it’s like a huge hole has been blown right into the center of our lives. and the hole will never heal or get any smaller, but our lives will continue to get bigger, so the hole won’t occupy the same percentage of the whole that it does now.

~ joel

the stages of grief
are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.


today i am peeved that i’m dropping things, peeved that other people exist, and peeved that my baby is not here right now. peeved, i tell you. peeved.

oh, look at all the alive babies everywhere. how about if the entire freaking world keeps their living babies and healthy pregnancies and conversations about family and media images of children and baby announcements on facebook and any words related to the aforementioned (i’d be happy to provide a list) out of my life this week. that’s not selfish and unreasonable, is it?

[doing the dishes]
wait … what?

holy cow anxiety
it’s “holy cow anxiety” because you can pretty much say hello to every fear you’ve harbored since toddlerhood, including that one about ceasing to exist if you can’t have pie right now.

daydreams are like futurehopes. when the biggest futurehope of my daydream is impossible, dreaming becomes an exercise of futility. and, frankly, existentialism bores me.

the grief graph

before loss:

after loss:

remember when i talked about sky’s death as a huge hole in the center of our lives that won’t get smaller? in some ways it has the properties of a black hole, in that all of life comes back to that; conversations about other things always come back to sky. huge swaths of life got sucked into it, and we’re only just starting to get them out.

~ joel



i’m a photographer. i don’t know if you knew this. one of the ways i contribute to our family’s income is by taking pictures. weddings, seniors, that sort of thing.

i have a story about photography, but it is also a story about sky. sky … his name is so perfect. light is essential for photography. light enters our world through the sky. light entered and left and reentered my world through sky. he left to dwell in the skies, but he left behind a gift – he brought back my art of light. his life illuminates our lives; he brings clarity, my window-baby, my sky-baby.

i began taking pictures during a time of private turmoil. the art and practice and study brightened life again, and i took many pictures. it grew; organic photosynthesis; eyes that are hurt see beauty more acutely. i don’t like the phrase “capturing beauty” or “capturing moments” or “capturing memories” or any other forms of photographic imprisonment claimed by camera-people. light doesn’t capture; light frees.

and then, (blasted darkness!), a new camera! it hurts my hand and blinds my eyes. angry, i fight it. it fights back. never go all passive aggressive on the equipment of your trade; inanimate objects always win at passive aggressive. guilt trips don’t work either. an untuned piano cannot be pounded into conformity, and a new camera cannot be resented into compliance.

crabby pregnant lady and new camera and passive aggressive fight and precious little light anywhere … thank goodness we managed to satisfy the clients, but after the last session of fall i put the camera on the shelf and informed it that it would be receiving the silent treatment until next july. i might have called it a rancid demon of darkness and petulant lightsucker. it didn’t even blink. these new digital cameras have no shame.

the baby bag, the mama bag, and the camera bag waited on the green rug in the baby room, collecting dust and anticipation. camera is allowed out on parole for baby-day, for obvious reasons. they wait behind closed nursery door. the baby room is dark.

no contractions counted, the car is gone, the bags wait. then the door opens. tearful aunt bekah collects the mama bag and the baby bag and hesitates.
and the camera bag.

in the hospital they took 26 pictures with this camera. one was of a wall. another of joel’s leg. a few were out of focus. a few were perfectly in focus and nicely composed.

and then they left the 3 of us alone in a hospital room, spending our first last night together. i laid sky in the hospital bassinet next to the bed; closed his mouth, tightened his blankets, arranged his hand under his face.  it was night and dim and shadows and so quiet. joel organized luggage. he picked up the camera to put it in the corner, and i said, wait. let me have that.

i took 10 pictures. 5 were out of focus. 5 were not.

we looked at them 4 days later and gasped, and touched the computer screen, and cried, and looked and looked, and i said, i took pictures of him, i took pictures of sky, i took pictures of my baby, i took pictures of him. he gave me pictures of him. and we couldn’t stop looking at him, radiant sky.

