Monday, May 24, 2010

fresh paint

we are flying down a familiar road again, speeding toward the hope of an answer, although this time the question lacks any hint of optimism. the sun beats down defiantly on our tired faces. the sheep in the fields keep their babies close, taunting me with their good fortune. this isn't fair.

it is new year's eve day, though the holiday barely registers. the date is almost too trivial to comprehend. there are no dates, and there is certainly nothing to celebrate.

there is tension in the car as we navigate through turning lanes and stop signs into the cement box of the parking garage. somehow, we gather ourselves and set foot on the ground again. one step at a time.

the smell of fresh paint and new carpet are overwhelming as push through the doors of a new hospital building. we seem strangely out of place among the brightly colored walls and modern artwork, among parents wrangling running children and caressing swollen bellies. what a sight we must be, tear-streaked and ashen-faced, wandering the halls of a place we never wanted to know. and somehow, we step into an elevator and ascend to the correct floor. a small miracle, as i am outside myself. my body goes through the motions, but i am not here. not really.

there is a wait. there is always a wait, as we will quickly learn. we sit among pregnant bellies, bellies larger than mine will ever get, and i stare at the circles on the wall, at the pattern of the carpet, anything but the round protrusions that remind me of what i am already losing, although i haven't lost her yet.

we are ushered into a small office with a round table. framed pictures and certificates of a genetic counselor litter the perimeter, not yet hung. i slide into the farthest chair, with him at one side and the window on the other. the counselor places a box of tissue in my vicinity of the table: a permission of sorts, a silent message that says, this will be hard. it is okay to cry.

her eyes are sad and her voice is thick with sympathy, quiet with the weight of her words. she offers another ultrasound but i refuse. i cannot bear the thought. she opens a folder, heavy with papers that sum up everything we have learned thus far. and then she pulls out a long string of shiny paper printed with fuzzy images in shades of gray, pointing out lemons and lateral ventricles and a spine that splits nearly in the middle and curves to the left. this is what we know, but there is so much that we don't. there is talk of necessary surgeries, of shunts and metal rods and braces, even to sit. potential brain damage, advanced hydrocephalus.

somehow, we reach the subject of the other side, of that other option that is tugging at us because we love her so much that we cannot imagine putting her through this. she looks at us knowingly and says, it sounds like you are leaning towards ending the pregnancy. and the pit of my stomach falls out and the tears spring to my eyes like a thousand pins as she pushes the box of tissue closer. and there, there is the increasingly familiar pull and tug of how can we, how can we not? she assures us it can be done peacefully, with respect, extinguishing the fear instilled in me by my own ninth grade persuasive speech with a pro-life angle. how ironic.

the office is too small for this conversation, this choice that feels like anything but. she gives us her cell phone number and we file out, sinking back down the elevator without a word. i am numb. dizzy with grief and fear and uncertainty, and yet i feel very little.

in the breezeway, a mother pushes her son in a wheelchair, his gaze absent as he stares out the window. our pace simultaneously quickens as we pass, pushing our way through the heavy metal doors into the damp darkness of the parking garage once again. we do not stop until we reach the car, the doors falling shut on either side as we collapse into our little portable bubble. the silence settles in, thick and ridden with unspoken questions.

and there are the tears again, although this time, they are his. suddenly, this is all very real to him, too. suddenly, we are tiny, helpless, powerless to fix this. there is a ripple of injustice as reality continues to set in. why us. why her. this isn't fair.

we lean into each other and cry, tears sliding off our noses and mingling together on the upholstery. he is the first to muster words:

i think we have to let her go.

i know it is the truth, and yet it is sickening, sitting in the pit of my stomach like a rock or something equally indigestible. there are no good options.

we cry a little longer, and i am thankful for the dialog that has finally been opened between us. because suddenly it is real, and it isn't fair, but we are in it together.

slowly we settle back into the hum of the rest of the world, where our bodies already know what to do and our minds just follow along.

i start the car and we keep moving.

we have no choice.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

getting to know you

Over the last year or so I have gathered a handful of followers on this blog--and gotten comments from several of you who aren't "officially" following as well. Some of you I know, but there are some new faces too. So if you are reading, I would love it if you would take a moment to comment and tell me a little bit about you and your story, and/or if you have a blog that I should be reading! If you feel more comfortable emailing, you can do that too:

Monday, May 10, 2010

would-be birthday month

It's May again, and since the moment we flipped the calendar you have been on my mind constantly. There is still a heaviness in my heart about this month--a sort of bitter sadness that accompanies a broken dream, I suppose. I remember so many people commenting on what a great time of year it would be to have a baby. Of course, I never got to find out. Yet somehow, this month, your due date, still holds so much significance for me. In that alternate reality where everything is different, I would be planning your first birthday. I can't even imagine.

Mother's day was a little bit easier this year, although much too ridden with the word "first." Happy first mother's day! Once again I found myself in that familiar position of being pulled in two directions: torn between embracing the happy, normal, "first time mom" image, and the one whose heart bristles at the assumption that I was not a mother last year. What about that 24 hour labor last January, at the end of which I pushed out a tiny baby? What about the box of ashes on the shelf? What about the tiny flutter of hope that would become your brother, already nestled in my womb?

This year, he is the dominating force in my life, and my motherhood is a lot more obvious. But I like to believe that it truly began a long time ago, way back on the morning of September 9th, when I peed on a stick and it flashed an hourglass at me for what seemed like an eternity before spelling out something along the lines of: "you will never be the same." And now I can truly appreciate the magnitude of that moment, because I am, in fact, forever changed because of you. I am a better mother because of you. You have shaped me in so many ways.

All of that, and I will never get to know you. I wonder if May will always feel so significant; if it will always feel like there is a birthday missing on the calendar. Much of the time it almost feels like I am still waiting for you, and it isn't until those flashbacks of a hospital room, of tiny, lifeless fingers and toes, that I remember you are really gone.

Time is funny that way. That old cliche that time heals is a bit misleading, I think. Really, I think time is just distance. With time, you begin to lose touch with those moments, just like you might lose touch with friends after moving away. They are still a part of you, of your history, but suddenly you have this new life. You become someone different. You remember them, but they are not so present in your every day life, and so you drift. And I think, in many ways, we do begin to forget, just a little. We have to, if we want to be able to move on in this new life, which, for better or worse, keeps marching on. Eventually, maybe we get used to the distance, and the distance gives us the perspective to reflect more objectively, but it never hurts any less. I don't think time will ever truly "heal" that heartache, but it does soften it. A little bit of distance and detachment makes it easier to bear, at least until it all rushes in and takes you back again.

Am I the only one who has these moments of rushing memories that make it all very real again? Because I am having entirely too many of them lately.