What is Life all about?
Posted on: Tuesday, March 30, 2010I met Anna, a 17-year-old, about a decade ago. She was planning to give her baby up for adoption. I visited her several times at her parents’ home to teach her about pregnancy, labor and delivery. When it was time for Anna to give birth, the adoptive parents were present at the delivery and took the baby home with them. Though Anna felt sad, she believed that her baby would be better off with them. We closed the case. I heard from her from time to time when she would leave me a voicemail to update me on her life or to ask a health question. I next visited her a year later when she thought she was pregnant again, but it turned out she was not. She was grateful for that because she was taking courses at the local college and was hoping to become a nurse someday.
Anna called me two years later. She was living in the Twin Cities. She had fallen in love and was pregnant with a baby she wanted to keep. Her boyfriend had never seen a birth and she asked if I would visit to teach him about the whole process. I agreed and we set up an appointment. The couple missed that and several other appointments. Anna’s mother and I got to know each other pretty well over the phone. She would always say, “Anna really needs you. I’ll tell her you called so she can schedule another appointment.”
Anna and her boyfriend finally made it to a visit at my office. She seemed so excited about this pregnancy and becoming a parent. It was a hot summer day and she came in a tank top. I remember feeling so sad when I saw her arms. They bore old scars of cutting. This sweet, gentle girl, who always wanted to do the right thing, had obviously taken her problems out on herself.
She delivered a healthy baby, and the family went to live at her parents’ home because they could not afford the place where they had been living. I tried to visit several times to contact Anna after the baby was born, but had trouble reaching her. Her mother again kept encouraging me to keep trying, but I was never able to visit Anna and her new baby.
A few months after the baby’s birth, I was at home watching the news when a story came on about a young woman whose body had been found outside. The woman was Anna. She had overdosed and frozen to death where she fell. No one saw her body until the next day. On the day of her wake, I received a Christmas card in my mailbox from Anna. Later that night I stood in a very long line at the wake to speak to her parents. When I reached her mother I introduced myself and she just hugged me tightly and asked, “Did you get the Christmas card?” She said that Anna had been insistent that the card get in the mail to get to me on time. We cried together.
On very cold winter nights when the wind is howling from the north, much like the night that she died, Anna comes back to me. With her memory comes the quiet question of what is life about? How can we help one another? How can addiction be so strong as to pull a new mother away from her baby? Sadness mingles with fears for what I am powerless to control. Anna, I will never, ever forget you or your gentle voice.