Minstrel (wo)man

This weekend was a whirlwind of fancy meals, lectures, planning, and accomplishing. After months of work, “The Getaway: CE for Veterinary Mothers” came to fruition, and we had a great weekend. I was proud to have 47 registrants for this inaugural and unique event.

Now, the dust has settled, the cars have departed, the planes have taken off, and my friends are gone. The excitement is over. The long planned for event has successfully concluded.

My son is still dead.

It’s hard to explain the backlash of emotion. Today seemed almost normal, except that his face was always before me – my mind’s eye never oblivious to him, to his presence, to his meaning and his lessons. I feel like the pain is going to come roaring back in now – to fill the vacuum left by the departure of my fellow veterinary mothers. It never leaves, but like the tide, it recedes for a while; it becomes a dull, constant, background ache.

And don’t I want it to come back and  fill me up?

Tomorrow, James would’ve been 9 months old. Instead, it will be one day shy of 4 months. Four whole months have passed since I held my dear, sweet, chubby, bright-eyed baby. I have a lifetime to go before I can lie down and rest and let the sorrow sink with me into the quiet earth. It’s hard to fathom sometimes – that it’s never going to go away. I will carry this wound (and one day, scar) for the rest of my days. My laughter will always carry a bit of sadness. Every joy will be tinged with the ache of his absence. Our family is forever incomplete.

This weekend, perhaps I looked normal. I laughed. I ate. I drank. I was merry. Langston Hughes said it so much better than I could ever hope to do:

“Because my mouth
Is wide with laughter,
You do not hear
My inner cry?
Because my feet
Are gay with dancing,
You do not know
I die?”

Last night, I went out to a record release party to represent the radio station at which I am currently volunteering. I didn’t get home till past midnight. Before James died, I wouldn’t have done that, of course. I was always home with him when not working or doing some errand. Since he’s died, I’ve started doing “me” things again – riding, joining the radio station, planning the book that I haven’t been able to write.

Today, I wondered if a part of me was glad that he died. Why? Because I look at the other trisomy 18 moms, and I just can’t fathom how they give all of themselves to their children. They do. All of themselves. Having a child like James requires everything you have to give. It requires superhuman planning abilities, attention to detail, vigilance at every moment. Could I have done that for a lifetime? Could I have taken care of him and been happy? Would I have bent? Would I have broken?

I genuinely don’t know the answer to that question.

What I do know is that I would give anything to hold him again – even if for just a moment. I want to feel his hair tickle my cheek. I want to plant a kiss on his forehead. I want to gently stroke his face. I know that I would bend and that I would break if necessary – just so that I could care for him. There is no relief in his absence – only the sick, hollow ache in my chest that never leaves.

The day he died, I lie in his hospital bed, curled around him, his body pressed against mine. I sang him songs that we loved. I sang him the songs that I first sang him in the NICU – Neko Case, Bon Iver – the soothing music that tempered the constant beep of monitors and the sounds of the ventilator. I want to sing my baby those songs again. And I can’t. Instead, I am here, in my bed, unable to sleep despite my exhaustion, listening to our songs.

“We’ll still be together…even when we’re not together.” -Neko Case


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