Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Writing




Your words do beauty to my heart, thank you for your encouragment. It is flattering and humbling, and frankly surprising, to hear these words from others, directed at me: who journaled for so many years, quietly in my room, and never once thought of myself as a writer. One of the things I intended to do on Charlotte's birthday was to post some of my original writing: the raw, anguished truth, what spurted out of my left hand as my brain was uselessly melting and my tears flowed so freely that I couldn't even see the page in front of me. It slipped my mind, but as I am thinking of myself and the progression that writing has taken for me, I feel moved to post some of it, even though I was feeling relatively committed after May 13th passed to being at least somewhat uplifting and optimistic here. So this is it, the very beginning, where it all started.

I can see myself writing it perfectly. I am on the pull out couch in the living room. The sun is shining in the three big windows in the dining area, flooding the wooden trunk that is next to the bed with sunlight. I have boxes of kleenex there, chapstick, a clean t-shirt. There is nothing of Charlotte. I have no photos yet, and her mementos are in the hospital bag. I cannot bear to unpack them. There is a spiral bound notebook, Greg's from graduate school, in the pocket of the endtable, and an old, barely working pen. Greg is still asleep. I look at his still face in the sunlight, and dread that he will have to awaken and face this. It is so very, very quiet. Without thinking, I begin to write.


