Of hairdressers and dentists

what is it about the dentist and the hairdresser?

I got my haircut, finally.  It had been a year.  I don’t think I’d ever gone so long.  I never get it cut as often as they recommend, but I usually sneak one in every 3 months or so- when my hair starts looking really ratty and I feel like I need a deep clean, I break down and make an appointment.  Last time I went was not too long after Mabel died.  I had a friend’s wedding coming up and I was part of the bridal party, so I felt like I needed a little cleaning up.  I had lost all the baby weight yet, and the one thing I felt I could control was my hair.  I went to the local salon- one I had been to only once or twice because I had recently moved to the town and the hairdresser started up her chatty conversation, as most hairdresser do. I’ve never liked the small talk at the salon- it feels so forced.  Maybe because I make small talk all day long with patients, I have little tolerance for it outside of work. That visit at the salon turned painful when the hairdresser asked- “I can’t remember, do you have kids?”

I was still trying out responses to that question and the one I chose “none living,” did not feel good.  Only led to more awkwardness.  I haven’t been back since.  I guess I just didn’t feel up to facing her or the question again.

One day last week, I was brushing my hair and my brush snapped in half.  It was time, I decided. So finally after a year of throwing my hair in a ponytail daily, I found a salon  even closer to my house.  When I was greeted by the new stylist I was excited to see she was young- to some that may mean inexperienced, but I’m not that picky and really quite lazy with my hair, so for me it was fine.  More importantly I just had a sense that I might not get the jibber jabber I would have in the other salon.  once I sat down and we discussed what to do, I pulled out my phone to search the internet as she cut away.

It was great! No small talk, got a good cut.  Everyone was happy.

Going to the hair dresser I’ve learned is monumental after babyloss-  I know both Wrapped up in Parenthesis and In All Things Rejoice have both written about their experiences and what it means emotionally.  The other parallel I’ve seen is experiences with the dentist.  Nasrene at Anchors for Reece recently wrote about her latest trip and what it means to do so after babyloss.  I was reminded about my first trip to the dentist after Mabel died- and I have another appointment coming up.

I think the thing about hairdressers and dentists is that they both mark the passing of time.  Something scheduled every year that usually involves a fair amount of small talk.  Under most circumstances such chatter would be welcome and pleasant even.  But for us, it can be a reminder of what should have been.  That there should be a baby in a carrier at the base of the stool in the dentist chair.  That we should be chatting easily about sleepless nights and kid stuff with the stylist.  But instead, we sit in those chairs, a captive audience, unable to run away or avoid friendly, well meaning questions that can stab us.

Do you have any experiences like that at the dentist or hairdresser?  Any other places you’d throw into the same category?   

Unmastered question

Muppet and I preformed a rescue mission last week. It was my day off and a particularly warm day for those of us in the northeast. My car thermometer hit the 50s as we drove to a local hiking venue. The snow on the main and easiest path is usually packed down enough for hiking up to the top in just hiking boots and the day was no exception. There were several other hikers, many with dogs, out that day too. We had just turned the first few bends of the path when we stopped in front of a lady crouching down, two dogs at her side.

“Is this your dog?” she asked somewhat confused. I then realized that one of the dogs was leashed and the other she had by the collar alone. When I spoke my no, she then asked “did you see anyone looking for a dog?” Apparently she found this dog walking down the trail unaccompanied. I took a turn holding the dog, calm and content sitting with us, as we investigated his collar for tags. His name was Max and we found some phone numbers. The other woman tried one, but had no service. After a few attempts I was able to get someone on my phone. Before I had a chance to speak, a woman’s voice asked “do you have a little brown dog?” She wasn’t far downt he trail and Max apparently was a little hard of hearing, but we held on to him until his owner appeared and leashed him up.

Pretty content withourselves, Muppet and I continued up the trail with the original woman who found Max. We chatted for quite a bit- mostly small talk, about things like our dogs and the weather. I remarked how it has been frustrating taking a puppy out so much in the freezing temperatures, always on a leash. I went on to say how the past weeked was really rough because it was cold, but I was also super sick and had to take care of the puppy alone, because my husband was out of town.

