By Stacey Shannon.
I hide these tears from my husband and kids. It upsets the kids, unsettles them, to see me cry. My husband, who loves me, but who never properly dealt with his own grief, is not able to respond to the quivering blob of bottomless need that replaces his normally stoic and capable wife each year at this time. This upsets me–but then most everything upsets me right now. I am short with my darling dears. Then berate myself for not holding them close and treasuring them instead. They are, after all, the babes God allowed me leave the hospital with.
But, now, it’s a rainy Monday morning, my darling dears are at school, my husband, at work and I am on the couch, still fighting a stomach thing that has been dogging me for two weeks. I call the doctor to explain the problem and as I am made to list and thus face, the pain, inconvenience and other indignities I’ve suffered for the last 10 days, it is too much, something snaps and the tears will not be stopped.
Who are these tears for?
They are for my raven-haired first born. Why she was allowed to leave here without knowing how very much she was loved and wanted, I can’t comprehend. When I think of the things she missed, that we missed as a family, I can only shake my head. I’m sorry her last day on earth was spent on the surgeon’s table instead of in my arms. I’m sorry I let them cut her satin skin and crank open her impossibly tiny chest. I guess we made the only decisions we could at the time, but, now, knowing the outcome, I wish I had said “no” and spent her last days holding her warm little body, letting her feel my love for her. Covering her angel skin with mommy-kisses and tickling her tiny feet. I would have rocked her and sang her all the lullabies I’d been storing away like so many Christmas ornaments wrapped in tissue paper. I didn’t have the chance to do any of these things until it was all over. I hope she doesn’t hold it against me.
And, they are for me, the girl I used to be. The girl I was 12 years ago who never believed, no matter what the doctors said, that my baby would not come home with me. I was the one reassuring everyone around me. I was keeping every one’s hope afloat. The possibility of my baby dying never once computed with me until it was all over. It took us a year and half of trying, in earnest, to conceive her. “God wouldn’t make us wait that long, give her to us, then take her back after 3 days. Where is the sense in that? Of course we will take her home, of course we will. She will come through this day-long surgery just fine and we will take her home. This is just another test–He just wants to see how much we want her.” That girl? The one who was so sure she understood the order of the universe? She doesn’t exist anymore. And I miss her. I cry for her broken heart, as I would cry for anyone else’s. She left a piece of her heart back there in that bitter and grey January. I see it now, that lost piece of her heart, as one sees the broken bits of muffler in the rear-view mirror as the car it was once an important part of, inexplicably, continues to chug on down the interstate.
I keep a list in my head of all sorts of things I lost in that moment. Topping the list: consciousness. I’m pretty sure, as the surgeon came into the waiting room and said, “I’m sorry folks….”, that I passed out, perhaps for only a few seconds as I slid, sweating and shaking, out of my chair and onto the floor –I was 3 days post-partum, wounded and bleeding, and I remember thinking, “Why does this shit always happen to me?”
I lost all faith in God. Fear not, Readers Dear, the Big Guy and I are tight these days. But in that moment: I was done. I hated Him and I was convinced He hated me. The spiritual rug had been pulled out from beneath my feet, and it took many tears and alot of time before I was able to put my world view right again.
I lost a future. To best explain what I mean, I can only say that I spent much of my mental energy reconciling what existed with what I thought my existence would be. These moments of reconciliation would come upon me in many places. In the grocery store, I would look down at the empty seat in the shopping cart and think, “there should be a baby there.” At Christmas I delighted in my little 1 1/2 year old niece, who was such a comfort to me, then sneak out of the room to dab at my eyes, because my baby should have been there in a pretty Christmas dress to match her cousin’s. At support group I broke down, sobbing, saying, “I shouldn’t be here, I shouldn’t be here.” The other ladies there, also grieving, rushed to reassure me that I did indeed belong there. My friend Donna, who gained her own understanding of the situation the hard way, gently explained my tears to the others saying, “She means she shouldn’t be HERE because she should be home taking care of her baby.” Rocking and clutching my sides, I could only nod and sniffle. “None of us should be here.”, said another girl, and she, of course, was right.
I didn’t know it then, but in that moment was the beginning of the end of a friendship. I had a friend at the time, who, having chosen to be child-free, simply was not able to relate to my grief. She made me, if you can believe it’s possible, even more miserable than I already was. Let me tell you, there are few things more pitiful in this world than a young mother with aching, empty arms. She couldn’t understand why I couldn’t shoulder her unending problems and listen to her go on and on. AND, BE FUNNY! She actually asked me, “Where did my friend Stacey go?” If we had been in the same room I probably would have, well, I don’t know what I would have done. As it was, I spat out across the phone lines, “HER. BABY. DIED!” The words tasted like bile and I couldn’t believe I had to actually vomit them out for her. Eventually, I learned, as I hope anyone who survives a life trauma learns, that I had to show her my back as I turned to face those who did “get me.”
I am happy to report, when I look back on that time, I believe I gained, if not more, than, at least as much as, I lost. The PA Posse as an example, (read “Wine for My Horses, Chocolate for My Girls” to learn more about the Posse) and other new relationships. New character traits: strength, patience, peace, etc.. And, a close, personal relationship with my new boyfriends: Ben and Jerry. I’ve never been fond of the whole “when God closes a window He opens a door, yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah”. The universal, mathematical truth of it is that once a vacuum is formed, it will soon be filled.
We all lose our innocence. If we are lucky, we gain wisdom in it’s stead.