Calvin's Day

Happy birthday to my otter boy

It is the first day of spring, Calvin's Day, as this date has come to be known in my family. Getting ready for bed last night, O grinned at me and looked up through is hair and said, "I can sleep in tomorrow because it is a holiday in our family."

March 20, 2013 is the 12th birthday of my first child, Calvin Baker Thayer-Hansen. He was stillborn twelve years ago, and my life changed irrevocably. Or it changed the morning of March 19, when my midwife couldn't find a heartbeat. Or sometime in the 10 days before, when he died without me knowing it -- maybe when I was sitting in the seminar room of the English department interviewing for my first classroom assignment. Or it changed in the first weeks of pregnancy, when something went wrong with the implantation of the placenta or with the combination of my chemistry with that of the embryo or whatever mechanism it was that fucked with my vascular system and cascaded into preeclampsia, the condition that killed him and could have killed me. Or it changed when we decided to try to become pregnant, a decision that I made carefully after a lifetime of intention to be childless, or the day we fell in love, or the night we met, or, or ...

What moment is the gateway to sorrow? And how does sorrow dissolve itself into the rest of a life?

I say my life changed irrevocably when I lost this son who would have been, but that change hasn't been entirely negative. It was a loss that created a hole that will never, ever be filled, but it was also the gateway into everything that came after. The whole shape of my life and this family springs from the love and the dreams that I had invested in the idea of him and then had to find a way to make good on -- in his memory and for myself. This foursome we have that I never would have planned before, my commitment to the struggle to make my writing real in the world, the openness to joy and wonder I have consciously cultivated (and from which this blog springs). He is without a doubt always present with me even in his profound absence.

Calvin was born exactly half my adult life ago. I am 42 now. I was 30 then. Twelve years before that, at 18, I was failing to complete my freshman year at Sarah Lawrence College, teetering on the edge of another kind of sorrow -- crippling writers block and depression. Six years after that I was moving to be with David. Six years after Calvin was born, I was starting my MFA program, determined to put my writing at the center of my life. Do these symmetries mean anything? I have been obsessing about them for weeks, knowing this day was approaching. Where will I be in another 6 years? in 12?

(In 12 years, Z will be 22 and O will be 20. The world will be entirely different all over again.)

Reading: Continuing with the Anshaw.

Writing: Yes, butt in seat in the a.m.

Dinner: Yesterday afternoon, Z and I were flipping through a parenting magazine at the doctor's office (she was there for a check up) and found an easy weekday menu featuring miso glazed salmon and broccoli. We discussed the merits of this and ended up turning it into roasted miso glazed tofu and portabellos over rice with a side of very garlicky, lemony broccolini. It was fab. And broccolini is my new obsession.

Soundtrack: Once you start listening to London Calling it is easy to wonder why you should ever listen to anything else.

Random thing: I like that our pediatrician's office gives out "prescription sheets" of reading recommendations, and at the bottom it says "Every family, every day: Talk, sing, read, play."


  1. I love you! And I am so excited for a world where Z and O are adult people. What amazing people they will be (and already are) and we, old ladies, will sip our tea and bourbon and continue to take over the world, in little but significant pieces. xxxx

  2. This:
    "It was a loss that created a hole that will never, ever be filled, but it was also the gateway into everything that came after."
    And struggling to balance "this should not have happened" with "this was meant to be," when probably neither are true. Or maybe both are.
    At any rate, wishing you and your family a peaceful Calvin Day.

  3. I didn't see this when you posted it the other day. It's really quite lovely and despite the sadness of the story that precipitates it, I was very pleased to read it. Thank you for writing it.


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