Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Baby in a Laundry Basket

I was fifteen and so was she.  I won't sit here and lie.  I won't say we were best friends or that I wasn't curious.  The point is, my friend had a baby. We were close enough, she told me why she dropped out of school.  I knew the whole story, how she'd gotten messed up on drugs.  She'd met some thirty-year-old at Liberty Park and gotten pregnant in the back of his cheap car.  The whole thing made me sick--how romantic she tried making it sound, like it was destiny--but despite everything, I have to admit that after she had the baby I was very curious.
    I'd liked that girl.  Two years before, when we were in seventh grade, I remember having a crazy-amazing moment with her.  We were downtown on the roof of a movie theater.  It was illegal and we shouldn't have been there, but my friend needed to talk.  The theater was an old, faded pink, even the ladder we climbed was a rusty pink.  I didn't want to get caught and was in such a hurry I almost slipped a couple times, scrambling up the long ladder.  We made it to the roof though.  We sat on the hot cement and talked for hours.  Her mom had just died from an overdose and my friend swore she'd rather croak than do drugs.   
    I kept saying I was sorry.  I couldn't imagine losing a parent.
    My friend just bawled and said life isn't meant to be fun.  It's hard and that's what makes some people so bad.  She said sometimes she worried she'd be bad too, if she let the sadness come in.
    I've always been filled with rainbows and sunshine.  I told her all she needed was God and a good attitude to get her through, but apparently I didn't know squat, or she never listened because less than a year later she was completely wasted on drugs.
    So, in ninth grade, I went to see her and the baby.  I rang her grandparents' doorbell.  They lived in a nice part of town and I felt strange just being there.  Her grandma answered the door.  "You're Elisa?" she asked.  "I've heard so many nice things about you."
    I walked into their house.  It smelled like apples and cinnamon.  I knew her grandma was made of gold, but that couldn't make up for anything, not after I saw my friend.  She rested on the couch.  Her skin pulled tightly over her gaunt features and she looked frail from more than having a baby.  I gasped when I saw her graying face and puffy eyes.  "Are you okay?" I asked.
    "Me, man.  Hell yeah.  You know I'm doing great."
    "So . . .," I wanted to leave.  She was higher than her mom the day she overdosed.  "Maybe I should . . . " then I remembered why I'd come. "Maybe I should see the baby.  Did you have a boy or a girl?"
    "Don't know.  Don't care."
    "What?  You don't know?"  I couldn't imagine her not caring.  She'd changed so much.
    She pointed toward a laundry basket at the side of the room.  It was filled with towels and for the first time I noticed, the towels were moving.  I walked over, tears flooding my eyes; I was so worried about what I'd see.  I paused after I got there and wanted to scream.  "You put your baby in a laundry basket?  You . . . why would you do that?"  The baby mewed like a kitten.  It kicked off a towel and only wore a diaper.
    "It's not my damn baby.  The family's coming up for it later.  Why waste money on a crib?  Why put it somewhere nice when it ain't even mine?"
    But a towel--she couldn't even give the baby a blanket?  "I wasn't trying to accuse you. . . .," I said.  "It's not an open adoption is it?"
    "Hell no.  I refuse to be like my mom.  She stayed in my life and look what I've turned into.  I won't do that to a kid."  She rolled to her side, that friend of mine who looked worse than death.  She pulled a cigarette out of her pajama pocket and started smoking it, right there on her grandmother's Victorian couch.
    I wished I wouldn't have gone there; the whole thing shocked me.  I couldn't fathom having a baby at fifteen.  I couldn't think about being on drugs.  I couldn't imagine losing my mom and my virginity.  The whole situation hurt, especially because I knew how far my friend had fallen.  
    I gazed at her again, then stepped back.  It was like seeing a ghost.  She'd been so beautiful in seventh grade, but after having that baby, she looked old and haggard--just like her mom before she died.
    I left as her grandmother yelled and took the smokes away.  I'd been traumatized, by a girl who wouldn't look at her baby, by a grandma who was more concerned with baking than holding her own great-grandchild.  I couldn't get over the baby in the basket, or my friend who turned into her own druggie mother.  
    I walked back to my house.  I didn't want to see something like that ever again.  But the fact remained, I couldn't erase the memory.  
    I never found out what sex the baby was.  I never held the baby, or gave the love it deserved.  I couldn't comprehend why the grandmother didn't hold her great-grandchild, I guess I didn't understand until I had Zeke. . . .

I woke up this morning, thinking someone out there needed to read this story--an old blog post of mine.  It's a sad memory, but I realized something very important when I read between the lines.  Maybe one of the people who  needed to read this was me.  

This single line says so much: "I refuse to be like my mom.  She stayed in my life and look what I've turned into."

I'll explain, in my next post, how this story applies to so many lives.

Also, if you'd like to read Zeke's story, please go HERE.

In closing: What have you taken from this? 


  1. Well that was not fair, you made me cry again and I have been doing enough of that lately. Beautiful story and very heartfelt.

  2. It pisses me off to hear about dead beat moms...there are so many people out there LONGING with all their being to become moms, and the no good moms that have kids when they're 15 don't even want their children. urgh! I probably shouldn't have read this today. I'm sorry your statue broke. :(

  3. Thank you, Siv.

    I'm so sorry. I can't even imagine.

    I remember getting really upset after Zeke died because certain moms could be so mean to their kids after I'd just lost one. It was hard.

    Anyway, I am glad my friend gave the baby up for adoption. I hope the baby went to a good family.

