Monday, June 13, 2005

A baby or THIS baby?

I have run up against another philosophical question that I do not seem to have an answer for.

Did I want A baby? or did I want this baby?

When we started talking about trying to conceive, all talk was generic. We wanted a baby. It didn't matter if it was a boy or a girl, as long as it was healthy. Obviously, you can insert your own sad joke here.

But somewhere along the line, we were blessed with, and fell in love with, Alex. Sweet Alex who loved when I would sing to him (off-key, of course). Alex, who liked the minivan but hated the Cavalier. Alex, who liked Mexican food even though it gave me horrible indigestion. Alex, who enjoyed country music played loud. Alex, who would wake up at 12:30am every night and demand to be rocked to sleep. I did the bonding thing, and I think that's part of the reason this hurts so much. Because I made Alex into a little person and I attributed all these things to his emerging personality, it is harder to let go. I feel like I know him.

But the philosophical part of my brain has to ask. What did I really know that made Alex into "THE" baby we were seeking when we started on this journey? He could have been anything. He could have hated my singing...perhaps his movement was a sign of protest. He could have been bored by the minivan and loved the Cavalier. He could have been protesting Mexican food and country music. His 12:30am ritual could have been a complaint about my emptying my bladder and removing a soft pillow for his head.

How did I know what he thought? How did I attribute personality to him? Was it all wishful thinking on my part? If I'm being brutally honest with myself and everyone else, I have to admit that I didn't know a darn thing about Alex. I made conclusions that comforted me. Because, after all, no mother wants to consider that their baby isn't entirely happy while inside their body. But the personality attributes I imagined are a definite idealization. I made Alex into something I wanted him to be, in my brain. I pointed to increased movements as a sign that he liked or disliked something (sometimes it was like...sometime dislike...with no rhyme or reason). I paid attention to his sleep cycles and found hidden messages in them. I even projected my cravings for certain foods on his preferences.

So I'm left with the concept that I was in love with a product of my imagination. This baby, while a unique individual in his own right, was not necessarily THE baby I was supposed to have to raise as my child. I made him into THE baby by deciding who he was, by using a completely random though process. I let myself think certain things were specific messages from Alex because it made me feel more connected...more special. Or maybe Alex was THE baby for an entirely different reason?

The truth of the matter was, I was missing the actual message that was being sent. There is no logic. You don't love an unborn baby for his likes and dislikes, you just love them. It's an amazing thing. There is no connection greater than the one a mother has with her child while they are in the womb. You don't need to understand each other or try to figure each other simply exist in one space. THAT is where the magic is. Where there was one soul there becomes two. From the moment of birth, you are on a journey that can bring your souls close...but never as close as you were during that magical time.

Alex could have grown to be anyone or anything. And it's important to remember that he could have cried every time he heard me sing. If he had lived. But he didn't, and we'll never know whether he loved or hated my singing. I choose to think he liked it a little, but that is just a random decision that is made to make my heart feel lighter. That's what "they" call idealization. Alex was a baby who didn't get to be born alive. I have to remember that simple truth and not make him into the greatest person to ever exist.

So was Alex THE baby? Or was Alex “A” baby who became “THE” baby through happy circumstance and a little imagination? I hate to think all those hopes and dreams I had weren't randomly assigned. But I also have to remember that those hopes and dreams could have just as easily not come true if Alex had lived...that's why they are called hopes and dreams. I would give almost anything to have had the opportunity to find out...but that's not going to happen. Reality rears its ugly head once more.

Maybe I'll have hopes and dreams for another baby. Maybe not. Right now I mourn for the fact that Alex never got to realize his own hopes and dreams. And I mourn for the loss of the hopes and dreams we had for him, Sam, and for ourselves. I mourn for the fact that all I have of Alex are my own idealizations of who he was. I mourn for a future that will never be explored together. But most of all, I mourn for the lost magic...and I recognize how incredibly lucky I was to have that magic in the first place. Alex was a part of me, regardless of whether he really liked my singing or not. No matter who he would have grown to be, he was a part of my soul and my love for him is real. He meant the world to me for unexplainable reasons. Alex was THE baby by simply existing.

It wasn't really his personality that I lost, but the special magic that a mother shares with their baby by simply sharing the same space. That special magic is different with each baby, whether they live or die. The difference is, with a living child, you get the rest of your life to try to get it back...or at least something close. It may forever remain just beyond your grasp, but you know it is there. With a stillborn baby comes the knowledge that the magic is simply gone and you don’t even get the opportunity to try to catch it again.

It is bittersweet really. There can never be any disappointments...but there can never be any accomplishments. There can never be any hate...but there can never be any love. And when you “try again,” you’re not really trying again...because you know that you will never have that exact same magic with any other baby. Alex moved from being “A” baby to being “THE” baby not through happy circumstance and imagination, but through the magic that we shared.

I thank him for the opportunity to share that magic with him.

It was beautiful and I will remember it always.


Julie said...

Wow, that was beautiful. You said so many things that I have thought, yet never expressed. Thank you.

lauralu said...

catherine, wanting A baby and wanting THE baby aren't mutually exclusive. you wanted, and maybe still want, A baby, just as you wanted THE baby that was alex. thankfully, you don't have to choose between the two.

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful. There are a thousand special moments a mommy has with the baby she is carrying. I tend to think that you had some sense of who he was, but I don't know if that is a comforting thought.