(my thoughts have wandered quite a bit from the post I originally thought I would write, but i will keep the same title anyway)
I’m terrified of the future, of how I am going to live a meaningful life without Sidney. But it is thinking about the past that causes physical heartache. There is the obvious–the traumatic moment when I found out that Sidney’s heart had stopped, and the hours leading up to that moment, when I suffered through my contractions, sent out emails letting colleagues know I wouldn’t be in, and put Eli to bed, all the while not too worried that I hadn’t really felt Sidney move too much. I was so stupid. How could I have been so stupid? And of course, the Thursday before, when I lost part of my mucus plug, cancelled my trip to New York, and had contractions which eventually stopped on their own that evening. But it is also painful to think about my pregnancy, all the hopes and the dreams, the moments I spent with Sidney inside of me, planning, waiting, wanting, and already loving. I remember after our first ultrasound at around 11 weeks, watching him kick and move around and telling my husband how much I already loved him, even though at that point I did still have some abstract awareness that he might not get to be mine for very much longer-an awareness that I didn’t really think much of once we made it past the 20 week point, and then especially once we got past 32 weeks, when I felt certain that even if Sidney were born early, there was a decent chance his prematurity would not have any negative effects.
It is my naivete that makes me so angry, my lack of understanding of the way that birth can go wrong, the inconsiderate way that I would almost apologetically mention that we got pregnant on our first try with both Eli and Sidney, all the while on the inside having some odd sense of pride that we were able to get pregnant so quickly. How did I not realize that my words might have been so hurtful to people who don’t have the same luck that we had–because that is what it was…luck? It is not that I am more deserving of having kids, or that I was taking the right steps to ensure my fertility. It was just luck. Luck. And now I am on the other side of luck. The side that has gained me admittance into the dead baby club, a club that I wish with all my heart I did not know existed. But it is thinking of me in my naivete, me before May 3rd when I found out my son was dead, that is so painful to think about. And not just my pregnancy but really anything that happened before May 3rd 2016. My memories of Eli are clouded with pain, because I think about how I was hopeful then, how I still believed I could create the family I had imagined, and also because I will never get to have those memories with Sidney. My facebook memories of August 2 put us back for a visit in Seattle a year ago, visiting with friends that we met through the parent-baby group I did with Eli. And I look so happy, on the shores of Lake Washington, announcing that Eli had tried his first milkshake. And now those memories are painful. I also think about how that whole visit, I was already jealous of some of my friends who had their second children, and how my husband and I were arguing over when to start trying for our second, how I was ready and had been for quite some time, and he wasn’t. Back when I still thought that his readiness was the only obstacle to my happiness. I think of all the things I used to get worked about, that we used to fight over, and they seem so trivial, so unimportant. And three years ago, I proudly reported Eli’s weight, length and head circumference, noting that he was in the 99th percentile for head size (he still has a very big head).
Go back a little further with facebook memories, eight years ago, and I am in Egypt, with a graduate grant to spend the summer learning Arabic. (I wanted to know Arabic so that I could look at the way that Cairo as a city addresses child poverty. In the US, religious beliefs play a big role in the origins of our child welfare system, and I was curious how a predominantly Muslim city/country viewed child poverty, and who they believed was responsible for addressing that poverty). Rewind a little more, and I am in Italy, spending the summer with a friend’s family as we work on our masters theses. I was probably the most broke I’ve ever been, anxious about finishing my thesis, anxious about the PhD I was about to start and my future, but also so unaware of how great everything really was, that I had a beautiful house to stay in overlooking a lake, my friend’s mom to cook for us, my friend to sit with as we wrote side by side, and then spent the evenings drinking Italian liquors, taking walks and playing cards. On paper everything was great. Why didn’t I value it the way that I should?
But the thing is, in the last few months of my pregnancy with Sidney, I really was appreciating what I had more. When I would worry about trying to finish writing my lectures, or working on some of my new research, I would also think to myself how great everything was, how amazing Eli is, and how excited I was to have his little brother, how I was finally much more confident in my teaching, how we were starting to make friends after having been here almost two years, how I felt much more solid in my relationship with my husband, how everything I wanted was falling into place. So God, you didn’t need to do this. You didn’t need to take Sidney from me just to teach me to be grateful. Really. You didn’t. But then again, I don’t really believe that that is how the world works. I don’t think that God punishes innocent babies just so that adults learn lessons. But it’s hard not to slide into thinking that, that Sidney died because I wasn’t looking at the world in the right way. It seems like there has to be some larger reason he is not here, some bigger lesson that I will learn from this, some moment in the future where I can look back and say, “well, of course, I still want my son. I still love him and miss him. But if he hadn’t passed, then I would never have done X, or learned X.” But I don’t know what that lesson is, what the larger meaning of life and the world I might have gleaned from his death. I don’t think I am using my time here better. I don’t think I am appreciating all I have and living life to the fullest, so aware of how life is fleeting. Instead, I struggle to get out of bed every morning, still feeling like I am trapped in some sort of limbo. I am trying. I am trying so hard. Everything involves so much effort. My husband and I have taken to saying two things nice at dinner every night, two things we appreciate. Some times they are very small–it might just be the smell of fresh cut grass or getting to hug Eli at the end of the day. I am trying. I am trying not to curl up in a ball and hide from life like I want to. I know that that won’t help. But it is so hard. It is so hard to live when I am terrified of everything, so broken. And soon, I will have to start going back to campus. I did an hour of volunteering at a rec center, helping teach a summer art class. And tomorrow, I will help with a four hour end of the summer event, the longest sustained activity I will attempt to do since Sidney died. But I am dreading it, instead of looking forward to it. Because everything is so hard for me. And I don’t feel like it is making a tangible difference yet. I guess the key word here has to be yet.