A year ago today, we had to figure out how to say goodbye to our much anticipated, already deeply loved unborn daughter. Our abortion due to her diagnosis of Bilateral Multicystic Kidney disease (which is fatal) was scheduled for the next day, the day before Thanksgiving.
Medically, I spent much of Tuesday recovering from the first medical procedure to prepare my body for the abortion. When you're 21 weeks pregnant, it's a two day procedure, and the first day you have seaweed sticks called laminarias placed in you cervix to start to dilate it for the dilation and evacuation scheduled the following day. In my shock, I had forgotten my doctor's advice to take 800 mg of Advil to prepare for it, and I remember feeling hesitant to do so once they offered it to me: I knew Advil wasn't good while pregnant and I still felt so protective of Grace. The procedure was excruciating: Jim held my hands and cried while I suffered through it, and I spent the remaining afternoon with a heating pad on my abdomen, laying on the couch.
Around dinner time I felt well enough to go to the kitchen to eat some dinner with Jim, and asked him how he wanted to say goodbye to Grace: this was out last night with her. In memory of the beautiful way Jim suggested we spend this precious time with her, I have reposted his blog entry here:
A Dance Party for Grace Pearl
Robin and I received the news of our daughter Grace Pearl's Multicystic Dysplastic Kidney Disease on Thursday, November 17 at approximately 1:45PM at the 21 week anatomy scan. The following days and nights were filled with grief, numbness and disbelief, all while looking for anything to distract or lighten our hearts. The previous six months had been spent thinking of what life was going to be like with our daughter, the endless opportunities and things we as parents were looking forward to sharing and experiencing with her. The reality now was that future together was going to be much shorter.
While finishing dinner at home on Tuesday, November 22, Robin (thankfully) brought up that this was our last night together with Grace. Robin gently asked if there anything I wanted to do or say to Grace before we said our final goodbye to her the next morning. The reality hit that instead of the lifetime of memories with Grace we anticipated we were getting a few more hours before the chance for new memories with her would be over.
When faced with this reality the only thing that made sense for this situation was music. The love and appreciation of music has helped me more in life than anything else, making the great times more festive while being the greatest comforter during the hard times. So with our last few hours with Grace slipping away, the thing I wanted to do most with her was share music - something I had probably looked forward to doing with her more than anything else.
I realized I wouldn't get the chance to spend an evening with Grace playing Public Enemy albums and explain how I learned more about American Black History from these records than I did in 17 years of public and private education. I wasn't getting the chance to spend a weekend afternoon playing her albums from my favorite early 90s Olympia, WA and Washington D.C. bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Slant 6. Bands who called out the patriarchy and challenged "liberated" men to do better while making some of the most exciting and memorable music that still sounds as important as it did 25+ years ago. I wasn't going to get the chance to go on a road trip with Grace and play Willie Nelson, Ornette Coleman, Stevie Wonder and John Fogerty albums for her, and tell her why I thought that there should be a "musical" Mt. Rushmore in America with their four faces on it celebrating these true American geniuses.
While it would've been easy (and earned) to put together a playlist that was filled with somber and serious music for these last hours together, I didn't want Grace's last hours to be about sadness,;we’d already spent the past four days fighting sadness. Instead of going for the Joy Division, Diamond Galas and Black Heart Procession records (which I figured I would be sharing with her during Grace's potentially morose teenage years), I wanted us three to celebrate the amazing time we did get to have with each other. The songs and artists chosen are ones that Robin and/or I loved and thought that our little girl would enjoy. The emphasis was songs that we hoped our little girl would gravitate to, simple pop songs that could be used as a foundation to discover her own musical taste and path in life.
In rushing to put together this playlist that night I forgot a few songs that meant the world to me. Songs like Lulu “To Sir With Love”, Linda Ronstadt “You’re No Good” and The Ronettes “Be My Baby” were just a few of the major songs that were missed unfortunately.
The below are the songs we played on shuffle that evening. We danced for over an hour in our living room, late at night with only candles lighting our dance floor. Robin gently patted along to the rhythm on her baby bump and we replaced lyrics in several songs to be Grace Pearl. Some of the songs were key selections from our wedding, some we knew would be irresistible to a little girl, and lastly I wanted to make sure that she got to experience three songs with my favorite drummer all time Al Jackson Jr. behind the drums.
Robin had been told to bring headphones with her to the procedure the next day, for reasons we didn't really stop to think about while we fumbled through our shock and grief. She ended up not being put under the the procedure, and was advised to listen to music while Grace left us. She put on this playlist, and remembers listening to Born To Run, Superstitious, Let's Spend the Night Together and Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay. It brought both of us comfort to think that Grace's last moments were spent listening to music through her mother's body.
You can listen to the playlist here, and see the list of songs below:
Grace's Dance Party Playlist
The Beach Boys - God Only Knows
The Beatles - Twist And Shout
The Bee Gees - Stayin' Alive
Blondie - Atomic
Chuck Berry - You Never Can Tell
Sam Cooke - Nothing Can Change This Love
The Doobie Brothers - What A Fool Believes
Earth, Wind & Fire – September
Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way
The Four Tops - I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)
Marvin Gaye - Got To Give It Up, Part 1(Single Version)
Al Green - I'm Still In Love With You
Al Green - Let's Stay Together
The Hollies - Bus Stop
Michael Jackson - Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough (Single Version)
The Jackson 5 - ABC
KC & The Sunshine Band - Get Down Tonight (Single Version)
Kenny Loggins - Footloose
Little River Band - Lady
MFSB - T.S.O.P. (The Sound Of Philadelphia)
Olivia Newton-John/John Travolta - You're The One That I Want
The O'Jays - Love Train
Otis Redding - (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay
The Rolling Stones - Let's Spend The Night Together
The Rolling Stones - Brown Sugar
Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run
Warpaint - New Song
Stevie Wonder - I Was Made To Love Her
Stevie Wonder – Superstition
Neil Young – Harvest Moon