I have been feeling anxious lately. I know full well what it is all about. I go through it every year at this time. It gets less and less each year, but it is still there, bubbling just under the surface, scratching at my brain, pressuring me to cry and fall into a brief, yet stupor of a depression. I am blessed in many was, but I have had to suffer to receive my gifts. Here's where you can see me shrugging, that's life.
Recently a blogger I read lost her unborn daughter. It stirred up the same old emotions that are persistently, yet quietly there. Then yesterday my dear blogging friend SkippyMom told us about her daughter. She would have been 22 years old.
And although mortality rates are down from what they were so many years ago, there are a lot of us that have lost and infant, or a child of any age. It is the most acute pain that one could ever feel. I have lost loved one (my grandparents, my father) I have lost friends over the years. All hurt on different levels, and I find myself thinking about them on their birthdays, with a slight longing to hear them again.
I thought that if I talked about this now I could fast track the emotional roller coaster that is due to hit shortly. I get a little harsh with people about this time. The emotional side of me justifies this behavior as I lose too many people that I love. The rational side of me says it is ok to grieve, but it isn't ok to take it out on others. Guess which side tends to win.
Even after 14 years, the event is still rather crisp in my mind. And why shouldn't it be? Any one that has ever given birth remembers what it was like to hold your child for the first time. Sometimes it is a bittersweet celebration, but the sweet wins out. I like the sweet, I will hold onto the sweet and the fantastic as long as I live and am able to remember it.
Remember. . . there is only a very small handful of us that will remember him. But I guess that can be said about the majority of people. Those of us that remember will tell stories and rejoice in the life we got to spend time with. I tell stories of the dead too often, immortalizing them in a Bardic way, because they themselves are unable to. I can only hope that some day stories will be shared about my life. This blog will not last forever, it will fade and disappear. And that's fine, but to be a part of an oral history of life, now that is something.
Now I am rambling, I should get onto the story, shouldn't I? I searched through this blog and it seems that in all this time I have not really told this particular story. Oh I have mentioned it of course, it is a part of who I am and why I am. But the story isn't here, it is elsewhere and my lj buddies are sure to remember it.
I am unable to speak directly to you, so the oral history of my family isn't feasible in this instance, so the written word will do. You will not be able to hear my voice quiver in distressful emotion, nor any tears that could and will fall during the telling. But you should know that they are there. Now, let me tell his story and get it out, away from me for another year. And then maybe I can find some peace with myself for the time being, I can not harp on what happened, and have come to terms with it all, but there is that mother part of me that punishes herself for no other reason than love.
It was my 18th birthday when I found out I was pregnant. And I was happy. This surprised me as I never wanted children. I was in love with a young stoner and the world was good by us. His parents hated me however, for I wasn't a good Catholic girl. When I was 5 months along, we moved to a new duplex. We entertained our friends, his the skater group, me, the goth/metal head kids. They were excited and scared for us, but we seemed to have everything well at hand.
Then I got sick, very sick. I was in bed for days, dreaming about fairies attempting to storm a waterfall and kill the trolls. Whenever I saw the waterfall, I would wake to run to the bathroom and vomit. The dream of me eating the scarecrow made out of soggy wet bread will never leave me.
No one told me about back labor. I was young, I was only 5 1/2 months into the pregnancy. The pain is indescribable, but I live for words so prepare. It was like having constipation cramps along with severe diarrhea with a few blows to the kidneys thrown in. I thought that this was what was happening, and spent more and more time on the toilet.
My water broke.
