Yesterday marked five weeks since I walked shakily into my doctor’s office, knowing the worst had probably happened, and lay on a table in a darkened room weeping into the horrible silence I had dreaded to hear. The reassuring rush of our baby’s heartbeat that had flooded me with relief at all our many appointments for many months past–its absence echoed in that room. It still echoes in my heart.
I often wonder why it is so hard for me, the word-lover, to write these sorrows down. The day we learned our baby stirred and kicked under a sentence of death, all my resources failed me. The things that have always comforted me leave me numb–or worse, they terrify me. My violin is silent, smothered in its case; the piano gathers dust in the dining room. At the first strains of music in a room I feel an overwhelming urge to flee or be sick all over the floor. And while words swirl in my head all day long, the actual writing of them is a throbbing, aching pain. I need to write, but dragging out the words hurts horribly. I have to screw up my courage.
Monday was the one-month anniversary of Simon’s birth. Because my husband had to travel that day and I could not bear the thought of spending a night alone so soon, I went along. It was a hectic day, fraught with the ordinary-life frustrations that apparently are not deterred by the fact that our life has forever departed from the ordinary. We had to sit in the very last row of the plane. The more the lady next to me slept, the farther she relaxed into my seat, and the more she snored. I spent the flight halfway on J’s lap, while he spent it wedged against the wall, trying to type. J’s bag got lost, requiring an urgent trip to the store upon landing and a return trip to the airport that night when it was found. For our return flight, we arrived at the airport early in hopes of catching an earlier flight. The agent informed us that the earlier flight had a layover, so we waited at the airport anyway to take our original flight–only to discover at the gate that it, too, had an extra stop. These sorts of strains overwhelm me at first: can we not even expect the slightest respite? Why must small insults be heaped on our incalculable injury? This–AND my baby is dead. And then I am just weeping because my baby is dead, and nothing else–no flight, no bag, no cramped quarters–can matter anymore.
Yesterday we walked into a dusty office to choose a marker for our son’s grave. I should be 31 weeks pregnant this week; I should be decorating the nursery, assembling the bassinet and hanging the farm-animal mobile. I should be choosing new onesies and baby socks, not small, outrageously expensive granite rectangles. What do I want on my baby’s gravestone? Nothing–I don’t want it to exist at all. And everything–all my acres of love for him. But it exists in spite of me, and there is not room for even a fraction of all I want it to say.
Every night I sleep with one of Simon’s gowns and one of his blankets clutched in my arms. The blanket belonged to our dear friend’s son and she brought it to the hospital, a gift from her son to Simon, who would have been his friend. It was the first blanket that was wrapped around him; if I hold it tightly, it still smells like my baby. I wish so many things as I lie in the dark. I wish I could go back to the one night I spent in the hospital with my son nestled in my arms. I wish I could see his face again and kiss his button nose, as I did every time I woke that night. I wish I could feel him turn inside my belly again, and laugh at the powerful kick he gave every time his daddy talked to him. I wish I could go farther back, before the day all these horrors began–if I could go back far enough, maybe it would all turn out differently this time.
The day I went to the hospital to deliver my dead son, some friends mentioned to me that I was doing a hard thing. They were right; and yet the word “hard” seems so inadequate, as all words do for such things as this. The death of a child requires you to do the impossible, to bear the unbearable, to survive the unsurvivable. It is not possible for a mother to walk into a delivery room, knowing she will walk out without her baby. And yet she does. And implausibly, incomprehensibly, days follow days. Somehow you wake up in the morning, though you don’t want to. Your heart goes on beating, stubbornly, though you sometimes wish it would stop. I don’t think the human mind and body were made to bear pain this staggering. It feels as though it must certainly kill you–and yet, unbelievably, it doesn’t.
Words cannot express all this, but they have to; they are all we have. Weak as they are, they remain one of the few gifts I can ever give my son. I want them to tell him that we remember, a month later, as we will a lifetime later.