My ass hurts.
It burns with the intensity of one thousand Mayan suns. It all began when I stated the other day, rather brazenly, "I feel great, like one of those farmer's wives who has a baby at dawn, and is harvesting by 3pm. My ass doesn't even hurt." And within three hours, Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent God of the Sun, pointed his snake-y tail at me and punished me for my arrogance. You think I would have learned by now. My ass wakes me more than my son does. To remind me of birth. To make me shift to my side. To drive me certifiably insane. I called the midwife hotline yesterday for some tips because I have inserted, applied, cooled, bathed and there has been no respite. And I got the overanxious midwife who suggested that if the pain doesn't subside by Sunday, I should think about going the hospital.
Oh fuck that.
"Sam, can you die from hemorrhoids?"
"Are you sure? Because it feels like I am dying in my ass."
"You really can not."
"So, do I have to go to the hospital like the midwife said?"
"Oh hell no."
"Are you sure because I will endure that level of embarrassment if I could possibly die, but anything less..."
That is my only complaint, overblown and dramatic as it is. My ass hurts. My boob has healed and developed her necessary callous. My other bits are healed. But my ass...oy vey. But that's it. I thought I would get it out of the way, the ass complaint, because this post is really not about complaints. It is about Thor.
I am under no illusions that this babymoon will end, but I am hoping it doesn't. Thor is amazing in his little beingness. I vaguely remember the witching hour settling in our home somewhere around three weeks, and the incessantly crying lasting for two hours and fifty-nine minutes, about one minute less than being colic. But until then, I am going with the perfect baby theory.
Thor's birth was perfect, like all my children. I went in. He came out. But so much in there was kind and gentle. Loving and supportive. I remember thinking with Beatrice that there were all these strangers attending my daughter's birth. They treated me like another person having a baby. Nothing was special about what we were doing. They were a bit, I don't know, dismissive. We were left in our suite to fend for ourselves for the most part and the midwife and/or nurses came to check on us every three hours or so. I didn't know my midwife, or the nurses in the room. I can't remember anyone's name. I pushed the baby out. I remember being reminded over and over again that others were waiting for one of the two birthing suites. (Read: Come on, lady, have this kid already.)
Thor's birth felt like being surrounded by family. Some people remembered us. Others visited us. My old midwife was on-call that night, and stopped in to talk to us. The nurses heard our story, and kept vigilant. One sat and drank her coffee break with me as we talked Etsy shops and needle-felting. It was this wonderfully convivial atmosphere. Just up enough to keep the demons that kept repeating in my ear "He can still die" at bay. Mostly. When a monitor slipped, I could feel that suffocating presence behind me as I repositioned, pushed the monitor into my belly and waited. Where did he go?
Please do not die now, Thor.
And then my light manner changed, and the nurse would bounce up and say, "This child is fine, he is moving beautifully. He just moved off monitor." They could see Black Katharine below the surface of my laboring-together-soul sistah-earth-goddess-mama exterior. We didn't much mention her--the evil Angie. Sam played the role of hysterical person. He was anxious from the moment we got to the hospital. He was convinced that Thor wouldn't survive the night. He feared.
I willed my body into labor before I got there. And it was happening. I was dilated and effaced. It calmed me to know I wasn't forcing Thor to enter the world without my body and his body being ready. And ten hours later, as I labored through the dark of the night, I had him in my arms. I didn't cry. I didn't feel anything but a huge sense of relief that he was here and the intensity of the pain and labor was over. Even as he lay in my arms, I thought of what Beatrice had asked, "Is Lucy going to be born too?"
Of course, my worrying has just began. I am forever checking his breathing, her breathing...my children are burdened with overprotective parents. I felt like this pregnancy was one long freak-out, but really, parenting is one long freak-out. At least for me. But that is okay. It is who I am, and I love hearing my daughter say to the dog, "Be careful, Jack the dog." Because on some level, I know she is hearing me when I warn of shoes strewn across the floor and jumping on the couch.
We spent a day in the hospital. As we settled into our room, and our roommates checked out, my family arrived. My mother and sister with little Bea in tow. And they cuddled Thor, and carried him to the window. As you know, I am not one for omens or signs from Lucy. I don't feel her around me. That is specifically the problem. I miss her desperately. I miss her completely. I miss her presence. I can feel my Beatrice in the room before I see her little face. My Thor kicking in the co-sleeper has a palpable presence. But my Lucy was a shell of herself from the time I first held her to now. She is simply not. That is what is heartbreaking to me. That is what makes me feel like an inadequate babylost mama. I want to feel her all around me, and I don't. And as I sat in the room, my sister screamed, "Look! A lady bug!"
I once wrote about my experience with ladybugs. One of the best days of my life involved lady bugs, and here I was in a sealed hospital room with my sister. (The ladybugs happened with my sister.) And there were five ladybugs on the inside of our window, flitting around in the unseasonably warm sun, landing on my Beatrice, delighting all of us. My mother and sister commiserated about it. "It is Lucy." And I sat stunned and silent. Can I be wrong about the signs?
