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Happy Mother's Day to All Moms with Babies in Heaven


May 2014
Along my lengthy journey of absolute love and loss for my daughter, I have met so, so many mothers who have suffered stillbirths, miscarriages, and neo-natal deaths.  These are women whom I would not have met had I not lost Margaret.  As soon as I meet a woman of loss we are instantly friends. We are introduced via a grandmother, a sister, a friend, my website or face book page and then usually if they live close, we meet for coffee or a walk in the woods. I am at rapt attention hearing their tragic story of loss that are also always illuminated with beautiful moments. I love hearing the names of their babies, why they received these names and breathing life back into these babies by asking questions and just hearing about each of them. I also always enjoy hearing about the many unique ways these moms and their families choose to honor their baby through rituals and special mementos. The variety of ideas amazes me.  I have heard of so many different rituals, anything from planting flowers, to running their own charity, to buying a case of wine the year the baby was born, to collecting beach glass, to creating memory boxes, to painting pictures, to various fundraisers.  The list is endless and immensely creative. Grief makes us all creative in ways we never knew were possible. We have lived through the impossible so now we know anything is possible.

These woman and their babies have touched my life so deeply that I constantly picture each of their baby’s faces surrounding my Margaret in heaven. At night with all their names and stories dancing in my head, I say prayers, and as one mom taught me, give extra kisses to my children in honor of Margaret and all these babies who have died.
 
This month of May, I send out hugs to all the moms who have come into my life because they too lost a baby and to many others out there that I do not know who are going through the tragedy of losing a baby and grieving this immense loss.   May you find peace and solace and a creative outlet for your sadness and may you speak your babies name with honor and pride always. Happy Mother’s Day to the all my soul mate moms of loss.  Mother’s Day is sad without our babies, but we can still celebrate our pride at always being their mothers.


Robin, pictured here with her husband and children, while pregnant with Margaret.



"Margaret was a surprise baby. She would have been sixteen months younger than her brother and thirty-seven months younger than her sister. My husband and I decided that we would call them the three musketeers because they were all so close in age, but our third musketeer never got to try out her sword."

Book Reviews

Any parent who has lost a child will find this book unflinchingly honest in its pain, but hopeful in its promise of a new beginning. Robin Lentz Worgan pulls you fully into her experience while always encouraging you to personalize it for your own understanding and healing. The writing is clear, fluid and powerful. It is carefully organized so that you can follow along chapter by chapter or move forward and backward as needed. The excerpts she includes from other authors are evocative and fitting. Robin shares what she has learned and instructs and inspires you to write your own journey through grief and loss.

-Trudy Jellema Schulze, High School and College Writing Teacher

Robin has shared her personal experience and offers helpful suggestions in dealing with the early days after loss as well as coping and behavioral strategies for the difficult months and years to follow. These journal excerpts and thought-provoking commentaries are extremely supportive to the newly bereaved family. The recommended, reflective exercise promote healing and encourage parents to prepare a concrete plan for facing difficult holidays and anniversaries-- the time of acute remembrances. This is an excellent book for those suffering from perinatal loss. I will most certainly offer it to my bereaved parents' support group.

-Diane Carp, RNC with over 25 years of experience as a labor and delivery nurse and
Coordinator of "Resolve Through Sharing"

Robin Lentz Worgan Bio

Robin Lentz Worgan began her writing career by contributing an essay about the miscarriage of her first pregnancy to an anothology titled Our Stories of Miscarriage. The miscarriage and her later experience of a stillbirth account for her leadership of Our Silent Angels, an organization that offers guidance and support to women who have lost babies. She also has served as co-chair of the Children's Ministries Commission of her church. Since graduating from Ursinus College with a BA in English and earning a Masters degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Robin has taught school and contributed poems and articles to various publications. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and four children.

Gone but Never Forgotten: Nana and Joe

March always makes me think of my Nana. Her name was Margaret.  We named my daughter, Margaret, after her.  We had planned that to be our baby’s name if she was a girl.  Holding her stillborn body in our arms, we told the doctors that her name was Margaret.  Nana had dementia but I know she understood what happened to Margaret.  Nana died one August day, exactly one year after Margaret was born, but the month of March makes me think of Nana because she was Irish and loved Saint Patty’s Day.  She used to tell us, “Ya know I started drinking beer when I was 5,” and “God love ya, my mother never had any money but she always put a good meal on the table on Sundays.” On Saint Patrick’s Day Nana always dressed in Green, made ham and cabbage and invited over her six children and their gangs. For many years she and my grandfather had a Festive St Patrick’s Day Party in their cellar filled with a bar, slot machines and shuffle board. She and my grandfather would always sing for their guests. I feel so happy when I think of Nana that I can almost not control a chuckle.

