Return from India


I haven’t posted anything in my blog for almost 8 months. I just couldn’t. There were too many arrangements to be made, too many efforts that failed; there has been too much emotion and heartache to work through on a personal level, so the idea of writing about it and then sharing it felt like a burden on top of a burden.

And as I’ve written before, even Atlas shrugged.

At one point, maybe it was after the frozen embryos didn’t thaw well while I was in India or when the first, second, and third surrogate didn’t get pregnant in India, my husband told me he didn’t want anyone to know. He didn’t want us to have to live our disappointment out loud anymore.

While I have taken on a vocal stance about our struggles with fertility, not just so others don’t feel so alone but also so that I don’t feel so alone, and while this blog has created a community that has brought us incredible support, and even offers from one woman to be our surrogate and another to donate her own eggs, I needed to take a reprieve from sharing here.

Further, while writing can sometimes be cathartic, other times it is too painful.

And finally, I need to publish this story as a book eventually, so have to divide what I do write between being on here and being in another form and forum.

But for now, I would like to return to that week of when I returned from India…..

Ironically, my father was dying exactly where I had been hospitalized with my incompetent cervix in 2009.  He was in the same hospital where I had given birth, exactly.  He was in the same hospital where there had been that NICU, dimly lit from the peripheral vision of my right, as I was led (first time on a gurney and second and final time in a wheel chair) to the NICU Room, that had brighter lights than at a Pink Floyd show, where I held my infant son for the first and only time – 4 years earlier.

The same fucking hospital. And on the anniversaries of my son’s birth and death.

Sure, I was now in the cancer ward instead of maternity wing. (Interesting that the words that seemed natural for me to use were ‘ward’ – which has a sense of doom to it – and ‘wing’ – which denotes a light and airy feeling.)

I had been wheeled in and out of that exact same hospital from a different entrance than the one where I was now walking in and out of every day, including the day I got back from traveling from India; that Thanksgiving, when I took a cab home after over 30 hours of travel time, grabbed a 5 minute shower, and then raced to the hospital.

The same hospital. Directly across the street from my OBGYN who had brought my baby into the world, who every time I drove to for my annual Pap Smear for the 3 years since Finley’s death I swore I would change doctors, as the entire surroundings of where I would park or where that deli was or where the door was to where I was wheeled in and 2 weeks later out were landmines of traumatic memories.

I was in the same hospital where I was carted out from the maternity ward on a rainy Monday, empty handed, save for some sympathy orchids that some best friends had sent me and some miscellaneous stuff that Craig had brought to the hospital to make what turned into my 2-week stay comfortable (comfortable being a loose term, obviously), and the precious keepsake book that had Finley’s picture, foot prints, and some literature about what bereaved parents like us should do.

Those days – the 3rd and 4th of December, were sacred days, meant for me to feel the emotional tumult that inevitably poured out every year.  But this year I went to the hospital both days, what I know now was a true privilege, making sure the doctors never left the room before we had every answer they could give us; making sure my dad’s lips were not too crinkly from dehydration; playing him music; reciting him poems he’d written; holding his hands; praying.

The Friday after I got back from India my mom and sister and I were there, all 3 of us, together.  As the two of them left, my dad motioned for me to stay, even though there were nurses in the room, waiting to check his pulses and change his pillows.  This was unlike him; before this time, he would always interrupt any one of us in his family to learn what the staff needed to do; he seemed to respect their time, but something had shifted for him: perhaps he realized he had so little time left, and that it was indeed his to do with what he wanted.

“Do you have a name for your baby?” he asked me.  His blue eyes that I’d inherited as bright as they’d ever been.  “Yes,” I answered without a moment’s notice, “and one of them will start with an H.”  (In the Jewish religion, babies are not named after the deceased, but usually the first letter of someone’s name is used as a tribute, so to speak. Finley, in fact, was named for my grandfather Felix. My dad’s name was Herbert.)

He smiled, as it was the exact answer he’d wanted.  I told him our daughter’s name.  And then I told him our son’s name.  Those blue eyes and welled up and he smiled at me, with a gaze so strong I can visualize it now.  He nodded. “That’s beautiful.”

I couldn’t bear to tell him that we weren’t pregnant yet.  And further, that we hadn’t even been able to do the embryo transfer because our 2 embryos had thawed badly.

