I have been inspired by Niobe to verbalize some awful truths about myself. I have been thinking about it for over a year now...have tiptoed around it...but haven't really put it into words for anyone but my husband.
When Alex died, I was devastated. But looking back on it now, I can see that it was more shock and emptiness than it was grief over an actual child. I knew very little about him as a person so I didn't have personality characteristics to miss. Yes, there were memories of him...but they were all tied to the big P...pregnancy. There was no independent memories of him. I did not mourn HIM so much as I mourned the lost dreams I had FOR him. I remember the doctor's visit, the ride to my parent's house, the ride to the hospital and all the little steps toward letting go of those dreams. And with each step, I didn't mourn for Alex as much (if at all) as I mourned for me and Steve and Sam.
I also suffered from extreme shock. Things like stillbirth don't happen to people like me. I lost my innocence. I lost my ability to look at my life as fully beautiful. I had lived a charmed life up until that moment. Sure, bad things happened around me and I felt sadness. But it was outside of my existence and I was always able to move on. Bad things didn't happen TO me. This ugliness had pounced on me when I least expected it and I was...in a word...flattened.
But the truth is, I was repulsed by the idea that I had carried a dead baby around inside me. When Alex was first born I looked over to see them lifting his body into the bassinet, but I couldn't really see him because I didn't have my glasses on. I only saw a blurry image...his arms limp and hanging out to his sides, his legs limp with one hanging loosely over the other, and all his dark hair. When I did have an opportunity, I couldn't even look at him. I sent him away from the room for HOURS while I slept. He was not my baby...not my son. He was nothing more than a dead body to me. And I couldn't look at him.
After the man from the coroner's office came to speak to us at 3 in the morning and after I ate the best tasting turkey sandwich I had ever had in my life...only then did I allow my curiosity to get the better of me and ask to see my son's dead body. I slept and I ate a sandwich! And I enjoyed the sandwich! What kind of monster am I? Shouldn't I FEEL something other than these things?
The next morning I did ask to see Alex again. I don't know why. It felt like something I was supposed to do (And I've always been one to do what is expected of me). I made sure to keep him tightly wrapped so I didn't have to see what death had done to his body. Not because it made me sad, but because it made me sick to my stomach. Before I had them take him away, I kissed him on the cheek. To this day, I wish I hadn't. It was nothing more than a cold dead body. It was a million years from the warmth of the squirming bundle I had imagined so many times during my pregnancy.
And with Travis...
It still seems odd to say his name. In fact, I make efforts not to say his name outside of this blog because I don't FEEL anything for Travis. He didn't have a name. He didn't have an identity. We had just found out he was a boy. We gave him a name because we felt like we had to...like we should (and again, schoolgirl guilt dictated my actions).
Worse than that, most of what I do feel when I think of Travis is selfish. Embarrassment, anger, shame, horror, stupidity. There is no shock. There is just how "this" affected me and Steve and Sam. I have, at times, wished Travis never existed. I look at the pictures we took of him (and us) in the hospital and I marvel at how disconnected I look...at how disconnected I still feel. I have to really LOOK at his pictures to even conjure up a hint of recognition. This was my child? The thought repulses me to some degree.
When I think of my "grief" I think of it as being two years old. I am a veteran and I am "past" much of the hard stuff. I don't think of the "grief" as being refreshed just one year ago today. I just don't. I must admit that I often forget about last year altogether. And this makes me think even more that the "grief" I felt wasn't at all about either of my babies...but was entirely about me and how I had to shift my view of my reality. I am not sad like my friend who lost her mother. I do not miss them. How could I? They were never even born! I do occasionally find myself thinking about what Alex would look like now...comparing what might have been to reality. But I find that to be more about the three of us...me, Steve and Sam. How would WE be different?
I sadly admit that I discount my babies every day. And there is shame in that because I feel as though I'm a fraud...and have been a fraud...since the day we couldn't find Alex's heartbeat.
Three years that post set there in draft form. Three years and the only reason I post it now is because there is so much more horror to add. There won't ever be a pencil portrait of my last baby. Not even an awful hospital Polaroid of its dead body. And after it was over, I ate cottage cheese and vegetable soup...and I keep eating cottage cheese and vegetable soup now as if that will do something...I'm not sure what.
We don't even know if it was a boy or a girl, but we have it cremated and sitting on top of our electric fireplace in our living room. How fucking ridiculous is this?!?!
And I'll be honest, I don't even know if what I feel is sadness because the baby is dead or sadness because I failed again. Every life is precious...blah, blah, blah. But what was it? In the end, it was no more than another tiny dead body inside my belly...a dead body that didn't have the courtesy to exit the premises when it was done watching me jump through meaningless hoops.
Yes, there was hope and love and some measure of peace. And now there is none of that and I still feel death. And who will dare tell me that I shouldn't worry now? Who will be bold enough to suggest I am not cursed...that I have paid my dues...that there is nothing more to fear? Who in their right mind can say that I even have a chance at moving on from this place?
And I wonder...how do I even know? How do I know I won't walk out in front of a bus? or drink myself into oblivian? How do I know I'm strong enough THIS time? I've not done this before. Something similar, maybe....but maybe THIS is the last straw.
And what if I simply fall asleep and never wake up?