Today, I had to go to the hospital where Harvey was taken from our home minutes after he was born. The Emergency Room down the road and around the corner from our house. My doctor told me I could get my labs done there, so close to work and free compared to her clinic, and I agreed. I didn’t want to go there and had avoided it for last month’s labs I going to a different location, on the way to my haircut and also free. I had been there before, as well, to meet with the perinatalogist, the first person that told us the rupture in my uterus could certainly be mended surgically and we’d go on to have another child. I cried through that appointment but after four months of grief and dead dreams, I left there hopeful. It wasn’t awful going back there, the loss of my fertility and marriage surrounded in the peace and acceptance I never imagined they would be.
And, honestly, it wasn’t awful going to Providence today. It did not wreck me as it so easily would have had only a couple of years ago. I drove the familiar streets near our old house, took the exit I always took, drove by the Emergency and the East wing of the hospital. My son was in three place in his 39 hour lifetime: our home, Providence Emergency and Emanuel NICU. I have tried to make Providence a place that feels good to go to. I wasn’t there with him as I was being stabilized at home and it was a place he had been, his little half dead, half alive body had been there. His spirit, still inside his body had been there. They had got his heart started again there. The ER doctor consoled me over the phone as we hung up, “I had my kids at home, too. I’m sorry this happened to you.” It was a place of hope. Before we could truly fit “dead child” into our “nothing is going to go wrong” shaped brains. But I can’t do it. That place breaks my heart. Because he was there and now he is gone. Because I wasn’t there. Because I couldn’t save him and neither could his doctors there and neither could his doctors at the NICU.
I had to go there once before. Not long after Danny and I broke up, Vesta fell out of a tree at school and landed flat on her face. Around bedtime, she began to exhibit concussion type symptoms and, of course, this was the closest hospital to our home. This was before I had any awareness of my PTSD or anxiety, neither of which helped the situation. They hurried her through the long ER queue that night on account of her being a child but I think my constant, inconsolable sobbing was also factored in. I was certain that she would die. I was certain that I would lose my only other child to the gaping maw of those ER doors. And I couldn’t bear it. Jenn arrived before Danny and got us both through it as we stared out blankly into the room at moments and I rung my hands and cried at others and Jenn and I both seethed at him, so fresh were our wounds from his wrongdoing.
She was okay. I took her home and woke her up every hour and stayed awake most of the night listening to her breath. I wouldn’t miss my chance this time. God might take her too, but not without my viligance this time. My brain was fully reshaped to “my kid could die” by then. It was me against God, his ambivalence towards me and all other humans as he carelessly took our kids and our spouses and our siblings and our parents and all sorts of people we can’t live without. God was still my adversary then. I was still on guard against Him.
But not today. Today, I parked as far away from the ER as possible. Following signs, relieved to see that where I was supposed to go was not anywhere near where my heartbeatless child was whisked in, coming up on 4 years ago now. But then I found myself in the specialized wing of the hospital: the center for medically fragile children and the cancer center. I asked the lady at the information desk and she directed me through the hallways and out the doors and back into the medical plaza on the other side of the campus. So, I walked through there. Through the hallways his doctors and nurses, part of the precious few people who touched or even saw my boy, walk through every shift. Past the doors where his stretcher (Did they have him on a bed? Did they carry him in? Were they rushing? I don’t even know.) was pushed through. Past the people sitting on pastel patterned couches speaking in whispers. Past the heart broken and the sick and the hopeful. And before I stepped outside, the large red “EMERGENCY” sign illuminating the rainy, gray morning, I saw the lady. Our lady. Our Lady of Providence. Holding an infant who grasps at her robes and looks up at her lovingly. And she, who’s face is more somber, gazes down but not directly at the plump, alive, awake baby in her arms. Maybe the EMTs saw her, I think, as they rushed in. Maybe one of them had a moment to say a little prayer for my baby without a heartbeat. Maybe one of them stopped judging us for having our baby at home for a moment and just prayed for his little soul. Maybe after the doctor called me, consoled my then-husband and sent our child to the NICU on the other side of town, he stood with her for a moment and prayed for a miracle that he knew would not come for us and our boy.
I stood there with her for a moment. Providence: divine care, God’s rule over our earthly happenings, the dictionary says, with “wise benevolence”. And here is our lady of His beckoning, standing at the entrance of sickness and loss and injury and recovery and hope and the instantaneous transformation of lives. In years past, I would have want to hurl that statue across the room, when God was still my enemy, when benevolent would have been the last word I would ever use to describe Him. But not today, not Harvey dying or being dead, but in the way I am healing, in the way I am able to put one foot in front of the other andsome days, most days now, do even more than that. How I have been granted the truest love I have ever felt, the love I have been looking for my whole life. How we are okay, me and Vesta, how we are making it through all of the endless changes, how I am hoping our bond solidifies around our small, little life together. How I can work and laugh and feel joy again. How I am learning to manage my trauma and reorganize myself around living through it and past it. Here is where I feel providence, God’s divine love and guidance, His omniscience. As I stand with this Lady, dressed in the blue and white robes of Mary, the icon I know sport on the inside of my left elbow, representing to me the Great Mother, who has only providence and love and grace. I feel how She has always been with me. I am reminded of that. That there is always something to hope for, even when it is absolutely unfathomable.
I have to live without my son. Every damn day of my whole life. But I don’t have to live without hope or laughter or joy or meaning or gratitude. I do not. And I don’t.