“Oh, do you have kids then?”

Such a benign question in most other scenarios. I sighed mentally as I tried to decide how to answer. I still hate denying Mabel’s existence with a simple “no.” And the “none living” doesn’t sit well with me either. But this woman was a complete stranger- we hadn’t even learned each other’s names. I knew far more about her dog and her previous one than I did about her and here I was debating how to tell her such an intimate detail of my life.

“Not in the house…” I mumbled awkwardly. Ugh. I didn’t want that to be my answer. I just needed more time to think about it and craft the words that I really wanted to say. The conversation continued, but my response was still on my mind. But another opportunity presented. I can’t remember what exactly brought us to it, but I found myself saying, “Well, I had a daughter last year, but she died after birth. I got Muppet as a puppy not long after, so she could help fill that space. She’s my baby now.” My tone was cheerful and loving and her response was the appropriate “Oh, I’m sorry.” I was able to transition the conversation back to the dogs, talking about how protective I am of my puppy and the small talk flowed.

This interaction has sat with me though, now days later. I thought I was good at answering that dreaded question, especially when I’m in my office, where I hear variations of it most often. But I suppose I was unprepared on the trail. I guess I need to learn to be prepared all the time. I think I would have been happier if I answered “Yes- a daughter” or “I had a daughter” and see where the conversation went. Perhaps next time.

Has this happened to you? Thought you had mastered something in your babyloss world, only to be caught off guard and stumble?

The Muppet Puppy, dog rescuer.

The Muppet Puppy, dog rescuer.

Baby’s First Christmas


I was walking in the drug store and my eyes caught this on display:

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I was sad.  It hurt to think that in another world I would be buying one of these for Mabel.  I also recognize, I am extremely fortunate to have many an ornament o hang for Mabel- many gifts that came and are still coming in her memory.

I was also reminded of a conversation my sister relayed to me.  She and my niece were unpacking Christmas decorations and my sister pulled out a stocking that said baby’s first Christmas.  My four year old niece declared that her little six month old brother would share it with Meghan’s baby.

My sister shared it with me with caution, knowing it might be painful- and it was in a way. It was painful in the way that Christmas is in general.  But it was also really quite sweet.  I was also impressed that she was able to realize at age four that this would have been Mabel’s first Christmas- something I worry that grown ups will forget because it has been ten months since her death.

Is this your baby’s first Christmas? Second? Third…?



I enjoy a good costume; I always have. Every year for my birthday I have had a theme party, one involving costumes- Bowties & Moustaches, Mad Hatter, Cowboys & Ninjas. Halloween also provides a good outlet- I’ve been Curious George, an eggplant, a proctologist and Peter Pan in recent years. I wear a costume to work. Last year, while pregnant with Mabel, I threw on one of Chris’s shirts over my maternity jeans, grabbed my boots and my hat (from my most recent birthday party) and was a simple cowboy. At 22 weeks and in a men’s shirt, you couldn’t tell I was pregnant. I spiced up the costume with a very authentic looking moustache. I even brought moustaches for my staff to wear. My favorite was the 70-something year old doc also donning a fake moustache for the entire day. Patients gave an easy laugh when I entered the exam room. It was fun!


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This year, I wasn’t exactly in the holiday spirit. I wasn’t feeling playful, so I wore no costume. If I had thought enough ahead, I would have pulled together some sort of carrot costume. but I didn’t think of that until midway through the work day. It was hard for me to give up dressing up altogether. I did let a little bit of holiday seep in through my socks.

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We made plans to go to a friend’s house after work because they get lots of trick-or-treaters and we don’t get any on the road we live on. I wasn’t terribly excited to ooh and aah over the little kids dressed up, nor did I feel in the mood to celebrate. But I wanted to dress my pup up and Chris and I thought she could benefit from the socialization that came with constant ringing of the doorbell. And after taking Muppet out to numerous walks and festivals, I’ve learned she usually attracts lots of positive attention. It’s a decent substitute for the attention a baby gets- lots of oohing and ahhing. I figured the attention we’d get over her would balance out the reminders of what we lost.

Ready for the beach!

Ready for the beach!

