On the Fourth Anniversary of My Newborn Daughter’s Death

          for Eva on her first birthday not on this Earth

Grief hits me as hard and suddenly as the hail storm pelting the garden I grew from seeds. Four-year grief builds with the moisture of the Gulf of Mexico that collides with the weather of the Rocky Mountains creating summer white groundcover of hail. My fairy garden strawberry plant sits in the white of hail. Tomato plants are pelted and bruised, limbs broken, leaves dying from the impact. Delicate string bean leaves with holes, sunflower leaves also broken. The 37 rose bushes on, what my son calls, Rose Way, look weak and sad. I am stunned by the fierceness of the winds, so many leaves from the trees down, but I get to work, my fingers frozen and muddy as I scoop out the round cold hail from newly planted strawberry plants. Will they make it? I wonder.

Later in the week I harvest three zucchini and cucumbers, a handful of string beans and the two strawberries left after the storm. Tender dark leaves of lacinato kale. My humble harvest. They are all marked where the hail bounced off of them with force.

And then as August approaches I weep uncontrollably in the darkness of the night, as I did when I was pregnant, and knew that my baby would die. My son is asleep after he asks me again if we can have another child, my husband’s c-pap machine whirrs. Why so many tears at the four-year mark?

My sister brings me a beautiful copper-plated aspen leaf ornament from Breckenridge. It’s not a birthday present, she says, It’s more of a remembrance.  Terry whose two beautiful daughters died of cystic fibrosis leaves a message. And as August 8thapproaches, all night I dream of meeting Lori, mama of sweet Eva, whose older brother lives and thrives though grief batters their family as well.

What do you do on Mary Rose’s birthday? my neighbor Angela asks, as her baby girl proudly toddles around the yard. I tell her I need quiet. I shore up in stillness and protect my heart with kindness. Only those who can love a mother bruised by grief can come near. I say no to volunteering at school this week though we are moving into a new building. No to crowds of people chatting. No. No.

But I have to get by, have to walk through the days. I remember feeling this way when the contractions swelled in my body for days, when I labored and then was emptied of my baby girl.

I have buried many this lifetime.

My son wants to make a pistachio cake with rose buttercream. Cake, I think. Cake for a dead baby’s birthday? I will make cake for my living son on my daughter’s birthday.

Dirt soothes me. I plant another rose bush, a butterfly bush, some coreopsis on Mary Rose’s birthday. I plan to thin the irises and surround myself in their bearded blossoms,  plant new bulbs that will surprise me in spring, but it takes hours to plant a few plants in the Colorado clay soil. I am limited in what I can accomplish this summer. I amend some of the soil with my own compost and planting soil. I bless each plant and hope it blooms in the coming years.

For those who think that this grief signals a lack of acceptance – life is not an either/or situation. I accept my daughter’s death from trisomy 18, and I will grieve her with my body and heart until I die because I am her mother. Because we are one with the Earth that also lets go and grieves. I am true to her memory and her daughterness. Though people would tell us that we should move on, I am here holding space for my daughter and my grief. Space for my living son with his losses and milestones. Space to do this work of grieving and being in the reality of both great joy and sadness simultaneously.

On my daugher’s birthday and every day I pray, Mary Rose, my daughter still, I love you.

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8 thoughts on “On the Fourth Anniversary of My Newborn Daughter’s Death

  1. Aniela Costello

    Mary Rose and the hail of grief… Mary Rose and the hope of eternal reunion… Mary Rose and a mother so faithful… Mary Rose and strawberry juiced hands skipping all around you….

    Love and more love and more…
    Yours,
    Aniela

    Reply
  2. lauren sample

    This was yesterday’s entry in my book of daily meditations on grief, and I thought of you with
    deep love, care, and recognition:
    “When it seems that our sorrow is too great to be borne, let us think of the great family of the heavy-hearted into which our grief has given us entrance, and inevitably, we will feel about us their arms, their sympathy, their understanding.” Thank you for sharing Mary Rose’s story, for listening to Nora’s story and Eva’s, and so many others, for wrapping others in your arms, and allowing us to wrap ours around you.

    Reply
    1. Dianna Vagianos Armentrout Post author

      Thank you, Lauren, for these beautiful words. We are in this life together, and I am so grateful that you are wrapping your arms around me. It is a poignant journey that continues… Thinking of you and Nora today with love.

      Reply
  3. Terry Jones-Brady

    Beautiful!
    I had a copper plated aspen leaf from my trip to Colorado the Christmas after Tim died. My dog chewed it up, but I loved it while it was with me. I would love to know what message came from the girls. Holly slept with a c-pap. We are coming up on November, oh dear.
    Love to you always

    Reply
    1. Dianna Vagianos Armentrout Post author

      I will look for a leaf for you. I remember that you left me a voice mail message. I feel your girls sometimes, especially at Mother’s Day, as if to say that they are closer to you than ever. I know November is hard for you, and then the holidays. Be gentle with yourself. Much Love…

      Reply
  4. Naama Yehuda

    Indeed, moving on has nothing to do with grief no longer being part of one’s path. One moves on WITH the grief, with the losses, with the holes in one’s heart that have become part of their personal landscape and nothing will replace or fill because nothing can. Moving on does not mean no longer grieving. Or not remembering. Or not needing quietude (and sometimes cake) and a whole lot of tenderness and buckets of freshly brewed love.
    This was beautifully written, Dianna. May the living hold space of the departed and the ones who never made it into breath, and may the souls beyond hold us, in turn, in light reflecting love. Na’ama

    Reply

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