Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Baby In A Sweet White Dress

Baby in a sweet white dress,

I never got to hold your hand.

Your skin I never did caress

Before you entered Heaven's gates.

Baby in a sweet white dress,

As I adorned your windswept grave

My heart twisted with hurt and grief,

My fingers yearned to touch your face.

Baby in a sweet white dress

I tried to imagine how you did look

So long ago when you were placed

In a small white box, by careful hands.

Baby in a sweet white dress,

My fingers imagined touching the threads

Of a soft pink shawl and a dress of white

And cradling the baby that once was you.

Baby in a sweet white dress -

I can hardly wait till we meet in Heaven.

Then I will rock your sweet body

And hold your hand forever.

Oh, baby in a sweet white dress,

I pray you will be watching for me

As God reaches out with you, dear angel,

And I embrace you for the very first time.

The years have numbered thirty - one

And many tears have washed my heart.

I was so proud of my first little girl,

Now a baby in an eternal sweet white dress.

- SGB, 2006

Monday, June 14, 2010

Meredith's Beginning - The Funeral

It is strange what the mind remembers. I don't remember getting up and getting dressed that day, but I remember exactly what I was wearing. October 7, 1974, dawned and we knew we had to say goodbye to our daughter that day. I wanted to go to the funeral home to see her before the funeral but my requests kept being denied. My husband wasn't denying me, but my mother in law was. She seemed to be running the show. I don't actually remember anything about the funeral, except that the song "In The Garden" was played on the organ and two pastors held the services - our pastor and the pastor who baptized me when I was 12. He just happened to be pastoring a church in a nearby town. Lots of people were there, I know only because they signed the guest book. There were lots of pretty flowers, I know because of photos and the cards from the florists. My memory escapes me of entering the church, I don't know what was said by the pastors, but I do remember leaving the church. Up to this point, I had never seen Meredith except through a window, never touched her, never looked at her close up to remember her little features, never held her in my arms. All the funeral attendees had passed by her casket, and it was time for the family to see her. My brother was holding on to my left arm, and I suppose my husband was on the right. I tried to focus on her face, but I couldn't, so I leaned down to kiss her lips.My brother thought I was passing out and held me so I couldn't go, so I turned to him and told him what I was trying to do. I bent down again and did kiss her, then I was rushed out of the chapel. This baby had been inside me for months. I had felt her kicking and moving. We had dreamed of and planned for her. We had chosen her name. I got to look at her face for maybe 10 seconds total. I NEVER GOT TO HOLD MY BABY!!!!! I just wanted to hold her so badly - I didn't care if she had autopsy scars, I just wanted her - to smell her, to outline the shape of her little ears, at least knowing I sent her to her grave with the touch of her mother on her tiny body. Her lips were all I ever got to touch.
The chance to touch Meredith was fading quickly in the sunset. Plans had been made for my husband and his parents to go to her burial place, about 125 miles away, in my hometown. I wanted Meredith buried by my beloved grandmother. My parents had been to see us every day since Meredith was born, making that long drive back and forth. The day of the funeral, Mother's sister and my brother came, too, as they were going to transport the casket to the cemetery. It would have cost a small fortune (for us) for the funeral home to do this. Mother and my aunt sat in the back seat with the little closed casket between then, steadying it gently with their hands. Daddy and my brother were in the front. Brother was driving. I had been told that I couldn't go to the cemetery and when I asked why not, my mother in law spoke up and said that Dr. D said I might start bleeding uncontrollably and nothing could be done to stop it. Apparently, that was why he wanted me on Valium, so I could stay calm. In reality, all I felt was drugged. Why had he not told me himself? I will never know. Anyway, I decided I was going, and my mother in law was rather snippy with me. She said she didn't want to take the responsibility of my dying while I was with her. I got very upset, and said if I couldn't go, I wanted hubby to stay with me. After talking back and forth, he saw how agitated I was becoming and said he would stay. That was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made, denying him the right to accompany his daughter to the cemetery. I can't take it back ( I did apologize) and he wasn't angry about it, but I have seen the sadness in his eyes in earlier years when we would discuss it.
They all drove on to the graveside service, and my in laws came back with potted plants and flower arrangements sent to us from my hometown friends, people who had known me all my life. The guest book was brought to me and I looked at all the sweet people who had attended the morning funeral service and all the friends and family who had come out on an October afternoon to see our child. The picture at the top of the page is of Meredith at the graveside service. She's wrapped all snug and warm in her little pink shawl, surrounded by beautiful floral offerings.
I can't remember who first mentioned it or how it came about, but that morning before the funeral my father in law came to get my camera so he could take pictures at the funeral home and at the cemetery. I am so glad he did because my memory is wiped clean of how she looked. I would not know what Meredith looked like except for looking at those pictures. There weren't very many, some were blurry, but they are worth their weight in gold to me. The medication I was taking, the fact that I never got to hold her or be close to her for very long, maybe even the loss of blood that I was experiencing - I just can't remember what my baby looked like. I have always kept the negatives to Meredith's photos in a firesafe lock box. They are that precious to me. Our daughter had been buried and I didn't get to hold her. I started sinking into a deep depression that I nearly did not climb out of.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Meredith's Beginning - Part Four- Brokenhearted

