Back in February my friend Bonnie contacted me through Facebook and asked me if I’d consider writing a monologue about Poppy’s birth story. She is becoming a doula down in Portland, Oregon, and her school, The Mother Tree, was producing a show they called “The Birth Monologues: Everyone Has a Birth Story.” I got the message moments after she sent it. I was working on an assignment for an online memoir writing course I was taking, so my brain was in a creative space to convey Poppy’s story. I immediately began writing and 45 minutes after receiving Bonnie’s initial message, the monologue was done.
Bonnie didn’t know that I started acting when I was 11 and that I went to college to study Theatre. I changed my major to English Literature after my sophomore year, but I continued to perform. Even though professionally I became a lawyer, I continue to love the stage. I am blessed that Bonnie took a leap of faith reaching out to me as I would have never known the opportunity to share Poppy’s story on stage even existed.
About a month after submitting Poppy’s birth story, I received word that it was an official selection for “The Birth Monologues” and that an actress would be performing the piece on stage in Portland at the Clinton Street Theatre on May 20th. They would reserve two tickets for me if I wanted to see the show. What an honor. What a fright. Did I have the courage to watch someone else perform our tragic love story? Would she do it justice? How would the audience respond to the story of Poppy’s death?
Eli and I drove down to Portland for the show. There was tremendous anxiety between the two of us. On our way there Eli asked me if I had given the piece a title. I couldn’t remember, so I found the monologue in my email and asked him if he’d like to hear me read it. I knew it was likely the actress would take some creative license changing a few words or accidentally dropping a line and I wanted to remember it exactly as I wrote it. Eli listened. I read aloud. We both cried. Our baby died, it’s still hard to believe.
There were 10 monologues performed that night. Each was a true story, each uniquely beautiful and touching. My piece was 7th. Eli sat to my left. My best friend Althea sat to my right. Our friends Preet, Erin and Brian were there. Bonnie was there. Tissues in one hand, my portable recorder in the other, I watched as the actress began our tale.
“Will you marry me?” it begins. Eli proposed marriage on a Sunday. We found out I was pregnant the next day. The audience was captivated. She had them laughing! The story continued and the audience learns how Poppy got her name. “My little poppyseed,” I called her from the very beginning. Then on to my due date and the hospital. And the Doppler monitor that couldn’t find her heartbeat and the horror of being told that our baby was dead. The audience cried. The actress cried. We all cried for Poppy.
I got to meet the actress after the show. When she saw me walking towards her at the back of the theatre she opened her arms and I fell into them. She held me and I wept, tears of sadness and tears of gratitude. I knew what a sacrifice it was for her to perform our story. She had embodied my pain and our loss and gave great honor to our daughter’s legacy.
I’ll never be able to convey in words just how perfect the performance was. Poppy lives through her story and I’m here to tell it. She was a beautiful baby. A perfect 7lbs 11.8oz. 20 inches long. She has changed everything. First, I carried her in my womb. Now, I carry her in my heart.