever you say will be just fine.  Having to explain death to your child is hard, I am sure, but having to lose your child to death is one thousand times HARDER - I promise.

And one other thing (and enough of people have said it to me at this point that I think it is safe to say that I am not pointing my finger at anyone in particular) - not having met the right person to have children with and being sad about not knowing what the future holds is indeed a grief.  I have had it myself.  You wonder if having a family is in the cards for you, when you have imagined your whole life that OF COURSE it would be.  Not having had that opportunity yet is not the same as watching your child die and not having him/her here anymore -just as feeling lonely when I was single was not the same grief as the grief of someone who had lost a husband.  Death and extreme disappointment are not the same.  I can relate to your grief because I am a human being but it is not a comparable experience.  So, you can tell me about it but don't tell me about it in the context of your relating to my loss.  It is just one more thing that isn't at all the same.

I know I have so many rules.  My life is out of control and I am just trying to give a different perspective to you and also trying protect my husband and I from some of the stuff that has been the most hurtful.  I know it feels like there is so much that is off limits.  I guess there is just a never ending stream of hurtful things one can say and do to a bereaved parent.  Lucky for us, most of the people who just can't follow what their heart says is appropriate have fallen by the side of the road anyway.  Most of the people left in our lives are people who are intuitive enough to know how to be sensitive with our grief (and to treat us like human beings who have lost the most important thing in our whole lives).  Mostly, we are surrounded (not physically but emotionally) by people who are very sensitive. Still, this particular issue of your children keeps slipping through the cracks.  I am not mad at anyone for saying the wrong thing or inappropriately bringing your child around us unnecessarily.  Maybe you really didn't know that it would hurt us until I just told you. Consider yourself informed.  We probably should have put a stop to it long ago but didn't.  Even the most sensitive friends tell me about how cute it is that their living kid is talking about my non-living kid.  Honestly, it isn't that much different than you telling me how you hug your kid a little tighter.  It is all pieces of that part of you that want to show me what you have and I don't.  Trust me, I am fully aware.  Part of me agrees that it is sweet but my heart cannot take it anymore.  It just can't.  Pretty soon, we will have a new baby boy and, as selfish as it sounds, I think it may not be until then that we are able to welcome back all of the little people we love into our lives again.  I think Baby M will help soften the blow.  Even then however, we will want you to be sensitive.  Thank you, as always, for understanding.

A Mother's Love

I know my obsession with mediums and life after death has got to seem to many like pure craziness.  Like I have lost my mind to a certain extent.  Perhaps I have.  I have definitely lost my heart.  My heart, which became so full when little Maxie got here, was stepped on and squashed and spit on.  Like it was nothing.  And, for a long time, I thought about joining Max.  I still cannot wait to be with him again.  But I am here and he is "there"...wherever that may be.

And, for some parents, that is enough.  Either they "know" there is nothing else and they are working to come to grips with never, ever seeing their child again.  Or, they "know" that their god saves, and therefore they will be reunited in his heavenly kingdom.  Or, they just "know" like Ted and I do, that there is something else...but we don't know what it is.  Ted has more faith than I do, believe it or not.  He is not a skeptic in the slightest.  He just "knows" that we will be with Max again.  I envy him.  He doesn't need to search.  He just needs to wait until the time has come and he is reunited with his baby boy.  I am pretty sure he is right and that time will come, but I don't have the patience to wait.  And, again, though I wish it weren't true, I am skeptical.  I worry that when you are dead, you are dead.  Painful.

Still, I knew with absolute certainty when Max was about four months old that I had known him always.  Not just because I loved him deeply, but because I could feel the very essence of who he was deep in the fiber of my being.  It's inexplicable.  Some people tell me all parents feel this way.  Other people tell me that they didn't feel like that with their children.  I've never felt anything like it before but it went way beyond the boundaries of what I knew of relationships, family and love.  It went way beyond what I knew to be true of the world we live in and how I have always made sense of it.  I felt our connectedness on a spiritual level that was so much bigger than anything I have words for.  Experiencing that deep connection leads me to believe that there is more than I can understand in this world.  Not sure why.  It is this that has led me on a search to find my boy.  If it takes the rest of my lifetime, I will find him again.  I would cross the moon and the stars and the whole entirety of the universe to be with Max again.  And, once I get him back, I will cling to him with all that I am.  (My friend Eowyn just bought us the book "Wherever you go, my love will find you" - I WILL find him.  I am totally devoted to him for eternity).

So, I have just given in, knowing that I will be visiting mediums and gurus and past life regressionists and after death communicators and ANYONE at all who can give me some peace.  I have been warned to tread lightly.  This can be an addiction like gambling in some ways - addicted to the good feelings that come from an accurate reading...saddened by the feelings that come from a bad one....and then more determined than ever to connect again.  Eventually I may be draped in crystals and smell like the heavy scent of lavender or patchouli oil.  My nieces might think of me as their "Crazy Aunt Abby".  I might start talking about astral visits and astrological signs.  I will try to temper it with some good old self deprecation and irony to make it an easier pill for you all to swallow.  And - I promise to keep shaving.  Have I gone crazy?  For sure.  Do I care?  Not at all.  Nothing matters more to me than my baby and I will search for him for as long as it takes until I either find him here on earth or I finally get to where he is.  That is a mother's love.

*** On a related side note.  In addition to the beautiful quilt we received from Emalee on Thursday, I also received something in the mail that I believe was a sign from Maxie saying "I DO want to talk to you Mommy!  I love you!  Thank you for trying so hard to be with me again.  I am trying to connect to you as much as you are trying to connect to me!  We will find each other Mommy!"  I have chosen to believe this....that Max wants me as much as I want him.  I know we will find each other and I am committed to continuing my search for him until that happens.  I love you Max with all that I am and I will never, ever give up.

The final stretch

I am very protective of this pregnancy and Baby M.  You can't imagine how conflicted I feel talking about him.  My heart is so wrapped up in him already.  I am so attached.  But, I don't really want to talk about it with you.  I have been so alone in my grief since losing Max that I don't want to let anyone in (except here) and when I do let people in, I sometimes regret it, as I have mentioned.  They are insensitive or like to "Pollyanna" the whole conversation.  I don't want Baby M to be a tool in anyone's grief minimizing ways.  I don't want Baby M to be what you use to get yourself off the hook.  I am not having him to make you more comfortable (I know you are smart enough to know that but still.....) He is my world.  He, like his brother before him, is the most important thing in my life and I can barely stand the people who don't grieve with me over Max, fawning all over the idea of Baby M coming.  It's so awkward when people talk about Baby M and don't mention Max.  Honestly, I feel awkward for them.  Again, one of those things that may not make sense to an outsider, but is how I feel.  As I have mentioned, it takes a lot of "letting go" and deep breathing for me to even picture Baby M living a long and healthy life (that is rightfully his!), so the way that idea comes so easy to everyone else sometimes feels like a slap in my face...after all, I am the Mommy.  All I want in the whole world is for Baby M to be safe and for Ted and I to experience the joy of parenting him until our last days here on earth.  I could go on and on but suffice it to say, it's complicated.

My friend Greg emailed me the other day to say he thought I should address Baby M's arrival on my blog ("not that you are taking requests for content, like a radio show or something", he said).  But, he felt confused and imagined others might also.  Is he allowed to be excited about Baby M?  Can he buy Baby M presents and take his picture?  Will I want people to visit Baby M and hold him and stuff?  Good questions.  Not sure I have the answers for all of these things but it is time to address them because yesterday marked the first day of my third trimester.  The next three months will fly by (for everyone but me....more on that later).  First of all, we are very excited about Baby M.  We love him.  He is a dream come true.  Truly.  So, yes, celebrate him!  Can you buy him presents?  Sure...but maybe wait just a little longer.  I am scared.  PLEASE take his picture (and in fact, I keep writing this, but if you have ANY photos of Max you haven't shared with us...please do!  They would be the best gift of all).  Take his picture, take video, and SHARE THEM!  I kick myself everyday that I don't have more photos of Max.

