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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

insights: did you hear the one about the rabbi, the priest and the shaman?

It was a technicolor blue, sunny, crisp, perfect winter Sunday morning when I got the call that they had died. I was away from home in my hotel room when she called to say that she was very sorry but our babies did not survive.

I don’t know why I did what I did next but I left my room with my phone and room key and walked down the hall to the elevator. I remember looking out from the top floor of the hotel and noticing how the sun bounced off the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. I took the elevator down to the casino level and walked across the lobby.  It’s so odd to me now but at the time it seemed to be exactly what I should do. I found a chair in front of a Kitty Glitter slot machine and I sat down. I had to tell my L., my husband that they were gone.

I dialed his number. I was staring at Kitty Glitter’s green eyes when L. picked up.


“Hey,”  I said barely, softly. “I’m sorry.”

“What happened?” I could picture him sitting forward in his chair, his brow furrowed, staring out the window.

“They’re gone” I said.

“Who’s gone?”

“The babies are gone. They’re gone. They died. Our babies are gone.”

“Where are you?” L. asked. He must have heard the ding, ding, ding from the casino.

“I’m in the casino sitting at a Kitty Glitter slot machine. This seemed like the only place to go.”

What do you say after this? What is there for either person to say but I’m sorry and I love you which is what L. said.

After hanging up with L., I wondered about those little babies, so tiny.

Attending Catholic school for my entire education I remember one day in religion class hearing a passage from the Bible that said God is even aware of the tiniest sparrow that falls to the ground. These babies were smaller than a sparrow’s head when they died. Did that mean that God was unaware of them? Did they have souls? Are they in purgatory now for eternity?

When you lose a baby so early there is no ceremony when she dies. One day you are a mother and in one moment you are not. There was no mourning for these babies, no sending them off to be with God. There were no casseroles or sympathy cards or hugs. Most of our friends didn’t even know these babies existed. But they did exist, even for a fleeting time.

I talked with my therapist. I talked with my priest. I pleaded as to how this could happen. Did I do something so terrible that God took them away? Did He think we would we be horrible parents? I had an entire convent of cloistered nuns in Massachusetts praying for these babies. Why couldn’t prayers protect them? How could they have died before they even had a chance to take a breath?

The priest couldn’t tell me why this happened. Just that he would pray for us to feel better and that yes, God is aware of what happened.

This did not help.

I went to the library and found books on grief and loss. I researched quantum physics and most of the popular religions including Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Baha’i, Shinto and Christianity. I tried to find passages on babies who die. Did they go to heaven? Were they reincarnated immediately? Did they just evaporate into the ether?

I decided to go further. I found an intuitive psychic and took a class series with her. One evening a classmate sitting next to me said she felt the presence of a little girl with brown curly hair sitting next to me. It freaked me out. I cried.

This did not help.

I saw an astrologist who predicted changes. Right.

This did not help.

I met with a really groovy Shaman who during meditation tried to get pieces of my soul back from the top of a mountain. She also said she liked the image of the Virgin Mary in my bag.  I hadn’t opened my bag in front of her but in the inside pocket I did have a booklet of Novenas that my grandmother had given me. On the cover was the Virgin Mary.

This was pretty cool but this did not help.

I came to the conclusion that there  seemed to be nothing that would help me understand the loss. I shelved the grief. I felt better.

And then it was another pristine, perfect, bright blue, sunny day.  September 10th. It was their birth day---the day L. and I should be welcoming our babies into the world.  I had been dreading this day. I didn’t know how I would get through what would have been the happiest day of our lives. I thought of getting away, going somewhere tropical. It struck me that the next day 9/11, there would be thousands of people wondering what they were going to do too as they mourned their families and friends they lost on that tragic day in 2001. How do you handle grief? What is the best way? My heart hurt so much that I was amazed that a human body can keep going through such grief. I thought surely there must be a point of grief when your mind/soul thinks "That's it. I'm done. Let's just stop all processes."  I thought of staying home in bed and crying. That was my very first thought. Then I thought “Well, mac & cheese pretty much helps everything.” But I’ve lost 51 pounds since June and going backwards is not an option. Wine? Drugs? No and no.

September 10th, I went to the gym. I got on the treadmill and I walked until I couldn’t walk anymore. I showered in the locker room and I cried a little in the shower with my forehead against the wall. And then I stopped. I had a salad in the restaurant. I drove home. I listened to Sirius Radio comedy channel Laugh USA.  I laughed driving home. I walked inside the house, went upstairs and found the puppy asleep on the carpet in the nursery. She was curled up in a little ball next to the crib. I sat next to her. Sitting there petting E., I had a thought that I needed to let these babies go. I had been holding on so tightly to them for so many months.

I remember one of the interviews I did with Sylvia Browne, the psychic. She once said to me that your loved ones come to you in a dream so they don’t scare the holy hell out of you by  appearing at your kitchen table when you’re enjoying a nice roast chicken. Every night since the babies died I would think of them before I went to sleep hoping I could meet them in my dreams. I thought of bringing them home from the hospital, their first day of first grade in their Catholic school uniforms, a trip to Walt Disney World taking turns sitting on L.’s shoulders. I tried to live a life with them in my dreams but sitting on the floor of the nursery on September 10th I realized that I needed to let these little souls go and begin to live my life.

I've been doing a lot of thinking since I started The Happy Girl Experiment and what I have learned is that grief can't serve its purpose when it's bottled and put up high on a shelf. Weirdly enough in order to let it go, you have to feel it. Say what needs to be said, grieve and then breathe. It will get better.

I read that one thing that can help grief is to write a letter to the one you miss. If there are things to be said, say them. This helps you move on.  So, if you'll indulge me, there is something I would like to say.

To our extraordinary little ones, I have carried you in my heart for months wishing I was carrying you in my body. I have dreamed of you since I was a little girl and I would literally give up my life if there was a chance for you to live.

We tried so hard to give you life. After you left I even tried to give you a little glimpse of a life in my dreams but I realize that tethering you to this earth, to your father and I doesn't feel right. They say  as a parent you give your children roots and wings. I could only give you wings.

I love you more than I could ever imagine loving anyone.   I am grateful to have had the time that we had with each of you, just a flutter of a moment in time. I like to think that my grandparents are with you until we come to you someday but if you come right back around and are meant to be the child of another mother, I wish you all the love and laughs and birthday parties and puppies a little one could ask for. I do know, though, that there is no man on this earth who would have loved you and protected you as much as L. would have. He has very strong shoulders for you to ride on and he would have been so proud to show you the fireworks at Walt Disney World. Your father is brave and handsome and so smart and he makes your mother laugh. You would have adored him.

Thank you for choosing me to be your mother. Until the day I die, you will live right here in my heart. It’s funny sometimes. I can almost feel you around me and then I look at the puppy and she is looking up in the air. I think she can see you.

I am going to live the rest of my life living every day as though I had sweet, fuzzy, soft, little heads looking up at me, expecting the best of me. Because after all, I am your mother and I owe you that.

All my love,


And this? This helped.

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