Thursday, January 8, 2009

Unnecessary, the Way You Pour Salt into the Hole Where My Heart Once Was

"Her skin didn't fit."
If you were to ask my grandmother to describe me as a child, that is what she would say. Apparently, I was a teeny-tiny peanut and I had more skin than I could fill out. (Boy how things change with time, right?!?)

I secretly hoped, as I grew into my skin, that the look of my hands would change. I always hated my hands. Short, stubby fingers and palms with creases and wrinkles so abundant, any elephant would be proud. (If you don't believe me, just zoom in on that picture!) I don't think anyone ever really knew just how self-conscious my hands made me feel.

But that changed when Victoria was born. My first child had my hands. Hers were identical to mine, completely creased and wrinkly. As I think back, I am certain no hands have ever been more beautiful. I have grown to love my hands. Not because they are mine, but because they are hers.

I recently learned that New Jersey does not consider a stillborn infant to be a person. You suck Jersey, you suck bigtime. Let me tell you how I know a stillborn infant is a person.

I felt my daughter grow and kick inside of me for 8 months. I labored and delivered my firstborn with no pain medication of any kind. I can assure you she made her presence known with every contraction, with every moment of her journey into this world.

A head full of jet black hair. Tiny toes. Precious little ears. Wrinkled palms. Absolute perfection.

Her father bathed her. He took her handprints, and footprints. He trimmed a piece of her hair. It was the only haircut she would ever have, that's true. But how do you trim the hair of a child who never existed? We dressed her, we held her, we rocked her.

Later, the nurse came and took her from us. Took our firstborn child to the morgue to be exact. I thought I might vomit. The next morning when they brought her back to us, I was on the verge of sheer panic. She was wrapped completely and I just kept saying, "She can't breathe, she can't breathe, unwrap her." I felt my motherly instincts kicking in full-force.

Unfortunately, the hits just kept coming for quite some time. You leave the hospital without your baby. Your milk comes in, because for all your physical body knows, you have a child to feed. But, your heart knows all to well that there is no baby to nurse. And, you have to bury this infant, this little tiny person that up until just days before, you thought God had entrusted into your care.

Her grandparents held her, she was the first grandchild. When she was flown to Mississippi, her great-grandfather stood waiting for her on the tarmac with a police escort so her little body would not be alone. Her great-grandparents gave her a "spot" in the cemetery right beside her uncle. Loved ones and friends gathered, releasing balloons and giving comfort. My brothers carried their niece's casket to its "spot".

None of our hurt was in vain. Neither you, New Jersey, nor any other entity can tell me my child was not a person! Well, I guess you can tell me, but I will never hear you.

In 1996, when Victoria was born, we left the hospital without any paperwork confirming our child's existence. I know, without doubt, that only added to our pain and suffering.
Twelve years later, I don't really feel the need for any type of paper confirmation, but in the moment, in those darkest of hours, parents desperately need some validation. It is a matter of respect and dignity. You understand that no piece of paper will ever bring your child back, but to have the chance to hold something, to see her name on an official document, would have made me feel less crazy... in the moment... less like I had to prove to everyone how much she mattered.

A child born at 19 weeks, "pre-viability", that is miraculously able to take just one single breath, is counted in our infant mortality rates, and the parents are given documentation showing this child existed. A child born at 40 weeks, who dies one millisecond prior to exiting the birth canal, is considered to be a fetus. This infant may be fully developed, weighing nine pounds, but will not be considered a real person. In many states, the parents are given no record of the child's birth/death. These babies are not included in our infant mortality rates.

Thankfully, due to the efforts of the MISS foundation, many states now provide parents with a "Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth". This is an honorable organization, working relentlessly to help ease the suffering of parents whose children are born still. MISS works to bring peace to families who have no opportunity to share a future and make memories (in this life) with their child, sibling, or grandchild.

Unfortunately, there are several states choosing instead to make this a political matter. Needless to say, that absolutely disgusts me. New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, vetoed his state's proposal of the MISSing Angels Bill, even though it passed with near unanimous votes. Not surprisingly, this happened in 2007, as he was beginning his bid for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

Planned Parenthood of New Mexico objected, as did state chapters of NOW, NARAL ProChoice America, and the ACLU. Richardson had to show just exactly how pro-choice he is. He had to gain the support of these groups. He did so at the expense of innocent fathers and mothers. A spokesperson for NOW had this to say:"We're always concerned about measures that elevate legal status of the fetus."

So there you have it. In New Mexico, and many other states, grieving parents who leave hospitals without their babies will not be given a simple piece of paper that states: "Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth". Oddly enough, New Jersey issues the certificates, but they don't consider stillborn infants to be human.

My daughter was BORN. She was STILL. And, there was piercing SILENCE. But she was born, nonetheless. She was and is real. My heart knows, my mind knows, my memories know. But as time passes, if I ever begin to doubt, I'll just take a look at my hands.

