Sunday, March 15, 2009

that moment

It still amazes me, the tiniest, most unexpected things that can bring on a downward spiral. Today I was heating a pot of water on the stove, the steam beginning to roll around me, when suddenly the memories of your birth rushed in, without warning. Or perhaps the more appropriate term would be your death, as it is that moment that I still agonize over.

The connection is not as random as it might seem. There was a moment, weeks ago, though it seems much longer, when I stood over a pot of boiling water, unable to stop the memories from flooding in. I remember standing there, trying to swallow the tears, because I had cried enough, and yet the memories kept coming in flashes: the moment you left my body, the nurse bringing you to me for the first time and asking if I wanted to see your defect, and why, why were you not alive? When did you go? I stood there, the steam billowing, the tears sliding down my cheeks unwillingly, and shook my head, as if to say, enough. Enough, enough, I can't take anymore.

The fact that you were not born alive was insignificant when I left the hospital. I knew going in that you were not going to live, one way or another. And even when the nurses told me that it was possible that you might be born alive, I did not expect it. I could not. I wouldn't. I was done with expectations, and when you were born lifeless, I was not surprised. It was okay.

It wasn't until days, weeks, later, boiling water on the stove, that I began to contemplate the moment that you died. Why did you die? Were you scared? Did you struggle? Suddenly, that unnoticed moment that your heart stopped beating consumed me, and I felt an overwhelming sense of failure.

I got my hair cut the other day. The woman snipped away for awhile before asking the question, the one I had dreaded, the one I had not prepared my answer for yet. "Do you have any children?" Maybe I should have just said no. But I felt the need to tell her, a random stranger, that I had lost you, my first and only baby. She gushed with sympathy and then told me that she, too, had lost her first baby, when she was 12 days old.

"That's worse," she said gravely, "after you get attached."

Is it, though? I don't and hope to never know both sides of the coin, but she got 12 days. She got to see life in her daughter's eyes and tell her she loved her before she left his world. She got memories. And as far as attachment? Maybe I am not in the majority, but my attachment began the moment that piece of plastic flashed the word 'Pregnant' at me. I began to exist because of you. There was still life as I knew it, but my priorities had changed. My sole purpose was to protect you, to give you the best, no matter what it took.

Did she have to decide that what was best for her daughter was to let her go? Probably not.
Does she have to live with the unique weight of guilt that comes with that? Probably not.
Is her loss worse, then? I can't say. It's almost like comparing apples to oranges.

In the days that followed the diagnosis, I would not listen to your heartbeat, I did not want another ultrasound. I wanted to believe that you were already leaving, that perhaps you were already gone.

And now, oh what I would give to hear your heart beating one more time. See you wiggling, hiccuping on the ultrasound screen, one more time. And I hate myself for not cherishing, clinging to, every last second I had with you.

But this life was not for you
though I learned from you
that beauty need only be a whisper.


Anonymous said...
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Wabi said...

Ugh. Commenting late on this, but I wanted to say that the hair stylist's comment would have roiled me up, too.

It's one thing to rank losses against each other and play the pain olympics in your head. Everyone does that at some point in grieving. But to say it OUT LOUD to someone who has a fresh loss? Jeez, she is freakin' dolt. That is just plain rude and unsympathetic.