Two days later, that Sunday, now December 1st, he was having a rough day. They had wheeled him out of the hospital at the crack of dawn to go to Westwood UCLA, and then not been able to perform the procedure that they had planned to do, thus leaving the severe pain in his throat without any chance of relief.

He could no longer swallow and wasn’t allowed any fluids. He asked me that day to help him die.  He looked at me with the intensity you’d find in some old detective movie, where people plot and plan in closed quarters; wearing hats; smoking cigarettes.  “We’re smart. We can do this.  We’ve got to get me out of here.”  He remarked that in Oregon they have physician assisted dying.  “But we’re not in Oregon,” I remarked sadly – feeling defeated that I couldn’t help him; crushed that the conversation had turned so drastic; so inevitable.

There were some pictures of my nieces, his granddaughters, next to his phone, that my sister had brought.  “Do you want me to get some tape and put up these pictures?” I asked.  “NO.  NO, I don’t want to see their pictures. I don’t want to hear about India. I don’t want to hear about your baby.”  Then he stopped himself from this rant and turned to me, with tears in his eyes, “but I want you to know that baby is so important to me.  That baby is so important.  Your baby is going to be so important to everyone.”

FUCK.  Even as I type this I think of the look on his face, and how totally fucking awful it was to realize how much my dad already loved my future babies, his grandchildren, who he would never hold.

“Well you’re going to meet Finley when you go, you know.” I said.  “I don’t believe in that,” he responded.  “It doesn’t matter, Dad, because I know it to be true.”

We left it at that.

And then I returned December 2nd, and he was still lucid and he made funny jokes. That is the day they put him into hospice, the medical world’s way of throwing up their hands and saying there is nothing more to be done, but to make this man as “comfortable” as possible, as he dies.

So I was there that day. And the next, and the following.  To make sure that he was comfortable. To bring treats or a thank you to the staff.  To negotiate with the fucking idiotic hospice administrative lady who treated my father as if he was a file number in a fucking warehouse.

My eldest sister and I would trade shifts, often overlapping, always making sure we repeated every thing we’d heard to each other – perhaps thinking that in doing so we would solve this problem of our father dying – then to my mom, with one of us trying to keep our other sister in the loop.

All this without time to recover from jetlag, to honor Finley’s birthday and the anniversary of his death, and all of this with the devastating knowledge that I had no embryos left.

My father died, Friday, December 6th, 2013 – 4 years and 2 days after my own son had died, in the very same hospital.

I like to imagine that Finley’s soul returned to those same corridors, and led my father to peace.

And while it is now late July of the following year, and I have undergone 8 months of fertility related plotting, planning and failures, to get to the next step in our mission (which is imminent and gives me great hope), it seems like a good time to go back in time, so to speak, and pick up on December 3rd, 2009, the day that everything changed.

To be continued…

Chasing Butterflies with Finley in India Part 1: journal entry2


I’ve been back from India since Thanksgiving, but with everything that has happened, have been unable to complete this posting until now.  If the tenses change, forgive me, as much of it was written while there and then the rest once I got home….

Meeting the surrogate was surreal. I didn’t know what to expect, even though we’d already seen her picture. She was little, maybe 5″3’.  She was pretty, mostly because of her deep, wise, brown eyes.  She looked timid, like a deer caught in headlights, and sort of stared at me, the American woman gushing niceties to her, as she awaited the translation.

I wished her well and let her know we’d be praying for a pregnancy, and hoped that she felt well.

As she walked out of the room, at the polite dismissal of one of the many administrators at the Center, tears welled up in my eyes. The caring but not emotionally invested woman said, “It’s OK.  Lots of people cry.”  Little does she know I sometimes cry multiple times a day.  I explained that it wasn’t ‘just’ meeting the surrogate, whose name hadn’t etched into my memory, but the idea that this is the next step in my husband’s and my journey.

You see, it is one thing to apply for the process, prepare the paperwork, pay the fees at different stages in the process via wire transfer in a country that has what is called ‘slow pay’.

It took me sending 4 FedEx packages to the consulate in San Francisco because the paperwork confused me – even though I oversee million dollar estimates and contracts on a daily basis professionally.  I had 3 different sets of passport-size photos taken before I understood that I could not wear glasses and had to have my ear placed behind my ears.

