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Number Nine

We figured our family was a good size and it would be a good place to stop; we thought we could handle the feelings of guilt (from the Catholic Church) that went along with birth control. I was talking with a friend and neighbor of ours, Evelyn Benoit. Her Mom had been a Nun for a few years, until she got out of the convent and then she married her childhood boyfriend. Of course, she wasn't the one to talk to of such things. She and her husband had two well-planned children, something worked for them. So, the guilt came back on us...and another pregnancy.

Pregnant again and no anemia, so I picked out the name Matthew from the Bible, and Thomas from the Bible and also Joe's brother's name. Then, along came our next baby. A month before time of birth (when baby begins to drop to prepare for delivery), I began to bleed. I called gynecologist, and he said to go lay down - but, while I was still talking with him on the phone, I could feel it begin again, and it was quite heavy - I told him so. He said to come to the hospital. I was in the room next to delivery room; doctor checked me, said they would try to wait until I started labor, as that would be best for the baby.

I continued to hemorrhage and finally, they couldn't wait any longer. Doctor brought in another doctor to check me. He was a surgeon and told my doctor how to cut for the Caesarian, so he could also get rid of the umbilical hernia I had for so many years. (I had asked doctor if they could do that operation at the same time as Caesarian - when he had told me it would probably be a Caesarian operation.) I remember being in the operating room - a lot of doctors around me, a lot of nurses - the big light overhead. I looked to the left side and there was a baby incubator all ready.

Matthew was born on January 14, 1967 (Sunday), about 3:45 a.m. He weighed 4 lbs. 15 oz., and I don't know how long he was. He was delivered by Caesarian section. He was a month early.

I woke up a little about 10 a.m., back in my hospital bed; two nurses were saying they had better get me cleaned up, as my husband was coming pretty soon. They washed me, and turned me; I was strapped up around my stomach (a cloth bandage that was stretchy and fastened tightly).

I woke up again when Joe came into the room; he sat down next to the bed, held my hand. I asked him what we had. He said, "Didn't they tell you?" I said, "No." Then he said, "You had a boy...he had a hard time being born, he isn't doing very well." I asked him what he meant. He said that the baby was having a hard time breathing; was still in the incubator - they didn't think he was going to make it. And, then Joe began to cry. He sat with me; I kept going in and out of sleep, then he went back home.

I was more awake when nurses came in later and asked questions. They said Matthew was having a hard time breathing; his lungs didn't get any exercise, because labor had never started before delivery - and it's contractions that strengthen the lungs. They were doing all they could for him, but it didn't look too good. I prayed a lot that night for him...that God would spare him, would heal him.

They came and told me that his condition was worsening. Our pediatrician had been with Matthew since he was born; and now the other pediatrician was filling-in. Finally, my praying began to change course and I prayed that Matthew not hurt. And, then, he didn't hurt. At 10:05 p.m. he passed into the presence of the Lord. They came in to tell me and also to say that he had stopped breathing so many times and they had revived him - finally he was little more than a vegetable and they couldn't revive him anymore. He was gone. I never saw him, and he was gone. I accepted prayer had been for him not to hurt.

The pediatrician asked if they could do an autopsy, to be sure it was hylaine membrane disease (a mucous film that forms over lungs that didn't have a chance to be exercised through the normal course of contractions), that he had died of. I signed the paper. I asked about seeing Matthew, because I never had. They said I could, but that they usually recommended that the Mom didn't see the baby, because it was easier to get over - I did what they thought best. Joe had said that Matthew looked like Mike, had hair color blond, with a little red in it. He also had a strawberry mark on his leg. I never saw him.

The next day, a bouquet of flowers came, in a blue planter, with little brown, plastic baseball gloves scattered here and there throughout the flowers. I said to take the little baseball gloves out, but I would keep the flowers - they were from my Mom. (She had ordered them earlier, but they weren't delivered right away, because it was Sunday.)

