The long weeks ahead…

I’m having so much anxiety looking at the weeks ahead.  Chris and I will have a few days home alone together and then he goes back to work on Monday.  I’m already dreading it.  I’ve been so fortunate that I have had Chris around for so much time.  My mood is so variable throughout the day and when I have crying spells, it helps to just tell Chris what I’m crying about.  When he leaves, who do I tell?  There are so many people who have offered to lend an ear, which is kind.  But people work and sometimes picking up the phone is hard or if I do, which one do I call?

The next weeks stretch out in front of me too far to see the end.  What do I do with my days?  I envision many mornings in bed- which is more or less how I’ve been spending them so far.  I’ll need to exercise.  I’m hoping my body will be ready to do something real next week.  This week I’ve been walking, with some side effects- warnings that I shouldn’t do too much too fast.  My pubic bone still bothers me after walking.  It caused me discomfort in pregnancy and that discomfort lingers.  I know the mechanics of it- there’s a joint that separates to allow a baby to pass more easily through the pelvis. It’ll come back together, but it takes time.  I took myself to the chiropractor, to get some help and hopefully heal more quickly.  I really wanted that help, but I knew going back that I’d have to tell them about Mabel- I’d have to say the words.  They knew the story.  I say “they” because they are a husband and wife chiro team.  I usually see the wife and was supposed to for my first visit back, but she was out sick so I saw her husband.  I was tearful in the car just before getting there but held it together until he asked “how are you feeling?”  He could see I was no longer pregnant, so I felt the need to explain.  “I had my baby a week and a half ago and my baby died,” I blurted as I began to cry.  It’s so awful to not only say those words but to see people’s reactions.  He was very appropriate but people are scared of the grief, especially when it’s so raw.  There’s not much to say.  He said, “if there is anything we can do, let us know.”  I told him he could make my pubic bone feel better.  I think that gave him the needed out to move on.


I’d like to go back to bootcamp, but I’m scared.  I only went for three weeks before I went into the hospital.  It was long enough for people to recognize me, but not long enough for people to really know my story.   When I go back, I imagine people will ask how the baby is or say congratulations.  It will be part of the process.  I know I’m going to get better at saying it- my baby died.  Maybe I should say something more.  My baby died.  We knew she was going to be sick when she was born.  Her name was Mabel.  It might give people something more to respond to.  Might show that I’m ok to talk about her.  It’ll all be an experiment- try different phrases, see how I feel, see how others respond.  The other hard part of going is that bootcamp was that it a very pregnancy-associated experience for me.  I only went in pregnancy.  I probably wouldn’t have gone if it were for the limitation pregnancy placed on my body.  I used it to help deal with the mental turmoil I was trying to process in pregnancy.  I’m sure I can use it to help with the mental anguish I have now.  But in the beginning it may be hard.


I’ve made some dates.  I’m so anxious about being alone, I’ve set up many dates.  So far at least one every day next week.  I think it’ll help me get out of bed in the mornings.  I know I have to be alone at some point.  It’s an important part of the grieving process.  I know the days will get easier.  I both look forward to and dread the time that it doesn’t hurt so much.


The next six weeks just seems like such a long time.  It feels wrong and it feels right.  My body is so nearly physically recovered that six weeks seems too long.  But my mind is so far from recovery, will six more weeks even be enough time to be ready to return to work?  Returning to work means returning to some sort of normalcy and routine, re-introducing myself to the life I had before Mabel.  Returning to work also means facing pregnant women every day.  I interact with 20-30 patients every day.  Some will be pregnant.  Some will be unhappily pregnant or uncomfortably pregnant and I will need to care for them and their woes.  Some will know I was recently pregnant and ask about the baby.  Times like these were I yearn for that office job where I can just make one big announcement and be done- not have to relive the pain over and over again as I learn how to say my baby died without derailing the visit.


