Monday, September 13, 2010

Windows to the Soul

(p.s.) there is a new post, entitled Violet October, which I wrote yesterday but was holding off on posting pending permission from Violet's mother. Please scroll down below the twelfth and read that post first, if you have not yet.

It seems strange how my story and Violet's intersect, only because of some words I can remember myself saying more than a few times.

It may or may not come as a surprise to you that one thing people say to you, when your baby dies from the act of trying to be born, is that it's a good thing you didn't get to know her. They tell you that it would have been harder if she'd lived for a little while, and then died. That it's probably better this way, and they look at you with deep, sad eyes, as if they've had lots and lots of experience with people whose babies have died both before and after birth, and, believe you me, you got the better end of the deal.

Now, this having been said I do take great comfort, seven years later, in the great peace that surrounded Charlotte's birth. Because she had already died during the labor, and because there was nothing left to do, when she was born it was in some ways a birth like any other birth. There was no panic, no rush, no days of adrenaline and false hope and utter despair, pulling pots of gold out of the air trying to save her. I dream of this scenario, sometimes, only because my mother's brain imagines that perhaps if she had been born alive the days of panic might have rendered a living version of my dead child. But the truth is, had Charlotte survived the clamped cord, and the resulting clotting that occurred in her placenta and her liver, she may well have been born alive only to suffer a massive stroke in the next few days. The heartache surrounding this scenario humbles me; I do sometimes feel as if I was handed some sort of covert gift when she passed away so peacefully inside of me, so that neither she, nor I, had to endure the struggle for life that would end in her death.

This is, however, my story to tell. It is my right, as the mother, to declare that I do feel an element of trauma is added to the stories of my friends who had to watch their babies struggle for their very life, only for them to have to make the choice that the life that remained was not salvageable. I believe this, in my heart, but I do not like to be told it by others. My belief that their struggle runs deeper, that their memories can be more complicated and traumatic, runs simply that far: I do not extend this to say that their babies' deaths were sadder than my own.

Because, after all, is anything more sad to me than the loss of my very own daughter?

But back to Violet October, who for that brief moment, early in her three days between worlds, heard her mother's voice and opened her wide, blue eyes and found her: she found her mother and locked eyes with her, if for only a moment.

This is the moment I wanted, and many times, I can remember myself saying just those words, in response to those who suggested that I was better off having not known her.

Back at home, I would stammer, How could they ever know? Tears choked my every word, my face was soaked, my nose dripping, eyes swollen and red. How could they ever know how much I would give to just have seen life in her eyes, even for just one minute. This is the moment I would return to, again and again, remembering back with near horror at how I had tenderly opened my sweet baby's lids, and had seen the murky, dark blue of her eyes beneath. It was those eyes that separated what she was from the sleeping baby I almost imagined I was holding. There was no life there, and I let them close again, fast. So I imagined this, again and again, this vision of seeing life in her eyes, and I mourned so hard that I had never seen her alive.

Somehow, it seems to me, that Charlotte would seem less imaginary if I had been able to share one experience with her, even if it had been a truly awful and harrowing one.

I am shamed to admit this, because I realize with full consciousness that it is an absurd example of how the grass is always greener on the other side. I do not envy my friends who were forced to make the choice to remove life support. I know that is a choice no parent should ever have to make. But I cannot help but feel some element of awe and admiration, some feeling that they are somehow more real and seasoned parents than I was after the loss of Charlotte. Somehow, just the sight of those flashing blue eyes brings them so much closer.

I am sorry for the pain that those three days brought Violet's family, sorrier than I would ever be able to express. There was little over the course of those days that could ever be called peaceful, at least until the end came. But that little moment when Violet sought out her mother, that was all of the life in her finding her destiny, sealing that bond that would fuel her mother forevermore.

I thank her for it. It was a lovely thing for her to have done.

Today is Violet's birthday, and for the next three days, they are her days.


Hope's Mama said...

I can very much relate to this post, but especially this:
"Somehow, it seems to me, that Charlotte would seem less imaginary if I had been able to share one experience with her, even if it had been a truly awful and harrowing one."
And I will light a candle for Violet tonight. Remembering her with her heartbroken parents.

Erika P said...

Yes. Just yes, to absolutely all of this. It's how I feel, too. The lines that Hope's Mama picked out resonate especially with me, as well. For me, it's complicated too by the fact that I could have delivered my daughter alive, but chose not to due to her size.

I think about this kind of stuff a lot. I tend to struggle with the myriad of ways in which my story could have been worse and feel guilty for my grief as a result. We all have particular elements to our stories that make them more or less complicated or traumatic than someone else's. But you've gotten right to the bottom line - nothing could be worse for each of us than the loss of our own daughter or son.

Violet's mama has actually helped me with struggle of why-am-i-so-sad-when-such-worse-things-happen-to-others, always validating and supporting me, and for that I'm so grateful to her. Remembering Violet and thinking of her family with love.

Erika P said...

And of course that should read, "...helped me with MY struggle of why..."

Aimee said...

And of course some of us don't even have that moment of feeling like "real" moms to those we lost. Did those babies who disappeared during tremendous trauma and strain even "really" count? You wish you had seen Charlotte's eyes alive...I much. Isn't that true for all of us? Whatever we got, we want that one step more. (Or ten steps more, really, right?) You are a tremendous writer, Carol, such a gift you give to others!

CLC said...

Great post as I feel the same way in many ways! I often think people would give me more slack for still grieving if she had only taken a breath. Like then maybe she would have counted. My heart goes out to Violet's parents. I am glad they found a friend in you.