It will be a big weekend for us, and I was doing my part to help ready the house for any guests we may have. I wielded that vacuum with a skill and ferocity I typically never have. I wanted to banish the disarray of grief, get my house back in some semblance of organized chaos. J was moving things around in the upstairs, and called for my help. His hands were full.
“Can you move this stuff so I can make the corner?” He asked. I set to moving things immediately. And I saw them.
The swing. The playpen still folded in its case. The mobile with the little, stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh characters. The car seat.
The waterworks began immediately.
It amazes me how things can still inspire so much heartache nearly a full five months after. I can hold other people’s children with honest joy, I can walk through the baby section at Walmart unfazed, and yet the sight of what should have been Michael’s car seat still sends me into a fit of tears. I am viscerally reminded of the party all the people at The Day Job threw when they presented me with the car seat. They were all over the moon because I (the only young woman on the entire staff at the time) was pregnant. They looked forward to my son like grandmothers look forward to grandchildren. They had all pitched in to buy us the car seat. They gave cards full of excited good wishes. They baked a cake and hand-decorated it.
I feel so guilty. So incredibly guilty. So many people spent so much money on our son and I failed to bring him home. All those things sit wasted. It feels greedily extravagant. It feels wrong.
This last week I saw a family decorating a meeting room for a baby shower and all I could think of was that saying about counting your chickens. I hate that, I hate that I am being forced to walk this road and that the unadulterated excitement that should surround a pregnancy is gone, to be replaced with old wisdom like “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.” I hate that I am tainted now with old-timers’ caution and cold practicality. Parents are never supposed to have to bury their children….
And oddly, that is the very thing that gets me through, again and again and again. That parents have buried their children. We act and think we are far removed from it now, but it was not that long ago when this was the norm. Throughout history, women have borne their husbands large families, not because of the lack of contraception (as society would have us believe, which is a gross omission of the facts), but because they expected them to die.
Can you even begin to fathom that? They expected them to die. These women of days long past expected to stand where I am standing now: over a grave instead of a crib. And so, they gave more of themselves, over and over, so that a few might live.
Can you imagine? Knowing that every pregnancy could end in death? That one third — possibly even half — of those young faces gathered at your dinner table would be under ground before adulthood arrived? Can you imagine the selflessness? The bravery?
It gives me a small measure of comfort. During my dark days, I think of all the women before me who have inexplicably lost a full-term baby, and somehow, it makes it a little easier. While I cannot fathom how they could expect this, let alone go through this more than once (because even once is too many), it helps knowing that I am not as alone as I feel.