Today I drove the route that with one turn would have led me to your cemetery. The route is picturesque and especially so today with an early spring snow fall newly on the ground. I found my mind wondering to conversing with you, something I rarely do, and it inspired me to write this blog. It is March 31stand every turn around the sun I remember April as the month that I spent in and out of hospital as my body slowly and painfully failed to carry you. As I drove, I opened myself up to the conversation, the things I would have wanted you to know about the day you were born, the story I will never get to tell you.
You would be approaching seventeen in May; it is just unimaginable. I try to picture you, wondering if you would tower over me like your brothers or would you be smaller, more petite if you had survived? Survived… the word punctures my heart; it reminds me that there was nothing I could do to save you.
When I gave birth to you the pediatrician swept you away for the briefest of moments, knowing that our time was short, she measured your Apgar’s, the test that evaluates your ability to thrive. It was not long before you were placed back in my arms wrapped in the tiniest of quilts where you looked swallowed up in flannel. The doctor informing us that you scored ones and threes where we needed nines and tens. Nurses measured your beating heart, gently calling out numbers to a doctor recording them in the corner – “90 beats per minute.” Your warmth radiated through the blanket and although we were told you weighed one pound, six ounces, the weight of you lay heavy in my arms.
I watched as your little mouth opened and closed, mimicking breathing. Maybe you were instinctively looking for food, but your movements were not quite the nuzzling of an infant looking for milk. I felt so confused, every instinct in me wanted to feed you, to believe that if I could simply give you nourishment our reality could change. I was starkly silent to my normal nature and yet my mind was on fire screaming “help me help him.” People moved alongside me, your dad and grandparents, weeping and holding me as I whispered my apologetic love to you.
Where my body failed to carry you, I was now failing in my duty as your mother. I didn’t know how to fight for you or what to fight for. I wished I could have asked you what you needed of me. Would it have been the life you wanted if I had insisted you be rushed to a NICU? Would the choice to intervene and in turn barely touch you give you the resources to live? Should I have asked your tiny body to be responsible to fight for life, constantly trying to ward off death? Let me be clear mister, I would have taken you any way I could have had you and I realize that may be idealistic and selfish and a thought born out of this lifelong grief I bear without You. But that wasn’t what we chose because the grim realities were laid out before us while I was still struggling to grow you within me.
I wanted to run, my arms and legs itched to flee the reality of that delivery room and only thirty minutes into your life the doctor told us that we had a window for the surgery that I needed, and we would be wise to take it. I decided to leave for surgery and not witness your last moments of living. I left that to your dad and not because I was thinking of him and what he needed but because it was unbearable to struggle with the fight or flight response raging in my body. Just writing this I can feel it awakening in me like a primal scream.
Dear boy you were surrounded by so much love and you gave us an hour and a half to instill our message of gratitude and to cherish your life. We didn’t know in that moment how much your wee imprint on our souls would influence our lives and our family. We are about to acknowledge seventeen years with and without you in our lives, and I realize that you are the oxymoron of our family, you are the little giant that roots our family. Darling Boy, thank you.