March also makes me think of my nephew Joseph who died in 2009 at age two of a brain tumor. Today would be his seventh birthday and the fifth birthday we have celebrated without him.  When I talk about Nana, I feel confident of who she was. She told us lots of humorous stories about her childhood and about becoming a nurse and a mother. I am confident that when I tell these stories to others, they will be well received because she lived a full and colorful life, but when I speak about Joe I am not so confident. I am not confident because I am not sure of all that he would have become. He had so many amazing qualities. He was funny with a mature sense of humor and he was smart-no-I mean really smart.  He was musical and loved to play and listen to music and he was very handsome (watch out little ladies in heaven), and he was just a really sweet kid. But my moments, my children’s moments with their cousin Joe will always feel unfinished. And I know that because he died so young that others will not want to talk about him because they think it is so sad that he did not get to live a full life, but just because he did not live very long does not mean he didn’t fill our hearts and profoundly affect our lives, just as Nana did.  Joe had amazing parents who now have two other boys, Joe’s brothers, and another sibling due in May.  As their family’s story continues to develop so does Joe’s story develop, too.

What? You want to hear about him? Well today his mother is making a cake without icing because that is the quirky way he preferred birthday cakes, and he loved trains. In fact, one June day, weeks before he died, we took him to the Morris Arboretum where he watched the trains and then coyly dropped coins into a nearby water fountain exclaiming, “Again” so that his cousins would retrieve the coins and let him drop them again. Again Joe, again and again, I will think of you and talk about you and love you and miss you and remember you because you lived a full life for two years and taught us all lessons about the beauty and brevity of life. Happy Birthday Joe! And by the way, be careful when you are up there with Nana because you are now 7 and remember, she started drinking when she was 5. XO

 

Annual Questions and Honorary Love: February 2014

The nurse asks to go through the normal list of medical history questions.  I always brace myself for these hard questions, the same way that I prepare to jump off a ski lift, suck my stomach in and take a deep breath.   “Let’s run through your pregnancies,” she says. We begin with my miscarriage, add two healthy pregnancies and then for the third I say, identifying the factors she had asked me to for each pregnancy, “Stillbirth, Girl, Margaret.”  I expect, with my breathe sucked in, that she will quietly shake her head or just keep on going which is usually the case, but this time as soon as I announce it, she lets out a long slow sigh and responds, “Oh dear! I am so sorry.  Just rip your heart out and then you must live on to tell. That is just awful.”  She is distracted by my stillbirth announcement and continues to sigh and look at me.  We move on through my other two healthy pregnancies and I wonder in my head as I always do, why they must ask me these same questions each year at the gynecologist. Why don’t they have my exact pregnancy records on file with a yellow highlight on stillbirth?  She moves me to the table to take my blood pressure, and I realize her empathetic response has caused something to stir in me that I have not felt in a very long time. Over the past sixteen years, I have become someone who leads others through and out of their grief, but today I am being led back in.  Suddenly I remember how I felt sixteen years ago at my postpartum six week check up after losing Margaret.   I remember feeling the emptiness of my arms as the nurse carelessly runs through the list of six week post questions asking, “Breast or bottle fed?”  I respond “Neither, my baby died.” The nurse shakes her head for a slight second and then goes on to the next question.
 
Sometimes our babies live for only a half a sentence and then their short lives are shut back up again when the subject changes, but this year my nurse wants to honor  my loss. I find myself strangely silent. I cannot reply to her kind words. The silence makes me realize that whenever Margaret is brought up, I usually sweep into super girl mode and change the subject or spout my gratitudes  to make the mood and moment all better , and that sometimes, this is exactly what I want to do because I have so many joys in my life that I don’t always want to focus on my loss, but other times, like this day, I can let my defense shield down, allow this woman to look me in the eye, honor my loss for more than half a sentence,  think about my Margaret and allow myself  that painfully good feeling that comes with everlasting grief.   We move through discomfort so quickly in our country that we often don’t even stop to honor or recognize it.  This month of Love I would like to thank and honor all the nurses and doctors who help us honor and move through our losses. We thank you and our babies thank you too, at least for a moment.

