Tuesday, March 10, 2009

the aftermath

Morning crept through the heavy hospital curtains slowly that morning, nurses sneaking in and out with surprisingly little sound. I was uncomfortable. Although I had been detached from the IV and the incessant blood pressure monitor, the bones in my hip were now up close and personal with the metal contraption that allowed half of my bed to fall away on demand, and I could not bring myself to move. I was afraid to move. I had slept most of the night in that same position, you nestled in your blankets beside me. I was afraid if I turned over or even repositioned myself you would fall. It did not matter that you were not breathing, I had been acutely aware of your presence all night, and had arranged myself accordingly. I did sleep though, I must have, as somehow it had become 8:30 and a maroon colored box had appeared on the shelf next to me along with the breakfast I had chosen the day previously.

As my eyes began to flutter open more permanently, my thoughts were on getting out of that bed, that room, sooner than later. But Jesse was still sleeping, and I didn't want to wake him just yet. So I propped myself up on my elbow and leaned over you, studying every inch of your body once again. You were bruising and cold, and this was not at all how I wanted to remember you, but I could not pry myself away. Suddenly a wave of reality rushed over me, one that had not been there the previous day as we had passed you around and taken your pictures. It hit me, forcefully, that you were mine. You were my baby, and you were not living, you were not joining me in this world. Not this time.

The tears fell, silently at first, onto your tiny cheeks, like a river that I had no control of anymore. You were so still. I felt the emptiness in my belly expanding until it consumed every inch of me. I was empty and you were gone and now I was supposed to get up and go on? I swung my feet over the edge of the bed and sat up, separating you carefully from the bundle of blankets you were nestled in. I wrapped you in the tiny knitted blanket the nurses had given you (it was just your size), and cradled you in my hands, trying to commit every inch of you to memory.

I held you. I pulled you in close, holding you close to my heart, rocking you, as if you were the one who needed consoling. And the tears fell, my breath shook me, and the only words I could possibly manage to whisper to you, even though I knew you didn't hear me, you didn't need to hear me, were "I'm sorry." I'm sorry, I'm sorry. My baby. My baby.

"Should we call the nurse?" Jesse had appeared by my side, his presence simultaneously strong and comforting, his voice softer than usual. I nodded, feeling that I could not spend much more time in that room, but also knowing that you could not come with me, even though I wanted you to. More than anything, I wanted you to. But you were lying peacefully in my hands, too little, too fragile for this world, my baby bird who fell out of the nest. I kissed your tiny, freezing little head as he pushed the button and we began the process of leaving you forever.

The nurse buzzed in a few minutes later, all business and cheerfulness, with instructions to give me a shot and a handful of discharge papers. She warned me that the shot might be painful and I laughed. I felt untouchable, the pain in my heart so overwhelming that nothing physical could possibly compare. She mentioned the necklace that was in your memory box, the maroon one that had appeared overnight, and I went searching for it after she left again with the intention to return and collect you. It was a two piece ceramic heart--a small one inside of the bigger one, just the way you had lived inside of me, the way you would continue to live inside my heart. I separated them and tied the smaller one around your neck, placing your hands over it carefully.

"You hold on to that," I instructed you, feeling silly as I did so. And then the tears were falling all over again, as they would continue to for days, for weeks, perhaps forever. Soon the nurse was hovering in front of me, waiting.

"Are we ready?" She said softly, and I just looked at her. I would never be ready, not in this lifetime. I gathered you in your tiny knitted blanket, cradling you, my little handful of perfection, for the last time. The nurse gave me a small smile and said "as ready as you'll ever be, right?" I nodded and then I handed you over, just like that, into the nurses hands. I handed you to her and let you go forever. And she carried you away, leaving me to get dressed and rejoin the real world without you.

In the days and weeks that would follow, it was this moment that would haunt me more than any other, but at the time, I did not cry. Instead I took off my hospital gown and put on my real clothes, gathered my things and waited for my wheelchair escort to the front entrance. I resented the idea of being wheeled out of there. I had come this far and I was still standing, but I consented to the formality anyway. I was not broken, but I was tired. I felt eyes on me as I was pushed back down the endless halls, and I wondered how I must look. What did people think, seeing me pushed out of the labor and delivery ward, tear streaked and blank-stared, without my baby? The nurse stopped on our way to direct a small family to Labor and Delivery and I felt immensely small, especially from my perspective in the chair. I wanted to disappear.

Once again in the parking lot, I looked up at the grid of windows that now represented something different entirely. You were up there somewhere, and I was leaving you. This was it, it was really over now. As we navigated our way back the world, my eyes remained fixed on the building, watching it, watching you, getting further and further away. And when it was very far in the distance, about to disappear, I whispered "Bye Layla." And then it was gone, you were gone, slipping away into the distance forever.

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
as long as I'm living,
my baby you'll be.

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