Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bride To Be

I can't quite process that the wedding is on Saturday (and everything needs to be done and ready by friday). Finding joy in being a bride to be is a challenge when I'm no longer a mother to be as well. Stranger in a strange land. Wound up talking to some woman in the wedding aisle at Michael's. She was shopping for last minute wedding things too. I managed not to blurt out anything about the baby to anyone today (though when I ran into a coworker he had heard and offered sympathies, which was sweet but I still wound up feeling like there's no where I can escape the pain).

I'm hoping I can put down the pain again and just celebrate this marriage. It doesn't mean any less to me because Isaac is gone; in fact, it means all the more. We've drawn so tightly together to survive this that we're all the stronger for it. But still...buying a "slimming" body shaper, when i thought this week i'd be buying something to enhance the belly...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Make It Go Away

I had to make myself cry. The numbness was so complete, so aching that I had to do something to bring that pain forward. I listened to one of the songs I've been trying to avoid and cried so hard I was almost afraid neighbors, strangers walking down the street would hear. It hurt, oh god it hurt, but it hurt with a kind of purity I needed. I needed the tears, needed the choking sobs, needed the near-screaming. It's the same almost-scream in my heart most of the time, sometimes receding to a dull ache, sometimes even almost silent.
But always there. Always.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

In The Night

I can't sleep tonight. I've been lying in bed for two hours, staring at the television but not actually watching it, listening to your father sleeping peacefully beside me. My loneliness is the only thing awake aside from me. Took a sleeping pill a minute ago, and I'm hoping that might help.

Now that I'm home again the pain is back; the visit to the hotel was like a step out of time. An eye in this hurricane of agony I've been living in. Now I'm home--there's a pile of dishes that I'll need to wash tomorrow, and a to-do list that will need attention. The mundanity of life, back at home; your Daddy going back to work in the morning. The emptiness in my heart was waiting too.

I felt like you were so close when we were at the beach; almost like you were inside me again. In my heart and my soul, but not in my belly anymore. Coming home used to feel so good--curling here in my little safe nest on the couch. I used to balance this computer against the roundness that was you, feeling your little kicks as I typed.

My body has almost healed, but not my heart. Not my soul. The moments just stretch on, a lifetime ahead of me without you. I could, I have cried an ocean of tears, but it doesn't release the pain.


It isn't always bad. There are times, like now, where I feel like my soul is at peace. Today I have felt more peaceful, more...content than I have been since I held you. Its the first day I've felt like I could actually live the rest of my life. I miss you still, but I know you're in a happy place. I can feel you near me. Moments like these are when I think you'd want me to live and be happy. You wouldn't want me in agony all the time. Today has been an almost happy day. We took our first little trip since you were born. We went to the hotel where you were conceived. Only happy things have happened to us here; our first New Year's Eve, not long after we fell in love was in this very room. And we're only a wall away from the very place you came into our life. Your daddy and I loved each other so much we had to make you just to hold some of it. We love each other very much, your daddy and I. We talked about you a lot today, but for the first time neither of us cried. We talked about how much we love you, and how hard it was to let you go--but also how glad we are that you can be somewhere that you can be happy and whole.

It feels strange to feel happy so soon. There have been many moments where I felt okay, or at peace. How can I still miss you so much, still feel that hole in my heart, and feel anything but the pain? At moments the pain threatens--especially when it whispers that I shouldn't ever feel happy again. But for this little step out of time, in this place full of love and happy memories, all I can really think of is the joy you brought into my life during that precious time you were here. And the lessons you've already taught us, the gratitude I feel.