The six weeks also feels long because I’m supposed to have a baby during that time.  Six weeks would feel so short if I were breastfeeding and bonding and sleep deprived.  I wake up in the mornings, with my arms around my body pillow, thinking I’m supposed to have a baby right now. There is supposed to be a little warm body in this bed- not a pillow.  Or if I’m being really realistic I think, I should be going to the hospital right now- seeing my baby.  When Chris gets back to work, I’ll wake up and it’ll be just me, physically recovering quickly.  I feel almost guilty.  I know I’m in no way able to return to work at this moment, but I can’t help that little bit of guilt from creeping in.  I also feel it when people bring food.  People are supposed to bring food when you have a baby and are too busy with the baby to think about cooking.  What’s keeping me from cooking?  There is no baby.  It’s just me.  So I’m dealing with grief mixed with guilt about the time it takes to grieve.


I saw my therapist yesterday and we talked about how to survive the next weeks.  She suggested mindfulness and distraction.  Doing some things that are normal.  I talked about how it’s even difficult to be around friends because I’m not the Meghan I usually am- I think I’m  hard to be around. I’m not engaging. People don’t know what to do with me.  She assured me that my friends still want to be around me and I should do some things I used to do.  My friends are getting together for a happy hour tonight.  I’m going to try to go, though it feels weird. Inappropriate even.  I’m going to the bar two weeks after my baby died?  It feels wrong.  I wasn’t supposed to even be considering it, because I was supposed to have a newborn.  But it was my normal before, it used to make me happy.  I’m trying to do the things that people suggest.  I’m trying.

So much love.

I’ve never felt so much love before all this.  I thought I had- when I got married, when I was hospitalized (between the care packages and the visitors, I didn’t have time to be bored).  But I’m feeling it even more now.   Phone calls, texts and emails.  Comments on the blog.  Visitors who look at pictures. This is what gets me through the day.


“Condolence cards…  felt like oxygen, and only now do I fully understand why: to know that other people were sad made Pudding [my stillborn son] more real.” –Elizabeth McCracken


The cards have been pouring in.  And I savor every one.  I read the printed words and the handwritten ones.  It amazes me that there are so many different cards made to send to people who have lost a child, a baby, a daughter.  The have come from so many people.  My community has rallied- cards from people who I work with in the hospital and office.  I am surprised by some of them, people from other practices, people who came to calling hours, friend’s mothers and my parent’s friends, whom I’ve never met.  It’s lovely.  We now have a stack of cards next to Mabel’s photos and I want to tell her, see how many people wanted to meet you?  One of my midwives wrote in a text, “Amazing how attached one can feel with no time to get to know her.”  All this love makes me think of the times I didn’t send a card to someone.  That will change.  To know others are still thinking about me, about Chris and I, about Mabel, makes the days a little more bearable.


When people cry….. Hearing how others heard the news consoles me in a way.  Hearing how they cried when they heard about little Mabel.  Some still do when talking to me.  It helps.  Their tears make Mabel more real.  They validate my sadness.  This really did happen and it is really really sad.  It’s ok for me to be sad.  Because burying your child is one of the hardest things to do.  Because babies are supposed to live.  Because I have dedicated my career and lifestyle to help other people have babies and I should get one too. Because this just sucks.


I’m trying new things- the things that help others.  I did a hot yoga session with a friend (I should probably call it warm yoga- it was hot for me, but apparently it’s one of their coolest classes).  Yoga helps her distract and ease stress, so I gave it a try too.   I’ve also been invited to a dance-exercise class.  I have no rhythm, but I’ll probably try it.  My friends (and healthcare providers at that) want me back at bootcamp with them.  All good things to help clear the mind and rebuild the body.  People reaching out with what helps them, hoping it might help me.


And there is always the food.  I learned this early on in pregnancy, when my cousin brought two large containers of local ice cream.  And in the hospital- the chocolate, the cookies, the cheese that poured in.  People like to feed you when you’re pregnant.  They really like to feed you when you are hospitalized.  They can not feed you enough when you are bereaved.  Food has shown up on our doorstep.  From close friends locally to from my sister’s job in California.  Food is love.