32 comments:

karen said...

Thank you for sharing that. I had no idea, but I'll educate myself further on how my state stands on the issue. I can't imagine too many things more heartbreaking than to love and plan for a child for 9 months, and then have it's very existence virtually wiped out and denied when nature goes awry. We don't forget them. Not ever.

shahna said...

That was wonderful. You are so articulate. I love reading your entries.

I saw pictures of Victoria. You showed them to me. Brent touched her as he and Jared gave her a blessing...and a name. I know she was real. I know she was beautiful. I will never forget her sweet little red lips. Do you remember them?

RitterB's said...

Once again my dear friend I sit in awe. Awe of your knowledge. Awe in your life lessons. Awe in your mothering. Awe in your Courage.

Shauna said...

I sit here in tears, What a wonderful post. I spent some time yesterday with sweet sister whom at 25 weeks gave birth her first child a son, whom she found out the week before had no heart beat. The pain and agony is enough...let alone to deny they really existed.
It makes me fueled with anger, because how dare they....as if you wonderful mothers of these choice children haven't been through enough. I pray for you and the other mothers whom inspire me with there courage and strength.

Carly said...

Thank you so much, you are always so articulate. It's terrible how those who want validation for doing terrible things trample on the innocent in their rush to play the victim card. I wish every state legislature would read this post, even if only to understand that for every person screaming they can choose not to be a parent (despite their actions creating the baby in the first place) there is at least 1 family grieving to have a much wanted baby back again who truly deserve comfort.

KC Mom said...

I've never had any doubt that Victoria was real..a real baby. I can't believe anyone could ever argue with that.
I've always thought you are one of the strongest, most articulate people I know. You have a voice that can be heard and will be invaluable in this cause. I know you will be reunited with your dear sweet child and she will indeed testify to you...that she was and is very much real.
I love you, I admire you, I ache for you and I get angry for you over this. I really think you need to send this post in a letter to MISS for them to use, and to all the politicians who don't know what they're talking about. I don't think it's right that they can deny sweet, mourning parents the right to believe in and acknowledge their children. I'm praying for you.

Angie said...

What an amazing post. Thank your for sharing.

Valsy said...

Sister Girl
I have done some MISS work, on one of those "rides" with someone that you take. We went and got the baby out of the morgue, which was no easy task--administratively. We took pictures, and wrapped the baby in a blanket so that her smell would stay in the material for the mother to have. I held this little child, in her imperfect body, cuddling her lovingly in my hands. I don't care who you are or what political leanings you have. When you hold these children, you know they are real. We put all of her little things in a sweet ribboned box and took them to her grieving mother. It is a precious moment that I was honored to be a part of and never will be sorry I did. We got the chance to hold her when her own parents did not. Perhaps this is a work for you girl. :) You have the voice and heart for it.
Valsy

mom said...

That little "person" touched more lives in one precious moment that most "people" touch in an entire lifetime.
I love you...your strength and your story breathes life into all who know you.

Adrianne Kelley said...

I love that you passed those beautiful, soft hands on to your precious children. I love to hold your sweet children's hands in mine and know they are yours. When we were little girls, I loved to hold your hand....no one else's hands felt like Natalie's hands (except Nathan) :). They were beautiful then and have become more beautiful with time. I remember Victoria's sweet little hands, her Mommy's hands. I love you.

Browns said...

Nat, thank you for sharing that. Our first was and is REAL. Not a day goes by that I dont think of our little one and that, one day, we will be able to touch and hold her hands. Thank you for vocalizing what so many of us feel. It is UNTHINKABLE that some "suck" soooo bad. Sometimes it seems beyond words, but you brought it home.
THANK YOU!

Laretha Hulse said...

Hi, our mutual friend Shauna sent me to your blog. She knew I would love it and she was right.

I am sorry for your loss and proud of your passion to see something so wrong made right.

I am unapologetically pro-life and there is no doubt your Victoria was a real person.

I also read some of your other posts and can I just say my favorite line is "I already have a Savior, what I need is a president". I just started blogging but I am sure I will use that line in the future.

Blessings to you.

mom said...

See.....you do cause great and wonderful things to happen..........

Sue said...

{{{{{{{Natalie}}}}}}}

What a heartbreaking experience for a brand new mother, made even more painful by a uniquely callous public policy. I can't imagine being denied a birth record for your little daughter. That makes no sense to me at all.

Thank you for being willing to share your very personal story. I was completely unaware of this issue and hope you will let me know if there is anything I can do to help you get these policies changed. The whole thing is just a travesty, and I am proud of those states that are validating the parenthood of bereaved mothers and fathers rather than bowing to pressures from pro choice advocates who want to protect their agenda at all costs.

emily said...

absolutely beautiful natalie. such a courageous and eloquent piece. very stirring. thank you.

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you Ms Anderson for your email on this issue and for pointing me to your blog.

We speak for them, and I will, personally, go to my own grave doing so.

