Chapter 27. Back Home

Chapter 27. Back Home

The “at least you have another child at home” consolation might not be appropriate to speak out loud to a grieving parent, but it’s true, nonetheless.

Andrea never did get to meet her little sister, and at not quite two, she wasn’t aware something tragic had occurred.

Looking back, Rick and I would wonder, perplexed that we hadn’t done more to prepare Andrea for the arrival of a new baby. Beyond painting the spare bedroom a soft green, we hadn’t prepared a nursery either. I hadn’t experienced the nesting period as I had when pregnant with Andrea, where I’d felt compelled to set up furniture, and decorate the walls. I hadn’t even brought out Andrea’s baby clothes, ready for our new addition.

I still don’t know why that was, but it was a relief not to arrive home to an expectant, unfulfilled space.

Instead, the house was the same as always. Most of all, I was immediately swept back into the vibrant world of my living daughter who was, as usual, a bright, dynamic force insisting on attention and involvement.

“Mommy. Why you cry again?”

Her tone seemed to imply that my tears were something of an imposition upon the urgency of her two-year-old agenda.

A conversation ensued.

“Mommy can cry. Andrea can still have fun. Okay?”

“Okay.”

We had an understanding.

Death of a Baby

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Chapter 26. A Grave Before the Fact

Chapter 26. A Grave Before the Fact

Mom had arrived. We chatted in the visitor’s lounge for a little while. Rick joined us, and together we went back to my room.

She handed me the hankies and I gratefully tried one out. Such a difference. I gave her a hug and a thank you.

Along with the hankies, Mom held in her hand a mimeographed sheet of paper. Setting it on her lap along with her purse, she began to relate a strange series of events.

“I don’t know if this is the right time to tell you but I think it has to be.”

Mom was not one to share information lightly, and never at an inopportune time. Rick and I knew what she wanted to talk about must be important.

“A few months ago,” she told us, “I felt the need to find out where my father was buried. He died years ago, when you were only five, Bobbi. It took some searching, and I had to call my cousin in Ladysmith, out on Vancouver Island. I hadn’t spoken to Muriel in ages.”

Mom paused and looked hard at me, then at Rick, perhaps trying to gauge if this conversation was appropriate. Rick nodded his encouragement. She continued.

“Muriel did a little looking, too, and found the name of the cemetery. I found the number in the phone book and called. His grave is at Cloverbar Cemetery, over in North East Edmonton, just outside the city. I was surprised when they told me his sister, Aunt Annie, had purchased a family plot. My dad was Frederick Joseph Rymer. He’s buried in one grave, but there are five more unused graves there. I’ve sent a letter to Muriel explaining what’s happened, and to ask if you can use one of those graves. I’m sure it will be all right, but we’ll need permission from the owner of the plot.

“So if the both of you want, Wendy can be buried there. Or you can bury her somewhere else. It’s up to you of course. But there is a grave there. You think about it. You don’t have to decide now. I just wanted you to know.”

“Oh, Mom,” I was overcome. “What a God-send.”

“We hadn’t even talked about that yet. Thank you,” Rick said.

“I’m so sorry this has happened.” Mom’s voice broke for a moment and then she regained her composure. Handing me the cemetery information, she hugged me, then Rick, and was on her way.

Mom and I had always had a difficult relationship, but this period of grief seemed to override any historical struggle. The loss of a child for me, a grandchild for her, put us on equal footing somehow. Animosity was set aside, perhaps because this circumstance touched nothing we’d struggled with in our turbulent history together.

Whatever the reason, Mom’s practical support was indeed a blessing.

 

Death of a Baby
Join me next week for Ch. 27. Back Home
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Chapter 25. Visitors and Their Problems

Chapter 25. Visitors and Their Problems

The doctor chose to keep me in hospital for two days after Wendy’s passing. Physically I was fine. Perhaps they wanted to monitor my emotional state.

Friends and relatives had now been informed. From my fourth floor room overlooking the courtyard, I could see the glass elevators as they rose up and down the seven-story climb. Sometimes I saw in the elevator a person I knew, and could prepare myself.

Visitors experience their own particular challenge in such circumstances.

To go or not to go?

Does the family want some time alone? Should we wait until later? Will the parents think we don’t care if we don’t come now?

What state will they be in, these parents who’ve just lost a child? Will we be expected to say something helpful? What might we say? We’ve never been in this predicament before.

At least …

”At least the baby didn’t suffer.” Or did she?