Please be excited for us about Baby M but try to keep it in your mind that Baby M's arrival doesn't cancel out our missing Max.  It doesn't.  Upon hearing the news of my pregnancy, more than one person said, "See?  I told you everything would be ok."  Ugh.  I don't think I really need to reiterate that it still isn't "ok".  Never will be.  Please remember that Baby M is due the week after we will be commemorating the one year anniversary of our losing Max.  Please find it in your heart to acknowledge that.  I imagine that it will be a very tough time for us, even though Baby M's arrival will coincide.  I have a hard time every day knowing that I while I am counting down the days until he gets here, the same clock is running toward the anniversary of our worst days (July 19-21).  It is a blessing and a curse.  I am not sure how up for visitors we will be, but Baby M will be a little Jewish boy and he will have a bris just like his brother did.  We hope our friends and family will come to the bris and at least get to meet him there.  I am not sure if I will feel comfortable passing him around like I did with Maxie at his bris.  I am already overprotective of him.  That's probably how it will be for a while.  I imagine that my back will hurt even more after Baby M gets here.  I'll have to really utilize my baby carriers often and correctly.

The next three months feel like an eternity.  I have to believe that when Baby M gets here, life will be better than it is now.  Although I am working, I am at home alone and the days go by so slowly.  I take breaks often because I am too sad to concentrate.  I spend all day counting down the hours until Ted gets home and all week counting down the days until the weekend because the time goes a little quicker when Ted is around.  Sometimes we find out at the last minute that Ted has to work over the weekend (like today).  All of a sudden, I am home alone for another whole day.  Coming up with a plan to make the day go by is overwhelming.  I could work (doesn't make the day go by quicker).  I could watch tv (makes the day go slower in most cases).  I could leave my house (to go where?  Plus, there are babies everywhere).  I can go to the gym (I try to go throughout the week but I can't really walk on the treadmill for more than 40 minutes or so before the round ligament pain starts to be too much).  I don't feel comfortable going to a prenatal yoga class, which makes me sad.  I SO looked forward to my prenatal class with Max each week (I don't want any moms asking me the dreaded questions - is it my first?  Oh, it isn't, do you have a boy or a girl?  How old is he?  I don't need to feel worse or scare the daylights out of any other pregnant moms).  I can go get a $25 foot massage (that only takes up an hour and I just did it yesterday).  Honestly, I need a new hobby or something.  I tried knitting - it didn't stick.  I feel a biological NEED to "nest" but I can't.  Nesting would mean going into Maxie's room and getting it ready for Baby M.  The thought is suffocating.  I am not ready to start buying him anything or going through Maxie's clothes or going through Maxie's things.  I can't read about the latest breastfeeding pillows or other cool gear or go to a Baby's R Us to buy any of it.  Ignoring this biological urge to prepare for a baby is super painful.  I spent the entire second half of my pregnancy with Max getting stuff together - putting together a registry, looking for a crib, reading baby books.  This time all I've bought the baby is a Snuza breathing monitor that will attach to his diaper so that an alarm will go off if he ever stops breathing for more than 15 seconds.  I am looking for a new hobby - a way to kill time - something, anything to help me pass the next three months quicker than I have passed the last nine.  Please!  I am taking any and all suggestions.

While I am on the topic of suggestions - I am looking for a few more:
1) I am getting a Maxie tattoo.  Ideally, I want to get it before Baby M gets here.  I am hoping to find a tattoo artist who can help me design my vision because I can't find anything online and I am not artistic myself.  Anyone know a local (LA area) talented tattoo artist?
2) I am looking for new recipes because I make the same 7 things over and over again and we need something new in our rotation.  Quick and Easy recipes preferred!
3) Please suggest something great for us to watch on television.  Ted still watches "Game of Thrones" which I had to stop immediately when a lady was ordered to turn over her baby on some episode a few weeks ago.  It is too dark for me.  The Bachelorette is coming in a few weeks.  You KNOW I am excited about that!  We are watching "Sons of Anarchy" and "Arrested Development" on Netflix. Still watching Parks and Recreation, The Office, and Modern Family.  You'd think that would be enough.  It isn't.  Help us out!

Thanks.  If you still have questions, I have answers (probably).  Let me know.

Divine Timing

Sometimes, when it feels like there are no more miracles, when life has lost all meaning, and when you are all alone in a big menacing world - someone sends you a sign that there is still beauty out there. It has happened to me many times over the last nine months.  I connect to someone who understands me and who I understand as well.  A beautiful evening comes together and we are shown just how much the people in our lives care.  A group of strangers hold you in their hearts and prayers and shower you with love, attention and gifts.  Friends, family, friends of friends and people you don't even know, help to honor the memory of your truest love.  The promise of a new life comes along, encouraging hope, courage and new joy.

Yesterday a small gift came from a stranger at exactly the right moment.  It actually felt like Maxie's spirit had inspired this lovely angel to send us some love just at a time when I felt like I had lost all of my hope.  I won't explain the details of the day (or rather, week).  I have been in the deepest, darkest pit of grief for the last week or so for various reasons.  I just haven't been able to imagine the sun light coming through and ever touching my heart again.  Probably coming home from Cancun and then again from the sacred bubble of my Arizona conference experience had something to do with it.  But, yesterday afternoon I left the house for a few hours and when I returned, feeling broken, there was a package on the doorstep.  It came from a blog reader of mine.  A woman named Emalee in Utah, who I have never met.  She quilted a little blanket for Baby M.  Oh my goodness!  I just love it.  I can see how much love went into the stitching.  I hope she doesn't mind my sharing the card.  It is just beautiful.

Dear Abby and Ted,
I hope you enjoy the blanket.  It is a little crooked, as it is my first attempt on my own.  Hopefully Baby M does not notice.
I chose to include stars in your blanket because of a book I've been reading lately.  One of the characters calls the love of her life her "moon and stars".
Because Maxie loved Goodnight Moon and had "eyes as big as moonpies", I thought he could be the moon and Baby M the stars.
I also included stars because they punctuate the darkness, but do not change that it is night.  They just provide some direction, hope or safety.  I believe you when you say it is dark.
I hope Baby M can provide some light in that darkness just like the stars.
I hope you like the gift, and that if anything, it lets you know that  people care about you.  Even those you've never met.
Love, Michael, Emalee and Sam

Here is it, on the glider Ted bought me for Mother's Day last year.  
Little Jakey is chillin' right behind it.

Just beautiful!  Right?  I am kvelling (google it).  There have been so many moments like this.  Just hearing from friends and family and strangers on my blog, by email, through phone calls, texts and occasional visits - I know that we are not alone.  We are surrounded by love, even if sometimes I have such heavy blinders on that I cannot see it.  Thank you Emalee, for reminding me how beautiful this world can sometimes be.  I have needed it so much.


Sunday evening, Ted and I were invited to his cousin's house for dinner.  They live in the hills of Tarzana.  It was a beautiful evening.  They have a lovely home with a spectacular view.  We really enjoyed connecting to and spending time with them.  We talked a lot about our children....their Liora and our Max.  There was so much that they went through that we could relate to.  All of the stuff you've already heard about: the insensitive comments, the feelings of isolation, the need to shut off from the rest of the world, the inability to work and be social.  Miriam's least favorite comment is also one of mine: "You are so strong, I could never do what you are doing".  Like we have a choice.  They said it took them about three years to find their footing again.

What was really nice to see is that they are happy today.  Of course they miss their daughter and she is in everything they do.  But, they are happy.  They travel, spend time with their other daughter and their grandchildren.  They have friends.  Not that this should be surprising, but in a way it is.  I know that people eventually figure out a way to live without their children who've passed but it doesn't seem possible from the place that I am in now.  I am still in the darkness.  I feel like so much of a tortured soul, I can't imagine ever pulling out of this pit.  It is so deep.