and that camera, the one that made him seen, that uncaptured his light?
i forgave it.

here he is.


i wonder if it snows in heaven.

i wonder if babies who die become insta-adults, or if they grow up in a huge heavenly orphanage, playing with Jesus and being loved on by bible characters.

i wonder if he can see the same stars i see.

i wonder what language he is learning. language shapes thought in profound ways … are there even words for “i miss you” in the language of heaven?

i wonder if he misses me.

i wonder where our lost time together is stored, and how we will get it back when time is no more.

i wonder what he would have feared, and what i would have feared for him.

i wonder if it hurt, if he was afraid … or if he was secure in my heartbeat until his stopped. i will never know.

i wonder what hurts would have taught him to forgive. i wonder who he would have hurt, and how they will learn to forgive now. i wonder how i would have hurt him, and what it would have felt like to be forgiven by him.

i wonder who his siblings will be, and what big brother fights games secrets talks jokes wrestles hugs will never be.

i wonder if he would have married, rosy cooing girl-baby somewhere who will never know his love. i wonder if she will marry someone else, and if someone else will love her as well as he would. i wonder who gets to be her mother-in-law.

i wonder what children and grandchildren will never exist, and if the lack of their existence matters. i wonder if I can mourn people who will never be, or if there’s something sacrilegious about that.

i wonder what career field will miss his innovations and camaraderie. i wonder who will fill his office, or studio, or cubicle, or truck, or apron.

i wonder what sports teams will be short one player, which choirs will be missing a tenor. or maybe sports and music aren’t his thing. i wonder.

i wonder if the little boys and girls who would be his friends will feel the sky-shaped hole in their life.

i wonder if his name is still sky, or if he has a new name that i don’t know.

i wonder what causes him to wonder.

i wonder if it’s spring in heaven, and his baby eyes are seeing flowers for the first time.


today marks 3 months since sky was born. joel and i both (separately) googled pictures of 3 month olds today. no longer a newborn, 3 months marks the transition to infant. somewhere, my baby hit a milestone.

if sky were here he would probably be smiling and giggling, showing a preference for his parents, staying awake for longer stretches, holding his head up, and reaching for toys.

even though he’s not here, it’s amazing how fast he’s growing up.

as an addendum to my behind the scenes maternity post, i’m adding a whole bunch of random cell phone pictures here – pictures that reflect moments in pregnancy and life with him, some defining, some mundane. they are random, poor quality, and largely silly, but so very meaningful to me.

positive pregnancy tests at 5 weeks. yes, there are two. (don’t ask …)

by 9 weeks i was sick all the time, and doing a whole lot of this:

joel and i music direct youth musicals, and we were working on tom sawyer when i was 4-11 weeks pregnant with sky. by the time the performances rolled around i was constantly sick and spending every free minute hiding in the bathroom. this artistic team photo sums that up pretty well.

on an engagement shoot at 12 weeks.

13 weeks. at a special event for some of our christian youth theater kids i fell into a lake, and joel was accused of dumping his pregnant wife overboard. it did kinda look like that …

14 weeks brought the haircut of treachery and disaster. this photo was taken at the only time it didn’t look like puke. i will always associate it with awful nausea and will never get a cut like that again, so it is recorded here for posterity. blech.

26ish weeks and finally showing enough to take a bathroom mirror picture:

the whole cat-snuggling thing was definitely a theme with this pregnancy. 27ish weeks.

this is the last picture i have of our first cat, pamina. she was a  feisty, affectionate creature who disappeared sometime in november. she used to purr on my stomach and sky would kick at her, bouncing her around and startling her. she never got up, though, and just snuggled back down on top of him.

