Thursday, February 28, 2013


I've been practicing yoga consistently for eleven years, but I have not been able to make myself go lately. Part of it may be that much of the time and energy I devote to exercise has been funneled to Crossfit, but in the past I have combined yoga with weight lifting, running and Pilates, and sometimes all three. My reluctance, I think, has more to do with a loss of faith.

This loss of faith isn't limited to yoga; I haven't been to the dentist, for instance, since last May. All the things people have assured me are good for me are getting a critical look. The more extravagant the claims and the more slavish my devotion, the more pissed off I am that in the moment of crisis they failed me. With yoga, the fact that it is a spiritual system that we in America have transformed into an exercise regimen complicates my attempt to manage my expectations. I realized years ago that yoga isn't church. It can be a community, but it can't be a substitute for other close relationships. It also doesn't make me thin, and I will never be able to do the splits.

Which leads to the inevitable question: what, exactly, is yoga for?


In the beginning it was because my back hurt. That was all. Doing yoga made my back hurt less. But most people I know who do yoga have at least some spiritual yearning or they would get a sports massage instead. For four years I gleaned a Sanskrit word here and there, embracing the tenets unsystematically and uncritically, but then Jasper was born and I experienced my first flat-out rebellion against an aspect of yoga.

After an hour and fifteen minutes of vigorous activity, most yoga classes end with a few minutes of savasana, otherwise known as corpse pose. To the uninitiated it looks like everyone in the class is resting or asleep on their back, and maybe they are, but there's supposed to be more to it than that. One of my more thoughtful teachers spoke very poetically about it when she said that everything we have and everything we are is a gift from the earth. Eventually, we have to give it back. In corpse pose we are supposed to meditate on this eventual surrender, otherwise known as death.

I always had trouble with corpse pose, though not because of the death part. I could never seem to get my mind to stop running over the grocery list or planning what I was going to make for dinner. I couldn't stop thinking about what a passive-aggressive bitch my boss was, or the lamp I saw at the antique store.

After a year or two, in the spirit of self-acceptance, I stopped trying to quiet my mind, or meditate. Sometimes my mind would be quiet, sometimes it refused. I went along with whatever it did.

Once I had Jasper, though, I rejected savasana categorically. No matter what the asana required, I would not relinquish what I had here on earth, even in my imagination. I would not give it back. No fucking way. I was alive and I had a baby and I had to stay alive and he had to stay alive and there would be no surrender of any kind. Surrender was for holier people than I. It was for Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Dalai Lama. But I said no.

Instead of planning my day or thinking about my last phone conversation with my mother, I lay on my back, eyes closed, and actively resisted death for fifteen minutes. Every yoga class for at least two years ended with this same battle. It was not relaxing, but I couldn't stop my vigilance. If I relaxed, I felt, death might find an opening, and there was no way I was letting it get in.

Death slipped in anyway, because it does.


When I got pregnant with Balthazar I went to my regular yoga class through the first trimester, but once I could no longer do upward facing dog I switched to prenatal yoga.

The only prenatal yoga class that was offered in my area was taught by a small, dark-haired woman who wore striped knee socks. She had two young boys and was extremely chipper. Chipper people, through no fault of their own, make me nervous.

Each class began with a "check in." We went around the room and spoke a little about how we were doing. This went on for forty-five minutes, because sometimes there were twenty women in the class. The class was an hour and a half. Sitting for that long was very uncomfortable for me. Maybe that's what made me so cranky.

When it was my turn, I will admit I often complained. I complained that my hips ached. I complained that I couldn't sleep. Prenatal yoga pretends to be sympathetic but looks askance at this kind of attitude. It's like Sheryl Sandberg wanting to have consciousness raising groups about women and the workplace but only wanting to hear positive stories. A lot of the other women complained, too, but then they always covered with a self-deprecating laugh, as if to say, silly me, don't listen to me!

I did not emit any self-deprecating laughs.

I tried to engage the teacher I disliked, though from the outside my “trying to engage” might look a lot like “standing disdainfully aloof.” I talked to her about the book Poser, which I had enjoyed. But she always made me feel that I was doing everything wrong. She hated the Baby Bjorn, which I said I was going to use because I already had one. There's a new carrier now, the only acceptable carrier, and she made it sound like if I didn't get it my baby would be a hunchback. And I told her that because of my age I was going to be induced at thirty-nine weeks. Prenatal yoga teachers are very opposed to induction, and if I had been younger or if it had been my first pregnancy I might have felt guilty. Instead I just thought she was a doctrinaire jerk.

