One month after you died I had a conversation with a friend. She asked about you, about the hospital. I told her about your pictures that morning. How initially I didn't want them, didn't want to remember that pain. I didn't want to look back in twenty years and see my eyes on that morning. How a nurse convinced me otherwise. How she told me, "You don't ever have to look. But one day you might , and there she'll be."
I told her how I hadn't known if I should smile, if I should cry. How I pretty much sat there and did nothing. How I loved the gown you wore, donated and created from some angelic woman's wedding dress. How it felt like I was watching some parody of a life that was supposed to happen.
She was crying when she told me she was sorry. "Nora, I don't think I could ever look at those."
I knew then that she would forever be the friend who had the choice to turn away. And I, forever the mother who was forced to look. It felt like the table between us had grown, and suddenly my tea was sour.
Yesterday was tough.
Truthfully, that sentence could be applied to any point in my life now, only yesterday was really, really tough.
I know it isn't logical to assume that the same thing would happen to this baby at the exact same point in this pregnancy as yours. I know we are taking different precautions this time. I know that we are receiving additional scans, monitoring, medicine...
It just doesn't matter. So many things that used to matter to me don't. I am no longer a logical person to whom logical things happen.
So I pretty much freaked out all day. Silently. I was short with my students, conscious of every movement, every twinge. I got zero sleep the night before. I cried on the drive to work just thinking about her, the blissfully unaware 34 weeks and 5 days pregnant girl eating her cereal in another universe somewhere. I wanted to reach out, to warn her, to scream at her to put down the spoon. To look. To watch you dance just one more time beneath her skin. But I can't. And she is out there somewhere and she has no clue.
By the time I got to the hospital for my 3:15 appointment I could barely hold it together. The nurse strapped the monitor on and once I heard that beautiful sound I lost it. I couldn't possibly have held it together if I had tried, and I wasn't trying anymore.
She understood, dimmed the lights for me, closed the curtain behind her. And I just stared at the screens, the beeping fluctuations, and I cried for the entire thirty five minutes.
There was certainly relief, as it is always, always a relief to hear that sound. I guess there is a part of me that didn't believe we'd make it this far, this baby and me. There is also an immense sadness. A guilt. Because you never got this day. You never got 34+6.
Last summer I met some co-workers for dinner. We sat outside and ate and drank until midnight. It was lovely, the first time I had really let loose in a while. It may have been the liquid courage, or it could have been the sincerity in their questions of you on that night. They asked to see you and I didn't hesitate.
I handed over my phone, and I watched my friend scroll through each one. After a few minutes I noticed she was crying.
"I'm sorry," I said, immediately feeling horrible. I know it isn't easy to look at them. My beautiful, anatomically perfect daughter. My dead baby.
"You don't have to keep going," I held out my hand.
"No," she shook her head, struggling to speak. "I'm crying for you."
And I think it was then. It must have been then, the first time I was grateful for the pictures.
Because they never got to hold you, to know you. They never got to feel your weight in their arms. How could they possibly understand? In that moment I was grateful for the proof. This proof that you existed. That you were real. Ten fingers and ten toes and two parents. One heart that just stopped on one day. Because something so horrible warrants the pause. Because you deserve to be seen.
I hugged my friend that night and I thought of that nurse, and I wanted to hug her too. I think she knew something that I didn't that morning. Not yet.
She knew that I might want to share.
And she knew there'd be those who could look.