“At least you have another child at home.” Would that be a comfort?

“At least you can still have another.” Would that be an encouragement?

Those who said the right thing mostly didn’t say much at all.

Bringing a card or a bouquet provided something to which to attach a few words, allowing them to nudge just a little comfort into our pocket of grief in the midst of a maternity ward where mommas beamed and babies wailed.

When anyone began a sentence with ‘at least’ I quickly tuned them out. There was no ‘at least’ that could encourage us. Everything, right now, was ‘at most’superlative in every way.

One relative, who had always used me as a sounding board, slipped into his routine and began to tell me of his current troubles. I stared at him as I tried to put my ‘Yes, I care’ expression on my face, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Rick, God bless his heart, intervened.

“I don’t think Bobbi can hear your problems right now,” he told the man. “Anyway, I think she’s looking tired. Let’s go get a drink and she can rest.” Firmly Rick ushered the man from the room and I slid down under the covers, curled tight, and snuggled my damp pillow.

A baby cried in the hallway.

I cried, too.

Death of a Baby

Join me next week for Ch. 26. A Grave Before the Fact
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Chapter 24. Tissues vs. Hankies

Chapter 24. Tissues vs. Hankies

Peace was present. Grief remained. I found a pay phone, preferring this call to be private.

“Hi Mom. It’s Bobbi. I know this is an odd question, but do you have any handkerchiefs? I’m rubbing my face raw with these tissues.”

“I do. I think I can find them. Are you still in hospital?”

“Yeah. At least for today I think.”

“I’ll bring them down after lunch.”

“Thank you.”

She let me keep the five she gave me. Bit by bit, circumstance by circumstance, I’ve given them to others over the years, to women whose tears were not likely to abate for some time.

Soft absorbent cloth is a need for those in mourning.

Don’t forget.

 

Death of a Baby
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Chapter 23. Parenting Assessment

Chapter 23. Parenting Assessment

 

It doesn’t seem to matter how long we parent a child. We need to know if we’ve done a good job.

As a mother, I needed to tally my parenting journey with this little being who, having flitted through our lives so briefly, would change every aspect of who we now were.

I’d already reviewed her existence in my womb. Now I reviewed my activities while pregnant.

No smoking.

No drinking.

If emotion can affect the hormones passed through the placenta, then Wendy had received only those generated from peace and joy.

A sudden recollection came to mind. In Shakespeare’s day, I’d read, pregnant women weren’t allowed to attend plays depicting tragedy. It was said that their distress might affect the fetus in a negative way. Was that true? If so, Wendy had been safe from toxic emotion. I had felt no distress during her time in the womb.

But back to my parenting assessment.

I had eaten well.

I had exercised.

I had gained a lot of weight. Was that harmful? I didn’t think so. All my appointments had shown I was healthy.

Pregnancy reviewed, I moved to my time of parenting.

Initial hours—abandonment.

No, that wasn’t true. Her daddy had been with her. He’d accompanied her by ambulance to the University Hospital. He’d spoken to her. Touched her. Stood guard over her.

Okay. No mommy, but definitely a daddy.

Pain? Yes. A wee babe, she was subjected to surgery in her first hours of life.

My Wendy-baby, I’m so sorry if you had pain.

Love? Oh my, yes. Relatives arrived, one after another, came by her bed, spoke to her, beamed at her existence.

More love? Yes. Yes. Yes. Mommy and Daddy now arrived, spoke, touched, marvelled at how precious she was.

Peace? Yes. While we may have responded with anguish, the Lord protected both Wendy and us from succumbing to desolation. We sorrowed, but were calm throughout those hours. Was that because we were exhausted, numb? Maybe. But that was okay. Wendy didn’t know a parent’s anxiety, fear or anger. So peace was paramount in her experience as a daughter.

Worth? No question. Wendy had value. Her position as one born into the human race, loved by God and family, elevated her to great status.

Suffering? I don’t think so. Her passing was gentle. Held in our arms, she reached out to us with her eyes, and then, when the time was right, she reached to the Lord who had made her life possible.

Did the length of that life matter? To our hearts—yes—absolutely. But to her? I didn’t think so. I had no sense of a wasted life, of potential not achieved. I knew how difficult life could be. Wendy was spared the unpredictable, sometimes traumatic turns we who live our three-score-and-ten so often encounter.

As a parent, I could feel I’d done okay. Wendy was gone, but I was at peace.

Death of a Baby
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