I concocted a chart early on in the process to keep things organized, so that when I awoke (insomnia sure can come in handy) to return correspondence from the Center in India between 12 AM and 4 AM for many nights over many weeks – since they vary between 12.5 and 13.5 hours ahead of Los Angeles – I would be able to cross reference where we were in the process of our paperwork which entailed dozens of agreements to be approved; for the releasing and shipping embryos; for the surrogacy contract draft to be agreed upon; for recommendations on hotels; for 2 separate designated parties to agree to take care of the eventual baby/babies, in case something happened to us, and the list goes on and on and on.

It takes things to an entirely new level when being there, in India, and seeing the facilities and all of the women lining the halls on the benches who want to be surrogates or who are mid cycle and the Australian couple who without a beat’s hesitation got ‘it’ and the butterfly on the doctor’s desk, and EVERYthing…

And so the tears were earned, and I had nobody to comfort me.  While it was smart for Craig to stay in LA while I took this trip on my own, the intensity of all of this felt exponentially heightened because there I was, processing all of this, all by myself.

After this, all I wanted to do is crawl into a ball and cry, but of course food became the priority.  Even finding a place that I wanted to eat in this loud, over crowded, horn honking, poverty stricken but highly fascinating city was difficult, but my driver took me to an area called M Block – a nice semi-upscale area – and I searched and eventually found a restaurant who very fortunately understood the concept “to go”.

That night back at the hotel, only my second night in the city, I once again was comforted with Curb Your Enthusiasm DVDs, Skype calls with Craig (who had food poisoning or a touch of the flu) and Maybelline – and then eventually periods of sleep for about an hour at a time.

Tuesday was to be a huge sight seeing day, and now that I had accelerated my schedule with plans to leave at 3 AM Thursday instead of Friday, I intended to really maximize my time!

I had scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast.  It took some arranging and waiting, but I washed that down with a luke warm Diet Coke.

Fueled by caffeine and lack of sleep and raw emotions that made me feel like naked, I headed off to the Red Fort, which is an architectural complex that was built hundreds of years ago.  My driver parked and in stilted English explained that I should have a rickshaw bicycle driver take me into this area of Old Delhi.

We chose one of many guys who approached the fan, who gave me a quote of 400 rupees, and so off we went.  He took me to the outside of the fort and we agreed to meet back there in a bit.  I entered on foot and was stared at by throngs of people. The uniformed school children seemed absolutely fascinated with me – and little boys would come up to me and say “HELLO!” while their friends would watch curiously. I would respond with a smile, “Hello.”  Girls looked at me and then whispered and then looked back and would whisper some more.

After walking through the Fort, which was the residence of a Mughal emporer, I returned to my rickshaw bicycle driver – thank G-d he shouted out to me through the crowds – and we continued on a journey. We went through the streets of Chanki Chowk, an area that is so congested that cars can’t drive here.  I giggled nervously as the bicyclist strongly pedaled and maneuvered, always keeping my left foot firmly placed as was suggested.

We went on to India’s largest mosque.  There were stairs to climb, at which point several people accosted me with what I must do to enter: Remove shoes and pay price for slippers.  Pay cost to enter.  Wear a praying ‘wrap’ or dress (even though I was pretty well covered already), of course for a cost.  I confirmed there was no separate cost to take pictures with my phone, though if I understood correctly, had I brought an actual camera, there would be a nominal fee.

Hard to feel spiritual after that sort of finagling, which kind of reminded me with the fees and merchandise in Vatican City, in retrospect, and on a way smaller scale, but I made my way into the mosque and watched how others were praying.  Many were kneeling in front of the walls, and others were touching the walls with their heads bowed in prayer.  Not much for kneeling, having been brought up half Jewish and told by my father early on not to, I opted to graze my hand upon the cool stone of the walls until I found a place to pray.  And quickly enough, I was connected to the moment, to myself, and stood in prayer at this wall, where hundreds of thousands of Indians and others (probably more) have prayed over the years.  I prayed for our babies to come.  I prayed for Finley’s well being. I prayed for my father’s health.

