I never really grieved. I don’t know how you grieve a very intangible thing: an idea or impression that could come and go freely and as quickly as it came. I hardened, I focused in. I took 3 days off from email, and was back in the office within 2 weeks. We didn’t speak of it after, other than a night where tears came when I was on the couch and I couldn’t understand why. I have hot flashes and mood swings and my body thinks it is in its mid-forties, which is strange. With each day I grow older, I feel younger, more vibrant. There’s not a tampon in this house, not even a box for guests that visit. They weren’t hard to look at. I don’t fear the women’s aisle at the grocery store as I thought I would. I feel free, except in moments like tonight, when I’m not sure what I really feel at all.
How dare I? How on earth did I even have the right to feel sadness, or anger or a sense of hopelessness about a situation I had never experienced? I came from a family that lost a child, my brother died when he was 7. But I was barely out of my toddler years, I didn’t understand. I never claimed that as my grief. But somehow, when I watch movies of people losing children, I become a mess. First, I turn it off. It feels like voyeurism. Even if it’s not real, it feels real. I can’t take the sadness or pain that I see. Sometimes, I try to watch it again, the rest of the story was compelling- I want to see the ending. But it’s always the same. I turn the channel, I close the internet window and I watch videos of my children.
Sometimes, I sneak into their room. John laughs when something happens, whether it’s a sad news story or a moment of motherness where the sum of all my fears is expressed into, “I need to touch them now. I need to know they are okay.” I’ll tell John, “Let’s go wake the children. Let’s hug them.” A few times, he appeases me and I’ll walk quietly into the room, to grab Danny out of his crib and sit on the floor with his tiny body and snoring mouth cuddled deep in the groove between my shoulder and neck. My daughter wakes at nothing, so instead I whisper, “I love you so.” I tell her she’s beautiful and precious (and smart,) and sometimes, she rewards my irresponsible parenting with swatting, or simply by rolling over. I know she hears me. I speak to her often in her sleep. I steal moments with my son, where I simply just stare at his face. Sometimes, I can’t take my mind off his little scrunched fists while his still unbelievably-cute little rump is raised in the air and he is my perfect, wonderful triangle. My last, triangle.
I’ve often remarked, that having never been married, I spent exactly 31 years of my life praying to not get pregnant and the next year trying to let go of the fact that I couldn’t, anymore. So you see, I grieve an idea: a suggestion that merely states, my body worked correctly and then it didn’t. My babies came, and then, it was all finished. And it’s hormonal now. I have the regret of a 45 year old, with one, lousy, failing ovary and nightly walks to stop the hot flashes and expensive face washes and lotions to stop the middle-age acne. But I’m only 32 and sometimes, how old I feel, physically, surprises me. Because, most of the time, I feel 12. I wonder how all this happened so quickly. I don’t feel near my age, but I feel the pain.
If you asked me, what I cherished more, I’d always tell you: Give me the experience. I want to feel and reflect. I can always make more money, I just want the time and emotion. Parental guilt is a demon, even when the possibility of having more children exists. When that possibility is taken away, the sheer terror that this moment is the last can be absolutely overwhelming. While I rushed through my daughter’s babyhood to provide for her as a single parent, the tremendous weight and finality of my son’s past 18 months holds insurmountable, awkward grief. Did I piss away one to over-cherish another? Am I horribly unfair? I know this certainly isn’t the case, but sometimes, I just know, that I would have loved to carry another child. I wasn’t particularly good at pregnancies. I had a picc line with Ava and a seemingly never-ending cocktail of anti-nausea drugs and specialist’s appointments with my son.
I wasn’t even fair at pregnancy. I was amazing at birth. I finally felt I had found the thing I was best at. Moments after both my children, I wanted to take on the world. I was walking around. I showered 2 hours after Daniel. I felt in-tune with my body, powerful and the closest to spiritual that I had ever felt. And my children, are a testament to how incredible the human body is. One survived almost entirely on I.V.’s and frozen lemons, while the other was underweight while I feasted on Taco Bell. My body failed at protecting me from cancer, but excelled at creating what I truly feel, are the most spectacular human beings to ever breathe, (all ego aside.)
The stories of the loss of a child hit me hardest, not because I’ve experienced death, but because I wanted to experience more life. I just thought I had so much more time.