The Domino Effect


The domino effect is a chain reaction that occurs when a small change causes a similar change nearby, which then causes another similar change, and so on, in a linear sequence.  The term is best known as a mechanical effect, and is used as an analogy to a falling row of dominoes (according to Wikipedia.)

I started writing this blog for multiple reasons.

First and foremost, after my son Finley died, after only being alive for 13 short hours, a chapter I still need to write in the context of this blog, I could not find any help, anywhere.  I read every book I could find in the spiritual or self help section of the bookstore or on-line, and every book that generous and thoughtful people, sometimes friends but mostly acquaintances, had sent my way.  I talked to others who had suffered loss.  I joined a chat room for fellow bereaved mothers.  I looked in nature, in my heart, and at the beautiful photo I have of that little boy who looked so much like his Dad.  And still, nowhere could I find the answer as to why things had happened; how that little person had come into our life and then we had been robbed, nay, raped of the opportunity to care for him.

And then after he died, and as my journey to become a parent to a living child became a march, a militant focus for which there would be no distractions, even though I knew others who had suffered from fertility challenges who had ended up on ‘the other side’, as I say, I still couldn’t find answers as to why some people had been blessed with children to parent, and that we had not.

I wanted to share my experiences so that any one else who had ever felt so alone, so deserted, upon finding my blog, might feel a little less sad, a little less alone, perhaps no longer suicidal or even homicidal.  (I do not suffer from either of those very serious emotional states currently, but without question I have been filled with so much hate and longing and pain that I suspect if I did not have a good husband, some very key supportive people in my life, the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and therapy, that if I were a different person, this could have been a solution for me during an earlier time; my darkest days.)

The second reason I wrote this is to write a love letter to my son.  His spirit is with me, and I know he knows how much I love and miss him, but being a parent to an angel, with my only tangible proof being an urn of ashes, one photograph, and a picture of the size of his little feet, I needed to do something more tangible so that others know that he was here. When people die, they are said to have left their legacy.  For most people, those who have not created memorable works of art or been parts of revolutions or done something important in medicine, that legacy is their children.  And I am not ready to die any time soon, but g-d damnit, Finley is my legacy, and while I am alive, it is my job as his mother to make sure that people speak his name, that they know how much he was loved and wanted by his parents.

The third reason I began this blog is to see if I could help my self at all; find my way; sift through the ashes of my emotional tumult and pain, to see if I could find answers as to why he came and left so quickly.  Moreover, perhaps I could find the answer as to why our next child has not come yet.

And in doing so, in writing this blog, in putting myself in such a raw state with no make-up, no fancy purse, no beautiful jewelry, no small talk, and no barriers, I have created a community of love and support around me that I could not have imagined.

The other day, at a work lunch, an associate sat next to me and started telling me about some pain that she’d been having in her uterus.  She bylined the small talk that is so common in my industry, and started talking about something important; her health, her wellbeing, and she did so because she knew that she could trust me with her truth.  I don’t know what the pain she was experiencing is associated to yet; she told me she is going to see another doctor to research this further, but I feel confident that she knows that I am here for her, if there is anything she wants to tell me.

Also the other day I took a work call from an associate, a woman I’ve known for just over 2-years, who I am convinced I knew from a past life.  She rattled off the work questions and then said, “Lorraine, I was thinking, after reading your last blog and since I know what your next steps are, that if I were a few years younger, if this were a few years ago, I would offer to be your surrogate.”

This is a woman who I sat across from at a holiday work party; I remember we were engrossed in talking about her grandmother and what a strong woman she was, and then I saw a twinkle in her eyes, and no, it was not from the eggnog.

This twinkle was likely something that nobody else would have noticed, but what I saw was a flash of her spirit that came through when she was speaking with love about her grandmother.  I remember freaking out a little bit, and telling her that I had just recognized her soul, and I could not continue chatting with her any more because it was just too intense for a holiday work party!

When she said those words to me, offering to be my surrogate if it were a few years earlier, I was stunned and speechless.

Our next steps don’t, in fact, include the need for a surrogate, but the fact that she would even utter that thought, that her heart had opened up so completely that she could even go there, is without question the most generous thing anyone has ever said to me.

These are two examples that immediately come to my mind of this domino effect that has had.  There are so many others, really – countless, but these personal experiences, these loving notes, these spiritual connections I have had with people are a tremendous benefit of wearing my heart on my sleeve, and sharing my loneliness, my desperation, my love letter, with you all.

