It was the day after Mabel died. I was so deeply entrenched in the enormity of what happened, I just assumed everyone knew. My work family- the nurses at the hospital, my office staff, my colleagues- they all knew because there were enough witnesses to spread the word. My immediate family knew because we told them. The day after Mabel died, I was home and received a text from an unknowing friend who thought I was still in the hospital. I realized that though many people knew, so many other had no idea that my world had just stopped. It was hard enough comprehending that my baby had died, I didn’t know how to tell anyone else that. We were so busy with family and funeral arrangements, it felt almost superficial to make some announcement. But I wanted to. I needed to. I needed to let the world know in my own words that I birthed a daughter, that she had a name and that she lived and died. I didn’t write a long email- too many people, I would likely forget some of them. And some people needed less info than others. I didn’t make a printed birth/death announcement for mailing- it would take too long. I wanted to put something up on facebook so my family and friends could know. I had envisioned this day since my positive pregnancy test. I re-envisioned it when we learned Mabel had Down Syndrome. I stopped envisioning it when we learned she had low fluid. How do I tell the world of my most joyful moment and my most sorrowful moment all in one breath?
That day, I wanted everyone to know. I still want everyone to know. New moms are often eager to talk of their new babes. If only there were a way for me to do so easily. I carry her photo as the screen saver on my phone. I want someone to see it and ask. But I also don’t. Then I have to explain that I am not simply a mother. I am a childless mother. I’ve seen it written that when a child loses her parents, there is a name for her- orphan. When a woman loses her husband, there is a name for her- widow. But there is no name for the woman who loses her child. Because it shouldn’t happen. But in public I don’t get to even be a childless mother. In a society where we don’t even have the vocab to describe her, how can I expect people to react in the way I want- the fawning and cooing mixed with sincere empathy?
There are no easy answers any more. Even if I could say easily, “I had a baby and she died,” I’d want to say more. I’d want to say, I knew she had Down Syndrome and I welcomed her. Every day since then I worried that I would lose her. And just when things were looking ok, I learned that she was sick and would probably die. But I still welcomed her. I made difficult decisions for her and for me. I put myself in the hospital for weeks in hopes that she would live. Knowing I may never take her home in my arms, I faced people everyday as they gave me joyful congratulations and well wishes. And I did it with a smile.
That is how much I loved my baby.