At least while I wade through all sadness and grief, I have all this around me.  It doesn’t take my grief away, but it buoys me.  It reminds me that I’m not alone and that though I am so unfathomably sad, I am also loved.

All that work…

I feel like this is some cruel joke.  Here I was being all pregnant, expecting a baby but hahaha! Just kidding! You don’t get a baby!  Fooled you! Its almost like it didn’t count.

At first I was obsessively looking at pictures.  Proof that it all did happen.  It was so fast- my labor and then her life.  Too fast to process as it was happening.  I looked at her birth photos a lot, to remind myself that she really did come out of me.  I looked at photos of her on the ventilator and then after we took it out.  I looked at the photos of her after she died, some of my favorites because she looks just like a little doll.  And then it became harder.  I could only look at them if I was ready.  We had her framed 8×10 photos from her wake displayed around our dining room.  I found myself sitting with my back toward them.  It was too hard to interact with people in some sort of normal fashion while looking at my baby.  And then here I am obsessing over photos again.  I want her photos everywhere- a shrine to her in my dining room.  I feel like when I move them- and just move them to the bookshelf and the bedrooms- I’m making a statement.  A statement that I’m done with the initial grieving.

Sometimes it’s easier to get through the day pretending it didn’t happen, which is not really fair to me or to Mabel.  But the pain is just so so much.  Sometimes I feel think she is speaking to me through them- there is one just after we took out the vent where she’s looking up at me.  It could be a look of  “Mom? Help me.” Or  “Thank you, Mom, I’m ready.”  I hope my baby did not suffer.

I remember earlier in pregnancy when I knew about Mabel’s Down Syndrome and found out people were pregnant, I would be very emotional.  Chris and I had been doing a lot of work adjusting to the idea of having a baby with Down Syndrome.  We joined facebook support groups for people who had a prenatal diagnosis and chose to continue the pregnancy.  I posted frequently with updates on my pregnancy, asking questions “Has anyone taken choline?  Anyone else have experience with clubbed feet?” and responding to others queries, often relying on my midwifery knowledge.  We went to our state’s annual convention for the Down Syndrome Congress- met other people with children with Down Syndrome.  I learned about a clinic nearby that helped coordinate care for children with Down Syndrome and how to potty train a child with Down Syndrome. I was reading memoirs about parents adjusting to the diagnosis and raising their children, with and without medical problems.  I talked to others in the area who had children with Down Syndrome and furtively wrote down their recommendations.  We started investigating therapists and childcare that could handle a child with special needs.  I was trying hard to accept the diagnosis- and I think I was doing it well.  What scared me was the risk of loss.  A midwife’s worst fear.  And with such a high risk of loss, the pregnant women around me were reminders of that risk.  At the time, I was thinking mostly stillbirth, but ultimately I was just afraid that all these people around me would have one, two, three babies and I would have no babies.

And that’s where the cruel joke sets in.  I did all this work and don’t even get to bring a child home?  My fear came true.  Is life trying to teach me a lesson? I worry too much, so life is teaching me the real things to worry about?  Showing me the worst, so that when I go on, I’ll be able to see just how strong I am?  No thank you.  I know plenty of others who are strong but don’t lose their babies.  I thought I proved my strength by welcoming a baby with Down Syndrome?  Why did I do all that work for everything to be taken away?  It’s not fair. Just so simply unfair.

What I need

Yesterday the grief hit hard.  I wasn’t prepared for it.  And it slammed into me like a mack-truck.  I thought I was sad before, but I’ve reached a new place.  My family had left the day before, leaving only Chris’s brother.  My midwife came over that night and spent hours just talking.  She asked the questions others are afraid to ask- like: Do you miss her moving? How was her burial?  What are your thoughts on the next pregnancy?  And she distracts well too- we watched sketches from Jimmy Kimmel.