Once I broke down crying during the check in, talking about Jasper.

"He's been a fantastically indulged child," I sobbed. "I'm scared about what the new baby will bring to my relationship with him."

Maybe the yoga teacher thought that by fantastically indulged I meant that I had bought him too many Legos. Maybe you'd have to know me and my child better to know that I meant lavished with time and attention and affection. I thought that was at least implied, but she just looked at me like she didn't understand what the hell I was saying. I got that look a lot.

It felt fatuous to me, this pretense that we were all friends, all supporting each other, when in reality we just happened to be gestating at approximately the same time. Women appeared, and disappeared. Some smiled at me or exchanged a remark or two before or after class, but mostly not. Sometimes I heard that someone had had her baby, and upon hearing her name I struggled to remember which one she was.

On April 2, my 41st birthday, I went to prenatal yoga and told all of my faux companions in pregnancy that I was worried. Balthazar wasn't moving very much. I would have said he wasn't moving at all, except I was having Braxton-Hicks contractions and I falsely thought it was Balthazar's bottom pressing toward the front of my belly. My chipper teacher reassured me that everything was fine, that babies move less when they move down into the birth canal as they prepare to be born. "I wish I had a Doppler at home so I could check on him," I said apologetically and everyone laughed.

Afterward I sent her an email on Facebook telling her what had happened. I tried very hard, and I think mostly succeeded, in making it non-accusatory. She didn't email back.

It isn't fair to judge yoga on the basis of this one prenatal yoga class. An argument could be made that it was my inability to connect with anyone that made the class a failure. 

After Balthazar died, my long-term yoga teacher gave me a private class for free. Another one told me about a pelvic floor health workshop she thought I would benefit from. Another, who didn't even know what had happened, just saw me sitting in her class crying week after week, wrote me a very sweet note. I'm sure they would all say that yoga informs their compassion. Mostly I thought they were caring young women doing their best.

For a long time I was livid and imagined what I would say to the prenatal yoga teacher if I saw her at New Seasons market. Then, when I calmed down, I realized what had probably happened.

I got an email from her last week which confirmed my suspicions. Someone had recently told her that Facebook accounts have a second, spam email folder and that she should check it. She found my email in there. Her condolences were perfectly correct eleven months after the fact. Blame poor communication, maybe, not yoga. But I do blame yoga, not for the death itself, but for its part in the whole shitty experience. For the way that class made me feel so alone even when my baby was alive.


Yoga, like any other spiritual system, is an attempt to engage with the fact of death. Is it yoga's fault that I am a poor student? The asana tried to teach me, and I refused to learn.

I know I can't categorically reject yoga anymore than I can permanently reject dentistry, because rejecting what frightens or angers you doesn't keep you safe. Some time in the future there will be a more comprehensive engagement with the texts. There will be conversations with other yogis, more breath and movement and meditation. I will do savasana again. But this is not the season. Until I feel ready I will have to peacefully relax into not doing yoga.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Happy Ending

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, as every mother of a stillborn child knows, is a stillbirth memoir by Elizabeth McCracken, a well-known literary novelist. The book gets passed from hand to hand like a holy text. I read it the first week after Balthazar was born. The doctor who signed me out of the hospital had given me a prescription for Ambien, which I had said I wanted but which I hated. I would fall into bed exhausted at 8:30 and then wake up at 3 am and not be able to go back to sleep. It was unpleasantly reminiscent of the episode of agitated clinical depression I had in my twenties. After four or five days I quit the Ambien and it got a little better; I could sleep until 4 or sometimes 5 am.

It was too soon to read the book; I understood that. But what else could I do at 3 am, when I'd ordered the bereavement cards from Crane's with the purple crocus on them, had reread the stillbirth web sites, had written one page in my journal because that was as much as I could stand? There was Empty Cradle, Broken Heart and there was Elizabeth McCracken's book and there were four hours until I could wake up Jonathan. Maybe three hours until Jasper woke up, if I put the dishes away very loudly.

It was the only book I had any interest in reading, but I didn't love An Exact Replica. It is far and away the best of its genre, but I spent a lot of time focusing on all the ways in which the story was different from mine: it was her first baby, he was born in France. Subsequently I came to admire its economy and its form and elegance, but it's not the book I would write. It is, however, the standard by which all subsequent stillbirth memoirs will be measured. In a way, reading it was not therapy for me, but work.

