By Anne Fricke
She didn’t come out crying, and through my morphine haze, I could tell there was some concern. But then they lay my baby next to my face, wrapped snug in her hospital blanket. I spoke quietly to her, and she opened her eyes for the first time.
I held on to that.
She may not have come fluidly into the world from between my legs to rest against my naked, intact belly. I did not use my hands to help her out of my body and into the world. I didn’t even get to feel my womb tighten around her little body as she resided safely inside. But I was the first person she laid eyes on.
And I held onto that.
I spent most of the next few days in the hospital just trying to feed my baby. My first had nursed so well, but this one wouldn’t, or couldn’t nurse. She just kept falling asleep. I tried all the tricks, finger feeding, special spoons, nipple shields, and syringes. My milk came in, and I thought she had finally caught on. She gained a few ounces. They let us go home.
My baby was so small, so quiet, so weak, so tired. While she attempted to nurse, my oldest daughter would rub her feet to try and keep her awake. My husband and I tried to understand the reasons. We thought that maybe because of the cesarean, she wasn’t in her body yet. Perhaps my due date was wrong and she was younger than we had thought. Maybe she just wasn’t getting enough food to begin with. Every day she lost more weight.
I held her, naked, to my chest, for most of the first few weeks. I slept that way. I was trying to feed her soul with my touch, to awaken her to this world. She slept most of this time, as newborns do. But there were times that she slept so deeply it took moments of jostling to wake her. I would wake in terror in the middle of the night, afraid she had passed without my knowing. When I was awake, I could feel a subtle shift in her being, as if she was slowly just letting go.
The scariest moment was an afternoon when I happened to be home alone. Baby, as we still called her then, slept against my chest as I wandered about the house. Then I could feel it — that slow retreat — the silent, backward stepping out of a room so as not to disturb those in it. I could feel her spirit trying to quietly remove itself from her body.
But I held on.
I sang to her. I called to her. I jostled and cajoled her. I sobbed and pleaded, and frantically paced the hallway as each passing moment found her still asleep. I know it’s cliche to say, but I have never been more terrified.
Finally, her little body stirred against mine and her eyes fluttered open. The day was November 1, Día de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead. I decided then that my baby needed a name, today. She needed a name to let her know that she was in this world now. That she was wanted. A name that I could call to bring her back if she tried again to leave.
I would not sleep until she had a name. I could not sleep lest her spirit decide to take flight from her nameless body. We spent hours trying on names but could not find one to fit. We decided, at least, that her middle name would be Jude, in honor of the Beatles' song "Hey Jude", one of the songs playing in the O.R. during her birth. I fell asleep somewhat consoled, with Baby Jude on my chest.
The next morning I woke feeling hopeful. Baby Jude was still with us and had even lost her umbilical cord in the night. To my anxiety-ridden consciousness, it was a testament to her commitment to remain with us. That day she got her name.
Freya. The Norse Goddess of beauty, fertility, battle, death, and love. She reigns over her own field in the afterlife, accepting those who do not go to Valhalla.
Freya Jude…a Viking Goddess and a song of comfort.
About the Author
Anne is the founder of BREATHE, a poet, and mother to three daughters, one of whom has Prader-Willi Syndrome. Much of what she knows about herself, she has learned through writing. You can check out her "Journal Therapy for Parents and Caregivers" course on this website to learn more about it, or watch for any of her live workshops.