So I was well distracted all that day.  The next morning came and I just crumpled.  I was mush.  It was the first day we didn’t have much on our plate.  I don’t think I realized how comforting it was having family around.   They were a nice distraction and I could retreat to my bedroom anytime I wanted to cry.  I didn’t have to think about anything- food and scheduling were all taken care of.  It was tiring to have so much company but it was also lovely.  I think that having family and planning services kept my mid and heart busy, but also kept me from really processing all that happened.  I think people were impressed about how well I was holding up.  But I was distracted, in some sort of la-la land.  If they could only see me now.

Now it’s time to really grieve and grieving I am.  I spent the morning in bed, unable to stop crying.  I tried distraction, but it wasn’t working.  Some things even made it worse.  I looked at something on social media that I wasn’t ready for, which made me cry harder.  It made me realize that certain things that used to make me happy now spotlight my grief.  And then I feel bad for feeling bad about something I usually celebrate.   It’s a horrible cycle.  I could feel it physically.  I was nauseous. I felt pangs in my breasts.  I was lethargic.  I had moments of reprieve- a friend stopped by a visited and I didn’t cry.  Chris was finally able to get me out of the house to go for a walk.  We went out to dinner and I held it together publically, save for one quick cry in the bathroom.  But even when doing these things, the thoughts creep back in my head- I shouldn’t be doing this, my baby just died.

When I get right down to it, my heart just aches.  I had a baby.  I waited and worried for so many months.  I was trying to prepare for this scenario, but how do you really prepare for the death of your child?  I worried in pregnancy that I might have come across as having little hope.  Chris and I even verbalized that we thought our baby might die.  Words are just words though.   The depth of my sadness makes me realize how much hope I actually had.  I wanted her, whether she was on a ventilator or needed dialysis.  I wanted her to stay.  I wish so hard that I had more time with her.  I wish I could just have one hour a day where I could hold her again.  One hour a week.  Just one more time even.

I worry that people will forget her.  I worry that people will forget me.  When I was pregnant with her, my belly was a constant reminder to both me and the world.  We were a duo- people thought of her whenever they looked at me.  Now I am alone.  I worry that people will expect me to be strong, act a certain way, be ready for normal life- all when I’m not.  I’ve had such an outpouring of love- so many cards and messages and I want to recognize that.  Thank you, all of you who have reached out.  I read every card, every message, listened to every voicemail.  They help.  They really do.  I know that as Mabel’s birth and death slowly fade into the past, things will taper down.  People ask me what I need, and at first I was speechless. I didn’t know what I needed.  Now I know.  Chris returns to work next week and then I will be alone.  I’m hoping I’ll be in a better place then, but I’ll need people.  I’ll need to both talk about my baby and be distracted from my grief.  I’ll need people-I know that much.

These also might be helpful.


Taken from:

Below are some guidelines to help you support and comfort “those who mourn”.

  • The first and likely the most important thing you can do is realize that a baby has died and this death is just as “real” as the death of an older child. The parents’ grief and healing process will be painful and take time, lots of time. They may not be recovered or done “thinking about their baby” after a month or even a year. Realize that the parents are sad because they miss their baby, and that he or she can never be replaced by anyone else, including future children or children they may already have.
  • Let the parents know that they and their family and the baby are in your prayers. Call or send a sympathy card. You don’t have to write a lot inside, a simple “You and your baby are in my thoughts and prayers” is enough.
  • What the parents need most now is a good listener and a shoulder, not a lecture or advice. Listen when they talk about the death of their baby. Don’t be afraid, and try not to be uncomfortable when talking about the loss. Talk about the baby by name, if they have named the child. Ask what the baby looked like, if the parents saw the baby. Let them talk about the baby – most parents need and want to talk about their baby, their hopes and dreams for their lost child.
  • It is okay to admit that you don’t know how they feel. A good thing to say is, “I can’t imagine how you feel and I just wanted you to know that I am here for you and am very sorry.”
  • Give a hug, this is a sign of love and concern. Even if this is all you do, it’s a nonverbal way of saying “I’m sorry” or that “I’m praying for you.”
  • Offer to bring over meals; often mothers have no “energy” to do even basic things.
  • Offer to go food shopping, help clean the house, do laundry. Anything that lightens the burden of daily chores that need to be done. This is especially helpful if the mother is still waiting to miscarry the baby. That process may take days and is physically and emotionally draining.
  • Be careful not to forget the father of the baby. Men’s feelings are very often overlooked because they seem to cope more easily. The truth is that they are quite often just as devastated as their partner.
  • Try to remember the anniversary of the death and due date with a card, call, or visit. Anniversaries can trigger grief reactions as strong as when the loss first happened. Months down the road a simple “How have you been doing since you lost your baby?” can give much comfort.
  • If you are pregnant, it may be hard for the bereaved parents (especially the mother) to see or even talk to you. You will need to be very understanding and extra patient with them. They still love you and are happy for you, but it is just such a huge reminder of what they have lost. Some may not be able to talk to you right now. If this happens, please don’t take it personally it is just that to avoid pregnant people at the moment may save your friend’s sanity. Your bereaved friends may even feel a little jealous of you (especially after your baby comes), and then feel angry at themselves for feeling that way because they don’t really begrudge your happiness, it’s just that they are mourning the loss of theirs.
  • Remember that any subsequent pregnancies can be a roller-coaster ride of joy, fear and bittersweet memories.
  • Remember also that mourning puts a tremendous strain on relationships between family and friends.