McCracken made it clear from the first pages of her book that she had a new baby, born almost a year to the day after her son Pudding was stillborn. And I thought to myself, of course. This memoir could not have been written, much less published, without that baby. The conventions of narrative demand it. Readers require it.

An occupational hazard of writing memoir, especially if you are writing about something which is recent and evolving, is a kind circular thinking. It's not clear to me sometimes whether I am constructing a better narrative by placing the events from my life in a particular order, or if I'm attempting to conduct my life in such a way as to make a better memoir. My wanting another baby was and is real, but it affects my memoir, which in turn affects my life. How can I write my memoir without the requisite happy ending?


When their baby died, McCracken and her husband turned to each other in the hospital and said, we'll have another. Jonathan turned to me with tears in his eyes and said, well, that was it.

It was what we had agreed. We would try this one time. It was reiterated at many points along the way. Throughout the pregnancy I was wont to announce, as I passed a particular milestone: “Well, thank God I never have to do that again!”

In retrospect I wish it hadn't been stressed quite so much.

The day after Balthazar was born I told my mother on the phone that the hardest part of it all was that I would never be able to have another child. She accepted that interpretation as fact.

Then the first shock wore off and I realized how absurd that was. I didn’t know what I was agreeing to, when I'd said we'd try this one time. I was agreeing to have one more (living) child. I hadn't thought to put (living) in the fine print because that of course was assumed. I never agreed that my last child should be dead. I didn't sign anything, and why should I be held to such a cruel contract? If that indeed was the contract, I was reneging. By Day Two, I had changed my mind.

No medical reason for the stillbirth ever presented itself as a bar to future childbearing. The doctors saw that lack as a (relatively) positive position. They said that if I were to become pregnant again they'd watch me like a hawk and do everything they could to assure a successful outcome, which, based on the medical information they had, they seemed to think was more likely than not. “More likely than not” isn't necessarily the most comforting turn of phrase when you've just beaten the odds in the most awful way, but I was ready to buy it. Jonathan wasn't.

All of the books say that husbands and wives may take a different amount of time to be ready to conceive again and that you should keep the lines of communication open until both parties are ready. They assume, though, that both parties will eventually be ready and that you will attempt to conceive again. I didn't find any information on what to do when one party adamantly refuses and the other party wants it like their life depends upon it. Will this be my unique contribution to the literature? I really wish that weren't the case.


There was a piece on recently about how to write a memoir. Most of the advice was condescending or banal. Don't get me started on what Annie LaMott said. But, oddly enough (because I knew him a little, years ago, and I remember a lot of drinking and not much swapping of tips) Tony Swofford was the one writer whose advice seemed useful. He said that he chooses a beginning date and an end date for the memoir, writes them on cards and pins them to his bulletin board. I assume there are flashbacks or digressions, but the narrative arc of the memoir takes place between those two poles.

I realized that I didn't know where the starting and ending points of my narrative were. I decided that the beginning is April 2, 2011, my fortieth birthday, the day I made the decision to make the decision to have another child, or not. The ending is harder to discern. I think that April 3, 2013, which would be Balthazar's first birthday, is a good place to cut. The grief process will no doubt go on and on for me, but that doesn't mean it belongs in a book.

I've been writing my way there, and it's getting closer all the time. Now I don't know what to do. I'm still writing the memoir. It has no happy ending. There is no baby. There is no pact to try to have another baby. There is no adoption paperwork on the dining room table, no emails to the foster care system. Nothing.

Is it enough for my life that I have a surviving son? Is it enough for the memoir? Is there a difference? Is it a flaw in my character that the nuances of this particular situation are lost on me? I do not want to write a book in which the big payoff is that I learned something about love or grew in compassion, even if those things are true. That's not the book, or the life, that I want.

Six weeks to find an ending? Something tells me it's going to take longer than that.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

An Elegy

I found out that Jon Cook was dying from Facebook, the way you do, now. For a second my mind just refused to accept it. I convinced myself it had to be someone else. Our mutual friend, a musician originally from Louisville, has over 4000 Facebook friends. He could easily have two with the same name, I reasoned. I clicked through to Jon's page, which noted that he graduated from J. Graham Brown and attended Antioch. The About Me section was a tightly woven, incomprehensible(at least to me) screed about his music: "People say I was the first drummer for Rodan." It was like a rubber band to the face.

I'm going to admit at the outset that since Balthazar died, every death hits me harder. The grief receptor in my brain has been kindled and each loss is amplified by that great, precipitating one. I am surprised and a bit embarrassed by how much Jon's death has wrecked me. It implies a closer connection to him than I can claim and makes me feel like a big drama queen. After he died I sat down and wrote a really sentimental blog post about how much I loved him. But even as I was writing it I knew it was bullshit. Jon Cook deserves as truthful an elegy as I can offer from my admittedly distant vantage. To write it I had to go back more than twenty years.

