They say time heals all wounds. It doesn’t. If you’ve ever lost a child, you never get over it. Ever. It gets better, but it never heals.
Don and I were expecting our first baby in early September the year after we married. He was thirteen years older than me and we were anxious to start a family. We had bought our first home, a little trailer with some land. I was madly in love. Life was good.
Barbara Stout, a friend of mine, convinced me to take a cake decorating class with her. What a great idea! I had a baby on the way and I would want to decorate all kinds of wonderful cakes for it. We went to the first class with me nearly six months pregnant.
I flipped into premature labor that night. She took me to the hospital where she crocheted on a baby afghan and I huffed and puffed. A nurse came in and pointed at her. “You hurry up.” Then she pointed at me. “You slow down.”
They got the contractions stopped and sent me home. Bedrest for four weeks. Well, I did the best I could, but we had animals to take care of and Don was on the road all the time. Barbara would take the cake decorating class, then come to the house and show me the lesson. I learned how to decorate cakes in bed.
The doctor gave me an all clear and life was back to normal. I had a huge garden and it was in dire need of tending. I had promised Don’s niece I would take care of their two boys when she went to have her baby and my mother-in-law needed to have a surgery. I kept telling Vickie, don’t put this surgery off because Irene is due to have this baby soon and I can’t take care of Bill and the boys at the same time.
Lanny, Don’s nephew, decided I needed a little fun and convinced me to go to the fair with him, Irene and the boys. I did. I had a great time. So did he. People kept turning around and staring at the man with two little tow-headed boys and two women pregnant to their eye teeth. He was grinning like a Cheshire cat. Several men gave him a thumbs up sign. He just grinned wider. I smiled sweetly.
Sure enough, Vickie waited until Irene was three weeks overdue and decided to have her surgery. Don had volunteered me to take care of Bill my nearly blind father-in-law while she was in the hospital. As soon as she went into the hospital, so did Irene. So, I had Bill all the time and the two boys in the daytime while Lanny worked. Then Don’s uncle Cub decided to come visit and I had him to cook for. Plus, I had my animals and garden to tend to still at seven months pregnant now.
Bill and Cub didn’t like to eat at the same time, so I had to cook different breakfasts. The boys, thankfully, ate what I put in front of them when I put it in front of them. I decided to do a thorough cleaning on Vick’s house while I was there, but the walls were so dirty I figured it would just be easier to paint. I bought paint as close to the colors as the original paint and repainted the house. I bought a new bedroom outfit for her bedroom so it would be nice and pretty and her Sunday school class bought her a pretty silk flower arrangement. It was all very pretty.
Vickie would get upset if I didn’t have Bill up there to visit her at a certain time, but sometimes Lanny was late to get the boys and it put me late taking Bill up there. He liked to be independent even though he was nearly blind, so that created problems. I’d drop him off at the entrance to the hospital and tell him to wait right there. Then I’d go park and have to run back because more often than not he would try to go into the hospital to save me time. Most of the time he’d wind up in the street instead. The doctor released Vick after a couple of days, but she refused to leave because she didn’t want to go home where she had to wait on other people when she could be in a hospital and have people wait on her. She’d had gall bladder surgery.
I kept telling her I really could use her at the house, but nope, she was staying as long as she could.
Cub was an old cowboy, so you’d think he’d be pretty independent. He was. He picked a bunch of peaches off the tree one day and decided to cook up some preserves. Then he and Bill got to visiting on the porch and he forgot the preserves cooking. I came home to the most gawdawful burned mess in that pan. Had it been my pan, I’d have thrown it away, but instead I spent hours soaking it and cleaning it.
Irene gets out of the hospital and gets the boys. That helps quite a bit.
They finally kick Vickie out. She’s not happy that I have painted the house. Bill says, “Doesn’t the house look nice?”
“Couldn’t she have put the switch plates back on?”
They were so filthy I had been soaking them in bleach and hadn’t gotten them all back on yet. No, she never did thank me.
Joy, she has saved up all her menus and informs me she must have those meals and they must be prepared without salt. So now I’m cooking at least six meals a day. Then when she gets her food, she starts pouring the salt to it.
