Missing the Echo

When Autumn was born, suddenly there were echoes of her sisters surrounding me. Close parallels, repetitions, deja vus of the last two times I gave birth, with an intensely different outcome.  Or is Autumn the echo of those experiences?

My body bleeds, shedding the remains of my uterus.  It was torture to endure the physical postpartum symptoms, for weeks, with no baby at home.  My heart was bleeding simultaneously, shredded and lying in raw pieces.  Now I look at the physical aspect of postpartum and remember with pain the last two times I had to endure this.  The last time my body went through the ritual cleansing after having released a baby. 

My body lactates, the echo of when my body purposefully produced milk and I had no babies.  Swollen and painful and frantically trying to suppress milk with sage and frozen cabbage leaves. Now I welcome the milk’s nourishment, but cannot forget those moments spent in the shower, trying to hand express milk to reduce engorgement, crying over the unfairness of lactating when I had no baby. 

There are cards received in the mail. Meals delivered.  Twice in sumpathy, once in congratulations but that’s what people do: they send cards and food. 

I set up the nursery today.  I had set up a nursery for Nelle. Same dresser.  There were clothes that I unpacked, clothes that had been gifts for Nelle. Tags still on them.  Unworn.  A reversal of when those clothes had to be packed up and put away.  That room was supposed to be Nelle’s nursery. Then Iris’s nursery. Now Autumn’s nursery.

There were stuffed animals, also gifts, that felt even more personally like they belonged to Nelle. One was a pink Ugly Doll.    Each pregnancy, I bought my baby an Ugly Doll. Theo has one. Quentin had one. Nelle had one.  There was also a stuffed dog, an early gift from someone; I can’t even remember.  Do they belong to Nelle?  Or do they belong to Autumn?  Tears stung my eyes as those items came to light after so long in storage.  It was such a strong emotional reaction to what those clothes meant and who they were for.  They were not for Autumn. They were for Nelle.  They should have been worn before now: hand-me-downs instead of tags intact.

And now there are photos.  The only photos that all three share are ultrasound photos. Now Autumn is here and I take dozens of pictures every day, trying to capture every tiny facial expression and movement of the baby in front of me.  I have already replaced the framed ultrasound photo with a newborn picture of her sleeping.  She is so much more than an echo: she is a manifestation of her sisters, giving me a face where I previously could not picture my babies.