Pathology is No Place for Politics

March 24, 2014 at 8:18 pm | Posted in Grief, venting | 6 Comments
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I read an article recently about a young mother losing a child that presented a whole new take on a sad situation.

The death of any child is heart breaking, and a horrible situation no parent should have to suffer. In this case, a poor 16-year-old in Mississippi lost her baby at 36 weeks to what was most likely the frighteningly all too common situation of where the umbilical cord gets tangled around the baby and causes death. The teenager had to deliver her stillborn child and figure out how to deal with such a sad and horrid situation that would leave any mom filled with guilt (even though there was nothing she could have done to prevent it). It must have been even harder to be only 16 and having to deal with one of life’s greatest tragedies.

But then, for this girl, things got exponentially worse. Apparently in Mississippi at the time there was a pathologist who has quite a reputation – for being politically motivated and having an agenda. When he found evidence that the girl in question had used drugs during her pregnancy, the pathologist concluded that the drugs had led to the baby’s death. And he, along with local law enforcement (which also has an agenda to reduce women’s reproductive rights) decided to charge this 16-year-old girl with murdering her child. They alleged that her use of drugs was a “depraved heart” killing of her child.

They did all this despite the fact that no medical facts support that conclusion. They ignored the science that points to the cord as the cause of death and ignored the medical facts that show that while drug use is certainly a terrible idea for a pregnant woman, it does not cause death of the child (and not in this case).

For six years now this now 24-year-old from an impoverished background with drug issues has not only had to deal with the death of her child, she has had to deal with being accused of killing her child, of having a “depraved heart,” and with the very real fear of being tried and found guilty of murder by a Mississippi jury.

I just cannot imagine.

When Sawyer died, since his heart stopped at home, investigators questioned us in the ER.  Then they followed Evan and I home from the hospital to view the scene and talk more about what happened. They quickly concluded that what ever exactly happened to Sawyer, it was biological, not something that anyone did to him and not something that could have been prevented by some action we could have taken (or not taken) at home.

We knew that, logically, but it was also helpful to hear that from those who looked into it. Further, the pediatric pathologist who examined Sawyer to try to determine the cause of death also ruled out any external causes, and ultimately focused on his heart stopping, likely due to a genetic, undiagnosed arrhythmia. (It’s still a working theory, but it’s the best any doctor can say at this point.)  The pathologist was compassionate and helpful in trying to get us not to blame ourselves for Sawyer’s death. She explained things so we could understand them, and she spent extra time meeting with us, emailing with us, and even went above and beyond to help us get Sawyer’s DNA in a study at the Mayo Clinic looking for certain arrhythmias that she and some other scientists believe may account for many of the SIDS and SUIDS deaths that still occur far too often. She also happens to be quoted in the article — taking a sane, rational, scientific-supported view of the case, unlike the Mississippi pathologist out to “get” this girl.

I cannot fathom how this girl must feel having had not help and comfort from investigators and a pathologist, but blame, condemnation and being charged with “depraved heart murder.” It must be like a second sledgehammer to her own heart. First, her baby dies. That is heart-crushing on its own. Then, she is accused of killing her child and must fight for her own freedom and future. That guilt and feat must be not just heart-crushing but soul-smashing. For a sixteen-year-old girl from poverty probably few of us can truly comprehend.

I am not excusing her drug use. As a mom, protecting our children is of the utmost importance. I’d never do something that might harm my children. She made that mistake. But I cannot judge her for that, because I do not know her or her true circumstances, or why she did that.

What I do know is that science says she did not kill her child. What I also CAN understand is the depths of despair and guilt a mom faces when her child dies. No woman should go thru that. No girl should face that, let along without care and support of those around her. To blame her for her child’s death here, to prosecute her for murder, to claim to the world she has a “depraved heart,” must be causing her unimaginable pain.

I can barely make it though losing Jake and Sawyer even with being told by everyone that I did everything right, but that some things cannot be fixed or prevented. Without that love, caring and support, and in the face of accusations of killing my own child (no matter how wrong-headed, illogical, unsupported by science and politically driven they might clearly be) I don’t know how I would be able to go on.


