Monday, June 8, 2009
This is something of an elaborated re-post from a comment I made on Glow in the Woods.
My first experience of holding a baby after Charlotte died caught me completely by surprise, and I remember it as if it were yesterday. Three months after Charlotte died we had gone forth for our summer as planned and travelled up to our family's cottage in Ontario for the month. It was absolutely awful to be there, in the place I had fantasized about bringing my baby and my ever-so-cheery extended family who had never seen me pregnant encouraged me constantly, promising me that I was "going to be allright" and that I was sure to have more. I could still barely see straight. I hadn't held a baby because I hadn't been around one; I literally had almost not left my house for the three months before our trip began. Arriving there had felt like a second homecoming, once again empty armed, and I sank almost deeper into despair for being there alone.
Then, suddenly, one day, I was in the water swimming when I saw an old-fashioned pram roll up to the top of our beach. In our community everyone is my relative, so I was at first outraged to see the pram, thinking "Who dares to bring their infant into my presence" until I realized I did not know who the woman was. With closer scrutiny I realized she was the daughter of the winter caretaker of the cottages, someone I had met years earlier. She reached into the carriage and pulled out a tiny, new baby dressed in blue. I grabbed my husband's hand, and I said, "I'm going to go and see that baby."
I left him, mouth agape, and swam to shore. I dried off, slowly and calmly, and sat for a few minutes in the sun to dry off. Then I walked up to her, and in a quavering voice, told her that she had a beautiful baby. I touched his hand. I asked when he had been born. Then suddenly, the story and the tears poured out, all about my baby and her death and my months of aloneness and how I hadn't seen a baby since. Surprisingly, she listened, and she looked at me while she listened. Her face looked sad. She asked me if I wanted to hold him, and I reached for him and held him. It was something I had to do. It made me cry, but it didn't feel awful. I held him upright, because I wanted him to feel different from Charlotte, who had lain across my chest.
I still see that little boy, usually every summer now, and I remember him not so much as the shadow-child of my own (probably because he is a boy), but as a moment in time, where I was briefly lifted into an astounding moment of courage, and where I suddenly realized that I still liked babies, and that I wouldn't have to re-birth Charlotte to fall in love again.
It was only 10 days later that I learned, much to my surprise, that I was pregnant. I have always wondered if it was the soul of Liam entering my body in those days who sent me out of the water and up the beach, to hold a little boy and feel the beauty of new life once more. I almost believe that it was.