And I am supremely grateful for this, and yet I am stunned and helpless right now as to how to help two other mothers I know who are suffering:

Someone in my industry just lost her child.  He was less than a year old, and had been diagnosed in January (I believe) of what was apparently a fatal disease. I saw a picture of him on Facebook, and the image is now engrained in my heart; I don’t actually know the woman, but since I learned her little boy died I have had a gulp in my throat that won’t go down; I can’t seem to swallow the fact that another set of parents is suffering the unspeakable pain right now, as I type, of the fact that their son is dead.  Makes me want to throw up, actually.  Eventually I will write her a note and tell her about all of the books that I read that did nothing for me; I’ll share my website info with her; I’ll tell her that her pain is my pain, but the fact is that these parents are without question inconsolable.

When I told Craig about this yesterday, he said “I can’t imagine…” and then stopped himself and said, “well I can, but I just can’t….” I think what he meant to communicate is that he can’t imagine being in that state again; in the early stages of shock and grief that your son, your flesh and blood, has died.

Even to those who have experienced the exact loss, the thought of losing their child is unimaginable.  That is how intense it is.

The other mother who is suffering is a woman I know who could not get pregnant (she does not ovulate regularly and had a failed IVF / surrogate effort), and so she and her husband moved forward with adoption. About 1.5 months ago I saw a picture on Facebook of their son, who had just been born, and they were fostering with the intent to move the foster parent relationship into adoption.  Every day for over a month there was a new photo up, showing her and her husband loving and caring for their son; showing me that dreams DO come true.

And then 2 weeks ago I learned that someone in the bureaucracy made a mistake, a serious mistake, in over-looking that this little boy actually had a grandmother who was now ready to take him into her care, her custody, permanently.  This couple I know fell in love with this little boy immediately (likely had fallen in love with him long before they met him), only to have him taken from them after 33 days in their care.

I cried when I learned this; it makes me question my faith, quite frankly, as how could and why would G-d and the universe be so cruel?  These parents who have waited so patiently, and been so diligent, nay, militant with their intent, now robbed of the opportunity to love this child, a little boy who they immediately took in as their own son.

And I wrote her a note, because that’s all I can do that is tangible.  But I was thinking that maybe we could put into effect that domino effect here:  Will you who have been so gracious with your prayers and positive energy for me now extend your prayers and strength to those parents, please?  I don’t know what else we can give them, but I know that your prayers and good energy has kept me warm and loved and I want to do anything we can for these others who are hurting.

Craig and I are in the midst of next steps. I am a mother to my next child already, it is written in the stars – I know – but the journey continues as to how that dream is fulfilled.

It is amazing, truly fascinating, the range of emotions I am feeling. I am still not going to share what it is in writing; I am not sharing yet because I am still processing the enormity of this decision.

But to put it in context: A few days ago I texted to my husband that I was in the process of writing the checks for our next steps.  I used an explanation point and he responded, “Okay!”.

Then, as I wrote in the subject line of that exact check that which had moments before brought me such joy and resolution and hope, I burst into tears.

It is surreal being me; living this life, or this nightmare, in this state of purgatory; not knowing from one minute to the next how I might feel.  But I am strong; my husband and I are resolute, and we are led by faith and surrounded by loving thoughts and energy from each of you wonderful people who take the time to go on this journey with me.

To be continued…


Everything Else Before Everything Changed, forever


Picking up after having received the good news after my 2nd amnio…


Everything began to look, taste, and even sound better.  The idea of researching a new bed with Craig on our Saturday, a mundane task by my previous definition, was truly exciting, as with the news that our little baby was fine after all that we’d been through in the past year to get pregnant and now being 20 weeks pregnant, I was overwhelmed by a sense of relief.

Craig was getting ready to go as I sat at my computer and played John Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels” for my son from my music library.  I rubbed my growing belly and sang along, and certainly smiled as I imagined myself at those Mommy & Me classes where I would sing with my baby; as I thought about how beautiful and powerful I felt as a woman, navigating through all of these obstacles to protect my child.  I updated my Facebook status with a couple of the lyrics, an effort to let people know how happy I was; I hadn’t posted that I was pregnant; typically a transparent person even before the advent of social media, we had gone through so many unknowns during this pregnancy that I had never felt safe enough to share with the digital landscape, and even at this point – out of the danger zone, I wanted to hold the pregnancy very close and safe, I suppose.

We went to to test out mattresses.  When climbing on certain ones I was careful as my belly was becoming more of an encumbrance and so it made it a bit harder for me to test all of the beds as quickly as Craig could.  The woman helping us asked if I was pregnant.  I could sense her trepidation, as I was an overweight pregnant woman, and so it was harder to be sure that underneath my stomach weight was my pregnant belly.  But it was, and I was, so I happily answered yes!  She said, “You never know if you should ask,” and I agreed, but was very happy that she had.

