You should have been born this week, and that makes me think a lot about the birth you had. It’s hard to talk about even now.
We left for the city early–a two and a half hour drive. Our mothers were in one car, and your Daddy and I were in another. We listened to a book on tape–Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince–because music was too exhausting for me. The drive is a blur. I remember I was okay for most of the drive. But when we got into the city I began to panic, and when we turned into the hospital driveway I started to panic and cry almost hysterically. I felt in every bone that I couldn’t possibly go through with this.
Your Daddy helped me out of the car. I had to hang on his arms pretty heavily. I couldn’t look at anything. Anyone. The only thing that was real was your father’s arm around me. We had luggage with us, but I couldn’t tell you who carried what. We went up to the waiting room. You were still kicking; bouncing around inside me for the last time. I couldn’t stop crying. The waiting room was full of babies and women with round bellies whose babies would live. I made it to a chair and curled up. Hid my face and let the tears fall. The wait was endless but I didn’t want them to call our names. I wanted to run.
I didn’t run. I could only do this one thing for you–I could be a strong, loving mother once and set you free from a life of agony and limitations and surgeries and pain. Or I could be a cowardly, weak mother, forcing you to suffer all the pain I feared. I held my arms around my belly and rocked you, breathing deeply to calm myself. I didn’t want your last moments to be full of anxiety and fear.
They called our names. Grandma L decided to wait for us, so it was just Daddy and Grandma P and you and me. A friendly, eager-to-help lady took us into the room, where we met a doctor and an ultrasound technician. They were so kind to us. I asked if you would feel pain. She said no, and gently put an arm around me and said “Just remember, this is as close and safe and warm as you could ever hold him. If he was outside you, you couldn’t hold him as close as he is now. And any pain he would have felt you are taking on yourself.” Those words have stayed with me–every moment I suffer is a moment you don’t. So I take this suffering gladly to spare you.
They did a final ultrasound–my belly still sore and bruised from the diagnostics just days before. And there you were on the screen, one last time. They looked you over and confirmed all the defects the other doctors had seen. And then they let us have a chance to say goodbye. They showed us your little, perfect face one more time. You pursed your lips over and over, as if you were blowing kisses to us to say goodbye too. All of us saw the kisses. I will always remember those kisses.
And I was at peace. My breath was slow and deep. My mother was nearby, but it was your father who held me. He stood at the head of the table and bent over me, his forehead pressed to mine, his arms around my shoulders and holding my hands in his, so tight. The prick of the needle was painful, the maneuvering of it worse. The doctors’ voices faded away and all I could hear was your father. “Breathe with me,” he said, and breathed, slow and deep, steady and rhythmic. My mind begged for them to stop the needle but I felt no pain or fear in my heart.
Finally they took the needle out. They told us it would take a few minutes, and they left us in the room alone. Just you and me and your Daddy, one last time. And we held each other and felt you kick once or twice as you left. Then there was quiet. No pain in my body, and for the moment, none in my heart. Just this overpowering, glowing feeling of peace. And it was over. You were gone. The rush had passed. Now all we had to do was go over to the main hospital for you to be born. We took a little walk first. My mother, your Grandma P, said that as they’d used the needle, she’d had…not quite a vision, but a deep image of her mother coming into the room, beaming, and wrapping you up in a blanket and taking you with her.
I remember the peace, that it was over. Your struggle was done, you would never feel a moment’s pain. My pain waited, patient. It would come, but for that time, it waited its turn.
I’m sorry, my little one. I cannot finish the story of your birth right now. I am too tired from writing what I’ve been afraid to write for so long. I love you Isaac. Never forget, everything we’ve done, every moment, was for you. Is for you.