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Monday, July 16, 2007

Things I should have said

So, once again as I was awake at an odd hour last night I was thinking about things that linger on in my brain and thought perhaps writing it down would help purge it out once and for all.
Right before bed I got an obnoxious email from some random stranger who had initially contacted me about the house being for sale. She got all crazy about how insane I was for suggesting that this place could be run as a B&B when that was clearly a fool's errand. Yeah, whatever. But it did get me thinking about the times when people have said things so unexpected or so thoughtless or inappropriate or astoundingly callous that I have not been able to respond satisfactorily. So here's one response that I would have given in that fake time-stands-still kind of way had I been able to overcome my astonishment.

Cristiana: "You know, I really know how you must feel. My second baby didn't take a breath for almost two minutes when she was born and I was right there feeling so strong and connected to all women. As mothers we really understand what it is like to have to face life and death."

Me: "Well actually you probably don't really have a clue how I felt. There is a world of difference between a baby that takes a breath and a baby that doesn't. When your baby takes a breath your adrenaline probably kicks in and you get all shaky but you're elated that she's breathing now. You probably put her to your breast, feel her little limbs start to respond. You deliver your placenta, cut the cord, get cleaned up, wrap up baby in a blanket and hold her and marvel at how perfect she is and what a miracle that she's okay.

When your baby doesn't take a breath someone cuts the cord and starts trying to breath for the baby. She doesn't respond so they whisk her into another room to try something else. You are left sitting in a half full tub of water, blood and meconium, praying silently and shouting to the baby in the hopes that somewhere somewhere in her she can hear you and can respond. Finally it is clear that she is not going to take a breath.

She is not going to start. She is not going to move or cry or nurse or be any warmer than she is at that moment. You find yourself lying on a bed waiting to expel the placenta. Your baby is grey and naked and lying inert on the far side of the bed. Everyone around you is in such shock, so horrified at what is happening that so far no one has even thought to swaddle the little body. You start to go into shock yourself. This is a scenario you never imagined and you start to shake uncontrollably.

Later, you are still in bed holding your lifeless baby and you have to make a decision. Should you send her to the coroner to be cut open and autopsied or do you send her to the funeral home to be cremated? Cutting her open may not bring you any answers and will certainly not bring her back. Cremation sounds sensible, you have 24 hours to choose but already her body is stiffening and the blood is pooling and creating strange dark patches on her skin and you don't want to remember her like this. And you don't want to ever let her go.

And that is the beginning of what it feels like when your baby doesn't take a breath. Only the beginning. And if your baby has never ultimately failed to take a breath you will never have a fucking clue what it feels like."

8 comments:

Kristin said...

Good for you for writing that down. There is a big big big difference in a baby taking a breath and not. You are so strong to be able to go on. This baby you're about to birth will know the strength of three females: you, Wendy and your older dd.

I hope it is ok to say that you are in my prayers these days.

kerc

Elizabeth said...

That was an amazing piece of writing. You have been in my thoughts these weeks as the time draws nearer. You have a strength that is palpable even from here. Thank you for all your kinds words and thoughts during my difficult times. You are surrounded mama in every way.

moonshine said...

Oh, mama, I am crying. I am thinking of you and your baby alive and kicking, and of Wendy. You are an amazing woman.

g. said...

awww, only those that have lived through that experience can understand how you felt. You're so brave and i think about you and your coming baby all the time.

Katherine said...

I'm about to cry. You are such a strong woman. I'd venture to say that God is sending you girls because the world needs more strong women. You're in my thoughts, mama. Hugs to you.

chickpastor said...

Don't have many words but I wanted to say that I HEAR you, mama. It is horrendous for someone to say they understand when they so clearly do not. You are in my prayers to the Mothering One as well.
Peace to you,
Beth

poppywise said...

such powerful and wise words, p. i know they come from a place of great sadness and i can't imagine someone daring to suggest they know how you feel. i am keeping you and your babes in my thoughts as time draws near. i hope it brings some healing for you. hugs, jennifer

CherylAnn said...

(((Penelope))) Much love to you. I "got it" because you express it so well. But, even while I "get it" I know I haven't got a fucking clue and that makes me so damned sorry. You are a teacher and a force and I'm so thankful for you. Love to that healthy baby girl, too!!!