I might have been rushed out of the hospital that day, but Dr. D made sure before I left that he gave my husband a prescription for valium for me with strict instructions to get it filled and make me take them as directed. Now I am a person who has never drank, except for a few tastes which I didn't like, and I never liked having "laughing gas" at the dentist's office. I preferred to have all my mental faculties with me. I hated the way the shot of sedatives in the hospital made me feel, and I hated taking the valium. I hated the way it clouded my thoughts. But the doctor seemed to think I would have complications if I wasn't sedated, so I did what my hubby asked. We were from the generation that didn't question authority and doctors were authority. My poor husband had no idea what to do other than what he was told. He had lost his baby, too, yet he was ultra worried about me. We were in total shock.
Some people in our church had just found out that Sunday morning that our baby had been born and then died. In the midst of my grief, I felt a sense of happiness that, if Meredith couldn't stay with us, she went to Heaven on Sunday. Friends and family started arriving after church to give their condolences. Food started to arrive. In this community, in this day and age, delicious homemade food was one of the foremost sympathy gifts. Normally, I would have loved it, but I couldn't eat.It all tasted like sawdust to me. People reached out to us that day and that night at church, a love offering was taken to help with Meredith's funeral. We received nearly all the money we needed.
Hubby had to go to the funeral home to make the arrangements, for she was said to be too small to embalm and we needed to have the funeral the next day. He picked out a tiny white casket. I wanted to go so badly to help, but no one would let me go. Apparently doctor's orders; however, the doctor had never told me this. I began to feel as if everyone knew something I didn't know.
Then there was the matter of something to dress our little girl in. I didn't have much for her, partly because I had dilated early and couldn't shop, and partly because we didn't have much money in our budget to begin with. I had a dozen diapers, four ducky shaped diaper pins, pink booties and a few little sleepers. Oh, and I had a Humpty Dumpty light switch plate made by Irmi. At that time in Texas, "Blue Laws" were in effect, and clothing stores were closed on Sunday. Grocery stores were open, but could only sell food. One could buy a can of soup, but not a bowl to put in it. The job fell upon my sister in law to shop for us. She worked for a department store in town, and received permission from the manager of the store to go in and bring some things home for me to choose from. She asked what I wanted and I told her I would like something pink. Choosing the smallest things she could find, as preemie clothes weren't made then, she brought them back to me. I only remember a pink sleeper and a white dress, but there were other choices that I can't recall. I chose the white dress, gave her one of the diapers and two pins, and the pink booties I had bought months ago at a five & dime store. She also brought a pink shawl type blanket, as the funeral director said he could fold the blanket in such a way as to hide the autopsy incision. I remember giving her $20.00 for the items.
I was in such a fog that I couldn't think. The funeral was set for Monday, October 7th. I had not gotten to hold my baby, see her face to face, or comfort her as she passed away. All I knew is that we were devastated.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Meredith's Beginning - Part Three- Going to Heaven