May 15, 2003. First morning alone at home, without Charlotte
We lost Charlotte.
My empty womb lies empty and hollow, slack and limp from the loss of such a vital life energy. Last night after dinner as I began to digest I was haunted by phantom pokes and kicks, so used to being filled up I am. It is lonely not to have her little being inside of me, twisting her small bottom from side to side across my chest, prodding small heels out my right side. Such an adjustment to going back to an only me, and empty me, a me without my little baby me on the inside.
Giving birth to Charlotte was the most amazing feat I have ever accomplished. Even though I knew that her angel being had already left her body, my work as her mother had this last possibility and it was miraculous. I knew that I could never nurse her, or teach her to speak, or walk, but this was the one last great gift I could give to Charlotte before I let her go.
Charlotte worked with me, I know she did, to be born. Her angel spirit fluttered around me as inspiration as I embarked upo the most difficult work of allowing myself to birth her. Strangely, I was afraid to meet her. Knowing now who she is. I can't imagine fearing that tiny, perfect person, but I did. But as soon as I began to work her out, the instinct to mother that is so deeply a part of who I am flew into full force and my body worked perfectly. Charlotte moved slowly down through me, gliding down, and then back, down and then back, gently stretching her way out of her world and into ours. Her father, my truest love Greg, was locked in gaze with her tiny being from the moment her first tufts of hair appeared. I only felt her, this tremendous pressure, urging me to do my woman's work and move her along. What gentle relief when her head was born, and then the tug of shoulders and my eyes opened to see her tiny body fall out of mine into gentle hands, glowing beneath her coating of my life blood.
It was 2:14 and I looked down at my child for the first time. I knew that her physical life had left her but she was so very alive to us right then, because her birth was beautiful, and when we saw her we realized theat there was gorgeous, perfect person who we had made. We gently lifted her onto my belly, cradling her delicate body in our arms and letting our tears of tremendous joy and unbearable sadness fall onto her tiny body. It was amazing, incredible, just breathtaking to see how beautiful she was. This little, tiny, precious face, attached to this long, thin, soft body. She was curled up but as we gazed into her eyes we knew we had made a tiny girl because she was just so, so beautiful. Charlotte was perfect. Charlotte was everything we had hoped for in a baby except that our greatest fear had come true. She wasn't ours to keep. And so with her birth began our small, precious window of borrowed time to spend with our baby before we let her go. One at a time, we cradled her tiny, perfect body in our arms while the other held onto a tiny hand, foot, or stroked the soft skin on her shoulders, belly, and head. We tenderly, slowly, and lovingly examined each tiny part of her person, from the top of her head to the tips of her long, elegant toes. We stroked and kissed each little piece of her, trying desparately to inhale, to soak in, to absorb as much of Charlotte as we could in our brief time with her. Each moment stood alone in time in its importance, each moment that we spent with our daughter, each little touch, stroke, kiss. Charlotte was this tiny little girl that we made. Looking at her tiny, perfect face, we could see that our daughter had pieces of us in her little angel face. Her daddy's chin and nose, her mama's tiny mouth and long fingers and nails. Charlotte's body was a beautiful mix of her parens, of us, and gazing down at her we cried more at the knowledge that our beautiful love had created this tiny girl whom we couldn't keep. Oh, the aching was so, so, so deep, but the peace and complete joy in cradling her small body was unparalelled in our memories. Here was the most glorious person ever created, our daughter. We gave her the gift of life but somehow she passed it on. Charlotte didn't look like she had died. She looked so calm, so peaceful, so alive. Like a quiet, sleeping infant whose little rosebud lips might at any minute form into a tiny "o" of a yawn, whose little arms might stretch out as she awoke. But we knew that she would not awaken. That our time with Charlotte was limited. That her fragile body would soon have to leave us.
We shared Charlotte with our families, one at a time. We wanted everyone to see what a gorgeous little girl she was, and to share in the tremendous peace of the time we had to spend with her. We cradled her close, as our loved ones came in one at a time and cried with us as they saw this miraculous little person who couldn't live. Charlotte is so beautiful, they all said, and they cried more because they could see how much we loved her and how desperately we had wanted to watch her grow up.
Six hours. Six hours, starting at 2:14 when she came out of me until we said goodbye. Sadly, we knew we could not hold onto her forever. Our inner hearts wanted to grab our daughter's little body and run away, and hold her forever. But we knew we could not. Charlotte wasn't ours to keep. When we decided it was time to say goodbye, we knew we were preparing to take our broken hearts and wrench them out of our bodies as we let her go. We allowed ourselves ten last minutes. We cradled Charlotte high, up near our faces, so we could cover her body with layers of kisses. We just soaked in every detail. We wrote a beautiful poem for Charlotte and read it to her. When we heard the door open huge sobs rose in our throats because we knew our time had come. The nurse laid down two soft blankets on the bed and we gently laid our small daughter's body down and tenderly wrapped her. Taking her miniature, wrapped form one last time, we gave her our last kisses, and Charlotte left us. As her tiny, perfect body left our room, a part of both of us walked right out with it. Our daughter was gone after only six hours.
How robbed we felt not to have known her cries or soft noises. She was such a tiny girl, in my mind I imagine a soft, weak cry as she would come to my breast. I picture her tiny hands on my body as she nursed. And I know that I will never know Charlotte in that way. That my memories of her inside my body are the only way I will every know her vitality.
That is the story of Charlotte. It is a story we will tell again and again, as we remember our precious daughter and the magnificent life that could have been. We love you, Charlotte, our angel baby. We love you.


When I re-type this, I am returned to that place. I feel that body I occupied. How heavy it feels.
It is so obvious to the me of today how present the tense is, how very much there Charlotte was.

Before I leave you, I want to address a comment that Janya left, wondering if she should be reading this, as she is not babylost.

Oh, oh, oh. While I feel such great satisfaction in my ability to reach out to the babylost world, to connect and kindle and beautify the experience of the people who are living without their flesh and blood, it is those who are NOT babylost that intrigue me the most. You, you who are not babylost, you read my words? You read them, and you look at your child, or think about your future, and you feel grateful, and whole, and deep? Oh, yes, Janya. Please, do read. I am honoured and humbled that you find wisdom in someone whose experience is different from yours. Read and know that you are not babylost, but perhaps in reading about somebody who is babylost, you can become babyfound: somebody who truly sees the gift of their child, this fleeting, transient, beauty in front of them, and will cling with everything they have and love every single moment of it.


Here, the sign I have by my front door:


Do it. See the good. It is everywhere.

10 comments:

Shannon said...

You tell Charlotte's story so beautifully.

Jen said...

This is so achingly beautiful. I can picture Charlotte's tiny perfection, the kisses and tears.

