Aurora’s tree.
August 16, 2011

We have an apple tree for our first child.  I find immense solace in this tree.  I talk to it.  I tell it stories and I sing it songs and when I brought Charlotte home from the hospital, I took her out in a soft pink blanket to meet the tree.

Sometimes I feel silly about it, talking to a tree.  I wonder if I’ve lost my mind.  I feel anger at the tree for being alive while my child is not.  I feel guilt for giving the tree more love than I had a chance to give my child.  And then I feel gratitude that there is still this thing of beauty in my life, this tree, even if my child is gone.  I watch it grow, every season, watch it produce tiny round apples and I treat each one like a metaphor.  This apple represents all the chalk drawings that will never be.  That apple represents all the sleepovers.  They are precious to me, these apples.  The fruits of my child’s spirit.

During the heat wave this summer, the apple tree put too much energy into a second flowering and then it began to wilt and its leaves began to burn.  Every day, I have stood beside it, tracing my fingers along its trunk, delivering water to its roots, missing my child, willing this tree to heal.  I like to think that the tree and I, we are strong together and we are weak together.  I know every knob on this tree, every bud, every branch, every wayward spiderweb, like the back of my hand.  Like a piece of my soul.  For weeks, I wondered what was wrong, why the tree was suffering this way.  When we lost the baby, I thought maybe the tree knew and was mourning?  It seems impossible - a tree isn’t cognizant the way I am, the way you are - but it makes sense to me.  The last few days, I’ve come to this tree and my legs have quivered and my voice has shook and I’ve thought: Let’s be strong together again.

Yesterday, I saw a new leaf on the tree, soft and green and plump.  The tree is healing and growing anew.  Maybe my babies are together again, I thought.  And it seems so small and so fragile right now, this new life on the tree, but it made me smile.  It made me heal a little too.

After we lost our first child, someone told me a story.  In the story, souls search endlessly for the perfect parents and only then, when the right match has been selected, does a woman find herself pregnant with a baby, with a pure soul.  I hate that story, hate that it discounts adopted children, that it overlooks the fact that many good people are left childless.  But in the moments when I think my lungs are closing and the world is spinning, I fall back on this story.  Maybe our children chose us, I think, because they knew we would give them a lifetime of love in the short time they had with us.  And maybe Charlotte chose us because she knew we would wither away without her to still our hearts.

For me, the hardest part of losing a baby is picking the tree.  It isn’t the physical pain or the questions or explaining this loss to my daughter.  It isn’t the voicemails from people checking in on us.  It isn’t the clusters of elastic tissue pouring out of my body or the darkness that fills my mind or the overwhelming and boundless exhaustion.  It isn’t the grim, mournful tone in the doctor’s voice.  It isn’t waking up in a pool of blood, feeling it wet against my thighs and trickling up my back, knowing all hope is lost.  It isn’t the angst I feel for letting other people mother my daughter for a few days, when I am too weak to lift her, too weak to keep up.  It isn’t even that awful moment when I realize that everyone around me is full of life while life is literally draining out of my body.

It’s picking the tree, because it has to be the perfect tree.  It is a living coffin, this tree, destined to carry every memory my child does not have a chance to create.  It has to grow, like my child would.  Its blossoms have to stun me, like my child would.  It has to be beautiful, because I know that my child was.  It has to have a trunk I can lean against when I feel hopeless and weak.  It has to lift me up.  It has to make me smile.  It has to remind me of my husband, so that I see him in it.  From the day that tree comes home until the day that one of us dies, this tree is my baby.  I give that tree everything I could not give my child, and so I need it to speak to me.  This tree will be part of our family.  It will have the spot closest to our home.  Charlotte will pick the fruit from its limbs, will press its leaves into art projects, will help me nurture it as she would help me nurture her sibling.  To my mind it’s just a tree, just sap and bark and photosynthesis, but to my heart this is very important: it has to be the right one.

This time I am thinking about a pomegranate tree.  Red is such a happy color.


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  1. By on August 16, 2011

    After holding my little one in my arms, whispering sweet prayers in her ear and gently running my fingers through her soft hair as she nodded off to sleep, I read this post.  How precious life is, Sarah, and what a beautiful way to remember, if only through a tree, what your little girl will always be to you. 

    Thank you for reminding us to not take one second of our children’s lives for granted.

    I think I’ll go cradle my baby in my arms just a moment more…

  2. By on August 16, 2011

    hugging you

  3. By Sarah on August 16, 2011

    you are phenomenal.

  4. By Moira on August 16, 2011

    I did something similar for my first born Holly Who came into this world in the year 2000 at 24 weeks but didn’t stay in this world.

    Whatever you choose will be wonderful and perfect

    Hugs xx

  5. By Moira on August 16, 2011

    I did do it for the two babies I lost from my triplet pregnancy .... I think Rory my miracle who survived is here for all of them.

    Ok in tears now!!

    Thinking about you. Your words are so beautiful

    X

  6. By Ashley Austrew on August 16, 2011

    This is achingly beautiful.

  7. By Wendy Irene on August 16, 2011

    sending you love and hugs and prayers to find the perfect tree.

