This I Believe

Sasha - St. Paul, Minnesota
Entered on September 20, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: change

I believe you can’t write the birth plan.

When my best friend gave birth to her daughter, she was disappointed things hadn’t gone according to her birth plan. An emergency C-section had denied her the chance to try natural childbirth. She complained, “It was like training for a marathon I never got to run!” But her baby was a glorious chubby pink 10-pounder. “Just put her in a plaid skirt and she’s ready for kindergarten,” I teased.

I didn’t say what I really thought, “You’re both alive.”

I had just gotten a piece of mail from Massachusetts. It contained a slip of paper about another 29-year old mother.

Mary Agnes , pregnant with her seventh child, had slipped and fallen in the winter of 1920. “Exhaustion” explained the death certificate. Her uterus hemorrhaged and the child inside suffocated.

Mary Agnes’ husband couldn’t bear up. He took his four daughters to his aunt’s house and disappeared.

The eldest girl was ten. A shy, careful girl with green eyes. She was named for her mother and was there to see her fall.

Mary Agnes didn’t get to finish school. She turned over her paychecks to her aunt. After the aunt died, Mary Agnes raised her sisters, insisting they finish school.

When the Great Depression finally ended, Mary Agnes married a neighbor, packed up her youngest sister and moved as far away from Boston as she could: to Seattle.

There she grew roses. She had a daughter and son. Then grandchildren.

Last week I called Granny from the Boston train station. “Bless your heart,” she said. She still says “hart” with her Boston accent. She’s 96.

I took the train to a tidy suburb and walked until I came to a stonewalled cemetery.

There was no gravestone for her mother.

I took the dozen white roses bought at the train station and laid them on the grass.

“We found you.” I said. It was her first bouquet in 86 years.

How different life might have been. That fall. Her motherless children.

It was a time before birth plans. When life often didn’t go according to plan.