I used to think I knew myself. I knew what I wanted from life, I knew where I was heading, and for the most part, I knew how to get there. I was secure and self-assured in that knowledge.
But the day Michael was born ripped that rug right out from under me.
The moment the last nurse left my husband and I cradling our dead son in the recovery room, I realized I had nothing. All my security, all my courage, all my self-confidence was gone. I was left reeling, adrift in a sea of wreckage from a life imploding upon itself. Who was I? Was I even a woman? Women give birth to live children. Was I even a mother? Mothers carry their children home with them, and after a couple hours I had to call the nurse to take my son’s cold body away because he looked too ‘dead.’
Everything I thought I knew was gone.
I am not blind anymore. They say hindsight is 20/20, and the more distance I gain from June 11th, the more I begin to see. I see the girl in the mirror, and she’s different, now.
Some things about this girl haven’t changed — she is still her clearest when she looks back and has a guitar in her hands. It comes as no surprise, for that is her natural state. She throws herself into music with an abandon and freedom rarely seen otherwise; in those moments, she is who she always has been. The ready smile she used to have is a little sadder, but it is still available at a moments notice, especially in those unguarded seconds spent among friends.
But those are the constants. It is the variables previously seen as constants that stare back at me, like my desire to be a mother that has hardened and coalesced into a deep-seated and primal need, instead of a negotiable bullet point on the bucket list. It is my understanding of what strength is, who my family is, and how faith is like a muscle — it must be broken down before it builds back up (a weight lifter’s description). It is how, as Doria’s family put it, trust looks different. It is how I see the relationships in my world as more precious and sacred.
I will never say I am “grateful” or “happy” or “thankful” that God chose to call my son up before we could know him. That’s an ugly sentiment that sullies the legacy of my son’s too-short memory. But taking the fall — HARD — has shown me introspection I may not have had otherwise. Would I want to go through this again, just for the sake of self-discovery? No. In fact, HELL No. This is not something I would wish on anyone. Is the insight I’ve gained worth it? Not even. I would gladly give back the things I’ve gained in trade for a life spent with my son alive. But, this is what I’ve been handed. We don’t get second chances or “do overs” in this life. I don’t get my son back, and even the knowledge that I’ll see him again in the hereafter is small consolation. So I am left with two choices: take what I’ve been given, or, not.
I’m not the kind to look a gift horse in the mouth, so to speak.
So I look in the mirror and see the girl looking back at me, now. I’m slowly beginning to accept her as she is. Her life has been separated into Before Michael and After Michael, and she is still madly trying to stitch the After Michael parts back into something somewhat resembling ‘whole.’ Sure, she’s smarter now, possibly even wiser… but she’ll never be quite the same. There will never be a time when she is no longer wounded or scarred. There will never come a day when she doesn’t ache to hold her baby boy. The only thing we can hope is that perhaps, in another month, or two, or a year, she’ll be able to look back and say her vision is brighter and her soul, stronger.