Still Standing

Her Name

Picture: author’s own

It wasn’t a name I carried for years, held tight in a little pocket in my heart. It wasn’t in my mind before, when a baby was just a dream, a hope for a distant future. By the time there were two pink lines dancing in front of my tear-filled eyes, there had been so many disappointments that I had stopped imagining names, as if it was tempting fate and causing it to fail.

But as my pregnant weeks went by, I dared to imagine, noting down some contenders, though it seemed her daddy and I would never agree.

Then one night I heard a name on TV and just knew it was the one for our baby girl.

We had a backup, just in case it didn’t suit her somehow. But when I held her, it was a perfect fit. The name belonged to her like she belonged to me and she wore it beautifully.

Her name was how we introduced her to the world. A message of miraculous, yet devastating news, of both her arrival and her death. There were no adorable pictures of a baby swaddled tight, cradled by two deliriously happy parents. We had only a name to share.

After she died, I wanted the world to know her name.

I longed to tell everyone about my precious baby girl. I felt like shouting it from the rooftops, because then it would feel real. And I needed it to feel real, because without a baby in my arms, she seemed like a dream, as if she never really existed. And oh how I needed the world to know she existed.

In those dark early weeks, I spoke her name aloud every day. I whispered it into the morning sunlight; sobbed it in the shower; I said it again and again as friends and family sat with me, patiently listening to her story.

I said her name to kind strangers, who asked innocuous questions, never anticipating the answer would include the name of my dead baby.

As time went on, I learned to brace myself for an awkward silence, for eyes that looked away. But more often I found warmth and comfort, “it’s a beautiful name”, they would say.

As the years have passed, four of them now, my need to say her name has lessened. I worry it’s a sign I’m forgetting, or that my love for her two younger siblings is taking over, a wave of guilt washing over me at the thought. But then I stop for a moment, and I can hear it, for her name will forever echo with each beat of my heart.

I still have my moments when I want to yell it into the sky, when I want the whole world to know I am a mother of three.

But mostly now I am more selective. I treat her name like a delicious secret, given as a gift to only those I trust will take care of it; those who will hold it gently as if it were made of glass, its fragility inherent, as it is all I have left of her to give.

I might not say it as often, but I still love to hear her name, to see it written in a card or a message. I used to crave it, that single syllable on the lips of others. I would encourage it, mentioning her first, my eyes pleading for validation, longing to hear it spoken back to me. And many wonderful friends obliged.

There are those who still say it every time I see them. And those who write it for me on beautiful beaches around the world, or in petals from a cherry blossom tree.

It has been held on a sign on the summit of Kilimanjaro and written in the snow on mountainous peaks in New Zealand and the wintry streets of Utah.

Incredible gifts of remembrance, her name a footprint of love.

I understand the discomfort, the fear that accompanies saying her name. But when you say it and see tears form in my eyes, yes they are tears of grief, of sadness, but they are also tears of love and of gratitude. I know to speak her name brings worry about upsetting me.

But please, if you can, summon the courage and say it to me.

I promise it will be worth it to see a broken heart heal a little with the knowledge that she is not forgotten.

And so I give it to you now, to hold, gently; to whisper or to shout loudly into the wind, so it may carry across the seas and back to my heart. Maeve.

Her name is Maeve.