The world does not stop

This first week after I had Mabel, I had a surprising amount of busy-work to do.  Mostly just phone calls.  Some could have waited, some couldn’t.  In some ways, I guess they were distractions and reminders that unfortunately the world does not stop when you lose a child.


The first morning after we met Mabel, I was woken up in the hospital by a phone call from American Express, alerting me to some suspicious charges.  Apparently someone had used my credit card to buy several plane tickets in Europe.  AmEx is pretty good at these things, though it did require another phone call a few days later to completely clear it.  The whole idea of someone using my credit card on a day I’m so very vulnerable just seems like a kick in the pants, right?


I also had to call the disability insurance company.  My representative had called and left a message to verify some information.  When I called back I didn’t initially get the representative that’s familiar with my case and the amount of recovery time was wrong.  I was afraid I would have to go into detail, explaining that my baby had died.  Luckily I was soon connected with my representative and I mentioned only that I had complications and he then must have reviewed the paperwork and was quickly able to clear things up, saying he was sorry for my loss.  I didn’t have to explain further.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  I knew I’d have to explain to someone, somewhere at sometime, but it’s still just so raw.


My primary care doctor was next.  My midwives and therapist all agreed that it might be best to increase my antidepressant in preparation of postpartum depression.  I feel like I’m grieving, appropriately, but I had asked them about their thoughts on increasing my dose because I know that things can be very different a few weeks down the road.  I decided that this might be the time to test out saying the words- my baby died.  I knew I’d have to leave a message with the secretary.  I called and after explaining I wanted to increase my dose, I explained “I had a baby and my baby died. So I just want to be proactive.” I said it.  I actually had to say it twice because she couldn’t understand me the first time.  The first utterance I actually did ok, my voice cracked a little.  But when I had to repeat it, I couldn’t keep it together.  I had to pause and apologize tearfully and then got the words out.


Lastly, I received an Enfamil email this week.  I had them in pregnancy and just deleted them as junk.  I think I became signed up after a shopping trip at Motherhood for maternity clothes.  In pregnancy, despite my professional annoyance at them- knowing they are encouraging formula feeding- I never got around to unsubscribing.  Apparently they put you on a mailing list too because I arrived home from the hospital to a package with formula which had been mailed.  Neither the email nor formula I got brought me to tears but I could imagine in the future they might.  So I unsubscribed from that email, which also allowed me to unsubscribe from the mailing list.  The website confirmed my un-subscription and noted that it might take up to 3 months for the mailing cancellation to be processed, which I thought was ridiculous but pushed it from my mind.  Then a few days later I received another email from Enfamil and this time when I went to unsubscribe again, the site was “temporarily out of service.”  I tried again a few times that day and then again the next day.  I was now furious.  I felt like they were doing it on purpose.  So I called them.  And after going through my name, address, email and phone with them, I told them that I tried unsubscribing but the site was down.  I said I had my baby and my baby died.  I needed to be taken off the email and mailing list immediately.  I choked up only a little and shed some tears.  But I was proud that I could get the words out.  The poor man on the other end of the phone- it wasn’t his fault that Enfamil was being such jerks, but someone had to hear it from me.