They put together a very nice slide show of their recent visit to Israel.  We loved what a wonderful tribute Liora's Forest is to her life and how much peace it has brought to them.  Liora's forest is right outside of Tsfat, where she studied many years ago.  Tsfat is a beautiful and mystical city in Israel's northern region.  Jay and Miriam have made so many friends in Israel through the years through their connection to Liora and her forest - the forest ranger who was in charge of the site, Liora's homestay family, old friends of friends of Liora's from when she studied there and others.  They are treated like family by everyone.  They even attended a birthday party for the son of one of their ranger friends in the forest.  It is wonderful that Liora's Forest seems to get so much use.  Maxie won't have his own forest in the same way but we know that the Carmel forest as a whole will be well used. and it makes up happy to know that Maxie's trees will be scattered throughout.

On the way home, Ted and I were talking about our lives and where we are and where we might be one day.  I felt somewhat hopeful.  Then, suddenly, Ted got really really quiet.  He curled up in a ball in the front seat.  He stopped engaging in the conversation entirely.  "What's wrong baby?  Did you just get really overwhelmed?", I asked.  "Ya", he replied.  Then a few seconds later he added, "You didn't notice it on the way in either".  "What?", I asked.  "The hospital", he said.  We had just passed right by the exit on the freeway to the hospital where our Maxie died.  I didn't notice.  The air got heavy.  I suddenly felt suffocated (actually, I feel totally suffocated just writing about this).  The rest of the drive home was quiet.  The memory of Maxie lying in his hospital bed dying, killing every cell in my body.

Hope is a wonderful break from the reality of our lives.  Hope is what has the ability to pull us up out of the pit for moments of fresh air.  Hope is out there somewhere - we have to believe it.  Unfortunately, right now, reality is still so much larger than our hope and I imagine that it how is will be for some time.


I am not strong.  I am not brave.

Just as you could never go through what I am going through, I cannot either.

It is killing me.

Living without my baby is worse than my worst nightmare.  There are no words.

If your baby died, you WOULD keep living.  The only other choice is suicide and you would probably not make that choice, though you would think about it.....a lot.

You would not choose it because you would not want everyone in your life to have to feel the pain of losing both your child AND you (even though you wonder whether they would really feel the same pain, since they don't seem to feel it for your child).

Just because I am still breathing, doesn't make me strong.  It doesn't make me brave.

I am no stronger than you.  I am just the unlucky one who lost her baby.

Please don't call me strong.  Please don't tell me you couldn't go through this.

It was not a choice I made.  I would give my whole life and so much more for Maxie to be able to live his.

I have no interest in showing you that I am strong.  I would rather be showing off my parenting skills.

I would rather be showing off my baby.

I am not strong.  I am not brave.  I am unlucky.

Those things are not the same.

How I am feeling - pregnancy wise

This is a conversation that I have regularly:  Someone will ask how I am feeling and I eagerly respond about how hard losing Max has been. How I just can't believe I am living in a world without him and how... This is where I usually get cut off.  "No", they say "I mean how are you feeling with your pregnancy?" Silly me.

 I feel pregnant. I can't imagine why that matters, but if you really want to know, I'll tell you (is this actually interesting to people?)
 My back hurts. I think I've made that clear.
 I'm tired.
 I am very large. Just entering my third trimester now, I am as large as I was halfway through it with Max.
I have bad acid reflux. I had it with Max too but not until the seventh or eighth month. I can't eat anything without feeling it in my esophagus later. (Poor Maxie. He had acid reflux and cried for days. My reflux makes ms think of his pain).
I can't find a comfortable position to sleep in. I've used all kinds of pillows. They aren't super helpful. Baby M kicks a lot, which I love.
My glucose test came back negative for gestational diabetes, so that's good news.
Is this the stuff people are really asking me about? Honestly, I'm having a relatively normal and easy pregnancy, like I did with Max.
I gotta be honest and tell you that sadly, I know a relatively normal pregnancy is no indication of my baby's future health and happiness.

I am not having an unusual pregnancy in any way OTHER than the fact that I am devastated.  There is nothing going on that most pregnant women don't complain about EXCEPT that this is a baby who is supposed to have a big brother and doesn't.
Our Baby M looks great and that would be a comfort IF his big brother didn't die and if we were weren't anxiously awaiting the "results" of our genetic testing (which probably won't tell us anything and we won't hear a word about until at least mid-May).

But maybe you are asking because it gives us something to talk about other than Maxie? 
If so, sorry I spoiled it by answering all of your questions here. 

This post isn't gonna be pretty

This may not be the appropriate time to say this, but I am going to say it anyway, because there will never be a good time.  And, as sweet as other blogging moms of children who have passed are - I know they are all thinking (or have thought) the same thing I am.  Plus, I am many things but I don't think anyone has ever described me as "sweet".  Maxie must have gotten his sweetness from his daddy.

There are many friends who I don't hear from - not even an email to say "We are thinking about you."  I know they think (or they are hoping) I haven't really noticed, but I have.  I know they are worried about saying the wrong thing (even though I have made it pretty easy, in my opinion, by actually telling people what to say throughout my blog for all of these months).  It has taken me a long time to get to the point where I am now.  I am no longer sad about having lost these friends.  I wouldn't want them now anyway, knowing what I know about them.  They must have written off our friendship not long after Max died, when they realized that it would be too challenging for them to support a friend going through something of this magnitude.  They don't have it in them to be real friends  It actually says so much about a person who doesn't want to feel uncomfortable for the 2 minutes it takes to write an email to me that says "I think about you and am so sad for your loss".  Listen up - the people I am talking about, for all of their good qualities, are not "friends".  They are people I once knew who shared a common interest with me at some point.  Their disinterest in our lives is especially glaring in light of the fact that so many people I don't know at all or who I know but have never been close to, HAVE sent me emails and comments to show their support.  I can't help but wonder to myself if these former friends will turn to me if/when they have a tragedy of their own in the future (because as much as they would like to believe it - they are not immune - nobody is).  Would I be there for them?  It would be easy to ignore their pain, the way they have ignored mine.  Ted tells me that I would be there for old friends.  I think Ted would like to continue seeing the good in me.  By the way, Ted WOULD be there for those people...even if those people were MY people.  He is a better person than I am.  He just is (as a side note, when Ted makes his list of what he would do with the money if/WHEN we won the lottery :), he includes giving money to every single friend we have had.....even the ones who we haven't heard a peep out of.  We will cross that bridge when we get to it).  Sadly, I am a bit of a grudge holder (if god's lesson in taking Max from us was to rid me of this particular trait, he/she failed).  I am unlikely to forget those who didn't reach out, just as I am unlikely to forget rude comments, things said to minimize our loss, the behavior of certain people at Maxie's funeral or shiva, and ALL of the insensitive stuff that I have experienced ever since this nightmare began.  These memories will be with me for a lifetime and are actually a part of my Post Traumatic Stress.  They are part of the dark landscape that sometimes takes over my brain and leaves me completely breathless and paralyzed.  When I think about the part these people have played since Max's death, I realize how completely devoid of compassion so many people in this world really are.  Having worked in non-profits most of my adult life...I already knew that I guess.  So few people step up to take on doing good in the world compared to the many who just let others worry about it.  Part of all this though is the sad recognition that people I once cared about, don't care about us at all.  I make no apologies for how I feel (just as you don't).  This is who I am.  And, if you think what I have written here is even half as hurtful as your abandoning us when we needed you most or any of the other insensitive things you did to show us how little our loss means to you, you don't have a clue. (I promise to follow up with a post about the people we are grateful for because they are many of them and they continue to astound us with their kindness to this day)

Got caught crying

I often get caught crying in public.  It is impossible for me to avoid because I am sad all of the time.  I get caught most weekends by our breakfast waitress when she sneaks up on us to see how we are doing.  I try to avoid eye contact but I can't decide which is weirder...for me to look down while she is trying to meet my eyes or to look her dead on with tears welled up inside of them.  I get caught in the supermarket all of the time.  Other shoppers see me crying in the aisles, the folks bagging my groceries catch me while I am standing to the side of my husband, grateful that we are almost out of there.  I get caught crying in my car.  I got caught often all over our beautiful Cancun resort.  There is no way around it.  I can't stop crying and "they" keep catching me.  I hate getting caught because I imagine what they think I am crying about....because I have been caught in my lifetime crying for much less than losing Max.  I am so embarrassed that I ever cried before.

