Note: I originally posted this on my personal Facebook page as a raw and cathartic release of thoughts and feelings.  I did not write with the intention to publish this.  However, the team asked and said they thought many of you could relate.  I agreed.  If Cagney’s short life helps anyone, it will bring a glimmer of peace to my pain.

So here it is…


cagney joCagney Joe—as the earth takes that long trip around the sun, I wait patiently for the day his name gets to bask in its warmth and glow. A cake. That’s all that is left for us to look forward to. A birthday cake for our sweet angel.

This year it will carry the weight of five candles that will never feel his gentle and excited breath. I am angry this year and fantasize about those candles just burning, wax melting, making the cake unpalatable with tarnished beauty. I want to throw the cake against the wall and watch it burst and smear. It’s what my heart feels like.


I am given cultural permission to care for only one day. I haven’t given my raw feelings space or vulnerability because it makes others uncomfortable. You know what’s uncomfortable? Aching arms longing for a babe that I’ll never hold…bitter and dry lips that never kissed delicate newborn skin…guilt for denying my child the right to be one of six by telling people I am the mother of five, for an explanation would birth empathy I don’t have the strength to own…a hoarse voice and shaky knees standing at a lonely counter to tell a stranger the beautiful name that will never be spoken enough.

My pain is hollow and cold. A frigid howling cavern takes residence in my soul, a Cagney-shaped absence, and I’m not sure how to fill it or if I want to. So today I choose to be angry.

I am a mother, been a mother since I was 17 years old. I have six amazing children…three boys, two girls, and what Chris and I feel in our hearts was another boy. His name is CAGNEY. When people ask me how many children I have, they don’t realize it’s a hard question. My voice always answers five, and my soul whimpers six.

This is Cagney’s story….I was still nursing my littlest guy, Canyon. I hadn’t had a cycle in a long time—since I got pregnant with Canyon actually. I had, however, in the past few months experienced other signs of ovulation. I’d kept track because we were wanting to try for another baby. I hadn’t had any of those signs in the past few weeks…on the contrary, I felt “different.” I held a secret, a jubilant, joyful, happy, hopeful secret of MAYBE and I’M SURE WE ARE.

I planned in my head…being full-bellied is wonderful in the winter…another February birthday. How will we share the news?? It’ll be Cagney Joe, no matter if it’s a boy or girl.

Well that last night, as I got in the tub with Canyon, I noticed a few bright red clots. I continued over the night to have bright red bleeding, clots, and a general sense of being un-whole. I had cramping, but it wasn’t like labor with my other children. Somewhere in my gut I had wished it would be—at least I could own that. At least I would have something. But I didn’t. I didn’t. My entire being was saying, “I’m losing something important and special and unique and worthy and meant to be. I’m confused. I’m feeling emotional and regretful…guilty and sad….uncertain and quite alone.” I had so many whys. Why didn’t I share the news? Why is this happening? Why me?

Because I never had a pregnancy test or an ultrasound that gave me the scientific yes, I took on this societal NO, giving me a weight of NO. No Andie, you don’t have a reason to celebrate, and no, you don’t have a reason to mourn.

cake for cagney

I can’t live with that. I just feel…I don’t have a good word for it…but something. There was something, and now I feel empty. When you share in creation and carry a life, no matter how long, and when that life goes, a piece of your soul goes with it. My body was going through a new experience, I know my body well, and this was foreign.

I will share this story every year on July 19th, mostly because of an inner voice telling me not to, and that’s not right. This happened, and why should it be a secret that lives only in me. I don’t want to ask permission to be sad over this, I’m giving myself that privilege. I deserve to have my feelings, and my baby deserves my heart. It’s strange how a mother can love a being she barely knew existed, but I do. I’m in love with the tiny babe my husband and I made, I’m in love with God’s creation, and I’m in love with knowing Jesus is rocking the baby I can’t and that one day he will return that babe to my aching arms.

It brings me comfort to know you were a water birth baby, Cagney. It’s what I would have planned for you, if I could have. You were in the tub with Camden and Canyon and me. I’ll hold that memory as a gift. We celebrated his birthday the first week we lost him with a cake because it is his still-birthday. We donated a cake in honor of Cagney to Alexandra’s house so another family struggling will have a joyful moment too. It gives me a peace to know my oh-so-wanted baby will touch another heart besides mine. We do cake for him each year, and I remember him every day. We all love you our precious baby Cagney Joe. It’s forever your day, your still-birthday.


About the Author

A certified nurse midwife and doctorate student has been in the Houston birth community for over a decade. Her experience includes elementary school nursing, hospital L & D, birth center, and home birth. Andie is confident in a woman's ability to grow and birth her baby. She feels a partnership in care is empowering and hopes to foster that relationship with families. She has a tender, lighthearted, and hands off approach to the evidence based care she offers. She has been joyfully dating her husband of 16 years since junior high and has five children. Her passions beyond bellies, birth, and breastfeeding are mission work and reading.