“Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.”
It’s been such a long, painful night. Upstairs, my Bella, the child of my heart, nearly lost her life in childbirth, and is now experiencing the pain of losing her mortal one forever. Its times like this that I wish I could still weep, for the pain my poor child must be experiencing. How well I know the travails of women trying to bring new life into this world. After all, that’s what has brought me here, mother to my family of misfits and orphans.
I look downward, to stare at the child laying on my chest. Beautiful, perfect, my little Nessie stretches in her sleep, like any human infant. Holding her (after prying her from Rose and Jacob), breathing her in, for a moment allows me to feel almost human again. It’s bittersweet, having this small, warm bundle to love; all at once I’m able to relive the joy of having given birth, and the grief that followed so soon after.
I miss my babe.
Oh, I love the children, as fiercely as only a mother can – Edward, my oldest, the sensitive child. Rose, my willful wild child, beautiful, who always missed having a babe of her own, and so fiercely protective of our Nessie. Emmett, who always brings a smile to our faces with his exuberance. Alice, our pixie who loves everyone, and just gives of herself so freely. Jasper, who is so much stronger than he credits himself with. And now my Bella. But they could never give me the joy of rocking a babe to sleep in my arms, when all the world is still and quiet, and no one is there but the two of you. I miss the feeling of a child suckling at breast, content with the world, while I sing softly. Carlisle has held me so many nights, knowing what it was I mourned, a feeling lost to time and the memory of my human existence.
Nessie stirs, a pout coming to her perfect lips. Hoping to calm her, I try to remember a lullaby from my human days, dim in distant memory. Unbidden, one makes its way to my lips. It was the last song I sang to my own baby, as I held him and watched him take his final breaths.
‘Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.
Jesus loves me! This I know,
As He loved so long ago,
Taking children on His knee,
Saying, “Let them come to Me.”’
I snuggle Nessie closer, resting her small head on my breast. Sighing, sleepily, she looks up at me, as if asking me to keep singing. I allow my finger to trace her nose, her eyes and lips, memorizing her, committing her to my heart. As I stroke my darling, I lean towards her and let her unique baby scent flood my senses, reminding me of days long past. I remember the anticipation and fear as my body ripened, the giddy joy of having my first child. I recalled washing tiny things, and the items I knitted with such pride as I prepared my home for my child’s arrival. Even now, I can feel the ache of my breasts as they filled with nourishment for a child who would be too weak to take it, can imagine the back aches I cherished as I grew larger, for it meant that my child was growing too. I never dreamed that like so many others, I would bury my child before me. It was naiveté on my part; in the days before modern medicine life and death were truly interwoven in childbirth, as a stroll through any cemetery will tell you.
All that love and pain comes pouring out of me as I sing of babies taken to Heaven, all those memories that I could never lose – the pangs of childbirth ripping through my body, causing primal sounds to tear from my throat. The first and only time I held my son to nurse, of rocking him as he grew weaker with each passing moment, of feeling part of me die with him. The unbearable agony of preparing my little one for burial, that horrible wrenching pain in my chest as I howled in anguish every time my body, through cramps or leaking milk, reminded me that yes, I had indeed born a child. The callous, well meaning platitudes of those trying to comfort me, finally driving me to take my own life, so I could end that horrible empty ache in my arms, and in my heart. Slowly, I also remember the love I have for my family, the children who allow me to mother them and Carlisle; it pours out in a torrent as I continue to sing to the newest member of our family, letting her know how much her grandmother loves her and how very grateful I am to have her here and now.
My heart breaks and heals simultaneously.
As I continue to sing to her, I become aware of the presence of others in the room. I look up, my voice still trembling with emotion, and see my family gathered around. Edward walks over to me and sitting on the floor, rests his head on my lap. Carlisle has sat beside me on the sofa and wrapped an arm around, holding us close. The others have sat on the floor near us, holding each other, bittersweet expressions on their faces.
As I falter in my song, Rose looks up at me and, smiling tremulously, says “Please don’t stop…Mom”. Realizing that Jasper must have picked up on what I was feeling, and shared it with the rest of them, I shift the baby in my arms and begin stroking Edward’s hair.
Singing “She Moves Through the Fair”, I take in my family and realize something has changed. My heart is lighter, having let go of much of my grief. In its place is the warmth of memories, still tinged with sadness, but now with joy as well.
Bella’s entry into our lives has changed us all, for the better, but I feel that she has given me a special gift: the grandchild that I now hold in my arms, and the joy of seeing one of my children experience parenthood with all its human moments. Having first Bella to care for and now Nessie, I feel that I have been given a chance by fate to experience some of what I lost. I imagine days filled with Nessie being doted on by her aunts and uncles; of Uncle Emmett giving horseyback rides, her first shopping expedition with Auntie Alice as Bella looks on in amusement. Of Auntie Rose teaching her to take apart her Grandfather’s car, and Uncle Jasper providing a soothing prescience when Edward says “no”.
As I begin yet another song, I lean against Carlisle and prepare to settle in and sing to my children all night long, the looks on their faces worth any discomfort.
The joy that a mother’s love brings to her children makes it all worthwhile.