Ted and I used to frequent a sushi place in our old neighborhood.  The waitress there had a crush on Ted.  One night, after too much sake, Ted and I had an emotional conversation about where our relationship was going.  I started crying.  She approached our table repeatedly during this five minute cry to see if we wanted another drink, more water, a hot towel.  It was pretty embarrassing.  I didn't want to go back there for a while and we didn't.  When we finally did, the first thing she did was look me in the eyes and say "You have not been here in a long time.  Remember you were crying last time?".  Ya, I remember lady.  Thanks.  I am sure she knew Ted and I were in the middle of something "heavy"....doesn't seem so heavy now.  Nothing really does.

When people see me crying these days, they probably think Ted and I are fighting.  They likely assume that my hormones are out of control because I am pregnant.  If I am alone, they might think I am having boyfriend or marital problems.  I am certain that they aren't wondering if my child didn't die recently.  I am sure that even if they knew it was nine months ago, they would wonder why I am STILL crying.  Ick.  I really hate having to live in this world....this stupid Wal Mart, overly smiley, everyone's gotta be happy culture.  Not that the opposite is useful either.  When Ted and I were on our way home from NY in November, the TSA agent at the security check confronted me, "Why are YOU crying?", he asked (it wasn't in a warm and fuzzy way).  "My son died", I choked through my tears.  He had no response. I sure shut him up!  A-hole!

The truth is, I am still working hard to just get through each moment of each hour of each day.  While my tolerance to my own pain has built up quite a bit since losing Max, the pain is still just as terrible.  The purposelessness of my "new normal" is glaring.  Without those cheeks to kiss, those thighs to squeeze, that smile to light up my life...I have very little to keep me interested in the world around me.  You see, to you, Max was "just a baby".  To me, Max was everything - my reason for getting up, my reason for smiling, my reason for rushing home from work, my whole entire future.  And, I love HIM...not just because he was my baby, but because he was uniquely Max. I still wake up every morning and can't believe that he is gone.  And while I know Baby M is coming, I cannot picture happiness in our lives again and anyway, Baby M is not Max.  I have no doubt that he will bring joy but I can't imagine it all, no matter how hard I try.  Also, it will be the joy of raising this new beautiful child in a world where his brother SHOULD be.  Then there is this other thing - when I see other people with children, I cannot picture us having children that are school aged.  It's not that I don't believe it will happen (though part of me doesn't).  I just can't picture it.  I know what you are thinking - and I understand that nobody can picture what their lives will look like before their children get here (people love to point out how what I feel is just like what other parents who haven't lost a child feel like.....it isn't.).  But, this is different.  I know what it is like to have my child's future cut short.  I know what it feels like to have my whole world crash in my face.  I don't know what it is like to have a child that lives.

Life feels so heavy.  The pain is just unrelentless.  I still can't believe that this is the way it was meant to be for the three of us.  But, obviously, this is what it is.  I miss Maxie so much it feels like my chest is going to cave in and I will just die (and I just wish it would already!).  I spend a lot of time wondering where the lesson is in all of this.  Is the lesson meant for Ted and I to enjoy life less?  Were we enjoying it too much?  Certainly, the lesson can't be for Ted and I to appreciate what we have....no god could be THAT cruel.  Or, was our family picked to be an example to other people: "Live life to the fullest!  It is short!"  I don't want to be an example.  I just want my baby back.

When I have a "good day", I am faking it.  Just below the surface, I am in agony.  There are no "good days".  There ARE days that pass quicker than others and for those, I am grateful.  What I am doing is not living....it is surviving.  The faster time moves, the closer I am to Max and I just cannot believe how long this life really is (hopefully the years of smoking I did will have taken their toll on the final year count of my life).  It just stretches out in front of me infinitely.  Though I know intellectually that it is April and it has been nine months since I was last with Maxie, in so many ways, it feels like time has just stood still.  My life ended on July 21, 2011.  It is for all of these reasons that I keep crying and why I should probably just make my peace with getting caught.

An old partner in crime

Another highlight of my weekend in Arizona was spending some time (not nearly enough) with my girlfriend Lindsay.  We grew up spending summers together at Camp Ramah in Ojai, California - chasing boys, getting into trouble, and laughing until we sometimes peed in our pants.

She and I were two thirds of a threesome that included our friend Carly and we later became a foursome when we connected to our friend Tamar.  Lindsay and Carly were the ones to teach me how to put on make-up and tease my hair (I learned how, I just never did it much).  She is one of the funniest people I have ever met and taught me at a very young age to embrace who I am.  She was brave and brazen - fearless and admired.  She is a good person to have on your team, but also someone you wouldn't want to piss off.  She was always one of my biggest fans...and it goes both ways.  Lindsay and I both had loving families and very little childhood drama or teenage angst.  One of my fondest childhood memories was traveling to Phoenix at 12 years old for Lindsay's bat-mitzvah.  Our friend Carly and I got a lot of attention for being the California girls.  We spent lots of time hamming it up with Lindsay and her older brother Darryl.  He was so cool.  I remember thinking that if I had an older brother, I would want him to be just like Darryl.  Darryl looked like Lindsay with boys clothes.

About 6 years ago, Lindsay lost her adorable mother to cancer.  I know it tore her world apart.  She misses her so much still, every single day.  Lindsay looks so much like her beautiful mom.  They were incredibly close.

Maxie was born on Lindsay's birthday.  What a fun auntie she was sure to be to him.  She has a big personality and has always loved children.  The kids at summer camp always followed her around like the Pied Piper.  When Max was three months old, Lindsay texted me to tell me that Darryl suddenly died.  Darryl - who might as well have been Lindsay's twin - her best friend and brother.  It makes no sense.  She was and is devastated.  He left behind his beautiful wife, Nichole, and three adorable children.  Nicholas is 17, Justin is 14 and Abby is 6.  Her world, already so hard to make sense of, was totally shattered.  Her sister in law and their children have since moved from California to Arizona and I know that they keep each other good company - they understand each others loss.  Lindsay is someone who I have been connecting to deeply since losing Max.  Though our losses are different, we both feel like we totally lost who we were before.  We were both funny, outgoing, happy people before.  Today, we are both shrouded in grief, feeling misunderstood, missing our loved ones at every moment.  I hope I am not selling her out by saying that she has been seeking too....wanting to make a connection with her mom and brother....looking (sometimes begging) for signs.  Lindsay and Nichole contacted Moriah separately hoping to connect to Lindsay's mom and brother.  Moriah didn't know they were related.  In both readings, they heard from their loved ones.  Lindsay says it was a life altering experience for both of them.  She only called me afterwards to tell me she had done it, so it isn't as if I called Moriah and told her that my friend was calling and who she had lost.  I felt like hearing the validation that they got from their readings helped to validate my reading.  I know it sounds weird...but my reading was about MY loved ones and theirs was about THEIR loved ones.  It felt less like a good guess, if that makes sense.

Despite our very great losses, our faces and hearts lit up to be together for the short time we had on Saturday.  My mom said we looked just like we did as little girls.  I don't know about "looked like" part (though the only change I really see in Lindsay is that her hair is much flatter these days....she's still as cute as she was when I met her in the summer after the 4th grade) but I always feel like a kid with Lindsay.  She is my childhood hero and still one of the most wonderful women I know.

Please stop counting my blessings

Yesterday I was feeling pretty hurt again - angry even.  I feel a little better this morning.  I was angry that some of the people who love me have a hard time letting me feel my feelings.  I am smart enough to know that it is because of their love for me that they say the things that they do.  I know that they want to see me happy again and so they try to convince me that there are so many reasons for me to feel happy.  Still, if losing Max isn't a good enough excuse to feel devastated, I really have no idea what is.

