Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Okay, here's a fair warning. You might want to get a tissue. You've been warned. If you hate to read sad stories, um, go check out some other blog that's funny.

Still here? Here goes nothing.

In 1997 I became a mom. Despite my best intentions, I had a cesarean section. It was not easy, and I definitely had my moments of feeling like a failure. After all, my mother had delivered me and my brother naturally (at least mostly naturally) in the South in the early 1970's, which was no mean feat. My mother-in-law, too, had delivered her three children with ease. I had assumed that I, too, would have a glorious natural childbirth experience.

I got lucky and was able to breastfeed pretty easily. The first month, however, was not all wine and roses, and my husband (Craig) spied a flier for La Leche League and urged me to go to a meeting. My mother had given me her old copy of "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding," telling me that the book had good information, but that the ladies of LLL were a bit "culty."

So with a little trepidation, I walked to the Quaker meeting house for my first LLL meeting. I maneuvered my big bulky stroller into the small space and felt more than a little awkward. After all, baby-toting was still very new to me.

The first person I made eye contact with was a young, radiant pregnant woman. She smiled warmly and invited me to sit with her. In a few minutes, I had learned that she was pregnant with her second child and that her first child, Arabella, was a preschooler. I also learned that this nice woman was a writer and was very interested in yoga, and that she was a fallen-away vegetarian. She was articulate and pretty and interesting and wow! She was my first official "mommy friend."

We saw each other often at LLL meetings and even got together other times. She had a beautiful baby boy (who walked at 8 months!) and co-founded the Memphis chapter of Attachment Parenting International. She began teaching yoga, beginning with a prenatal yoga class, which I attended. She brought food to my house when my second child was born, and provided plenty of emotional support when I made the difficult decision to quit my job. When her child was diagnosed with Asperger's, I was there for her as she learned to navigate the world of IEP's and alternative therapies. In 2000, she asked me to be a co-leader of the API group.

Christie was beautiful. That showed all the time. She had a ready smile and a musical laugh. She was gentle and positive. After September 11, she threw herself into organizing "Peace Picnics" at her child's preschool. She was devoted to National TV Turnoff week, which always made me laugh, because at my house, the TV wouldn't know what to do if it were off for a whole week! She was also very talented and disciplined. She landed a major writing contract - four children's books to be co-written with Bill and Martha Sears! She kept that news to herself as long as she possibly could, but when she finally told me, she was ready to burst. It was amazing! (And the books are fantastic! Buy them!)

In 2002, I was working part-time, and Christie asked me to attend her sparsely-populated Wednesday morning yoga class. It was a level 2 class, a little more challenging than I was ready for, but the only class that fit into my schedule. Generally there were two to five women in the class, and we all enjoyed getting to know each other. Around June of that year, I noticed that Christie was acting a little, well, ditzy. And about as soon as I started suspecting, she told me that she was pregnant again. Delightful news! Craig and I had already decided that we were done having children, so another baby to spoil!

Christie decided to cut back to just prenatal yoga classes in September. Which meant I didn't see her every week anymore. I drifted into another yoga class on Wednesday mornings, but it was crowded and the room was always cold; it wasn't the same.

She and I talked on the phone plenty, and still had our monthly API meetings. Except in October, when we both totally forgot the meeting (the fourth Monday had come earlier in the month than usual...we both thought the meeting was the following week). I called her after work on October 28, 2002, and we had a great conversation about our kids, our lives, Halloween costumes, the API group, our shared forgetfulness, and soup. And that was the last time we talked.

My answering machine was blinking when I got home from work on Tuesday, November 5. It was a friend, telling me that Christie had been in a car accident on Monday afternoon. It was bad, but the kids were okay. I returned the call and learned that Christie was not okay. They had taken the baby via c-section. Christie wasn't going to wake up.

Christie was going to die. She might already be dead.

I remember falling to the floor and crying. Once I collected my wits, I called the hospital, trying to get some information. One person told me that she wasn't on the census. Another person said that she was in surgery. I didn't get it. (Craig finally, gently told me what I failed to understand: they were taking her organs, which she was able to donate.)

I attended my Wednesday yoga class the next day, tearful. The teacher had known Christie and was crying, too. I did the poses and cried.

Her funeral was the following Friday. Craig and I attended, and the cathedral was full. The eulogy was delivered by Christie's best friend and fellow writer, Emily Yellin. She read from Christie's journals. Her journals conveyed her passion for writing, for yoga, for her husband, for her children.

I fell away from yoga. Any time I tried it, Christie's cheerful voice, her constant tweaking of the pose, her pretty voice when she chanted, all haunted me. Craig and the kids gave me a yoga mat and props for Christmas, and they pretty much spent all their time in the closet, like most exercise equipment does.

But last night I took the kids to a yoga class. It was a good class: gentle and breath-centered, a different approach than Christie's perfectionist Iyengar school of yoga. But in the quiet, just for a moment, I knew something. Christie would be glad that I was there.


furrjen said...

Oh, Kaleigh,

(((( ))))))

What else can be said?

Anonymous said...

You made me cry and now I have to go to yoga class...ironic.....

Anonymous said...

yep, you made your little brother tear up, too.

Anonymous said...

yep, you made your little brother tear up, too.