  8. By Amira on August 16, 2011

    As Ashley said, this is achingly beautiful. So very beautiful. I know you’ll find the perfect tree, unique for all that you seek out of it.

  9. By on August 16, 2011

    My heart aches for you.

  10. By Stephanie on August 16, 2011

    My heart is aching for you. May the tree you choose grow strong and beautiful.

  11. By Kristina on August 16, 2011

    Oh my gosh, this is so powerfully beautiful.  Thank you so much for opening up to us and letting us know what you’re going through, and how.  Sending much postive energy your way.

  12. By Tara on August 16, 2011

    Beautiful.

    Blessings,
    Tara

  13. By kbreints on August 16, 2011

    What a beautiful tribute.

  14. By Cynthia A on August 16, 2011

    Sarah, my heart hurts for you.  Your love is truely beautiful though and Aurora knows it.  I am sure the tree will be perfect.  Much love <3

  15. By Kim on August 16, 2011

    We have a Flowering Fruitless Crabapple that some friends gave us when Emma died.  We didn’t have a home to plant it, so it is planted in my brother’s yard. I now live thousands of miles from the tree and from where she is buried and it is hard. I understand the need to have a place to remember these sweet souls.

    I like that story you shared.  And the way I would interpret it for adoption is that these souls knew the path they needed to take to get to their families.  All adoptive parents I have spoken to have said that when they met their child, they just knew.  I think it is their souls talking to each other and rejoicing that they found eachother.

    Ok, enough rambling.  I have been thinking so much of you and your sweet family.  Praying for healing…

  16. By Megan R. on August 16, 2011

    so very touching…

  17. By on August 16, 2011

    Thinking of you and your family and the family of that boy. 

    It may be pessimistic of me, but when things get tough for me my motto is ‘it could always be worse.‘  It reminds me that I am lucky in so many ways, that there are others out there struggling and that it can and will get better. 

    Your post about how you told Charlotte was so very touching, my husband and I both wept.  Hang in there.

  18. By on August 16, 2011

    Sarah - Beautiful. You are amazing and inspiring. A pomegranate tree would be just right.

  19. By Molly on August 16, 2011

    Red is happy.
    You deserve some red.

    Love to you.

  20. By Katie on August 16, 2011

    Stunning. I know you will find the perfect tree.

  21. By Krista on August 17, 2011

    my heart aches for you and yet I’m still impressed by the poignant way you string words together and share your stories. So beautiful.

  22. By on August 17, 2011

    I love the way you write. You can try out some australian baby clothes for your baby.

  23. By Christy / Thrifty Vintage Kitten on August 17, 2011

    Even though I don’t know you, I want to hug you. From one mother to another.

  24. By Carolina Baker on August 17, 2011

    thank you for your passion. its so alive.

  25. By tara pollard pakosta on August 17, 2011

    my heart is breaking for you.
    Nobody should have to go through this once, let alone twice. I am so happy that you have Charlotte to love.

    tara

  26. By on August 18, 2011

    i am sending you a hug, too. a big one. really.

    we have two pomegranate trees in our garden. since it isn’t the best climate for them, they don’t have fruits and their flowers fall quite early.
    alice picks them up and always says:
    “joli arbre, jolie fleur. rouge ! joli, rouge ! coeur !“

    the shape and color of the fallen flowers remind her of hearts..

  27. By on August 18, 2011

    So sorry for your loss Sarah. Much love to your family.

  28. By on August 21, 2011

    At my mother’s house, she has a beautiful butterfly bush where we buried my twin bother and sister 14 years ago, lost early in the second trimester. It is still her favorite and a beautiful memorial. Praying that your little girl can help to heal your and your husband’s hearts just a bit.

  29. By Jaimey on August 21, 2011

    When I read your update on FB I knew I had to rush over here, but I couldn’t. I knew what you would say would bring me to my knees and make me think about my Angel baby Jonathan and all that I went through with him. I was right. I sit here sobbing, attempting to type through tears to say I know that pain. I know that heart break and I understand. I have a purple plum for Jonathan. Hugs Mama! You are amazing in your strength and words.

  30. By Nilu on August 23, 2011

    I know it may not be helpful to say “I know exactly how you feel” because every one has their own pain and nothing can compare. But at least I want to tell you Sarah, that I am thinking about you, wishing only the best and have experienced similar tragedies myself.
    A pomegranate tree is sweet. I got one too, a very little one. One can’t eat it’s fruits anytime soon, but I tell you the little pomegranates shine in sun in the most fiery red. What a good color for a little one named after the sunrise!

  31. By on October 04, 2012

    Beautiful post Sara!  This is moving.  Thanks for sharing your very personal heartache. By doing so, you become an encourager to people going through similar situations. 

    Charlotte is such a blessing.  She is also blessed to have a mom who knows how precious (and fleeting) life is, and to take advantage of every moment you have with her.  You’re a good mom.

    PS: I think you should submit this to some writing contest or magazine, etc.  It’s very moving and powerful.  And, it captures people. You have a gift for writing.


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