I didn't cry until I left the hospital.
It happened as our day nurse helped me load my wheelchair. And I said, "I haven't cried yet." And she said, "Why would you?" And I explained about Lucia, and our stillbirth. About wanting to go home and leave with a baby. She teared up. She said she had no idea. And as I talked, the nurse that attended Lucy's birth walked in. I cried uncontrollable tears. They suddenly overtook me, and I felt like a fat, blubbering idiot. I wept and said, "It's you." She said a blessing for our Lucy. She did the most valuable thing for me that Winter Solstice. She listened to me wax philosophic. She agreed with me that the world was chaotic and cruel. She sat and held my hand and was simply present, for however long I needed, until I caught my breath again. I meant to write her a letter. I meant to share my journey. But nothing seemed adequate. There is no Hallmark moment for "thank you for being there on the worst day of my life". And I couldn't find the words to write what her presence meant to me. It all sounded so melodramatic and overwrought. When I think of Lucy's birth, I think of her face, sitting, hands on her lap, between my stir-upped legs, waiting for me to birth my dead daughter. She nodded and waited with the midwife. Uninvolved in Lucy's birth. They didn't need to be on top of me. There were no monitors. Lucia was already dead. She turned the lights down. It could just be dark and silent and the midwife and nurse could just testify to our daughter's only time in the world. She was a witness to my daughter's life and death. A witness to my own strength. She saw what Sam and I had to do. And here she was, just as I was leaving the hospital with my Thor fifteen months later.
She said she couldn't remember my name, but the second she saw me, she remembered Lucy. Lucy. She called her by name.
I just let out everything I could. "I have wanted to write to you. I have wanted to thank you. I meant to send you my writing, to share with others who have stillborn children. I meant to talk to you about grief. I meant to tell you how you made the worst day of my life beautiful. "
"You made Lucy's birth beautiful, because you were open to seeing the beauty."
Isn't she wonderful?
I scrambled as she gave me her email address, and we hugged a last time. The nurse pushing me towards the exit wiped away her tears, and I tried to explain, but stopped and collapsed with Thor into the wheelchair. And as she moved me out the hospital door and into the sun, I wept again. After Lucy's birth at 5:30pm, I begged to leave. They made me stay until midnight, and so we left the hospital in the middle of the night. The darkness and cold of deep December stung our face. I walked to our car in the parking garage, and climbed in. My eyes fell upon the empty car seat, and I howled again.
And this time, we loaded Thor into the same car seat, in the back of the same large car we bought for our children. And I howled again. Real tears for Lucy. Real tears for Thor. Both ecstatic and downtrodden. Tears for all that has changed. Tears for all that is the same.
We have lost so much.
I thought that is all I would feel with a newborn in our house. I thought I would see him and think, "But he isn't Lucy. I want him to be Lucy." But it isn't like that. I am focusing on the joy of this little being, rather than the grief of our lost child. It is different than I thought. I miss Lucy, but separate from reveling in Thor. Lucy's death is a concrete reality to me now. It has been for a while. Thor's birth is too. I don't look at Thor and think of her. This baby is his own little being. Our little Viking. Our little Buddha. He lays cross-legged, his legs pulled up and resting upon one another. And I understand the weird knobbiness in my belly. He looks so wise and vulnerable. He is like my grief--wise and vulnerable, needs nurturing and attention. He finds Beatrice from her voice, and just stares at her, connecting the neurons of her voice and her beautiful face. And she screams, "He is looking at me. 'Hello, I am your big sister.'" And a tear runs down my face. So much she has lost that she simply cannot understand now. Since Thor has come home, Beatrice has asked me more probing questions about Lucy. She wants her picture in her Big Sister picture album. She wanted to know what happened to her body, and why we couldn't keep her. What would have happened if we had brought Lucy home anyway, even though she was dead. She could have slept in her room, Bea insists. She wanted to see her ashes, talk about her name, ask me about her size and her nose and her eyes, and her body. She asked me whether Lucy had a penis too, like Thor and Daddy, and I explain that she is a girl, and her heart seems to understand what that means.
Lucy's tree blossomed this week bringing with it unseasonably warm weather. Everything popped here, and the windows remained opened. I felt the breeze come through our little house with a sense of contentment. The wind chimes sound. I gave myself permission many months ago to not fall in love with him right away. To take time to bond and connect with him. I read that in all the pregnancy books, "It may take you a while to bond with your child." Okay. Sure, I felt connected to Bea and Lucy immediately, but maybe with a boy, with this boy, after Lucy's death, it will take me a while to trust his presence in our home. Maybe I just won't. Maybe because I cannot see him in our lives, I shouldn't put my guard down just because he breathes. "That is okay, Angie, you will," I thought. But from his first squawks, I couldn't help myself. I fell hopelessly in love again. I don't need protection from this love. This love is not dangerous. This love is filling.
Just when you think you have met all the people in your life you are going to love, another one opens his eyes.