I read somewhere recently (I really can't remember where - Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul perhaps?) how important it is to validate the feelings that others feel.  The point was specifically made about children who had lost a parent or a sibling.  So many times, those children are discouraged from feeling sad.  They are told to focus on all of the good things that they still have - the remaining parent, the remaining sibling, a puppy, a goldfish.  To keep a child from expressing their feelings of extreme loss has an effect that is detrimental over a lifetime.  It is bad for their health, for their self esteem, for their ability to empathize with other people.  If really big deals are made to feel like "no big deal", children grow up with a very skewed vision of the world around them.  I read another example (maybe in the same book?) of children who had terminal illnesses.  Those whose parents allowed them to express their fears, who validated the sadness that they felt and who encouraged a conversation about what happens after this life felt much more emotionally supported than the children whose parents continued to tell them that "everything would be ok" when they were really terminal.  They didn't feel safe enough to say that they were scared, so they kept it inside, leading to an inability for them to contain their fears at all.  Then, they not only had to contend with their own fears, they had the pressure of putting on a brave face for their parents as well.  No child should have to bear that burden.  The thought of scared terminal children not being able to express how they feel to their own parents breaks my heart.

In one of the workshops we attended last weekend, the facilitator told us that as adults, many of us are too confused to even know what we are feeling.  She says that children are told "You are not really scared" and to go back to bed when they say they are scared in the middle of the night, that "it doesn't hurt.  It's ok", when they scrape their knees....It's confusing to tell a child that they don't really feel what in fact they think they feel.  "I'm not scared?", she joked..."ok, I thought I was scared."  How far are we willing to go to not feel our feelings.  Believe me, I'd rather not feel them, but suppressing them doesn't get me anywhere.  Sometimes it releases a little of the pent up sorrow to actually feel it.  I really believe that it's ok to be sad, scared, fearful and angry.  Life isn't easy.  Terrible things happen to many, if not most of us.  Are we so scared of feeling sad?  Are we so scared of letting others feel sad, that we have to put a happy face on every devastation?

Losing Max is just devastating.  I don't need to put it into a big picture (and even when I do, it is still devastating....sometimes more so).  Yes, I still have blessings in my life but he doesn't and he IS my whole life.  Every blessing we have is a blessing Maxie is missing out on.  I am not sure every parent feels the way I do but I have to believe that most do - I want a better life for my child than I want for myself and if my child dies (which he did....my child died!), he has no life at all....so in many ways it doesn't really matter what MY blessings are.  I stopped being the most important person to me when Max was conceived.  My current life took on new meaning when Baby M was conceived.  This is just how it is.  I am not sure why this is so hard to understand.  Max's happiness is MORE important than mine.  Baby M's happiness is too.  As a parent, I feel that their lives are more important than mine.  Ted feels the same way I do.  Our lives revolve around them and their happiness, and one of them is now gone.  Max was robbed of living his life.  He was robbed of getting to be a big brother.  He was robbed of pressing his little face again my belly and trying to feel kicks.  In fact, he was robbed of every one of MY blessings that the people who love me keep counting.  And guess what?  Baby M was robbed of a really wonderful big brother.  Robbed....both of them.  Baby M is not an afterthought or a replacement baby (not that there is really such a thing)....he was a baby we planned on having all along.  We always planned on giving Maxie a sibling - whether by natural birth or IVF or adoption or whatever it would have taken.  Baby M was supposed to have a big brother.  So, please, please - stop counting my blessings....or, at least, leave me out of it.  If it makes you feel any better - I promise that I KNOW how blessed I am but please try to understand that since Maxie isn't as blessed as me, it feels wasted (and honestly Max was my biggest blessing, the one that counted more than anything.  I would trade every other blessing to bring back Max if that were possible).  We may not see eye to eye, but that's ok.  You know it hurts me.  You know that having this conversation over and over just pushes me away...and not having you in my life when I need you most would be one less blessing for both of us to count.  I love you too much.

A little TMI

There are so many things that will remind me of Maxie when Baby M gets here.  I am scared of all of the emotions that will come up when I do the stuff I did with Max.  There are things that I imagine doing that feel like they could be too hard emotionally.  When I was pregnant with Max, Ted read "Oh, Baby, the Places you will go!" the "in utero" version to my stomach all of the time.  He would put his lips directly on my belly for extra amplification.  He desperately wants to read it to Baby M but I just am not ready.  It makes me too sad to think about.  We need a new "in utero" book I think.  Once Baby M gets here, I wonder what else will be too sad:  Will I read him "Good Night Moon"?  Will I sing "Rad Ha Yom" to him before putting him down to sleep (as if the thought of putting him down to sleep wasn't scary enough)? Will I be able to bathe him in the same tub that I bathed Maxie in?  It's all a little overwhelming.  I am not sure what I should feed him....was the food that I made for Max adequate or did it somehow contribute to his life ending?  The activity that carries the most emotional baggage for me is actually breastfeeding.

I know that for some of you, that is too much information, but it is the truth.  For the first time, my breasts were more than just a tool to get my husband's attention.  My breasts actually kept me physically linked to Max.  They provided the nutrition that exclusively fed my baby for the first six months of his life.  He continued to breastfeed until two weeks before he stopped breathing, even then, he still drank my breastmilk from a bottle.  He had just become impatient with my actual breasts.  I had about three months worth of breastmilk frozen on the day that he stopped breathing (9 months ago today).  At his funeral, my breast were sore, they ached.  In the months following his death, my nipples would turn black - a physical manifestation of the horror of losing my baby.  There are still times now when I look down at them and I start to cry.  Breastfeeding Max was another physical connection to my child, like the connection we had when he was in my womb.  When I would nurse him, we would stare into each others eyes.  It was a time when I felt our love for each other grow deeply.  It was also a time that we were very playful together.  Max would become distracted as he got older, preferring to "pop off" and smile at me, rather than stay latched and nurse.  If I looked at him, he would giggle and pop off again, which would make me laugh and then we'd be there forever.  So, sometimes I would try not to look at him. This would make him suck extra hard (and sometimes even hurt me) to get my attention.  I'd yelp, "ouch", and look down to find him staring at me smiling.  He was a very playful baby.  I have such funny memories of him nursing while giggling to himself.  I miss his little giggle so much.

Now, it wasn't always easy.  It took a while for Max and I to figure out what we were doing.  And, as a pretty modest gal, I was shy about breastfeeding in public, which made going anywhere a real chore.  I also wasn't always super keen on having male friends over in the very early days after Max was born because I knew with Max's nursing schedule, we would be forced to go into another room for a while, leaving the friend alone.  But, we went to nursing clinics and practiced a lot and eventually figured it out.  I remember the first EASY nursing session.  It was in April of last year.  Ted, Maxie, Prima Sharon and I went to the Huntington Gardens and I nursed Maxie in a chair outside one of the galleries.  He was all covered up and comfortable, I was easily talking and not feeling self conscious.  I don't even think most people who walked by us noticed that I had a little dude under the blanket draped over my shoulder.  It felt like such an accomplishment.  I was proud of us.

I am not sure why the idea of nursing Baby M feels so overwhelming.  A combination of things I think - I am nervous about having to relearn this skill with a new baby.  I am emotional about feeling that familiar tug that will remind me of Max...and therefore remind me so physically of his absence.  I am afraid of connecting so deeply to another child and risking the possibility of another heartbreak.  I know I won't be able to hold him at an arm's length if I nurse him - not that I would be able to anyway.  Sometimes I wonder if my breasts failed my Max.  I was SURE that breastfeeding him meant that he would be ensured optimal health.  It didn't ensure a thing.  I keep wondering if there is some magic formula that would have had better nutrients for him than the ones I provided.  Would that have kept him alive?

Oh Maxie!  The thought of bonding with your brother makes me feel guilty...like I am moving on without you but I promise I am not!  You are always with me.  I would trade anything to have you back.  I like to think that there are things that can be reserved just for you and me but I know your brother might like "Good Night Moon" or living room dance parties as much as you did.  All I can promise is that you and I did it all first.  All I can promise is that my memories with you are special and I am not replacing you but I am trying to bring some of the joy that you brought to us back into our lives.  I want your brother to feel as much love as possible and to know that he is special in his own right.  But, I am so scared.  So scared of loving him as much as I love you.  I have lots of regrets but I never regret opening my heart to you and loving you with everything that I am.  Never forget that you are special baby.  I love you with my whole heart baby boy and I hope that you know and understand - I already love your brother too.

