When I was pregnant with Hudson, I signed up for weekly emails from babycenter.com called “My Pregnancy This Week.” Each week, I received an email telling me what was going on in my belly, what my baby looked like that week, how things were growing, what things I might want to be thinking about. Once Hudson was born, the emails kept coming—I entered her name and birth date into my profile, and they began to send me weekly emails (“Your 6-month-old: Week 3) about what was going on with my baby developmentally, what questions I might have, and easy games to play with her.
After Hudson died, the emails kept coming. When the first one showed up, it was one of those bewildering moments where I did a double-take and wondered if it had really happened, if Hudson had really died. It didn’t take me long to go back to babycenter.com and stop the email notifications.
Once I found out I was pregnant again, I pretty much swore off “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” remembering how many ridiculous worst-case scenarios that book examines, and how much more worried it made me than anything else (see yesterday’s post for evidence that I do NOT need any more help with that). So I figured I’d sign up for the babycenter.com emails again, because usually they just told me about what was happening each week, without so much doom and gloom.
So I went back in and put in my estimated due date. So now, each week, I get an email with the subject “Your Pregnancy: 8 Weeks.” The email gives you just a little blurb, and then you click on a link that says “Read more about this week” to go to the website for more details.
Here’s what the website looks like when you get there (you may have to click on it to see it full-size):
You can imagine the first time I saw one of these several weeks ago. “Hudson (21 months)” on the right of the dateline. “Your Child (5 weeks)” on the left. “My Family” in the far right sidebar, with both children listed underneath, including some new tips about Hudson’s age and stage. I inhaled sharply and immediately started to cry. The last thing I wanted was a constant reminder of how old Hudson should be, all the things she should be doing right now, all the things she will never get to do.
So I tried to figure out if there was some way to remove Hudson’s name and progress from the date line. I’d gone through this before on Facebook. In the profile section there where you list “Children,” it only asks for a birth date, so that Facebook can keep your friends up to date about how old your kids are. It seemed way too sad, and somehow just wrong, to let Facebook continue to track the progress of her age when she would never age past 17 months and 12 days. There was no way to put in a death date, and I certainly couldn’t just delete her. I ultimately just removed her birth date altogether, and in the spot where I listed her name, I listed in parenthesis the dates of her birth and death.
No such luck on babycenter.com. Not that I fault the website for having no mechanism for a mom to annotate the death of her child—there seems little reason to, and we live in such a death-denying culture anyway, particularly when it comes to the death of a child. But my only editing option was “Remove.” Remove? REMOVE? How can I REMOVE Hudson from “My Family”? I know it may seem ridiculous to put so much stock in these symbolic gestures, but in my shoes, it feels so much more than symbolic. My only other option would be to create an entirely new account with only the new baby’s information in it, but symbolically, this is no different than “removing” Hudson—either option results in a “My Family” that doesn’t have her in it. As if we’ve just erased her and started all over again. As if those glorious 17 months and 12 days with our precious, amazing, beautiful child never happened. No way.
So I’ve just left it like it is for now. Today when I saw it, it seemed to hurt a little less, but that’s probably just the day. I even clicked on the link to (22 months) to see what was there. Glutton for punishment, I guess.
Jess told me a poignant story the other day about picking her three-year-old son, Elliot, up at daycare and seeing a family tree he’d made. It included his mom, dad, brother, and all four grandparents, including his Grammy Toad, Jess’s mother who died suddenly about 6 weeks before Elliot was born, so Elliot never met her. Elliot said to Jess, “Grammy Toad died but we still love her, so she’s still our family.” Jess thought about Hudson’s little sibling saying the same thing in a few years. Out of the mouths of babes.
A thoughtful reader posted a poem as a comment a few weeks ago. It hasn’t left my mind and I wanted to share it with everyone. It seems appropriate today.
“We are Seven” by William Wordsworth
A Simple Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?
I met a little cottage Girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.
She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
Her beauty made me glad.
"Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be?"
"How many? Seven in all," she said
And wondering looked at me.
"And where are they? I pray you tell."
She answered, "Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.
"Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother."
"You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet ye are seven!--I pray you tell,
Sweet Maid, how this may be."
Then did the little Maid reply,
"Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree."
"You run above, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five."
"Their graves are green, they may be seen,"
The little Maid replied,
"Twelve steps or more from my mother's door,
And they are side by side.
"My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.
"And often after sun-set, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.
"The first that died was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.
"So in the church-yard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.
"And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side."
"How many are you, then," said I,
"If they two are in heaven?"
Quick was the little Maid's reply,
"O Master! we are seven."
"But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!"
'Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, "Nay, we are seven!"