Don finally rolls in and sees what’s going on. He informs everyone I will cook three meals a day and people will either eat what I put on the table or they can go hungry. I beg him to take me home and tell him I am exhausted. Our anniversary is coming up on July 12th and he asks me if I want to go to Ruidoso, NM where we spent our honeymoon. Vickie, of course, thinks this is a terrible idea. I don’t have any business traveling when I am so pregnant. I jump at the opportunity. He takes me home and we go to Ruidoso for a few days, then he is back on the road for one last time before he starts staying close to home.
On July 17th, I’m canning pickles. It’s late at night. I pick up a case of jars and water starts running down my legs. Being young and stupid, I think, “My kidneys just broke.”
I’m wearing white pants, so I look down, no not yellow. Then it dawns on me my water has probably broken. It can’t be. I’m seven weeks early. I lie down on the couch and wait to see if there are any contractions. None.
I get back up and start cleaning house and finish canning pickles. At 8:00 the next morning, I’ve been up all night canning and cleaning, I call my neighbor Romia. She takes me to the doctor who is very upset with me and demands to know what I’ve been doing.
He sends me to the hospital and says I am going to have this baby. They have to induce.
I don’t understand the dangers.
I call Lanny who gets a message to the trucking company Don works for. Mirinda is born a little after noon. They’ve been pouring the pit to me and she’s tiny, 21 inches, but only 3 ½ pounds. The doctor had done an examination and said she would be fine before he started the induction. I suppose going off her length.
They knock me out during delivery and keep me sedated. Romia comes in shortly before midnight and tries to wake me up. I finally rouse. “Julie, the baby isn’t in good shape. Do you want her baptized or christened?”
When it sinks in, I am in panic mode. The pastor from Vick’s church comes down and gets into a religious debate with me about how babies don’t need to be christened. Romia and I are arguing with him. Finally, I tell him if he can’t do it to get the hell out and I will find someone else. He christens her three minutes before she dies. She has died a few minutes after midnight.
I am on my knees praying and begging God to save my baby. No one tells me she’s dead. Hours later, I hear the doctor and nurses arguing in the hall. They are demanding he tell me. He walks in, stares at me and says, “Mrs. Weathers. She didn’t make it.” Turns around and walks out. It is the last time I ever see him.
I scream and the nurses pour me back into bed. I demand they let me see my baby. Very reluctantly, they bring her to me. I’m struck by how much she looks like Don. She has a lot of very dark hair, but the face shape is his, all his. I curl up around her and hold her. Stroking her, talking to her until they force me to give her up. There’s an animalistic urge in me to fight them off. To not let them take her, but I relent and release her.
They give me another shot to knock me out. The doctor, in his compassion has moved me off the obstetrics ward so I won’t have to be around babies. It also means there is no post-partum care. None.
The woman in the next room complains because I cry too much, so they try to keep me more sedated. They bring in trays of food, but I am so out of it, I can’t feed myself. I tried to eat Jell-O one day, but I fail. It falls into the bed and is all over my hair, which is down past my waist. A friend comes in and finds me like that. The nurse just came in, picked up the tray and left me in the Jell-O mess. Debbie demands that I be allowed to take a shower. They don’t have the staff to help. Debbie takes me into the bathroom, and we try to rinse out the mess in the sink.
Meals come in and go out mostly untouched. Visiting hours are not during mealtimes, so my friends don’t know I’m not eating. I can’t feed myself due to the drugs. When they wear off enough, I stumble down to the snack machine and get a candy bar, but after a while, you stop being hungry and stop caring. I was in the hospital five days after Mirinda died and never ate one full meal.
On the second day, Irene asks me if I want her to call Vickie and let her know. Not really, but I guess I have to.
Debbie is sitting with me when Vickie comes in with her neighbor Mrs. Smith. I wanted her to come hug me. I wanted my mother. I wanted someone to love me and tell me it was going to be all right. Vickie glares at me and says, “I knew you were going to kill that baby.”
Trust me, I’m already blaming myself for her death. I didn’t need you to remind me. It was like ice water thrown on the soul.
I look at her. “Pardon?”
