Joe has been gone a month and five days. By now the hormones that follow delivery have settled down and I’m left with just me. No bulging belly. No kicks in the middle of the night. H doesn’t wake up and kiss my belly and say good morning to his brother anymore. It’s been a lifetime ago since we bought matching sweatshirts for them to wear in the pictures I imagined in spite of Joe’s diagnosis.
I’ve looked through all the pictures and cried into the blankets we took from the hospital that covered his tiny body. I have a small box that contain his ashes and an ornament someone sent me this week. It’s of a little boy holding his baby brother while they rock together in a rocking chair. At first I wanted to smash it into a million pieces. How could someone be so cruel as to send something that will never be possible in my life. Until I realized it was the only gift anyone had given Joe.
“Everything happens for a reason.” Someone actually said that to me. I almost put my fist through the wall. If I thought for a second God was up there above us all taking our babies I don’t think I’d ever sleep again. No not everything has a reason. Some things just suck. I like to think at times like this God holds us in the crook of his arm and helps us breathe when it becomes too painful to do it for ourselves.
I can’t believe it’s snowing again. I kept promising myself that we would get through this winter. It started snowing Christmas Day and kept on the entire day. We played with H and waited for my nausea to subside before we ate a small meal. Our last few days together before we found out there was a problem with Joe. It’s been too cold to go for walks. Even K9-H had a sprained paw and was on doggy bed rest. Nothing this time around has been like my pregnancy with H when I walked every day and knit tiny sweaters and shopped for a new baby. Something felt off right from the start.
I remember standing outside the OB’s office shaking while I called C. What a shitty thing to do to someone on their birthday. Ask them to attend a stillbirth. We couldn’t find Joe’s heartbeat with the Doppler in the office so I was going for an ultrasound. We knew. I had already asked all the questions I didn’t want to ask after the baby arrived. I stayed calm. I didn’t want to make the doctor feel bad. I didn’t want him to do his awesome doctor routine and show me how compassionate he could be. I didn’t want to rely on someone else to calm me down.
I don’t know exactly when I planned on letting my guard down. I had my mind already set that I wasn’t going to fall apart or be a slobbering mess in front of anyone. I would just get through it. I didn’t really schedule any time for grief or pain or reality. I wanted it to be over if there was no hope and my punishment for such awful feelings was that I would keep a stiff upper lip and not allow myself to feel bad.
I asked the technician to check one more time. She put her hand on me as she reassured me it would just take another minute. She had to take a picture of Joe’s heart from every possible angle and there was just one more to go. She switched off the machine and started wiping my belly as she said how sorry she was. She agreed to check again in that way people have when they are dealing with crazy people who have gone over the edge and are helping look for the imaginary squirrels we claim to see running around. She squirted more gel on my belly and turned the machine back on and there was Joe – with his back facing us, cuddled into my belly. I asked if his head was nestled in my right side and she said yes it is. He looked as if he had snuggled into me the way H does when he falls asleep. Only Joe wasn’t moving. His tiny chest wasn’t moving up and down, his hands weren’t reaching out in his sleep to make sure I was there…he was gone….just still in my belly.
I remember making some sort of moan type of screeching sound and it felt like every hand in the room reached out to comfort me. I didn’t want to be touched. I wanted Joe to turn over and raise his little arm on the screen like he had that first ultrasound when I was sure he wasn’t growing in there. I wanted reassurance that everything was going to be okay and this was just a horrid dream.
Six times I had walked the hallways from the parking garage to the labor and delivery floor when I was pregnant with H. I didn’t recognize a single tile on the floor as we went up to deliver Joe. I remember walking in the room they pointed me to and seeing the bassinet that would hold my dead baby. I was so scared of labor when that glass cradle waited for H. So scared of the pain and worried that he might not be perfect and healthy and terrified in every cell that I couldn’t get through labor. None of that scared me this time around as much as the thought of how we were going to get my lifeless son from my belly to that tiny bed. It was like a small funeral home waiting to take him from me. No joy. No anticipation. No wondering how much he weighed or what his first cry would sound like.
I don’t feel like I’m ever going to be whole again. We’ve talked about having another baby someday but there is no way I could ever fill that void in my brain where my son should be. And not even the knowledge of how sick he would have been and all the interventions he would have needed just to breathe and eat changes the devastation I feel. He should have been healthy. He should be still growing in my uterus. I should be still pregnant complaining about how much my skin is stretching and reading books about sibling rivalry.
It's almost five in the morning. I'm out of words. The blue light will be coming in through the curtains pretty soon and life will start again. Whoever said 'one day at a time' was awfully optimistic. I'm counting breaths. I have a son and husband who need me. How do people do this without someone to pull them out of bed each day?