By Deb Scott
I have to tell you my secret fast or I won’t tell it to you at all.
It is a secret that few people know, even all of you who think you know me.
Even my family, the ones who were there don’t know. I mean they know but I think they don’t let themselves remember.
The secret is about my daughter. My baby who died.
Her heart was quite broken. Mine was damaged beyond repair.
Shawnti Morningstar, a universe of stars swimming in deep blue baby eyes.
On that day, the last day, I saw her still alive.
Blue eyes open and no more machines, tubes gone, nothing beeping in her sweet ears.
Someone said, “We’ve done all we know how to do, let’s see how she does on her own.”
Two hours later. My mother calls me to the phone.
The hospital says hurry…hurry… hurry…
It takes an hour to get there.
My mother doesn’t come.
Our friends drive us. Fast.
But I know she is gone, even a too young mother like me knows this.
We wait in a quiet room. Soft chairs, fake flowers.
We, the soon to be grieving comfortably hidden from those still holding out for hope.
Young man doctor, almost as young as me, drops the news.
Loud, loud, loud silence.
“Do you want to see her?”
Oh God No.
The word ‘no’ floats from my mouth. That was the only word I had.
Her father follows the doctor. I want to scream but am unable.
I vision a drawer pulled open, a white sheet pulled back.
Blank eyes, deep blue shining star gone, gone, gone.
I retreat so fast and deep, I don’t realize I have left.
Back home I watch from the ceiling as my body whispers, cries.
I have lingered too long over these details.
I have run out of time for secret telling.
One more try.
I pass my mother at the linen closet; I keep bleeding my grief onto the sheets.
“We can mortgage the house for the funeral,” she says.
I don’t know why. I will never know why.
These are the words that shatter my mind.
What do you do with a baby’s body?
The hospital keeps calling.
What ‘arrangements’ have we made?
I can’t understand any of these words.
I’ve arranged to be crazy. Those are the only arrangements I have made.
I see myself at the welfare office.
More words are spoken at me.
I catch on the word ‘indigent.’
Catholic Family Services?
Was that what I heard?
Someone in my body says, “I want cremation.”
“Go home and wait for our call.”
Did anyone call?
I’m so sorry that I don’t know.
I beg your forgiveness for not knowing.
I can never forgive myself for not knowing.
Here it comes. Are you ready to know this about me?
If not, please stop now, delete this, turn away.
My secret is this…
I don’t know what happened to her.
I don’t know if she was buried.
I don’t know if she was burned.
I was never given a grave number to visit or a box of ashes so small you can’t breathe when you think of it.
What kind of mother doesn’t know where her baby’s remains remain?
I Am that kind of mother.
I. Don’t. Know. Where. My. Baby. Is.
For Shawnti Morningstar August 10th-August 18th, 1972
Deb Scott is a therapist and writer who works and hangs out in Portland, OR. She aspires to outwit fear and write her truth bravely. This piece was originally published in the re-launch issue of Hip Mama Magazine, Issue #54. She also is a contributor to the anthology, The People’s Apocalypse edited by Ariel Gore and Jenny Forrester.
O my God! The pain that you feel and felt is palpable!! I, as a parent, do not understand why your sill alive! I am so sorry for your deep loss! Thank you for sharing and enriching our lives with the short life of your precious child!!
after a 62 hour labor, my perfect baby boy succombed from his journey within 8 hours. i never got to say good bye … there was a beautiful service, i’m told, buti was too beat up to be able to go … i don’t know where he is … it hurts so much. thank you for sharing your secret.
Your pain is overwhelming – I feel it, but don’t want to feed it, why do our bad experiences consume us- the good days are when you can wrap yourself in “white ribbon” – shelter from the storm, find your voice – but the bad days are when the pain rips you apart, chokes you, that deep guttural desire to throw your head back & scream why, why, why – yeah the why is a bitch- mixed up, messed up, so very confused – don’t do the WHY- you won’t get the answers- perpetrators play their sick evil game of chess so well – someone told me I was beautiful today – it made me cry tears of pain, for another had so many times said I was a sick evil twisted bitch, a mental case, I was disturbed & needed help – so dazed & confused – how could that be when I had just watched him scream such horrific words at us, seen him belt& kick our dog, watched him throw garden tools at us, smash plates & cups, put holes in walls – incredible fits of rage – I doubt I was the sick one – then – today I am sickened and disgusted with myself for not fighting hard enough to say STOP NO MORE – but I stupidly still wanted to help, to save, to fix. Love & fear will do crazy things to you.
I can’t tell you how to let go of your secrets, I do know they can’t stay buried, that they always seem to rear their ugly head, I stand and support you and as someone who still hides in the shadows myself I understand that this comment will give you some small peace – to have someone say you are doing okay, you are amazing, I get you – will let you know you are human, someone who has been dealt a difficult hand but is surviving the blows – what you did was your way of coping & for your sake and mine we have to believe with time the fear, shame, torture of what has happened to us will ease – take care of you for you are someone remarkable, so stoic & true, indeed, may god bless you
I cry for you; my heart aches for you. But please find a way to forgive yourself-your baby’s soul is in Heaven-it isn’t about the body-at least that’s what I believe. In grief we don’t know what drives us to do or not do-we just go through motions and later we go through E-motions. I am so very sorry for your loss.
You are not alone.
Beautifully authentic piece.
your baby is in your heart in your mind in your body she is again a part of you. A big kiss my dear Deb. denise
What kind of Mother are you? A devastated Mother.A loving Mother.A Mother who was shattered.A Mother who can now put the pieces of herself back together and forgive herself.
Oh, Honey – no words, only hugs and love.
Love to you. My heart to yours.