Baby M's new doctor

I didn't write this morning because I was getting a 3 hour glucose test (more like 4 and a half hours but who is counting?).  I guess my glucose levels came back kind of high when I was checked last week.   So they need to rule out gestational diabetes with today's tests.  I thought being back in the main hospital of Good Samaritan would be a trigger for me, as that is where Max was born, but it was really ok.  The best part of the test is that they give you a little room to nap in in-between blood tests (a total of 4).  As a side note, I used to hate blood tests until Max was born.  In his short life, I saw him get so many blood tests and shots.  He was such a good sport that he really got me over my fear of needles.  Max inspired me in many ways.

Yesterday, Ted and I met with a potential new pediatrician.  She was so nice to take the time to meet with us after hours just so that we could have the opportunity to know her.  We feel like we just got stuck with Max's pediatrician.  The doctor who checked Max after he was born referred us to a colleague of his and that was that.  I never was crazy about him.  He was very cold, but at least I felt like he knew what he was doing.  Then, after Max passed, I spoke to him once and he basically said, "These things sometimes happen", before rushing to get off the phone with me.  The address of his office is still in the "favorites" folder on my car's navigator because I don't know how to get rid of it. My heart stops every time I see it.  The mention of his name makes my throat dry.  I have been so scared thinking about taking Baby M to the pediatrician once he is here.  It was such a terrible experience.

Just being in a pediatric office was a trigger for me.  There are kids around along with kid toys and kid books and most painful, baby scales.  I loved getting Max weighed at his appointments.  I loved seeing him grow and gain more weight.  Proof that my baby was thriving (when I guess he actually wasn't....or maybe he was until that day or that minute, even, that he stopped breathing).  The pediatrician we met with was very sweet.  I know she really extended herself on our behalf.  Like everyone else, she didn't really "get it" - our loss, our pain, our worry, our grief, our fear.  I cried and cried.  She suggested that I see a therapist - a common misunderstanding is that because I am "still" crying that I must not be seeing anyone yet.  But, she did her best.  Nobody understands that the sadness doesn't go away.  She even consulted with the father of a patient of hers who lost a wife a day after she gave birth to their one and only daughter (he writes a blog that I read and just happens to bring his daughter to this pediatric practice) to ask for resources for us.  He gave her the name and email address of his friend who lost her daughter.  I read her blog as well - every day.  I sort of see the pediatrician's connection to them as a sign.  Hopefully, a really good sign because at the end of the day, she can't promise us that she will be able to keep Baby M alive.  In fact, she can't really promise to do anything different than what Max's pediatrician did.  She can only promise to be a different person than him and since his very worst qualities didn't come out until after Max died, I hope I never find out just how different she really is from him.  I have to thank my girlfriend Bianca for recommending her though and basically getting us the appointment.  Seeing a pregnant couple before a baby even arrives is not normal protocol.

Ted never liked Max's pediatrician.  I know that finding someone that he likes is very important to him as well (so it is important to me).  When we left the doctor's office, he said he really liked her.  He thought she was caring and sweet and she did her homework with us.  I agree.  I think it's a done deal.  It's nice to have that out of the way.  Will let you know how the glucose test goes...

Eyes like Eskimo Pies

I woke up this morning having had such a vivid dream of Maxie...or was it Baby M?  In the dream it was Baby M, but the face, the little body, my relationship with this baby: it was just like Maxie.  We were in Costa Rica and I was trying to change his diaper but I only had size 2s (leftover from Maxie) and Baby M needed a size 1.  He was smiling at me and rolling around, just like Max.  The energy I felt with him was Maxie's energy but I was very aware that it was Baby M and not Max.  I worried he would die.  I kept taking blankets out of his crib but somehow he would manage to pull them back in.  I would move stuffed animals and boppies away from him but I would turn away from a second and they would be back.  He kept staring in my eyes and smiling.  I woke up with my heart pounding.  I can't believe this is my life.  My only visits with my son are when I am asleep.  I am devastated that I don't get to watch him grow up.  I can't believe I have to live my life with this broken heart, knowing that the pain will never go away, just become something that I get more used to.  It's terrible.

I've been away from home a lot in the past two weeks, but always thinking about Max.  He is never off my mind.  The medium I sat with on Sunday commented on Maxie's beautiful big eyes.  My dad said his "eyes were as big as eskimo pies".  They were lovely.  They were blue.  We checked every day to see if they had changed colors but they hadn't.  He would have grown up with beautiful big blue eyes, with one little corner of brown.  He had long eyelashes and perfect eyebrows.  While he laid in the hospital, I ran my fingers over his smooth eyebrows over and over while singing, "I love...everything about you.   I love everything about you."  My beautiful baby.  My wonderful little boy.  I still love everything about you.  I ALWAYS will.

A comforting change of scenery

I went away all weekend with my mom and my Auntie Alison.  Part of me hesitates to tell you where I've been, even though I am not really embarrassed.  In fact, it was a really moving and inspirational weekend.  So much more than I ever thought it would be.  I was at a gathering in Phoenix of several hundred bereaved individuals - many who had lost spouses, parents and mostly children.  People just like me who were searching for answers, looking for comfort and wanting to make a connection - to our loved ones, to other people like ourselves.  I halfway expected a group of really new agey, kind of "out there", flakey space-cadets who I would have nothing in common with.  Instead, I met people from all walks of life.  People who are very intelligent, from varied religious and cultural background, from all over the US and Canada.  I connected to a lot of wonderful people.  We met over meals, in workshops, in between presentations.  Where did we go, you ask?  Well, we went to the International Afterlife Communication Conference and I am so glad we did.

Now, I fully understand that the subject is taboo.  I get it that it goes against your religious beliefs (though, those of you with the strongest beliefs DO believe in an afterlife, so I am not quite sure I get it).  But, it doesn't really matter what you believe in and I am certainly not going to try and convert you because I don't know what I believe in.  I am a skeptic, to the core....wish I wasn't actually.  It would probably calm my spirit if I could stop questioning.  In fact, the conference was filled with skeptics.  If we just believed - we wouldn't have been there.  You think I am going to tell you wild stories of messages from beyond but what I am really going to tell you is that when you have lost a child, you have to believe in something.  You have to believe that you will be with that child again.  And, whether it is Buddhism, or Judaism or Christianity that gives you that hope and comfort shouldn't really matter (that is my opinion obviously but I will tell you, there were many religions represented in the room).  What matters to us is that we continue to be parents to the person or people (because there were parents there who lost more than one child) whom we love the most.  Sadly, there were people there who had been ostracized by their religious communities for seeking to connect to their children.  I can tell you that I would sacrifice every friend and family member I have for the opportunity to connect with Max again.  It's simple.  He is my whole heart and soul and I know every other parent there feels exactly as I do.

Hands down, the greatest part of this weekend was meeting other bereaved parents.  It felt different than the grief groups that Ted and I have attended as well.  I think it was because it was a whole weekend.  In a grief group meeting, you generally go around the room with a set agenda.  First each individual or couple introduces themselves and tells the story of their child's death.  Then, if there is time, there is usually a topic of discussion.  I am not saying it isn't helpful.  It is always wonderful to connect with other parents experiencing loss.  But, it takes several months to start making real connections.  At this conference, we shared meals, we sat in on sessions together, we watched people get really accurate affirmations of their loved ones presence in their lives and then we connected.  We connected over coffees in the lobby, over lunches on the back patio, at the vendors tables, during dinner.  We learned the stories about how each of us lost our children, but we also learned about each other and got to know more about the children and who they were before they died.  Our children are not just the stories of their passing - they are the beautiful people who made us smile and filled our hearts and homes with love before they passed.

