I am driving to the airport. My grandmother and cousin are coming all the way from New York. They are coming to see my new baby. My grandma has never been a big traveler. She once compared my move from Vestal, NY to Portland, OR to her change of workplaces, from Vestal, NY to Binghamton, NY, about a 9 mile distance. She’s a homebody, a creature of habit, a lover of familiarity. She would, however, at 87 years old with sciatica and other physical pain, travel across the country with my mid-pregnancy cousin to meet her new great-grandson. We made the plans months before he was born. I had said I was not going to make our annual trek across the country with a preschooler and an infant this year so we wouldn’t be home until Christmas. To my delight and with just a touch of cajoling, she agreed to accompany my cousin to meet Baby Brother. Nobody involved wanted to wait those extra 6 months before meeting him.
I am driving to the airport and I am crying and I am calling on my angels and anybody else out there who can lend me support as I get closer and closer. All I want is for this to be my first trip out of the house. To get there in time to meet them as they walk out of the secured area of the airport. To have my sleeping two month old strapped to my chest in a carrier and to have the moment where I lift the blanket, shielding him from the lights and noise of the airport, so that she can peek in and see his face. So that I can her here take in a breath, make a soft exclamation, feel that hand on my arm that I’ve felt my whole life as we celebrate this new life, this new creation, this new moment, just by standing, touching and looking. All I want is a bundle of her great-grandson to put into her arms, to offer her, to say “Here. He is a part of me and a part of you and a part of all of us and he will carry us on.” To my very bones, to my very being, I want to hand my baby to my grandmother. That is all.
I am laying in my bed. My newborn baby has been whisked away by EMTs, strangers whose faces I never saw, to whom I screamed “Save my baby! Please save my baby! Please save my baby!”. My husband, who wore the same clothes for the past two days, has run out with them to the ambulance in his house shoes. The man who is my chosen brother, whom I called as I lay here bleeding and sore after 2 days of laboring, to whom I said only “Michael”,in my utterly broken voice when he answered and he said only “I’m coming over.” has already been here. He has sat by the bed and then he has held me in the strongest embrace I’ve ever felt and whispered over and over the mantra he had been telling me for months, for years really: “You are loved. You are protected. You are safe.” He has already left to be with my husband, who is alone at the hospital. The woman who is my chosen sister, who also took no pause in rushing to my side on this early, early Saturday morning lays next to me, feeding me broth and I say, “I have to call my parents.”
Reader, I do not want to call my parents. I am a parent. I would rather anything befall me then it befall my children. Is there anything else I dread more for my child than for her to lose a child, if only because I know how much I love her, how absolutely precious she is to me? Is there anything I dread more than to be the mother of a child who’s child has died? If there is, at least in this moment, I cannot imagine it. I do not want to call my parents. I do not want them to answer the phone. I do not want them to see my name appear on their phone. I do not want them to not be able to answer the phone fast enough in anticipation of hearing about how beautiful their mewling/nursing/sleeping/crying, freshly born, perfectly healthy grandson is. I do not want to be that same broken voice on the other end. I do not want my parents to have to parent a child with a dead child. We do not “know” he will die yet but I know he was “dead” when he was born and I know in my bones, in my very being, that he will die if they’ve saved him by now.
“Mom?” “Yes!” “Are you driving?” “Yes.” “Can you pull over.” “. . . yes . . .”
“Papa?” (I don’t know what he said.) “Did you talk to Danny?” “Yes. We are on our way to Grandma’s to tell her.”
I am driving home from the airport. I have just dropped my husband and my daughter off for their first trip together, without me. Our son and brother has been dead for 9 and a half weeks. I have been away from my daughter 5 nights total in all of her 3.5 years, never 5 in a row and only twice without my husband: Two nights I spent in Seattle, two nights I spent birthing her brother, one night I spent holding him as he died. I am crying and I am riddled with anxiety. I am naseous, headachey and poison is coursing through my blood. Minutes ago, I was standing at the edge of the security area watching my daughter chase her father down the partitioned isle, watching him pivot and duck like a basketball player as she squealed with glee and tried to keep up. As I lost them in the crowd, I prayed to the Old Testament God that I am afraid might be ruling my life right now. Just in case it’s the violent, vengeful, merciless Old Testament God who is making desicions for me, because it just might be: “Please” I plead, “Do not take them, too.”