Then I took some pictures, got my tennis shoes back from the person (and then of course had to tip him even though I’d already paid his friend for the slippers), returned to my rickshaw, who brought me back to my driver – and off we went to continue our sight seeing.

Next we went to the zoo.  I paid for my driver to join me, and we found a little cart that likely could have fit 12 people – and negotiated that it would only be the driver of the cart, my driver and me – so that we could stop where we want and take the tour I had imagined.  We saw a lion, a giraffe, and some beautiful birds. I could not help but think of the tape I had watched with my father in his office days before I left, of his own trip to India several years ago, and the wild life journey he had taken on an elephant’s back into the jungle and the white tiger he had been so proud of seeing.

I had thought the zoo was a conservatory, which I suppose it was in some terms, but about half way through the 1-hour private tour, I saw an elephant that was bound with chains to his area.  Of course I understand that animals can’t run wild, but I guess I thought I was going to more of a ‘living desert’ type zoo, where the animals are all in their natural surroundings. I cut the tour short, and off we went to the Museum of Modern Art.

At the museum, there were no pictures allowed, and none of the paintings grabbed me as much as the saying on this one:
How can one perceive light without the shadow?
- painting by M Mamtani “Centrovision” 1980

I thought of all of the things I had experienced in order to get to this exact moment, in India, having met my surrogate the day before. I thought of the fact that the embryo transfer would be the next day.  How much pain and disappointment Craig and I had experienced on this journey, and how incredible the joy will eventually feel.  The painting spoke to me, as only art can, and showed me I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

And as exhausted as I was and as filthy as I felt from a day of down & dirty sight seeing, I told the driver that the final stop for the day would be the Baha’i Temple, The Lotus Temple, as that was recommended as a sunset visit.

We parked with seemingly hundreds of other people who were trying to get there on foot, via car, rickshaw, or who were coming out of the dozens of tour buses.  We walked for a while and then entered the gate, single-file, at which point I saw a plaque that described the religion of this temple. Here is the first half of what is on the plaque:

The Baha’i Faith recognizes the unity of God and of his prophets, upholds the principle of an unfettered search after truth, condemns all forms of superstition and prejudice, teaches that the fundamental purpose of religion is to promote concord and harmony, that it must go hand in hand with science, and that it constitutes the sole and ultimate basis of a peaceful, an ordered and progressive society.

I didn’t really know at that moment how exactly I believe in exactly that, but obviously my faith is combined with my reverence for science, and so I was very much, once again, exactly where I was supposed to be.

We took the long walk towards the lotus shaped temple.  There were so many people.  The driver dropped off our shoes – and nobody asked for a tip of any kind.  We continued on barefoot.  We made it up the stairs and I was mesmerized by the architecture.  A beautiful pond surrounded the bottom, but we kept our focus on getting into the temple, where everyone seemed to be heading.

Once outside first in Indian and then in English we were told to turn phones off, to not take any photos, and to not speak at all once inside.  A group exited, and we entered.

I looked up and all around and I don’t remember anything of the architecture or art, but I remember the feeling exactly.  It was calm.  Peaceful.  I felt a warm energy gush over me at the perfect temperature.  My driver sat in an aisle.  I sat in the aisle in front of him – took a deep breath, put my hands on the back of the aisle in front of me, looked up and closed my eyes.

I didn’t know at the time whether I had done this for 20 seconds or 10 minutes, before the most vivid image came to me.  It was me, standing with Craig, with our Finley, with our two little children (who we’ve yet to meet), and with our doctors, with our surrogate, our families, our friends, you, and what started as a small circle of just me, my husband, our son and our future babies, kept growing in a circular fashion. We were at the core, but this community of people from all over the world surrounded us, holding hands, keeping us safe; enveloped us.

I awoke or came to or completed the meditation or prayer or whatever it was, and there were tears streaming, no – gushing, down my face.   I rose and walked to the exit, at which point a young Indian man looked at me and said, “You’re crying!”  Not sad at all, I confirmed that yes, I was.

My driver joined me a few moments later and smiled at me, I suspect surprised at my wet face and likely radiant spirit.  It was an intoxicating experience, and I knew that out of everything I had seen so far, this was the one place I must return to when Craig and I returned next year.

