Yesterday I received an email from a fellow loss mother I have never spoken with or met. Her words were kind, and she made my morning.
..."Your sentiments reflect what I feel, so much that I both savor each sentence I read and move with caution as I read further..."
I was happy and I was also sad. Happy that there is another person out there who knows about you, and sad that she can relate. Happy that I am not alone and sad because there are so many like me, walking around every day, contributing and improving and all functional-like, and so desperately missing their babies.
I love the appropriateness of her statement, too. In the aftermath of your death, savoring every sentence while proceeding with caution. In the beginning life was one colossal landmine. I was walking, helmet in hand, through dangerously unpredictable fields where I'd be feeling almost normal and then abruptly, seconds later I'm laying on my back barely breathing, encased in shrapnel and needing help to stand.
My only saving grace then were the others like me, that I could glance back or ahead a few yards and see someone in that field, ducking and dodging and soldiering through. I know that sounds absurd, to be thankful that other people know this pain, but technically I guess that's the truth. I am angry that I have to know them, that their tired, groggy, tear stained eyes fall upon your letters at five am when they cannot sleep, and so grateful to have them with me, all at once.
It's a balancing act. My life. In every aspect and interpretation. Having your little brother handed to me for the first time was one of the most profound and significant moments of my life, and arguably the most rewarding thus far. I have never, ever felt more relief and I am still exhaling nearly six months later, but there was also a sadness. So immense and widespread that I would become overwhelmed just staring at him. This living with and so very without. This carrying of the happiness alongside the pain, a skill I've yet to master.
One of my favorite poems She says:
"If your nerve, deny you-
Go above your Nerve-
He can lean against the Grave,
If he fear to swerve-
That's a steady posture-
Never any bend
Held of those Brass arms-
Best Giant made-
If your Soul seesaw-
Lift the Flesh door-
The Poltroon wants Oxygen-
When I fist read this poem, a high school English teacher clarified that the "Flesh Door" was the mouth, and that 'Poltroon' meant 'fool'. The fool wants oxygen, nothing more.
The night we found out about your little brother I wrote my favorite part on a post-it. I guess I have a thing for post-its. And Emily Dickinson.
I carried it with me for 37 weeks. I would look at it on a daily basis. For the first few months it lay in my wallet, pristine. Atop my license picture, stickiness intact, but soon the paper became crumpled. The letters, faded, falling out in the rush of the drive through lane while I searched for payment. Sliding behind the Zoo Membership card and the hoarded Target receipts. In the quest for a nickel I'd catch the flash of blue and remember, momentarily.
The third trimester offered an unrivaled terror, though, and so my paper courage mostly took residence in the pockets of the three pair of stretchy pants I rotated throughout the week. During the nearly constant second-guessing of my intentions and the definitely constant checking of your brother's heartbeat, I needed the reminder more often, why I was doing what I was doing. And so I would pick it up and turn it over and over in my hands, and I would curse loudly in my head, and I would wonder why I ever thought it was a good idea to try. And I longed for the soft comfort of my little nerves inside their insulated beds, and tried to put one foot in front of the other.
I mean, here's a thought. Put yourself there again, try. We will do our very best and we will run every test but we cannot guarantee this won't happen. In fact, you are at an increased risk now, so you are slightly more prone to this exact thing happening. Again. And you already know how terrible it is, like really, really know that it's very possible and very terrible. You game?
When I was nearly 36 weeks along, your father and I attended a wedding. There is picture of the two of us at this beautiful winery, and my feet and legs are pale and swollen and my hair's a mess and I'm holding my belly, and I'm smiling. Everyone there was so happy for me and I could see the relief in their eyes, only I wasn't there. Not yet. No one thought twice about my twenty trips to our SUV in the parking lot, disguised as bathroom breaks, where I would frustratingly pull the Doppler from underneath the passenger seat and listen, just listen. And I could hear the music behind me and I knew they were dancing, but those moments in the car were the only times I could.
Your aunt asked me recently how I did it. No really, Nora, how did you do that? And the truth is I don't know. How anyone does it. I don't know how anyone says goodbye to their children in such traumatic, life-altering ways, sometimes more than once. I don't know how they willingly put themselves into such vulnerable positions, time and time again, walking around, nerves shot and torn and exposed, and waiting. I don't know.
But I can tell her why. Why I did it and why I risked it and why I would risk it again. I love you and I love them.
And because although I am a scarred and trembling shell of the person I used to be,
I want so much more than to breathe.