My journals from 1986-89 are in my closet in a pile with all of the other journals I've filled since I was nine years old. The one in which I found Jon is covered in peach-colored calico with the image of a quilt on the front. In addition to reminding me that I once had terrible taste, it is useful for rooting out the revisionist lies I tell myself.

He didn't appear until a couple of years after I met him, after we'd both left Atherton for different schools, after he'd briefly dated one of my friends. He wasn't a local music icon yet, just a fucking adorable kid in a hardcore band. I think his band Cerebellum had recently formed. I say kid because I was more than a year older and because there was something about him that invited caretaking, even then. I ran into him at a field hockey game, of all places. His blue eyes, they killed me.

I've been watching Half-Cocked, the 1994 indie film he appeared in, and he's magnetic in it. His sly smile when the idea occurs to him to hijack the stage during a show, the bounce in his step as he and his friends approach the Chattanooga record store, the beautiful irony in his voice when he tells his friend “I've got it under control,” he makes me smile, and he makes me remember why his Facebook page is covered with fond reminiscences from girls who went out with him.

At that time of my life what usually happened, elucidated in nauseating detail in that journal, was that a boy would flirt with me at a party and then call me fat by my locker and then give me a ride home from school and then ignore me at a soccer game. Instead, Jon asked for my number, and then he called. He wanted me to come see him play.

I don't know whether he sensed something in me, something dark and damaged that was analogous to himself. There was no obvious tell: I wasn't Goth, I wasn't punk. I wore Benetton sweaters. I listened to a lot of CSN. I didn't even write poetry.

Maybe he picked me because he knew it could never work out. Maybe he just thought I was cute. He was fifteen.

My teenage journal, it pains me to say, is like a Louisville phone book of males born between 1967 and 1973: everyone got a listing. I was on a quest for that mythical creature: a boy who would make me look OK to everyone in the town and thus make me feel OK to myself. Sometimes when I was at home alone I conjured this sparkly unicorn. I think he was a soccer player name Blake. Of course in order to do that I had to remake myself, too. I became a girl with long blonde hair who went to Collegiate and played the piano. Is it any wonder that nothing ever happened, sexually or emotionally, with anyone? I can see now, with sadness, how terrified I was of being known, and how incapable I was of knowing anyone else.

When Jon asked me out, despite the fact that he was very far from being a soccer- playing paper doll, I said yes. Because he was brilliant and weird and full of energy. Because he had those eyes. We went on a date to Hawley-Cooke Booksellers. It was then that I got the idea that I would ask anyone who wanted to go out with me to take me to the bookstore. If they didn't want to, they weren't for me. You see how I was already planning for some theoretical date with some theoretical guy with a resume.

We went to the Corn Island Storytelling Festival. He invited me to see Love is A Dog From Hell, the film adaptation of Charles Bukowski's book. These are things I would do, now, with my husband. Which is not to say that Jon was a grownup; not at all. He was like a Newfoundland puppy on a skateboard. But the things we did and the things we talked about were real things. It was not chugging grain alcohol in the McDonald's parking lot. It was not some keg party on Old Covered Bridge Road, or a high school football game. And it scared the shit out of me.

I never saw the other side of him, the belligerence that provoked ass-kickings. He only showed me the bits of himself he thought a girl like me would like.

I quickly decided to end it, whatever it was. He hung around, waiting for me, for a little while. He told me he was falling hard, and wrote me a beautiful illustrated letter, which I still have, and I don't save things.

The journal informs me that I went to one of his shows and left before he played. I hate myself for that. I got what I wanted; nothing happened. And I lost...what? I'll never know.

We talked on the phone during college. He'd dropped out of Antioch and his mom was furious. I talked about swimming. I'm not really interested in sports, he said, and I heard the anger in his voice. Was he still hoping I'd snap out of the Preppy Handbook hell I was living in and be who I really was? Or was talking to a clueless uncool girl just a way to pass the time when no one else picked up the phone?

The last time I saw Jon I was twenty-one or twenty-two and was back in town for a visit. I went to eat lunch at the Irish Rover. He was waiting tables there. I was so happy to see him, but I could tell the feeling wasn't mutual. I watched his face and saw him imagining some country club life I was very far from living, and hating me for it. Maybe he finally gave up on me then, decided I was that girl, after all.

