The night before I was to deliver our daughter, Danith turned to me in bed and said that he would be sure to take pictures of her for me. I said that I would rather he didn’t. He said that one day I would want pictures. I rested my hands on my belly that had already begun to soften. The ultrasound from earlier that morning showed that Daffy must had taken her last breath sometime the night before. Still, I didn’t want to let her go.
As much as I feared a belly without Daffy, I also didn’t want reminders of her. A part of me was afraid of seeing her, a form that hadn’t completed growing. What would she look like? How could I live with an image of a stillborn baby? Another part of me wished all of it — the pregnancy, the nursery, and even her — to go away, to vanish as though the last five months had never happened. I would rather not walk around known as the woman whose baby was dead.
Fortunately, we have photographs of Daffy. Danith snapped images of her long lean legs, her slender torso, and her open mouth. Her skin was the color of raspberry. Her fingers were well defined. She even had fingernails. A photographer from Now Lay Me Down To Sleep (NLMDTS) captured moments of Danith and me adoring our daughter. I was smiling down at her; Danith was frowning. He held her as though she were crying and he was afraid of further hurting her. Framed photos of Danith kissing his baby girl rest at my office at work and on the console in our family room. One of me sleeping with her tucked under my chin sits in the nursery, and another one of me cradling her sits in our bedroom.
After Daffy passed away, I came upon a blog authored by a woman whose son had died in-utero. I can’t remember the cause of his death, but I remember that he was more further along than Daffy was. His mother loved him — anyone who read her recount of the pregnancy with him and the day she learned of his death could easily discern this. At the time I read through the woman’s posts earnestly because, not only was she writing about the loss of her son, she was writing about her current pregnancy. Yes, she was fortunate enough to get pregnant again so soon, and she was near the due date. I sensed so much energy and confidence from her words. As much as I needed to be in the company of women who had suffered baby-loss, I craved to be in the company of women who had gone on to have successful subsequent pregnancies. Each milestone that this blogger conquered gave me hope. Maybe I, too, could be like her.
In one of her latter posts, the blogger wrote about a trip she took with her husband to the mountains. Hiking was something they enjoyed doing together. They even had a cliff that they frequently visited. During that particular trip to the mountains, she brought her son’s urn with her. She described the beautiful foliage surrounding her and her husband and the bright sky of that day, and then she described herself retrieving the urn from her backpack. Standing at their favorite cliff, she and her husband took their baby’s ashes and threw them out into the wind. She explained that it had been a year of her writing about her son and that it was now time for her to let him go. In the post, she promised her baby that she would never forget him, but that she needed to move on.
My stomach took a dip before turning hollow as I read the woman’s words, but not once did I doubt her love for her deceased baby. Not once did I compare her love for her son to my love for my daughter. Instead, I admired her fortitude. For her baby, though, I felt sadness and emptiness. His mother had let him go.
Along with photos of Daffy, we possess a card stock paper of her footprints and handprints, the ultra preemie-sized cap that the nurses adorned her in, and her blankets, some of which were the hospital-stripe ones that her fresh body, still wet with fluid, was wrapped in. Those blankets later sat in our bedroom for days, the sweet, metallic scent of her permeating the space. And there are her ashes. Her urn, a redwood case that measures about 4x4x3 originally rested on an altar in our living room, but it, along with her baby brother’s urn, has moved to the top of the armoire in our bedroom.
Danith and I are on a road trip for two weeks. So far, we have climbed the Rocky Mountain National Forest until we were shrouded by clouds, followed rivers and creeks in Yellowstone National Park, and gazed at fearsome bison and their calves roaming the plains in Custer State Park. Most days, we drive for about eight hours, and in the backseat of our SUV are our children’s urns, secured in a blue tote bag. I know that Daffy’s and Kiri’s physical beings are no longer here. They have died. Unfortunately, death does that — eliminate the physical forms. I know that whenever I take their urns with me on trips with their father, it does not bring them back or are substitutes for them. I haven’t shared with many friends that I sometimes carry around my babies’ urns, mainly because I’m afraid of their judgments and their pity. Even though I don’t want them to question or even muse over why I take along my daughter’s and son’s ashes, I know that it’s not their fault for not understanding. I might appear as though I am a child playing house, but I am not; I am only holding on to what I have left of my babies. Similar to the woman blogger, I am trying to do what I can to move forward.