Monday, August 9, 2010

Growing Some Fruit, and a Big Fat Baby

Our niece, Jamie, painted this beautiful sign for our blueberry patch. Even though you are supposed to pinch off the flowers in the first year of planting, we couldn't help ourselves, and have been eating fat blueberries throughout the summer.

Alden loves blueberries (and the wild blackberries that are growing well this year), and he is obviously growing well himself.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Setting it in Stone

It has been two years since our dear Baker left us empty and alone in that recovery room. We know without a calendar that the anniversary is upon us. The light changes and the crocus and daffodil find the courage to poke their heads above winter’s remains. The flowers’ vibrant colors, transplanted from Baker's funeral arrangements into our garden, usher in our season of sorrow.

In the midst of our grief, we managed to find Baker a beautifully peaceful spot to rest, full of bird sounds and fresh breezes. The deer visit, and the sun lazes across the sky above him. We tend his grave, changing with the seasons, bringing pumpkins and Christmas bows and pansies. We can’t, however, bring ourselves to do much more than talk about a headstone for our son. I haven’t been able to decide what type of material we should use. I love the old slate used in New England in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Granite feels like too hard a surface for a baby. Too many choices, none of them right.

We own a family plot, and so debate whether we should first install the family stone and then have Baker’s flat stone made as a matching companion. To my knowledge, neither my parents nor anyone in my family has made an investment like this, and as the youngest child, it feels awfully premature to have my last name carved in stone.

These are excuses for the fact that we can’t bear to see his beautiful name set in stone for eternity. It does not change the reality that he’s gone from this earth, but to be frank, I think we are paralyzed by the thought of deciding once and for all what the world will know about our son after we are gone.

What do you say for eternity?

Nothing quite captures it.

Dalene and I have always enjoyed walking through the old cemeteries that abound in our neck of the woods. We are, of course, drawn to the stones that mark the lost babies, and there were so very many of them in those days, that we feel ourselves walking among the kindred spirits of long dead parents who knew the pain that we now own.

One of the oldest cemeteries on Cape Cod is located a short walk from my parents’ house, and Dalene and I spend time there looking at the ancient moss-covered inscriptions.

This is the one that always gives us pause, from the Lothrop Hill Cemetery in Barnstable, MA:

Ye 5 1729/30 IN Ye 23d YEAR OF HER AGE

Beneath this Marble Stone doth Lye
Two Subjects of Death's Tyranny
The Mother who in this Close Tomb
Sleeps with the Issue in her Womb
Here Death deals Cruely you see
Who with the Fruit cuts down the Tree
Yet is his Malice all in vain
For tree and Fruit shall Spring again

The inscription is striking in its detail, and it brings the reader back to a terrible moment 280 years ago. It also offers hope that we will be reborn together, and the pain that we know now will a distant memory when that happens.

We seek the inspiration and the clarity to draft such words for our boy that will endure through time and let the world know that he was a unique, special, loved person whose life ended before he could draw his first breath. We seek the strength to express the hope of rebirth - that we shall all spring again together as a family.

Tomorrow, on what should be Baker’s second birthday, we wish for the wisdom to commemorate the unimaginable, while recognizing the beautiful and the eternal.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Improving the View

We've been absent from the blog for awhile, but I assure you our hearts have been here. Alden has been growing like a horse, and at only 7 months is the size of many of his 18 month old friends. His health, good nature, and robust constitution are a welcome relief. He is an absolute joy in our lives.

I haven't blogged for a while because I am coming
to terms with who we are as a family now that Alden is with us. We are babylost parents with another living child, and though that's not unique in the world, it's new for us. The pain of Baker's death has softened, though the mention of another story like ours, or even the Haitian orphans tends to hit me unexpectedly from time to time.

Alden has enriched our lives, and I think one of the gifts he's given us is perspective. We talked before Alden was born about how we would need to hold grief and joy together in the same place - but now we're actually doing th
at, and it works, and it feels ok, but I can't say that I've processed it all yet. I know for certain that Alden's aura of sunshine is enhanced by his brother's loss.

This month we hired a local guy to cut down about 10 huge open-grown white pines from the bottom of our field at the farm. We had multiple motivations for the work, including opening up the view to the southwest towards Killington and Pico, 25 miles away. These pines grew up first from the old pasture, and they were weeviled in the 1940's, and having grown out in the open, they had huge lateral branches that made the wood poor quality. We opened up the canopy to let in more light for our skinny little hardwoods, and now they will grow straight and tall and in the meantime we can enjoy the view of the hills and mountains beyond.

