Monday, June 29, 2009

birth? death? birthdeath?

It has been almost six months now, and I have yet to find the words to write the story of your birth. Not ironically, it is those moments--the last flutters, the foreign sensations, the tears, the cradling, the love, the heartbreak--that lurk in the corners of my mind, presenting themselves at the most awkward times and bringing me back. Bringing me right back. Six months of wrangling such memories has taught me to give them boundaries, however. I do not dismiss them, as that is essentially impossible, but instead I tell them to wait. Not now. I will deal with you later. I will visit you again when I have time, space. I will visit you when I can feel that pain with the intensity I need to, when I can cry those tears freely, as long as I want, because my baby died, and I'm not over it.

But I am okay. In my logical mind, I know that everything is as it should be. I know your soul is whole and well and part of my life for a very important reason. We probably planned it this way. And yet, that very human, very mortal part of me, that instinctual mother, does not understand. They say when you have children, it's like watching a piece of your heart walk around outside of your body. It's like that, exactly that, only you are gone, and so is that piece of me. There is an emptiness in this world, my current, tangible reality, that will never be filled.

And still your little life, your death, your absence, have changed me in ways I could not have imagined--changes that I am now grateful for, that I would not give up if I had the chance. Your birth and death were a beginning and end for me, too.

I started to write it a couple weeks ago, and it just comes out wrong. I cannot find the tone, I can't find the words. Do I just write it, the standard play-by-play of events that traditionally ends with pictures of squirmy newborns, a lament about sleepless nights and the new found love that comes with the discovery of your child? How do I put it that, in the moments after you were born, everyone was crying but you? That I witnessed my own father cry for the very first time? That there were no apgar scores or measurements, just a nurse bringing you in your blanket and asking if I wanted to see your defect? How do I explain the last time I felt you move, that I still wonder if it was the last time you moved at all? Are there even words?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

a hope and not a promise

I was so honored to learn that I was chosen for the spring award at Glow in the Woods this morning. I have found so much comfort in the writing there over the past 6 months, and to think that others may benefit from mine as well is a wonderful feeling. It is a group that I wish none of us ever had to belong to, but I am so grateful to have found it.

The award prompted me to read through your letters again--something I rarely do. As I said in my very first post: sometimes I want to reach out and grab someone and make them understand, bring them with me to that place and make them feel the terror, the sadness. The heartbreak.

I certainly succeeded, at least with myself. Every post took me right back to those moments, quickly reintroducing me to that dark gaping hole that I have so successfully been distracting myself from. It was if I was reminded: oh yes, this happened. Oh yes, it hurts. Oh yes, it will hurt forever.

And then I get angry. How could I have let myself forget? I think of you every day, and yet I somehow manage to evade that all too familiar, consuming heartache that goes along with your memory on a daily basis. How is it that the flood of tears that came today, the gut-wrenching sobs that are seemingly beyond my control, have come to feel right? Necessary. Comfortable? Perhaps it is that they are all I have left. If I am not grieving you, then did you really exist?

We moved out of the only house you ever lived in last week. It was the same house that became my refuge, my cave, the one place that I was allowed to stay in my pajamas for days and just miss you, after you died. As I swept every particle of dust out of the empty corners, I found pockets of grief that had slipped under furniture, waiting for the moment they might be visited again. Every inch of the house had an energy in it, and it was bittersweet leaving it behind. We are embarking on lots of new beginnings this year, and yet I cannot bear the thought of putting your life, your death behind me, into a dusty mental closet of bad memories. You are more than that. You will always be more than that.

The weeks are ticking away in the pregnancy with your sibling, and I find myself starting to wish time away again. I want it to be July, when we will learn if the baby's spine is closed, I want it to be December, when (God willing) I will hold the little one, I want time to pass for this and that until some little voice kicks in and screams in my head STOP! This could be all you get! And I try to cherish it, but there is still so much uncertainty.

People ask the incessant, obligatory question, "how are you feeling?" and I have little to say. I tell them I am tired, mostly, and they laugh and say "nap while you can, those days are numbered!" I smile, because that is the only appropriate response, but inside I am saying "yes, I can only hope to be so lucky." I can only hope to be spending sleepless nights with a screaming, healthy baby, the kind that most people take for granted.

I can only hope.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I love my baby no matter what

Ter`mi*na"tion\, n.

1. The act of terminating, or of limiting or setting bounds; the act of ending or concluding; as, a voluntary termination of hostilities.

2. End in time or existence; as, the termination of the year, or of life; the termination of happiness.

The word felt dirty to me, wrong in my mouth, for the longest time. To this day, I hesitate before saying it out loud. It is so harsh, so final, so totally void of the emotion and agony that went into the decision. Certainly, in the early days after the diagnosis, I resented the word, I danced around it, always calling it something different, because it was different, it had to be. In genetic counseling, it was always "ending the pregnancy" or "interrupting the pregnancy," as if those were any better. I worded it in any other way I could find, I still do. But then there it was, scribbled all over my discharge papers from the hospital, closely followed by fetal anomaly, fetal demise, 21 weeks.

It wasn't until one day, after the diagnosis but before your birth, when I decided to type the word, hating every letter, into the search field of the Baby Center Community, that it began to resonate with me. There it was, a group full of people going through exactly the same thing I was. Suddenly I was not alone. I was not a monster for even considering it.

I cringe when I see people say that termination would never be an option for them. It was not an option for me, either. Even in the initial phone call when Patricia mentioned that the specialists would be discussing my "options" with me, my head spun. What options? This was my baby. There were no options.

And then...well, everything changed. What happens when all the options are awful? What happens when life is not necessarily the best option for your own child? What happens when you have to choose their well being or yours? Just like any mother, you choose your child's.

There is so much misunderstanding surrounding termination for medical reasons. Those who have never been in our shoes and never plan to be, claim that they will love their babies no matter what. As if the decision is simple, black and white: if you love your baby, you will keep them, no matter what. But choosing to let a baby go is perhaps one of the hardest, most sacrificial demonstrations of love there is. I do not know of anyone who has taken the decision lightly. Choosing to let a baby go who would otherwise be born into a life of suffering (or no life at all) is a sacrifice. I will suffer my whole life so that you do not have to feel one moment of pain. I will spare you, even though it hurts more than anything I could ever have imagined. I carry the weight of this so you will never have to.

It is not easy.

As we get further into the pregnancy with your sibling, I have been thinking a lot about how I will handle things if there is a problem again. Some part of me wants to say it doesn't matter, I will keep this baby no matter what. But then, does that mean I love this baby more? And if I consider putting my own well being before this baby's, does that mean I love this baby less? It is so tempting to say that love has nothing to do with it, but essentially it is all about love. You are both my children and I am constantly humbled by the amount of love I am capable of in my new, unique motherhood.

I love you both, no matter what.