Death is pointless.

Carly and I were pregnant together.  There were more of us, pregnant expatriate women in Bali: Robin, Caroline, Janet, Kerry… It was 1993.

Solo subjective research had resulted in the conviction that I should avoid the hospital at all times.  I went to the local ‘Bidan’ for my monthly check-ups and refused the tetanus injection she offered from the jar with some obscure fluid that housed all needles.  The bidan might have taken some hygienic liberties, at least she did not c-section.  Hospitals did.

Kasih Ibu had a 100% caesarian section rate for foreigners.  They’d schedule the caesarian ahead of the predicted birthday, to assure the income derived from this operation.  I heard stories of babies being pulled back from the birth canal through the c-section. It was all too grim!

Robin had her baby at home.  Cherie from America had helped her.  I asked Cherie to help me as well.  As my baby was getting ever longer past the due date, Cherie’s check-ups became more frequent towards every day.  There was no reason to be worried, except that the baby was not really lowering position to get ready for birth.  I carried her high up and was getting towards 44 weeks. But I was healthy, huge and every day I drank a disgusting slimy hibiscus leaf extract drink that would help slither the baby out in due time.

Then one day the baby’s heartbeat was gone. Cherie ordered me to lie upside-down, belly way up in the air, head down.  Then a faint heartbeat was audible. Slow, fast and again slow.  She urged me into the car, upside down and we drove down to Denpasar to the hospital.

It was evening and I was not in labor “come back when you are” a sweet nurse said and we went from the public hospital to several private ones, every time being sent away.  Finally Cherie exclaimed: “I NEED to see a docter, please”  It was already night time.

“Let us see the placenta, now” doctor Manuaba said in his soft, friendly voice and searched with the ultra sound thing over my huge belly.  He stopped way below, near the exit sign for the baby.  “I am sorry” he said: “this baby cannot come out in the normal way… well, it can, but you will die and probably the baby as well”.

The operating room looked like the back of butcher’s shop.  A cat slipped out as we moved in.  A cleaning lady just finished mopping.  Lorne took a chair, just in case he might faint.  He sat at my head.  I was firmly tied by my arms and legs, just in case the muscle relaxant would wear off. I told my body to fight and not surrender.

At he very same time Carly was taken into Kasih Ibu hospital for the premature c-section.  My baby would have died. I would have died. Carly’s baby died. She sat in a wheelchair at the funeral.  There was no reason. There was no understanding why.  I cried for her baby.  I cried I had had a c-section after all and how my muscles hurt and my body was now scarred for life.  I cried for everything and mostly self pity.  I was young.

Two years later Lorne died.  Three weeks before his 50th birthday.  Three weeks after his only daughter’s 2nd birthday.   I had been with a man who had adored his child with so much love, so much power, that the sheer beauty of it kept me floating in a painless place for a long time.  By the time his death hit me, I had long known he was dead.  Carly wrote me a letter. About life and death, about reason and love about how everything made sense, now that she had a new baby girl: Chloë.

Death of her son, death of my partner, births of our daughters gave us a connection for life.  I followed her life in Bali on Facebook as I returned to Holland.  I saw photographs of her beautiful girl and saw in everything how dearly much she loved her.

And now she’s dead. Chloë.  She must have been 17.  A gorgeous young girl with a bright smile and long blonde hair.

And there is no sense in this all.  There is just pain.  And there is no peeking back to earth, just for a minute.  Because death is absolute.  And my tears are not important for they don’t bring Chloë back.  I sometimes complain my daughter doesn’t do things the way I would like.  But now I am embarrassed to even admit I do. I am sorry, Carly.  Death is pointless.  Sometimes it is a mistake.

There is just pain.

If, for some reason, you wish to contribute to my life you may do so here.


  1. Sophia, I am crying.
    I Love you so much, and I love Carly… Damn the world that requires us to cement our hearts over, just to survive.

    Bali’s Daughters

    Often in Bali
    women weep giving birth
    to a daughter.
    One must have sons
    to appease the complications of culture,
    to carry the vulture of time from one generation,
    into many.
    A daughter is but a little bird,
    born to fly away and serve
    the family of the husband she must marry.

    Carly had a daughter, Chloë.
    This daughter redeemed many untold sorrows.
    She was her mother’s one treasure.

    During the years that followed
    we mothers felt safe, because happiness restored
    was invincible as a teenaged girl’s smile.

    We allowed our own children to grow up
    in the cracks of our busy lives, hardly breathing
    in their aroma of sweat and pollen.

    When the news crept from Bali to Holland
    and back to Bali, that Chloë’s light had extinguished,
    we were paralyzed. Many of us wished to stand by Carly
    close, too close, to hold her up, in a crowd of zombie love.
    Like childbirth, grief is a journey
    that the soul makes all alone. We lit candles and kept distance.

    In our village there is a new baby girl
    unwanted for being female.
    At birth I placed her just upon her mother’s
    sparrow heart, I whispered:
    “You are wanted, you are loved.”
    It maybe the only time she will hear this.

    It will restore no happiness,
    But secretly I named the baby girl, Chloë.

    ~ Robin Lim July 2012

  2. marcel gieling · · Reply

    Schokkend om over zoveel leed te lezen.

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