Now, I am not going to pretend like there weren't some unusual characters there.  When the three of us signed up, we thought - if nothing else, it is sure to be great people watching.  There were some interactions that I will be laughing about for a long time.  When we first arrived and went to register, a wild eyed woman stopped us at the entrance to the conference area and desperately asked us where the popcorn and margaritas were.  She looked frantic.  She as wearing flowing new age gear, her hair was untamed, and she was right in our faces.  "Pardon?", one of us asked.  "I really could go for some popcorn and margaritas", she replied.  "Who couldn't?", we replied and then kept walking, all three of us working hard to suppress the laughter bubbling inside.  I guess this is what I signed up for, I thought.  We then got into an elevator with a group of people wearing tags from the event and asked them how things were going (we skipped the first optional day), "We just came from a session where we were all taken into a past life regression", one man replied.  When we got to our room, I thought, this will be interesting....but I never expected to find so much comfort.  The comfort really came from the attendees, most of whom were not wild eyed, new agey, flowy clothed or unusual at all.  Most attendees were just like me, people whose normal lives had been devastated by loss and who are living in the midst of deep grief.

For the first time in nine months, my story didn't repel people.  It drew them to me and I was drawn to them as well.  I met so many lovely people who felt rejected by their communities because their child was murdered or died by suicide or because they hadn't "gotten over it yet".  When someone spoke about her beautiful daughter who was murdered, I wanted to hold her hand and tell her how unfair it was.  We met the sweetest family who lost their 14 year old son to an impulsive suicide (he got caught doing something "bad" and didn't want to get in trouble).  Their pain was so palpable...I can't get them out of my mind.  The mom shared her son's photos and he was darling.  She described him as such a loving child too.  My heart is so broken for our loss of Maxie but it breaks every time I meet someone else who has to live with this pain.

Our very best session had nothing to do with the afterlife at all....it was a session on surviving grief.  The facilitator, Glenda Pearson, has lost a son herself and though she has a lot of work left to do (because all bereaved parents do), she has come up with useful tools to cope.  The environment was safe and loving.  She started off by having us make a list of hurtful things people say to us.  Do you know how many of the things I have shared were on the list?  All of them: -You can always have more children (or the spousal loss equivalent - you are young, you can always remarry).
- Aren't you over this yet?
- He is in a better place
Etc...  Our facilitator had come up with some good "come backs" over time.  I need to get more from her but the one she mentioned was her come back for "Aren't you over this yet?"....her response is, "I would be if it was your child."  Ouch.  I wonder if I would be strong enough to hurt someone so deliberately with that one (it did make me laugh).  It wouldn't hurt them any less than their comment hurts me - they just refuse to acknowledge that their comment is hurtful.

I know that there are some of you who are actually interested in the afterlife stuff that impressed us.  It WAS impressive.  There were mediums and psychics and grief counselors, people who have had Near Death Experiences and have received afterlife communications. There were also many doctors neurosurgeons and cardiologists - individuals whose science backgrounds kept them skeptical but whose real-life experiences with patients wouldn't allow them to ignore the possibilities.  Hands down the most amazing person at the whole conference was a well-known medium named John Holland.  Have you ever watched a famous medium on television pick out random people from the audience and then wondered if they were planted?  I have.  Holland read in front of the group of about 300 people twice over the weekend.  He knew details that he didn't glean from conversations.  In fact, he was very shy and hardly interacted with anyone other than the organizers while he was there.  But, he would start talking to someone and know everything about their lives.  He knew about a woman's husband who had lost half of each of his feet to diabetes - that this man drove a Lincoln, smoked a cigar, had given her a ridiculously large diamond, had special swimming flippers made for him.  There is no way he "cold read" her.  She looked like a normal middle class older woman.  She was sitting at the back corner of the ballroom.  He picked out a couple who had lost an eight year old boy - he knew that the boy had been cremated, that he died at the same time as his grandpa (in a car accident), that the urn was in his room and surrounded by toy soldiers and that he had drawn pictures all over the bottom part of the walls that were still there.  He knew that the father had torn a rotator cuff.  This was not a visible injury and it was one that had mostly healed.  They were so obviously astounded by what they heard and confirmed it all to be accurate. I could actually go on and on.  He just knew.  I sat with some of the folks who were read by him and they couldn't believe what they had heard.  They were people like me, who wanted information and affirmation.  They didn't plant themselves.  They hoped to be picked during the presentations and they were the lucky ones who were. There was a breakout session with one of the conference organizers, Mark Ireland, and a well known medium, Tina Powers.  I learned about the conference when I happened upon Mark's website months ago.  After his son, Brandon, passed some years ago, he went on a personal quest to find answers and visited many mediums.  His best reading had come from Tina.  She walked around a smaller room to give messages to folks.  She stopped by our seats to let us know that Marilyn (my grandma) says hello, that she knows we have her rings and then validated that it was her by telling us how much she loved Musicals.....which she did.  There were many, many stories like this from throughout the conference and even though Max came through several times, I am still a skeptic.  I hope to get over that soon but I know that I will always be a searcher.  I think that I hope to be the first mom to go over to "the other side" and bring my kid back.  In the meantime, I met a wonderful woman who, along with Mark Ireland and others is starting a new grief group for seekers like me: www.helpingparentsheal.info.  There is no group yet in LA, but as soon as there is, I will be there.
Oh ya, and I should mention that the three of us met with a medium on our own.  I went first and then my mom and aunt went after me.  He didn't know we were together.  Maxie was the first person to show up for both readings.  He came through as his sweet and adorable self.  My heart was pumping.  If you are curious and want to know more, I am happy to tell you. I've got nothing to hide really.  If you believe me, great.  If you don't, try not to judge me.  I am just a broken mommy, looking for her baby, and doing the very best I can with each day I have to get through before I get to be with him again.

Connected in Nature

Ted's cousins came back from Israel and shared with us the video of their tree planting for Max.  A JNF forest ranger arranged for them to plant a sapling in their daughter's forest in Max's memory.  This video illustrates what I love about Israelis that other people find rude or prickly.  They just tell it like they see it....the intention is always loving but they won't feed you a bunch of false hope.  Listen to what the ranger says to Miriam and Jay at the beginning of the video.  It made me laugh out loud.  Most importantly though - it was such a beautiful thing for them to do for us and in memory of our Max.  I cry every time I watch it.  Also, I just love how planting a tree in Israel is an experience, a right of passage, a spiritual thing to do.  That is how it should be.  In our lives, we don't connect enough to nature, in my opinion.  We just pick out trees and pay someone else to plant them. How beautiful that Max and his cousin are connected in Israel forever (no matter how long their trees survive)?

