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Gabrielle – Missing Georgia Eight Years Later

Beth Heller, MS, RYT

I have two of the most amazing little boys on the planet.  Every day they give me joy beyond words.

But my first baby  was a little girl, Georgia, who was stillborn at 38 weeks.  I thought she was going to be a boy.  That first pregnancy we wanted to be surprised but I was almost certain.   When I traveled to France in my 7th month of pregnancy all the little French shop keeper ladies said “c’est un garcon!”  When she was stillborn and I held her I was shocked and surprised to learn that all those months I’d been carrying a little girl.  That surprise did not have a chance to linger, though.  It was too painful to switch the gears in my head to pink or too imagine life as the mom of a little girl.   I was too focused on strapping on my “fertility Rambo” gear and trying again that I didn’t stop much to think.  Of course I grieved the loss of a baby but at that point I was more focused on having a live child than on gender.  I went on to have Jackson and then Calvin – immersing myself in the life and identity of a “boy mom.”

Until Gabrielle.

Last summer my boys went to day camp with a little girl named Gabrielle.  I didn’t meet her then – just heard about her.  Each day when they would come home they would tell me a new story about something funny Gabrielle had done.

This year I finally met Gabrielle.   She’s eight.  She has a short brown tom-boy bob and tons of scrapes, mosquito bites and scabs on her legs that show she’s not afraid to play in the mud.  She’s bossy and confident.  She likes me.  Whenever I come in to pick up Calvin she tells me where he is, where his backpack is and what he ate for snack.  She probably does that for all the moms (she’s that kind of girl) but it felt special when she would do it for me.

My husband noticed my attachment before I did.

“Wow,” he said one night when we were cuddled up talking, “aren’t you Miss Gabrielle-breath!”

I asked what he meant.  He said that I’d updated him on Gabrielle almost every day that week.  It was true.  I had asked her what subject she liked best, if she played any sports, if she had siblings.  I had mentioned how much I loved the plaid uniform skirts and how cute Gabrielle looked in hers.  I loved her new haircut.

Before I could answer him I realized there were tears in my eyes.  Gabrielle was the same age Georgia would have been had she lived.

I had a good cry that night in Matt’s arms.  I cried for my little girl, for never putting hair ribbons in my child’s hair, for the lack of dolls in my house.  I cried that I would never get to tell a daughter about her period or do any of those very special rites of passage.

When I was done, though, my heart felt light again.  I know I am blessed with two amazing little boys and wouldn’t change a single thing that has brought me to this point.  When something like this happens, I tend to think it is Georgia coming to me to make me pay attention to life.  I think this time she just wanted me to take notice of how my boys are getting older, to remind me that just because I am the mom I am not cut off from their important rites of passage.  To honor this message I made a commitment to myself to take each of my boys out on their own special “date” with me and to really learn who they are.

This whole experience got me thinking about the very important role these “lost children” play in our lives.  Do you have a story of loss that has opened your eyes in some way?  If so, we’d love to hear it.