My darling Gwynne Elizabeth,
Thirty years ago today you were born. From behind the curtain between me and the surgeons I heard you cry. They held you up for me to see. I saw your little pink face peeking out of the blanket you were wrapped in, and admired your pouty lips, noticed your eyes closed tight against the operating room lights. I couldn’t touch you because I was shaking so much from whatever drugs they gave me for the emergency C-section that brought you into the world. Then little bubbles formed around your mouth. The nurse took one look and whisked you away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. You were 5 pounds, 13 ounces. They took pictures of you and gave them to your Daddy to bring to me. A sleeping little person with many wires all around her. My little baby.
I was in recovery, listening to a woman wail that she had had her third girl and wanted a boy, while your Daddy was running back and forth between me and you: Me recovering from surgery, you fighting for your life. You were supposed to be okay. I was 35 weeks along and babies are considered full term at that point. What we didn’t know was that during my 44 hours of induced labor I was exposed to Group B Streptococcus, a bacteria to which I apparently had no immunity so I didn’t pass it on to you.
The doctors did everything they could for us both. I had it too. Maybe that was why I was shaking. They pumped us full of antibiotics. They probably did things to you to try to save you that I will never know about, as you struggled to breathe and your color turned blue from your little lungs’ inability to sustain the rest of your little body.
I had been moved from recovery into my room when your doctor came to say that they had done everything they could for you but it didn’t look good. I asked him, “Is there any hope?” and he replied gently, and sadly, “Where there’s life, there’s hope.” I begged to see you, to be able to hold you and comfort you as you struggled. My surgeon had to be called to find out if it was safe to transfer me so soon after my surgery. Arrangements were made to put me on a mobile bed to wheel me down to the NICU. Just after I made the painful transfer, I was wheeled to the elevator. The doors opened and your doctor was standing there. I took one look at him and said, “She died.” His face said it all.
I still wanted to see you and he said he would have you brought to me. I made the painful transfer back to the hospital bed and waited. A nurse came in carrying you with a blanket covering your face. She cried as she handed you to me. I finally held you then, for the first and last time.You felt so solid and warm. You skin was purple, your eyes were closed, and there was a clear liquid running from your nose. But you were beautiful. You had dark hair, and I hadn’t imagined your little pout. You had perfect fingers and toes, and tiny fingernails. I stroked your soft face, touched your hands and your feet, but didn’t open your blanket all the way. Somehow it felt like I would be disturbing your peace. You did look peaceful. I had wanted so much to at least be holding you at the end so you would know you weren’t alone. I don’t know how long it was that I held you and looked at you before I finally nodded to the nurse. Her hands gently took you from my arms and you were gone.
I don’t know how I got past that day, or the ones that followed. The black dot on my hospital door signifying infant loss didn’t stop the phone calls. Someone else with the same last name had a baby girl the same day. We got calls of congratulation and corrected the horrified callers. I imagine the other parents got calls of condolence and were mystified. I was treated with heavy duty antibiotics when they found that the bacteria had invaded my placenta. I left the hospital after an extra day of treatment to make sure my infection was under control. The balloon from my parents with “It’s a girl!” printed on it left with us. They bought it before they knew how sick you were. We got home and let the balloon float into the clear blue sky.
We held a funeral for you. Your Oma and I worked together to make you a little quilt. Your name was in the middle, surrounded by embroidered hearts. We named everyone who had been anxiously waiting to welcome you into the world: Mommy, Daddy, Opa, Oma, Uncle Hugo, Aunt Nicolette, Grandad, Grandma, and your great-grandparents Zwarte Oma, Witte Oma, Grandpap, and Gram. The quilt and a stuffed bear fit easily into the tiny white metal box that was your casket. It was a heartbreaking sight that there were no pallbearers, just one man in a suit walking awkwardly with that small box under his arm. Your funeral was on another clear and sunny day. I hated days like like that for a long time.
If as some people believe you are a little angel keeping tabs on us here on earth, you know that you have never been far from my mind. Certainly no February goes by without my reliving your birth and wondering what you would be like now. You have always been a part of our lives. Your brothers were born after you but to them you are a baby sister forever. They also wondered what you would be like. I had to admit that they wouldn’t have been who they are if you had lived. They would have been different people born later or not at all. So I had to accept your loss to fully embrace the gift of the babies who came after you. But you always hold a place in my heart.
I love you forever,