My back hurts...and other pregnant complaints

I have some stress in my life right now that just comes from being pregnant. You know- I'm hormonal and huge and have to be careful about everything I eat (and boy, would I like a big beer, some sushi and a Xanax). Most of all- my back hurts. When your stomach sticks out two feet in front of your size F (that's right people, read it and weep) boobs, it starts to take a toll on the old back. Plus, under normal circumstances my back always aches. Whenever I get a non-pregnant massage I always hear, "Why are your shoulders so tight?". My shoulders are extra tight these days from holding up the boulders on my chest with never thick enough bra straps and from shoulder shaking bouts of crying each and every day. Obviously, I was thrilled to see that the Spa at our Cancun resort offered a pregnancy massage. They advertised a soothing pregnancy massage with a body pillow to support a growing mother's body. Perfect, yes? So, I planned to get on on the Monday before leaving so I would have something to look forward to for the whole trip. On Saturday however, I was lured poolside by the promise of FREE fifteen minutes shoulder and back massages. I cannot resist. It is not in my DNA. Cheap and free massage is in my DNA, however, I learned from watching my mother. I have subjected myself to many unusual massage locales to get the best deal (ask about the massage I got after hiking the Inca trail in Peru for four days...not a pretty scene). After my blissful and free poolside rub down, the spa manager offered me a "can't be refused deal": get the pregnancy massage today for almost 50% off AND they'll throw in a regular Swedish massage for Ted at 30% off as well. I should have been suspect but I am a desperate sucker and have I mentioned how much my back hurts? It all started off well enough- they showed us to our separate locker rooms, we got plush towel robes and slippers (Except Ted got a little girls size four that he tried to squeeze his feet into because he is a good sport), they sat us on plushy couches and then were showed to our couples massage room. Then our masseuses arrived. Mine a male, Teds a female. He laid me on my back and was about to get to work when I suggested that perhaps I should lay on my side (at a large 24 weeks pregnant, back sleeping is no longer recommended). So, I flipped on my side ( more like struggled to turn over) and he started to get to work again). It was at that point that I asked if they had a pillow for me ( you know? The BODY pillow from the brochure?!!!). He looks around the room, grabs a pleather 5 x 5 pillow from a couch in the corner and hands it to me. I try to protest but see that I am getting nowhere and hug the thing to my chest. Did I mention that the room is hot as blazers? ("Hot as blazers" is an old favorite saying of my grandma Marilyn that probably started when she hit menopause. Even with an ocean breeze constantly drifting through her living room, she was always "hot as blazers"). So I've got my gigantic chest sweating all over the pleather couch throw pillow and my legs are sticking together as well. Relaxing! I take this for about fifteen minutes because I hate to complain in a lovely spa while my husband is trying to enjoy his rub down BUT - Holy Moses, this was torture! Finally Ted's masseuse comes to the rescue and grabs a thick synthetic blanket from somewhere, folds it up and sticks in between my legs. Immediate increased inner thigh sweat production. This is exactly the point where I am asked to flip back over. So I have to unstick the pleather pillow from my chest and get the enormous blanket out from between my legs and manage to flip my beached whale self over without the sheet falling off of my naked body. Easy! The other half of this massage includes one foot getting rubbed. No arms. Other foot wasn't massaged on the other side. No way in hell this guy has ever given a pregnancy massage before. Still, I debate saying anything to management because I don't want to get him in trouble. I am relieved when the massage ends and decided that, yes, it is time to start standing up for myself and I complain. It's the woman from the pool who sold me the massage at the front desk. "How was it?" she asks with a gigantic smile. "Not so good", I reply. "He was a very nice man, but I think this was his first pregnancy massage, no?" "No. Alejandro has been doing professional massage for over ten years" (I doubt that). "I'm sure of that but this is probably one of the first pregnancy massages, right?" "No", she insists. She offers me a feedback form, but explains to me that since this was a special deal, there is not much she can do for me (I am such a sucker). I fill it out, we leave. Next day, I get a call from the spa saying that they are sorry about my massage. I am waiting to hear what they are offering me in return but it turns out they are only offering an apology. Foiled! I make my peace with this and Ted and I head out for our day. Several hours later, we decide to brave the main pool - where all of the ridiculous action is. Ted wanted to get a drink from the swim up bar. We swim up, take our seats and the bartender comes over to take our order, " Que quieres?" he asks. He takes Ted's order and moves to the other side of the bar. "Did you see who that was?", Ted exclaims. OMG- it was my masseuse. He comes back and tries to convince me to get a drink with alcohol...he can't see that I am pregnant and he doesn't recognize us...even with Ted's "grief beard". I smile at him and ask, "trabajes en el spa?" (Do you work in the spa?) "Sometimes," he replies with an equally large smile. Then he goes through a back door and disappears. Ted turns around and sees the spa pimp poolside luring in customers again. We decide that I should confront her - over ten years of massage experience my tush!!! I swim across the pool, lug myself out, march up to her and smile. She smiles sarcastically back at me and simultaneously pretends she doesn't know me. I am one of three pregnant people in the whole resort...maybe not the first one to complain, I think. "I am the pregnant lady from the spa yesterday." "I know," she says with the fake smile . Then a long pause. "Well, I just wanted to say that my masseuse is tending bar in the middle of the pool "No," she laughs "Alejandro only works in the spa". " Well, I just asked him and he said that, indeed, he also works in the bar." "Today is Alejandro's day off." she laughs and assures me. "No, he is right over there.", I explain, but of course, he has disappeared. I look like a liar! Then, adding insult to injury she says, "I know, we Mexicans all look alike.". Oh no she didn't! ...but,oh yes she did! She has the upper hand...they do not all look alike. Alejandro looks like Alejandro - the bartender/masseuse (could he be another doppleganger?)!!! At this point, my stress is now through the roof! My spa lady gives me a fake empathy look, hands me a bottle of anti-stress lotion and we part ways.  No relief had....not even the satisfaction of the upper hand.  After that, I need a massage....does anyone  know of a good deal?

What's up with Ted's beard?

When Maxie was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit last July, Ted and I were there with him.  Ted stopped shaving then.  When we left the PICU, it was because we lost Maxie - we had to leave the hospital without our little boy.  We haven't felt the same since.  When you don't feel like yourself, you don't recognize yourself in the mirror, you don't even want to be the same person.  You want to wear your grief.  Ted doesn't always express his grief.  He doesn't walk around talking about his grief like I do, but he got Maxie's name tattooed on his arm and he keeps growing his beard.  In Jewish tradition, men don't shave for the first thirty days of mourning (or at least the first week of shiva....I think.  I am not the Jewish expert that you think I am).  We are also encouraged to cover our mirrors.  This tradition stems from a disposition of avoiding vanity during times of deep grief.  We are discouraged from caring our about outward appearance, though I can't imagine anyone in this kind of deep grief caring what they look like at all.  It has been the last thing on both of our minds.  Ted knew that his grieving would not be up in thirty days - not even close.  He decided to shave on Maxie's birthday, October 7th, but when that date came around, he realized that the grieving had really only just begun.  To be clear, he has trimmed the sides, but the front has been left to grow.  Ted plans on growing his beard until the year anniversary of our most terrible day - July 21st.  After he shaves it, he will either keep it shaved or, if he feels like it is still something that is bringing him comfort, he will grow it again.  I think it will be nice for him to be able to go cheek to cheek with Baby M when he is born (due on the 25th of July).

People ask me all of the time what I think of Ted's beard.  His beard means as much to me as it does to him in many ways.  Men and women grieve differently.  You hear it all of the time, but it is really true.  This is the honest truth - I cry and talk and write and grieve in a very public way all of the time.  When a colleague writes me with a request that pertains to a former job responsibility, I tell them that since my son died, I no longer handle that.  When friends visit, I don't make small talk off the bat, I talk about Max.  If I could, I would talk to Ted about Max during all of our time together.  Sadly, that would probably ruin our marriage.  I never wonder if Ted is grieving as much as me though, like many women do when their husbands keep quiet, remain strong or act like nothing is wrong.  Ted wears his grief.  While I wanted to avoid all new people in Mexico, I think Ted actually hoped people would ask about his tattoo and beard.  When people do ask him about either, he tells them about Max.  It doesn't matter if they are strangers or contractors working on his job site.  He tells them that our son died last summer.  He doesn't care if it makes them uncomfortable.  He loves Max.  That Ted wears his grief the way he does has a deep impact on my heart.  It is further proof that he is the man that I fell in love with, the father that Max adored, and a person who feels DEEPLY - whether he is telling you about it all of the time or not. 

When we came in through customs, Ted showed the agent his passport.  The agent looked at his photo and said, "This was taken before you got tough", and then gave a little laugh.  It was taken when Ted and I were softer people, before we had to become hardened to life.  I have always found Ted to be incredibly handsome - when I first met him in Israel in 1996 with his long ponytail and hippier ways, when I re-met him in 2006 with his short hair and preppier style, and since the passing of our dear sweet boy with his sad eyes and grief beard (not to mention the fact that I actually like a "tough guy" look).  I am proud of the way he wears his grief - it is honest.  The people who act like nothing is wrong whether talking about their own loss or ours don't resonate with me at all. To lose someone you love should shake the earth.  To lose your child should change your life forever. He is honest when so many people would be more comfortable with us putting up a false front.  Most everyone we know would be so much happier with us both if only we could suck it up and present a happier (but incredibly dishonest) version of our grief. 

Ted is the love of my life.  He is beautiful inside and out.  I love him anyway he is and I cherish every day that I have left with him.