K was on the carpet, pushing up to standing at a child-sized chair. I hovered behind her, hands ready to steady her. Another mom, one I didn’t know, dark hair, asked, “Is she your first?” And I sat in the terrible pause where I tried to decide how to answer that question. I think she kept talking, something about how with your first you’re so excited when they stand and with later kids you almost push them back down because you know what’s coming.
“She’s my second. My son died when he was six and half months old.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
I carefully watched K, didn’t look into those eyes to see if they were sympathetic or horrified or looking for escape. I didn’t want to cry, and I didn’t have it in me to make this okay for her if she needed that. As I gathered my strength to scoop up K, grab my diaper bag, and run away, another voice said quietly, “Are you Henry’s mom?”
The tears that had been threatening leaped up. I blinked them back as I looked up this time, at the woman with reddish hair and a post-partum belly. I had seen her earlier, but it took me a while to place her. I had met her in the summer of 2007 at a baby group with Henry.
Even once I made the connection, I didn’t say hello. I didn’t ask about her new baby or how having two kids was. I didn’t ask if she was sleeping or had enough help this time around. I realized why I knew her but said nothing.
But here she was with a little boy of Henry’s would be age and a new baby, asking if I was Henry’s mom.
“Yes,” I said simply. And she told me her name and her son’s name and how she knew me. She asked me about K and told me she had thought of me often since she heard that Henry had died. Our little ones moved in opposite directions, and following them we separated, but I went home so relieved and grateful to have been seen as Henry’s mom.
I didn’t reach out first, but I followed up. I found her email address on an old list from 2007. “It was nice to see you again,” I started and then:
“It was nice to be recognized as Henry’s mom. Having K has been wonderful simply for who she is but also healing. Still, my heart aches for my baby boy who is not here, so to simply be called his mom kind of made me smile a little all day. So, thank you. “
Six years later, I still smile at that memory. I’m still grateful that she was not afraid to say Henry’s name or to greet me as Henry’s mom.
I am many parts, some of them more obvious, some of them more active roles. As mom to my girls, I go to parent-teacher conferences, watch soccer games, volunteer with the PTO, make dinner, sit through meltdowns, read stories each night. As Henry’s mom, I remember. I hold pieces of him. I love Empty Arms, I go back each fall to Boston Children’s, I walk in the Buddy Walk as ways to be more actively, more obviously what I am every day, Henry’s mom.
Today is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Today I remember many babies gone too soon and I honor the women I’ve met who miss them.
I see you:
Charlotte’s mom; Angel Mae and Owen’s mom; Sierra’s mom; Lucia’s mom; Hope’s mom; Jordan’s mom; Georgiana’s mom; Birdie’s mom; Emma’s mom; Hudson’s mom; Teddy’s mom; Tikva and Jesse Love’s mom; Ezra’s mom; Lakshmi’s mom; Lyra’s mom; Calla’s mom; George’s mom; Thomas’s mom; Georgina’s mom; Isabella, Sean, Samantha, Tristan, and Maggie’s mom; Justin’s mom; Sally Ann’s mom; Matthew and Ashley’s mom; Madison’s mom; Eva’s mom; Jason’s mom; Emilio’s mom; Caitlyn’s mom; Magie’s mom, Devon’s mom, and you, with the baby unnamed but loved.
I see you.
I loved this day with it’s golden glow, a last breath of summer wearing the colors of fall.
I loved this day with a pile of weeds culled and branches clipped as I slowly get ready to put the garden to rest for the year. I loved this day with cilantro from that garden even as everything else is winding down. I loved this day as I wondered when to plant my garlic. Is it time?
I loved this day with a fairy princess biking to pick apples, coming back with a bag of them in her bike basket. I loved this day of my girls whirling-spinning-climbing-sliding-flipping on the playground as I wrote two letters in the warm sun. I loved this day even as the chill of late afternoon crept in with a reminder that it is fall despite the glory it offered.
I loved this day with dinner offered, no need to cook.
I loved this day as I turned apples into sauce, cutting, simmering, watching white slices and red skin turn into a tawny rose puddle that pulsed and breathed as it came to a boil. I loved this day savoring warm apple sauce sprinkled thickly with crisp granola. I loved this day listening to the canning pot bubble and clatter for one of the last times this year.
I loved this day in this season I love. I loved this day with the ones I love. I loved this day doing the things I love.
I loved this day.
What ever you love, let’s write together. Write What You Love Starts tomorrow. You can still sign up here. (It’s free!)
