Time is the anomaly within eternity.
Where we get to be together.
Coming out of me, stillborn.
Still born into eternity.
When I first found out I was pregnant I shouted so loudly that my father thought I was having an emergency. In those early nights, I would stare at stars and think about how you were manifesting. The starlight was letting me see it, back in time, before it had all burned out. Thus everything about to come, took much longer to get here. You were just a speck inside me, but I felt you were older than me, like that starlight. The future, older as it is further forward and the past, younger, as it reaches further back to year 0. What never changes is space. Vast space around the markers of time, where direction ceases to be clear.
Ophelia Banklian Newbold. We still don’t know why eternity took you back. You were 34 weeks and 3 days in utero ( 8 months). You were kicking the night after a big baby shower, where your mother’s friends and family gathered and gave you so many presents, she didn’t have time to open them all. They wrote messages for you to open, on your thirteenth birthday, and then folded up those messages into origami cranes. Your mother, Rachel, was excited about creating a hanging mobile out of the cranes high above your bassinet, which she had painted and arranged in a nursery. Your father, Sam, cooked so much food for the baby shower, had just told his boss about needing the month of July off and Rachel was finishing up with her classes at the art center…You had heard the laughter and excitement of her students throughout the year; how everyone argued over what your name should be. Kindergarteners competed about who you would like most. Your grandparents, Paul and Elaine, were eagerly awaiting you, making room in their home, where Rachel and Sam care for them. You were going to bring so much light to their late lives and we are determined that you still will, somehow.
The morning after the baby shower, May 30th 2022, Rachel noticed that you weren’t kicking as usual. It was Sam and Rachel’s two year wedding anniversary-though they’ve been together for nine. As Sam drove her to the hospital she moaned with fright but they both thought they would be relieved on their way home. Her fears were realized, however.
Empty shouts rang through the maternity ward.
The shaking of her head continued like a compulsive twitch every time she replayed the moment when the blank doctor’s stare at the sonogram changed her world forever. Sam and Rachel felt like they had slipped into another dimension at that instant; and maybe they would wake up from the nightmare.
Rachel’s cousin, Megan stayed with the family for a week to help everyone and Lisa came to organize all your presents in one place, out of sight. Wild turkeys showed up in the yard and we clung to the symbolism of sacrificial prosperity, fertility and good omens… The family was devastated but Rachel thought she would be able to try again within a few months. She waded in the water with Sam and they became strong as the neighbors gathered in support. Rachel’s birthday was the next day but she had to begin delivery ; Her oldest friend, Sadya, and your father, each took one of her legs as you made your quiet entrance. She was turning 40 and you were turning 0.
The events that happened after your death/birth were also inexplicably traumatic. Rachel felt she might be joining you. She began losing so much blood and needed to go to the OR and get transfusions. She was shaking so hard and felt colder than she had ever been (and she had hypothermia once!). Her placenta was not releasing fully or detaching which began to cause a dangerous hemorrhage. The doctor told Sam and Sadya that it was probably a placenta accreta (which was previously not detectable by sonogram) and that it is a life-threatening complication that less than .2 percent of women have (especially with the first birth). Paralyzed from the chest down, she tried her best to keep track of what the doctors were doing but they seemed to speak in code with each other and talk in a baby voice to her. At one point she saw her doctor’s hands, full of her blood, step away from her body and say, “So much for saving the world”.
A wonderful nurse, Pat, dressed you in the dress and bonnet your mama had crocheted for you during the long peaceful winter when you slept in her womb. She wrapped you in the blanket with the Ukrainian flag colors and placed you on Rachel’s chest, despite the reservations of the medical team hovering in panic over Rachel’s body. You were more beautiful than your mama could have ever imagined. She was flooded with love. She knew you were her angel then and that if she died during this that you would be together.
She saw the two of you playing on a swing, glowing in sunlight somewhere faraway, in the other dimension where you lived.
Instead, I lived and we got to be close to your beauty for three days as I recovered. Your father had the hardest time saying goodbye to your body… but he had courage and brought you to a man named Michael, who took you to be examined, so we could hopefully have more answers. In the meantime, the late Michael Newbold, will greet you and show you the ropes out there.
