Today you would be six months old. You might be sitting up, cutting teeth, trying solid foods. Since I don’t know any better, I imagine that we would be so happy today. You would be giggling with your sister, playing together in the way that you have come to. Your daddy would hold you and I’d take your picture so we’d have a record of this half year anniversary.
I have been renewed in my grief, Son, and often wish that losing you was enough. I’ve been cut open again, similar physical pain to after your sister was born and that lifetime ago, the weeks after you were born. I am torn apart. I am mourning the little sibling that you and your sister will not have. I am mourning the loss of seeing another baby for the first time that looks like you two. Of being there in the operating room, our third child born, a safe arrival, and carried over to me by your dad, in tears again but this time of relief and joy. I am tending to private wounds that are both new and old, that are compounding the intensity of this time. I continue to learn the lessons I already knew, except to a deeper level, to which I have no desire to go. I continue to wish that losing you was enough.
I have wanted to die before. I tried as a young person to relieve myself of great ache through overdose and cuts. A friend, who is a therapist, asked me a couple weeks ago if I have been suicidal since you died. I told him, if I didn’t know better, I would say yes. I am not suicidal but I do want to die. I do not want to leave our family and friends for one minute but I do want to disappear. I know that if I live the rest of my life with the dullness that has replaced my passion, that what I contribute and what I gain in this life is far more valuable, far more pressing than the swift end of this ache and discomfort. Sometimes, though, I feel I will die of it. I have a hole in my chest that I wish to sink into, be swallowed by. I do not want to die but I do not want to keep waking up to this layered nightmare.
I have wished you away. I did this shortly after you were here and gone and it is renewed. I have wished that we had counted our blessings and found ourselves complete in our happy lives: loving your amazing sister, careers that we enjoy, more than our share of wonderful friends and family, surrounded by beautiful things, bellies full of delicious food. I think now, how greedy of us, to ask for more. Nay, to expect it. Despite all of this, we felt incomplete without you. So we chose you and you us and the aftermath has me drowning. And so I have wished you away. I have thought “If only I was never pregnant”. I have blamed your dad who knew from day one that he wanted two children. If I hadn’t let him convince me (not that there was any real convincing, of course! It is the mind that plays tricks in search of relief). If you had chosen to leave us earlier, before we even knew you were here, or just after. I have wished you away. This grief reduces me and that is the measure by exactly how far. A mother wishing she never had her child, never even wanted him, to spare herself this impossible heartache.
I have touched insanity. I have entered the spectrum in which a mother steals a baby because she just needs a baby to hold, because her every cell is crying out for her baby and if not, any baby. I have entered the spectrum that at the other end is the mother, despite having living children whom she loves as much and who need her even more than her deceased child, kills herself or leaves them or just plain goes crazy. I have entered the spectrum of the teen mother of a two year old who found was carrying her miscarried baby in her purse. I get it. A reasonable response from side from where I sit. Thankfully my life circumstances have left soundly on the side of just recognizing how these emotions could spin that out of control, without actually feeling them or taking any action. But I am on that spectrum, none-the-less. I understand those women now and I do not hold it against them.
I wish I had a c-section and saved us both. I wish I didn’t believe so strongly in natural birth and surround myself with people who supported it so much. I wish I hadn’t wanted so much for you to be born vaginally, to receive the yet fully unknown but never-the-less evident benefits of the way people have been entering the world since the beginning of people. I wish I hadn’t been so righteous in my quest for a VBAC, to have you at home. The bright lights, being surrounded by strangers, the deficit to your nervous and digestive systems, the poking and proding that I wanted to spare you from. Oh, how I would have you in the least ideal circumstances of all time, if I could have you. Even if I knew then that 1 in 4 pregnancies and infants are lost, I never would have imagined us being that one. I believed in probabilities. I trusted the numbers were on my side. I have gone back in time and imagined myself telling the midwife at Kaiser that I’d like a scheduled c-section instead of what I actually said, that I would try for a VBAC at home and her honoring that. She didn’t see why not. Even if she had, I wouldn’t have listened. Not one of your doting family members even questioned me this time around. They knew I couldn’t be told, I wouldn’t listen, my mind made up. We live in a city where the hospital with the highest risk pregnancies in the state has gotten their VBAC rate down 20% by sheer will and intention. We live in a world now that is encouraging it, for all qualifying pregnancies. If we lived where it is less liberal, if it was 40 years ago, I wouldn’t have had the choice and here we’d be, you and I: Sitting next to the fire, you in my arms instead of this computer in my lap. Nursing and snuggling instead of wasting my time on this pointless exercise of acknowledging the bullshit acrobatics my mind does in trying to change the present, the past 6 months. Having the time and space to entertain and be tortured by things already done, futures already decided, instead of trying to figure out how to parent two children, grow my practice, take care of the minutiae and find time for your dad.
But I’m alone here, lighting your fucking candles and tidying your altar which is all I have of you. I am making up ceremonies to mark this half year milestone in some feigned attempt to ease this pain. But it does not ease it, nothing but time will and I have begun to even doubt that. Do you see me here, living in the past, trying to undo decisions and remake the consequences and living in the future, longing for a person who will never be? Because the present is just too much for me, because I have lost control of my life and even the belief that I can control it and I’m trying to find my way in this new, dark world.
I can hear the thoughts of the reader. The reader, who lives on the planet I used to live on. Who sees me torturing myself with these thoughts and feelings. Who can find comfort in poetry and inspiring quotes. Who can see that I will feel better some day, that my passion will return, that I will not be consumed. Who wants to talk me out of it or help me out of it because there has to be a way and because it is their worst fear and they too want out of it. The reader who is a beacon, reminding me there is that other world to come back to, lighting my way.
And you and I know none of this is real. Though it feels like I am literally being crushed, the truth is I would do it all over again. Every moment. If I could go back, we’d want you and get pregnant on purpose and have you and hold you until you died. I’d take my life to the egde, I’d sacrifice my hope for another living child, I’d find contentment and even joy again with the abundant blessing around me and the ways in which you being here and then being gone will change the world.
As I sit here without you, your sister is walking up the path, pressing her body against the wind, wrapped in the strings of six balloons and is calling out “Mama! Mama!”. Your dad will follow her in, carrying groceries and checking to see if I’ve kept the fire going. I have. We will keep the candles lit and the fire burning all day for you today and in our hearts everyday until the end of time. As you know, I won’t be crushed or consumed or even disappear. But I will always miss you, wonder about you, love you and wish you were here. I will live in the past and the future and the present. I will continue to mother you, to be in relationship with you for the rest of my time here. You will always be my son who needs his mother’s attention and I, yours.
Happy six months is heaven, Harvey. I’ll always be waiting if you ever want to come back.
Postscript: As the afternoon went on and we went about Sunday at home, the fire all but went out, just embers. I asked Danny if we should keep it going. “Nah, I guess not.” He left for a run and I stayed by the fireside. I looked over and it was a blaze again! Harvey takes me at my word!