Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Kristin Jennifer

My first baby was born thirty-five years ago today -- she never breathed her first gulp of air or emptied her lungs with a gusty cry. She was stillborn two months early. In those days, there were no ultrasounds to warn us that something was terribly wrong. By the time we realized there were serious issues, I had already begun my labor, and she was born quickly in the middle of the night. I was given anesthesia, and never allowed to see her or hold her -- in those days they didn't know how much a mother needed those final moments to touch and love the baby she had carried in her body and heart for all those months.

From the perspective of years and wisdom, I realize that with the severe mental and physical disabilities she had, it was probably a blessing that she didn't live. The doctor told me she was "imcompatible with life", and I have assured myself over the years that she is better off with God. On her birthday, though, I can't help but mourn what she could have been -- wondering what color her hair was, and her eyes, and thinking that if she had been healthy, she would probably have been a mother herself by now.

I will close with deep love, and wishes for a wonderful birthday in Heaven today, and with a poem that has touched my heart and perfectly describes the anguish of all mothers who hold these precious lost babies in our hearts forever.

The Lost Children

the ones we never speak of --
miscarried, unborn,
removed by decree,
taken too soon, crossed over.
They slip red mittens in our hands,
smell of warm wet wool,
are always out of sight.
We glimpse them on escalators,
over the shoulders of dark-haired women,
they return to us in dreams.
We hold them, as they evanesce;
we never speak their names.
How many children do you have?
Two, we answer, thinking three,
or three, we answer, thinking four;
they are always with us.
The lost children
come to us
at night
and whisper
in the shells
of our ears.
They are waving goodbye
on schoolbuses,
they are separated from us
in stadiums,
they are lost in shopping malls
with unspeakable pools,
they disappear on beaches,
they shine at night in the stars.

By Barbara Crooker, from Motherhood: Journey Into Love

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Birthday Celebration

As I click onto my blog tonight I realize that I haven’t written since January. I have noticed in life that I am moved to write when I am happy or angry or reflective, but I have seldom written during periods of true sadness. This winter has been a long and worrisome season. There have been health worries, serious financial worries, and a general feeling of anxiety, fatigue and overwhelming stress.

Tonight, though, I am writing in sadness. Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday – March 10 – and it brings with it memories of the woman who was my source of unconditional love and the model I emulated throughout my own motherhood journey. Each year on her birthday I think of her and miss her. As I raised my own children, I was disappointed that she was not the attentive grandmother I had envisioned, and she and I did not spend as much time together as I would have liked, but once my children were older, each year on her birthday we would plan a special outing for the two of us. Some years we strolled the streets of Saratoga and ate lunch at Professor Moriarty’s. Other years we visited Stockbridge and Great Barrington and had lunch at some special little restaurant. We had tea in a Ballston Spa shop one year and lunch by the fire at a cozy apple orchard.

My mother died in 2001, and my sister and I, who had never been close, comforted each other and developed a strong and loving friendship. We continued the birthday tradition. Each year, as close to March 10 as possible, we celebrated my mother’s birthday together. Usually we carried on the tradition of lunch in Saratoga or Stockbridge. Some years time was limited and we would enjoy a local lunch together and toast our mother with a glass of good wine. And, we celebrated our relationship.

Little did I know that last year would be our final luncheon celebration. This year my sister is dying of cancer. Later this week, I will sit with her in her living room at lunchtime and we can reminisce a bit as she picks at her food, and we will remember those happier times – but my heart is not in it – my heart is broken.