How can I feel blessed when I've lost so much?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Mirror

I keep finding myself standing in front of the mirror--in front of anything that holds a reflection--staring into my own eyes, trying to find myself again. I don't know who I am now; I'm a mother but there's no baby. I'm still a little bit pregnant, but there's no baby. I'm still alive, but there's no baby. I can't process it. I can't make it make sense. When you came into my life you started making me into someone else. Now that you're gone, I can't be who I was, and I don't want to be who I am. I don't want to be a grieving mother. I don't want to be this new person with sad eyes, the breasts full of milk that won't nourish you, the empty arms clutching the blanket that still holds the faintest echo of how you smelled, the deflated belly. I don't want this in-between body; I don't want this in-between life. I just want my son.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Beginning

I worked on Monday. The 13th, the first day of my life, the last day of my life. I was at work well before dawn, singing softly to you while I set up the pastry case, swaying and feeling you kick your good mornings. I was so excited. I already knew you were a boy--I was already calling you Isaac. Somehow the moment we chose your name--the moment you somehow told us your name--I knew you were my son. I could no longer imagine some vague girl-child. You were a boy and you were mine. All that waited was for the ultrasound to show it.

Finally it was time. Your father was waiting for me at the doctor's office. We were so excited we could hardly sit still. Last time, a month ago, you didn't let us see. We saw your perfect little face and one of your little feet kicking, but you had your legs crossed and wouldn't move to accommodate us. They told us your little arms were folded under you. I though it was so sweet, because your daddy sleeps like that sometimes--his arms folded tight, one leg bent at the knee. Even that last ultrsound, I could see how much you looked like him. Every night you kicked enthusiastically at the same time he would start pacing and fidgeting. I could picture you so clearly, all rough and tumble, learning to climb with him, playing in the yard with him. All boy. Both of you.

The first thing she did was look, and there you were. All boy, no doubt about that. We both almost cheered. I remember I said hello to you, and used your name with confidence for the first time. And there was that perfect kicking foot. You were trying to suck on your tiny toes. And she started to look for your other foot, your tiny hands. For our peace of mind, since my father and half brother had birth defects. Just count your wee toes and fingers, just to be sure.

We had always been told that there was no reason to fear that you could have the same thing your grandfather had, your uncle had. That I had ten fingers and ten toes, and so couldn't pass it on. "If she had it, she'd HAVE it" they told my mother when I was born. "If you had it, you'd SHOW it" they told me years ago, when I went for genetic counseling. I didn't bother when I got pregnant with you. There wasn't any real reason to--and later, Kathryn, our new genetic counselor, told us that even she would have placed the odds very low. We couldn't have known.

It was moments after our joy at seeing you, healthy and male, that the world started to end. We both noticed almost immediately that you hadn't moved from the last ultrasound. How could that be, when you never stopped moving? I could feel your flutters nearly every moment. How could you still be cradled in that same spot? The technician stopped talking as she scanned around, pushing the sensor so hard against my belly that I felt the bruises forming. We told her not to spare us, to tell us what she was seeing--to tell us if she saw what we saw. Your little arm waved, but there was nothing past the elbow. Nothing...

The silence in that room was like an entity. I held your father's hand, and held my breath. I could feel him squeezing me back. He knew something was very wrong too. Finally, she spoke--told us that she wanted us to go across the street to the hospital, where they had better equipment. She thought your other arm was folded under you, but she could see both your legs and they were fine. She thought.

We held each other tight while we waited for my doctor to come talk about what she thought the ultrasound meant. We were both hopeful. So you only had one arm. You could live a normal life with one arm. We reassured each other that it didn't matter. We wouldn't treat you differently; we wouldn't spoil and indulge you. We'd make sure you had the best of everything.

Her eyes were sad and sympathetic, but she didn't dance around the words. She saw the same thing on both your arms--there were bones missing in your forearms. You had no hands at all. She got us an appointment across the street for two hours later. We walked out of that office still determined, still hoping. We had two cars. I called your grandmother as I drove home, and then tears came. But my mother was just as strong, just as determined. We all agreed, you could still have a good life, and almost normal life. We could still make this work.

I don't remember much of those two hours at home. Your father paced and smoked. We both cried a little, but we were numb. Numb and determined. I remember googling things like prosthesis, upper-limb defects. I was trying to build some kind of system. We didn't cry much. We tried to be resolute. You were our beloved son. We would find a way to give you a good life.

We took one car to the specialist. I don't remember the drive. I remember holding your father's hand as he drove--looking at his hands, touching his fingers. I've always loved his hands--so masculine and strong, but so tender and gentle when he touched me. I wouldn't let myself feel the agony that you didn't have them. Deep inside myself I could hear myself screaming. But I wouldn't let it surface. I kept saying useless things about how you could still be okay; we could make this work. Your father kept saying the same things, patting my leg and sticking out that stubborn chin I hoped you'd inherit.

