Flynn's birthday is today, just as much as it was the day that he died. I want to do something different this year, I want to share his joy, the joy we knew and felt surrounding his life. He was not conceived in sadness and pain and it hurts to think that his legacy is now equivalent only to sorrow.
Rhys was 18 months when we realized we wanted to continue our family. We loved being his parents and we were intoxicated by our love for him. When we had tried to conceive for six months, we talked to our doctor, when it was ten months we saw a specialist and at a year we went onto fertility drugs. I realize now that I was inpatient, but I had a deep desire to be a mother again, to meet a new little person and watch them grow.
On Boxing Day we got two surprises, a positive pregnancy test and a two and a half year old with chicken pox. After making sure that chicken pox and pregnancy would be okay (I was immune), our family of three spent a week on the pull out couch in our living room watching TV, dozing and revelling in our family.
During my pregnancy I could not hide my symptoms. Coffee sent me flying into the washroom, food before 11am was not tolerated and by the time that we were 10 weeks along most people knew we were pregnant. At the time, someone told me that you should wait to share a pregnancy with people, in case something went wrong. Now I appreciate that we need to do what feels right for us, I had so many people anticipating this new life, supporting my pregnancy, I do not regret that now.
At 14 weeks I started to feel the baby kick. It was early, I know, but it is not my memory playing tricks or my dates being wrong, that was when it started, I journalled it during the pregnancy. It was a true blessing. From the first kick I began to develop a bond with this baby, talking to him, confiding in him, having a private moment in time with him.
He kicked so frequently that I would often picture a long, lean little child (I didn't know the sex yet) in there hanging of the umbilical cord wanting to let me know that they were hungry, tired and stretching or just plain bored. Funny visualization, but that is what I saw when I thought of the baby. I appreciated the continuous reminders that he was in there and okay. It came in handy when a nurse told me she could not find his heartbeat, meanwhile he was tenderizing my liver! That would be the only time that I would be confident about my baby's life and his existence.
At this point in Flynn's story things get dark and it is hard to remember if there was any joy. One moment that was not tainted by heartbreak was the first ultrasound at 18 weeks, when the ultrasound technician asked us if we wanted to know what we were having. Rhys was with us and we both said YES! Another boy, said the technician and Rhys was overjoyed to know that he would have a brother. That was a great moment and one that even Flynn's death would not change, Rhys would have a brother and it would change his identity significantly.
I have written a lot about the doctor's, the diagnosis and the despair surrounding Flynn's birth.
There were some things that went right. He was born in our home hospital, just seconds before they were ready to put me into an ambulance bound for the nearest NICU. That meant we got to hold him, our parents were able to hold him and see him and touch him. There were no tubes and wires or Plexiglas keeping us from his life (there is a need for this care, but in his grim reality, not for him).
He was born alive. **side note** My heart aches for the families that did not hold their babies in life and I can only be honest for my wishes on that day, his life would not have been any different in significance had he died before he was born. When I was labouring the day of Flynn's birth all I asked for was to hold him alive (in hopes of a miracle really). My family saw him kick and move his arms. His mouth opened and closed while his chest rose and fell. The intimate relationship that I shared with him for almost six months could now be experienced by my family as they held him, cried over him and whispered their love and wishes for him.
He made me a better person. It took awhile. I needed to grieve. For me, that meant being angry at myself, at my partner and even my children (living and deceased). I had to cry, be sad, be depressed and honour what that meant for me. I needed to rebuild all of the relationships that were changed by Flynn's life and death and at times accept that some of those relationships would not be rebuilt, they would also cease to exist. As I began to cope with my new reality, I began to appreciate what was important to me and what wasn't. I redefined who I wanted to be and let go of who I couldn't be. I may have done all of these things at some point in my life, but not at twenty-six and not with the clarity and maturity that came out of our experience.
I think there is probably so much more that I could say, but finding the joy on a day that is different from nine years ago and yet remains difficult to reconcile has exhausted the words that I have left.
Today is Flynn's birthday. Today I will remember the joy.