Finally back at my hotel, I ordered their chicken curry.  It was surprisingly delicious – considering I thought I didn’t like curry.  I plotted out my next day, watched more Curb episodes, and waited to Skype with Craig.  I emailed my eldest sister reminding her to give me an update after that day’s chemo appointment.  It would be my father’s 2nd session and I had sent a list of questions for the doctor – who my Dad would be seeing prior to the chemo.

In the middle of the night – again, because of the 13.5 hour time difference, I connected with my sister, who explained that my father would not be able to have the chemo.  He was dehydrated, had lost more weight, and so they were hospitalizing him for a ‘re-charge’.  Nervous more than words can explain, and feeling so powerless as it was the first important appointment that I had not been at with him in these last seven weeks of appointments, I asked to speak with my Dad. He sounded weak and the conversation was short.  I did not sleep that night at all, in between giving Craig the news, checking in with my mother once she got home, and thinking about how scared my Dad must be.

The next morning sucked.  I was exhausted from lack of sleep and my emotions ran high, but I was committed to more sight seeing before I boarded another set of planes for 24+ hours of travel.  The driver picked me up and we went to Lodhi Gardens.  I walked around, enjoying the ancient architecture that appeared pretty randomly in this park, where there was a the lovely pond and lots of morning people doing their exercise.  I searched for the butterfly conservatory that I believed was there – but it turned out that the Internet posting about this conservatory, where butterflies were bred and caged, was years old.  I saw way too many stray and mangy looking dogs, and I made the mistake of using my ‘Maybelline voice’ on a group of dogs as I walked by, and one of them came towards me – as if he was going to attack.  How incredibly sad that the dogs there are not used to being acknowledged or treated with love by any humans that their first instinct is to attack.  It’s heart breaking.

After another round of chicken curry, a pretend nap at the hotel, and finishing up packing, the driver and I headed out to get me a henna tattoo, and then off to the Surrogacy Center to get my copy of the signed paperwork, which I would need to bring home, have Craig sign, and then immediately return to the Center.

I ran into my Australian couple friends at the Center, and wished them well.  I was told the doctor wanted to see me.  I assumed she would simply tell me how the donor’s lining was, and anticipated she might tell me that the 2nd embryo, the one that was Grade B, slightly deteriorated, may not have thawed well. I absolutely did not expect her and the embryologist to meet me, and tell me the following.

Neither of the embryos made the thawing process.  It was impossible to say what exactly had gone wrong, but there was no embryo to transfer.  No embryo to transfer into the surrogate meant no chances of pregnancy.  No embryo to transfer meant that I had to fly all the way back to Los Angeles with this info in mind.  No embryo to transfer and no husband to hold while crying.  No embryo to transfer which would mean that Finley’s birthday and anniversary of his death would come, and we would not be expecting good news, any news.  No embryo to transfer. Unfuckingbelievable.

And from there I had the driver take me to a park where I smoked a half clove half cigarette. It wasn’t strong enough to hurt my throat and distract me from the emotional pain.  And from there I had the driver take me to this stupid mall, as that was on my list of things to see / do.  It could not have been a more Americanized upscale mall. What the hell did I need to buy at Nike in India that I could not get 3 miles from home?  I saw a tattoo shop, and decided to get a real tattoo.  I had anticipated getting a tattoo while there (in fact had gotten a Hep B shot when I was getting the normal vaccinations just in case), but wasn’t sure until I saw this shop that I was going to do this, and what the image would be. Distraught, confused, exhausted, but committed to the memory of that visual meditation I had at the temple the day before, I had the artist create that image.  It hurt physically, which was a nice relief from the emotional pain and shock that I was experiencing.

I had the driver take me to the airport hours ahead of my 3 AM departure, as I wanted to get on Skype if possible and couldn’t fathom the thought of any more sight seeing. I sat there for about 6 hours, with my left wrist in crazy pain, as I wrote, listened to music, cried unabashedly, and waited for my flight.  I experienced Thanksgiving in 3 time zones, made it to Los Angeles, took a cab home, hugged Maybelline, took a shower, and drove to see my father in the hospital.

My nightmare was continuing, and it was escalating beyond my belief.