My very deepest sympathy to you and your family as you mourn and miss your precious Victoria, even 12 years later.

Jan said...

Your mom forwarded me this entry from your blog. It brought tears to my eyes as I thought of the 3 infant graves I have stood by with different family members and friends--one of whom had the same condition as Victoria. They were all indeed people--whether the government will ever get that through their thick lobbyist-polluted heads or not. You honor your little girl in bringing this issue to light.

Carly said...

Thank you.

Dan and Sheila said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. It is a new experience for us it has been 1 month 3weeks 5 days since we had our baby girl taken from us here on Earth.
www.winterbottomfamily.blogspot.com

Daniel and Sheila

Chris and Rylie said...

Thank you for sharing that. 2 months ago I lost my firstborn baby girl at 41 weeks. Even though I know that a lot of people never considered her an infant or alive, I know without a doubt she was. She will always be my baby girl. How great will be the day when we can see our babies again.

With Love,

Rylie

rylieandchris.blogspot.com

Lori said...

Natalie,

You have given me great strength through all that you have endured. I believe that the moment you feel those first little flutters in your tummy, that there is a REAL LIVE HUMAN BEING growing inside you and that your Victoria was very real and I am sure she was just as beautiful as you.....little hands and all. She lives on through you. Keep standing tall and for all that you believe in. We love you!

McAtee Family said...

Thank you for sharing...I plan to take your knowledge and find a way to help those here in MO.

Caroline Call said...

I didn't realize that Victoria & Savannah shared a birthday! That is awesome. She turned 5 last week. When we come out there, you will have to show her who Victoria is! She loves cousins & she has a very unique understanding of heaven. When she was 2, she explained to me that Heavenly Father painted her eyes blue for her to look like me, and he painted her hair red to look like her daddy. I supose there was a reason that he gave you two the same hands!

Bonnie said...

I have been weeping, and still am, from reading your entries (this one in particular!) Even though we know we'll see our precious loved ones again, sometimes it seems like the time here on earth is way too long before we will get to.
Just wanted to say that you are an inspiration to me, and YOU GO, Snarky Belle!
Love,
Bonnie

Rynell said...

I had a stillborn baby. I also had a baby who lived only 5 minutes. They are just as real as the babies I am now raising. As mothers, we know this. Thank you for sharing this post.

Kirk said...

I have never read a post that touched me in this way. I thank you for your courage for writing such tender things. i got a lump in my throat as I thought of how different my life would be if our trips to the hospital would have been like yours. Tomorrow i will look at my small babies differently and treasure them even more. Thank you Victoria.

New Mexico Missing Angels said...

thank you. your words ring as true as a bell for me. my son, Jesper, was born still at 41 wks 3 days in 2003.

the death of my son did far more than break my heart. my heart has been broken before, it mends. Jesper's death shattered my soul. i will never get all the pieces of it back. but i can live with that because those missing pieces belong to my firstborn son.

to this day, i am offended by the way my state has treated my son's existence. i am from new mexico. i am one of the mothers who worked on the 2007 bill that was vetoed. i was shocked and hurt and supremely pissed off that it was vetoed. and now we have to (or maybe 'get to') do it again. and face the same uncomprehending governor with our hearts in our hands, and hope, this time, he does not squash them flat.

thank you. --Halo

Mommy (You can call me OM) said...

In November, I delivered my baby, E, at 20 weeks gestation. She was and will always be my baby girl. At the hospital, I didn't think much about the absence of a birth certificate. I couldn't think about anything except "I want my baby."
Now that the shock has subsided some, I'm questioning why my baby wasn't issued a certificate. I gave birth to her. I remember that quite clearly.
I'll need to do some research on my own, but what is the law/policy in Minnesota on this issue?

williamsmommy2005 said...

this was an amazing post and brought tears to my eyes. My heart breaks for your loss, but you are absolutely right, she is real.. no one can take that. my sister was a stillborn and to this day it kills my mom, she still has her ashes and I doubt she will ever truly be able to release them as she's said she wants to. as a mom myself I could not imagine going through this..

Krystyn said...

Natalie
Your Victoria is a child. I can't even begin to imagine your sense of loss and then the state saying there was no baby. She will never be forgotten.

How can an idea like that even ever come to fruition? I don't understand.

Our Family said...

Such beautiful words. You said the things that have been beating in my heart for two months since my beautiful boy was born still. The deafening silence still plays in my mind and heart. Peace has come also but it is good to hear my thoughts on screen.

Heather Ganson said...

Oh Natalie, I am so sorry. I can't imagine. I stumbled my way to your blog from facebook and can't stop reading. You are a tremendous writer and I appreciate your thoughts. (and that personality!) It is remarkable to see your strength and the woman you have become. It seems that life has dealt you a few scars and yet, you are all the more beautiful and dynamic for it. I, too, will think of your Victoria on her birthday. Thank you for sharing.