My quiet girl. My beautiful quiet girl. Our Sophronia, our sound minded and mannered girl, hasn’t yet cried the tears of her first breath of air, hasn’t cried the tears of hunger or colic, hasn’t yet cooed or smiled at us. Sophronia doesn’t wake her mother up with cries for milk or unrest. Her mother cannot go to her, bathe her, change her nappy, wipe the spit-up from her lips. Sophronia does not start her day in the embrace of her mother…for she is now in the embrace of our Lord Almighty God.
It is this thought solely that provides comfort to my heart, subsides my tears of pain and anguish, helps each minute of the day that passes without her presence in my arms, the room, her physical presence in our life, for she has captured my heart and taken it with her…
I remember my consultant obstetricians words at our last appointment before this unforseeable tragic event occurred in our lives, ‘Chrissa, the possibility of you delivering before 36wks is highly unlikely’. And there I was, at 33 weeks, in the hospital, strapped to an ultrasound and cardiograph by half a dozen nurses, searching for my baby’s heartbeat…but to no avail. My dr shook his head at me and in his own disbelief, said he was sorry, confirming what I already knew…that my quiet girl left us…quietly.
Everything was going well. All the scans, all the tests, all the ultrasounds showed a healthy developing baby who was growing and gaining weight. A mother who didn’t have the history of drinking, taking drugs or even prescriptive medicines. However, my concerns began on Easter Sunday when I began feeling a little sharp tinge of pain on my left side beneath my belly and less baby movement. The dr said it was normal to have some pain and that all babies don’t move as often as in other pregnancies. Two weeks later, I went to my monthly scheduled appointment and everything was fine. Sophronia was looking great on ultrasound, heart, growth, weight all was well. No problems. In early May, I complained that there wasn’t much physical movement and I was feeling pain around my back, like a tyre all around the lower abdomen and back. My dr suggested I go local to our Plan B doctor as I lived in a rural area and the drive to Athens was 5hrs.
On May 7th, Monday afternoon, I am strapped to a cardiograph listening to the heartbeat of my baby. The Plan B doctor tells us that her heartbeat was very bad and if it continued like this she would need to be delivered that evening. I burst into tears. He gave me a cold drink and kept monitoring her heart for another hour and a half. He saw her on ultrasound and told us everything was looking good and advised me not to let my sugar levels drop and count her kicks. My consultant and plan B doctor spoke and my consultant was pleased with the outcome. They were both pleased. My husband, our 2yr old and I drove home that night and I felt baby kicking early hours of Tuesday morning.
At 7.45am Tuesday May 8th, I felt what was indeed the final kick and turn of Sophronia’s little body. I was in a Mothercare store with my 2yr old, looking for a crib for her new sister. We couldn’t find what we had seen in the catalogue and met up with dad and had a cold drink and snack. I wondered if I should pop into Plan B doctors surgery as he mentioned he would be happy to see us the next day for a check up but my husband thought since we felt the baby move not to go. We drove home instead. I run a couple of chores make some phone calls and complain how the baby hadn’t moved since the morning. My husband is thinking I am overdoing it. I say nothing and do the laundry. I am hanging the laundry out and complaining again that there is no movement. I shake my tummy nothing is moving. Husband irritably orders we pack an overnight bag and head to Athens to our consultant so that I can be reassured everything is fine.
But I knew nothing was fine. Because at 11.30pm that night, the nurses cannot hear my baby girls heart. Because my consultant is stunned himself that my baby is stillborn. My husband was speechless. He had so much faith that everything was ok. The nurses bring in my 2yr old for me to kiss her goodbye while my husband takes her to stay with family friends while I am induced for labour.
