A year ago, my friend Jay gave birth to her daughter Josie and lost her in the same day. Below is what she wrote this year to remember the day. It it beautiful and tragic and lovely and horrible and I think as many people as possible should read it.
Someone saw a picture of you and I together today, in H’s toolbox. He was shocked and taken aback because you looked “like any other baby” – of course, I’d retouched you and I both and brought you back to looking like you again. But it just went to show: of course you did. Of course you looked like any other baby. You were a baby; a little, worthwhile, human life. A tiny person.
This day, last year, I sat in the bath upstairs with you, Josie, in my tummy. I knew it wouldn’t be long until you were born, and knew that in a few short days or weeks, I’d not be able to relax like this in a bath because you’d need me. I was looking forward to that: we’d discussed how we’d be spending all winter with a new baby, and how nice that would be. Nice and cozy.
I lay in the bath and listened to Clannad. My laptop was across about three feet away no the bathroom floor and I’d set up a playlist. I had my favorite bubble bath in the bath and it really was relaxing.
While in there, I had my first quite noticeably different contraction. In hindsight, this may have been the first indication there was something wrong because actually, the contraction felt like a slightly dimmer (but not much) version of what I felt for those hours on the Friday morning you were born and died. However, it went away and hey, everyone says that you get those stronger and sometimes quite striking contractions before labor begins properly. So, I based everything on that contraction. I had to turn around in the bath and breathe – it took a good couple of minutes to go away.
Oblivious though, I was. We all were. Up until the very end. You see there wasn’t a massive amount of bleeding – just enough to indicate I was dilating. It was all totally hidden. Just the pain was there and having nothing but one contraction to compare to, I simply didn’t know. But you know that, don’t you Josie. You know I had no clue. I’d have gone through worse pain than that to bring you into the world in a loving and peaceful way…
I’d spent the previous few days nesting: washing all the baby clothes in Dreft soap, so that they smelt baby-like. I’d had sensitive skin when I was small, and thought perhaps you’d be the same. I bundled all your socks in little pairs, and folded up onesies and little outfits in age order, putting them in small plastic totes I’d bought for that very reason, in our closet.
Daddy and Devin assembled the crib and the car seat. I put sheets on the crib. I still remember trying to knot the bumper pad strings around the wide slats on the side of the crib. I finally got it done and glowed because it looked so neat. We’d probably be sleeping together in the same place anyway, but the crib was your place, you know? Your little domain, and a signal that you had a spot. A special spot with us there in our home.
Your car seat I loved. We’d bought a little animals one, that was yellow, in case we had a boy next. It was cute. I liked looking at it, assembled there in the living room. The cats wanted to sleep in it… We ended up having to cover it up so it didn’t get hairy!
Your little bath sat in the bathroom. Your little washcloths were in a little hanging basket that hung under a shelf in the closet. I’d bought some lovely things from Burts Bees to wash you with and some lovely almond baby oil to make you soft with. You had a nightlight with a giraffe at the bottom – a kind of baby lamp, and I put it on the table by the crib together with some little diapers and wipes in case you needed changing in the night.
These are the things nobody sees. They just see the baby who died, not the preparation for the baby, or the things for the baby hung up in the bathroom, or the baby monitor plugged in and tested. They don’t see the slings I bought, or the little green photo frame, ready for your first picture. They don’t see my visions of lifting you up out of me under the water and raising you up, and looking into our eyes. smiling, the whole time, saying “welcome to life, little one…”
But, I’ll always remember. I will always remember: the touch of your tiny hand in mine; the feel of the skin on your forehead; the feeling of you kicking me; the scent of your hair; your tiny, soft lips; your feet that looked just like mine; the back of your neck; your chest with your tiny little nipples; your little bottom; your chubby little knees; your eyes, so, so dark and huge, your eyelashes…
Instead of raising you up on the 10th October, I lay there hooked to monitors, moving my head from side to side, staring at the ceiling, saying “no…” and thinking it had to be a dream; a nightmare – it felt so much like a nightmare. I couldn’t wake up though. I couldn’t even begin to understand. I had no idea how to deal at all. It had all gone so, so terribly wrong.
And then I said what my friend, McKayla did only a month ago on the 10th October, 2009, when she lost her son, Carter. I said “I would have been a good mum…” and “but I would have been a good mum…” and “I would have taken care of her so well…I wanted her…I would have been a good mum…”
And I would have been. And I have been trying to be.
Now in the lead up – the final couple of days, I do feel very introspective – very introverted. I don’t really want to be hugged by anyone but the very closest people when I cry, I just want to cry. Hugs are nice, but I am alone here, with you now, and I remember everything as though it’s happening right now. I’m thrown back in time; slingshot into the past and I’m sitting up there on the bathroom floor, wrapped in a towel, stroking my belly in the October sunshine which came streaming through the window across the roof like melted butter.
I only wish I could have that day back, the 10th. To hold you for just another day would be so, so sweet. Oh, relief, the relief of a broken heart – the strange relaxation one gets from just touching something, even if it is lost. I would have frozen that moment and lived there forever if I could have. I would have stopped time for you if I could have.
Thank you Josie. You taught me to see colors as brightly as they really are; to relish every taste; every sound; every sight and every feeling because it’s true – we are delicate. I am lucky to be alive after what happened to us. I am so lucky to be able to carry Isobella and oh, she is so bouncy, just like you, Josie. She reminds me of life every day. I pray so hard that I can take her home with me.
It’s impossibly hard to be in love with something you can never have, you know. Sometimes I feel love might overwhelm me. What I need is to see an end to this stage – to birth Isobella as I should; to bring her out and hold her to me and say hello: to see life happening; continuing. To be able to pour some of this love out upon her and to put her in my arms, and somehow hold both of you at once.
So let me pour some love out now – I need to pour it on you because no other vessel is big enough. I need to pour it on you because if I don’t, it’s going to overflow all over the floor…running down the stairs in big rivulets and tiny waterfalls, just like overfilling the bath. You just take it. It’s yours, little girl.