Third Anniversary of Finley’s Death

Yahrzeit candle next to the back of our son’s urn with a beautiful fertility stone from the Chumash (Native Americans) tribe; lit on eve of anniversary of Finley’s death, ’12

Before I continue with where I left off with those first efforts, I want to step into *almost* real time to honor now.

Tonight is Sunday, November 18th, 2012.  3 years ago tonight, my friend Dee was alive, and she was at our apartment for a celebration dinner that Craig made for her family; it was a celebration since we believed she was in remission.  I had been having sporadic pains in my right abdomen since Friday, which I had self-diagnosed as ‘Braxton hicks contractions’.  She and I sat on the floor of my apartment in the dining-room-turned-into-office-now-full-of-baby-items-space, while her little 6-month old hovered next to us.  She asked me what we were naming our baby.  I told her, but I was tired, since I had over exerted myself too much that day and in days prior, and she was hard of hearing, so I had to write down his name. “Finley?”, she asked, kind of crinkling up her noise.   I was annoyed with her crinkle but still, too tired to argue or defend.  “Yes, we love it!” I had responded.

Now I sit at my desk in that same space, the baby items long since moved to the side of the hall closet where I can not look, for fear of painful memories flooding me, or in our $92 / month storage – a low cost but the bills of which are haunting reminders on a monthly basis of stolen dreams, with swollen eyes and tear stained cheeks, having had my first in a series of what I’m sure will be a few weeks of breakdowns, since 3-years tomorrow, by the Thanksgiving calendar that is, I went to the doctor for a 23.5 week check up, and was minutes later transported into a wheelchair and carted with an urgency to the hospital across the street.

I’ve had a fever since Friday; sometimes when I wrap a production, or in this case a series of back-to-back productions, my body knows it’s allowed to shut down. When you’re a producer in the middle of production, you really don’t get to call in sick.  Even on days when I’ve been violently ill – like early January of this year, when I was on a conference call during which our car shoot production in Canada was cancelled due to minimal snowfall, it was in between throwing up.

My body knows I have to keep it together and when I finish, or as we say, wrap the job; my immune system somehow releases itself, the stresses, the responsibility of keeping it together, and I end up sick. So I’ve had this fever – and done nothing but keep a family dinner obligation this weekend, and when I called for Craig to tuck me into bed and blow the candle out, the candle next to Finley’s picture and urn that we light every, single night, he kissed his hand and placed it gently on our son’s photo.  I’ve seen him do this many times, but tonight it was too much to take, so I broke down in tears.

I am so lucky that my husband knows when to be in the moment with me.  When I am crying and need to be left alone versus when I am crying and need him to touch my arm and say all of the right things. He reminded me that Finley is still with us.  That I am a great mother, and did everything I could, that it wasn’t my fault.  He reminded me that we have lots of angels, from Finley to our friend Dee, who it turns out was not in remission from her cruel and aggressive cancer when we had that celebratory dinner party 3 years ago tonight, to Craig’s friend Tom, who I never met, but pray to sometimes nonetheless, to my dear college friend Nicole – whose birthday was Finley’s due date, to my Aunt Heidi, my dad’s older and only sister.

We’re currently over a week out from the next pregnancy test to see if the latest efforts worked.  They weren’t our most aggressive efforts scientifically, since my doctor and I made the decision to convert the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycle into an IUI (In Uterine Insemination) – a far less invasive, less costly scientific effort that has significantly less chances of success with my severe case of endometriosis.  Nonetheless, it was the right thing to do, as the $5,000 in medication that I took for several days wasn’t stimulating enough follicles for me to have my 15th surgical procedure in 4 years.

And we coupled this IUI with our natural efforts, and as disappointed as I was that we didn’t have more to work with this time, I knew not having a surgery was the right thing to do, and had been reminding myself that I was right where I was supposed to be, and that our babies would come when they were ready to come.

I had been feeling something in my uterus. Was it expanding?  Was the embryo trying to attach?  Was the embryo chromosomally OK, since I am over 40, and quality of embryos decreases significantly after 35?  I was trying not to obsess too much about it, as my desire to “produce” a pregnancy since Finley’s death had fallen short every fucking time.  And there was Craig, stroking my arm, lying with me in our bedroom, my safe place – my cave as he sometimes calls it, saying, “Tell your body to accept the pregnancy.  You are ready. We are ready. There’s nothing but love waiting for them,” to which I responded, SCREAMING, “I’ve done that every time.  I can’t tell my body what to do. I can’t do anything different than what I’ve done.  The baby has to be ready to come.”

