“Make a pretty box,” Cubby writes in her e-mail, “or buy one. Put Mary Rose’s things in there to remember her.” It is August 2014. I am in a fog but I stop at the store, Tuesday Morning. They have different boxes with prints but nothing seems quite right to hold Mary Rose’s few belongings. There is a large box with roses but it also looks like a travel case to Paris. Where did my daughter get to go?
A few months later I find a wooden box at Michaels as well as stickers welcoming a baby girl. I pause at the stickers. My baby is dead, I don’t get stickers and a double stroller but then I remember how much we wanted her and welcomed her, waited for her and longed for her. I buy the stickers with the box, as well as some decorative flowers and butterflies.
The stack of sympathy cards is daunting. I had been thinking of making a collage, but had been hesitating. The pile continues to bring up emotions. It is both a reminder that some people cared enough to pause and reach out to us, while others had not acknowledged my daughter’s life and death at all. The beautiful cards were from people holding me up in their net of love when I could not find my footing. They were important so I spread them out, save a few and cut out images from the rest to decorate the box.
I paint the box white and begin to glue images of flowers and butterflies and sweet phrases. These include reassurance, everlasting love, I will never be the same. I cut Mary Rose’s name out of two cards that Ann and Julie sent me. I use a glue gun and burn my fingers through the fabric of some flowers. I work into the early morning hours wanting to finish this and take Mary Rose’s few possessions out from the drawer I had prepared in my dresser while I was still pregnant. I had clutched each item weeping during my nesting period wondering if my baby would live long enough to wear anything at all. She did not.
My birth team painted premie undershirts when they gave me a Blessing Way. One of Anni’s friends, Jill Diana, who never met me painted a onesie with Mary Rose’s name on it. “She has an angel baby too,” Anni had said as she handed me gifts from an unmet sister.
Sindy sewed two diapers for Mary Rose. She was buried in one and I kept the other. I also kept the hat that came with her baptismal gown that my parents bought for my daughter. I wanted something to hold on to. It has the beautiful roses that decorated her burial gown. Sindy also gave us a flower for her hair. When Anni and I were preparing Mary Rose’s body for burial we put it on and took a few pictures.
The blankets from Isaiah’s Promise are what we nestled our baby in, and they go in the box. I place a few cards on the bottom, then some comforting hearts my first doula, Raizy, sent me. Next her few clothes, followed by her blankets, my flower crown from the Blessing Way and the baby pea in the pod that Anni brought before I labored. I also have a comb with a few stray hairs from Mary Rose’s head, the box my sister sent with a tiny cross for burial, my pink bracelet from the Blessing Way and the scroll from Edgar Cayce’s Center that I chose from a bowl when I was pregnant. It says For, every soul enters with a mission. We all have a mission to perform.
The box still needs something. My last step is to make copies of cards that I had pulled from the Mother Mary Oracle deck by Alana Fairchild and Shiloh Sophia during my pregnancy. I glue them to the top of the box. Number 11. Our Lady of Manifest Miracles, Number 12. Our Lady of Peaceful Change and Number 29. Our Lady of Starting Over.
The box sits on the floor of my bedroom not far from “Healing Companion.” I don’t know if making a box will help other mothers, but I think that even for babies miscarried early, we can name them as our own and make a little tribute to their lives. Perhaps there is a blanket or rattle that you purchased for the exciting day that you would meet your child. The blanket still means something, even if the child has moved on from this life so very quickly.
In her book Naming the Child: Hope-filled Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Death, Jenny Schoedel writes “While the world we live in views tears as a sign of weakness and so often strives to avoid them…tears have long been associated with intimacy with God, with wholeness, with a courageous and life-giving openness to the spiritual world.” Those who mourn are tearful; we express our emotions and honor our loved ones on the other side, as well as our own motherhood and path of grief. This ground is holy and healing. To move forward I will stay here a little longer longing for the baby that once was in my arms, remembering her few things and the life that was, the Life that is…