 

 

Margaret's Garden: August 2013


Those of you who have read my book know that I ended it on the 10th anniversary of Margaret’s death by deeming an unkempt rose garden, Margaret’s garden. Every year since, I feed and prune the roses in an amateur but loving way, I plant various pink annuals around my angel statue in the middle of the garden and I do my best to keep it looking pretty just like my baby girl.

This year Glenn and I had really let our yard go between lacrosse games, track meets, pick ups at college, and weekends away. Our rose garden, in particular, since left unattended, had gotten extremely weedy. Each day in the spring as I drove up the driveway and turned to look at the rose garden, I would let out a sigh and mentally put it on my To Do list. However, just like the many paper piles in my office looked daunting and kept falling to the end of my To Do list, so too did tending the rose garden. Finally one Saturday in June my early riser, Lila, was away for the weekend, my teens were all sleeping and we actually had no plans.  Having no more excuses, I threw on my ripped up jeans and trudged out to tend Margaret’s rose garden.

It had rained hard the day before so the tall weeds and tufts of grass unearthed easily. As I worked I could feel my heart beat slow and then I suddenly realized I was talking and I heard myself saying, “I am so, so sorry Margaret. What a bad mother I have been. I am sorry I have let the garden go. It does not mean that I don’t love you and think of you every day.” Hearing myself speak, I realized that no matter the circumstances, this conversation was an inevitable characteristic of motherhood. Even though my daughter had been dead for almost 16 years, I still, at times, find myself feeling guilty about how I mother her because guilt is a mother’s co-dependent partner from the moment of conception until eternity.

As I continued to weed, I felt sad by how much I had let her garden go but as I made progress clearing the weeds my sadness turned to pride and gladness. As I worked and talked to Margaret, I spotted a wren landing near me once, cocking its head, flying off and then landing right next to me again. I smiled feeling this wren must be offering me a message of encouragement just as the Robin encourages Mary in The Secret Garden. Then, as I uncovered a rose bush being strangled by weeds, a huge earthworm showed itself, and I had to stop and giggle. My grandfather had loved gardening and earthworms. After he died, my children and I would year after year carry a bounty of fresh vegetables from our garden and bring them to his grave. My children would talk to him and sing to him freely as if he was right there. I always loved how they kept him alive in those yearly ceremonies on his birthday.

There are many ways my family and I keep Margaret alive on her birthday, holidays and everyday of the year though tending this garden is more of a mom-daughter connection. As I weed I continue to talk to Margaret and tell her anything that comes to mind just as if I am sitting with oldest daughter, Elizabeth, sharing tea and chatting. This is something mothers and daughters do together.
On August 13 this year Margaret turns 16: A big milestone for a teenager. I wonder if she would have gotten her license right away since her older brother Martin still does not have his. I wonder if she would have a boyfriend and I wonder what her voice would sound like during our talk sessions since I have never heard it. I wonder if she would want a big party or just a family gathering and whether or not she would like ice cream cake or regular cake. Yes, I would rather have her here celebrating her 16th birthday, but I am thankful for the short time we had together and nature all around me reminds me that I am always there for her and she is always there for me just hiding in the flowers, the birds, the butterflies, the rainbows, the stars, but there. Happy Birthday Margaret, and listen hard because your siblings who can all sing better than me, will sing to you on your birthday and just maybe if they pause, look and listen, they will hear back from you.

Radio Interview with Robin Lentz Worgan  about her stillbirth  and her book on http://www.opentohope.com/your-loss/pregnancy-loss/: Your loss/ pregnancy loss. Tune in to know you are not alone in your grief and to honor the life of your baby.


Mother's Day: Eternal Love 2013

“George and Anne had taken the deaths (of their daughters) very heavily…sometimes they wept,          and then sat silent, hand in hand…”Lady Rachel Russell, 1687   

