Monday, May 5, 2008
Today is May 5th. I know you know that. Today is my due date. 5 years ago today, my great friend Beth and I went out for breakfast at Sylvester's Restaurant. She was also due that day. We were so happy together. We ate eggs and laughed and waddled out of there wondering "if we would see each other again" before our babies were born. We did not.
We landed in the hospital at almost the same time, she just one day earlier than me. Her son, Henry, had his cord wrapped three times around his neck, and his heart started to fluctuate when her contractions got serious. They did a cesarean. He was born, alive, almost ten pounds, and beautiful. His father called me that day, which was on the evening of the day I call "last day", before my life ended. Peter told me of the love that had swooped in and set upon them that morning when Henry's birth cry echoed through the delivery room. He told me how magnificent and unimaginable it was. "You have so much to be excited for. It's so amazing," he told me. I believed him. I knew it would be just as he said.
That night, as I went to my prenatal yoga class at the hospital, I searched out their car in the hospital. I left them a note under their windshield. I don't remember what it said, but I know it meant, "I can't wait to join you." I was anxious to catch up.
The only problem was, my daughter's cord, wrapped around her torso and under her arm, did not tolerate even the early stages of labor, and when I arrived at the hospital, less than 24 hours after Henry's birth, Charlotte was dead. We sent the nurse down the hall to share with them our bad news. Later, Beth told me that she lay on her side in her hospital bed, staring at Henry and weeping without stopping, her heart breaking as she held the very thing I had lost. She wanted to run down the hall and hold us, but could not.
What might not be the expected end to this story is how their family is now our family here in Western Massachusetts, how we share holidays together, how Liam has grown to quickly become Henry's best friend, filling Charlotte's shoes in that regard. Beth, despite the fact that she had exactly what I lost, supported me greatly through my grief. I think it was because she knew just what I was missing that she never, ever, once underestimated the depth of my pain, and the importance of my loss. And for me, knowing that she had met me because of Charlotte, I knew she could not, and would not, ever forget my first baby girl.
We have each had another little girl, her Margaret only a few months older than Aoife. Every May, she calls me to make sure that Henry's birthday party does not conflict with anything we are doing for Charlotte. Her heart is beautiful.
And I love Henry. I love him so much, for the love he gives to our family, for the way he always remembers Charlotte, and for the friendship he offers Liam. He and Liam are so perfect for each other, both sensitive, sweet boys, but boys to the core: loving tractors, trains, and farming. They love to get muddy together and play fire station and mining and they entertain each other endlessly. He is so special to my family, and I know to Charlotte, because I can't help but think that she and Henry passed each other on their way down, maybe holding hands for a minute before she let him go, and perhaps her love for him helped her to choose a perfect little friend for him to join him 11 months later. I'll never know.