Our Obstetrician, Dr. William B. Havey had always charged us only $75 for each baby he delivered for us. This Caesarian Section was "unexpected", he said - so he was still charging us only $75, although that was usually $350; he knew we just didn't have it. (One Christmas he had given us a huge gingerbread house, all covered with icing and candies - for the children.)

The nurses told me that I could still get pregnant, but couldn't carry a baby to term, the baby would die and I might. That left me in a mess, being Catholic and all.

Our pediatrician notified St. Leo's Church of the death (he also went to that church), and it was announced during the Sunday Mass. Somebody put us in a touch with an undertaker - we were in shock and didn't know what to do. I guess I had said I wanted Tommy Wright, as that's who handled the baby my Mom had lost. They didn't charge for babies - and we didn't want any memorial service. Later, we picked out a stone. Matthew Thomas was buried in the baby section of Evergreen Cemetery (on "H" Avenue), in Leominster, Massachusetts. His stone reads:


JAN. 14, 1967

On the left-hand side of the stone is a cross and on the right-hand side is a sparrow. I knew the significance of the Cross, and the sparrow was because God "...knows every sparrow that falls."

Later, I planted some crocus bulbs around the stone, to be the first blooming in the Spring. There were squirrels in/near the cemetery; and I thought they might dig up the bulbs. We went shopping (Mary and I), one Friday; we found some forget-me-not flowers; then we planted them around Matthew's stone at the cemetery.

That's where Mr. Emmerling's wife (and himself by now), are buried just down the little hill from Matthew. Nancy Desmarais' husband is buried across from the Emmerlings (that was Nancy's maiden name - I don't know married name), I had babysat her when she was in first grade, they were neighbors when I was growing up. At the very bottom of the hill is where my Gramma Taylor is buried, Grampa Taylor is buried close to Gramma, but not right next to her. My Mom (Helen Gingras Taylor Graves) had a double lot in the same cemetery - on another hill, under a tree - but gave her body to a medical school, so my half brother, Robert Graves has the double lot.

I was quite upset while in the hospital, understandably. I did a foolish thing - I wrote a poison pen letter to my old friend Evelyn Benoit (felt it was her fault I got pregnant, etc.) I had always had a hard time expressing myself, verbally, and had written a lot of letters in my days (not all poison pens!) She called me awhile after I was home from the hospital - she was very upset, had gone into a tail-spin over the whole situation, her husband was also fit-to-be-tied with me. Nobody thought about how Joe and I felt, just having lost a son. Anyhow, it was a bad situation, to say the least.

After a few weeks, things began to settle down, I got my strength back, Joe was back to work - things began to straighten out. I tried to get in touch with Evelyn to right things between us...there was nothing but "poison" coming over the phone to me. Its hard when you apologize and the other one won't accept your apology - it was something very new to me; a lesson to learn, also. From time to time, throughout the following year, I tried to make it right with Evelyn. They had now bought a house across town from us. Through it all I learned the power there is in the written word and vowed NEVER to write another poison pen letter, if only she would someday forgive me.

We went to three different Catholic priests to talk to them about our situation - eight children at home, still able to get pregnant, and not able to carry, maybe me dying and Joe left with the eight children. They all said there was nothing we could do, we couldn't practice birth control under the penalty of sin, and eventually hell. So, we were in a desperate situation...

Our family doctor would prescribe birth control pills (which wasn't usual in our Catholic town), and I tried 8 different kinds; the last one made me pass out, so that was the end of that. We were having a hard time handling the guilt that went along with this "sin", but we also knew we had to do something. The Catholic church offered us no hope whatsoever.

I had written a second article for the Catholic magazine (a few months earlier), against planned parenthood; they had again sent me a check for $5 and were about to publish it. My perspective had changed greatly, because of the situation we were now in; I told them that I didn't want the article published and returned their money.

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Pen Name: Aimee Love



Matthew Thomas - at Evergreen Cemetery, in Leominster, MA
Our son who was with us for 18 hours: we'll spend Eternity together!