          In November we visited our 18-year-old daughter who was spending her first semester of college in London. Being tea lovers, we one day went to High Tea at the Orangery at Kensington Palace, home to Queen Anne, Queen Victoria and, more recently famous, Princess Diana.  It is an exquisite building with beautiful orange trees. The tea was served with varied scrumptious sandwiches and treats for dessert as well as clotted cream on perfectly textures scones.  While there, I read the brief history of the Orangery. It seems it was implemented by Queen Anne, sister of William III.  I became curious about Queen Anne and looked her up.
          As it turns out she was a true kindred spirit of mine, and maybe yours.  Anne was very happily married to Prince George of Denmark for 17 years.  According to various accounts, during their marriage which ended with his death in 1700, Anne was pregnant 17 times!  Her first pregnancy ended in a stillbirth. She then gave birth over the next two years to two girls, Mary and Anne Sophia and then in 1687 both girls caught the chicken pox and died. As stated above George and Anne took these deaths and the deaths of all of their children very hard.  In total, over the course of 17 years, Anne had 12 stillbirths or miscarriages, sources believe that there were 6 miscarriages and 6 stillbirths and five live births. Their only child to live past the age of two, Prince William, Duke of Gloucester died at the age of 11! Anne was so sad about his death that she ordered a day of mourning every year on the anniversary. Matters grew worse when six months later she lost her husband! Can you picture her grief? But two years later, Anne with many heavenly children but no live children became queen, a very popular one at that, and she reigned for 12 years until her death.
 When I first lost Margaret to stillbirth, it gave me strength to hear about other mothers of loss who found strength to carry on.  Anne is a pillar of strength and endurance to all of us mothers of loss for she carried on in light of all her losses and quite possibly because of them for her grieving energy was used, quite productively,  to rule England from 1702-14.
          As I say those final words about Queen Anne, I am reminded that my daughter, Margaret, never leaves me. I am her mother eternally. Knowing this is such a comfort to me but then I am reminded of the two moms whom I just found out about who gave birth to stillborn babies this past month. One woman lost her first child, another lost her third. Though I want them to know that they will forge on in life, right now they need to take it one moment, one hour at a time. They need lots of unconditional support from family and friends. This Mother’s Day month bless all moms who have lost babies and give them strength to march forward.  Like Anne, go have a cup of tea and be kind to yourself and know that all of us other moms of loss carry your pain and understand your story without any words needing to be spoken.  

Symbols of Love and Belief: February 2013

       February is the month of love. Losing someone we love wounds us physically, emotionally and spiritually. When one loses someone dear to them they question everything; even those who have strong faith will question and doubt their faith.  Having worked with many women and families who have lost babies, I notice that each family strives to find a symbol that will help them remain connected to their lost loved one. The symbols range from animals to insects to colors to religious symbols. The angel is one such symbol. A controversial symbol that can bring comfort to some while others reject this symbol out of lack of faith or simply just not wanting to connect the figure and connotations of an angel with their personal loss.
            In the book Angels by Jane Williams she describes the many meanings of angels throughout history but says that “The guardian angel is the most acceptable face of the angel….The guardian angel is the personification of God’s care for each person. Sometimes God can seem very distant and impersonal and, at such times, the angel, so much more like us, can help us feel God’s care again. The angels bring us to God and God to us.”
            Whatever one feels about an angel, it remains a strong symbol of peace and love. As the New York Times article below demonstrates, sometimes one just needs to believe in something!  Here, the angel at the cathedral trumps for this community in The Netherlands.  

Belated Gifts: December 2012

I remember a few months after losing our beautiful daughter, Margaret, I went to visit the home of my dear college friend, Nanci.  As soon as I walked into the house her mother offered me an iced tea and then whisked me aside and said, “Robin, I am so sorry and I understand just what you are going through. Our first son was stillborn too. His name was Thomas and his birthday is next month… he would be 40.”
 That gesture of empathy meant so much to me at the time. It reassured me that the powerful love and connection I had with Margaret would never diminish.  It validated what I already knew: that no other child could replace her.  After losing Thomas my friend‘s mother went on to have four more children but Thomas would always be her oldest and on each of his birthdays she would mourn the milestones he did not reach.  It was a surreal realization that though I may heal like she did, my Margaret like her Thomas would always be missing.
During the holidays is one of those times that Margaret is sorely missing. She has no stocking but she has 16 ornaments, one for each missed Christmas, that we place on the tree for the 16 Christmases without her.  Though she is not with us, over the years I have become more and more grateful for our short time with her and for anything that honors her life. I believe losing her has caused me to cherish life and its small gratuities in a more sensitive and real way than if I had not lost her.
Showing our gratitude for what we have even when we feel bereft because of what we have so unfairly lost helps us to have faith and hope and happiness in our lives and, of course, peace as well.
 In the following article several couples in England received a belated gift and blessing by finally learning where their unnamed stillborns were buried. These stories are sad, beautiful and heart wrenching.  It was not until the 1980s in America that parents were encouraged to name and hold their stillborn babies.  I am more thankful each day for the memorable gifts I received with Margaret that these couples, in the 1960s and 70s did not with their babies: We named Margaret, we held her and had time with her, we took pictures of her, my mother-in-law got to hold her and we created a beautiful memorial service for her along with many yearly remembrance rituals.
This Christmas give yourself the gift of gratitude by counting your blessings with your lost child.  Seek gifts from very littlest of things; these are what count most in both life and death.  Here is the link:
www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1366962/How-heartbroken-couples-secret-graves-long-lost-stillborn-children.
Many blessings to you!


