Another year has come and gone where once again I’m inevitably forced to realize that I’ll never be quite “over it.” No matter how many years pass, no matter how much my heart is healed by time- that’s how it works, right?- I’ll never be able to force myself to ignore the significance of this day. The truth is, I don’t want to forget. In my mind, forgetting his day would be forgetting him. And I won’t allow that to happen.
Nine years ago today the thing that would most define my 20’s occurred. I experienced the death of my child for the first time. The death of my second child to be precise. Sad how I’ve now experienced the devastation of loss so heavily, so often, that instead of saying “I lost my second child” I find myself saying “The first (second, third) that I lost.” I fondly remember my pre-loss days when I blindly assumed that pregnancies lasted 9 months and resulted in healthy, screaming infants. That blissful innocence was stolen from me. Ripped from me by a force that leaves me reeling to this very day. Now, I am having the same thing define my 30’s with a much more malevolent tone than before. Now it’s become: I’m 2 for 5 and the clock is ticking. 2 for 5 and it’s quite possible I’ll never get the chance to change that ratio whether for the better or worse.
I can’t think back on this day without being filled with regret. I regret not going home that night, not attempting to pull myself together. I should have given myself time to get over the shock and fear so that the decisions I made wouldn’t have been driven by that fear. Instead I chose to be induced immediately. I wish I’d have held him. They offered. One nurse who was there during his delivery came back hours later in the middle of the night and whispered to me as she took my vitals. “I don’t want you to regret not seeing your baby. Don’t be scared.” Still, I refused. The next morning, 19 hours after first learning my baby had died, I left the hospital no longer pregnant. I know in my heart that my decisions wouldn’t have been the same had I taken time to digest what was happening. I just wanted it over. And that’s what I got. Along with this burden of regrets. I hate that I didn’t question the paperwork I signed when they hastily explained that I could send his remains to the state for research purposes. I didn’t realize that he wouldn’t ever be coming back to me…that I’d feel his absence in every fiber of my being. I was 21 weeks and even by state law my baby was entitled to burial. (I’d have chosen cremation.) Two years later I’d go on a quest to find out what happened to his remains. Now, I regret my curiosity because I wish I didn’t know. Ignorance, in this case, was the best option. Bliss. I wish I’d given my first two children a better father. Does that sound hateful of me? Stupid? I know if not for him Abby wouldn’t be Abby. And I don’t -can’t- regret she or her brother’s existences. I just regret that I didn’t provide them with a father who would be everything they needed and deserved. Doesn’t our son deserve to be remembered at the very, very least? But regret won’t get me anywhere and will only cause me exponential pain in the end. I’ve got to find a way to let go.
I have this idea that, from this year forward, I’ll celebrate the births of all my children. I don’t want to be depressed and mourning anymore. I can’t imagine a life where I feel like this three times a year. Where my life stops and I become the mess I am right now. I believe in God and I know he’s prepared a place in Heaven for me. I know my dad is there and I find peace in the fact that my babies are there with him. I’m here, destroyed over what I’ve lost without realizing the gifts I’ve been given in the first place. All of my children may not be here with me but I know that we will all be reunited again. In the past, I don’t think that belief was enough for me. Now, it’s everything. The comfort it provides me cannot be described.
So I’m going to make him a cake today. I’ll try not to cry while I talk about why this day is special and must be remembered. Maybe I’ll succeed, maybe I won’t. Either way I know I’ll have the support that I need. Between Arick and Abby I think I’ve got the two most caring, loving souls God himself ever created. So I know I’ll be okay. We’ll all be okay.
In the end, I have to thank my first son for giving me my second. I’d love to have him here with us, almost nine years old. To have both of them. But the fact is that if he were, our Avery wouldn’t have been given to us. One thing that I know without question is that Arick and I both NEEDED Avery.
The good news is, I no longer feel compelled to question God. He knows me, he knows my heart and my desires. And He certainly knows what He’s doing.
Happy 9th birthday, Damian Alan. I can’t wait until the day I get to hold you in my arms for the first time. Because I’ll have waited my entire lifetime to do so.
Eternally grateful for the kind nurse who not only took these very tiny footprints for me but took pictures of him and kept them safe until I was ready to see them.