We went across the street to sit on more mattresses, our search acting as a metaphor for the home we were building together, for the commitment we had to each other, for the union we shared.

And then we went to an amazing Los Angeles local place called “Apple Pan” and I ate an amazing burger and fries without a single thought of ‘I ate fattening food’ guilt.

After that we went to my friend Robin’s and gathered lots of toys and clothes.  Her daughter was probably around 3, and she had a son who was almost 1-year, and she and her husband were generously giving us some really great hand-me-downs.

Our son had not been born, but that Saturday was by every definition a family day, and it was great.


By now I had his clothes for the 1st 9 months of his life, with promises of more hand me downs once the sons of Lisa, Dee, Jodi, Robin and Claire grew.  I had an infant car seat, multiple types of strollers, a bassinet, darling outfits and ones-ies and even some diapers.  My full time mission had turned into arranging to pick up these things, and then disinfecting or washing.  I went to buy the special detergent used on infant’s clothing, and so now our apartment smelled delicious like one where a newborn lived.  I went to Target and bought plastic containers and marked them clearly 0 – 3 months, 3 – 6 months, and so on.  I folded and separated and calculated what I should put on my registry, for the baby shower that my eldest sister, and my friends Dee, Jodi and Tammi were generously planning for me, to be held on January 30th, 2010.  I went to Babies R Us and took advantage of the “pregnant mother” parking spot closest to the entrance.  My sister met me there, and we went through aisle after aisle with the store gun that digitally captured the items I wanted and needed.  Toe-nail clippers, bedding, baby cups and more.  We looked at cribs, and I decided to come back with Craig to pick out the best one; we were hoping his Dad would get us the crib.


My eldest sister’s birthday was coming up, and she called me with the details, but I told her that of course I wasn’t going because I wasn’t speaking to my mother.  I guess she must have asked if I would re-consider if I got an apology, and I must have answered yes, as my mother called again.  I was now 21 weeks pregnant and she’d only called 2 other times during my pregnancy, after she uttered those hateful and unforgivable words.  This time, 9 weeks later, I did not hang up on her.  She stumbled through her apology, and asked me to remind her why I wasn’t speaking to her.

While it’s a pretty appalling thing to realize that my own mother was minimizing my feelings and shirking her responsibility of being a good mother, again, I had worked on this project regarding mental health, and I believed that she didn’t remember or realize what she had said.  I realize that she had blacked out when she had said what she had said.  I remember the look on her face that day, and she was feeling ignored because I got pregnant even though she hadn’t wanted that for me, so had turned into her other ‘self’ – a monster I’d seen appear many times throughout my life, someone who hadn’t developed good coping or communication skills; like a child who screams “I hate you” to her parents if they don’t let her eat another cookie, my own mother had limitations, and so I repeated to her what she had said.  “Really?” she responded.  “I don’t even remember saying that, and I didn’t mean it.  I’m really sorry.”  I justifiably ranted at her how hurtful it was, how disappointing it was that my own mother hadn’t even congratulated me on my pregnancy, how hard it had been without her approval….

And once I got through that, she said it was Cynthia’s birthday coming up, would Craig and I please join, as she’d like to see me.

I wanted my mother in my life, and so agreed to meet everyone that Saturday night to a Chinese restaurant in Santa Monica.  I wore a black maternity super casual dress with leggings and a jean jacket and a scarf, and Ugg boots.  I parked in the lot close to the restaurant and was the first to arrive, with my mother being the second – as my father dropped her off there before he went in search of a parking space.  She leaned in to hug me and I let her, and she handed me a card that congratulated Craig and I are on our pregnancy.  She asked how I was.  I was reserved and aloof, but I would be lying if I didn’t state that I was glad to see her.

My eldest sister arrived with her husband and beautiful little daughters, and I remember that my Dad came back – having parked his car illegally – stressed that he was going to get a ticket so after we all ordered our food, I walked out with him and got in his car to re-direct him into the parking lot that he had missed finding, in part because of his age and the stress of being in Santa Monica near the promenade with the traffic reflecting the approaching holidays approaching (it was just a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving), and in part because the sign of the structure was hard to see.

We returned to the table, me sitting as far away from my mother as possible.  When I got up to go to the bathroom, my 2 little nieces hurried behind me, asking me questions like “What is going to happen when you need to change him?  He’s going to be a boy in the girls’ bathroom?”  There were lots of giggles, and I was glad I had come out for this family dinner.