Hot dog!

Hot dog!

School girl! (though, trust me, she's not that innocent)

School girl! (though, trust me, she’s not that innocent)

Overall, she got some attention, but not as much as I had hoped. I suppose children in costume and the promise of candy held more attraction than my dressed up pup. I was saddened when I saw kids in strollers because I was reminded of what I might have been doing if I had a living eight month old. Granted, she might have been too sick to go trick or treating, but I not only mourn the sick child I lost, but the dream of a healthy one too.

How was your Halloween?

A lunatic’s anger

Today I am angry. And jealous. But mostly angry.

I am angry at hearing the news that friends of ours are pregnant. Angry that they get to announce their pregnancy without fear or secrets. Angry that they have other kids. Angry that, by all appearances , they got pregnant easily. Angry that as their family grows, mine seems to stay the same- me, my husband and our dead daughter. Angry that their announcement is joyful and not full of trepidation, knowing all the awful that could happen, having seen what happened to me.

I know the more appropriate word would be jealous- I am envious of all these things. But I don’t particularly feel jealous. I really just feel angry.

I’m angry that by announcing their pregnancy they have shut me out. In truth, it is me who will be shutting them out. This is what I do- I avoid my pregnant friends and those with babies, mostly because I can not bear having my feelings of jealousy and pain be witnessed. I am angry that they are choosing pregnancy over my friendship.

These are the crazy, irrational emotions of a lunatic. What kind of miserable, venomous person could think this way? This anger is unfounded and unfair. This anger is wrong.

It lives in me and I am ashamed. Ashamed and angry.

This is my grief talking. I wouldn’t be angry if my daughter had not died.

Day 19: Give

“We are donating in memory of our daughter Mabel who had Down Syndrome.  She died when she was just a baby but had she had the chance to grow up, we are sure she would have loved these science projects.”

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I told Chris that today, we had to give- donate or do something nice for someone- in honor of Mabel. He suggested that we finally get around to donating to NPR, which is having a fundraising drive. It’s something we should do anyways, being the avid listeners we are, but I wanted to do something extra, something we want to do rather than something we should do. I went to one of Chris’s preferred charity websites- Donor’s Choose– where teachers post projects they want to fund and people contribute however much they want. I searched for any Down Syndrome related projects and found many. We found one we like and could complete the funding for. With a few clicks, Mrs. Hanson’s class now will have a science cart. Within moments we received a personal response:

“Chris, thank you so much for your amazing donation in memory of Mabel. What a special gift to our classroom you have provided, thank you! Your gift will be used daily by an amazing group of students”


A Very Merry Birthday

Three years ago I organized a group of my friends to “adopt a family” for Christmas.  We bought toys and gifts for a single mom and her son who were in need. One of my friends asked me afterwards, “if they can’t afford Christmas presents, what happens at their birthdays?”  I knew of many programs in the community that help struggling families, but I had no answer to her question.  We spent the next year creating our own non-profit to address such a need.  A Very Merry Birthday was born.  We matched a child at the local Boys & Girls club with a volunteer, or “Birthday Hero” who would buy that child gifts and a cake.  The goal was for the child to take the gifts and cake home to celebrate with her family, promoting togetherness.

I love birthdays; I think they’re kind of a big deal.  I always throw myself a big party to celebrate mine.  My family still exchanges gifts on each other’s birthdays even though we are now all adults.  I love getting other people gifts, especially if they are well thought out.  I may be a little late in getting gifts to their recipients (sorry mom, it’s coming), but I come through.  I always gave a good birthday wish to anyone on facebook who had a birthday.  For our wedding we did a charity fundraiser and names A Very Merry Birthday as one of the charities and raised thousands of dollars.  Because every child deserves a birthday.

Mabel had a birthday but it was also her death day.  I am still having trouble digging deep and finding those celebratory feelings for others.  No more facebook posts wishing others happy birthday.  I still get gifts for my family, but I’m a whole lot slower.

