Tuesday, July 8, 2008


It's curious how this can happen, a random, unplanned catharsis of sorts.
I had never planned to write the entry of two days ago, "Lost". It just came out, flowed from my fingertips, words I hadn't known were there.

I suppose, in retrospect, I had felt them many times, lurking, waiting to burst out. My own discomfort, the words I couldn't really face. I think that writing about avoiding the funeral home, which came up in the GITW 6x6, alerted me to the real thing that I was avoiding: I cremated my first child, and I really just can't face that fact alone.
I am mystified at how others find comfort in their tiny urns, and I'm thinking back, and wondering if this is it: I don't think I believed that my baby was really dead until I was faced with that question.

It must have been almost midday, I can tell by the light in my memory. It was raining that day, but it was bright, the lights were off and the room was light. The social worker sat by my bed. I was really in denial. Not outwardly, and not even really aware of it, but I did not truly realize what was happening to me. I felt angry at the doctors and nurses and social workers who were treating me, in this dissociated way, because I didn't want to be that patient, I just wanted to be in regular labor having a regular baby. The social worker, we'll call her Anne, was telling us about what we'd want to do when we had our baby with us.
And then what? I asked. My tone might have seemed unpleasant; it felt unpleasant. It was challenging, trying to get her to say it. Maybe say something new. It felt so rude and inconsiderate for these people to be referring to my child as if she were dead. So I dared her.
And then what?
Well, she said, then you'll have to decide whether you want to bury or cremate your baby.
That was the moment.
I had been on lifesaving, facesaving, mindsaving autopilot, a completely stoic, occasionally weepy automaton, not believing what was happening to me, until those words emanated from Anne's mouth.
I broke completely, then, into a thousand shards that I am still working to put back together. I felt, for the first time, that awful, deep ache that hurts so incredibly much that it makes you want to run, run, run and never look back. I wrapped my arms around my swollen, huge belly, ripe with life, and I thought I might never breathe again. What kind of a choice was that to make? I could not choose.
Eventually, when I had caught my breath, and Anne had left, Greg and I talked about it.
I don't know, I said. I have always said that I would want to be cremated, so I guess that's what I'd choose for my child?
And if not, where would we bury her? he said. We had moved to our town only five months earlier, to our larger community only three years earlier. We didn't seem rooted, our families were spread apart. We didn't want to leave her behind. if we ended up leaving.
So the decision was made for us, a decision made of indecision. We didn't want to bury her, and wanted to cremate ourselves, so that would be the destiny of our first child.
Greg signed the papers. Signed away the tiny body that hadn't even left me yet. Agreed to let the funeral home take care of everything, and they would call us when the ashes were ready. Signed away our opportunity to parent her more, to see her again, to have a wake, because we couldn't deal with any of that just then, it just didn't seem possible.
Now, looking back, I ache for the opportunity to do it again, to have a proper wake and to let people see her, to dignify her with what little ritual exists around death in our culture.
And so I repeat to myself this mantra, this saying that we the babylost have for ourselves, you did the best you could at that time, you did the best you could under those circumstances, you made the choices that seemed like the right ones at that time. We all have twenty twenty hindsight. That was the right choice for you, then.
This way it isn't a regret, it's just what happened, plain and simple. It happened that way because it did, and at that time, in that moment, there just wasn't any other way for it to happen.

So here I am again, thinking about this fact, this fearful fact that my baby is cremated and in a little urn, and I don't like that. But I'm working this out, really, and now when I look at the cradle, I do remember that her ashes are in there. I'm thinking about them being there, which is more than I was doing last week. They're there for me now, and I guess that's good. Is it?

1 comment:

Meg said...

I don't speak from experience, but I would think that you made the right decision. At the time, you didn't know if you'd be moving, and you didn't want to leave her behind. It's what I would do.... I think. No one really knows what they would do, do they? I think if I were faced with the same decision, I would choose cremation. It kind of gives you tangible evidence that they were here. This way, if you are ever ready to face those ashes, you will always have a piece of Charlotte with you. Again, I don't speak from experience, so I can only speculate. Thank you for your moving words.