Control & Clean Clothes

September 26, 2013 at 9:53 am | Posted in life lessons, Love, normal?, venting | 6 Comments
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I wish life could be a bit more like laundry.  You put the dirty clothes in the washing machine, add detergent and wait.  After the clothes are clean put them into the dryer.  Wait.  Fold.

Okay, it is not always so seamless.  I have turned a few white loads pink.   I will also confess that I have washed more than one diaper.  It is pretty messy.  However, after shaking out the clothes and repeating the wash and dry cycles everything was once again clean.

Before 2005 there were plenty of situations out of my control but Jake’s diagnosis put them all into perspective for me.  I did what I thought were the right steps.  I gave birth to Jake at 26 weeks anyway.  He lived for 2 weeks but I could not do a thing to prevent his death.

At the time I thought that I could protect any potential future children if they were not premature.  I could be in control if I could just keep them out of the NICU.  Sawyer’s death let me know loud and clear that I was wrong about that too.

Lately, life seems more out of control than I would like.  I just need to realize that is all part of life and hold on.

I think I will go switch the laundry into the dryer.


Odd but NOT Ok

September 12, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Posted in Grief, Jake, life after loss, Love, Sawyer, venting | 12 Comments
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I am drawn quietly to his grave to check on him,

Just as I’d have been drawn quietly to his crib.

I trim the grass around his marker,

And dream of trimming bangs from his forehead.

I place flowers in his vase,

And dream of placing kisses on his cheek.

I hold his memory dear to my heart,

And dream of holding him in my arms.

Author unknown

I no longer have any way to physically take care of Jake or Sawyer.  The best I can do is going to the cemetery and checking on their shared plot.  I know that frequenting a cemetery does not work for some but it is something that I need to do.

Over the last month both Jake and Sawyer’s nameplates have been slightly shifting.  I thought maybe the bolts were loose.  I shift them back and feel better.  Until yesterday.


I could not even shift the plates back.  And, where are the bolts?!  I do not understand.

I called the cemetery office and immediately broke down into tears trying to explain to the receptionist what I was calling about.  Who calls about missing bolts from not just 1 but 2 of their sons’ headstones?!  She finally understood me and agreed to send out a maintenance person.

No one can explain what happened to the bolts that should be securing the nameplates to the granite.   However, they are both repaired for the moment.   We are going to wait and watch to see what happens.  I am so not okay with this.

A Letter to People with Guns

August 22, 2013 at 10:42 pm | Posted in life after loss, venting | 2 Comments
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Dear People with Guns,
Please, please do not go into any elementary schools with your guns.  In fact, please do not go into any other schools or public places and threaten innocent people.  You see I have already buried 2 of my sons.  I try to get up every day and live in this world without them.  However, sending my 6-year-old twins to school and then hearing about a gun man in a local school does not help.

No parent should have to live in a world without their child/children so do not shoot any one.  There is no explanation that you can give to the families left behind that will justify shooting their loved one.

I am so thankful to Antoinette Tuff for reasoning with the gunman.  She told him “You don’t have to die today.” Not every one has the choice of which day they die.

So, people with guns please do not make the choice for other people.  Keep your guns to yourselves.

Thanks so much.

Scent of Sawyer

July 14, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Posted in Grief, life lessons, Sawyer, venting | 9 Comments
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One of the lessons that Jake and Sawyer have taught me is not to sweat the small stuff.  In the grand scheme of things there is so much stuff that just does not matter in the end.

This post, however, is about small stuff.   Method has discontinued their line of babies and kids products.  I know that there is most likely a business reason why the line did not make it.  However, I just wish they could bring the product line back.  We have used their products (body wash, shampoo, lotion, laundry detergent and dryer sheets).  We used a particular scent — rice milk and mallow — with Sawyer.  We all loved the smell, and appreciated that they were natural products with nothing to harm Sawyer’s (or any of our) skin.

The smell of the products reminds me of Sawyer.  So, after he died, we continued to use the products.  The frequent and sweet reminder of him in the smell of our clothes or at the twins’ bath time is, in a way, comforting.  Now the product line has been discontinued, and it is hard to find the products anywhere.  I am sure that at some point, we won’t be able to find them at all anymore.