Craig, of course, hadn’t done anything wrong.  But I just needed to assert that I didn’t have any control over this, if not to him, to myself.  There was nothing more I could do than what I did, every, single day.

After the hysterics had ceased, I asked Craig to pass me the picture of Finley.  I am struck STILL by how beautiful he is.  I mean, I know every parent says or thinks that, but our little baby was truly beautiful.  Even at only 1.5 pounds, superficially, he was a fully formed little boy, with beautiful features that resembled his father’s.  Tiny but sweet and perfect hands are folded over his chest.  His lips are pink and lush and sweet.  His arms are little, too small for the size of his head, I suppose, on which there is a yellow and white knit beanie hat.

I will never, ever be able to express enough gratitude for the nurses in the Santa Monica N.I.C.U. – (Neonatal intensive care unit) who put the hat on him, laid him on that little blanket, and wrapped him in another, before taking this picture, the only photograph we have of our son.

In the photo, his eyes are closed; if I had ever seen my son’s eyes open, would that make it easier or harder?  Could it be any harder than this?  I think not.

I’ve always found great comfort in kissing the frame before holding it to my heart.  With every beat, I miss him, so it only makes sense that I hold one of the few physical reminders I have of him to my heart, to prove that he lives on inside me, that I ache for him, that my heart is broken, forever.

Part of the reason I’m writing this blog now is that my therapist and I agree that once I get to the ‘other side’, meaning after the fertility treatments / prayers / acupuncture / apple beet carrot juice I drink regularly – after the combination of efforts made every. single. day. work – and I am holding Finley’s brother or sister, or both, as Craig likes to repeat, I will not remember the pain as vividly. Is that true?

When I am pregnant or hopefully holding a child next year at this same time, will that change the hurt that I tread over carefully at this time of year, these landmines on my soul?

Monday November 19th:  This is my first weekday not working since early March.  This timed out perfectly as 3-years ago today, the Monday before Thanksgiving, I went in to see my doctor for a check up and then got wheeled out to the hospital, where I would stay until my baby was born, after my baby died, and once they released me with an infected C-Section.

Other women left that maternity ward with balloons tied to their wheelchairs and babies in their arms.  I left with condolence orchids; an infected incision where the c-section had been done, which had formed a pulsing fever; lactating breasts; arms that ached, physically ached, for my dead son.

Today I woke up and my fever was down; actually, I did not take my temperature as I felt well enough to get up and take a walk.  Living in Venice Beach, I have lots of choices as to where to go; I chose to put on my headphones, listen to a combination of Joan Osborne and Joseph Arthur, and walk.  Emotional but present is how I felt as I passed others walking babies in strollers, taking bike rides, jogging in Venice.  A guy who looked like he could be the photo on an advertisement for Muscle Beach ran in front of me, shadow boxing and hitting parts of his hard body, that was gleaming with sweat.  I laughed aloud with a fellow Venetian with whom I locked eyes as we crossed a street.

I saw a tree that had a full top, and then on the side had a sort of tree-like-flower growing out of it.  I compared it to myself, wondering if that’s what happened to me. Did I grow as much as I could in one direction, and then when I lost my child did I stop growing in that direction, and out of a sense of survival form a new self?  I maintain that I do not remember who I was 3-years ago yesterday.

I kept walking West on Washington and ended up on a place I truly love, the Venice Pier.  I walked to the end, wondering if I would have a dolphin sighting.  I reminded myself that I didn’t need to see a dolphin to know Finley is with me, but as always would have been thrilled to see one of those beautiful little creatures.

I can stare out at the Pacific Ocean and know deep in my heart that even if I don’t see a dolphin, there are dolphins there.  That is my form of faith.

I used to like dolphins the normal amount, like as much as anyone who appreciates that they are beautiful, playful, and highly intelligent creatures.  I only grew to love dolphins after I dreamed about them many times after Finley died.  I would talk about the dolphin dreams in therapy, and would keep mentioning fins – before my therapist reminded me that I often referred to Finley as Fin.