Baker's death left us in a forest of grief and doubt. Alden's growth in to a pudgy little dude have opened up the trees and let in the light.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Making the Connections

We have had a wonderful summer with the boy. I am back at work now, and our lives are accelerating back towards warp speed. In between, we try to get to the farm. We have had Alden to the house three times now, and plan to be up frequently this fall. He is a happy baby, and he really loves the farm - he sleeps better, smiles wider, and seems more peaceful. He's probably just picking up vibes from his Mom and Dad.

Our relationship with our grief and with Baker has really changed, and I don't yet have the tools at hand to describe the difference. We are experiencing another turn of the Earth without Baker, but this time we are joined by his pudgy little brother who has soothed us.

I think about Baker all the time, still, and wonder what Alden's relationship to his missing brother will be. I wish they could be together in the flesh, but I know that can never be.

More even than Baker's grave, I think the farm will be Alden's link to his brother. The farm represents a time in our lives, and a need unmet, and a hope for the future. We have already started weaving Alden into that narrative.

In the spring, my siblings wanted to give us a bush or a tree to commemorate Baker's birthday at the farm. Others had done that for us, and two tree saplings are planted hopefully along the edge of the woods.

I encouraged my family to let some time pass for us to lay out a blueberry patch that over time would grow and thrive and extract nutrients from the soil to nourish our bodies and souls.

This past weekend, with Baker's little brother looking on, sleeping, crying, grunting, smiling, I laid out the two beds of the patch, and prepared the site. Baker's blueberry patch will be planted in the spring, perhaps with aunts and uncles and cousins there with shovels and gloves. This place, and this food, will be one of the connections for Alden.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sweet relief

Thank you all for the well wishes. We are adjusting at home with Baker's little brother. I was scheduled for a repeat C-section on July 6, but started having mild contractions a few days before. We went to the hospital to make sure everything was OK (it was), and we made the decision to deliver then at 38 weeks. I was scared and shaking uncontrollably during surgery prep, but then Alden started yelling as soon as his little golden head poked out-such sweet relief for his anxious parents. 7 pounds 12 ounces, 21 inches long. He was checked out on a warmer next to my head, then swaddled and placed on my chest while I was sewn up. He stared at us with bright blue eyes and stuck his tongue out. We all went to recovery together, and he rode on my chest to the maternity floor. He never left my sight until his bath nearly 24 hrs after his birth. It was exactly how I hoped this birth experience would go.

The relative ease of my pregnancy with Alden and his birth-in the sense that it was another normal, healthy fullterm pregnancy-makes me realize what a waste it was to lose Baker. He could so easily be here-he should be here-if not for what was likely an unknown, unseen kink in the cord. Similar pregnancies, similar babies, but completely different outcomes.

Now, existing alongside the weight of Baker's loss, is a palpable joy. Our home is often loud with our grunting boy. We piece together enough sleep to get by. We happily diaper and nurse and take stroller walks. We are honoring Baker and raising Alden and finding ways to include both boys in our family.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Role Reversal

The weight of the baby in my arms has relieved the weight on my shoulders and the anchor on my heart.

He is wonderful, as all tiny babies are. We love him to the point that our hearts are bursting and painful at being overfilled. At the same time, he is an immediate squirming reminder of the magnitude of our loss with Baker.

He has Baker's chin and Baker's nose - both his mother's - but otherwise he is his own boy, in all his towheaded glory.

Dalene and I remember for many months following Baker's death the jealously and sadness and anger (in a very weird way) that we had towards all of the pregnant women and little babies that we saw as we traveled around. It seemed at times as though they were stalking us; taunting us. Now that's us. We are the parents with the irrepressible smiles on our blissful babymoon. I fear that we are now the tormentors of the lost.

I think that we babylost parents need to invent a symbol or claim a color or a bracelet or something that lets others in the "club" know that we are one of them. Instead of feeling upset when a babylost mama or daddy saw us with Alden, she or he might see us as a sign that rainbow babies do come, and that they are sweet, sweet balm for wounded souls.

We watch him breathe, but have not yet been neurotic. I give him kisses, but I have not physically smothered him with my squeezes, as I feared I would. He is the manifestation of the complete opposite of the parental soul-murder that was Baker's death.

We are bequeathing Baker's hand-me-downs to Alden, and that has been healing. Little t-shirts and gear, washcloths and diapers - all being handed on to the little brother. All wrong and completely right all at the same time.

We appreciate so much all of the good wishes from across the country and around the globe as our litle babe arrived.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Born on the Fourth of July

Alden Baker arrived delightfully screaming in the wee hours of Saturday morning. 7 pounds, 12 ounces, 21 inches long. Blonde locks.

Our Rainbow Baby with a firework exclamation point.

Big brother Baker Christian was smiling down.