I saw the relationships my friends and other relatives had with their sisters and told myself that I wanted that kind of relationship too. So, the day my mother told me she was pregnant with a girl I was ecstatic. I became obsessed with ideas of shopping for little girl clothes and eventually helping her sell Girl Scout cookies.

My ideas, however, came to a crashing end the moment my mom came home from the hospital crying; my little sister had died inside my mother’s stomach. The doctors told my mom that even if she had lived, the disease, Trisomy 13, a disease that happens in one out of 10,000 infants, would have allowed her to live for only a few days. The doctors called it a miscarriage, as if for four months, my mother’s stomach had accidentally held the baby wrong.

The devastation of a lost baby hit my family hard and was fueled even more when my mom brought my little sister home in a casket the size of a loaf of bread. I asked if I could see my baby sister and after looking up at my step-father Don and seeing him shrug my mom looked me right in the eye and said, “I’m going to let you see her, but just to let you know, she is not fully developed, so she won’t look like a normal baby.” I nodded to let her know that I understood.

My mom lifted the tiny lid of the coffin as if she were lifting a lid from a cookie jar and began sobbing the moment she saw the baby. Lying on pink satin was my baby sister. Her underdeveloped skin gave her a red body and made her look and feel rubbery; she looked as if she had come straight out of a biology book, one that shows the development of the baby throughout the nine months. She was still curled in the fetal position, her fingers in a ball and knees up to her chest. Her head was much bigger than her body and you could make out each of her features; her tiny closed mouth, her protruding nose, her forever closed eyes. Everything she needed was there, except for life.

Ashley Stussy
Excerpts from
"Four Houses"
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