When I went to his Facebook page there was a rant about women always leaving him for better and richer men, and I wondered if in our brief moment he had thought that about me. Jon, it wasn't like that! I wanted to say. You had it all wrong!

We all had it all wrong because we were young and fucked up and doing the best we could.

I moved back to Louisville after college. I worked at the bookstore where we had our first date. He never came in. It would have been easy enough to track him down, but I didn't. Maybe I was afraid of his contempt. Then I had a nervous breakdown and everything changed. I moved to New York and reconstituted myself.

I hadn't thought about him much lately. I got married, moved to Portland, published a couple of books. I had a son, then I had another one, who died. You know, life. I didn't know about his recent travails with mental illness and addiction. To say that I'm sorry for the way our abbreviated episode played out is as beside the point as handing a stuffed animal to the mother of a stillborn child. Be sorry that he was bipolar. Be sorry that he didn't take his meds or that he never found meds he could tolerate. Be sorry that he was an addict or that he endured way too many unimaginable losses.

But in my small, selfish way I am also sorry that the last memory I have of Jon is of him glowering at me with what felt like disgust.

I had always believed that people whose lives have glanced off of mine, the ones that mattered, would return to me in some way. It's the only way I've been able to stand all the leaving. I never thought too hard about how such a mechanism would work. But that was our only chance, existing in that place in that time, together.

I think I finally understand what In Search of Lost Time actually means, and why it's a better title than Remembrance of Things Past. This is an elegy for my wasted youth. This is a lament for lost possibility: his, mine, ours.

I married a man from LA who was a punk teenager hanging around Hollywood Boulevard in the '80's. He's not a musician, though; he's a writer, like me. My favorite picture of him is from when he was fifteen and wearing eyeliner and a beret before going to a show. He introduced me to the music of X. He tolerates the fact that I have been known, on occasion, to listen to Hall and Oates.

I like to think I would have fallen in love with my husband in 1988, and he with me, but the truth is, I would have run.

I don't have the right to say I loved Jon. I wasn't in the scene; I don't know the difference between math rock and post-hardcore. I didn't see him through the hard years. All I can say is that he meant something to me, something vital and important that I'm heartbroken to have lost. But of course I lost it years ago, when I wasn't paying attention.   

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Photographs and Memories

I have a very clear memory of Jasper's quickening. I was visiting England for the first time, by myself, researching my second novel. I don't think it's possible to overstate the deep Anglophilia I had nurtured since childhood. It ran from A.A. Milne to Frances Hodgson Burnett, Queen Elizabeth I to Evelyn Waugh, the Bayeux Tapestry to Frances Bacon. You might even call England my first love. But unlike Vienna, where I went to research my first novel and where Otto Wagner's stenciled apartment buildings and the golden dome of the Secession building and the timeless bustle of the Naschmarkt had lent themselves agreeably to my attempt to reimagine the past, time refused to stand still for me in England.

Or maybe it was just that I had fallen prey to the fallacy that in another time I would have been Jane Austen, when the truth is I would have been her charwoman.

I was on a shoestring budget, which meant that the bathroom was always on a different floor. That actually matters when you’re pregnant. I swear I'm not a picky eater, but I had trouble finding food that I could stand to eat at a price I could afford. Once in Kensington I asked for a table for one and was turned away, and I cried and walked in the rain to a Sainsbury's and bought an inedible sandwich. A couple of days later I broke down and went to a "modestly priced" restaurant in Bloomsbury I had seen in a guidebook and ordered what turned out to be a $60 steak for lunch because fuck it, I was starving. Afterward I stood outside the Marlborough Hotel and looked at the rack rate posted on the door: $500 a night. I guess I thought that if things got bad enough I'd just say fuck it and pull out my credit card. But even fuck it, I'm pregnant wouldn't cover The Marlborough Hotel.

When I got to Oxford I climbed the tower of St. Michael's Church, where William Morris had married Jane Burden, and was unmoved. I walked down Holywell Street, the slum where Jane was born, and found it blandly gentrified. I walked out of town on the Iffley Road and instead of passing fields of the violets collected by William and Jane on their first date, encountered rows of drab flats and a Pakistani laundromat.

Later, in an attempt to recapture what I had loved about England in the first place, I went to Blackwell's and bought The Tale of Peter Rabbit in hardcover. I still didn't know if Jasper was a boy or a girl, but I suspected he was a girl. I read "her" the Peter Rabbit book, and sometime that night I felt "her" move for the first time. At that moment I no longer felt that I was alone in England.

