Sunday, January 29, 2012
I am about to enter a soft, green room. There is a large table in the center of it, perhaps fifteen feet wide by twenty feet long. The lighting is like daylight, bright, but indoors.
I am just approaching the wooden, heavily hinged door, which has a glass panel in it with a shade drawn down over the window. In the doorframe stands Heather, the sister, and she ushers us in. I know why I am here. Heather's sister, my friend, her baby has died.
As I am coming across the threshhold I see him, twelve weeks old, I know it is him. His name is Henry. I know I am here because he died, but somehow it hadn't occurred to me that I would see him, that he would actually be here. This is a funeral of sorts. It's going to be very small.
I am going to cry so much, I suddenly realize. This is very sad.
Henry is lying about two-thirds of the way down the big table, almost in front of the door as we enter. He is naked, with soft, dark hair, and he's curled into a beautiful sleeping position. He almost looks like one of the babies in an Anne Ged.des photograph, only he isn't in a basket or flowerpot, he's just beautifully curled around himself like a sleeping doll. He looks amazingly lifelike, but I know he is dead.
I try not to look at him, and I turn to the left and head towards my seat, the one that somehow I know is mine, about five seats down on the side of the table that faces the door. I am trying to look purposeful, as if I have somewhere I need to be. But as I'm walking down, my back to Heather and to Henry, I realize what I'm doing:
I'm avoiding him on purpose, because I don't want to know that this is real. I don't want to look at him, and realize how adorable he is, and how sweet he is, and to understand the magnitude of what my friend has lost. I don't want to see his sweet face and feel this unstoppable surge of agonizing grief for a little life lost. But I know that I must. I must.
So I turn back around and I head for him. Somebody else is already there, admiring him. I lean over and see him. He is so sweet, so beautiful. He really looks like he is sleeping. I look at him very closely. Very, very closely. I think I can actually see his hand trembling a little bit. It can't actually be so, can it? This sweet, beautiful little boy cannot be dead, can he? It seems much too impossibly sad to be the truth. I'm almost sure that I can see him move.
The woman who is looking at him picks him up, now, and she tries to move his position. She's trying to re-curl him in another way, and as she does so I can see that under his arm, where it has been curled around his little face, it is all reddish-purple and bruised. In my mind I know that this is because he actually is dead, and the blood is beginning to pool from the gravity. (does this really happen, I wonder? as I ponder this dream)
My heart sinks. It is really so......
And here, the dream ends, as all dreams do, abruptly and without resolution.
n.b. The baby in the dream, o best beloved, did look just like Charlotte.
n.b. 2 Henry is a real child, the son of the real friend, sister of Heather, but he is a lively, blond two year old. Incidentally, his mother, a friend from High School, reached out to me after reading Charlotte's obituary in the paper, and rekindled our friendship which had lain dormant for 10 years. I believe she is the only person who randomly sought me out to say she was sorry.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
In my bedside table drawer, there is a little mostly-used package of kleenex that my mother brought me in the hospital. I was sitting in the bed, gloriously pregnant, about to deliver the end of myself as I once was. She handed me the kleenex.
"Hospital Kleenex is so scratchy," she said, "I thought you might appreciate this."
It's remarkable that the whole packet isn't empty, but it's not, and it's still there, next to my bed.
Behind that, there is a tiny little diaper. It's brand new, an infant diaper-doubler. When I came home from the hospital, swollen, bleeding, and broken hearted, I found it half-under my bed where someone had missed it when they'd come to pick up the pieces of my old life. It was stiff with the amniotic fluid that had soaked it just 36 hours prior, I could see streaks of blood and still smell that sweet smell.
It occurred to me then that in the fluid would be skin particles, urine, all sorts of Charlotte that had soaked into the piece of cotton. It was her DNA, and I envisioned a Jurassic-Park like scenario where my daughter was conjured out of this evidence of her being.
I tucked it into my drawer, along with the kleenex.
It will probably be there for my entire life.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
It's hard to imagine that this has never happened before, but it really hasn't. Perhaps it's because Liam is a boy, and many of his newer friends that we've had over to play have been boys, and perhaps boys are less observant or less likely to comment on such things. But today we've got a little girl over who Liam has been friends with for three years. She's an awesome girl, she's enthusiastic and has always been very tuned into my pregnancies and babies. She and Liam play hockey together on weekend mornings and today we brought her home afterwards so they could spend the afternoon together.
They were eating scrambled eggs and toast together for lunch, and this little girl was looking around the room and her eyes settled on the three little ceramic plates mounted over our sunroom windows.
"Liam, Aoife, and Charlotte. Charlotte. Why does it say Charlotte?"
It's funny, but I've never explained this to one of Liam's friends before. It seems either they already knew, or they didn't ask. So I thought, here goes.
"Before Liam was born we had another baby, a little girl named Charlotte, and she died."
I said it simply. But of course this astute, thoughtful girl isn't going to take this at face value. They're almost eight years old now.
So I explained it. Almost like I was telling her how to make chocolate cookies, or how to piece together a quilt.
Just a list of facts, ending in the death of my firstborn child.
Friday, January 20, 2012
I am blessed to have these four children. I say this to myself, over and over again. I know this.
I am so lucky to know this. There are great challenges to parenting all these children at once, but in a strange way I feel my burden is lifted by this peaceful knowledge that I am so lucky to have them.
Knowing that Charlotte died from such a random, quick accident makes me feel that each one of my living children was a near miss, an amazing gift plunked down before me that I should savor. What would it be like if I simply expected them to be there?
I am envious of friends and family who have a specific, clean, definite answer to the question, "How many children do you have?"
I don't have an answer to that. I have four children, but I've had five babies. The answer is never clear, I never know what to say, and however I answer I am not telling the truth. The truth is, I don't have four children. But the truth isn't that I have five children. I'm somewhere in the middle, with four underfoot and another taking up airspace and headspace and heartspace but without a body to go with all that.
Aoife made me a picture at school yesterday with two girls, their arms slung over each others' shoulders. There was a rainbow over them. The message said, Dear Mimi-- I'm sorry my sister died. This rainbow that you will see on my card is for you to be reminded of Charlotte. Love, Aoife.
This is my life. It's all the real stuff of life, and it's mine.
I'm blogging somewhere else now, too. This is brand new. I haven't written here very much lately for a very real reason. I'm really in a whirlwind of parenting four living children, but this space feels very much like space that has to somehow revolve around Charlotte. Much of my parenting does, but sometimes I just need a place to try on the shoes of the lady in the grocery store with the four children.
Amazing what time will do for you.
So if you're interested in some more writing, check out this new blog, too.
I'll still be here, too, for there will be days where I need the friend who knows. And you will.