My therapist, Dr. Sharon I’ll call her – believed that was my way of processing my thoughts about him.

I believed that was his way of visiting me, and so since had become obsessed with dolphins.  Not as obsessed as I am with butterflies, which I’ll get into later, but nonetheless entranced by those beautiful creatures, that I know is one of the ways my angel Finley visits me – whether in dreams or in the ocean in my backyard.

I think of Craig and the hurt he goes through.  It is different for a man. They are just built differently and communicate differently.  A week after Finley died Craig and I went to pick out our wedding rings, yes, totally fucking crazy – I know; I remember us clinging to one  another as we navigated through the holiday insanity that December at the Westside Pavillion, and him being in discomfort.  He complained of acid reflux, but it got progressively worse, bad enough, in fact, that we went to Urgent Care after getting our rings to do some tests and see if he was OK.  I saw all of the wires on his naked chest, and it reminded me of the wires and tubes that Finley spent most of his life wearing.  I silently believed he might be having a heart attack; I was in between oxycodone doses and knew I would need one soon.

So as the countdown was underway for the day Finley would have been 3 immediately followed by the 3rd anniversary of his death, (which is today), he subtly mentioned that he was having trouble breathing, and that maybe it’s just something that will happen to him every year around this time as a result of the anxiety we experience, exponentially worse than other times of year, now.

Fascinating, really, when anxiety turns itself from emotional into physical.

Breaks my heart to think that Craig’s turmoil has manifested itself like this.

I let myself listen to Finley’s and my song as I was walking down the pier. If I close my eyes, I remember the first time I listened to it with him, when he was safe, in my belly.  I listen closely, to see if there are messages in the lyrics that maybe I haven’t caught before.

As I sit here writing this, today at the Venice Library so I don’t get distracted at home, listening to songs that transport me into emotional and spiritual presence, I have Finley’s picture next to me.  I took it out so that I could write that description.  I didn’t want to miss any details, and it’s far too soon to share that photo with you, whomever may be reading this.  I can’t trust that you will see the beauty as I do; I will not jeopardize my son being judged.

This photo is in our bedroom at home, next to his urn.  Both my husband and I also carry wallet-sized versions. We have it framed and on the mantle over our fireplace as well, surrounded by great photos of our grandparents – a metaphor for our belief that they are taking care of him in heaven.  Over those framed pictures we’ve hung a piece of butterfly art, that recently caught Craig’s eye on a visit we’d made to Ojai, and that matches the tattoo I got on the first anniversary of Fin’s death on my arm.

Amazing that I thought I looked at everything in that store, but that I didn’t even notice an entire wall dedicated to butterfly art or these beautiful little stones made by the Chumash, a tribe, until my husband pointed them out.

In addition, I have a framed copy of the photo in my toiletry travel bag, as every trip I take – whether it’s for an overnight stay or 3 weeks abroad on production – I need to light a candle by his photo.  A healer I once went to said I should not travel with his photo anymore.  That was about 9 months after he died. She turned out to be a bit crazy; I think she was an evil woman, the exact opposite of the spiritual healer I work with now, and I no longer seek permission or approval from anyone for the fact that it makes me feel sane (sane as I possibly can be with all that I go through anyway) to have the ritual of the candle next to the photo, every, single night.

In Jewish tradition the candle flame is often thought to symbolically represent the human soul, and lighting candles is an important part of many Jewish religious occasions from Shabbat to Passover Seders. The connection between candle flames and souls derives originally from the Book of Proverbs (chapter 20 verse 27): “The soul of man is the candle of G-d.” Like a human soul, flames must breathe, change, grow, strive against the darkness and, ultimately, fade away. Thus, the flickering flame of the Yahrzeit candle helps to remind us of the departed soul of our loved one and of the precious fragility of our life and the lives of our loved ones, life that must be embraced and cherished at all times.

The picture at the top of the post was taken on the evening of December 3rd, the eve of Finley’s death, as my husband and I held hands, and spoke to our angel son, while we lit the candle, as has been our tradition every year.

Sometimes if I look at his picture long enough while it’s next a burning candle, I can almost bring him to life.  Today, for this moment, anyway, I know I cannot bring him back to life, but that he lives on inside of my husband and me.