loss of a child

How the Duffel Bag That I Put My Late Baby’s Things In Became the ‘Happy Bag’

Redhead girl with suitcase in the autumn park.

When I was pregnant with my first child, a friend of mine gave me a Vera Bradley duffel bag as a baby shower gift. Although it was soft and featured a lot of pink, it was not the typical shower gift I received, which were mostly things meant exclusively for the baby.

My friend explained that this was to be a bag for me—and when I was ready to share it, it would be a bag for my daughter.

I know I had things in my mind that I would pass onto my firstborn, but this was the first item that was specifically meant for that purpose. I was touched beyond words.

That bag became my “go bag.” It contained clothes for me and clothes for my unborn daughter. We stuffed in headbands and other assorted trinkets, too, because we were not sure what we would need for our newborn photo shoot. I also packed a nail file and other miscellaneous things that had nothing to do with giving birth or staying in a hospital, but I wanted to be prepared.

When my husband and I walked into the hospital on April 21, 2011, we had that bag slung over his shoulder. We were too soon to have our baby, but we figured she was coming so we had to be ready.

When the ultrasound technician glanced at us and said there was no heartbeat, the bag sat solemnly in the corner.

When the doctor arrived and explained, with watery eyes and a look full of sorrow, that we had suffered fetal demise, the bag was there.

duffel bag

When Allison was born still on April 22, 2011, the bag sat on a chair, untouched. There was simply nothing from it that I needed.

When we came home from the hospital with much of the same items still in the bag, a memory box in our hands, and no car seat, we were numb and empty.

The bag eventually got unpacked and the contents put away. I threw out the nail file and laughed at how naive I had been. The maternity clothes were no longer of use so they went into storage, along with Allison’s beloved clothes and other keepsakes.

When our second daughter was soon to be born, I went searching for that bag. I dusted it off, filled it up with new outfits and new items, and it became hers. I expected to have some fear or anxiety when I saw the bag again, but I didn’t. I was just excited to finally be able to use the bag in the way it was intended. It went to the hospital with us to meet her. It went to her aunt and uncle’s house in New Jersey for her first sleepover. A few weeks ago, it traveled to Virginia with us when we went to spend the weekend with my college roommate. It has been to the Poconos and back. It has been to Wildwood and Ocean City and most recently, the Great Wolf Lodge.

The sad bag has become a happy bag. It has become what it was meant to be—something of mine that is now my daughter’s. It took us a long time to get here, but get here we did.

I am not sure when my daughter will use it next, but I know that seeing that bag will mean an adventure is before us and that good things will be on the horizon. That bag turned out to be a pretty great shower gift after all.


Read More:

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Mayim Bialik: There’s No Reason You Shouldn’t Get Screened for Jewish Genetic Diseases

My 7th Time Giving Birth & Everything Was Different


Samantha Koellhoffer

Samantha Koellhoffer is a freelance writer living outside of Philadelphia, PA with her loving husband and their superhero-and-princess-obsessed daughter. She is busy learning how to be a mom to her adopted daughter after her first child was born still. Sam blogs here and Time 2 Mom Up, and is currently working on a book about the highs and lows of motherhood. #time2momup

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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