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The morning of the surgery I stood in the hallway holding Eliana, bouncing her, rocking her, trying to give her a binky. She was so upset because she hadn’t been able to nurse since 1AM. (No food or drink before surgery) She was crying and I was crying and there was no comfort for either one of us. When it was time I had to put her down in the crib. The doctor said “Everything will be fine.” and I wanted to scream at them all that it wouldn’t be. I wanted to yank her back from them, to not let them touch her. But I didn’t. I let them wheel her away. The last faces she saw were strangers’, and the last hands she felt were doing things I’m probably better off not knowing about. I let her go. I let them take her and she had to just lie there crying, with no one to even hold her hand. My baby’s last conscious memory as they were putting her under was crying in a room on a table all alone without her mommy. Mommy didn’t come.
I’ve spent most of the last week crying. My Eliana was born on the 15th, and died on the 19th, so at least a week out of every month is now very difficult for me. At what would have been her six month birthday I thought I was doing pretty good. Then seven months hit and it was much harder. I’ve just passed her eight month birthday and in many ways I’m even worse than I was at the very beginning. The blessed numbness is gone, leaving only the raw aching.
If someone just had heart surgery, they would be given pain-killers without question. We would think it inhumane to not medicate them after such an invasive procedure. But here I am, a physical part of me ripped away, and I have no pills. There is no prescription to make it hurt less, to ease the agony of having an Eliana size hole bluntly cut from my heart. My God, it hurts, and there is no comfort.
The ragged edges catch, on thoughtless words, and unexpected memories of her. My wound is ripped open, over and over again, by the sudden sight of other baby girls, or by the relentless weight of my own sorrow. My heart is shredded, and there are times all I can do is sit and cry and moan. I can’t move. I can’t breathe. I can’t do anything but sit, enveloped in the pain, doing nothing but feeling the immeasurable grief of this life without my child, of knowing what I’ve lost.
The suffering comes in waves, though. It’s not always suffocating. It’s not always unbearable. But like a wave, I know it will always come back. The time in between may get longer. The manic feeling of unending tears may not last as long as it did the last time. But it will always be there, waiting to overtake me yet again. This is my new life, the one I’m forced to live since my Eliana died in my arms. My God, it hurts, and there is no comfort.
I go to bed at night and lie there, looking in the dark at the spot where she used to lie; as though somehow if I look hard enough I will be able to see her; as though somehow if I stare long enough she will appear. The thought that keeps going through my head is “She was here. She was here.” Am I trying to convince myself? There are times it really does seem like a dream. My mind is trying to protect me from the crippling knowledge that she is dead. I can hardly believe it is real. How could something this horrible really happen? Isn’t this why we have medical technology? Isn’t this why we have medicine and surgeons and modern miracles? Where is she? This couldn’t have really happened, could it? I have the frightening situation repeat itself over and over. I’ll be somewhere with my older two girls, and I nearly jump out of my skin because I don’t see one of my kids. Then I realize that it’s her I don’t see, and I will never see her. She’s not missing. She’s MISSING. Forever. Oh God. Just when I think I’m getting ahead in this awful, painful, clawing my way out of the pit, it hits again. My baby is dead, and there is nothing I can do, and she will never come back. No matter how much I try to act as though things are getting back to normal, I know they never will be. I live my life now in shackles. I drag my chains with me and try to pretend for a few minutes that they are not there. What a joke. None of my pretending, or ignoring, or searching will change the fact that every night when I go to bed, I will lie down next to the spot where she is supposed to be, and cry myself to sleep because she is not there, and never will be.
Once upon a time, there lived a woman. Her life was pretty typical-no evil stepmothers to be found anywhere. She had a husband, 3 beautiful daughters, a home, and family and friends who loved her. She also had the typical problems-not enough money and not enough time to go around. For the most part though, she was content to just be at home with her girls. She held on to all the typical hopes-get ahead in life, raise wonderful children, spend a happy lifetime with her husband, and help out others when she could. She didn’t really need a fairy godmother. Things were okay as they were.
Then one day her baby died. The woman’s whole world came crashing down, crushing her under the weight of her agony. There was no happy ending for her. Prince Charming was not going to rescue her from the prison of unbearable aching. Nobody was going to wave a magic wand and make it all go away. The only one to ride off into the sunset was her child, and she was left there to grieve and try to survive the pain. And the woman sadly realized that fairy tales were just that – fairy tales. The end.
My wish list started growing at a crazy rate since Eliana died. It’s full of things that I wish I had done differently, or done better, or not done, or known. There are things I wish I had asked, or said, or thought about. There are things I wish I could understand, and things I wish I had never learned. And there are plenty of things I just plain wish were not as they were. But we all know that wishes don’t always come true, and unfortunately for me, my wishes will never be granted.
I wish I had grown a healthy baby, one whose own body had not betrayed us both. I wish she was as perfect on the inside as she was on the outside. I wish I had never taken her to the hospital. I wish I had taken her to the hospital sooner. I wish I had not agreed to the surgery. I wish the surgery had worked. I wish I had never put her down even for a second. I wish I had taken videos of her instead of just pictures. I wish I had put off the surgery for a couple weeks so I would have had more time with her. I wish I had never handed her over to them at all. I wish I had read less, watched TV less, and just paid even more attention to her. I wish I had listened to my gut instinct about what was going to happen, so I could have taken that into account in our decision making. I wish I had broken the rules more often and slept with her next to me. I wish I had taken more time before taking her off the machines. I wish I had taken more time after taking her off the machines. I wish that no matter what we decided, that it would have had a better outcome. Above all else, I wish that I could have my baby back.
I wish that I did not know first-hand that sometimes babies die. I wish that I did not know what it feels like to have my child take her last breath in my arms. I wish the pain was not eating me up inside. I wish I didn’t wish that I could follow her. I wish that wishes came true. And I wish I didn’t know that sometimes there are no second chances.
I saw part of Four Weddings and a Funeral a couple days ago. The poem that was read had me in tears. I wanted to share the last verse with you. I think it really gets across the feeling of despair caused by losing someone you love. If you want to read the whole poem online it’s called Funeral Blues by W. H. Auden.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.