“I knew you were going to kill that baby.” One thing about Vickie, she’s not shy about her opinions. Her neighbor looks aghast.
Debbie tells Mrs. Smith. “You need to get her out of here now.
That is when I decided I would kill myself. It was my fault and I couldn’t live with that.
A lady from the church comes up later with a plant. She’s beaming. “Oh, Julie, what a beautiful baby you have.”
I stare at her somewhat dumbfounded. “What did you say? Where did you see her?”
“Why down in the nursery, of course.”
We go to the nursery and sure enough there is a bassinet with the name Mirinda Weathers. I am not the fainting sort, but my knees went. A baby with dark hair inside the bassinet. She asks me what’s wrong. “Mirinda died yesterday,” I said.
The woman is horrified and calls a nurse to the window. She comes out and I tell her what’s going on. She takes the card off and is going to tear it up, but I rap on the glass again, to tell her no. She gives it to me. The church lady asks me if I’d like her to give the plant to someone who doesn’t have any flowers. She apologizes and I tell her it isn’t her fault. She hugs me and leaves.
Vickie later tells everyone in church I went crazy and attacked the poor woman and threw her physically out of the room. She even calls Irene and tells her this. Irene, bless her, gets her on the phone later to repeat the story while I listen, then I get on the phone and straighten her out. I tell her to stop lying about me. She doesn’t talk to me again until I get pregnant with Brandon a year later and Don tells her if she keeps up the silent treatment, she’s not going to get to see her grandchild because he’s not going to keep subjecting me to her behavior.
Don has been trying to get home, but he’s in Oregon and the airlines are on strike. He drops his load off and goes from one city to the next trying to get a flight out. In California, he gives up. Another driver has a truck broke down. The company asks him if he will load his truck and bring it back and the man can help him drive.
The man is a truck stop Romeo and wants to stop at every opportunity so he can flirt with the waitresses. Don is about to lose his mind. On top of that, he yaps non-stop. Don is quiet by nature to begin with and he’s going a bit crazy trying to get back to me. He would like to kill the man and swear God did it.
Friends rally round. One brings me some dry shampoo. Romia goes out to the cemetery and brings me plot maps and plans. Another friend gathers up dresses that are my size and gets them on approval. I pick out one for the funeral. I pick out a funeral home.
Five days after she died, Don makes it home. I’m alive enough to stagger down the hall to find a candy bar and see him walking toward me. I fall in his arms and start crying. He holds me and strokes my hair. “Don’t. If you do, I’ll start crying.”
If he ever did, I didn’t see it.
He checked me out and we went to the funeral home. The man there showed us some baby caskets. I picked out the one I wanted. We went back to the office and he kept apologizing for the poor selection. “Business is so good we just can’t keep baby caskets in stock.”
I looked at him completely in shock. Did he really just say that? “It’s fine. That’s the one I want.”
He’s almost giddy. “Normally we would have a lot more, but you know with business and all the selection is just limited.” He repeats how good business has been five times until I am about ready to crawl over the desk and strangle him.
Don says, “She said this is the one she wants. We don’t want to hear about business.”
I think he said it so menacingly, he decided to shut up because he moved along.
Flowers next. I picked out an arrangement with white carnations and pink roses. “You know this is the only thing you’ll ever be able to do for this baby. Wouldn’t you rather have a blanket for the casket?”
Ghouls. The whole damned lot of them.
“No, this is what I want. If you don’t want to make this, I can go somewhere else.”
Mother and my stepdad flew down for the funeral. Thank God I finally had someone on my side. My little brother died a few weeks before he turned six. Mom knew what it was to lose a child.
At the funeral, the pastor said, “We all say, ‘I know how you feel, but we don’t. Not really. Julie will. One day someone will be hurting, and she’ll be able to say I know how you feel and offer comfort.”
I was numb. I thought I had cried myself dry. I didn’t think I could hurt any more than I did. Not until he said that. Then rage boiled up in me. I was sitting between Don and Mother. I looked around. How dare this man put that curse on me! How dare he wish for me to be around anyone who hurt as much as I did. Mother wasn’t moving. Don wasn’t moving. I’m not sure why we were sitting in the second pew, but we were. I started to stand. I was going to attack this man. Make him take that back. I think Don sensed what was going through my mind because he gripped my arm and held me still.
