But. I detest the word.
I should go to the gym but...
No, you can't stay up another hour. "BUT!" "BUT!"
I had a baby. But.
It's something I no longer take for granted. This luxury of partaking in all the normal baby talk, conversations about head size and birthmarks and failed epidurals. Never having to insert that awful word. That elaboration. But she died.
Recently I met with a mother who suffered a loss like mine. Within days of my meeting her she had lost her son. As I prepared to leave the house I asked your father what to say. I'm sure that sounds strange, that most people would assume I'd know exactly what to say to her, but I didn't, so I asked him. What was most helpful to hear in those first few days without you?
"Seriously?" He looked at me like I was crazy.
"Nothing, Nora." he said. "Nothing helped."
I ran through so many possibilities in my head on the drive. Time will help, but the pain will never leave. Lean on family and friends, but try to ignore the stabbing feeling in your chest when someone tells you there's reason for everything. You will get through this, but it will be hard. This time next year you'll be you, but you won't.
None of them fit. Nothing seemed adequate, and by the time I parked the car I was shaking.
When I saw her none of that mattered. We hugged immediately. This perfect stranger, she reached for me and we both began to cry. As it happens I didn't need the words. They weren't necessary at all.
Last February your father and I got into an argument. This loss has strengthened us, but the process isn't always pretty.
He was angry about something on the credit card, and voices were raised. He slammed a door, (which he never does) and I decided to give him some space. After all, it was your Saturday. That Saturday a year before when we learned you had died. Neither of us had said it, but we both knew what day it was.
An hour later I opened the door to the basement. He was sitting at the bottom of the stairs, folding the whites, and he was crying. I scooped up your brother and we left your father to his release. This ever-so important, ever-so sporadic release. I knew it was necessary, and that mine would come too. In time.
Later that evening we attended a fundraiser for your brother's school. Casino night. I was 24 weeks pregnant at the time and feeling pretty miserable already, but I got all dressed up and I wore my new lipstick with my favorite clutch and out we went! The night turned out to be a lot of fun, despite its significance. I drank several Sprites as I thought of myself in that hospital bed the year before, and I rubbed my belly a lot.
At this party, there were dealers dressed for the card games. One of them asked about my tattoo. "It's my daughter's name," I said. No but.
The next spin, he happily smiled at me, "For Josephine's college fund!" he declared, and I thought of correcting him.
Only I didn't.
And it stung for a minute. I met your father's gaze across the table, but neither of us spoke. For the moment it seemed alright that this man knew you existed. End of story.
On the way home we laughed at his words, because you will never go to college, and because that is so awful. And I remember thinking how it hadn't ruined me, like that time last year. The first time I'd excluded that word.
It was my typical post-partum chiropractic visit, three weeks after you died. After a pregnancy, my back pain always flares for a few months. Yours was no exception. How cruel a thing that when your baby dies, you still suffer all the physical reminders. All the pain.
So I mustered the courage to leave the house alone, and I hobbled through those doors again, sans baby this time. The receptionist remembered me.
"Did you have the baby?!" She squealed.
I told her yes, and I left it at that.
Afterwards my back felt slightly better, but I cried for a week because of the guilt. The "But she died" I hadn't said.
Maybe it's because I knew if I'd elaborated I would have had to leave, in tears, and I really needed the adjustment. Perhaps it was that it had taken all my effort to walk out the front door that morning, and I wasn't sure when that energy might return.
But I'm pretty sure it was because I was tired of all the corrections, because it felt so good to simply say yes.
I had the baby.