The nonprofit I started with my friend is on hiatus.  She valiantly took over the whole thing in December when Mabel was diagnosed with a poor prognosis.  I’m so grateful she was able to see the school year to completion- it was a lot of work for the two of us, I can only imagine how she managed on her own.  We are taking a break as we figure out the future of our organization.  The idea of helping other kids celebrate their birthdays while Mabel never will is a little painful.  I’m working hard on myself and trying to learn how midwife again in the face of my loss, I don’t have much left to give at the end of the day.  So for now, A Very Merry Birthday sleeps.  Our motto, Every Child Deserves a Birthday, has never rung truer.  My child deserves a birthday, too.

Kid Art #2

“When is Meghan going be here?” they were asking.  I was running late after an especially therapeutic catch up dinner with a friend.

When I arrived at their house, they were waiting for me at the end of their driveway.  The five year old jumped up and gave me a hug.  “We’re having a party!” she said with her little girl voice, the kind that can’t quite get the R’s right.  The six year old ran inside wordlessly and came back with the shell he had painted last week.  We all went inside and they both skittered away, returning just seconds later.

“This is a girl in red who is chasing a spider and she picks it up and puts it in a bag,”  she says, only “girl” sounds like “giwl,” “red” sounds like “wed” and “spider” sounds like “spida”

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“Look!” he shows me another Karate Carrot.  “And that’s another one in the background.”  He grins up at me, so proud of his work.

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Friday Night Firepit

A Friday night firepit.  Something of a tradition among our friends.  Summer time has rolled in and in the absence of other plans, someone in the friend group will often suggest a night around the fire.  This Friday night firepit was at our good friends’ house- they got married two weeks ago and invited us over to help make a dent in some of their leftover beer and wine.

We sat around the fire and made small talk- the world cup, their recent honeymoon in Paris, the location of the cricket we were hearing.  As the fire sparked, I sat on one of the comfy patio chairs.  It was familiar to me- it used to sit at my parent’s old house.  When they moved, we got a U-haul and schlepped all the furniture they weren’t bringing with them down to our neck of the woods and distributed some of it among friends.  These friends have the patio set, a large hutch and an upright piano.  Moving a piano isn’t easy, but Chris and this friend made it happen.  I was very impressed.

As I sat I this familiar comfy chair, their five year old came up and snuggled with me.  She is super sweet and we have always gotten along.  When they moved into this new house I bought her and her brother housewarming gifts (books) along with their parents.  I remember in my pregnancy coming over one night and she sat on my lap.  After a hour or so, she looked at me and said “Do you have a baby in your belly?’  We all smiled and laughed at how cute an observation it was.  She and her dad came and visited Chris and I in the hospital one night and again a few weeks after Mabel died.  In the house, she looked at one of the photos we had of her framed by our doorway- “is this your baby that died?” she asked with an innocence that only a kid could have.

I like this kid.  I’m good with her.  Heck, I’m good with kids in general.  I’ve been babysitting since I was 11.  I was a child development major in college.  I worked at summer camps all through college.  Once my friends started having kids, I would show them how to swaddle and hold their babies with confidence.  I have even been called the baby whisperer.  So the unfairness of having a child and her being ripped away from me hurts all the more.  Because I would have been great with my kid.

At the firepit, she snuggled up to me and rambled on about a story involving Mrs. Redleaf- the tree in her back yard.  At one point, during a break in the story I pulled up my phone to show her a photo of a turtle I had seen in my yard a few days before.  Her seven-year old brother came over and looked too.  Drawn to the screen, as kids are these days, we spent a few minutes scrolling through my photos pausing to look at other pictures of animals I had.  In between we passed some photos of carrots.  “Why do you have so many carrots on your phone?” her brother asked.

“Remember how I had a baby and she died?” They both nodded.  “Well, we used to call her our Karate Carrot.  Carrot was her nickname.  I have all the carrots because I’m sad and I miss her.”  They accepted my explanation easily and we soon put the photo down and went back to the firepit.  I heard more of the story of Mrs. Redleaf and we ate pizza.

Towards the end of the night when the little girl was curled up on my lap, she said that I was her mom now.  She even called out to her own mother and said she wanted to go home with us, “because you don’t have any kids.  Your baby died, so I want to be your kid.”

Sigh.  Kids- they just say the right thing sometimes.