One more small bit of Sawyer that will no longer be in our lives.  Yes, it is a small thing.  But it is one more small thing I wish I could change.

Sawyer and Nanny

And, a giant thank you to Evan for finding me some of the last of the bottles on eBay!

The Balancing Act

October 4, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Posted in Grief, life lessons, normal?, venting | 5 Comments
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Areas of my life which I wish I could find a balance:

1. Answering the question, “how many children do you have?”

The twins started a new school this year. There are new teachers. New parents.

The twins started preschool the week after Sawyer died. We did not plan it that way but it is the way it worked out. It was a small preschool. I had already answered the questions. I had cried the tears in the parking lot.

Sawyer has been gone over 2 years so I can usually answer the question without the tears. The balance I am trying to find is answering the question without the pity that always seem to come along with it. It is hard to explain but I do not want people to feel sorry for us. I just want to be able to answer the question and talk about Jake and Sawyer.

2. “Being so busy I cannot think” coping technique

In 2005, Jake had died. I was still alive and forced to figure out how to live in a world without him. I searched and searched for steps to follow. A guide. Anything to help me get through the excruciatingly painful moments. I realized that being busy was the way to go. I desperately filled every possible moment.

In 2009 after Sawyer died I continued to utilize my “being so busy I cannot think” coping technique. I am at a point where I need to rethink just how busy I keep myself.

I do not know how to find the balance. There might not be a balance. Or, maybe there is and I will find it one day.  Till then I will try to take Dr. Seuss’ advice and “step with care and great tact.”

Human Doings

March 4, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Posted in after death?, Grief, life lessons, venting | 6 Comments
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I have written that I do not necessarily have advice for bereaved parents.  I do not have the magic words to take away the pain.  However, I do have a strategy which I have used most of my adult life.  Being busy.  I over schedule.  Moments alone terrify me – they are opportunities for dark thoughts to take me over.

I will never forget the dark empty days of January, 2006.  Jake had died and I could not fill up the days with anything that would distract me from my grief.  Slowly, I rejoined the land of the living.  Keeping busy was a huge part of my plan.  I worked as much as I could and made sure that I was never home alone.

Right after Jake and then Sawyer died family and friends were around a lot.  I am still so appreciative that a couple of my thoughtful friends made an online calendar for me.  People would come by or call every day.  These days I am usually with the twins or at work so busy is built into my schedule.

“Don’t be afraid of the vacant moment. You are a human being not a ‘human doing’ so just be and consider your boredness. You may be surprised at how it clears the mind (after getting over the initial discomfort) and provides new thoughts.”  Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson

Today I am not completely terrified of the “vacant moments” but there is still fear.  I am still more of a human doing than a human being.  I know that there is a balance.  I will find it one of these days.

P.S.  If you have a free moment will you please vote for brilliantly funny Mamabirddiaries in the Circle of Moms Top 25 Funny Moms contest?

TMI vs. not TMI?

February 28, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Posted in life lessons, normal?, twins, venting | 5 Comments
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I do talk about Jake and Sawyer – and if you are reading this then you know I do write about them quite often.  They are never far from my thoughts.  However, I will at times not mention my 2 children who are not with me.  Sometimes it is because I do not know the other person and will never see them again.  Other times it is because I do not want to see the look of pity which often accompanies Jake and Sawyer’s stories.

Then there are times when I give too much information on purpose.  I distinctly remember a wedding shortly after Jake died.  Evan and I were talking to 2 other couples.  One of the couples, who are our very good friends, like us did not have any children at home at the time.  The 3rd couple kept mentioning their kids and the fact that we did not have any.  They asked things like, “How long have you been married?”  We each answered.  Couple #3 followed up with, “So, aren’t you thinking about having kids?”  We each politely tried to dodge the questions and change the subject.  Couple #3 did not take the hints.  I finally had enough.  I wanted to stop this line of questioning.  So, I piped up,”We buried our son a few months ago.”  I thought that the conversation would come to a screeching halt.  I was wrong.  Couple #3 does not miss a beat, “When will you start trying again?”