Now it’s a few days later and the prescription wasn’t done and the disability still has some details to work out.  So more phone calls to do this week.  Life apparently goes on even when your child does not.

Diagnosis: Irish

Sometimes I feel like my swollen breasts are the only proof that I had a baby.  I do take some comfort in the fact that my body knows what to do.  Many women have trouble with their milk coming in.  Without any nursing and despite wear 2-3 tight sports bras at a time, I seem to have no such trouble.  My body seems meant for pregnancy, birth and recovery.  I had little physical complaints in pregnancy.  I had a fast labor.  I’m recovering well- very little bleeding, no real cramping, and an apparently sufficient milk supply.

Engorgement lasts longer than I thought it would.  I was preparing myself for 48 hours, which is what I tell nursing moms.  I, however, am not nursing.  It is an especially sad thing for me- to have been pregnant, birthed and not breastfed even once.  For a non-nursing mom, engorgement lasts quite a bit longer. It’s a blessing and a curse- a reminder that there was a baby and a reminder that there is no baby.  On the second day of engorgement, my breasts were very painful; I couldn’t be hugged and had to sleep only on my back.  Then they got a little better- not so tender but still very full.  By the fifth day I was getting concerned or maybe just anxious.  I needed to hear that I’m fine, it’ll go away and it sucks that this is happening.  They looked pink to me- not full blown sign of infection, but I needed some reassurance.  So I made an appointment with my midwife who diagnosed me as Irish.  She agreed, it did not look like mastitis, but the pinkness was probably just from blood flow, which apparently is very visible on my pale Irish skin.

I have been sleeping.  In the few nights I’ve been home, I’ve had two kinds of sleep- medicated or interrupted.  I’ve taken an ambien every other night- I’m afraid I’ll become reliant, so I’m trying to do without on some nights.  The nights with medication I sleep through.  The nights without, I have been waking up around 3am.  Maybe it’s my body doing what it’s supposed to do biologically.  Waking up every 4 hours to feed a baby.  As one of my friends with experience commented on an earlier post “one of the oddest things about delivering a baby who does not live is that your body doesn’t really know that.”  Maybe my body is again doing what it’s supposed to do.  Or maybe it’s part of the grieving- those 3am wake up calls are raw with emotion.  Whenever I first wake up I have a moment when everything is as it was before Mabel.  I used to have these moments when I was pregnant.  I’d wake up and it seemed like everything was normal, and then the realization that I was pregnant would sink in.   Now it’s the realization that my baby died.

And then there are the dreams.  During my unmedicated nights so far, I’ve dreamt of death. I was a very vivid dreamer pre-pregnancy, often with bad dreams.  In pregnancy I dreamed less.  Now, my first night home, I had two memorable dreams.  I dreamt about my midwife who spoke of father who had died 30 years before (in real life her father is still alive).  And worse, I had another dream about a child falling from a mountain to his death.  He had just save his younger brother from falling, but lost his balance in the meantime.  We watched as he fell into the depths below.  A few days later I dreamt that my youngest brother died in a car crash.

This morning I woke up around 6am.  I stayed awake, watching the clock until it hit 6:25.  I shook Chris awake and told him, It’s 6:25.  One week ago Mabel was born.  And then I cried myself back to sleep in his arms.

I had a baby. Her name was Mabel.

(written yesterday, February 20, 2014)

Today I buried my daughter.  Words no parent should ever have to say.

We opted for a private, family graveside service in the cemetery nearest our house.  I wanted Mabel to be close so I could visit frequently.  Chris, I and our families caravanned over in the morning, with only minor mishaps.  It’s only 1.5mi from our house, but we had never been.  We entered through the wrong entrance and had to do a five car single file reverse.  But we made it with a few minutes to spare.