34-35 weeks

the following are series of pictures, all taken at around 34-37 weeks, of the kitten we adopted after pamina disappeared. her favorite sleeping position was to perch on my slippery but large stomach while i sat at the computer editing photos. most of the time she required very little assistance to keep her balance, and since i was already in front of the computer, i employed the webcam to catch some of her cuter poses. purring cats were a very big part of sky’s life in utero.

37 weeks: picking out a christmas tree in the pouring rain! ryan came too, and snagged this pic of the 3 of us under shelter:

and my attempt to catch our damp little group in the gift shop:

around this time, the cats decided that their favorite napping place was the changing pad in his room. the majesties were promptly deposed, but not before this picture was taken …

conducting our choir performance of gloria at 38 weeks. sky heard the gloria so many times … he must have memorized it. this was such a happy night. it was the completion of our choir season, the completion of my pre-baby commitments, the last big thing before his arrival. it was december 1st. he was born 13 days later.

i look at this picture and i like to think that the whole choir was singing to him.
and that the cats were purring to him,
and that the rain was pattering for him,
and our friends were loving on him,
and the whole world was waiting for him.


there is a term in the baby loss community that I love.

rainbow baby.

isn’t it beautiful? i never say it out loud; i whisper, reverent. rainbow baby.

rainbow baby is the next one.
rainbow baby is the flickering candle in darkness, the wavering mirage, the misty purple mountain, the cry in the supermarket.
rainbow baby is the genesis promise of life, the resurrection of a dream, the beauty when chaos rains, the proof of a sun.
rainbow baby is the trembling light of hope refracted through tears of grief.

whisper it, rainbow baby. they are words of courage.

some say a baby isn’t all that. a baby is long nights no sex weird smells sore nipples and sacrifice but it’s worth it in the end.

i say no. a baby is a rainbow.

they say you don’t know what it’s like. they say wait until you’re a mother and you’ll see. they say you’ll be tired, you’ll want a break. they say you have no idea.

i say watch me. watch me make my rainbow. watch me conquer the choking clouds of fear to live at peace with my rainbow. watch me bring forth my rainbow in pain and joy. and watch me thank God and hope and heaven every morning for my rainbow, made more precious by the tears of pain in which it is conceived. i may have no idea what it is like to live with a baby, but i know what is like to die with a baby. and one whose motherhood has died with her baby may not know the trials of living with a baby … but i know without a doubt that i will embrace the rain with my rainbow.

during my pregnancy with sky i bought the yarn to make this blanket. it has been my project since he died, healing and connecting me to him, and i only recently realized … it’s a rainbow.

rainbow crochet baby blanket

i may save it for when we have another child, or i may give it away to one of my many pregnant friends. i don’t know. i don’t need to know that now because, thank God, there will always be rainbows.


today is the warmest, prettiest day since sky died. the sky is fading off in palest blues and yellows against the spiky silhouette of our wormy apple tree. i am spending this twilight starting intensely through the washed out colors of the sunset, itching for different. i want to feel something different, do something different, be something different.

losing a child is big. it is a big thing. and i am determined to feel it, to experience and learn from it. i will not be unchanged. my current conceptions are not big enough to hold the bigness of losing a baby. my tidy box of life, expectations, and trust has been blown wide open, scattering still-pulsing bits far, far away. i must go find them. i will bring them back, dust them off, and carefully piece them back together in new designs until life makes sense again.

also, what the heck did that paragraph mean? what a lot of dreamwords, strung together in sentences that sound huge and meaningful and mobilizing. it’s easy to live in a dreamworld at twilight, especially with atmospheric music softening the edges of reality. but really, i have no idea how i will go about finding errant pulsing life pieces and dusting them and whatever else i said i was going to do with them. maybe I’ll have a few minutes for soul searching tomorrow between classes.

and i know that, tomorrow, the mundane will form a hedge around the dreamworld unrest of twilight. but that unrest will still simmer there, prompting an unrelenting quest for deeper understanding, a quest that will take the rest of my life.

losing a child is big.