I am 23 weeks pregnant today. This is how I spent the first day of my 23rd week with Caleb. It was the end of the end. It was the beginning of the beginning. It was the day that I met a part of myself I didn't know existed. It was a time when I felt emotions I didn't know I had. It was an introduction into an emptiness reserved only for the truly devastated, where sadness is only a resting place and despair and hopelessness become a final destination. A realization that nothing is ever in my control, that no one or nothing would ever be able to offer me any reassurance that 'everything will be alright' ever again. A knowledge that everything would forever be changed, that making plans is not always the expedient thing to do and instead can lead to heartbreak and more uncertainty than if you had just left things be.
I am a wholly different person today than I was almost a year ago, 48 weeks and a day give or take, ago. I am not who I thought I would be, but then who can predict your 'recovery' from giving birth to our dead son? I am still haunted daily with thoughts of what happened, although now they are shrouded with equal thoughts of hope and pleading that the tragedy will not be revisited with this tiny leprechaun still growing within my body. My body, which, those 48 weeks ago served as a coffin and not as a place of nurture and growth for a baby. I speak more openly about my loss, I am not afraid to say when asked about this pregnancy that this will be my FOURTH child and to give voice to his name and brief lifetime here on this earth.
My daughter was in the hospital last week, twice and in going over her history with the ER doc, I was asked about her pregnancy, her delivery, my other children, any major illness, deaths etc, as they tried desperately to find out what was wrong with her. And so I told him about my Caleb, not mincing words, not wanting to waste time in diagnosing my daughters condition. "I had a son in September, he was stillborn." Simply stated, not seeking comfort or sympathy only relating the facts, I didn't even think about all of the emotional baggage attached to the statement. It stopped the young doctor in his tracks. He became flustered and wordless. He stammered, "Oh, oh, oh that's just, oh its oh you mean just this past September? Oh almost a year ago, oh, oh..." he looked at my mother, who was sitting in the room with me and my daughter, for help or guidance and then back to me, "Do they know why?" And again I told him, dismissing the familiar lump in my throat that appeared I think more because of his discomfort than mine, "A cord accident." His words continued to tangle their way off of his tongue as he tried to offer something to me, but truth be told, it just wasn't the time. There was nothing to be done for Caleb at that moment and the only thing I wanted for me was to have my daughter not be in any more pain, to have my daughter cured and handed back to me, whole and healthy. It was time to move on and not let his death be the primary focus of the conversation or the moment. And we did.
I suppose I have a different perspective now. The one that time grants you as you struggle through the thickness of grief. I can not or choose not to reread the words I wrote about that day. The memory is still there in my head but I see it differently now. Now I remember the minute details instead of the enormous crushing feelings. When I think of laboring and pushing, I can see vividly the yellow weave of my husbands shirtsleeve that I had buried my face in. I can feel it's course texture on my cheek. I can read his work logo in soft grey lettering on his chest, my mascara smeared on the sleeve. He wore that shirt the other day and I said to him, "I hate that shirt, you were wearing it when Caleb was born." He stopped and looked at me in shock. He had no recollection of it whatsoever. He said I can't focus on that, things like that. We lived in this house, we drove the same cars, we slept in our bed, should we get rid of all of it because it's what we had while he was here? Perspective.
I remember the bright sunlight pouring into our hospital room. Born in the early morning hours of a new day, the darkest of days, the bright rays of golden glimmer refused to be dimmed by our loss. My tiny son lying next to me, still and lifeless, bathed in the warm glow of the promise of a new beginning, one that was denied to all of us and yet mocked us in its brightness, refusing to be shut out even when the curtains were pulled tightly closed in a vain effort to deny that life would go on without him.
I remember being wheeled out of the delivery room, disoriented and flat on my back, not able to move my legs as the epidural had yet to wear off, staring at the ceiling tiles as I was rolled down the L & D hallway being moved to another wing of the floor. A part of the hospital where there were no babies, no cries of hunger, no sounds of life and its first moments here on earth. I remember the gurney wheels turning, passing by closed doors where labors and delivery's with happy endings were still unfolding, I remember being removed from that place where I didn't belong and tucked into a small room, private, where my husband and I would spend the next night, hidden away from all of the joy at the opposite end of the floor. We were not meant to be a part of it and we were not meant to cast a shadow on the pure innocence of childbirth, the happiest day for most who walked those hallways. I remember pulling the thin, white industrial sheet over my head as we made our way down that hallway, not wanting to see another person and not wanting them to see me, alone, empty, childless as I was escorted into my future without my son.
And here I sit, 23 weeks again. This baby is still moving, I know, for the moment this baby is still here. I want to believe that because of that we will make it all the way through and get the happy ending, but I am not yet brave enough to do it, yet. My perspective has changed, my ability to believe in the rightness or wrongness of life has been altered. I know bad things happen to good people and bad people. I know good things happen to bad people and good people. I don't ask "Why me?" I say, "Why not me.".
ETA**My daughter is fully recovered, yippee!**