And I was still here.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Everyone is asleep but me, and I am alone downstairs. It is the first time I have been alone downstairs in exactly eleven weeks. I actually feel aware of the bend of my middle, aware of not being pregnant, because I haven't sat here, alone, since I was pregnant. I can feel some sort of plateau happening because I am okay alone down here.
On Wednesday I left my baby to run my meeting. I felt tormented about doing it, and concocted a very convoluted plan whereby my friend Gina met us at the hospital and wore Fiona for the two hours while the meeting took place. Greg and I went out on 20 minute intervals to check in on them. Fiona Clementine, despite the fact that at home she often nurses every 20 minutes in the evening, slept the entire time. Amazing, and so good for me... because I absolutely loved being back at Empty Arms. It feels so awkward to say that I loved being there, because obviously it is sad, but it just fills me so much to be around people who have done this. That, and feeling like what I have created is helping somebody. Some people. At the end of the evening I took Fiona back into my arms and sat with her in a darkened conference room and nursed her. My hands fit around her body and I felt her in a way that I needed to be reminded to feel her, because she is here with me, and going to the meeting helped to shake me back to that amazing realization. Not just that Fiona is NOT GONE, which sometimes is the focus, but that she is actually here. Unlike some other babies, who are not.
I asked people to speak about a dark place for them, either of the past or right now. My moment was so vivid, and I described it in detail and then thought some more about it as I lay in bed later that night. I remembered a shower I took, it might have been day four, or five. I stood under the water for a long time, my breasts were huge and pouring with milk, and they hurt so much. I knew I wasn't supposed to touch them or express any milk, to make it stop, but I couldn't bear it. I squeezed them under the hot, hot water, just a little, just to take some of the edge off. I can remember the milk swirling in the drain, round and round, and I could have even just been imagining it mixing with the water, visibly going down, down the drain, headed nowhere. Nowhere it should have been. Warm tears rinsed my face and the salt of them mixed with the milk and the blood and the water at my feet.
I stepped out of the shower, eventually, and I began to towel off. Maybe it was the drying off, or perhaps I heard something, but I was momentarily distracted, and at this second in time I caught sight of myself in the mirror and lost my breath.
There were several things, several things. My belly hung, pouchy and low, with a sunrise of sleek, shiny stretch marks radiating upwards towards my navel. It was halfway pregnant looking but so obviously devoid of life to me. Above it were the rock hard breasts, mocking my empty handedness. And I dared at that moment to meet my eyes, and gazed into the saddest face I had ever seen.
I remember the word "ravaged" bouncing around in my head like a ping-pong ball, my body was ravaged and torn and swollen and broken, and my heart was the worst of it all. The inside of me felt unrepairable, uncomparable to the outside of me which would one day heal.
Somehow looking at my body brought me up one more notch towards understanding what had happened, towards understanding that the baby, the long awaited baby, had been born, but that she had died. That the baby had been a little girl named Charlotte, and that her brief appearance had already been made, and that she was gone. That she had once been, but her time was finished.
And I was still here.
And I was still here.
I sank, naked, onto the blue bathroom rug, cotton with big hooked loops. It was a 2 by 3 rectangle and I folded myself onto it, belly down, and cried for a long time. I did not want to see myself.
That memory is seared into my brain.
At that time my body was ravaged, it had been torn apart by the birth simply because my baby had died. The awfulness of the swelling and the bleeding and the engorgement and everything else that goes along with the time after birth felt mocking and horrible and painful and wrong, and that was because that baby was not there.
And I thought later on about how it makes perfect sense that I feel haunted every time I give birth, haunted by my body even though none of that swelling and bleeding and engorgement feels so awful when the baby lives.
When I think about what I have been through I find it extremely odd that I feel so normal most of the time now.