Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Baby No One Remembers

It was my anniversary this year.  Fifteen years.  I woke to a total surprise.  My husband gave me a box, a ring box sitting on my tummy before I was thoroughly awake.  Inside was a beautiful family ring.  I had mentioned getting one before, but never gone through with it.  They are expensive, and I never could justify it.

I had wanted one with five stones.  Five to represent my five children.

That morning, when I opened the box and saw the five stones lined up, my eyes filled with tears.  Here is a visible thing, a lining up of five, not four.  My mother's mind counts to four when we are at the beach or pool, when we load into a van, counting to make sure they are all here.  But my heart counts to five.  I have birth to five babies.  Three boys and two girls.  A beautiful ring, with no one missing.

I wore it proudly all day, admiring it.  My heart at rest to see five, nothing missing.

But then towards evening, right as we were to go out, I decided to look up the stones - what were they?  My oldest I knew.  He was born in the same month as me, so I know his birth stone.  But what was my Lydia's stone?  Or how about my other daughter?  I didn't recognize those stones.  So I phoned my mom.  She had helped my husband by picking out the stones, so I wanted to tell her thank-you and to ask what the stones were.

She told me what my youngest daughter's stone was, and then told me that for Lydia they had picked October's stone "because it was pretty".  They couldn't remember, she explained, when she was born, so they thought October looked pretty.

I sat down in shock.  My own husband and my own mother could not remember when my daughter was born?!  Nor did they think it was important enough to ask, to get it right?  How can it be a stone to remember her birth if it does not represent her birth.  October?  She was born in March - no where near October!  They ought to know - I had just been to visit a friend who had lost her baby, and had talked about being there over Lydia's birthday and how that was hard for me.

We were going out, so I stayed silent, but quiet tears began to drip down inside my heart.  Did no one remember my baby?  Did no one really care?  Did no one think she was important enough to have her own, her real birthday?  I took the ring off when I got home and put it in its box.  I haven't worn it since.

I did talk about it with my husband on our date, and he told me that I could change the stone if I wanted.  I wrote the jeweler and he was willing to change it for free - waiving the normal cost for the situation.

I haven't taken it in yet.  I haven't touched it.  It makes me cry to think about going in to change it.  It hurts to look at it.  I will have to, and I will have to wear it, but for right now, all it reminds me of is the baby that no one remembers.

Except me.

I remember.  She is my daughter, born of my body.  Not only that, she is like me - the second child, born close to the first because of God's great delight in surprising us with another when we thought we were "planning" not to have another yet.  A shock to my system, and so delighted in once I got over the shock of, "two babies ten months apart??!!"  She had a name, a body, a birthdate, a birth story.  She was deeply loved.  She is deeply missed.

At least by me.

And no one remembers her birthdate.  It's taken me a few weeks to write this post.  A few weeks of tears on the drive to work early in the mornings.  I can't cry at home.  I can't show my husband that the gift upsets me.  He is so proud of it.  He worked so hard on it.  It shows love.  But it also shows apathy - highlighting and underlining the fact that Lydia is the baby no one remembers.  No one except me.

I think that is why the ring was so important to me.  The silent, constant witness of her existence.  She was.  She was real.  A person.  My daughter.  Yes, her life was very short.  But she was my daughter.  In the same way that my beautiful, funny, very much alive girl is my daughter.

I saw her - only for a brief glimpse and without my glasses on.  My husband never saw her.  Why?  This is the thing I have only told one person because the awfulness of it horrifies me.  Because I delivered her into the toilet.  There.  I said it.  I feel so guilty for that.  But I didn't know she was coming.  I got up to use the toilet, and out she came.  Then, as I crawled back to bed, I heard the nurses talking.  The senior nurse told the younger to fish her out, and the younger nurse did not want to.  Finally they did.  They picked her up and plopped her in a plastic container and carried her out.  I thought they would clean her up and bring her back, but they didn't.  They threw her in the garbage, and she was incinerated that morning.  You see, she was three days short of being a legal human being.  Three more days and she would have had a birth certificate, a death certificate, and a funeral and a grave.

She didn't.  Three days.  Three days and they tell me my baby is not human.  And no one remembers her birth.

Except me.

I wanted her stone in my ring - a permanent reminder of my daughter.

Except no one remembers when she was born.

Finally, one day, the tears needed to be cried.  I wrote my friend - the one who lost her own daughter.  She wrote me back hearing what it meant.  Then she signed her name.  But then, at the end of her letter was a sentence which made me smile through the tears.  "Lydia was born on March 4th.  We celebrated her birthday with a cake in her memory."

Someone remembered. 

But that is why I have been silent recently.  I've been grieving.  The lonely grief of a mother whose baby died before she saw the light of day, one no one remembers.

But I remember.  I remember.  And I will not forget.

I will fix my ring.  I will thank the jeweler who understands that it needs to be right.  I will wear it proudly.  It will hurt when I see that stone, but it will also be a thing of joy to me.  Both.

Because, you see, I love my baby that no one remembers.


Walking to China said...

My heart hurts for you.

Alan & Beth McManus said...

I have no words. My heart breaks for you.