My Children Are Searching

children silhouette

It must be after midnight.  The cars that normally rev by the house are few and far between now, and the only sound nearby is that from Danith, his breaths deep and long.  I think I heard a coworker say something about there being a full moon tonight (that was the reason for the internet server acting erratically?), so maybe that is why light is glowing through our two side-by-side windows.  Often, on a night such as this, I would wake Danith, needing him to know that my heart is heavy.  Tonight, I will carry the weight on my own.

I don’t normally dream about Daffy and Kiri.  Actually, I can count only on one hand the number of times I did.  The last dream was several months ago.  In it, I walked by two toddlers, maybe a three-year-old and a one-year-old.  They were standing against a cement wall, and I strolled past them.  I quickly retraced my steps, urgency suddenly filling my chest.  “Do you know who I am?” I asked.  The older one, a girl, spoke confidently, “Yes, you are our mother.”  The urgency that I had once felt was replaced by satisfaction: they know me.  I woke up pleased that my children knew they were not without a mother.

My mind won’t rest, so I stare out the glowing windows, at the silhouette of the topiary that sits on my desk in front of the windows.  My head once again turns into a field, where its only inhabitants are Daffy and Kiri.  Sometimes the field is green with wildflowers and a random tree; this time, it’s nondescript.  My stillborn daughter, who was born not in the best form physically, is about four years old.  She is poised, a serious girl of few words.  Her dark hair swings at her earlobes, and she wears a simple cotton dress that comes down to her knees, a red sash around her waist.  My son with his round cheeks and sweet perfect lips is about two years old.  He wears light blue short overalls with a white shirt underneath.  As they wander the field, he skips around his sister, careful to heed her instruction not to stray too far.  He loves her, trusting her unconditionally.  He is a playful little boy, his eyes wide with excitement and possibilities.  But he is quick to listen to his sister, and he tugs at the hem of her skirt when he is frightened, which is rarely.  Daffy dotes on her baby brother in her reticent way.  Making sure that he stays clean and fed is more important than playing marbles or chase with him, which he seems to want to do at all times.  On the rare occasion that he scrapes his knee or cries, she pulls him close.  Her hugs are stiff, but solid and warm.

Usually, I am a silent audience to the scenes in my head.  These scenes of my children hardly vary, and I describe them to Danith whenever the chance arises.  Lately, he and I have allowed ourselves the belief that our children are together; this helps the minutes of our days to tick by more quickly.  Tonight, that belief is not enough.  After Daffy died, Danith said to me, “She is looking down at you, and she is waiting for her momma.”  “I don’t want her to be waiting for me,” I said.  I explained that I did not want our daughter to feel the ache of yearning for me or missing me.  I want her head and her heart to be free, to be consumed only by the number of cupcakes she should eat, the dandelions that she would blow at, the silliness of her daydreams.  Tonight, I am afraid that our children are not wandering around freely.  From the scenes in my head, I am afraid they are searching for their momma, waiting for her.  I wish they would not know my yearning.

Baby Loss, Fire Loss

About three weeks after our daughter’s passing, Danith had to travel to Japan for a conference where he was a keynote speaker.  He insisted that it would be good for me to get away, so at the last minute, we booked a ticket for me.  In my oversized white purse that I doubled as a carry-on, I packed my iPad, a book, and one of our daughter’s blankets.

That summer, Danith and I were well into our 15th year of marriage.  Before our nuptials, we’d been together for six years.  We share goals, values, and principles.  But we are also different.  Whereas he is mostly a reserved and thoughtful man, I tend to be quick to act and react.  He would wait two days before sending a questionable email; I would wait two minutes.  My happiness, along with my trove of emotions, comes in bulk.  My heart dictates love and anger.  He calls it my fire.  He was concerned that our daughter’s passing would extinguish this fire.  He was concerned that I would no longer be myself.

The conference took place in Himeji City, where the white Himeji Castle stands.  It is a grand and majestic castle, designed to resemble a heron and landscaped with cherry blossom trees and even a moat.  Even people who have not set foot in Japan have seen it, as it was a filming location for The Last Samurai.  In the morning, down in the hotel’s restaurant, Danith and I would eat breakfast of rice, salted salmon, and tsukemono.  Then, before he would leave to walk to the convention center for his meetings, he would ask me to visit the revered castle.  “Promise me that you won’t stay cooped up in the room,” he would say.  I would smile and tell him not to worry about me.