Jasper is convinced that this is the reason England is his favorite country, though the in utero visit is the only time he's ever been there. What he loves about it, though, is not the charming children's literature or the Elizabethan costumes. He likes British money. He likes steam engines. He tells me about the man who invented the television and how he demonstrated it publicly for the first time at Selfridge's department store in 1926. I hope England doesn't break his heart, but that's a problem for another day.

Because he was the second, or because there was nothing particularly interesting happening in my life at the time, I have no corresponding memory of Balthazar's quickening. It happened earlier, and I understood right away what the flutterings meant. I made note of it, but considered it so unremarkable my brain didn't even bother to make a memory out of it. He was a squirmer, though, I remember that; he was so active that I told someone that I thought he might be the athlete in the family, and I laughed at how mad Jasper would be if that were the case.

There are no photos of me while I was pregnant with Balthazar, either. Well, there is one photo on Facebook, taken at a birthday party last February, but it's not a full body shot. It's pretty clear to me, from how puffy my face is, that I'm pregnant, but you'd have to know me to realize that.

I kept meaning to take some pictures, but something always came up, and I guess I was ambivalent about a photographic record of how enormous I'd become. I assumed, of course, that there would soon be baby pictures of his beautiful self. I could keep my unbeautiful self out of it.


There aren't enough memories. That's one of the problems I have, now that I find myself wanting to talk about Balthazar. Because the only time we spent together was when I was pregnant, my repertoire is pretty thin. How much he liked ham and cheese croissants and chicken pot pie, unlike Jasper, who was a shrimp dumpling man. How Jasper would sit in the chair with me and talk to him. He liked to "trick" Balthazar by saying "blah blah blah" very loudly. He was convinced that Balthazar would come out thinking that "blah blah blah" meant something.

I'm still not sure of how I will react if I start talking about Balthazar, whether I'll dissolve in a puddle. That's another problem. At Crossfit the other day I was talking about diet and telling my trainer Ben that there was no way to follow Paleo while you're pregnant.

"You have an alien in your body and they have their own agenda," I said. "Usually involving carbs."

He tried to look as if he could imagine such a thing. Then, inevitably, a woman asked me how many children I have, and I said one, he's seven, and she looked at me kind of funny because the way I was talking made it sound like I'd been pregnant more than once, and more recently than seven years ago. Especially when I grasped the flab around my middle and said, "This is the croissant part of me, right here."

I know I don't owe anyone anything, and we were doing squats at the time, but sometimes I think talking around the edges is more uncomfortable than just getting it out. But then with people who do know, I get all kinds of social cues that I am never supposed to mention it again. I can tell by the looks on their faces when I bring up the pregnancy, or even pregnancy in general.

I volunteer to teach art at Jasper's school because there is no money in the Portland Public Schools for art teachers. I was at a training session and in the course of making conversation I brought up the fact that another mom's sister had just a baby, several weeks early. Someone else volunteered that the sister's water had broken in our friend's car.

"That must have been alarming," I said. Then I said something like, "My water didn't break, either time, so I don't really know what that's like."

Oh God, the faces of the mothers said. Is she going to talk about her pregnancy? Where should I look? What should I do with my hands? Quick, someone find something else to talk about.

I really hate feeling like I've thrown the carcass of a raccoon onto the table, just by saying what came to mind. Maybe what I said was inappropriate. Maybe, as I have been told to expect by my friend Tanja, I have begun the period of mourning in which I will do anything to slip my dead child into the conversation, to everyone else's profound discomfort. But why shouldn't I talk about him?

Why shouldn't I talk about being pregnant? I know about one woman's preeclampsia and kidney damage. I know about another's placenta previa and postpartum hemorrhage. I know about the C-sections, the VBACs, the ones who were early, the ones who were late. I know about the NICU. It's just something moms on the playground talk about. It's one thing we all have in common. They are our war stories.

But if it ends the way mine did, with your own personal Wounded Knee, no one wants to hear about it. Everything that came before is invalidated. Nobody wants to hear about what it felt like to be pregnant with a baby who died. No one wants to hear how long you pushed. I sometimes feel like nine months of my life never happened.

It did, though. Every last bit of it happened, the heartburn and the backache and how I would greet my friends at the school dropoff with a cheerful "Twenty days to go!" Or however many it happened to be that day.

It all happened, whether anyone wants to hear about it or not. I've got the croissant part of me, right here, to prove it. If I had known how it would turn out, though, I would have taken a picture or two.