Today I am 34 weeks and five days pregnant. Today is significant. It is the exact gestational age that your heart stopped beating inside me. The doctors refer to it as"fetal demise". Today was your fetal demise.
I'm not sure that I ever fully allowed myself to realize how close we were. I look down at my stomach and I'm grateful, of course, but I'm also angry. I'm angry that this happened to you, to me, to our family. I'm angry that you were robbed of your chance so close to the finish line. I'm angry that I was allowed to plan for you for such a time, to feel you and grow you and know you for so long only to have you ripped away. I'm angry that everyone I love was deprived of this connection I will always feel. I'm angry because the same thing could still happen to this baby. I'm angry because I have to know that.
I asked my doctor about the odds. Statistically. At this point. Where do we stand.
He put down his clipboard and he placed his hands on my shoulders: "You are going to have this baby."
Last week your father asked me about the nursery. When would I like to set it up? A million thoughts ran through my head.
When this baby gets here.
When we know it's breathing.
When I can hold it in my hands.
When I don't have to give it back.
Instead, I just said "Whenever."
He saw through my ambivalence quickly enough and texted me the next morning: "You need to make a commitment to visualizing a positive outcome here, even though you may feel that is an emotional risk."
Ahh yes. The risk.
I remember when you died, my initial reaction was that everyone was going to be angry with me. It must have been my fault, something I did or didn't do. I remember my doctor walking into the room and telling me that was wrong. "You could have been sitting in this chair," she said. "It wouldn't have made a difference." I have read that this is a pretty common thought process, the bereaved mother's guilt. I no longer feel that people are mad at me; however the guilt has not subsided.
I know your father would take on the entirety of my pain. He'd have switched places with me in that hospital bed in a second. He would endure the physical scars and the flabby skin. This skin that all mothers wear with pride while their children run circles around them. But he can't. It's not possible.
So he acknowledges this risk, as everyone does. He feels the pain of losing you, of course. And it's intense and it's awful and it's forever, but it isn't the same as mine.
There are times when the guilt gets to me. How little faith I have had in my body, in this baby since learning of its existence. How I have to train myself to think positively. How it takes an effort all-consuming to envision bringing him or her home, walking through the doors together, laying them down in the softest cotton blanket, fixing myself a glass of iced tea at nap time.
Last week, I began the long and emotional process of putting the nursery together. And with every swipe of the dust cloth I tried, my very hardest, to picture this baby here. Alive. In this room.
It's just so difficult, because I can also see myself here without you. Hunched over in the corner near the pristine white baseboards, clutching my flat stomach and screaming into perfectly ironed curtains. I see my mother, helping to fold your onesies into storage. I see 15 months of clutter and dust where a baby girl should have learned to walk. I see urns and empty car seats and I think that close to no one understands, because close to no one should.
I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago, a fellow loss mom. She has had two babies since her son was stillborn, and she thanked me for sharing my letters to you. How honest they have been about the terrifying nature of pregnancy after loss. How people might read them and realize,"It's that bad?" We both chuckled as we said it together. "Yes. It's that bad."
And I know that she gets it. She understands this risk.
I know that after her son died, she felt the phantom kicks. She knows how it feels to endure the stretch marks and the debilitating sadness of having nothing to show for them. I know she has fought the urge to run from the double stroller across the street, that she has hidden the babies on social media and declined the shower invites. She remembers what it's like to have your milk arrive with no one to feed. She has lived the terror that is to wear such a vulnerability front and center, to heed the polite and loving and well-intentioned "one day closer" comments, conscious of the fact that it could end at any time.
And I could get caught up in all of that. And I do.
There are times where I have to stop the decorating for a moment... because what ever made me think that I could do this? Why would anyone intentionally put themselves into a position where that were possible, EVER again? Only I don't have to search the answer. Any parent can tell you why.
It's because when they're with you, for thirty-five weeks or ten minutes or fifty years...
It's that good.