A little more than a year earlier, in early March 1968, Molly Green was informed that her C-section had been cancelled. The ruddy-faced nurse, who smelled vaguely of cigarettes and sweat, explained that due to a lack of open beds they would have to reschedule. “Just head home love,” she said, a touch too tersely, “we will call you the minute something opens up.”
“How does this happen? It’s been booked for months.”
The nurse shot her a tired, doleful look and shrugged her shoulders. “Budget cuts, staff shortages, emergencies…”
“The labor dispute?”
“Ms. Green, I assure you, everything is going to be OK. Our maternity unit is filled to capacity right now. We are only going to delay the delivery by 24 hours.”
Molly cupped her hands around her distended stomach and whispered to her unborn child that he needed to be patient for just a little while longer. She smiled gently when a tiny foot pressed against her palm. On the way back to the car she mused that maybe the unexpected delay was a good sign, they had a few more hours together before she had to share him with the world.
At 9:43 PM she telephoned the hospital. “Something is wrong,” she told them. “The pain started shortly after we got home and has been getting progressively worse.”
“From what you’ve described Ms. Green,” the cold voice on the other end of the line told her, “it sounds like false labor.”
At 5:12 AM, when she could no longer feel the baby moving, Molly returned to the hospital and was informed that her child had died.
“We can take you to surgery straight away and remove-“
“No,” she whispered. “You can’t have him.” She wrapped her arms protectively around her belly and turned away. “This is my baby boy.”
Molly took her time to say good-bye. She spent another full day with her departed child, alone and lamenting. She named him Gabriel, sang to him and told him that he was loved, in God’s arms now, safe, where he belonged. She cradled him and cried until she was dry.
The following day, when his spirit was no longer with her, she returned to the hospital and told them to “get it out of me.”
There were no repercussions. The hospital expressed their regret and Molly accepted their apology with her usual grace. If it was God’s will that she was not supposed to have any more children then who was she to argue?
The letting go was not easy. There were many moments of uncertainty and bottomless grief, when she questioned God’s plan and felt her faith slipping away, moments when she felt forsaken and utterly lost. She spent a lot of time in church, asking forgiveness for doubting His wisdom, His intention, praying for understanding and patience. Her reconciliation came, in silent whispers from above, from the calm peace that settled over her heart, and in the knowledge that she was but a servant.
But Molly Green was not infallible. She still needed someone to blame. Gabriel’s father took the brunt of her grief, unwarranted and unkind, until their relationship deteriorated in the wake of her misplaced anger. He should have listened when she said that something was wrong. He should have demanded the hospital perform the C-section. He should have done something, anything, to prevent the tragedy. The distance between them grew. He took up permanent residence on the sofa and turned to the bottle to drown his sorrows.
Molly found further solace in the two children she already had, two year old Aaron and five year old Helen, who were gifts from above that she had never cherished enough. They were the chosen ones, the ones who had lived. She found herself sparing no expense in their rearing. They would want for nothing in this life, know that they were loved and resided in God’s favor and they would never go without. Her overindulgence in their every want and whim would bring the family to the brink of bankruptcy.
As the days slowly turned to months, Molly began to recover from her loss. Gabriel’s memory turned from flashing pain to a dull ache to a tender sorrow, a smile and an absentminded caress of her flat tummy. She caught herself reveling in the simple joy of autumn leaves dancing in a cool breeze. “Winter is coming,” she whispered to the wind. Winter meant spring would follow, new beginnings, hope.
The first snow came late that year and with a vengeance. In early November, she awoke to a world blanketed in walls of white, three feet deep in places, claustrophobic and impenetrable, unwelcome. But, it was not the crush of the snow that strangled her breath from her lungs and caused her knees to buckle, it was the bitter realization that she was pregnant again.
Molly Green was my mother.
I was born on July 10th 1969, 16 months to the day that my brother Gabriel died in her womb.