Neither Chris nor I are particularly religious, but we felt we wanted some sort of service at the graveside.  I was raised Catholic, but as an adult did not feel connected to that particular religion.  I liked the idea of religion, but had trouble finding the right fit.  While pregnant, I had tried a few local churches- two Unitarian Universalist and an Episcopal church- but I didn’t feel connected enough to any of them to bring them to Mabel’s graveside.  The funeral director suggested a local Methodist pastor who would perform a non-denominational service.  We spoke to Pastor Steve two days beforehand and he seemed nice.  It almost felt better to have a stranger lead us in her services.   And though the service was more Christian than I thought it would be, it was sweet and I appreciated the structure as we laid our baby to rest.

I had extended an invitation to any family members who wanted to speak at her graveside service and my father responded.  He said:

Mabel Cleary Constantino

Your time with us was very brief – too brief  – 36 weeks + 6 hours. The impact you have had on our lives is forever. It will endure forever. We knew you through the eyes and actions of your Mom and Dad, Meghan & Chris, the decisions they made during the past 36 weeks of your life to provide you with the best possible environment. We forever admire their respect for life, their love of life, their love of you and their commitment to each other. It is that love that brought us all together on September 22, 2012 and has brought us here today. It has been quite a journey, the Mabel elements of which have been captured and shared with relatives, friends and others.  Mabel, you have had more written about you than most people my age. Through such elegant prose, and through the love of your family and that of Meghan & Chris, your memory will endure. You forever will be a bright light. You will be the beacon for us all and our Angel. We love you.

I asked my sister to read an excerpt from Elizabeth McCracken’s “An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination”


After the baby died, I told Edward over and over again that I didn’t want to forget any of it: the happiness was real, as real as the baby himself, and it would be terrible, unforgivable, to forget it.  His entire life had turned out to be the forty-one weeks and one day of his gestation, and those days were happy.  We couldn’t pretend that they weren’t.  It would be like pretending that he himself was a bad thing, something to be regretted, and I didn’t. I would have done the whole thing over again even knowing how it would end.

She followed by saying a few words.  She had found out she was expecting shortly after we had found out about Mabel’s Down Syndrome.  She thanked me for letting her in at a time when I could have shut her out.  She also thanked Chris for being my rock.

My sister has been one of my go-to sounding boards throughout the pregnancy- I’ve been just about as open with her as I have my therapist.  And though it’s been hard for me to connect with other pregnant women, especially after the low fluid diagnosis, I was able to still stay connected with her.  It gave me some sense that all was not lost- that despite such terrible news and poor prognosis, I was still human and could find that compassion for someone.  It may have been only one person; I’ll admit I felt very separate from most other pregnant women- friends, coworkers, patients, but the fact that I could maintain some connection with one person made me hope I could return to myself some day.

After my sister spoke, Chris’s mother mentioned she felt just like my niece did at that moment.  My niece had to be taken away howling in that way only 3 year olds know how.  Her tears had nothing to do with the burial- she is too young- but her sobs at the injustice of not getting what she wanted were so very appropriate.  And my mother-in-law’s comment held a little comic relief.

Then it was my turn:

I had a baby. Her name was Mabel.

I carried her for 8 months with worry and hope.  I agonized about doing the right thing for her.  Ultimately she made it clear that she was happy inside me.  She grew and moved and became a baby.  I didn’t want her to be born. I wasn’t ready, but she was.  She showed me that she was feisty and would do what she pleased.

She gave me many gifts.  She came on her own time, with a quick labor, naturally without any distress. She paved the way for her siblings to come safely.  She hung on until she could meet more family.  She showed me she knew me, and was happiest on my chest, close to my heart.  She was here too short, but she was mine.   I made her and I loved her. 

I had a baby. Her name was Mabel. 