I remember walking into the unfamiliar office. I took the packet of paperwork and went to sit down. Somebody's toddler--sturdy and healthy and perfect, healthy chubby legs sticking out of little camouflage shorts, blonde hair in a toddler mohawk. He ran up to us grinning and giggling, and stuck his hands up in the air, his fingers all splayed out. Tears came to my eyes and for a moment, I couldn't hold back the screaming mother inside me. I wanted to scream, to fall on the floor, to rail against fate. I forced it back, but when I looked in your daddy's eyes, I saw the same screaming agony. I made myself sit down and do the paperwork.

They called us back almost immediately, and got us settled in the room. Of course, I had to go to the bathroom--so then we had to wait for them to come back to us. I lay on the table, tears sliding out of my eyes, sometimes a sob escaped. Your father held my hand tight, stroked my hair. He kept telling me it would be okay, but the pain in his eyes was raw.

The technician came in again. We told her to tell us everything she saw, no matter how bad. We told her to please, just keep talking. The sensor hurt instantly, pushing against my freshly bruised belly. She kept apologizing for hurting me, even as I told her it didn't matter. Nothing mattered but you.

She confirmed that your arms were missing, but we weren't surprised this time. We knew. But then she started looking for all the bones in your legs. They weren't there either. One leg was perfect, hip to toe, everything where it should be. But your other leg--the leg you kept bent. Bones were missing there, too. And that other wee foot--it wasn't shaped right. She scanned and prodded and looked and talked--but I don't remember what she said. Her voice was gentle and hopeful, but her eyes had that same sad look. Your father and I just looked at each other. All that we could see in each other was the pain.

The doctor came in, his eyes just as sad. Tears in his eyes--I remember that. He sat down and talked to us in his gentle voice. He explained the extent of what he saw, gently touching my arms as he explained what bones you didn't have, touching my leg where your bones were missing. He explained how your arms, the little partial forearms you had, would never extend; you wouldn't have any ability to move them; would never even use the crook of your tiny elbows to compensate for not having your hands.

At some point he asked us if we wanted to consider termination, and gently explained that because you were almost 24 weeks old, we had to decide what we were going to do within a day or two. He said many other things--he talked about if we kept you, how you'd need to go to the Shriner's hospital within a week of your birth. He talked about some of the surgeries you'd have to have--I remember him saying that your first surgery would be when you were a month old. I remembered my first memory of my half brother--he was about six months old, and had casts on both his tiny legs, hip to toe. He was screaming in pain.

In my heart I knew then that I couldn't make you go through that. I couldn't force you to live a life with only one functional limb. I couldn't make you go through months and years of surgery, only to maybe, maybe someday pull yourself around on specially designed crutches. You'd suffer so much agony, so much physical pain, so much emotional pain. You'd never run, never climb, never hold hands with some pretty girl. You wouldn't be able to cradle your own child someday.

On the drive home your father and I talked about it, and he knew too. We loved you too much to force that life on you. We loved you too much to let you hurt like that. We knew what the choice was before we got home.

That night is a blur of pain. I cried until I couldn't see anymore; until my eyelids were raw and red. Our mothers--your grandmothers--both came to us and cried too. But I don't remember much other than the pain. We knew you'd be leaving us--and in only a few days. I could still feel you kicking.

Aching to Write

There aren't any words. Where would I even start? I feel so empty without my son inside me. I miss feeling his kicks. He was so active all the time, and now there's nothing. I hurt to hold him, but my arms are empty. All that's left are pictures and memories and tears. I want my life back--but the life I want back stopped existing the moment we found out he wasn't staying. I feel like the world itself stopped existing--but I look out the window and the sun is still shining. I turn on the television and see life going on. It is maddening and it is comforting. People walk by our house and smile and wave, and I smile and wave back. But I want to scream at them that our son is gone. I want to talk to people but I don't want to say any of the words it would take. Who am I now, if I'm not a glowing mother to be? What is my life for, if I'm not living for him?