The past few days I have been once again tempted to share too much information in order to stop a conversation.  We have been receiving many emails about teacher appreciation week at the twins’ preschool.   Each class needs volunteers for a specific time so the teachers can eat a child free (aka peaceful) lunch.  The exact time the volunteers are needed is when Evan and I have a meeting scheduled with a rabbi to discuss Sawyer’s unveiling.

At first I did not reply to the emails.  The emails kept coming.  I drafted the following:

“I am sorry I cannot volunteer for the teacher appreciation lunch because we need to meet with a rabbi so that we can plan our youngest son’s unveiling.  We have had trouble getting the correct headstone.  Now it is here and the rabbi who presided over Sawyer’s funeral took a visiting rabbi assignment up north.  He won’t be back till April.  A very good friend put us in touch with her rabbi.   We are meeting with him at the exact same time you need volunteers.”

I deleted my rambling email and opted for not TMI:

“Sorry again but I just cannot volunteer at that time this week.  If something changes I will let you know asap.  Hope that you have a good night.  Thank you.”

Sometimes less is more.

Out of Control

February 22, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Posted in Grief, life lessons, twins, venting | 6 Comments
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“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.”
– – Mario Andretti

Thank you all so much for the well wishes for Evan.  He was cleared to go back to work.  He will have quite a few doctor’s appointments in his future but we are hopeful that his health will be back under control soon.  I have once again been reminded of an important life lesson. I DO NOT HAVE ANY CONTROL.

I am not sure what happens but sometimes I forget. It is like I have amnesia and I actually believe I have a bit of control.  Jake, Sawyer, infertility . . . just to list a few glaring instances where I am not in charge. I will continue to remind myself of the tasks which I can control.   Laundry, the dishes, grocery shopping. . .a few which immediately come to mind. As for the rest, I will have to try my best and go with the flow.

I recently read another Buddha story about an old man who accidentally fell into a river leading to a dangerous waterfall. Onlookers feared for his life. Miraculously, he came out alive and unharmed at the bottom of the falls. People asked him how he managed to survive. “I bent myself into the water, not the water to me. Without thinking, I allowed myself to be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl. This is how I survived.”

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Things could always be worse. . .

February 18, 2012 at 9:16 am | Posted in emergency room, Grief, life after loss, Love, mourning, venting | 6 Comments
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The other night I was talking to one of my favorite friends and she asked how everyone at my house was feeling.  I thought about it and cautiously answered, “Everyone is doing pretty well.”  And, I truly thought all was well, until 5 am the next morning.  I woke up to Evan asking me to go get some ice packs.  He had a bloody nose that would not stop.  I won’t go into the gory details but he was a mess.

This had happened once before a few weeks after Sawyer died.   Evan had come home from work and after a few hours he could still not stop the bloody nose.  He shocked me by asking me to call 911.  He was taken to the ER in an ambulance.   The bloody nose eventually stopped.

After Jake died I had this realization that anyone and everyone close to me could slip away at an instant.  Life had a new kind of uncertainty.  I even flipped out when our dog, Buddy, had to be sedated for a dental cleaning.  My very same favorite friend talked me down off the ledge as we waited at the vet.

Life seems so fragile. Maybe it was fragile before Jake and Sawyer died but I was oblivious.  After Evan’s first visit to the ER it was not hard for me to imagine the worst happening.  Only a few weeks before we had buried Sawyer.  Nothing is guaranteed.

After yesterday’s visit to the ER I found myself trying not to let my mind go to the worst places.  As I drove Evan from doctor to doctor I took deep breaths.  I reminded myself of what my grandfather always says when asked how he is feeling, “I could be better but things could always be worse.”

The doctors told us that based on Evan’s blood pressure we were very lucky that it was a bloody nose because there were far worse alternatives.  My mind had already played and replayed the worst of the alternatives.  Now I will do my best to focus on the present.  Unfortunately, Evan and I both know all too well that things could always be worse.  He will get better.

Evan holding Sawyer

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