Right now I’m loving
- bursts of color, not in the leaves where I expect it this time of year, but in my garden where the zinnias and dahlias, cosmos and mums are peaking
- bringing bits of that color inside on my desk, the windowsill by the kitchen sink, the top of the bookcase
- noticing the spreading color in the trees, a little more each morning, when I step outside first thing while the coffee pot drip-hiss-sputters inside
- coming in from the cool morning to that hot coffee
- using the garlic that I grew and waiting for the delivery of my seed for next year
- the warmth and comfort of my bed as I anticipate sleeping outside on the hard ground for a couple of days
- anticipating an adventure, the kind we haven’t had in a long, long time
- this post by Jess Ryan that helps me remember why I love this kind of adventure (I’ll consider the metaphors later)
- getting bags (and bags and bags) of clothes ready to hand-down or donate
- knowing the new Louise Penny book is ready for me at the library—even if I can’t get it just yet
- writing letters again
- time away from the computer
What are you loving right now?
Tell me something now—and write about it next week with Write What You Love. It’s free and you can sign up here.
Four tomatoes hung in a small cluster, orange-red, with a bit of yellow on the shoulders. The other plants hold hard only green stones or tiny yellow flowers. I picked the first, held it warm from the sun. Every year when I pick the first tomato, I want to hold it up reverently, slice it ceremoniously, share it in the celebration of the first tomato.
Every year I remember that my kids don’t like tomatoes and my husband would think the first tomato celebration silly and a bit much. So I savor it myself, slicing it and sprinkling the ribbons of basil, drizzling the olive oil, sitting at the picnic table to eat because that burst of summer should be eaten outside. Or I stand in the garden, sun-warm tomato in my hand and eat it, slowly, juice dripping down my chin. Either way, a celebration.
I walk through my garden regularly, seeing what’s ready to be picked, what needs some attention, what’s going to be ready to pick. (Keep an eye on those zucchinis.) I enjoy all the foods that come out of my garden, but I don’t look forward to many of them the same way I look forward to tomatoes.
This year, four came ripe together and I bit into one in the garden, bursting its skin, the juice coming out with almost a pop. I ate the others under the pear tree, ignoring bickering at the dinner table and licking a bit of juice-flecked oil from my thumb.
More tomatoes will come and I’ll enjoy them fresh and slow-roasted with garlic. I’ll make sauce and simmer them into salsa. I’m looking forward to tomato bounty (fingers crossed against late blight, a problem I haven’t had yet, and septoria spot, which I have), but I celebrate that first tomato.
What part of summer are you celebrating right now?
Celebrating tomatoes is really about slowing down and savoring. It’s about finding and holding joy in small things.
What can you celebrate today? What can you notice? Think small and focus on your senses. Enjoy!
My garden is a mess. The kind of mess where you can hardly find the things you planted. I spent the better part of Sunday working out there.
I turned over new beds and planted chard and more carrots. I tied up peas and tomatoes. I weeded and weeded and weeded. Spending time in my garden was a perfect way to spend my birthday. My back would tell you I worked outside all day, but it’s not really work.
I love gardening for the fresh cilantro I pick, wet with dew, for my breakfast burrito and for the golden cherry tomatoes warm from the sun (it’ll be a while, but they’re coming).
I love when my big girls says, “Can I make a salad for dinner?” and then collects and spins and chops (and eats!) it.
I love my peonies, heavy headed and drooping after the rain, and the feathery cosmos that settled in on their own and are starting to announce themselves.
But it’s not just what comes out of my garden. There’s something about the the planting and weeding and tying and checking, something about the process, that soothes me and refreshes me.
I came in Sunday, feet and hands black, face smeared with dirt. My back was tight, but my shoulders were loose. My garden is still a mess, but I wasn’t.
That evening my friend threw me an impromptu party with ribs and margaritas and for dessert the simple version of this cake and this ice cream, both of which I made because I love the rhythm of the kitchen (when it isn’t grumbly get dinner on the table time) as much as I love the rhythm of the garden.
Sunday I found more strawberries hanging like jewels under green leaves. I ate one and shared the rest with my girls. There’s spinach almost ready to pick again and the first tomatoes forming. And, I noticed with surprise and glee my garlic is beginning to get scapes, so I’m dreaming of pesto and pizza and lazy summer dinners. The garden is a lot of work, but it feels more like rhythm and dreams and rewards and hope.
What do you love doing so much it doesn’t feel like work?