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