Last night I dreamt that I was riding on a Subway train. I looked out the window and I saw your brothers sitting near the railway. I called for them but they didn't seem to know me. They didn't wave or smile, and after the train passed they turned their heads in unison. I'm not sure why it bothered me so, but I awoke in a sweat. Immediately I reached for the nightstand, for the Doppler that isn't there anymore, forgetting the baby asleep next to my bed.
It never escapes me, that they could. At any given moment they could escape me forever. How now I can touch them and smell them and hold them, but how instantly that could change. There are precautions to be taken, of course. Vaccinations and supervisions and interventions, but the thought that ultimately, my children could die at any moment and there's really nothing I can do about it, is always, always there.
Before we lost you I knew it was a possibility, but when I am most honest with myself I must admit that I didn't really think it would happen. Didn't believe it could happen. To me.
Now this is my reality. Ingrained in my every bone behind all the happy thoughts and all the functional ones there is also, always, just the one. And sometimes it's enough to cripple me.
I remember a night when I was pregnant with your little brother. It wasn't so long ago, my subsequent pregnancy. My pregnancy after my loss, after your death, and it is well-documented how much the fear consumed me then. This thought overriding all the others. One night in particular, was very bad.
I was listening to his heartbeat and I could not set the Doppler down. I knew that I should, but physically, I could not. I knew that I needed to sleep and to hope and to breathe, but I had to have that sound in my ears. I would set it aside and immediately resume, pick it up again and listen for twenty minutes or so, stop and start, on and off for nearly two hours.
Your father arrived in the middle of this spectacle, and I'll never forget the look in his eyes as he watched me, crying, stopping and starting again like a crazy person. Cautiously he approached me, one hand on my arm and the other pulling it away, gently, slowly he set it aside, never breaking eye contact.
Since your older brother was a baby I would creep into his room at night, as many a parent has done, place my hand on his chest and watch it rise and fall. Tip toeing around the stuffed animals and the blocks on the floor to slide my fingers beneath his nose, that warm confirmation, so that I may sleep again.
After you died I stopped checking for awhile. I guess I figured it was useless really, because I had done everything right and I still lost you. Because could I really prevent anything anymore and because, logistically, would I make it in time?
And while it hurts to realize this, while it is intensely painful to admit that I have no control, I can only describe it as some sort of morbid release. A relinquishing of some responsibility that never truly existed. As a parent, to accept this as truth is utterly devastating. But somehow, in that helplessness it can be easier to breathe. This realization never lasts, though. Most nights I can still be found checking them, stretching and straining for that proof in the dark. I think the most honest depiction of my life now lies in that night, somewhere between the acceptance and the reluctance, forever setting it aside and forever picking it up.
Sometimes I can believe them when they say it wasn't my fault. I can accept that this was always going to happen. At birth I was going to lose you. I'm eleven and I'm in centerfield and you will never take a breath. I am sitting in my high school Algebra class and you are going to die.
There was nothing I could do. There was no prevention. No stopping. No checking. It was destined to occur, this most cruel thing, while I watched from the outside.
And because one of my children is dead, I try to remember that.
Because I'm a mom I try not to.