A year ago, at 3:44 in the afternoon, Lauren Joy came into the world. She entered it silently and without breath, with her eyes closed. The only life she had had was the one she had inside me.
I don’t know what to do with myself today. I feel like I’ve grieved myself out. I just feel this overwhelming sense of weariness. Not unlike how I felt after Lauren was born, really.
I’ve tried to avoid using the word “celebrate” when talking about Lauren’s birthday. The more I think about it, though, the more I feel how wrong that might be. “Celebrate” doesn’t necessarily have only a joyful connotation. It simply means to commemorate an event with ceremonies and traditions. After all, it developed from a Latin noun which simply meant “assemble to honor.” That’s what I want to do. I want to honor Lauren’s memory, to celebrate the brief life she did have and the meaningful impact she left upon us.
Today, I want to share that which Lauren did give us, the happiness she brought when she was alive. I’m glad she got to experience some of life through me.
Until she was born, we called her Lucky. We didn’t learn she was a girl until late in the pregnancy, and after that, we were so used to calling her that, we just continued. We thought of a girl’s name quickly – we named her after our mothers – but we never could agree on a boy’s name. Lucky was just the best way to talk about her – and to her. We talked to her a lot.
I’m glad we found out about her in Moriya, because I loved living in Moriya so much, and I got to share her with some of the people I knew there. She went to work with me a couple times, and my students were all pleasantly surprised. Some of them commented on the fact that Geordie and I weren’t married, but they did this teasingly and always followed it with congratulations. They wished us all the best.
I never got to say a proper goodbye to my students because of the Tohoku Earthquake. Lauren went through that experience with me. I’m still trying to write about that day and the harrowing days that followed: the night spent worrying about Geordie and then worrying about Japan. Lauren behaved so beautifully through it all; I don’t remember feeling sick or terribly uncomfortable during that time. There were worries about her health, about the threat of radiation, but she came through it just fine. She was wonderfully active during her next ultrasound.
She got to go to a few beautiful places in Japan; Nara was her first trip, our first trip together as a trio. We went to take a break from the all the heaviness after the earthquake. Very old Japan, and very beautiful. It was so nice to be a family.
We took her to see the sakura in Ueno in April. It was a tiring trip (going to Tokyo always could be, even when I wasn’t pregnant), but well worth it. Everyone should be able to see cherry blossoms blooming at some point in their lives – I imagined bringing baby Lucky to see them when she was older. I wanted to dress him in spring kimono and enjoy the Japanese springtime with her. Japan is so beautiful in the springtime.
She went to the movies with us, to see the remake of “True Grit.” (I liked the original better – but the book trumps both movies). I thought about the movies I would enjoy with her when she was older, and I hoped she would like Westerns the way I do. I wanted to share stories with her; I wondered if she would be a storyteller like Geordie and I are.
I became noticeably pregnant by early May, when we went to Shinjuku National Park for Greenery Day. My mother sent me maternity clothes, because it was impossible for me to find anything that would fit me in Japan. I only gained 15 pounds during the pregnancy, but I completely lost my previous shape. I won’t say I always enjoyed being pregnant (I rarely enjoyed it), but the expectancy made it worthwhile. I knew it would all be worth it once Lauren was there with us.
Lauren was with us when we got married. I love that. She brought us together, made us a family. She went on the honeymoon to Kasumigaura Lake with us. Those were good days.
I first felt her move when I was about 19 weeks pregnant. That was the first time I felt her and knew it was her. I was sitting in a cafe called Tully’s, under the Moriya TX train station, waiting for Geordie to come home from work. And I felt a little squiggle. I thought it was the weirdest feeling in the world.
I had such ambitions for being a mother. I wanted to teach Lucky baby sign language, I wanted to make my own baby food. When we moved to Susono, the first thing I wanted to do was get the kitchen settled so I could start making proper dinners. It was, I realize, the first sign of nesting. I daydreamed about baking with Lucky, just as I had with my mother. I knew she would be wonderful as a baby, but I couldn’t wait for her to grow up so that we could talk together and do things together.
In Susono, Geordie began to sing to Lucky regularly. I loved that half hour or so that I would lie on the bed, and he would sing to her. He sang her Beatles’ songs and folk songs and Jimmy Buffett. He sang “What a Wonderful World,” and I cried because I was so happy.
She celebrated my 30th birthday with us by finally letting us know her gender. The look on Geordie’s face when the doctor told us was priceless: ecstatic. He gave two thumbs up. I was a little disappointed; I’d been hoping for a boy. I quickly got over that.
Everyone in Susono was so kind and nice to us. I was looking forward to bringing Lucky home to such a quiet, friendly town.
The baby’s room had a view of Mt. Fuji on clear days. It was hard to miss; even on cloudy days, you could still feel its presence, so close to us. I never stopped being surprised at seeing it, at how big it is. I thought that Fuji would watch over Lucky and keep her safe. I could see the mountain from the window as Geordie put the nursery furniture together. By the beginning of September, we were starting to think we were actually ready for her.
And then we never got to bring her home.
My darling Lauren, from the moment I knew of you, I loved you. The thought of you terrified me at times, because I had never given much thought to becoming a mother, but that’s what you made me. I’m a better person for having had you in my life. I wouldn’t give you – or your memory – up for anything.
I love you. Daddy loves you. We miss you. It’s hard sometimes, being here without you. But we’re going to be okay. We’re taking care of each other.
Happy birthday, Lauren. Thank you for being our daughter.