It was two months since I’d left the house; three months since Louanna died. The pain was bad enough without people avoiding me and whispering behind my back. “Shhh,” I’d hear as I entered a room or, “shhh,” as someone blurted that a friend was expecting.
I knew they meant well but they acted so weird. Their eyes would shift all over the place and they’d hold a superficial conversation before scurrying away. It was the same at church … and the ladies group … and the floral group … so I stopped going.
Louanna lived, I wanted to shout. She was a person; she was born and she lived for sixty-three days. She had a name and a personality and feelings. She responded to my touch and I loved her.
Matthew did his best to coax me out. “Let’s go for a walk, Janie. We can stop in for coffee on the way back.”
I refused every time. “I’m not ready. Leave me alone.”
The hours blurred into each other, a patchwork of grief as I drifted from housework to Louanna’s nursery to the garden. Matthew cooked each night and although I was exhausted, sleep wouldn’t come.
A loud knock roused me from dark thoughts. Pulling myself off the couch, I walked slowly to the door.
“Janie! It’s so good to see you.”
I sorted through muddled thoughts. It was a lady from church whose baby was born shortly after Louanna. I’d always thought of her as a gypsy. She favoured tie-dye outfits and wore her long ginger hair in a braid past her waist.
“Hold Seth while I get my bags from the car.”
She pressed her baby into my arms and vanished down the path. He felt warm as he snuggled against my chest; a sensation I’d yearned for and yet it felt wrong. He wasn’t mine.
“I’m Josie by the way.” She reappeared, laden with a diaper bag and a large square box. “Matthew said I’d find you at home. I hope you don’t mind me dropping in but I thought we could do some scrapbooking together.”
I was shocked into silence. After weeks of people avoiding me and shushing their children, this woman breezed into my home and dumped her baby into my arms. Didn’t she know what had happened?
A few minutes later, Seth was in his babyseat, napping, and Josie was unpacking supplies. “This is for you.” She handed me a large square scrapbook with a soft pink cover.
“I’ve never scrapbooked before.”
“You’ve done flower arranging. You’re artistic.”
“So what are we scrapbooking?”
Her eyes softened from sparkling green to muted jade. “A memory book for Louanna.”
My heart froze and leapt at the same time. Someone was acknowledging my baby?
Josie reached over and squeezed my hand. “Matthew had a complete set of photos printed so we can use whichever ones you want to in the scrapbook.”
Matthew knew about this?
Josie set out the photos, card stock and embellishments, talking all the while. “There’s ten pages in the album but we can add more if you want to. Now where would you like to start?”
If I could have plucked my heart out, I’m sure it would have been gashed and gouged, bruised and crushed, but for the first time in months, a tremor of life ran through it.
“Can we start with her birth?”
Josie flicked her braid aside as we sorted through the pictures. “She was a gorgeous baby.” she commented. “Look at those tiny fingers … and I think she had your eyes.”
The page began to take shape and with Josie’s guidance, I added some ribbons and frames and stenciled in Louanna’s date of birth. It was almost done when Seth stirred. “Would you mind picking him up, Janie? I’m covered in glue.”
The baby settled as I held him and the delicate scent of baby powder touched my senses. In response, my breasts started to tingle and leak and the wetness spread to my eyes. “Why would you do this?” I asked Josie. “My friends have gone silent and don’t even mention Louanna.”
Josie’s eyes clouded as stroked Seth’s cheek. “I know how you feel – the way people stop talking around you and tell their children to shhh. My first born died from SIDS at three weeks.”
I look at her baby in my arms, at the life and vibrancy she exudes, and for a brief moment, I sense hope skittering across my heart.
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