We are in our old Honda Civic hatchback in the parking lot of our apartment. Our hospital things are in the back seat. Jason turns off the ignition and we sit there in stunned silence, looking at the front door. Last time we walked through that door, I was still pregnant, we were still hopeful. Now, the apartment feels like an empty shell of the past, and we are...I don’t even know...unable to feel this much.
Our first baby was born yesterday, at just 17½ weeks gestation. He was so tiny, like a little baby bird. We held him in the palms of our hands, we sang to him, we took pictures of him with a disposable camera the nurse brought in for us. We named him Levi. He lived for almost an hour. Then his heartbeat began to slow. We could barely see it beating anymore. The rhythmic expansion and contraction of his lungs grew fainter and fainter until it stopped all together. His skin changed color slightly, and he was gone. We became parents yesterday, if ever so briefly. Now we are home, with empty arms.
Are yesterday morning’s dishes still in the sink? Is the bed unmade? Are clothes strewn about? When we walk in, it means we are back. I just sit here in the passenger seat breathing. I don’t know how to navigate this moment. I am afraid. Afraid that I might curl up into a ball and sink deeper and deeper down and never get up again. What if I end up totally dysfunctional and ruin my life somehow? How will I possibly be able to handle the pressures of daily life?
Still looking forward at our front door, I hear myself declare, “I give myself 30 days.”
Jason looks at me with eyebrows raised. He is also shell shocked. I look back at him, not sure where those words came from exactly, but knowing they are true and wise.
“I give myself 30 days,” I hear myself declare again, “to do whatever I need to do. To fall apart, to lay in bed all day and cry, if need be. To take endless baths. Whatever I need. I will not expect anything of myself, except to follow each moment.”
I know myself. I am afraid of the whip cracking voice inside my head. Of all the expectations that will come rolling back in. I will think I should be doing more, functioning higher, pulling myself together faster. I also know I have to let myself fall apart and heal or I will carry this grief with me forever. The side of me that needs to hold it together and succeed is struggling with the side of me that needs to break down and care for myself first.
“In 30 days I will check in. I’ll reassess and see. If I am stuck in bed or in some deep depression, I’ll do what needs to be done to get up. But until then, I expect nothing of myself.” I nod my head once. Jason nods his head slowly.
I claimed a womb for myself.
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