Summer Reading Suggestion for Grieving Parents

In the summer I always recommend a good book.  The book I recommend this summer is Gilead by Marianne Robinson.  Gilead is book you could read over and over and draw new meaning from it each time. It is narrated by a preacher who has a child very late in life and at the age of 77 finds he is dying. This book is a letter to his son. The topic sounds morbid but it such a beautifully well written book that no matter how sad and distraught you are, it will get you back in touch with the beauty of life and of enjoying this time on earth with those you love or without those you love if they have died.  It was published a few years ago. In the book the narrator tells of marrying very young and of his wife having a stillbirth and subsequently dying.  This episode forges an immediate connection for all of us who have suffered an infant loss.  At one point he writes about what it would be like if his stillborn daughter, Louisa, who would now be 55, were to walk into his room.  “I wouldn’t recognize her.” He demonstrates something we all know: we never stop counting those birthdays or thinking about the age of our lost children for they continue to grow in our minds and in our hearts.
But this book is not about his stillborn, it is about life. He reminds us, at this fragile time in his own life, to be both loving and candid and to say things we normally hold back on to loved ones; to notice the sun setting as we play wiffle ball at night with our children and the quite noises that surround us each evening. May this book help you find hidden bits of joy in your grieving path for in every negative experience there is positive beauty hidden somewhere.  

As the narrator ponders his daughter’s 55th birthday, I ponder my Margaret’s 15th birthday which is today, August 13th, 2012.  I’m sure she would be hanging out with her  18-year –old sister and 16-year-old brother and maybe  be taking surfing lessons with her 12-year-old sister and looking slightly like her nine-year-old sister with long locks and dark brown eyes, but then again I will never truly know.  God bless you Margaret, my lovey love. Happy Birthday to you.




To be or not to be silent?

      For Lent this year, I tried something different. While reading a book titled Listening Below The Noise by Anne D. LeClaire, I decided, similar to the author, to have silent days on each Monday in Lent. Quite challenging, right? Well, I picked Mondays because I always write on Mondays and usually do not answer the phone or do errands so it would be the easiest day to be successful. Of course, I would have to figure out how to not talk to my four children and husband
once the late afternoon began. The first Monday went by well enough and I decided I could write notes if I truly needed to communicate. The second Monday was not so easy. My oldest was sick. I had to take her to the doctor and then to school so speaking was necessary. My quiet day did not start until 11:00AM! Later that day, a friend left a message on my phone that her mother had died suddenly …this changed my challenge because whereas not talking in my own house made me a better listener and brought some silence to my loud world, not talking to her at this time seemed unkind.
      This dilemma with my friend made me think about grief and how much silence from loved ones and friends can hurt someone who is grieving, but also how at times, friends speaking and saying the wrong thing can hurt just as much. It is such a balancing act to use our words and show empathy and love; an act that takes conscious self-control and word choice. Choosing each sentence is important when we are speaking to someone who is grieving. Choosing words carefully makes me think of poetry. Maybe it is why I am drawn to poetry. A man or women spends hours and hours putting words on a page that paint a picture. Each word carries powerful weight. Poetry is a break from the day; poetry opens our hearts; poetry is a way to enjoy the moment and when one is grieving it is hard to enjoy the moment; poetry reminds us to enjoy the little things in life and to be grateful for what we have even if we ache for what we don’t have. April is National Poetry month and so for this reason I will be posting a link to a poem on most days in the month of April on my Journaling Away Mommy’s Grief FB page. Some will be about grief, some will be uplifting and some will just be about minutia.     
        Silence and speaking: let each of us find this balance and let it help us on our journeys of our silent loved ones. I’ll begin with the ballad, Danny Boy, by Fredrick Edward Wheatley. Let it take you to that faraway place with your loved one and let the silence there be peaceful.

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/22851

Sibling Love Is True Love

Just as adults need to find ways to process their grief, children must find ways too. Since children live in the moment, sometimes it comes naturally like when my oldest daughter, Elizabeth, said to me. “When is Margaret coming back because I am ready to play with her?” Or years later when my middle daughter, Winnie, made a snow angel and came running in the house and announced to me that it was for Margaret, a sister she had never met. Or several months ago when my youngest daughter, Lila, wrote the poem that is posted below. She wrote it for her stillborn older sister, Margaret. When I read it I was speechless for it said it all. Lila was only eight-years-old when she wrote this poem, but grief creates in each of us a wisdom beyond our years.

