Though it has been seven years now since August became my least favorite month, it still gets me down and this year seems worse than usual. Zane, my rainbow baby, will start Kindergarten on August 28 and on August 29, I'll be remembering Matthew on his birthday, the day we met him and the day we said goodbye to him. It was the first and last time I saw his tiny little fingers and toes. It was the first and last time I saw the tiniest, cutest little nose and fingernails I'd ever seen. My mind swirls in a million directions, like a frustrating, devastating, painful tornado causing me confusion, guilt and shame.
I feel confused as to why I still feel like this after all these years. I've got so much to be happy about. It's been seven years since I lost my first son, but August draws me in like a hypnotist and my eyes focus on the terrible, lonely days in 2010.
I remember this week of the month of August 2010. I knew I should be feeling more movement, but my doctor said it was still early and he was small, not to worry.
I remember going to see her August 27 for a regular checkup and my nurse checking for his heartbeat. She kept moving it to different places but couldn't find it. She went to get my doctor and they came in with a sonogram machine. As Dr. Atkins looked for his heartbeat, I watched her face, willing it to show signs of relief instead of the serious expression she wore. I never saw it. She sadly said to me, "It's not good." My world crumbled around me yet all I could do was sit there, watching the life we had built so joyfully collapse. I don't remember much except looking at her defiantly, angrily, vehemently opposed to the words she was saying to me. She told me that I'd have to be put into labor and wait until it took effect. I begged for a c-section. Nothing could be worse than going through all of the pains of labor to come out without the prize that made it all worthwhile. No. No other option was available to me. I had to deliver my son and give him back the same day. It was unacceptable. Somehow, I managed to drive myself home from Ft. Worth that day.
The rest of the weekend, I was in bed, unwilling to talk to anyone. For two days I stayed in bed, praying for a miracle, until it was time to go to L&D early Sunday morning, the 29th. I had to walk into the maternity unit, where happy nurses greeted me, expecting me to say something other than, "I'm here to deliver my dead baby." Why was this a thing? Why was I required to say that? Shouldn't there be another way? Nobody should have to do this.
They gave me my epidural early. The nurse said there was no reason I should have to be more uncomfortable than I already was. Still in a blur, I made it through the morning on the prayers of my friends and family who were gathered at church that morning, praying for my family. I felt their prayers. As the day went on, though, I began to think I was having a nervous breakdown. My mind was fighting to hold onto my baby. It was too soon. He wasn't ready to come yet. Only 24 weeks. I couldn't give up without a fight. My body was in rebellion. As I fought his birth, nature fought back. I ended up shaking hysterically, and felt that this must be what a seizure felt like. I had no control of my body, try as I might. I couldn't stop my shaking, I couldn't stop his coming, I couldn't save him. They gave me a sedative or something to calm me down and the second my body stopped fighting, Matthew came into the world, weighing just under one pound and nearly as long as a ruler. He was utterly perfect.
We were given no reason as to what had happened to him. The doctor mentioned he had a knot in his cord, but it could have happened after he'd passed. No answers. No resolution. No hope. No feelings. No breath. No life. He was gone. This baby who I had spent the past six months dreaming about was in my arms, but this was not how I'd ever seen the moment playing out. Perfect yet lifeless. So much smaller than I'd ever imagined but absolutely perfectly formed. 10 tiny fingers, 10 tiny toes. So incredibly loved, yet he would never get to experience our love here. How was I supposed to go on without him?
I felt guilty that I wasn't able to be the happy mother my girls deserved. I didn't feel like I was of any use to them. I wasn't of any use to anyone, but it was my girls that kept me going. Without them, I would have wanted to give up. I feel guilty still today that I can't be 100% present the week of Zane's birthday because I'm thinking of Matthew's upcoming birthday and I'm flooded with sadness. I have to put all thoughts of Matthew out of my mind in order to celebrate my 4th child, my second born son, my beautiful reprieve from the constant sadness but I feel guilt about that as well. How can I push him out of my head? I'm the only one who truly remembers him or cares, I often feel. If I don't carry his memory with me every second of every day then he will be nothing but a sad, tiny gravestone that people will flippantly walk by as if he never existed. I'm responsible for carrying on his memory. How can I tell Zane how he's my "favorite boy" when I know he has a brother who would have been just as wonderful? How can I tell people I have three children and deny his existence, just to avoid an uncomfortable conversation? Still I do these things, with a pang of guilt every. single. time.
Then there's the shame. I feel it in the judgmental comments I hear others say about me in my head. They come from the people I love today, the people who knew me then and the people I have yet to meet.
"Why does she focus so much on the past?"
"She needs to let it go."
"She needs to move on."
"She should be thankful for the children she has."
These words haunt me daily, though I've rarely heard them. I've heard them used about people around me who have gone through similar situations. I've heard people judge them behind their backs and I assume the same things are being said behind mine. These uncaring words that I've rarely heard spoken TO me, still carry so much shame and power in my life. They make me want to hide my feelings, to not tell people about him. I don't want people to think I'm a miserable old hag who just can't "move on" because I'm not. I have learned to be grateful for the lessons he has taught me and to be able to be a support for other women feeling these same feelings for the first time. It's a terribly lonely path and knowing you're not alone is a huge relief. I don't walk around in a constant pity party but with a heart full of compassion and understanding for hurting women. I don't want anyone's pity but I do want my son's life acknowledged and to mean something to this world.
So August is a hurricane of emotions for me. I have immense joy and appreciation for Zane who was born just 359 days after Matthew died. I have an immense feeling of longing for the son I never got to know. It's confusing and I don't know how to reconcile it all. I want to be a grateful, celebrating mom but at the same time, I want to mourn the loss of my baby as I walk through these days again and again in my head. I feel like I'm just running circles in a room that's too small for me. I'm banging up against every wall, spinning myself into the next. I guess that's why I want mostly to crawl into bed and not come out until September. Too much in my brain is screaming and I just want to silence it with a month long hibernation. Is that too much to ask?