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

Monday, December 24, 2007

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen,
Snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.

- Christina Rossetti

Do you know the Christmas carol, In the Bleak Midwinter? Preferably, not the choral version as sung by the King's College Choir at Cambridge University, which sounds far too lofty for my taste. I prefer the Shawn Colvin version (hear a snippet of it here), or James Taylor's version. It's long been a favorite of mine, but took on a whole new meaning when Ben died.

On December 30th, four years ago, I sat in a private room of the OB wing of the hospital where I was to deliver, having just found out that Ben was dead. I was waiting for my husband and a friend of ours to arrive, and life as I knew it was over. This song, sung by Shawn Colvin, accompanied by guitar and piano, is what went through my head.

Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone.

Despite the unrelenting grief I felt, I also felt those last two lines with my whole heart: Earth as hard as iron, water like a stone. This was my world, forevermore, this frozen, vast wasteland of pain and sorrow. Time stopped and there would be no spring without Ben - certainly not a spring I wanted. This moment was where I wanted to remain, forever. And this song will always remind me of that day, will always make me ache with longing for my baby.

Tonight, I will go to a Christmas Eve service with my husband, children, and parents. We will sing "Silent Night" at the end of the service, just like churches all around the world, and, as I have for the last three years, I will cry. I will cry for myself, I will cry for my husband and my children who will never know their brother, I will cry because four years ago on this night I was ripe with expectations and love for my own son, come to fill my world with joy. I will cry because I miss him, I will cry for the innocence I lost the day he died. And when I am done crying, I will wipe my tears and walk away, and no one will say a word to me. My husband will hug me, and maybe my daughter, but the rest of my family will ignore the tears. Not because they don't care, but because they don't know what to say. I'd rather they said almost anything than pretend I'm not crying; they may even be surprised that I'm still crying four years later. And that hurts. Families are mysterious things, capable of so much hurt and so much love. I just wish this chasm of need inside of me were not so great; I wish some part of me were not still expecting them to fill it up.


Monica H said...

"I just wish this chasm of need inside of me were not so great; I wish some part of me were not still expecting them to fill it up."

That is such a powerful statement and I wish the same thing to- for you and me.

May you have a blessed Christmas. I will be thinking if you and Ben tomorrow as I sing Silent Night.


niobe said...

I've never read that poem or heard that carol before. It's just beautiful, the words as bleak and bare as the subject.

I know how it feels to want something from others, some comfort, some acknowledgement, but, for whatever reason, they can't or won't give it. And maybe, I think sometimes, no-one could give me what I really want. I'm so sorry.