Oddly enough, years later, when I had babies, I would get a feeling to go somewhere I had no business being. I had Brandon in a stroller and passed by a little boutique in the mall. I needed nothing there, but decided to go in. The clerk kept glancing at Brandon. That wasn’t unusual. He was a beautiful baby, but I knew what was going through her mind.
“You lost a baby,” I said.
She nodded and started crying. I held her and we cried together. She told me about her son. She wanted another baby, but her husband said it was too painful. I encouraged her to try again. A new baby doesn’t take the place of the lost baby, but it does ease the pain. And so it would go. God would lead me to broken women and we would cry and talk.
Don went back to work. I got really sick and went to another doctor. I had retained part of the placenta. He wanted me to sue my doctor. He would testify for me. He wanted his license jerked. I should have. I just didn’t want to relive the nightmare that was that birth.
I went back to work right away. In the daytime I could pretend I was sane. At night, alone the truth came to me. I was going crazy. I’d forget to eat if someone didn’t remind me. I weigh 129 pounds when I’m muscled up in good shape. I got down to 85 pounds. I wasn’t trying to lose weight. I’d just forget to eat.
One night I was folding clothes and took them back to the bedroom. I opened the door and there was Mirinda lying on the bed in that white lace christening gown. Now I know she wasn’t there, but my mind didn’t. I screamed and threw the clothes in the air. I never went near the bedroom or the bathroom, which was next to the bedroom after dark after that when I was alone.
I’d try to sleep and have the same dream. Someone would knock on the door and I’d answer it. Three old crones would be standing there. One would be holding a baby in a while christening gown loosely wrapped in a blanket covered in dirt. She’d laugh and hold the bundle out to me. “Here’s your baby, dearie.”
I’d go for days without sleeping and be so exhausted. One night I was lying down in the front bedroom and closed my eyes. Immediately, the dream came on me. My eyes snapped open and I started crying. “Jesus, give me peace,” I whispered. It wasn’t a prayer. I was mad at God. It was just an exclamation, but immediately I did have peace and slept.
I still wasn’t over being mad at God, however.
Nor was I over being mad at me. I had looked for the gun to blow my brains out when I first got home and Don left. I found the gun, but not the bullets.
Then I took pills. Oh, did I take pills. I saved them up until I had enough to kill an elephant. I took so many they made me sick and I puked them all up. This suicide stuff is hard.
The third time I had it all figured out. I took just enough to put me under for good. You know, when a doctor knows a person is suffering from severe depression, I don’t know why they prescribe them sleeping pills like candy. It’s a mystery, isn’t it? That was my wonderful OB. He wouldn’t check to see if I was OK, but sent me home with a fist full of prescriptions.
Anyway, third time was a charm. I was out. God had different plans. Some friends were going out to dinner and said, “Hey, let’s stop by and say hi to Julie and see how she’s doing.”
They had me up and staggering around, pouring coffee down me getting rid of that crap.
Not long after that, my dad sent me a box of books he bought at an auction. They were history books because he knew I enjoyed old west history. Also tucked away in there was a book by Edgar Cayce. There was a chapter in the Cayce book about suicide. It described what happened when you commit suicide. You have to repeat the event until you learn to deal with it.
I thought, “Oh, hell no. I can’t deal with this one time. I’m not doing it again.”
I called Dad later and thanked him for the books and told him about the Cayce book. He said, “There wasn’t a Cayce book in there.”
Life is full of mysteries isn’t it?
I go into a tailspin every year about this time. I used to take flowers to her grave all the time. Sprawl out on her grave as if I could hold her or pull myself into the earth myself. Ask for forgiveness. If I had done this or that differently she might be alive. I used to never miss her birthday or Christmas.
I think about what kind of life Mirinda would have had. What nonsense, but that’s how the mind works. Thankfully, I have been blessed with three wonderful sons.
Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it does get better. In the dark times, you just need to get through one day at a time. Better times are ahead. Life is worth living.
There might be times of madness, but there are the other times. The times of peace also and God is good.