A Beyond the Bump mommy lost her daughter Maya just before she was born. My daughter was born 9 days before Maya, and we just celebrated her first birthday last week. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose my baby. I don’t want to know what it’s like. But avoiding the topic of stillbirth isn’t the way to deal with the loss of these precious children. They didn’t get to utter their first cries or say their first words, or annoy people in the grocery store with their fussing. They’ve touched their parents’ lives forever, but risk being forgotten by everyone else. There’s no fate worse than that.
We Beyond the Bump members decided to each do something special to remember Maya on the anniversary of her arrival and departure from this world. My gesture had some interesting results, which I felt should be shared.
I’m an extremely introverted person, and I don’t even like spending time with large groups of people I know. But for some reason, I knew that I had to give away 12 beautiful pink roses to strangers, one representing each month that’s passed since Maya left us. I’ve honestly been dreading this for days. It’s totally outside my comfort zone. I kept telling myself that I should just plant something in my yard, or spell MAYA in stones on the shore of a pond, or something similarly “easy” for me. But somehow that didn’t feel right. I decided to attach a small note to each rose to let people know that Maya had existed. This afternoon, I picked up a dozen huge pale pink roses. I used a string of pearl beads to attach to each a tag that had a portion of the poem “Little Snowdrop.” The verse I chose reads, “Every life that ever forms, Or ever comes to be, Touches the world in some small way, For all eternity.” I didn’t get a decent photo of the bouquet, unfortunately, due to a shortage of free hands.
Then I took my daughter to the mall. I thought about going to a coffee shop, but I only know of a few Starbucks, and I had no idea if there’d even be a dozen people inside at this time on a Thursday. So instead I decided to try the Barnes & Noble bookstore at our mall. It’s the only bookstore left in the area. With my daughter in a stroller, I marched up to total strangers, mostly women with small children, older women, and a few young men who seemed totally uncomfortable being approached, and asked them if they’d like a flower. Most men said “No,” even after I assured them that I wasn’t asking for anything. That’s fine, and I expected it. But the women all accepted, and generally had very similar responses. They’d look at my daughter silently for a few moments, and then tell me what a wonderful thing I was doing. One older woman told me with tears in her eyes that her daughter had just lost a baby two months ago. Another woman with a young toddler in a stroller told me that she’d nearly lost her daughter Mia. Two childless young women laughed when I offered them flowers and asked me if I was tired of carrying them, but then became silent when I explained to them what I was doing. They thanked me awkwardly, and I left them to recover from the unexpectedly somber mood I must have instilled in them. As I left the store with a single rose (I’d planned to press it and keep it in my daughter’s memory book, to help keep Maya’s memory alive), the first young man who’d rejected my offer, all dressed in black and covered in tattoos, ran up behind me and asked me what the flowers were for. I told him simply that a friend’s baby had passed away a year ago, and I was trying to help her to touch peoples’ lives because she was no longer here to do so herself. He went silent for a moment, like everyone else, but then asked if he could have that last rose. Of course, I was happy to give it to him. He looked pretty ridiculous clinging to a pink rose, and he may have only wanted a free flower to give to a girl later today, but I got the impression that he wanted the rose because of what it signified.
Maya was here, and she forced me to do something terrifying but kind. She surprised a dozen people at a bookstore and will brighten their homes for a few days. She made people stop and think about what it means to be here on this crowded planet together, and that’s much more important than avoiding the things that make us uncomfortable.