This infant headstone marks my sister’s gravesite. Her name was Laura Alicia and she was born on March 12, 1963. She passed on March 12, 1963. I first learned about Laura Alicia after I stumbled upon a set of old, faded photographs of my Mother’s. The photos were of her standing next to the tiniest pink casket I had ever seen. Granted I hadn’t seen many caskets at that young age of about 7 or 8. When I asked my Mother about the photos, I recall she was taken a bit aback but despite what was evidently a painful experience for her, she proceeded to tell me about the loss of her first born. Her account begins with blaming herself for Laura Alicia being born with a whole in her heart. A defect that today can be corrected, but in 1963 was mortal to infants. She blamed herself because she believed she ate too many sweets and candy during her pregnancy, and that “Papa”, her father, had warned her about eating too many sweets during her pregnancy and that it could hurt the baby. She then went on to disclose the heartache accompanied with Laura Alicia’s delivery at Brownsville Mercy Hospital that Spring day. She recalled going into labor, then awakening to the sound of Laura Alicia crying, a pained cry, a cry that hurt my mother to listen to. The crying was incessant. Non-stop. It went on for hours, into the day and night. As the day was coming to a close, a nurse entered my Mother’s hospital room and asked what the Baby Girl would be named. My Mother named her Laura Alicia. A short time later, the crying suddenly stopped. Mom said at that moment, her heart stopped . . . at that very moment of silence, she knew Laura Alicia had died. In the days that followed, my Mother learned more about the circumstances that surrounded Laura’s Alicia’s death. She learned from the nurses that the doctor who reported to deliver the baby at the hospital, the same doctor who had provided pre-natal care to my Mom, had arrived at the hospital reeking of alcohol and obviously drunk. She learned that when the doctor used the forceps to pull Laura Alicia out of the birth canal, that he fractured her tiny, small skull. In the weeks and months that followed, my Mother’s anguish and pain were nearly unbearable, in large part for all the reasons she disclosed to me about Laura Alicia’s birth and death, but more so because she felt helpless. You see, back then una familia Mexicana did not sue doctors for malpractice . . . it just was not done. And, as a result of that cultural taboo, that doctor was never held accountable for his actions and omissions. My Mom shared that she never really got over Laura Alicia’s death. How does one ever really get over the death of a child? How many other babies were harmed by a doctor who took an oath to do no harm? I want to believe that my Mother took this painful experience and used it to fuel her passion for education and hard work. She believed that sometimes one had to sacrifice for the benefit of others, oh and what a sacrifice she made. My parents went on to have me and my brother. We were a nuclear, non-traditional family by every account and standard of the 60’s and 70’s. And the story as told to me by my mom helped transform a family from victims of circumstances to masters of their own destinies, and for this we are all eternally grateful. We know that the loss of Laura Alicia’s young and tender life was not in vain.
About The Author
Born and bred in Brownsville, Texas, Gonzalez has lived in San Antonio for over 30 years. She attended St. Mary’s University where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and later her law degree. Gonzalez has a family law practice and is a graduate of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University. She has a long established history of coordinating campaigns and consulting for women candidates.
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