Baby shower/ Anniversary/Birthday/ Death-day/
In order to make sense of the gut-wrenching ironies, we have decided to see your journey in utero and your appearance after delivery, our greatest gift. Seeing your radiance, being able to smell you and hold your warm body while I was shaking with the deepest coldness was… well… words fail that moment. And all the moments I saw flashing behind my eyelids about what could have been. I saw them so vividly- me dying- you and I together- Sam and my father falling apart with the house. All were moving images drenched in color, flickering fast.
Lo and behold, “Ophelia” means “help” in Greek – so yes – You were the one I called for, for help, as I thought I was dying. You were the image I clung to, along with my love for friends and family as they put me under for surgery after asking, “Do you still want to have children? We can try but there is no guarantee now”
. …..You were my only child….
I am so sad that you never got to open your eyes. I hope you got to, at some point, when you were inside me, as I tried to play shadow games with the sunlight on my belly for you.
All the cuddles we had with your dad, and the kicks and gentle pokes back and forth. All the musing about the future together .
You were a fierce hiccuper. You made me love to eat fruit.
You made me feel whole, healthy, content and calm. I loved being pregnant with you. All the doctors visits were quick and easy. I never had morning sickness or pain and was constantly checking out my growing belly with glee and awe.
So now: I am always somewhere between “Nothing makes sense” and “Everything happens for a reason”. It’s a wide liminal space between those two thoughts; a thick moat by which I am sailing, ever present to the wind and the whisper that your ghost might grace me with.
Your grandmother, Lilla, has already made a beautiful garden in Wales for you, in your ancestral home, Henblas. The garden is the shape of an “O” just for you.
The fact that I got to be pregnant with you for 8 months, was amazing. The fact that I got to see your face and hold you for 3 days in the hospital -while you rested in a refrigerated cot next to us was amazing. It is possible that if you came to term, the presumed accreta might have turned into a percreta and ruptured through my uterus, making it even harder to save my life. And so I see your death as an angelic act, warning me to save mine and hopefully give us the chance to have other children – that you will get to be a spirit sister to- the guardian for us all.
….Our “O” …..
Love, your mom
We wrote messages on origami paper that were cremated with you (see below) and in time, we will slowly open your cranes, saving some for 13 years from now, as promised.
You have touched so many lives with your light and the days and weeks following your death many people contacted me about visions they had of you- in some other world so faraway and so near. They are welcome to share their stories, intuitions, hellos and goodbyes below:
I am very sorry that I was not more present with you while you were alive, intending to do so much in a future that will never come to pass. I will always remember the little squeeze conversations though I only said that I was your father when you had already died. I will do my best to continue these conversations in the years to come, though it will be much harder. I will try to live a life where you are proud of what I did with my opportunities. At the baby shower I meant to quote for you, “In the end we will be where we started and know the place for the first time.”
We are so sorry that we were never able to fully meet you, to look into your eyes, to see you learn to smile, to crawl, to walk, to talk, to adventure into this world. You just overtook us all on the way to Paradise.
We pray for your soul, which we sense abundantly. We pray that you may travel freely to heaven and that we will meet you there one day.
Pray for us who miss you so much.
God bless you.
A loving grandma.
Ophelia Banklian Newbold
You had the most blessed mother Rachel and I was meant to be there as your blessed Grandma.
Ophelia Banklian Newbold
I love you … our visit was too short … see you soon
your mother is one of the best persons I met in my life, a good friend, she was there when my Anton ,like you, choose another universe (I hope you are going to meet each other there, soon). He showed me how beautiful the world is, he opened my eyes. I’m sure you’re doing the same, protecting your beloved parents and giving them strength and passion… to never give up.
Oh sweet Ophelia.. you were just too precious for this earth, but Iam heartbroken for your family that you wrre taken too soon:( I trust that my sweet Greyson welcomed you with open arms and is loving you like a little sister. You are so loved and will never be forgotten. Xoxo
Your mother is my best friend in this world. It was me that convinced her to come to Berlin a few years ago, and there we shared many walks and talks about our dreams and hopes, mostly about you. I remember each of the steps that happened in order to bring you into this world, and I celebrated every little victory on the long and complex path that made your life possible. Last Christmas, when you had only been in her womb a few weeks, I was able to visit her in New York, and to be with you for what I didn’t know would be the only time. I crocheted matching socks for your mom and dad, and also a tiny for pair for you. This was the first gift you ever received. In the card I wrote a poem from Emily Dickinson, “Hope is a thing with feathers that perches in the soul. It sings a tune without the words, and never stops at all.”
