"If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control! We are, to be sure, a miracle every way; but our powers of recollecting and of forgetting do seem peculiarly past finding out. "
Jane Austen from Mansfield Park
Anyone who knows me well knows how I love Ms. Austen. And her words (and the words of my other favorite writers) are providing comfort and inspiration quite regularly these days. This quote made me think about my memories of Will...of the moments that have remained vivid throughout the past weeks. I don't understand why my memory has latched onto some of them, yet completely dismissed others. So, in an attempt to reflect and find solace in these memories, I thought I would list some of them:
-The first tear that slid down the side of my face when I realized the monitor was not going to pick up a heartbeat from Will because there was no heartbeat anymore. I was lying on the examining table in triage (ironically, this was the same examination room I was in just 18 hours earlier...listening to his healthy hearbeat with the same fetal heart monitor). The two nurses were trying desperately to locate a heartbeat--moving the monitor all over my belly, but as the minutes passed by, I knew. Despite the presence of these two nurses, I was so alone. I knew that Shannon was going to walk into the examination room in mere seconds. And I knew that I would have to tell him his son was gone. And that tear felt so cold and so heavy. And if I close my eyes and focus, I can feel it trace its path all over again. That tear was only the first of thousands, but it matters the most to me because it marked the precise moment when the hopes I had been storing up for 9 months abandoned me, and my life changed forever.
-My daddy's hand. I remember lying in the hospital bed after being induced. There was a chair next to my bed, and I asked someone to bring Daddy in to sit with me. It took him a moment to arrive at my bedside, but before he sat down, he gently grabbed my hand and kissed my forehead. And my father, who always has so much to say, could only say one thing: "I wish I could take this from you." And nothing that anyone has ever said to me has been more true or more loving. I know that, despite his age and the condition of his body, he would have taken my pain away and carried it all for me if it was possible. I held his hand...the hand I have held so many many times during my 31 years, and although it is older and more fragile than it was when I was a child, I felt five years old again because there is strength and wisdom in that hand. And that same hand, in its strength and wisdom, has comforted me through every scraped knee, and disappointment, and sorrow of my life.
-Will's cap. After I delivered him, the nurses gave him his first and only bath. They dressed him in the clothes we brought to the hospital--the clothes he was supposed to wear when we took him home with us. They wrapped him in a blanket and gave him to me (I think Shannon may have held him first). I won't go into all of the details of his appearance, but he was stunning: absolutely beautiful. At some point, I gave him back to Shannon so that he could wheel the bassinet next door--we let our loved ones look at him and hold him and say their good-byes. I asked to see him again, and when Shannon handed him to me, he had a blue and cream knitted cap on his head (which hid the head full of dark hair that proved he was MY son, indeed). This was the last time I held him. I rocked him and soaked his face with my tears. I kissed his nose and his mouth and caressed his back. And I rubbed my lips back and forth across that little knitted cap, while I whispered my last words to him. I called him all of the pet names I already had for him: baby boy, little lamb, my angel, my son, baby Will, my sweet boy. I told him I was sorry. And as I whispered these words to my son, my lips continued to brush the knitted cap until they were chapped and raw. And when I am alone sometimes, I conjure up that sensation--the feeling of his little cap against my burning lips, and I am with him again...tracing his spine with my hand...inspecting his perfectly formed fingernails....noting with amazement his flawless complexion...taking a desperate, fleeting inventory of the little person I had waited so long to meet.
-The tree outside my window. When I woke up (after 3 or 4 hours of sleep) the next morning, Shannon was sleeping on the padded bench across the hospital room. Above him, I saw light through the window--a tell-tale sign that the sun had risen and my first day without my son had begun. Outside the window, a tree was waving in the wind. The quivering of the leaves and bending of the branches held my attention for at least ten minutes, and I couldn't figure out why. And then it hit me: I was awake because I was accustomed to being woken up by a squirmy Will in my belly that same time each morning. But my belly was empty. My belly was numb...thanks to a hangover from the epidural. But that tree, in its constant motion, reminded me of Will...my daily wake-up call--and I missed him, truly missed him for the first time.
by William Shakespeare
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.