Danith had taken to calling our daughter Daffy as soon as my belly had begun to burgeon.  Even though our intention had been to name her Daphne, he prefers to think that “Daffy” is reminiscent of daffodils.  When I delivered her and the nurse asked for her name, we decided that she would remain Daffy to us.  One reason I had agreed to accompany Danith to Japan was that of its many temples.  So on my first afternoon alone, I approached the Visitor’s Center and requested a map.  With Daffy’s blanket safe inside my purse, I traversed the main and backstreets of Himeji for temples.  Some stood on mountains, others were in a park or on the grounds of the Hemiji Castle or were situated a block from an elementary school, and some were tucked away in the backyard of residential homes.  At each temple I encountered, I offered a small monetary donation, sounded the bronze gongs, and fished out our daughter’s blanket that her stillborn body had once been wrapped in.  The cream felt measures about a foot long on each side, and on one edge of it is a dot of her blood, which was once a reddish brown but is now a tannish color, and will one day fade completely.  With Daffy’s blanket to my face, I spoke her name and prayed for her return.

On the last day of the conference, saddled with our luggage, Danith and I rode the train to Osaka City, where we would depart for home the next morning.  Osaka, with its busy traffic, a train station that took us 30 minutes to exit, high-end restaurants, street corners of protestors, multiple-storied malls, and chicly decorated storefronts, resembled Time Square.  After we checked into our hotel room, we decided to gallivant the metropolis.  Danith hadn’t changed out of his suit, and I chose to stay in my navy shift dress.

The evening in Osaka quickly turned into night, bringing with it the cool night air.  Lights from the malls and hotels blazed the streets.  Everyone, except for us, was in a hurry to reach their destination.  It began to mist.  I turned my eyes up at the lights around us and could discern the tiny specks of rain.  The drops weren’t even large enough to dampen my hair.  They were merely morning dew spraying my bare shoulders.  I grabbed onto Danith’s arm and soon became giddy.  I felt safe.  I felt free.  We were young and handsomely dressed.  I felt we were living a storybook paragraph.  But just as the bulk of happiness was about to overtake me, I remembered that our daughter was gone.  The reminder of our baby’s death, and the finality of it, was like a collar around my neck that was being yanked and sending me to a sudden and abrupt halt.  I let go of Danith’s arm.  Not only had Daffy changed our lives, but our lives would be permanently changed.  Our happiness would never be an overabundance again.  Or even whole again.  My fire would never be as fierce.

Our Babies Are Here

Danith has come home late from work, and as he sets down his briefcase he asks if I’ve seen the snow.  I am sitting in the living room where the mustard yellow cotton curtains shield the sliding glass door and the night beyond it.  “It’s beautiful,” he says, pulling back the fabric.  Snow is not new to us.  This is our 15th winter of it.  Quietness fills the room, and then his face when he proceeds upstairs.

A few minutes later, I follow him, and in the hallway he pulls me in for a kiss and then leads me to our babies’ room, where the espresso-stained crib and glider remain.  Where the white area rug lies parallel to the legs of the crib.  Nothing in this room has been moved or removed.  I reach for the switch when he tells me to keep the lights off.  “I feel them,” he says.  “They’re speaking to us.”  He urges me to join him at the window, where we peek through the blinds.  The snow continues to fall, each flake the size of my thumbnail and fluffy and a sign.  We fumble with the cord that raises the blinds.  “Look,” he says as we stand side by side at our children’s nursery window.  He is pointing to our backyard, the area enclosed by a pine tree, a silver maple, and some peach, apple, and cherry trees.  All except for the pine’s are limbs of brown and gray.  “I imagine them playing out there.”

Later, when we are in bed, I affirm to Danith that he misses our babies today.  My voice is low and soft, trying to comfort him.  The veil of quietness hasn’t lifted from his face.  “I miss them every day,” he says.