Just Below the Surface

Dawn's 3rd and 4th babies, Leighton and Blythe with Mikias

 After spending their first years of life in difficult circumstances in Ethiopia, Mikias and Jemberu have shown me what it is to be resilient.  They so are tough, funny and affectionate, I sometimes forget how much they have overcome. However, I do know that the losses that they endured are just below the surface.

A little over four years ago, our dear friend and neighbor, Dawn, was a couple of weeks past her first trimester of pregnancy.  She told her sons and then mine the exciting news that a baby was on the way.  Everyone was excited except for Mikias.  He was worried.

Mikias put his hands on either side of Dawn's face, looked into her eyes and said, "What will happen to this baby if you get dead?"

Dawn tried to reassure Mikias that she was healthy and that she would be fine.

That wasn't enough, Mikias demanded an answer, "You need to know what you will do, you need a plan."

Dawn told Mikias that although it was very unlikely she wouldn't be there for the baby, that her husband, Scott, would take care of the baby and her other kids too.

"Scott could die too.  You need a plan."

This was not just a crazy 'what if'' scenario that Mikias was worried about.  Mothers can die and leave babies behind.  It happened to him.  It happened to Jemberu.  It could happen to anyone.

A couple of weeks later, Dawn lost that baby.  A perfect, tiny, boy.

Kurt and I told the boys the sad news.  They asked appropriate questions.  They were sad but they seemed to handle it well.

The next morning Mikias crawled into our bed.  His little body was heaving with sobs.

"What is it?"

"Dawn did nothing to deserve this to happen to her!  Her baby did nothing wrong!  They don't deserve this!" his voice was choked with tears

He grieved Dawn's loss.  I know he was grieving his own losses as well.


Scott and Dawn always planned for four children. Their road to for four children wasn't easy. A few weeks ago their fourth child was born, their first daughter, Blythe.

We went next door to welcome Blythe.  New babies often make me think about Mikias and Jemberu as newborns.  What did they look like?  How big were they?  Full heads of hair?  Mostly though, I think about their mothers.  Did they melt at the beauty of their newborn sons?  Did they say to their husbands, "Look what we did?  Isn't he perfect?"  Did they point our resemblances?  "He has your eyes.  He has my long fingers."

Mikias interrupted my thoughts, telling me it was his turn to hold Blythe.  He held her close.  He rocked her gently in his arms. After a few minutes, he called me over to him.

His put his forehead against mine.  His normally loud voice was soft.  "What was my mommy's name?"

At first I was surprised that he didn't know.  We talk about her, but never by first name.  She is his  Ethiopian mom, first mom, his other mom.

"Her name was Aster."

He burst out into embarrassed laughter.  I thought that was weird until I realized that the first syllable of Aster is ass and he is a 10 year old boy.

"Aster is a beautiful name.  It is the name of a flower." I told him

"A beautiful flower or an ordinary flower?"

"A beautiful flower."

"Probably the most beautiful flower." he said

I nodded in agreement.

He nodded and went back to bonding with Blythe.

I am sure our thoughts were both in Ethiopia, remembering what was lost.