  4. Hey girl.. I don't even know what to say. I'm sorry doesn't seem to fit here. You are right though. You lost Zeke and he will always be a part of you but you have all your other beautiful children to give you joy. I'm so proud of you and who you are. Mostly I'm proud to call you friend.

  5. You know Elisa...there is meaning in everything we see, hear and experience. That is why people say a wise person is someone who learn's from the mistakes they see, hear and experience. Being angry is a human reaction...normal...putting a postive spin on that reaction is part of becoming known as a wise person :-)

  6. Wow, what a story. I am glad it did have a happy ending,though. The baby did get the love and attention he/she needed.
    I resonated with the broken statue. I had a 12 in. statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary just break a few months ago that was given to me by my grandma when I was 7 yrs old. That statue lasted all these years and all my moving. It meant so much to me. Then one of the kids happened to knock it down while reaching for something even though I kept it up out of reach.
    It's not repairable, but I put all the pieces into a ziploc to keep.
    Sorry about your statue.

  7. It's amazing how this blog has been so wonderful and healing for me. Your comments really help.

    I'm sorry about your statue too.

  8. " My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." James 1:2-4

    You're stronger, wiser, and more compassionate now because of what you've been through. Don't let your past determine who you will be, but let it become part of the amazing women that you are...

  9. Great post and quite an emotional ride. It really is too bad about your statue getting broken, but the memories you have wrapped up in that statue will forever remain intact.

  10. Once again, beautiful momma. It's hard to understand why some people do the things that you do, but your friend did the RIGHT thing for her baby (not the laundry basket part because that's not right), but the not allowing herself to damage that baby more by keeping it. By letting loving people that wanted a baby raise it. I am so glad when people try to break the cycle and end the abuse at themselves. It's so hard, but so worth it.

  11. Ya know, It is hard to put into words the things that are going on in my heart after reading this. Though, what this young girl did, putting the baby in the basket, was wrong, it was her way of not connecting with the baby. If she pretended it was just a piece of laundry, then she would not feel as bad to send the baby away. I completely understand how she felt, and how mislead she was. Drugs do horrible things to a person's mind. In the same respect, I have to give her kudos for putting the child up for adoption. That has to be the ultimate sacrifice for anyone, to give a child away. How, knowing that a child is healty, can anyone have that amount of courage. To actually make the choice of sending the child away, when there is nothing physically wrong with it has to be devastating. Being the mother of six adopted children, and working with birthmothers that have been like this mother you speak of, has opened my eyes to the world of these mislead souls.
    You must have had amazing courage to face your little boys struggles, to know that he had to leave you. This mother's choice could only come second to the pain you endured. To lose a child, can be compaired to nothing else in this world. To lose a child to illness must be so debilitating, I can only try to imagine.
    I try not to judge those mothers that give up their children for adoption. I am sad for them, more than anything. For it is not the child that is ill, it is them. It is truly because of their choices and illness that they are unable to take care of their children. With your little Zeke, you know that you did nothing wrong. He was a perfect little soul, and it was not your fault that he had to leave. You are so blessed to be able to spend time with that perfect soul. I adore you, Elisa. You are such a rainbow!

  12. You have left me without words.
    Your writing makes me laugh, and sometimes it makes me cry.
    Bless you.

  13. hi Elizabeth! mixed emotions here while reading this post. it's sad that the innocent ones suffer. i pray that the baby really went to a new home and is being loved and returning that love as well. thank you for sharing! c",)

  14. tears again. DANG, you realize I am reading this in the MORNING? I hope your friend got clean and sober. And I'm so glad your little one ran into you arms there at the end. That's where the tears came in for me. It's hard to move forward from a tragic loss and some people never are able to. You're blessed that you can remember, mourn, and pay tribute to your son but also move forward and have a life filled with love. I have friends who haven't been that lucky and yes, I believe your faith has a lot to do with it.

  15. The heart does strange things. I think she was doing what was right for the baby AND maybe protecting herself from guilt by not acknowledging the baby was hers. I wish she could have given herself a moment to sit with that baby and explain why she was giving the baby to another family. It would have been hard, but healing. I am sure the grandma had her own guilt to deal with. Four generations affected drugs (counting the baby)...I hope that sweet baby never knows the pain that brought her into this world.

  16. Sad. I hope you get several folks thinking.

    The situation reminded me of the documentary Unguarded about Chris Herren's long struggles with substance abuse. After watching him throw away his career children for his high, I was left thinking how many rock bottoms there are in a some people's life. In the end, he was able to change. I hope someone in the baby's life changed as well.

  17. Elisa, you totally blew me away with this one. You always make me feel. You are a blessing. Thanks for sharing your journey in the ways that you do. (PS...I will have your review up in the next few days; just started back today! Road-weary Bill was home.)

  18. There is nothing I can say, Elisa, except that your children are blessed that you are their mother!!

  19. Some people are just, thinking bad words here haha, will never understand how some can be so cruel. But it does seem to be a society of all about me.

  20. What have I taken from this post? You went to visit her, and I doubt if anyone else did. The baby was neglected for a very, very brief period of time and then was welcomed into a home full of love. Sometimes we get the worst parts of our parents no matter how hard we try to be different. I was definitely not a perfect parent, and I'm still not.


  21. I took that it is sad how so many turn into their parents even if their parent is a sucky parent, also that the baby would hopefully be better off being adopted........oh yeah and drugs are bad very bad..........