Every year, 26,000 babies are stillborn in America. In 2003, one of them was my son.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Somewhat Random Thoughts

Niobe left a comment on my last post, about the woman I recently met who lost a baby in 1963, who had nothing of her son, never even saw him. Unlike (I presume) many of us, Niobe chose not to see her twins, not to have any of their things after they died. It got me to wondering if I could have done that myself with Ben.

I didn't want to hold him, initially; neither did my husband. We were so afraid of what he might look like, didn't know until after the placenta had been delivered, why he died, so we had no idea what to expect. Would he be deformed? Would he look...strange? How do dead babies look, after all? I can't remember if the nurses gave us the choice to see him or not, I just remember the fear, and not wanting him. As the nurse approached us with him, I wanted to tell her to go away, but I didn't, and I don't know why.

Instead, I held him, as they seemed to expect it of me. And once I realized he didn't look strange (though his coloring was all wrong), I wanted to hold on forever. I know every mother thinks so, but my god, he was beautiful. He didn't have much hair, but what he had was medium brown. His hands and feet were so long, and he was skinny, just like his dad. Before they took him away, the nurse unwrapped him for us, because we were too scared to do so, and I'm so glad she did. Those moments with my son, as hard as they were, are so important to me now. The photos, the outfit, the blanket, the things they gave us to take home, priceless. We don't look at them every day, they sit in a box for most of the year, but I think I would die without them.

We also have his ashes in an urn, sitting in our living room. Most people we know - the few who do know we have them - are weirded out by this, but one or two of our friends get it, this need to have him close. After we left the hospital, my husband and I felt so guilty, so empty, because we left him. We left him. I cannot tell you the power of those words on my heart. My therapist would later tell me that we had no choice, and she's right, but as a mother, you don't anticipate, you don't ever want, to leave your child behind. Not like that. Bringing those ashes home was so important because finally, Ben was with us.

Now, however, I've been feeling that maybe it's time to find another place for his ashes; a place I can go to and remember him, talk to him. Maybe home isn't the right place any more. I worry that I am clinging on too hard, maybe it isn't healthy, but then again, I think I'm the only one to know what's right for me. And I would also say that I needed his things in that first year to make me believe he was real and to help me cry when my body and emotions were just too numb to do it on my own. So no, I couldn't have done what Niobe did, but again, I'm just so grateful that both of us had the choice.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day

It's October, which means that it's Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and today, the 15th, is loss awareness day. And wow, I sure wish I didn't know that.

My boy would be nearly four today, attending preschool, running around like a wild child, loving Bob the Builder, trucks, cars, macaroni and cheese. I don't expect he would be napping any longer, he would have declared his favorite flavor of ice cream, and would probably be in love with the Cars movie. I expect he would be at that really wonderful stage of adoring and needing his parents, still a bit cuddly, but on the cusp of pushing us away as he started to grow up and become a "big boy." And I know he would be driving his sister crazy.

I also know, that, had he lived, I wouldn't have a James. I have thought, over and over, that I could have had them both: Ben would have been 19 months old when James was born, so it's all physically possible. It would have been hard, but I could have done it. But that's not how the cards were played, and now, I can't imagine my life without James, and I can only dream about my life with Ben.

I'm not doing anything today to remember Ben - except what I wrote above. I do more on his anniversary, and I don't really know what else to do today. I think of him, like I do every other day, and I think of all the other babies who never came home, like mine. And I know how unbelievably lucky I am, that I had him at all, and that I have what I do, with my two children now. I recently met a woman who had a baby in 1963, her second, a boy. He was born severely deformed - and of course, this was before all of the testing they have now, so they didn't know anything was wrong with him until birth - and they took him away from her, and he died three days later. She never saw him, never had a footprint, a lock of hair, a shirt he wore. Nothing. The hospital had him cremated and buried, and she was encouraged to forget, to move on. Those were the dark ages of infant loss, and I am so grateful that I lost Ben in 2003, and that I got to hold him, and kiss him, and see the whole of him before I had to let him go.

And I am thinking today, of all the mothers and fathers who are aching for their babies; the ones who will lose their child today, the ones who lost their child decades ago. The ones who are waiting, hoping, for another chance, another child. If I had a magic wand I would be waving it like mad right now, to make it all better for all of us who've lost the most precious thing in the world.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

I Do, I Don't

This picture is of Charlotte and James, Christmas 2005. He was 4 months old, she was almost 5.

Ah yes. Babies. Been thinking a lot about babies this past year, because mine are growing up. In a fairly fruitless effort to tidy up my house (why is it I always end up with piles of stuff everywhere?), I've been looking through some old photos recently - pictures of Charlotte as a wee babe, and James. Pictures from just a year or two ago when my little girl looked like a little girl, not like the big first grader she is now.

My husband and I have been talking about another baby, and honestly, we both want one, but it's not going to happen. I'm getting older - definitely of an advanced maternal age - and everything that could go wrong scares the bejebus out of me. And then, well, I had three babies in 4.5 years, and part of me feels like I just want some of me back. James will start preschool in February, one day a week, and I am working on writing a book, and I don't want to be an incubator anymore.

Don't get me wrong - I love my children more than anything else in the world. I didn't love being pregnant; it was hard. I never particularly wanted to be pregnant, I wanted the baby. And that's where I am now - I want a baby, I don't want to be pregnant again. I can see the end of diapers, I can see my son becoming more independent (which I love and which makes me terribly sad), I can see my daughter as a teenager (heaven help us! she's already quite the handful). I just wish it wouldn't all go so fast. I wish I had a time capsule or some kind of child compression chamber where I could return them back to babyhood again.

I am so going to miss the baby noises, the funny way my son crawled (one leg bent at the knee, foot in the air, one arm propelling him forward, other arm clutching a toy), the way my daughter first said "big girl pants" (she called them "bagel pants"), the way my son now asks for help with something ("Mmm How"). I wish I could mix up the first cereal again, one more time, and feed it to them spoonful by messy spoonful. Or watch my son be completely fascinated by the discovery of his hands. All of that newness - it's such a miracle.