I don't know what time I awoke the next morning, but I think it was around eight or so. Some nurse was looking in my door when I awoke, and she must have been watching me because I heard Dr. D ask her if I was awake yet. He then entered my room, told me there had been a little trouble last night, and I said, "She's dead, isn't she?" He confirmed that she was, and I said , "Bring her to me." Dr. D. said that that wasn't a good idea, that we would probably want to have a little service for her and I could see her then. I asked him again, and I was refused again. Then he started talking about an autopsy, and mentioned that she had been doing so well, he wanted to know what caused her sudden demise. In retrospect, I should have told him to bring me the baby and I would sign for an autopsy. I was brought up to respect doctors, preachers, and teachers. I didn't want to argue with him, so I did sign the papers for an autopsy. Of course, I was crying all this time, and Dr. D asked the nurse to bring a "shot". I didn't want any sedatives, I wanted to keep my head clear so I could think. I was forced to take the shot. No baby to hold, a shot that muddled my brain, and no chance to see my baby that I wanted so badly. I called my husband to tell him Meredith was gone, and I was the first to let him know. I couldn't believe the hospital didn't call him so he could come up there and we could be together to receive the sad news. He arrived as quickly as he could, and my father in law and sister in law came, too. The nursing staff was hurriedly trying to take care of my needs so I could be dismissed. One nurse brought the dreaded "iron" shot and I begged her to please not give it to me, but she did anyway. I asked her for my baby's plastic ID bracelet, that matched the one I wore. She said someone would bring it to me. I waited and finally a woman from the morgue brought me a beaded bracelet, with pink and white beads and our last name spelled out in the beads. I knew that was not Meredith's bracelet. I know they had quickly made it up for me. I asked the woman about the bracelet like mine, and showed her what I meant, and I realized that she had no idea what I meant. For all I know, she could have been a cleaning lady that a nurse grabbed and sent to my room with this fabricated bracelet. The sedatives were taking affect and I gave up the fight. I didn't ask to hold my baby or get her bracelet again. No mementos of Meredith's were given to us - no footprints, no handprints, no crib card, no lock of hair, nothing. I didn't know her statistics. We arrived at the hospital full of hopes and dreams, and left broken hearted, empty handed, and defeated. It was raining when we arrived home - raining outside and storming in our hearts.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Meredith's Beginning - Part Two - Her Life

Meredith Helen was here. Hubby and I had really only chosen a girl's name because we wanted a girl so badly. A few boy's names had been tossed around, but we really had not decided on one. This was before the days of knowing the gender of your child, so we had no idea if we were expecting a boy or a girl. My mother's name is Edyth and my maternal grandmother's first name was Mary and I put those two names together and changed the spelling to make Meredith. Hubby's mother's middle name was Helen so we used that to honor both grandmothers when naming our daughter.

The ensuing days were a total blur. Little information was given to me. I usually got my info from my husband or my mother in law, as the doctor who delivered Meredith, Dr. D, was also my MIL's doctor and she thought he hung the moon. My obstetrician was not on call that night. I have never been able to remember a whole lot about that time in my life. Because our baby girl was in such respiratory distress at birth, she was taken to the nursery after stabilization and not weighed or measured. We didn't know how much she weighed at birth until we got her birth certificate six weeks later. She weighed 4lbs., 6 ozs. I didn't know how long she was, 17 inches, until last summer, but that is for another post. I was never allowed in the nursery with her. My husband confided many years later that he was allowed in one night to be with her for a few minutes. Knowing that I had wanted that so badly, he was afraid I would be hurt if I knew that at the time. He touched her cheek, and she rooted for his finger and tried to suck it. He had guilt over that for many years thinking that she might have starved to death. I tried to explain to him that babies have that instinct, and she was probably being fed intravenously. Meredith was on a warmer bed, usually unclothed, facing the nursery window. She was placed quite a ways from the window and I couldn't see her features, her hair, anything about her up close. I remember feeling sorry for her, naked in front of whatever people looked in that window, with no family members to hold or comfort her. It broke my heart. For days after delivery, I was still bleeding quite a lot and I got faint if I stood too long, so I didn't get to look at her much. No nurse ever offered to get me a wheelchair so I could be pushed to the window to look at her, and I never thought about asking until it was too late.

Meredith's doctors said if she lived three days, she would be okay. We clung to that hope, waiting for that magical third day. I didn't get much attention from the hospital staff. Yes, meals were delivered, meds were brought, sheets were changed, but no one ever asked me how I felt about my premature daughter. No one ever sat down to encourage me to ask questions. It was like the doctor's office - hurry, hurry, rush, rush. The nurses kept giving me "iron shots" with a muffled explanation that I needed them. They hurt badly and both my hips were black and blue for over a year after her birth. I had visitors and that helped my spirits. Hubby sent flowers, as did my parents and several other people. I received get well cards and ONE congratulatory baby card that I totally cherish to this day. No baby gifts were sent, and one close family member told me after Meredith had passed that she would have sent me flowers in the hospital if the baby hadn't died, but she was waiting to see in case she had to send funeral flowers instead. I don't remember a lot from my days in the hospital, but I have never forgotten that.