On the morning of Friday November 20th I got a weird cramp on the right side of my belly.  It made me catch my breath and later that day, when Craig returned home from work in the early afternoon, the pain returned, and Craig walked in to see me holding onto the new bedpost trying to ride out the pain.  He asked if I’d called the doctor, and I said no, I was seeing the doctor on Monday anyway, and theorized it could wait.  Craig encouraged me to call, and so I paged the on-call doctor.  Dr. C, my previous OBGYN with the fabulous Irish accent, called me back pretty quickly and asked me to describe what I was feeling.  I told her, and also said that maybe it was Braxton Hicks, something I had found on my Google search that day, which referred to contractions many women have way before they go into actual labor.  Dr. C assured me that what I was experiencing was fine and normal, to keep a log if it re-occurred, and to page her again if it continued.

I don’t recall if it happened again that night or at all on Saturday.

Sunday morning came, November 22nd and it was a busy day, you know the kind when you don’t think it’s humanly possible to fit in everything you have planned?

First I went to Target and purchased birthday presents for my niece Eliza and for Robin’s son, as well as some maternity tank tops, t-shirts and sarongs for our imminent trip to Florida – where we were going for Thanksgiving to visit Craig’s father and stepmom.  In the parking lot, I wrapped Robin’s son’s gift, before I headed over to his first birthday party.

I was a little uncomfortable at the party, as it was mostly family, neighbors, along with just one other high school friend who was there with her husband and child.  It wasn’t that I was uncomfortable meeting new people, but I did spend some time wondering why I had made such an effort to be there when I had so many other things to do that day, and Robin and I weren’t close as we used to be.  Still, it was nice to sit outside and watch a few children play and to tell people that Craig and I were expecting.

When I went into get food, I put a tiny piece of lox on my plate, and Robin reminded me that I should be careful how much I eat of that, being pregnant and all.  I had the tiniest sliver of that smoked Nova Scotia Salmon on my toasted bagel with cream cheese, and it was delicious.

When I left Robin and her husband’s home, I had to go to pick up a few ingredients that we’d missed at the market, some more water, and the dry cleaning.  And when I returned to Venice, I was happy to have found parking on the street in front of our walk-street, so that I could keep the space open for Dee and her family, who were coming over for a celebratory dinner party.

She’d been told earlier that week that her cancer was in remission, pending another scan that would review her progress in January, and we were all of course thrilled with that news.  Craig was busy preparing the ingredients for the meal, so I lugged the 2.5 Gallon Sparklett’s water bottle, the dry cleaning, and a few light bags from Target down the walk-street and into our home – and as I was doing so, Dee called to say they were moments away, so I rushed downstairs to guide them into our reserved underground parking space.

As is common with any family with 2 little boys, and as expected with Dee and how she lugged every toy imaginable with her to our beach home when she visited, we had to hold the elevator and fill it up with all of their stuff and their children, all the while Dee and David – her husband – and I chattering away.  I remember that we had either asparagus or broccoli there specifically per Dee’s request, as those greens are known to battle cancer.  I remember that I had purchased a Diet Coke for her, but had hidden it in the refrigerator, hoping she wouldn’t ask for it.  She love love loved her Diet Coke, and had been sneaking them despite cola being horribly unhealthy.  She said she was going to walk to the store to get one, with that defiant twinkle in her eyes, and David shook his head, and I shrugged, and let her know that she could find one in the fridge.

After dinner, the cramps / contracts / pain occurred while I had been sitting at my desk doing something.  I sort of crawled to the floor, and tried to explain to Dee what I was feeling – in between the sharp jabs I was feeling on my lower right abdomen. With her being hard of hearing, I was trying to speak loudly, but it was a little hard to speak loudly as I was experiencing this pain.  David heard what I was saying, and asked when I was seeing the doctor. I told him my appointment was the next day, and he asked me to call him after, to let him know what the doctor said.

Dee and I continued to sit on the floor, with her youngest son, not yet 1, crawling around between us, and asked me if we had a name yet.  We had, and quite frankly, I don’t even remember if I’d ever heard it before outside of the name of the musician Finley Quaye, but both Craig and I just loved it.  The first letter was F, a partial tribute to my grandfather on my father’s side, Felix.  She had trouble understanding what I’d said, again, because she was hard of hearing, so I wrote it down for her.  “Finley?” she asked with her nose sort of scrunched up.  “Yes,” I responded with absolute certainty, “we love it.”

As we exchanged goodbyes and Craig helped them out with all of their things, David reminded me to call him after I’d seen the doctor.

I relaxed for the first time that day, and wondered if it was possible that the cramps had re-occurred at other times during the weekend and I hadn’t even noticed them as I’d been so busy.