Darling boyfriend didn't believe me when I told him. Shortly I had him out the door to call an ambulance, I was left alone with only my cats for reassurance, Argosy and Armond. After a few short minutes my body cramped and I was back into the bathroom. I slipped into what felt like an absurd dream or even a fantastical acid trip. My body told me to move, and I did. Grabbing the green Babe in Arms theatrical play t-shirt, placing it under me on the floor, then grabbing the doorknob to pull myself up slightly, I caught the child in my left hand. A stupid teenager I may well have been, but I remained calm and did what was needed. My baby boy needed me. I pushed my fingers into his mouth, removing any excess mucus that there might have been, I curled the Babes in Arms shirt around him and rubbed his sides. If he was uncomfortable he would cry and crying meant he was still breathing. But it wasn't crying I heard, he sounded like a kitten mewing. oh God!
Only 7 minutes had passed since the boyfriend had left me and then returned. The operator wouldn't let him off the phone, he hung up on her and ran back. He collapsed against the hallway wall when he saw me and his newborn son sitting on the floor. He was close to panic. I raised my voice, not so much a yell, he needed to stay calm and I knew it. I told him to get me something to tie the cord off with. He stared at me blankly before it registered. He disappeared into the dark house neglecting to turn on any lights. I still smile now when I think back on it. I could hear things being thrown around in the kitchen. He returned with a shoe string and a knife. I pointed to where the cord should be tied off and how it should be done. I was and still am proud of him, he did it perfectly.
17 minutes passed between the birth and EMS arriving. They did not expect to find me like this. The cord was cut and he was taken from me. One EMT helped me up and walked me down the hall that was too narrow for their wheeled bed. He asked how I knew what to do as he helped me lie down. "I watch too much rescue 911." I informed him. He chuckled.
What happens next is a blur. IVs, ambulance sirens, what was the child's name. . . the ER, the cold steel table and being prepped for surgery until a doctor whom I never knew his name but whom I still love, told the ER staff that surgery wasn't necessary, do it like this. Such a dream those moments were. It still never felt real.
Then came the tests. They just knew I was using cocaine. Test after test came back clean. I told them over and over that I didn't use. I was a good girl, and for the past 6 months I had been a good girl. And never in my life had I used cocaine. After 5 different tests I finally told my doctor, he had the nurse removed from my room. The nurse told me that babies are only born early if their mothers are junkies. I cried, I am not a junkie. I didn't do this on purpose!
At some point a Doctor I have never seen before and would never seen again came into my room and told me that all my children would die.
My son is dead?
No, he wasn't. He was breathing on his own and was responsive. They would later place him on a hyper-ventilator, babies tend to tire or forget to breath when they are this early. I was able to see him after a few hours. We named him Getty.
I spent every waking hour in the NICU, reading to him, touching him lightly. I stayed through everything. His many deaths, his many visitors. Friends showed up bearing gifts of religious themes. We had everything from crosses from the West Bank, to the Star of David, oak tree runes, goats head, and Jerry Bears, you name the religion and our friends had it covered. Maybe that was part of the problem, all those gods canceled each other out. Sometimes it is hard not to think that way. Boyfriend's mother told me my son would go to hell if he wasn't baptize. I told her "Nope, we can pay a priest to pray him out of purgatory. " We have a receipt that says as much from a relative that had it done. A Medicine man, although not of my tribe, came in with sage and sung Amazing Grace in his native tongue. It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about it. The entire NICU was quiet while he sang, everyone in awe of what was happening in our Plexiglas room.
After many ups and downs, our Irish pediatrician told me that Getty was a cat, his 9th death should be his last. And we agreed. During this entire time I never saw the color of Getty's eyes. His hair was blond, his skin the same tone as mine, he even had the Phelan clan nose. But I never saw his eyes.
After a full month to the day, it was time to take my little boy off life support. I held him as they removed the tubes from his throat. And there, there they were, he opened his eyes! They were a deep deep blue, amazingly beautiful. I pretend that he was saying good bye when he looked at me for the first and last time, it is easier that way. He died quickly in my arms. And we waked, my family for 3 days, I waked for 6 months.
His ashes are now buried under a blue moon rose bush. But the roses are no longer blue, they are the brightest pink I have ever seen. He must have my sense of humor.