Thursday, May 2, 2013
May 2, 2013 - Eleven weeks
Joe has been gone for eleven weeks. Twenty-five days from now would have been my due date. But instead of a ripe, swollen belly I have the tiniest paunch where my baby used to be and an emptiness that will not go away.
I don’t have as much energy to be angry lately. If you’ve ever watched a NASCAR race there are certain tracks where the cars have steel plates placed somewhere on the engines to make sure they don’t go above a certain speed. It’s called restrictor plate racing. I’m living a restrictor plate life right now. I’m as happy and content with my life as a person who held her dead child’s hand ten weeks ago can expect to be. I have many things in my life that I love and am grateful for and also this crushing weight on my entire body that feels bolted to me.
As the weeks pass, I feel less detached from Joe. I am becoming more comfortable when asked to say I have two children. When I was pregnant, there was a sort of surrealism – as though my mind hadn’t fully gotten used to the idea of a new baby in my life. I wasn’t one of those moms who fell instantly in love when I saw the positive pregnancy test. I knew the work that lay ahead and I tried to prepare for what would happen to my body. Since giving birth to Joe and touching him and holding him and carrying his ashes home, I am now free to love him and have a relationship with him – even if it is only in dreams and moments I think he has arranged for me.
There’s a small mall here in Portland, Maine. The night we picked up Joe from the funeral home, it felt like there might be video cameras in the back of our truck filming my every move, watching for my reaction, some emotion but there was none. The tiny box was so much smaller than I expected and I did not feel the peace I expected when the funeral director handed it to me.
I couldn’t go home. I had a two year old who had no concept of why his Mama had just gone comatose so my husband and I decided to let him run around the mall for a little while. As we parked, I noticed the temperature reading on the dashboard. It was freezing. I couldn’t leave Joe in the truck. I couldn’t take him in the mall. My husband froze – not knowing what the right thing to say to his wife might be. The box was too big for my pocket. If I put the remains of my child in the diaper bag, the box would not be upright and I didn’t want to upset his ashes. I wanted to go home but H was already out of his carseat. I just could not leave Joe in the car in the cold by himself. I had already left him behind at the hospital and allowed the funeral home to take him to be cremated. I could not let him down again.
It felt like we stood there for a long time before I finally decided, I need to take my sons into the mall with me. It may be the only time we ever get to go out as a family because God knows, I won’t be removing Joe’s ashes from the house once we bring him home. THAT would be crazy right? Even in my shell-shocked state, I knew I couldn’t start carrying this box everywhere I went even though I wanted to make jewelry out of it and never take it off. Ever.
Dark humor has become a normal part of our lives now. As we walked into the mall I said well at least I don’t have to worry about the police report we would have had to fill out if someone had broken into the truck. “Officer, my son has been taken.” “But ma’am your son is holding your hand. We only see one carseat.” “Oh no I mean my other son. Someone stole my other son. He was in the truck by himself. Someone must have mistaken him for…”
We laughed in that way bereaved parents do – is it okay for us to find that funny? Should we be laughing at anything right now? Can’t we just enjoy a moment together anymore?
As we wandered through the people who had multiple children, I wondered if anyone could tell the diaper bag on my shoulder had extra wipes, three diapers, a plastic remote and Joe. I asked J if he thought we had ever walked by people who brought dead family members to the mall with them for the same reason and he said well you look like everybody else right now so maybe we did and just didn’t know.
Maybe we had walked by people before who were in this same hellish grief and we didn’t even realize how painful it must have been to see our healthy little boy with us. How many women were holding their empty bellies when they saw mine so swollen and healthy with Joe just a week before. So much grief and sadness and pain and we were just wading through, unaware. Except now we know.
Honoring the fact that Joe was here and real and died has been a struggle for me. The silence surrounding the fact that I lost a child just added to the pain. It felt like people didn’t consider it that big of a deal because he died before he was born. He wasn’t full term. He would have been so sick anyway. It’s not like we watched him die.
Every day when I log in to Facebook there is a new post from Still Standing magazine. Each post is different but there is always an element of yeah, I get that, to every story. Moms (and Dads) who had babies die pre-term, at birth, at one year, two years, twenty years or younger than Joe don’t diminish the grief my family is going through. They just share the pain. And how they got through it. This whole world I was oblivious to and now it’s a part of my daily life.
I remember that old saying about be careful what you wish/pray for. Like if you ask for strength you don’t get it but you get things that will make you stronger. HA! Too funny. Seriously, too funny.
Trisomy 13 grief stillbirth MaterniT21 loss Patau syndrome Maine midwives cleft palate coarctation of the aorta incompatible with life omphalocele polydactyly pregnancy after loss rainbow rocker bottom feet termination thickened nuchal fold Irish twins MFM Maine Medical Center Maternal Fetal Medicine Trisomy 21 anxiety rainbow baby All About Women EMT Edward's Syndrome IUFD Irish blessing MMC Mainecare Mercy Mercy Hospital NICU Obamacare PTSD Patau's Portland Trisomy 18 baby loss bereaved moms birth plan blessings changing providers coping defects depression home birth mediums memorial for stillborn baby pregnancy shamrock sign language silver nitrate state screenings survivor ultrasound