First published in Dutch on November 27, 2017
I was in the Hema[i] this morning and I bought a photo album in exactly the same size and layout as the photo-albums I have for my other children.
My husband and I were in the shopping center for Sinterklaas gifts[ii] and there, in the Hema, I had the feeling that it was time to do this. It was time to choose a beautiful album for my fifth child. Tears ran down my cheeks. Also because I was moved and proud in some way. That I had the courage to this.
For my other children I started to make a photo album before they were born. I pasted in the postcards people send me with: ‘congratulations you are pregnant’, photos of the echo’s and of my growing belly. And I added parts I copied out of my diary wherein I dreamed or prayed for my unborn child. I wrote down the presents my little one had received from grandpa’s and grandma’s and uncles and aunts. And after the baby was born, I added the baby pictures.
I had not begun an album yet for Amanda before she was born. Something was holding me back.
Right now, I keep the echo pictures in a plastic little map in front of my calendar and I see them quite often. But the end of the year is coming, I need the calendar for next year already more than the one of 2017 and I am almost sure I will not transfer the pictures to this new one. We only took pictures of my big belly after we knew Amanda had passed away. And I had not yet chosen the quotes I wanted to copy out of my diary, though I wrote a lot while I was pregnant. The photos taken after her birth are in a small map in her room, together with her birth and death certificate, our wedding book with the names of our five children and the imprints of her little feet.
But now I have a real, big baby-photo album. In the coming days I want to start with pasting in the proofs of how welcome and loved she was, even before being born. I am very happy with it and at the same time my eyes are filled with tears if I think about what I am going to do. It will be hard.
In the albums of my other children, I wrote, before their birth: ‘album for my first (2nd/3rd/4th) child’. And after they were born, I added their names in my most beautiful hand writing, together with the date and time of birth. It was a special moment for me to do that. It was a sort of confirmation of what was enriched in our family and how special this child was for me.
But now. ‘Album for my fifth child, Susan Amanda Marsman, born March 22, 2017 at 23:09’? That doesn’t work. I can not do this for her. She will never look in it, as her brothers and sisters do in their albums, again and again. I can not write down memories for her.
Still I want to fill an album. As a memory of her short existence. A monument of my love for her. And an acknowledgement of who she was and is. Manu Keirse said in a television program[iii] about another mother: ‘although her two children have died, she still will always be the mother of those two children.’ And so, this pink photo album will be a baby album ‘in loving memory of my fifth child, Susan Amanda Marsman’. Because that is who she is always will be. Our fifth child.
[i] Hema is a Dutch warehouse where you can buy all kind of things.
[ii] In Holland, a lot of people don’t give each other presents at Christmas, but on December 5, when we celebrate ‘Sinterklaas’.
[iii] De verwondering, On Dutch Television, NPO: November 27, 2017, you can watch it here: https://tvblik.nl/de-verwondering/manu-keirse