Light and Dark

As the joy of the holidays subsided, the dark days of winter took hold.  Truly, the last few days of 2016 brought death to a close and disconcerting distance.  It stepped in and stayed until as recently as last week.  And still, it lingers.

I’d pulled my black leather pumps from their shelf high in the closet.  I’d arched my inner soles into their uncomfortable embrace.  I’d released my tired, swollen toes from their pinch at the end of the day.  But I’d yet to return them to their box; death would not let me store them away for the next black dress event.

There was another, and another.

A year of new life was marred by the loss of three precious ones.

Death is always waiting in the wings – but I’m comforted by the thought that their spirits fly in the wind that catches our breath and reminds us we’re alive.


Return to Zero

Stigma.  Silence.  Simply impossible to say the right thing.

All of these surround the topic of neonatal death, miscarriage, and stillbirth.

Tonight, a film determines to shatter all that.

Return to Zero tells the story of a couple expecting their first child, whom they are devastated to discover has died before he could even be born.  It is the first feature film to tackle the uncomfortable and uncovered story of this type of tragedy.

Perhaps no one wants to watch a film with such a difficult plot, but certainly no parent wants to find themselves playing the starring role.  Just as we all find comfort and empowerment in reading our story on the page, finding our face on the screen, this film should prove powerful – and hopefully therapeutic – for parents who have been silenced by the horrific events of stillbirth.

Stranger than Fiction


You just can’t make this stuff up.


We’ve all heard people say this. We may have even heard some pretty good instances of the phenomenon. Read Kelly Kittel’s Breathe: A Memoir of Motherhood, Grief, and Family Conflict, however, and you’ll find perhaps the best exemplar of it ever.

Kittel’s story starts much like many other love stories: with the birth of a precious baby boy. We learn to know and love Noah, Kittel’s fourth child, right along with her. Amidst the love and adoration, though, there is an undercurrent of tension. Relations with extended family increasingly interfere with the Kittels’ close knit circle of immediate family, creating conditions ripe for catastrophe.

A tragic accident involving Noah is unfortunately and unbelievably only the first tragedy to befall Kelly and her family. In her quest for “an oversized house and a plastic car overflowing with round-headed pink and blue babies while [she] navigated [her] way through the Game of Life,” Kittel experienced miscarriages and an unnecessary stillbirth, unsupportive and argumentative family members.

Through personal anguish and legal battles, spiritual searches and encounters with nature, Kittel somehow arrives victorious on the other end, relishing each and every moment with her family of five living children and the spirit of those in heaven. Even with all its loss, Breathe is always – on every page, in every word – a life-affirming story.

I was fortunate enough to have read Breathe in its entirety before publication. Shortly after Kelly joined our writers’ group, she began sharing excerpts of her story, until we’d read, critiqued, and discussed the whole thing. We stroked the cover of her first proof when she passed it around the circle one night (it really is velvety soft!). We cheered her on upon its release on May 14, the birthday of her dear son, Jonah, his one and only day upon the earth.

Kelly Kittel wrote this story for those precious sons robbed of the oft-neglected privilege of breathing. But she also offers a poignant story of survival – her own. And in doing so, she most certainly will help countless mothers and women do the same.





Knitting, Needling, and Never Saying Never

I’d heard Ann Hood speak at an ASTAL event at Rhode Island College and loved her humor as much as her ability to spin words.  But I still hadn’t read any of her work.  I was excited when I obtained a copy of her book, The Knitting Circle, finally able to experience her written words.  I usually try not to get too much information about a title before I read it myself, even forgoing the author bio on the book jacket until after I’ve finished, because I don’t want to form any preconceived notions.  I want a totally fresh, unexpectant perspective.  I had heard this particular title was heartbreaking, but only whispers.

Really, I figured I had been so low already, why not scratch the bottom of the barrel?  Couldn’t get any lower, right?

“When she opened [her eyes], Scarlet was standing in the center of the living room, looking around, horrified.  Yarn, empty bags of microwave popcorn, scattered mail covered the floor.  And there was Mary herself, in those overalls, wrapped in that blanket.”

This description of the culmination of depression for Mary, who lost her young daughter to a sudden illness, hit a little too close to home.  I never reached a period where I’d stayed like that for more than an afternoon or day, but would I have if I didn’t have three little sets of hands and one big set pulling at me?  Would I skip the shower one more day if I wasn’t going to actually see someone when I left the house?  Would I make dinner if there weren’t four other mouths to feed?

Isn’t everyone who suffers from depression really just a step away from this threshold?  What keeps one from crossing over?  Obligations, yes, but that doesn’t make life any more fulfilling.  Love, yes, but it still hurts even amidst it.  A flippant attitude that it can’t surely can’t get any worse?  That only goes so far; one either ends up being bitter or it does indeed get worse.

And having experienced it once does not make one immune.  I stupidly read this book with some of that flippant attitude and it knocked me back on my keister, which I’d only gotten up off recently.  I read it in the midst of an already tough, low, hormonal spot – right before upping meds.  Good times; perfect timing.

Which makes a question my aunt asked me even more pertinent.

When I floated the idea of using my postpartum experience to develop a writing program to help women suffering from it, she worried whether hearing and vicariously living through participants’ experiences would plunge me back into my own depths.  I guess there’s always that possibly, that threat, if you will.  But, alas, that is a human frailty; being attuned to the feelings and woes of those around us (or a strength – depending on the situation and one’s perspective).  And most certainly an Achilles heel for me, the ubersensitive introspective individual that I am.

But the fact that I have and would feel their suffering so acutely may make me uniquely qualified for such an endeavor.

Only time will tell.

In the meantime, I’ve been looking for a knitting class to take.  Ann Hood was truly inspirational.


Quoted text taken from:

Hood, Ann.  The Knitting Circle.  New York:  W.W. Norton and Company, 2007.  Page 246

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