Our baby girl trudged on and lived for three days. She had frequent blood drawn for blood gas analysis. I only knew that after I got the hospital bill and saw all the lab costs. Like I said, I was kept in the dark quite a bit about her condition. I really don't know a whole lot to tell about her medical treatment. She was said to have hyaline membrane disease, which I understood to mean that the air sacs in her lungs could not expand enough to take in air. Was she on a respirator? I honestly don't know. Early Sunday morning, October 6, Meredith turned three days old. I couldn't sleep for some reason, and I lay in the bed thinking, praying, and crying as her "birthday" came around. My light was on, and a nurse stuck her head in the door but didn't say anything before she closed the door. I finally drifted off to sleep around 3:30 am, not knowing that my baby lay dying right down the hall.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Meredith's Beginning - Part One

I met my husband at the Baptist Student Union of the college I chose for my junior year of studies. He made two statements when we were introduced - " I would like to buy you a coke" and "I am going to marry you." He did buy cokes for us, and I did marry him shortly thereafter. As a 20 year old newlywed, I soon found out we had a honeymoon baby on the way. This baby was certainly not planned , but was definitely wanted. I had wanted to be a mother all my life. As a child, I played with lots of dolls and dressed up cats in doll clothes and pushed them in my buggy. If I could catch a baby chick without his mother pecking me to death, I would push him, too. Not at the same time as the cat, though. We were thrilled to be having a baby!

The school year went on and I stuggled with morning sickness quite a lot and some bleeding. Knowing next to nothing about pregnancy, I did not consult a doctor about it. Hubby finished graduate school, I completed my studies, and we moved to his home town. That year of college was the first time I had ever lived away from home, and here I was moving farther away. When we would visit my parents, I would cry a good part of the way back to where we lived with my husband's grandmother, totally homesick. I did start seeing a doctor in May. I was always whisked into the office and whisked out. I had no knowledge of what questions to ask or if the doctor was treating me correctly. Procreation was not something I grew up talking about, and I was afraid to ask questions of my mother or mother in law. I started swelling and the doctor actually gave me diuretics to take. I never felt well while I was pregnant. If sonograms or pregnancy screening tests were available in 1974, I never knew of them. Nothing like that was ever offered to me. There was a college where we lived and I enrolled in it for my last year, thinking I could just about make it before school was out, and if the baby came before then, I could take my finals later. I discussed that with my professors, and they agreed. I attended my first day of classes and went to my in and out doctor's appointment after that. Only this time I wasn't rushed through. The nurse found my blood pressure was low, and apparently thought I looked like the baby had dropped, for the doctor rushed into my room, asked me what I had been doing, and checked my cervix. I was dilated, how much I didn't know to ask. Can you imagine the guilt he put on me with his question? For years I thought I had done something to cause my baby's impending premature birth.

Dr. G told me to rush to the hospital. I called hubby and told him. I was hospitalized,and put on bedrest with my feet elevated to take pressure off of the cervix. I wasn't told much, and, again, I didn't know the proper questions to ask. After five days, I was sent home on more bedrest. That was about all the instructions I received, except to see Dr. G in two weeks. Less than a month later, I went into hard labor one Wednesday night. Meredith Helen was born at 1:43 am on Thursday, October 3, 1974. I remember the doctor asking for premature forceps before her birth. She was not breathing when she was born, and was resuscitated. I never heard her cry. I did hear the nurse say it's a girl before the anesthesia I was given took the nurse's voice away in a spiral of unconsciousness.


