Birth Stories

Published on August 2nd, 2022 | by Melissa Wabnitz Pumayugra


Lawton, Oklahoma

Her name was misspelled after a writer that no one in her family had actually read. My grandmother, the wildest woman I knew, never met my second child. Zayne Heather Logan passed away shortly before my own miracle entered the world.

            Mere hours after she died in the room alone, stale potato chips left on the adjacent table, my son emerged. I had planned to labor and give birth at home, but those efforts were thwarted as I felt myself grow light and lose consciousness. I awoke to the hands of an unknown doctor twisting and pulling my purple child free, my husband and daughter looking on, terrified. I was unaware of the exchange taking place, a heart for a heart, a soul for a soul. Zayne for Malcolm. I found out later it was in these moments of utter pain and desperation bringing forth my son in an unforgiving hospital that Zayne finally broke free of her body. So as I celebrated our new child, I devastatingly grieved the loss of our matriarch.

            The baby survived and I did too. Recovering from the delivery took some time, but we both have finally been able to secure our space in this world. I see Zayne in both of my children—my son is creative and personable, and my daughter is a deeply mindful, bookish introvert. All of these qualities were exhibited by my grandmother during various stages of her Dementia and ultimate death.

            My grandmother’s presence is clear in my home these days—her paintings and pictures adorn our walls, and her stories of travel and adventure come up in conversation frequently. Still, there are millions of unanswered curiosities about her deeply-guarded life. Why did she learn Russian and travel there before it was open to the United States? How did she decide to give herself the middle name “Heather?” So many questions still decorate our family history. My daughter seems to have more questions about her great-grandmother in her passing than during her life, but sadly, Dementia stole from all of us in this way. Buried in letters and destroyed, I share the wonder of Zayne’s existence.

Two years after she died, I began the search to find Zayne’s eternal home. I had no idea which cemetery housed our relatives and only vague family names to guide me. Lawton, Oklahoma isn’t large, luckily. After a few weeks of calling around, I finally found the right one and spoke to the manager. He assured me the process was simple. I made the commitment to bring a suitable urn and the groundskeeper prepared a small hole next to my great-great-grandfather so we could drop Zayne in. A one hundred, fifty dollar deposit secured the date. I felt the tectonic plates of guilt shift in my heart. This was what she wanted–I could finally honor it.

            As we entered the cemetery to say goodbye one last time, I felt both a weight lifted off of my shoulders and a weight placed squarely on my chest. My matriarch, my grandmother, will finally be at peace. I fought back tears but decided it’s the right time and the right place to let them be. I had to fight to get her ashes turned over to me from another relative, and I had to search hours upon hours online and make cold calls to cemeteries hoping to find the correct location. But I could finally bury Zayne instead of spending the ever-after in a dusty closet next to her ex-husband’s ashes. If she were alive, she would have screamed—that much I am sure of.
            The generations mingled.  My young son ran around our other relatives’ tombstones and grave markers while my eldest child looked on, bemused. Her soft eyes dotted with tears, I held her hand and the cemetery groundskeeper asked me if I wanted to say a prayer. I declined. Knowing that I’ve honored her through this one last promise was enough. I could finally rest easy, return to Texas, and be at peace knowing that we’ve finally finished this chapter in Zayne’s life.

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About the Author

Melissa Wabnitz Pumayugra is a writer based out of San Antonio. When she isn’t tending to her succulent collection or children, she enjoys day trips and reading short stories while sipping iced coffee. Her writing and photography can be found online in You Might Need to Hear This, Blood Orange Review, Hobart Pulp, Emerson Review and many more literary journals.

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