Do not read.
December 4 – 5
I lay there having steady but mild cramps. Mom stares at me when she’s not fussing around the room or stepping out for a cigarette or to call Dad. I cry for a few minutes at a time with an intensity and pain I’ve never felt before. Only for a few minutes, though, because I’m terrified of what really letting loose will be like. Mom attempts to comfort me while crying on and off herself. Somewhere in there, Mom wraps herself in hospital blankets and dozes in a recliner.
I’m not asleep, my eyes are open. I see Aunt Alys very clearly. She’s standing near where my mother sleeps and she looks beautiful. She has my baby in her arms. My grandma is by her side and I think she’s looking at the baby, later I think she must have been looking at her baby, my mother. The baby looks so pretty and big. No hair and blue eyes and he’s not crying at all. Aunt Alys puts the baby over her shoulder and waves to me. Then she turns and takes my baby away from me.
In days to come, I revisit this vision constantly. Sometimes I actually smile while thinking about what my darling boy looked like. And I cry and cry because even though I know Aunt Alys will take the best of care of him, I want her to bring him back. I tell my mother and she says dreams like that can be a comfort. I talk to her about it again and again. I know I was not dreaming. My eyes were open, it was real. If Mom had opened her eyes and looked up, she would have seen them too. In a few days when I tell Pastor Jackie about it, she says sometimes we create things like this to protect ourselves. I tell her, real or not it’s all I have to hang onto right now.
Jamie puts in the second grim dose. At this point the order of things that happened gets hazy. Mom is up and down during this time, folding blankets, checking monitors and stepping out. It doesn’t feel as though I slept but Mom says I did. In the early hours, Jamie checks me and says there is a piece of the cord sticking out. She’s a small woman but uses force to check my cervix. I tell her she has muscles for a little thing. She discovers I’m 3cm and thinned out. At some point mom asks if I mind if she goes home for a while, she’s freezing and has no headache medicine with her. I’ve tried a few times to get her to go so I’m glad she’s finally taking a break. She says she doesn’t want to miss the “end”. I tell her it doesn’t seem to me like it will be anytime soon. She says she’ll bring me some clean clothes, what do I want. I say I don’t care. I’ve been worrying about the grad assignment I wasn’t able to finish and letting them know I won’t be at school, I’m unsure I’ll be able to talk to someone so I ask Mom to bring my computer.
Mom comes back, I roll onto my side and really do sleep. I wake to hear the doctor’s voice talking to Mom. She says this is taking so long, does it ever not work? He says no, it always works. I decide at that moment that he’s a liar and I hate him. Shortly after this, the cramps I’ve felt all night worsen and I ask for pain medication. They give me the stuff that lasts an hour and it’s an emotional relief when the dizzy, high feeling comes. I comment on it to the nurse, she says to just close my eyes. When it wears off I ask for an epidural and more pain medication while we wait for the epidural. Looking back, the physical pain wasn’t really that bad and I wonder if I could have gone without the epidural. I was just so scared the pain would very quickly accelerate and it would be too late for an epidural or they couldn’t get it to me in time.
I look up to find the nurse looking at the IV machine. I tell her she looks different. Mom says it’s a different nurse. Her name is Jamie too. Actually, she’s one of the nurses who was there while I was in the first room. She talks on and on. Too much. She seems to have a hard time holding back tears. I want to tell her to keep it together, I should be the one falling apart, not her. She asks if I want to hold the baby right after it comes. I tell her no. She seems surprised at this and asks if I’m sure. I say no again. She asks if I want to see their chaplain, I vehemently tell her no. I don’t believe in God anymore, but I don’t say it out loud to her. At some point she comes in and says they are seeing more contractions. She checks me and says she thinks she feels the head and that it may be happening soon. If I feel “different”, pressure or something I should call her.
I feel “different” a few times and call her to check. She warns me that it will probably be very soon and that one of these times I feel “different” I’ll have delivered my baby. I have the hope that he never comes because I want to keep him with me.
Through the epidural, I feel a warm wetness and I know the awful truth. My poor dead baby has come out of me. I call the nurse and say it’s happened. She raises the covers and an earthy, bloody but lovely odor rises. She says very quietly, yes, you’ve delivered your baby and takes him away. I cry gut wrenching sobs and when the onslaught is over, I become very quiet and whisper that I wish I were dead. This sends Mom into hysterics and she tells me I have to survive for her and to never say or think that again.
The doctor comes in with the nurse. He is sure to tell me he was here to see me before but I was having a nice rest and he didn’t want to disturb me. He begins to deliver the placenta. Mom asks me if it’s ok that she steps out. He asks for something called a ring clamp and although I have an epidural the metal clamping down goes straight through my spine. This, along with his fingers create horrid pressure. It feels like he’s pulling out my soul. Although I do not feel cold, I begin shaking very badly. I mention something about it and the doctor says it’s hormones and that my body has been working hard.
