Sunday, March 15, 2009

Annie Lane

I got pregnant again when Jon was only six months old. It was a surprise, but then again, so was Jon, so Mark and I, happy in our lives as young parents, looked forward to meeting the next little Hagar. It was an uneventful pregnancy. I knew that delivery would be by C-section, as Jon had been; that was just the accepted procedure. 

A week before the scheduled birth, I went to my obstetrician, who proclaimed all well and sent me home. The next day, I felt a heaviness through my swollen belly, and as the day went on, a quiet stillness came over it. By eight, the contractions had begun and we left for the hospital, leaving baby Jon with friends.  My joy evaporated as I watched the face of the physican who was moving his stethoscope over my contracting abdomen; he was searching in vain for a heartbeat.  Someone took my hands and lifted them over my head; still nothing.  An anesthesia mask came down over my face. "Count backward from ten," a voice instructed.  Their urgent faces told me that the baby was in trouble. I began to cry as unconsciousness overtook me. 
I woke up to see my doctor standing by my side, tears streaming down his face. He told me that our baby, a girl, had been stillborn. My husband Mark joined us. More words about autopsies and possible causes of death were uttered but of course we were beyond hearing such things.

I was placed on the surgery floor, away from the new mothers, in a private room. Later, a nurse came to give me a backrub. I remember that she was very kind and had gentle hands. As she kneaded my shoulders, she quietly suggested that I see the child I had lost. I hesitated, remembering something someone said about a facial deformity. I was afraid. She told me that in nature, mothers always inspect their young, whether living or dead. this made sense and I agreed to see her before the funeral.  My dad arrived, picking up the tabs for funeral and headstone and fighting back tears at my bedside.  He and my mom had lost two little boys in similar fashion and it brought it all back for him. 

Mark and a friend went about the business of buying a coffin and arranging for a funeral. We named her Annie Lane-Annie because it is a beautiful name, and Lane, after my mother. I found the christening dress that my mother had worn as a baby and we sent it to the funeral home for her to wear. We arranged for a private viewing.  My father, Mark and I entered the chapel and sat with her for a few minutes. She was quite beautiful, and all of these 28 years later, I wish that I had taken her picture. She looked a lot like Jon when he was tiny. 

Mark chose a plot at the Lakewood Cemetary, across from the elementary school. He told me that he wanted her to be able to the sounds of children playing. We chose a line from a Shaker song for her headstone: "Tis a Gift to be Free." Someone cleared out all of the baby items. I never found out where they went.

We buried her on March 19th, in a drizzle of cold rain.  I still remember how it felt to stand there shivering and looking at the tiny white coffin going in to the ground.  Afterwards, my friend Patti DenUyl, who was nothing if not generous, arranged for half the staff of Point West to come to my rented cottage, setting up tables loaded with a huge buffet dinner. She brought with her a large basket overflowing with personal things for me: bubble bath, lipstick, scented oils.  She was pregnant, too, and her grief nearly matched mine that day.  A few weeks later, her Mia was born. 

Of course, time heals, and now I mark March 16th by visiting her with flowers, and talking with her for awhile.  Early on, of course, Mark and I went together, and took Jon and then our beautiful Annie Elizabeth, born 54 weeks later, with us.  They would find pinecones and beautiful sticks to put by the stone. Later, after the divorce, we would show up separately, one of us adding flowers to those left by the other. 

When Annie Elizabeth was born, we had the same team in the delivery room; the nurses joked about putting "pink juice" in the IV to assure that a little girl came out. Tears of joy reigned as she entered the world loudly and confidently, looking slightly Asian and very pink.
I spent a week in the hospital and she rarely left my side (I  marvel that my insurance company paid for that now; how relaxed it all was back then.)  

I sometimes wonder about what Annie Lane would look like.  I try to imagine a collage of Jon and Annie. For some reason, I think that her hair would have been more like Jon's, darker and coarser. I see a taller and somewhat more lanky version of Annie Liz.  I think that she would have loved music.   

To all those who have been close to the death of a child, there is this kind of dreamy wondering and speculation.  In one way, we feel that we knew them so well, as they nestled and swam inside of us. In another, they barely touched this earth, and what is left is what might have been.

The picture was taken when I was about seven months along with Annie Lane.  I marvel at my youth and I marvel at the resilience that we all have to have when walking through this life.
I am not sure how to close this post, except to say that tomorrow, when I visit Annie Lane, I will tell her once again how she would love her brother and sister, how beautiful the trees are around her, and how much her spirit sings inside of me still. 


annie hagar said...

thanks for sharing this, mom.

Jessica Brooke said...

You're gonna make me cry at work, Claudia.

You're so beautiful and well loved.

Thea said...

you did make me cry at work...thank you for sharing your beautiful memories...x

Claudia Hayes Hagar said...

dear amazing women,
thanks for your comments. I am grateful to you for reading about my experience. There is something about that sharing that is good for our souls. I feel a kinship with all of you as we go through our lives as women, mothers, daughters and friends. All of you are quite magnificent! I love you all.