I know grief very well, but this grief always surprises me. I am missing a child who would be 13 today, or yesterday, or possibly tomorrow--or, given due dates and the imperious certainty of babies who chose, I think, their moment--anytime in May. I forget about her a great deal, until the anniversary dates come near, and then...the tears catch me.
Her name was Eden.
I have three living children, and I had a number of miscarriages besides. In some cases the miscarriages were timed so that one of the children who lived would not have been born, and sometimes I pretend that perhaps...well, perhaps my daughter is in fact the same soul, the same gentle being who lived within me a little while and then no more. That was a springtime miscarriage, preceded by a poignant dream in which a little child in a nightgown--how predicable, how cliche--rushed to me through my empty cabin and gravely hugged me and said "I'm so sorry, I can't stay with you this time", a dream from which I woke sobbing, a day before the torrents of blood started. I conceived my living daughter in early July that year, and clung to that pregnancy with fierceness.
Eden was not planned, and indeed, her conception shocked my life. All three of my living children were with me by then, the youngest, Gabriel, would be five in the spring when this new child arrived. The chances of yet another child with Down Syndrome had increased by some geometric jump. My life had just begun to get some space in it--the two older children were pretty self sufficient, and even Gabriel had at last achieved skill in walking, and need not be carried everywhere. I had writing I needed to do. I had plans.
And then, I was suddenly pregnant. It was a hard time with my partner--indeed, at that time I was dealing with the temptations of love of another person, and the shattering effect that might have on a number of innocent lives.
And let me add--yeah, I'm pro choice; the first political actions I ever got involved in were for women's reproductive rights, marching in the streets of Washington DC with a huge crowd of women of all ages, shapes, colors, feeling such a sense of power and determination...I was..ah, I was the age my daughter is now, 22.
But I accepted the new possibilities. So the kid could be another Down Syndrome child? Well, maybe that would be good, Gabriel might have a great companion. My daughter and her best friend were delighted with the prospect--they would be 9 that spring, an age at which babies possess the charm of kittens and puppies. My eldest was thoroughly disgusted; he was 16, and he sardonically said "and they talk to teens about birth control!"
Summer gave way to fall. It was a gentle fall that year, warm, sweet. The hills were golden with the turn of the big-leafed maples. The dogwoods changed to the strange gray-rose shade they turn some years. The rains were late in coming. I had dreams of the child: she was a little delicate, she had quizical eyes, hazel in my dreams, the color of the spring ponds reflecting the light.
I made plans, I tried to get my life into some shape that made sense, that had grace.
It was a warm day when the blood started. Only a trace. I was working, I called my doctor, he was unconcerned. I took my daughter and her dear friend, daughter of my heart, to the movies that night. It was a silly comedy, and for years whenever it came on TV or reference was made to it I would feel a stabbing pain, my body's memory of that time.
The next day I stayed in my woods and walked my garden and cried.
She was wrapped in a perfect birth sac when she left my body. I was kneeling by the clambering white roses and the quince, neither in bloom. I held her in my hands and cried and cried.
But I also marveled at this--how amazing to see, this tiny creature in the palm of my hand, in her opal sac. Hands, feet, tiny alien face.
Yes, I thanked her--in a way she gave me my life back. She's buried under another rosebush. I think I am now the only one who remembers her, who recalls that she was to be called Eden, and that she would have been loved, scolded, fed. My heart never let go of her, and each spring, sometime in May, the tears grab hold of me again.
It doesn't make much sense, I know. But sometimes I hope that somewhere she is dancing, in some other life or some other realm. I hope that she laughs, and that she realized she was loved, if only for a little while.
an addition: Marly has suggested I link to a post in my other blog, which relates to this. http://jarvenpa.blogspot.com/2007/05/another-poem.html