Afterward, I say I’m not sure I’ll survive this one. He says something about using my support, having support around me and even asking support to leave if I need to. He says people do survive. I ask the doctor something I’ve been thinking about all night. Did the baby suffer? I keep thinking it must have been like pulling a fish out of water or being smothered with a wet blanket. He immediately says no, it was just like going to sleep. But I know he’s a liar now so I’m unsure of what he says. He talks to me of holding the baby. How it will help emotionally and he blathers on and on. I just stare at him. I ask if the baby looks normal. He hasn’t seen him yet, but says yes and then Jamie, who has seen him and already cleaned him up says yes, he’s fully formed and normal looking.
The doctor leaves to look at the baby. He comes back shortly and tells me the baby looks normal and yammers on and on about the baby going to Wash U. for the autopsy. He asks how I’m doing emotionally. This is the second or third time he’s asked. I just look at him. I want to ask the motherfucker how he thinks I’m doing. He tells me to make an appointment for a check up in 2 weeks. I say I had an appointment on the 30th, can I just come then. He tells me that would work but to be aware that while he will remember what happened the office staff might be unaware and the folder will still be a yellow OB folder. They don’t mean to be insensitive but they might proceed like it’s a normal OB appointment, asking me how the baby is, etc. I apologize to him for having him call all those crazy numbers. He says he thinks something is wrong with his pager. Something about the pager being ten minutes behind and calling Mom first. My mom pipes up that he confused her by saying something about paging his number and my name is Paige so it was unclear what he wanted. He says it’s a pretty name. Then he lectures about taking care of myself, I thank him for taking care of me and he idiotically tells me to try and have a nice Christmas and he’ll see me on the 30th.
Jamie bustles back in and out taking care of me and talking of footprints and the photographer that is coming to take pictures of my son. I wonder what I’m supposed to do with pictures. She talks about a memory box like it’s a big prize. She comes in with a list of mortuaries that do free services for babies and Mom says something about our local funeral man. It only sinks in this minute what I’m facing. This is real. I’ll have to bury my only child. I guess up until that moment, even though they talked of the baby being normally formed, I thought it would be indistinct tissue going to a lab, not a child I’d have to bury and grieve. I just wanted it all to go away, the decisions, the paperwork, the unimaginable emotions. The hell I’m going through. Jamie asks if I have a name for the paperwork. I say no. She asks if I want to see and hold the baby. I nod my head.
I brace myself for what it might be like to hold this child that I still love with all my heart but who is motionless and cold, but it doesn’t prepare me. When she puts him into my hands, I’m only able to hold him for a few seconds before going into hysterics. She quickly takes him away.
Jamie comes and goes with paper work and caring for my physical needs, talking the whole time. Eventually, she says they are getting ready to take him away for good, it will be the last chance I have to hold him. Do I want to? I say that I do. I’m very calm this time. I want to take in every detail.
When she puts him into my hands, she says she’ll give us privacy but I tell her not to go anywhere. I’m afraid I’ll become hysterical again. My little boy is wrinkled and very red. He’s so small. So small. He fits into my two hands. I tell Mom he was big when he was in Aunt Alys’ arms.
There is a ridge in his scalp and his features look sort of like they’ve been squeezed. His eyes are closed and his little mouth is open. Jamie talks about how everything is soft during this stage of development and that his ears are a little off set which could be an indicator of a genetic problem. I tell her I had the quad screening and everything was normal. She says, then it’s just the stage of development. She chatters on about the volunteers that make the blankets he’s wrapped in. I’m grateful for her voice keeping me on earth.
She had said something previously about his 10 fingers and 10 toes. Mom helps me untie the ribbons and we look at the tiny perfect hands and feet, with the tiniest, perfect nails. I use a gentle finger to lift a foot. I want to stroke his head but the skin looks shiny and wet. I ask Jamie if the skin is wet, she says no but the skin is so thin it breaks apart easily and seeps. For a minute more, I take in the sight of my perfect little boy.
Then I look at his open mouth and for an insane second want to make it talk, like he’s a puppet or something. I feel myself sliding toward the edge and I know it’s time to let him go. I really want to put him in my purse and take him home. Jamie takes him away and I’m still completely calm. I say for the 100th time to my mother that I wish he had stayed. I tell her I think he would have liked me. She cries and cries.
After awhile, Mom leaves to call Dad and I lie there thinking of the most random things. How will I tell the Yas? I think about waiting until after the burial. What about school this week? What about my grad class? What will this wretched week be like? Where is God? I think about how I really wish I were dead but can never say that out loud again.
I live inside my vision of Aunt Alys with my baby.
And I think nonstop about my little son.
It occurs to me that I can’t bear for him to go away with only Baby Boy as a name and the name Greyson comes to me, one of the favorites from the list. I give him the middle initial P because we called him Sweet Pea and because it is my initial and what else do I have to give him?