This blog has been on my heart for a long time. When I decided to start one, I knew I needed someone who understood art to help me make it "pretty", and I knew just the person.
Franchesca Cox is a wonderful artist, the mother to a handsome newborn son, and the mother of a little girl, Jenna Belle, who soars with the angels. I knew Franchesca could put the right touch on this blog, as I, maybe selfishly, wanted perfection for my Meredith. Please visit Franchesca at Small Bird Studio. Her blog button is at the bottom of this page. You can view her talented artwork and find links to her other blogs. Thank you, Franchesca, for agreeing to help me when you were on bedrest and completing the job while taking care of your darling new baby. (To keep me from seeming heartless, I made sure she was up to this before we started!)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Precious Scraps of Paper

Daddy passed away in 1991, and Mother went to meet him in Heaven in 2003. Mother and Daddy went through the Depression, war years, and other hard times. My Daddy's father was struck by lightning and killed in 1921, along with the family horse he was using to plow a field. Daddy was seven years old and had three siblings. My grandmother buried her husband and several months later, buried her three year old son. How they survived, I don't really know as Daddy didn't talk about it much. Because of all the struggles they had, my parents saved everything in case something would be needed some day. And I mean EVERYTHING. After Mother's death, my brother put her and Daddy's things in storage until we could go through it all. There was no way we could hurt our hearts even more by going through the items right then. Over the months and years, he has brought me a few boxes at a time so I could sift through the memories of a marriage that began in 1933. I have found all kinds of ephemera - cancelled checks, receipts, greeting cards, planting guides, newspapers, just to name a few. I have found sewing items, depression glass, milkglass, baby shoes - I couldn't begin to name the items I have discovered. If my parents broke down and used a new wallet or purse, the items in the purse or wallet stayed inside the old one, except for essentials like driver's licenses or money. About a month ago, my daughters were helping me look through the most recently acquired boxes. One of them pulled out Daddy's last billfold. She looked through it and found photos of all his grandchildren, travel club cards, and a receipt, among others. She unfolded it and we were speechless as she read from it. Then I had to cry. When Meredith died, our church gave us a donation to pay for her funeral. Daddy offered to pay for the burial. He had carried that $50.00 receipt from October 8, 1974, for Meredith's burial all those years. Fifteen minutes later, I opened an old purse of Mother's and found the cancelled check she had made out to a hospital on October 14, 1941. It was written for around $85.00, and was for her stay in the hospital when my sister, Janet Susan, was stillborn on October 7. Two receipts, two lost babies. We never got to hold ours, and I doubt Mother and Daddy even saw their baby. Two pieces of paper, representing many broken hearts.

You were our first miracle.

You were the genesis of a marriage,

the fulfillment of love,

the promise of our infinity...

You were the beginning.

-Erma Bombeck

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Big Thank You to Many Baby Loss Moms

About a year and a half ago, I "met" Holly through her blog, "Caring for Carleigh." At that time, she was carrying to term her precious daughter who had been given a fatal diagnosis. I made some comments and we emailed a few times. Looking back, I don't remember how I found her blog. I noticed that she had a blog list of other mothers who were carrying to term like her, or who had already said goodbye to their baby, and some, even multiple babies. I began to read these other blogs, and began to let go of some of my hurt. I didn't know there was a world of mamas like me in blogland. Following some of their suggestions, I began to heal more and more. Just because Meredith Helen had been born and died in 1974 didn't mean I was "over" it. I gathered my courage and asked for some of the mementoes that mothers were making in honor of their sweet babies. I don't have room to mention everyone here, but one of the first things I received was Lea's Angel Wings, in honor of Nicholas. On October 7, the anniversary of Meredith's funeral and the day my sister Janet Susan was stillborn and buried in 1941, I received a butterfly made in memory of little Ella, from Bree. These things made from paper, glue, ribbon, and feathers soothed my heart immeasurably. There are so many of you who have helped to smooth the hurt of losing a child. I plan to showcase all of Meredith's gifts eventually. Yes, I had other children. Yes, I love them tremendously and thank God for them every day. But the child I never got to hold, the child whose features I never got a chance to memorize, the child that I still honor - she made a huge impact on my heart. Thank you all for helping me, even though you didn't know you were. Thank you, Holly, for the beginning. I also have met regular bloggers who have understood and let me tell my story, and they listened, and in no way could I diminish their importance (thank you Twyla, Kathy, and Nancy, among others.) So, from the depths of my heart, thank you all.

I am drawn quietly to her grave to check on her,

just as if I'd been drawn quietly to her crib.

I trim the grass around her marker,

and dream of trimming the bangs from her forehead.

I place the flowers in her vase

and dream of placing ribbons in her hair.

I hold her memory dear to my heart

as I dream of holding her in my arms.