On Wednesday May 9th at 6.30pm, I welcome my little quiet girl. My husband bursts into tears at the sight of her. I am anxious to see her and delighted to hold her. I have a smile on my face at the sight of her, I cannot believe I am holding another miracle. Only there is no life in the little miracle I was holding. She looked exactly like her older sister and I even confused her name, that’s how much alike they looked. She had dark hair, was tall, and crimson red lips- a sign she lacked oxygen. I noticed her furrowed eyebrows and thought how she must have been suffering in my womb, trying to stay alive, gasping for air…how the one place she was meant to be safe in was in fact the place of her death. I am shattered at that. Shattered. Shattered. Shattered. I just held her and held her tight and kissed her all over…and held her tight. And cried. Cried cos she was not coming home with me, cried cos she was not going to meet her sister who would have shared birthdays 6 days apart, cried cos I was not going to nurture her, I was not going to ween her onto solids, watch the first tooth sprout, see her crawling and learning to stand then walk, then run…I had packed her nightdress thinking that she would wear it whether she came home with me or not…I left it in the overnight bag perhaps not wanting to fulfill any self-prophecy of doom..who knows? I told her that mama loves you and kissed her forehead before handing her to the nurses feeling the emptiness in my embrace. I gave her my cross to wear and the hospital provided a nightdress. And then I collapsed in my husbands arms.
On May 15, at 2.30pm my sources of strength-husband and our 2yr old- along with a family friend, were at the cemetary waiting for Sophronia to arrive. When we drove to her grave I caved in at the sight of the white little coffin in the boot of the funeral parlours car. I could not believe my baby was lying inside that box. My heart was pulled from all directions. It was torn and stretched in every possible way. She was wrapped head to toe in green hospital paper and her picture was attached to the front of her covered body. She had been cleaned. It was the first time I saw her cleaned up. She was more beautiful. She looked like her father and sister. I collapsed over her little body which was cold from being in the freezer. My baby spent her last days struggling in my womb, in a freezer and now, was to ‘rest’ in the ground covered by dirt…amongst other babies… an entire (play)ground that hears no joys of laughter, tears or tantrums…just quietness. And my sobs. We prayed with the priest…I organised her grave and laid the muslin cloth I were to wipe her mouth after each feed on the earth. Above it, I placed all the dried flowers I had acquired over 8yrs of Easter Sunday’s in London. I laid her coffin in the ground, placing the dried jasmine flower her father gave me when we first met over her picture-I wanted her to have something from her mama- gave her one last kiss and closed her coffin, covering her with the dirt. My daughter helped light candles for her sister…she wore the pretty dress we hoped she would wear to Sophronia’s baptism…
…my heart is heavy…2 months later….my due date passed…we celebrated my 2yr old’s birthday…she would have had her picture taken with her baby sister-and she did, only her baby sister was a picture herself…My daughter kisses her sister’s picture and reads stories to her…she puts her finger to her lips and says ‘shhh..’ to me acknowledging our baby is sleeping…she was so well prepared for her arrival…its hard when she comes up to me and kisses my tummy or rushes to other babies in their prams ‘shh..ing’ everyone….I try not to cry infront of her and put a brave face on…we are learning to potty now…
Friends are due to give birth to their own miracles….and I feel the pieces stabbing me all over…reminding me how I am not lulling my Sophronia to sleep, I am not strolling with Sophronia, her sister and their dad along the pier, when I sit in the front seat of the car there are not two car seats in the back, there are not two beds in the room. Sophronia won’t see the toys I put aside for her to play with, nor will she wear the romper suit I got her for the coming winter….she wont play with the koala her grandpa got her…or wear the pretty dresses her grandma bought her…They are going in a memory box along with the clothes I wore the day she died and the day she was born quietly still.
I kiss good night and good morning the daughter in my arms and the picture of my daughter in heaven.
The only thought that remains comforting is that our Mother of God, who witnessed her only Son’s crucifixion, can understand the pain I feel. That in His Resurrection, I am hopeful that when I pass from this life onto the next, that in His Love, I will see and hold my quiet girl once more, only that that time, our embrace will be forever and will have no end.
Aikaterini’s and Sophronia’s mama
It has been 3 yrs and 8 months since Sophronia passed away and over 1 year since I had read this ode to her. During that time, Nektaria and Gabriel were welcomed into our family. Not one day passed where she was not in my thoughts. Not a day goes by without her memory crossing my mind. Sophronia is the constant reminder of how grateful I ought to be for being mother to her three siblings. My heart still clings to her memory. And there still are no words that soothe other than the caresses of Aikaterini, Nektaria’s kisses and Gabriel’s smiles.