I'm glad Angie has decided to put on the Right Where I am Now project again - my god it feels like so much has changed in a year.
Its a Sunday the 27th again, which makes it two years and five months exactly since I was strapped to a trolley in the emergency department, hand on my 34w pregnant belly, still hoping that we might hear Haloumi's heartbeat. I'm back in hospital now - this time in the adjoining maternity hospital, but things are so, so different - and I am acutely grateful for that. This time, it's our six day old baby boy, Ali, who is a patient in the special care nursery, but his outlook is the complete opposite to Haloumi's. He's alive, to start with, and in rude health, but needs phototherapy for jaundice due to ABO incompatibility. I'm sleeping on a recliner next to his isolette so that we can continue breastfeeding. I'm still in a state of disbelief that we have a living baby who I can breastfeed, who gives me serious looks with his dark eyes, whose noises I wake up to in the night, thinking, "A baby is crying... oh, that is *our* baby".
In the family lounge I talk to the grandmother of a baby girl born at 27 weeks, and I send out a silent thank you to all available deities for our chubby, healthy, full term little boy who looks so much like his older sister. But where we only got still glimpses of her, he is here in real time - moving, making faces, clearly enunciating his "Waaaa" cry and drinking my milk - all the things I longed for so much with Zainab. I know now that all those possibilities are gone for her. What she (and we) missed out on still makes me cry, but there's now an ocean of experiences which mothering her has given me. If I had to choose, I would always choose for her to live, but none of us get the luxury of that choice, so I have to take what I can from being her mama. And even if it isn't what I would have chosen, that is still a lot.
It feels corny to try to enumerate what exactly to that is - to be honest, it feels as though my whole personality and belief system has re-shaped around being mama to Zainab. It isn't that I've "found religion" or anything like that. It's more that being mother to a dead child has meant that my love follows her into death, so I've had to think about what death entails - where is it exactly, and can I still connect with her while she's there? I've come to realise that, if I thought of death as some separate, alien place that I needed to get to in order to be close to her, then being comfortable in the land of the living was just not possible. I didn't want to choose between being close to her and living - so I had to find her here - to inhale her softness with the rose petals, to wear her memory in my choices of jewellery, to let death sit comfortably at our table - feeling her existence each time we missed her. And now, to notice all the resemblances between her and her brother.
I feel like she is built into our lives now - we have our small rituals for her, and family and friends (mostly) acknowledge her as a significant part of our family. The blanket my mum knitted for her - which she was wrapped in for much of the time we held her, is here wrapping Ali - especially on car trips, and exerting a protective warmth. I like to think that they know one another - that her cells watched over his as he grew within me, maybe bossing him around a little like the big sister she is. He's still in that newborn place where he seems to be in two worlds at once - staring at things just beyond my shoulder, making inexplicable but beautiful facial expressions. I whisper in his ear, "tell your sister we love her".
Just as I refuse to choose between living and being close to Z, I've also realised that I don't need to choose between feeling the sadness when it comes, and enjoying pure joy when that arrives - even if they both tumble in the door at the same time. It doesn't make sense, but I've now given up on trying to make sense of emotions - just feeling them honestly and genuinely is big enough.
Looking back, my
post last year touched on similar ground, but while I'd started to
make friends with the intensity of losing Z, I was still so so sad, so
much of the time. I feel like my life has recovered a lightness since
then. There really was a cruel little part of me that felt like I would never have a living child, that mocked me for wanting one so badly. And yet here he is - soft-snoring, velvet-cheeked proof that the universe can be unimaginably good as well as unimaginably cruel. I am so grateful that the odds favoured us this time.