I have a memory. I am about seven or eight years old and my brothers and I are crowded into the family station wagon with my parents. The moment is tense and panicked. I remember my mother saying that her water broke. The memory ends.
I had always assumed that this was when my youngest brother was born. I would have been seven and a half years old. I later found out that my brothers (Dan and John) and I had a babysitter watch us at our house while my father drove my mother to the hospital when she was in labor with Patrick, my youngest brother.
When I was in college, my mother told me that she had lost a baby after Patrick was born. (I'll use the word lost here in this post seeing as it is the universal terminology most commonly used. In my speaking of Abbey or other babies that have passed away, I try not to use that word. I don't really have a good explanation as to why I don't like it.) She had been about four and a half months along when she was brought to the hospital in labor. Enter my memory of being in the car.
Back in 1981, they did not try to stop early labor or give your baby a chance. My mom was medicated to the point of unconsciousness and awoke to discover that her baby was gone. Back in 1981, they did not tell you if you had a boy or a girl. They did not perform any testing in order to determine a cause. There were no social workers to offer books and resources . Doctors and nurses told you to stop crying, that you are young and you can always have more children later. If you named your baby, you kept it to yourself.
I am 36 years old and 1981 doesn't seem all that long ago, seeing as it occurred in my lifetime, but it is miles and miles and miles away from where we are now. Although, we (all of us) still have a ways to go.
We keep a picture of Abbey in our bedroom and her baby sampler (handmade by Grammy) hangs in the upstairs hall. We don't try to hide the fact that she existed. The girls have taken many trips with us to the cemetery and know, as well as a two year old can, that they have a big sister Abbey. And that's what they call her, "Big sister Abbey."
I've never had a game plan as to how I would tell the girls about her and why she isn't here. It's weird but I don't remember ever really giving it much thought. I just figured that they would always know that they had a sister and as they grew to understand life and death, they would ask us questions. Of course, the only answer I can give is that she is angel and we don't really know why.