Five for Ten: CourageMay 10, 2010 at 10:00 am | Posted in Family, Five for Ten | 44 Comments
Tags: Adoption, Birth, Children, Family, Grief, Personal, Pregnancy
February. 1951. My grandparents.
One month after this picture is taken, my grandmother gives birth to a baby girl. The labor is too difficult, the Cesarean too late, her little lungs too weak. She dies two days later.
My grandfather arranges for her tiny body to be returned to their small town from the nearby city hospital. He chooses a simple grave marker etched with flowers. He buries his firstborn.
My grandmother must stay in the hospital, recovering. She never meets her daughter. Never strokes her soft forehead, nuzzles her smooth cheek, or holds her delicate fingers. Never murmurs I love you.
They return to their farm. Harvest the cotton. Try to make a living. Try to forget. But the bassinet in the corner of their bedroom reminds them. Their daughter is not here.
Within the year, my grandmother is pregnant again. She gives birth on February 29. A boy. A Leap Year baby.
He dies the next day.
They name him after my grandfather. They bury him next to his sister. They can’t afford a second gravestone, but their minds are marked. Indelibly.
Your children will never survive. That’s what the doctors say.
They try to understand, try to keep moving. They cry for their babies: the two they’ve lost and the others, just whispers in the life they thought they’d have.
They try to adopt. At the last moment, it falls through. The bassinet in their bedroom is empty, still.
They try again. And my mother becomes their daughter in the spring of 1953. She has blue eyes and blond curls. She lights the dark corners of their home, just as she soothes the sharp edges of their souls.
Two years later, my grandmother is unexpectedly pregnant. She carries the baby with quiet resolve, already anticipating the emptiness of loss even as she yearns for new, thriving life.
She gives birth to a baby boy. He struggles. But he survives.
They bring him home. They are a family of four.
They are four. But, also, they are six. Always, they will be six.
Because they have courage.
The courage to look back. The courage to look forward. The courage to remember.
Read more about courage at Momalom’s Five for Ten.