The doctor lifted him away from me and I watched her hand him to the nurse. Everything was blurry because I wasn't wearing my glasses. But I could see the naked form of his body...one leg bent over the other, arms folded in toward his body, all that dark hair on his head, his bare butt. I couldn't watch. So I looked up and stared into the spotlight the doctor had turned on in the dark room so that she could see for the delivery and the subsequent sewing of the stitches. The nurse said she was going to take him to clean him up and I saw her, out of the corner of my eye, wheel the silent blanket covered isolette out of the room. I closed my eyes and opened them again to stare into the spotlight...hoping it would burn the retinas out of my eyes so I wouldn't ever have to see anything ever again.
I know he was cold. I touched his cheek. When I held him, he was all wrapped in blankets and I was afraid to unwrap him. I know from his footprints that he had my curly toes...the same curly toes his big brother has. And later, actually the next morning, I felt them through the blankets, never daring to unwrap him...I didn't want him to be cold. I held him and rocked him, but it was like a doll, like something happening to someone else. THIS wasn't my child. THIS wasn't my precious baby boy.
And then I looked at his gums. His GUMS...of all things. His mouth was open as though he were gasping for breath. My poor boy who probably struggled to breathe until the fight was too much for his poor little body. That final gasp captured for mommy and daddy to see as though it were frozen in the instant he left us. His little baby tongue...and his gums...I saw there were no teeth. I imagined his toothless cry. I imagined him nursing at my breast. I imagined those precious toothless smiles we would never get to see. His gums are what made him real to me...made me realize this was happening to me and this was MY baby. His gums.
I touched his cheek. I kissed his cheek. This is the only thing I remember. The coldness of his perfect skin. Why can't I just forget that? Why can't I just forget the feel of his curly toes through the blankets?
I packed a little white cap for them to bury him in. Why in God's name did I do that? They autopsied his brain for Christ's sake. There is no way they actually put that hat on him. What was I thinking?
I want to drive up there right now. It's all I can do not to get in my car and go up there on that hill to sit at his graveside. I imagine him there, wrapped in the blanket I made for him, snuggled with his blue stuffed doggy...how cold he must be...how alone. In my brain, I have a complete grasp on reality. But I can't stop the images and the feeling of complete and utter helplessness...hopelessness.
Why didn't you just cry?
Sam said to me yesterday, "But mommy, I want friends to play with." All I could think was how Alex was supposed to be his friend. I had wished it for them both. Aren't wishes supposed to come true?
It's different now. It's less raw, but it's darker. It's waiting to show me all the things I couldn't face before. It wants me to see the ugly pictures that are the reality. It tortures me with images of what his body looks like now. I mocks me with the taunt that I may never hold another baby alive in my arms. It laughs when I cry and dances about with joy when Sam tells me he still misses Baby Alex. I wish the spotlight had burned my eyes out so I couldn't see the images anymore.
It's not that he is cold. It's that I am cold. I can't feel anything like I used to. I just feel that spot on my belly where he used to kick me and I think of his gums and I think, where did his breath go? Who stole it? Is it inside of me somewhere? I don't want it.
Goodnight sweet boy.
I'm hugging my blue doggy and missing him. And the tears are here. And I'm trying to find a way to forget his gums and his silence.