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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’m in love. No, don’t call my husband please. The object of my affection is no threat to him. I’m in love with the rainbow baby. The day he was born I held him for …. about eight hours. Do you think that’s excessive? It was hard at first to be sure. I cried on the way to the hospital. I cried walking in. I cried in the elevator. I cried when I got to the room, and when I first held him. So much fear and joy and sadness and wonder, all tangled up together.
The worst part, though, was after the nurse gave him a bath. He was crying, so I went over and held his hand and stroked his head. Then it hit me forcibly that this was the same thing I used to do with Eliana-same overhead warmer, same hand holding and head stroking, same whispering that everything would be okay. It was like a knife in my heart, an instant transport back to those horrible, endless days and nights at her bedside. I stood there sobbing, onto my shoes instead of onto him, though. He was upset enough over the bath already. What a lucky little thing, too young to know that sometimes everything is not okay, not even close to okay.
The next day I was thinking about him, and musing about the fact that he is the first child besides our three girls that I have ever bonded with ….and then the panic set in. I’m moving! What in the world was I thinking? Why didn’t it occur to me beforehand that I would have to leave him? That if I allowed myself to love him, my heart would feel it as another loss? Should I have held back, built a nice safe wall to protect me from any more pain? Was I so anxious to love a baby again that I was foolish to do so with one I won’t even get to see very often? Should I have kept a tighter reign on my emotions? How did I not realize this until after I fell in love with him?
Interesting questions to be sure, but all a little too late. I love this baby, and it already hurts to think about leaving him. I don’t know why I’ve never had (or really tried to make) a connection with the other kids I could have been “Auntie” to, but I was finally ready to try it. Unfortunately, it seems I won’t get the chance now. When I said I wanted to love him from a distance, I didn’t mean from a whole state away. Any emotional distance I thought I was going to have went out the window the first time I held him. What do I do now? I’m in love with the rainbow baby, but I won’t get to see him grow up either.
I was going through some of my old files a couple days ago, and I found this. I do not know who wrote it, so unfortunately I cannot give them credit. I’ll write more of my thoughts at the bottom, so you can read this first.
TO MY CHILD:
Just for this morning, I am going to smile when I
see your face and laugh when I feel like crying.
Just for this morning, I will let you choose what
you want to wear, and smile and say how perfect it is.
Just for this morning, I am going to step over the
laundry, and pick you up and take you to the park to play.
Just for this morning, I will leave the dishes in
the sink, and let you teach me how to put that puzzle
of yours together.
Just for this afternoon, I will unplug the telephone
and keep the computer off, and sit with you in the
backyard and blow bubbles.
Just for this afternoon, I will not yell once,
not even a tiny grumble when you scream and whine
for the ice cream truck, and I will buy you one
if he comes by.
Just for this afternoon, I won't worry about what
you are going to be when you grow up, or second guess
every decision I have made where you are concerned.
Just for this afternoon, I will let you help me bake
cookies, and I won't stand over you trying to fix them.
Just for this afternoon, I will take us to
McDonald's and buy us both a Happy Meal so you
can have both toys.
Just for this evening, I will hold you in my arms
and tell you a story about how you were born and
how much I love you.
Just for this evening, I will let you splash in the
tub and not get angry.
Just for this evening, I will let you stay up late
while we sit on the porch and count all the stars.
Just for this evening, I will snuggle beside you for
hours, and miss my favorite TV shows.
Just for this evening when I run my finger through
your hair as you pray, I will simply be grateful
that God has given me the greatest gift ever given.
I will think about the mothers and fathers who are
searching for their missing children, the mothers
and fathers who are visiting their children's graves
instead of their bedrooms, and mothers and fathers
who are in hospital rooms watching their children
suffer senselessly, and screaming inside that they
can't handle it anymore.
And when I kiss you good night I will hold you a
little tighter, a little longer. It is then, that
I will thank God for you, and ask him for nothing,
except one more day.............
I remember reading this years ago, and it always made me cry. The strange thing is, I didn’t shed a single tear when I read it this time. I don’t have to wonder in terror about how that would feel if it happened to me. It already has. I’ve experienced all the regrets, should haves, what ifs, fears, and pain, and grief. I live with it every day. Reading about it from the perspective of someone who hasn’t gone through it doesn’t seem to affect me now. I guess I’ve wept enough over the actual event that I don’t need to weep over the possibility of it happening. Imagination is much gentler than reality.
In the darkness
Prepare once more
Run their courses
Where dreams flow on
And then are gone
Tides of regret
Of hopes decayed
River runs dry
What never was
Is still goodbye
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.