Only, I know from my second pregnancy, the pregnancy with Mikko, and his subsequent three years on earth, that this is not the case at all.
Not because anything untoward has happened, but because of continued awareness that something could. There is no time, ever, when a parent can sit back, relieved, and know that all danger is past. There are reminders everywhere.
I have entered a phase where my morning sickness mysteriously disappears in the morning, leading me to wonder if my pregnancy hormones have plummeted, heralding a miscarriage to come. The queasiness returns in the afternoons and evenings, when I am both miserable and relieved.
I speak with a friend, who tells me of her unexpected and unexplained miscarriage at 13 weeks. A full 3 weeks past my meaningless all-is-well date.
I read an article in Mothering about an accidental stillbirth — one I had passed over while pregnant with Mikko, when just the first paragraph terrified me. I make myself go back and read it after he is born, to acknowledge the frailty that is life and birth.
I read online of babies and children lost, some in the womb, some in birth, some as infants, toddlers, others as nearly full-grown teens. I grieve for these people, most of whom I don't know, and I try not to let them know of my presence beyond some first whispered words of condolence, because I fear my interest might be seen as ghoulish. But I want to assure them here, anonymously, it is not. I do not know what they are going through, but I know it is not a case of I-am-blessed-and-you-are-not. There is no fair. There is no protective curtain to keep me on the safe side and them on the grieving side. We are all in this together, and I mourn with them for these losses that affect us all.
I remember there was a man at our former church who died of a brain tumor at 36. He left behind a wife and two young children, and I forgot the exact ages of his children and wanted to find out, to know the enormity of the loss and to pray for the family. I typed his name into Google to search for his obituary. All I could find was a relentless list of all the people who had died on the same day he had — some sort of log done by an official record-keeping office. Beside each name was an age, and my eye was drawn to one male name with the age 15 years in parentheses after it.
I copied and pasted that name and found his CaringBridge site. This young man had been diagnosed with cancer four months previously and, now, like that, was gone.
I was really mad. I mean, how mean is that? To have raised your child to 15 years, and you're thinking, We're past the worst. We're past the uncertainty of pregnancy, the potential traumas of birth, the tender infancy, the illness- and accident-prone toddler years. To have gotten all the way to 15 must have seemed like a triumph for his parents — and then cancer takes him in four months.
Just today, it occurs to me. The 36-year-old man's parents? Must be thinking the same thing.
Once you're a parent, until you die, you can never fully exhale.
This post is not meant to be morose — no, I guess it is. Sorry about that, I guess. I think death is shuffled away in our culture, sterilized and glossed over, and we're not meant to think of how, sometimes, children die. If you want to see something heartbreaking yet also, somehow, more real than we are about death despite its superficial artificiality, check out Victorian death photography. There was a time when people knew for certain that life was fragile, that there was a good chance not all of your siblings would make it to adulthood.
Since we're so close to Halloween, let's think of this as a sort of Day of the Dead post, where we're allowed to celebrate and think about those who have left us while acknowledging that our hold over our own lives and those of our loved ones is tenuous.
For now, I'm going to appreciate this baby in me, even if our time together is fleeting (and I suspect it will be as long and lush as I hope), and I'm going to appreciate my loves who surround me much as I surround the little one inside.
To those who are grieving, I send you my deepest wishes for time to mourn, and time to heal. To those who are blissfully unaware of danger, I envy you even if I can't understand you. And to me, I say, Peace. Make peace with death. How else can I let go and live?