Those who have not gone through
the loss of a baby or child do not realize that there can still be a powerful
bond between a sibling alive and a sibling who has died. I think Lila’s poem
proves this point beyond a shadow of a doubt. God bless all the siblings who
have lost a brother or sister.

MY DREAM

I had a dream
roses and tulips
in a field
They blew away
It was dark and cold
I cried all the grass away
Then an angel appeared
She said,
“I am Margaret
Here are the tulips
Here are the roses
Here is the grass.”
I said,
“Why did you do that for me?”
She said,
“That is what sisters do.”
“I love you,”
I said

Written by Lila Chambers Worgan

Birthday Celebrations and Birth Certificates for Stillborns in PA.

August 13 will mark my daughter Margaret's 14th birthday. Our family will be vacationing in Cape May Point, New Jersey just as we were 14 years ago before she was born. We always have a quiet celebration with a shrine in her honor, a candle for prayers, a bouquet of fresh zinnias and chocolate chip cookies with Ms on them. My children help me bake them and we pass them out to all the cousins, aunts and uncles and munch them happily in honor of Margaret. Over the years I have heard many beautiful birthday traditions such as letting balloons go, blowing bubbles, making a birthday cake and singing, visiting a grave or reading a special prayer. These are all gifts of special moments that we take to honor our lost babies but next month my Margaret will receive her most amazing birthday gift of all when my husband and I actually receive a birth certificate that records and validates her birth to this world. We have a death certificate but we want to celebrate her life.


A huge thank you goes out to Heidi Kauffman, her stillborn son, Kail,and many other people who worked so hard to get the legislature in Pennsylvania to join 30 other states in offering birth certificates to stillborn babies. If you live in Pennsylvania or birthed your baby here and you would like to receive a birth certificate, the law goes into effect on September 5, 2011. You can begin the paperwork now by going to www.portal.health.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/fetal_death_and certificate_of_birth_resulting_in_stillbirth_certificates_of_birth_resulting_in_stillbirth/608963. It is retro-active so if your baby was born three months ago or thirty years ago, you can still get a birth certificate. Happy BIRTH-day to the many, many stillborn babies that were born in Pennsylvania and will finally get to truly celebrate their BIRTH-days:)

Book Review: An Exact Replica Of A Figment Of My Imagination 7/18/11

Elizabeth McCracken, a well known fiction author, also wrote a memoir titled An Exact Replica Of A Figment Of My Imagination. It is the bittersweet story of the life and death of her first born son, Pudding. As a mom who lost her third child, reading it helped me better understand what it is like to lose a first born child. The first child that, before birth, labeled you “mommy” or “daddy” but after being stillborn, never called you by that name. The child that drove you to start “nesting” and cleaning like you never did before, only to find out there was no point. The anticipation of the baby that made you buy all kinds of baby gadgets, only to not use them. The child that was delivered from your body and made you a mommy yet no one in the outside world could tell you’re a mommy because you have no baby in your arms… Having my own two children to care for after my third child, Margaret, was stillborn were the hardest days of my life, as I chronicle in JAMG, but I was also still a “Mommy” to the outside world and I could still answer to that name. Since the grieving journey for any loss is anything but linear, McCracken’s plot structure makes perfect sense because she moves back and forth between the past with her pregnancy and the subsequent loss of Pudding and the present with her second, living son, Gus. Her structure reminds us that life goes on after such a horrific loss but it is also very different both in a physical and mental sense.
Most importantly, McCracken also takes the reader inside the complicated world of friendship after an infant death where friends, such as Libby, who can think of Pudding as a boy and can talk about McCracken’s loss remain high on her list, while others who were at the top, fall down. Similar to myself, McCracken processes her grief and re-lives her time with Pudding by writing her experience on paper, but something I did not always do that McCracken does flawlessly is infuse humor throughout and by doing this she shows the reader the importance of taking note of humorous moments in even our saddest of days.
This book help others know what it is like to lose a first born baby so pass it along to those that don’t understand and pass it along to those who have suffered the loss themselves or through some connection as the aunt, the grandparent, the uncle because in a way, all losses transcend one another and we can only learn how to support each other by vicariously going on different loss journeys with one another.