I have had many thoughts about being a non-babylost mama and worrying about not belonging here, but being moved to the core by Charlotte. Part of it is not taking my baby's life for granted, ever, but it's more than that, too. I mean, even before I knew of Charlotte and babylost mamas, I didn't take my daughter's life for granted because it was so clear that she could have died. But there is more here, much more, and I wish I could verbalize it. Part of it is simply that I grieve for Charlotte, not in the same way as her family, but simply because I see how beautiful she was and how loved, and I wish I could have known her, I wish I could watch my daughter playing with her, I wish I could play with her and watch her grow myself. Charlotte reminds me to practice gratitude and openness to joy on a daily basis. This tiny baby has abundant gifts.

But you know what, if I could give the gifts back, and be less grateful and less of a person; if I could have met her mama in a different way or not at all as a result; if I could do that and make Charlotte alive, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Birdies Mama said...

Oh Carol...

your writing, your pure fresh pain that pours out in your writing is so gorgeous. I feel that heaviness that you speak of, the heaviness that you are brought back to when you re-typed this beautiful poetry that is Charlotte. In this great sadness and tragedy you write of Charlotte so closely, for the loss of her will always be so close, it will just always be right there at the surface...

I have read this and I want to read much more, page after page.

You are truly meant to share this love of Charlotte with us, your readers, your friends and those who are not babylost....and yes may those who are not babylost become babyfound.

Rebecca said...

I am not babylost either but from day one of reading your words here (I was lured to your blog by the carnival of breastfeeding earlier this year), I have felt the need to treasure my son just that much more. He is about the same age as Aoife and he hasn't just changed my life: he IS my life. During the long workday, I am hooked on various mommyblogs but I will say yours is different. Parts of it DO read like a book and I agree with others here that the book begs to be written. Blogs are immediate and connective and while some people want that, others do not. After I gave birth and was home on maternity leave, I read alot of mommy memoirs (in book form) and appreciated their static-ness. Blogs are dynamic and change and it takes energy to interact with them, even just reading. Books are permanent, unchanging, amd sacred. I don't think I could have entered the blogosphere in that foggy few months with a newborn. But books? They were a gift. Write that book someday. Make Charlotte's story permanent for others.

Kelly said...

I too, have not lost a little one. But when I read your words, I get the smallest, painful glimpse of what you have been through. It makes me treasure my son even more, and I thank you for helping to remind me to appreciate my many blessings.

Meg said...

I am so touched by your story. I left a comment on your April 30th post about your canker sores and this doesn't seem like the entry to cut and paste it to, so you can go and read it there if you'd like.

Thank you for your wonderful writing and helping me appreciate everything around me more.

Janya said...

What a beautiful birth story that you recount with such clarity. It leaves me rather speechless.

I can't even begin to imagine the number of mothers who will be transformed by your words when Charlotte's story gets out. You are a captivating writer.

And thank you for letting me stay :) I've often felt like a voyeur coming to this sacred site where you share your life and the stories of your children, so thank you for encouring me to stay and practice gratitude...and see the good.

Janya

nathalie said...

"...but perhaps in reading about somebody who is babylost, you can become babyfound"

You know what ? That's exactly it. I'm not a babylost mother, actually not even a mother yet, but you summed it up perfectly - this amazing gift I received by reading your words. "Babyfound." Thank you so much.

excavator said...

Hello, Charlotte's Mama

Like Janya I have felt drawn to the light of your glow, and of other babylost women, and I have feared trespassing on sacred ground.

Thank you for your warm and gracious acceptance of us who are not babylost

I just found you today, when I went to search to see if there are fathers who are writing babylost blogs.

I wept as I read your family's story--for the beauty that was like sharp knives in Charlotte's birth and the fierce consolation you found in your time with her...for the terrible raging emptiness in your body in the eternal now that followed.

Somehow it just seems, that telling this story and it being witnessed, is some force for Good in this world.

luna said...

this is such gorgeous telling of an achingly beautiful story. thanks for sharing the story of charlotte's birth.