"Edited to Add"....

This started as a pregnancy blog when I fell pregnant in May 2009 after four years of finding a donor, doing all the counselling / paperwork / tests and trying.

And now, thanks to a 4WD which skidded onto our side of the road, killing our baby daughter at 34w and injuring me, my partner and two of my stepdaughters on 27 December 2009, it has turned into something else. We didn't want this something else, but apparently it is all we've got to go on with.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Both my babies

Ali has changed so much already since he was born.  Even within 24 hours of his birth, his head was no longer the soft squished newborn head, and the cord which was so plump and pulsing at his birth was quickly drying up and turning into a belly button.  Too many tiny changes to catalogue - new skills, new habits, growth in every direction.  He's now over a month old - and yet his birth still feels so close - the surprise of having a living baby hasn't worn off yet for me. 

And it hit me that this is what being a parent is - to bear witness and care for another human being through their most intense period of growth and change - where their existing self is constantly slipping like mercury through your fingers, becoming a new baby, a new little person everyday as they grow and change.  As much as I want to grasp onto who Ali is this very minute, I know that this current version of him is just a snapshot - that he is the process rather than the minute by minute product of himself.  

When I had that thought, it made me cry because I'm only just starting to grasp how much we missed out on with Zainab.  Does that mean I completely missed parenting her - because, by the time I held her in my arms, she was still - she was not going to grow or move any more? I felt lost for a moment as her mother.  But not only did I love her through the constant transitions and growth of pregnancy - from a tiny cellular possibility to a kicking, hiccoughing, nearly six pound baby, but I also loved her and held her through that other big transition - from life to death.  I was there surrounding her as her heart slowed and then stopped as we sat in the wreckage, but I was also there after she was born, holding her as the living warmth ebbed away from her body and her little soul stretched away to begin its travels. 

I asked El Prima the other day whether she thought Zainab could hear my dad singing her a lullaby when he held her after she was born, and she said, "Yes - the soul hangs around for a while - at least a day - that's why we stay with someone who has died, with their body for the first day."  That second transition - from someone you love whose heart has just stopped beating, to a cold body - has always frightened me a bit. thanks to all those cultural phobias of dead bodies and deterioration.  There was a moment on the day we spent with her, when I had slept briefly and I woke and asked to hold her again, and the cold on her cheeks was noticeable.  I knew we didn't have much time with her - that the little baby soul we loved so much was mingling back into the atmosphere and gradually relinquishing the atoms of her body back to the elements. 

I look at all the beautiful cards and gifts that family and friends have sent congratulating us on Ali's birth, and it feels so unfair that Zainab got condolences instead.  It will always be unfair.  But I feel now that she exists in a state beyond fair and unfair.  And that having held her as she crossed into death and to love her even all the way into death was all I could do as her mama.  

 *               *             *

I dreamt last night that I was out shopping with El Prima and the girls – we were in a toyshop, and Zainab was with us – she was a curly-headed toddler about fifteen months old.  One moment she was looking at toys in our aisle, and the next I asked El Prima where she’d gone – and we couldn’t see her anywhere.  We were searching all over the shop – calling out her name, and when it was clear she wasn’t there, we ran out to the street and were looking for her.  I saw El Prima run across the road and I was so scared that I’d see her pick up Zainab from the road – I wanted to find her but please god, not on the road, not hurt or killed.
Then a tram came, and I realised it was our tram home.  I felt compelled to get on – in my head all sorts of arguments were tested and rejected – maybe she would know it was our tram, maybe someone took her on it – I had no idea, but I just knew I had to get on that tram.  Somehow we were now looking for both Ali and Zainab.  I stepped up onto the tram and searched up and down, and there was Zainab, running into y arms.  I hugged her to me and breathed her in, simultaneously looking around for Ali.  “Who found her?” I asked “Was there a little boy with her?” I asked.  Some sulky-looking teenagers waved at me to indicate it was them who had found her who had found her.  They pointed, and there was Ali – himself, but a toddler only a few months younger than Zainab.  I drew him to me and held both my babies – a solid little person in each arm.  “Oh my babies”, I cried, “I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry I took my eyes off you!”

I woke to my own crying, and find my arms around someone warm – El Prima.  I listen for Ali’s snuffling breath in the co-sleeper next to our bed, and when I hear him, I exhale, grateful for him, grateful for Zainab visiting my dreams (it's been a while my darling girl), and so so grateful for that feeling, however brief, of holding both my babies in my arms.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Right Where I Am 2012: Two years and five months

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.