After the pastor finished, we each placed a rose (provided by Chris’s mother) on her tiny tiny casket. And then we left so my tiny tiny daughter could be laid to rest.  But I will be back.  With flowers and memories.  I will give her a headstone so that anyone who passes can see she existed.  I want something to mark the grave so that maybe a hundred years from now, someone will see her stone and think, I wonder what Mabel’s story was, what happened to such a little baby who was here only one day.  

My chance to show her off

The wake was harder for others than it was for me.  In a way I had been looking forward to it for days.


Chris and I arrived early with our family, for set up and some time alone with Mabel.   We had asked if we could see her before they closed the casket.   Chris and I went to see her first.  As we walked the hallway to her room, I broke down.  The tears were a mix of some sort of happiness that I could see her again and sadness that this would be the last time I’d see her in person.  I know I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised how small the casket was.  And then there she was- she was perfect.  Just how she was when we said goodbye in the hospital..  Her little pouty lips.  She was swimming in her carrot outfit, like I knew she would be.  She had her little hat with bunny ears on and her cute little feet were in little bunny booties.  I could she just a patch of skin on her ankle and it made my happy.  Chris’s mother had given her a few things to take with her- two little bunnies, one super soft and the other handmade holding a carrot.  And my cousin gave her a little carrot baby.  We thought about taking some pictures (she did look so lovely lying there), but decided we were happier remembering her with the photos we had.


Carrot Baby


After our time alone with Mabel, our family had the chance to visit with her.  Some had seen her before, like my mother and father, and some were seeing her for the first time in person.  It was lovely to watch.  I think it made it more real for them which made it more real for me.  My 3 year old niece jumped the line, because she wanted to see baby Mabel.  And then after everyone was done, she wanted to go back and see her again.  I loved her for that.


Chris and I spent the remaining time before calling hours began just visiting with her.  I told her lots of things.  How wanted she was. How much I loved her. How glad I was she came. How much all her family loved her.  How I would do it again for those six hours.


We opted for a closed casket for the calling hours, which was a good decision.  The pictures alone were enough to melt people, let alone the sight of such a small casket.  We laid the carrot baby in front of her casket.  We had brought several large photos of her, hand and footprints and a scrapbook of photos.  My mother-in-law, my sister and I had put together the scrapbook the day before, laying out photos to tell her story- from labor to her passing.  I am so thankful for their help in putting her story on pages, so people could see and know her.


As our friends and extended family came through, there were many tears.  My heart warmed watching so many people look at her photos and the tears that they brought.  I was touched by how emotional my family was.  I think the calling hours were actually easiest on me.  I was happy.  It was my chance to show her off.  So few people had a chance to actually meet Mabel or really see her face.  So this was my time to share her with my world.  See, she existed.  She really was here.  And look at how beautiful she was.  Know her.


Everyone came.  Those who could not, emailed or called or texted.  They were there too.  High school friends who lived close and far came.  Family friends traveled hours through a snowstorm to come.  So many nurses from the hospital came.  Just about my entire office staff came (and I work in four different offices).  The doctors and midwives in my practice came.  Midwives from other practices came.  My genetic counselor came.  Some of my close patients came.  Chris’s work friends came.  My dad’s work friends came.  Family came.  My own midwives and doctor came.


And they all saw her, my beautiful Mabel.


Mabel’s Services

A private graveside service for Mabel will be held at Cheshire Hillside Cemetery. Calling hours will be held Wednesday, February 19, 2014 from 4 to 7 PM at The Alderson Funeral Home of Cheshire, 615 South Main Street, 06410. In lieu of flowers, donations in her name may be made to the National Down Syndrome Congress,  30 Mansell Court, Suite 108 Roswell, GA 30076, or to the Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress,, CDSC, P.O. Box 243, Meriden, CT 06450. To view these arrangements online, send a condolence, or light a memorial candle, please visit:


From the New Haven Register:


Mabel Cleary Constantino

Born February 15, 2014 6:25am

5lb 5oz, 17 ¼ inches

We knew that she had Down Syndrome and complications but eagerly awaited her with open arms. We enjoyed six precious hours with her. The nurses called her feisty and she fought hard.  She passed peacefully in the arms of her parents.

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