I often feel haunted, most recently, by the questions that will never be answered. As we approach her 2nd birthday, I begin pondering those days surrounding her birth, those hours all over again. Some of the questions will likely never be answered. I don’t always know that I really want to know. But I do. Because it is my daughter and I am her mother.
I am her mother, and I don’t know where she went when they took her away. I don’t know what happened. They came to me and took my daughter 6 hours after she was born. Maybe 7. And they walked out of the hospital with her. Who carried her? Did they know who she was? That she mattered? Why don’t I know the name of the person who carried her away from me? Who takes a baby away from the mother, 7 hours after birth, and never meets the mother? Did they care about her or ask her name? Or did they place her in the back of a van and drive away?
Who thinks it makes sense to not come introduce themselves to me as they carry my most precious cargo away from me forever?
What haunts me significantly is not knowing if she was alone. Did I give my daughter over to someone who placed her in the BACK of a van? Can anyone else out there imagine handing over your newborn to travel in the dark, in the back of a van, alone? And you never even know who they are? Why when my husband took her out of the room, away from me to the nurses, did they meet him in the hallway with toe tags and a black bag? WHY did they do that? Why did he have to see that? Where was the dignity in that?
Where did she go? Were they sent just to pick up just my daughter or did they make multiple stops? Where did she go after they got to the funeral home? Who cared for her? Who carried her in? Did they just read her name off a page and sign over her body to another person to watch over her? Or was she alone, in the back of a building somewhere, while I slept in the hospital under medication induced hibernation? Where was she? Not only do I not know, but nobody even cared to tell me. I spent less time with her on this planet, outside of my body, than the average person does in one single day of work and then other people took her away and had days of time that I did not have. The funeral home owner, director, the person who conducted the autopsy. These people likely had more interaction with her than I ever did and I don’t know their names. They had DAYS with her. I had HOURS. My brain can’t seem to comprehend this.
Do they know she mattered? Do they know why she was named and how much she was intensely wanted beyond reasonable human emotion?
I’m jealous of their time. On days today when I think about her hair, I think about the fact that they had time to touch her and be with her and instead, she was somewhere in that morgue alone. Without her mother.
I think this is part of why people are so drawn to spending time at the cemetery soon after burial. It’s a ceremonial return of the loved one and for us, it meant we finally “had her back”. Imagine any other circumstance where you give over your 7 hour old infant and then wait days to see her again. When you finally do, you at most can sit near her grave, 6 feet above where her body rests. So close yet so incredibly far away.
The current reality is that I grapple with handing over my 7-hour-old infant without demanding to speak to the person who took her. I didn’t look them in the eye and explain who I was and why this child mattered and why they needed to send a second person to sit with her as they drove to the funeral home. That I wanted someone to accompany her. I would have requested someone ride with her. I know that it’s unreasonable to request someone be with her at the funeral home at all times. I get it. But she was still my infant and I don’t know any mom who is capable of tuning so far into their rational minds and logically telling themselves that it’s “ok” for her to be alone because it really doesn’t matter anymore.
Was she respected while there? Was she handled appropriately, with dignity? Did they handle her as they would a living newborn? Did they care for her the way they would for a precious living 7 pound 13 ounce tiny little baby? Did they admire her hair? Her cheeks? Her tiny hands? Can anyone really be in the presence of a tiny newborn and not feel overcome with emotion? Or did they even care? Did they look at her itty bitty fingers and her eyelashes?
I often can’t get the image of her alone in the back of some vehicle, driving away from the hospital, away from her parents, in the middle of the night, minutes after being taken out of her mothers arms. Minutes after I held her and apologized to her for what had happened and how I didn’t protect her or fight for her when the midwives dismissed me all those weeks in pregnancy. I didn’t fight to protect her more. I held her alone and apologized. I spent the majority of my time alone with her in those last moments crying and saying I was sorry. And then they took her and I don’t know where she went. It’s haunting and overwhelming and sad in ways that I don’t know how to adequately put into words. They put her in a BAG. They put my child, the one I wanted for years and years, through every second of infertility and IVF and medications and doctor appointments, the child that was our amazing miracle, they put her in a BAG. And I don’t know how long she was in there and how long she was there, alone, while her mother had no clue.
I feel guilty that I didn’t spend even more time with her the day of the funeral. I knew we had a few hours. My final hours. I was tired and that is likely not even close to how exhausted we all truly were. We just planned a party we never wanted to have in the span of 4 days, mere hours after having a baby and we were all attempting to come to terms with the fact she was dead. And I was exhausted. And I don’t think I woke up in time to get up to the funeral home as early as I wanted. How selfish does that sound? I was too tired to get myself up and out of the house to spend even more time with her before she was gone from me forever.
I wonder where she went in those days. Who was with her. Who they were. If they know she mattered. She mattered. She matters. She matters very much.
Diana is owner and editor-in-chief of Still Standing Magazine and blogs her own life story at Diana Wrote. She and her military retired husband have two girls and three sons who passed away after birth; Preston and Julian, identical twin boys who were born at 20 weeks, and Kaden, who unexpectedly had cardiomyopathy due to a rare virus called ciHHV-6. He died in her arms at 3 weeks old.
In 2014 she traveled with World Vision to learn about maternal health and infant mortality in Zimbabwe, and is now working on her Master’s in Mental Health Counseling. You can also find her work on Babble, Liberating Working Moms, She Reads Truth, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post.