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

Thursday, August 26, 2010

And They're Off

My baby started kindergarten this morning. He was up and dressed and had his backpack on 20 minutes early, stating, "I'm ready to go now!" We told him it wasn't time yet, and he said, "I want to go anyway!"

And I teared up all through breakfast and our short walk to school.

He's ready. And it's hard to let him go. James walked into the school door without a backward glance while all I could do was look back in time, remembering the day he was born, remembering the last five years, wondering why they went by so quickly.

He's ready. And I am not.

He saved my life, you know. James and his sister both did, after Ben died. Charlotte was my reason to get up in the morning when I wanted to stay in bed, covers pulled tight over my head, forever. Though I can't claim to have been a good parent to her in that year after her brother died, I showed up because I had to. Because she needed me. I needed her even more.

Unlike last year, when I lingered at school on the morning of the kindergartener's first day, remembering what might have been, I cried this morning in happiness and sorrow. The milestones I would have marked with Ben are becoming more nebulous now, smaller in significance. I will not know when he would have finished school, for he might have dropped out, or failed a year, or some other unfathomable thing. He may never have gone to college, or gotten married, or had children. I don't know, and I live with not knowing, having to accept it because that is all there is.

I will mark my life now with the two who lived. And it's ok. Though I can't pretend these milestones are normal, untinged with the pain of loss.

James was my second chance, my hope, my future, my joy. All through that long pregnancy filled with fear and expectation, I waited, and hoped, and feared the worst. Then he came and I can't imagine living without him.

He's ready. Ready to go off into the world, eager to learn, so excited to be big.

The past five years have been leading up to this, I know. James, and Charlotte, are both where they need to be. Exactly as it should be, exactly as I want it, except for the longing in my heart.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

At 81, He Still Blames Himself

I came across this article several weeks ago, "Hibakusha writes to his dead child," about an 81-year-old man in Japan, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. In it, he speaks, through a letter written to his second child, a daughter who was stillborn, of his anguish that he may be responsible for her death.

"Is some bad blood flowing within me?" he writes.  "Or, is this the payback for having survived?"

I already knew, and this only reaffirms, the guilt and sorrow never go away. But at least there will be others out there who feel just the same way.