Another Wednesday...another week without Alex.
Steve and I spent the afternoon travelling to the "big city" to see David's play I Hate This. I stumbled upon his blog shortly after Alex died and, as fate would have it, shortly after David's son Orson was born. You see, David's first child, Calvin, was stillborn in the same room, at the same hospital, that we delivered Alex (and much of the play takes place in that room). Following their loss, David and his wife returned to that hospital twice...and had two healthy babies. I was struck by the similarities in our losses...and the hope of a new baby. I felt compelled to email David to inquire about his play. He was kind enough to email me back. His was the first voice of understanding I found online. His was the first voice that made me feel like less of a freak. His was the first voice of experience to tell me that I would survive this. I could believe him because he had been there.
So we found a free parking space (Steve is, after all, a New Yorker at heart) and ventured into the hospital to find the auditorium. We were both nervous but excited. With only a little directional confusion, we were able to find the place and chose a seat in the back. We saw David standing up next to the stage, but he is an actor, so we weren't sure whether to approach him before the performance to just say hello. He could have been preparing, or whatever magical ritual he engages in before a performance, and we didn't want to intrude. But he saw us and walked right up the steps to introduce himself and say hello.
It was odd. Here is this man who I have never met, but yet to whom I owe those first days of sanity. Then, he did something that I will never forget. While introducing us to some friends of his who are affiliated with the hospital hosting the show, he said my son's name. He didn't say, "had a stillborn child." He didn't say, "lost their baby." He said, "Their son, Alex, was stillborn." I don't think I can ever thank him enough for that moment. Embarassingly, the tears started then (and continue on to this moment), because it hit me that, aside from my mother, nobody speaks Alex's name out loud. Most people refer to him as "the baby." And here was David, not afraid to openly acknowledge that Alex existed and was a very real part of our lives. He didn't feel any of those things that we so often have to deal with...fear, embarassment, discomfort. It was as natural to him as it is to us to say Alex's name. It was good.
The play itself is amazing. As I watched it I found myself crying, of course. But I laughed too. And more than once, I found myself nodding my head in acknowledgment and understanding. The play covers the moment they learned their baby had died, delivery, and the months of grief that follow during the first year. David has captured so many of the things we talk about when our child dies. His play helped me to make sense of some of the things I've been thinking and feeling since Alex died...things that have been floating around in my brain without context or a sense of order.
It's amazing that my one desperate email has led me to a point where I'm able to watch this play with a sense of understanding and healing. For so long, losing Alex has been ALL of my life. Watching David's play, I realized that he had learned to incorporate his loss INTO his life as a part of him. After a while, it no longer consumes everything. Instead, you learn to accept it and make it a part of you...your history. You'll never control it. You'll never change it. You just learn to deal with it.
Quite honestly, sitting in the same room as that rocking chair (a stage prop that looks remarkably like the actual rocking chair in L&D #17) made me a bit twitchy. I remember, clear as day, sitting in that rocker after changing into the hospital gown. I remember sitting there while some nurse asked me a zillion questions for my admittance. I remember sitting in that chair, thinking that as long as I stayed in that chair and didn't get in that hospital bed, things would be all right...Alex wouldn't be dead. I hate that rocking chair.
I wish I could bring this play to all of you all around the world. I think you would find it as healing as I have. Again, David's voice has made me feel less alone. As I said to my husband, "I feel like less of a freak." Thank you doesn't seem like enough. But that's all I have right now.
I have continued to cry all day. But it is a good cry. It has shown me that I can remember and be sad, but it's different now. It's not the all-out gut-wrenching sobbing and sadness that I felt in those first few months. Perhaps I am learning to deal with the knowledge that my baby boy is gone. And with the help of amazing people like David, I'm able to understand where I'm at...and more importantly, where I'm heading.
It has also reminded me that my husband is standing right here next to me...ready to hold my hand when I need it...ready to kiss away my tears when he can...or let them fall when he can't. It reminded me that he loved Alex too. And that regardless of everything else, we will always be able to speak Alex's name to each other. And if we're lucky, we'll find other people who are willing to speak Alex's name too.
David, if you read this, I want to say that I'm eternally grateful that you took the time to email me back then. And I can't thank you enough for sharing your story with us today. It takes something special to be able to share your heart and offer hope to someone. And thank you for speaking Alex's name out loud.
Another Wednesday...another week without Alex.