Which is Worse

A couple of hours before we were ready to leave the nurses asked us how we would prefer to part ways with Rowan.  The absurdity of this question will forever haunt me – as if there is a way I would “prefer” to say goodbye to my son, forever goodbye.

Truly horrible days, it seems, are all too often augmented by the horror of having to make decisions you aren’t prepared in any way to make.  Decisions that you know you may sink in or float on for all of your days.

We talked about it.  Like earlier decisions in the previous handful of hours, I thought about it in terms of “which will feel worse?”.  Not just now, but in 5 minutes, in 5 hours, in 5 years.  And how am I to really know?  I can only answer for right now.  But still, when you sit with it, if you know yourself, you can be reasonably sure.

Our options were to have them take him from us to the morgue, or to leave him in my hospital room bed when we left.  Truly, it was an easy choice.  If they take him, if they take my son, I will forever picture him naked on a cold table in the morgue.  I will always feel as though the last embrace he felt was that of a stranger.  But if we leave him, leave our son, here in this bed where he came to us, we can remember him that way.  As ours.

It’s just his body.  But in those early moments, when the body is all you know, it’s heavy on yours and too light in your arms, so fragile and yet strangely unbreakable, and you can’t part with it.  It must need you, the way it did until now, the way it was always supposed to.

Now, even just weeks later, I know the other parts of him, the parts that settle deep in my soul.  The parts, actually, that I knew before he even came to us, and they become and grow like memories.  The parts that don’t need a body to make a space in our world.

On The Day You Were Born

On the eve of your birth
word of your coming
passed from animal to animal
The reindeer told the Arctic terns,
who told the humpback whales,
who told the Pacific salmon,
who told the monarch butterflies,
who told the green turtles,
who told the European eel,
who told the busy garden warblers,
and the marvelous news migrated worldwide.

While you waited in darkness,
tiny knees curled to chin,
the Earth and her creatures
with the Sun and the Moon
all moved in their places,
each ready to greet you
the very first moment
of the first day you arrived.

On the day you were born
the round planet Earth
turned toward your morning sky,
whirling past darkness,
spinning the night into light.

On the day you were born
gravity’s strong pull
held you to the Earth
with a promise that you
would never float away…

while deep in space
the burning Sun
sent up towering flames,
lighting your sky
from dawn until dusk.

On the day you were born
the quiet Moon glowed
and offered to bring
a full, bright face, each month,
to your windowsill…

…while high above the North Pole,
Polaris, the glittering North Star,
stood still, shining silver light
into your night sky.

On the day you were born
the Moon pulled on the ocean below,
and, wave by wave,
a rising tide washed the beaches
clean for your footprints….

…while far out at sea
clouds swelled with water drops,
sailed to shore on a wind,
and rained you a welcome
across the Earth’s green lands.

On the day you were born
a forest of tall trees
collected the Sun’s light
in their leaves,
where, in silent mystery,
they made oxygen
for you to breathe…

…while close to your skin
and as high as the sky,
air rushed in and blew about,
invisibly protecting you
and all living things on Earth.

On the day you were born
the Earth turned, the Moon pulled,
the Sun flared, and, then, with a push,
you slipped out of the dark quiet
where suddenly you could hear…

…a circle of people singing with voices familiar and clear.
Welcoming to the spinning world, the people sang,
as they washed your new, tiny hands.
Welcome to the green Earth, the people sang
as they wrapped your wet, slippery body.
And as they held you close
they whispered into your open, curving ear,
We are so glad you’ve come!

On the Day You Were Born – by Debra Frasier

Aiden and I had our first visit to the library since Rowan died yesterday, and like many “firsts”, it was emotional.  It was inconvenient that it was preschool storytime, and so there were approximately 800 mothers (or nannies, let’s be honest, this is the Bay area) to witness my multiple meltdowns.  I cried at the babies, at all the bursting bellies, and then during the storytime because the storyteller sang a silly song in Spanish and all I could remember was being pregnant in Mexico and dreaming of our future together.

Aiden and I always take turns choosing books at the library – some to read there between bathroom breaks and newly found playmates, and some to take home.  As I was looking through some shelves, I found this book, “On The Day You Were Born”.  I usually try to find a good bedtime story to take home amongst all of the adventure stories, and so I thumbed through this one, thinking it might be a good candidate.

My heart stopped when I saw these words:

On the day you were born
gravity’s strong pull
held you to the Earth
with a promise that you
would never float away…

In the context of our recent loss, these words may almost seem a betrayal.  I’ve read the book several times today, and I’ve felt many ways about the words.  One part of me lashes out, feels like the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, didn’t flare, pull, turn.  Not for our son.  He didn’t hear the circle of song, pulling him home, familiar and clear.

But didn’t he?  Didn’t we labor into the wee hours of the morning, pushing against the encouragement to medicate, to ease our pain, knowing that this is how he would have come, that we needed to feel every moment with him fully?  Didn’t we call his name, willing him down, willing him into our arms, didn’t we hold each other and make promises we couldn’t keep?  Didn’t we believe, knowing the impossibility of our dream, seeing in each other enough strength to get us through each surge?  Wasn’t he just as beautiful, just as heavy, just as slick with life on my chest, even if mingled with our tears?

We sang our own song.  It’s all very painful, but not in the kind of way you want to forget.  I don’t know why he couldn’t stay.  But I think he still heard our song, calling him home.

And gravity keeps it’s promise.  There is something about the equality of this life, that we are all here, in it, together.  He is as tied to this earth as any of us are, both metaphorically and physically.  By being born, into all of the immutable laws of the universe, claimed by the harshest law earlier than most.  By being loved, held forever in a deep place that is the only real promise any of us can make.  He might not experience life the way we will, but he is still here with us.  He came, just like any of us came, and he will always be.

On the day you were born
gravity’s strong pull
held you to the Earth
with a promise that you
would never float away…