Sunday, February 21, 2010

Here comes the Sun

Three days before my baby died, I ate breakfast at a diner and played the song "Here comes the Sun" on the jukebox. Charlotte danced heartily in my belly, and we laughed as we felt her, there were four of us, knowing that the Beatles were her favorite. To this day I weep a little when I hear that song, especially when I am at the diner.

Did you know that it rained almost every, single day after my baby died?

The heavens poured, just poured that spring. I write about it often, about how the lilacs drooped and hung, about their cloying smell and the dampness that clung to the inside of our house, about the flat grey light that can bring me right back to May when I think of it.

It rained, and rained, and rained, but then one day, it didn't rain.

We woke up early that day, at 6:30, and we set an alarm because we'd become accustomed to the long sleeps of the bereaved who can't bear to face life; we were sleeping 12 hours a night and sometimes more for fear of facing the day. But that day we arose, and set out for our 7:30 meeting at the midwife's office. It had been 23 days.

We were going to see the midwife early so that we wouldn't see any other patients; and we were going to her office because we were going to meet with the pathologist.
The pathologist. The evil, evil being, I imagined, who had done unthinkable things to my child to try to determine why she had died. Things I somehow had to let her do, because I couldn't sit with not knowing why she had slipped from us so suddenly.

I had already spoken to her on the phone, this woman, I had called her to ask her if she could please save us Charlotte's placenta. She had been very gracious and accommodating in this regard, and so she had moved up one notch in my mind. But still, who does this, I wondered? Who did this to my baby?

I remember little of the meeting, to tell the truth. We were in a small waiting room downstairs, where I had never been before, and there were glamourous magazines strewn about on the end tables next to me. The pathologist turned out to be a diminutive, beautiful youngish woman who had children of her own. Her specialty was with "problems of pregnancy", as she phrased it, which bothered me at first because I objected to Charlotte being referred to as a mere pregnancy, but I warmed to her when she went on to explain how important it was to her that families who had lost their precious babies, their entire futures, should come to understand what could have gone wrong. She spoke about her work with such devotion, and spoke of the families with whom she worked with such warmth, that she transformed before my eyes from a devilish sort of creature into a kind hearted woman who truly wanted us to have answers to some of our unanswered questions.

She began by asking us our baby's name, and I should precede telling you her opening statement by acknowledging that our midwife had already revealed to us, only a day after Charlotte's birth, the preliminary findings that a cord accident had ended her life. So the pathologist's opening statement was

Charlotte was an absolutely beautiful, absolutely perfect baby.

Damn. What wonderful, awful words to hear. Our beautiful, perfect baby, dead and gone. I marvelled as I looked at her, this woman knew my baby. She had spent time with her, knew what she looked like. She had spent more time with her than my own mother had, or my sister. Maybe she had even spent more time with her than I had, I didn't know how long these things took. In a world full of people who had never seen Charlotte, here was one of the people who had seen her, and she testified to it: Charlotte was beautiful, and perfect, too. She even had the evidence to boot, the pages of lab sheets identifying all of Charlotte as perfect, intact, and functional.

Of course then she went into the conversation about babies with compromised blood supplies from cord compressions, which lots of babies have due to the minimized space in a full term uterus, and how occasionally there is an event, in my case the rupture of membranes, which causes the compression to "exceed the baby's tolerance" for reduced oxygen. In other words, they die. Which Charlotte did. Which I still, to this day, can hardly wrap my mind around.

This piece isn't, though, about what happened in that meeting.

What it really is about is how we walked out of that meeting, and it was 8:30 in the morning on a Friday morning, and it was warm, and fresh, and the sun poured down on our faces. It was bright and green in a way that only early June displays in Massachusetts; everything was absolutely brilliant and especially in contrast to the three weeks of rain we'd had.

We walked over to Smith College, and we walked through the gardens together, holding hands. Everything was bursting with life, in full bloom. Beauty was all around us. The sun just shone, shone, shone. We could feel it.

And then, at 3:00 PM, up the hill at the college chapel, we held Charlotte's memorial service. Everyone brought fresh flowers from their garden, and the sun shone down on us as we grieved her. It would not have seemed right if it had rained. We were celebrating a new life; albeit the loss of one.

The sun shone all day, and set late in the evening of the biggest day we'd had since her birth. I fell asleep exhilerated, and thanked her for the sunshine.

The next day, it rained again.

It really did seem like a miracle, that sunshine.


Sarah Bain said...

BIG, big love to you on this day in Spokane where the sun shone bright all day and I ended up walking to the river and up the hill past the river--eight miles in all and there was Grace and Charlotte in the beauty of it all!

Hope's Mama said...

It rained all day on Hope's funeral. It was a cool, windy and typical August winters day. Except the exact moment her tiny white coffin was lowered in to the earth - the sun burst out from behind the clouds. Birds chirped. It was amazing, and so many people noticed it and mentioned it to me after the ceremony. I like to think she maybe had something to do with it. I'd like to think Charlotte had something to do with the sunshine, too.

Jen said...

I'm thinking of you and Charlotte today. Lily wants to know why I'm crying so I've told her that I'm sad about Charlotte. She replies, "You're sad about Charlotte. I'll bring you a tissue and kiss your tears." I love to hear Lily say Charlotte's name.

ezra'smommy said...

beautiful post...i remember the sun being so shockingly bright on the day of ezra's funeral

Rixa said...

Such a lovely, sad story, full of grace. Makes me want to give my kids an extra cuddle today.