When I heard of your passing I was far away from your mother, back in Berlin. I will never forget this feeling of shock, I felt the pain like you were my family too. I dreamed of being together with you and your mom, and my own kids, watching all of you laugh and play. I still do, but with your little siblings to come. I remind your mother often that they are still coming. I wish that you could be there with us, but I know you are in some other form. I’m grateful that somehow your passing seems to have saved your mother’s life, as bittersweet as it is. I hope that you don’t mind sharing the gifts I’ve made for you with your younger siblings. We will never forget you, sweet angel of hope. Your time here was too short.
Dear O, sweet angel,
You remind me of how precious time is, and that we are human, of the things that are really important, like the people in our lives, and to be more kind and forgiving, and to share our brilliance, our spirts, generously, freely, and lovingly.
Know you are loved and sleep peacefully dear one.
Your parents are such great persons and love you so much.
I remember so well about the beautiful news, that Rachel got pregnent. I saw it in her eyes. Her eyes were shining and smiling in that special warm way. I was shocked, when you passed away. I was hoping that I got it wrong in English 😔… I didn’t expect it at all…We will not forget you. Thank you for having an eye on your parents in a spiritual way. I think, you will be for ever with Rachrl and Sam.
You are loved.
When I read your story, it gave me chills. Know that you cared for Ophelia perfectly, it just wasn’t meant to be for some reason. I hope you and your husband can always remember Ophelia with happiness even though it may be so painful right now. Love Pat
Two weeks after we got the awful news of Ophelia’s death I had a remarkable dream.
I was standing at the corner of a very quiet, old road over the hilltops near to our house here in Wales, and I felt an immense wave of happiness and light sweep up to me. I turned and saw a little figure in a huge Paddington Bear felt hat, a hat so big that I could not see any face. I asked myself who this could be and realised it was Ophelia.
As I recognised her, she disappeared, but she left a powerful sense of peace and joy with me.
I knew then that Ophelia is in the next world and looking down on us.
I dreamt of your memorial the other night. Your mum had found some peace from the service and was holding yellow tulips.
Later I read that tulips symbolise deep love and care. The type of love and care you had to return the ultimate gift of life to your mum. The type of love that is whole heartedly reciprocated by your parents.
May your mum and dad be able to feel the warmth from your sunshine smile from above as you continue to look out for them.
Beautiful, selfless Ophelia.
You graced our world for such a short time ,ironically giving life to your beautiful Mother..you were a precious gift & give us all hope for a gentler, more loving future…
Continue to shine down on us all…
Darling Ophelia—there is grief enough to drown the world, but I remember that it floods from a place of such light and joy that the memory of you will never fade. You never knew anything but your mother’s womb, but that also means you never knew anything but love, comfort, and peace, and I take some solace in that. Thank you for saving your mama’s life. I’ll look for you in our eternity dreams.
Sweet Baby Ophelia 💕
You knew that you were too good for our crumbling world.
Stay close to your Mom and Dad, they really need you now!
Susie, your great aunt in-law
A few days after we learned the terrible news about Ophelia, I went down to my lower garden where I had once grown vegetables, and then sown wild flowers to see fragments of the shape of an “O” formed by the surviving wildflowers. A good friend strung a small circular fence around them, and I started to plant young perennials in the gaps to make a garden in memory of Ophelia.
In those June days it was already beautiful, full of the blue and white wild flowers dancing in the wind. Over the summer I planted more and more and finally put a circular wood chip path around the whole.
In the Fall I had the idea of planting a O of May-flowering rainbow-hued tulips, each colour in succession, on the outer edge of the path. I ordered lots of bulbs, but then, as I started to plant, I remembered that in my wildlife-friendly garden, there would be many other tulip lovers over the long, hungry winter.
I planted deep a square of tulips and covered it with a strong wooden frame with netting and scattered several pots of chili powder, but over the winter some small creatures got through the netting and ignoring the heat, started to munch. I was grateful then that I and my daughter Sarah had planted the bulbs left over in pots in the house where, a pure white one, which represented Ophelia’s innocence for me, has started to bloom
photo to add
As of now eight tulips are still poking their brave snouts out of the ground in the memorial garden.