I don’t know how long you were struggling. I felt your movements, I thought you were excited. I thought you were getting ready to come. I wish I had known. I wish I had saved you.
There are two versions of me. In one version I know I did everything I could. My worst regret is drinking half a can of Red Bull on those mornings I struggled to get out of bed. In that reality, I know it’s not my fault. I loved you more than life itself.
On other days, things are different. I was so stubborn. I held on because I wanted the perfect birth story. I ignored the protocols because my body should have been enough. I failed you. I let you die.
The first version would forgive me for not knowing you were dying inside of me, but the second says it was my job to know. It was my job to keep you safe.
Both versions live inside of me. Both versions hurt, and cry, and rage. I miss you so much. My arms ache.
It used to be a morning ritual to turn on my phone and check in with Facebook. I wanted to see everything that had happened while I was sleeping. I loved looking at photos and sharing good news. I also loved reading commentary. It was my form of people watching. Sometimes, I would read something that interested or vexed me, and I became one of those commenters. Sometimes, things got heated.
I look back on those days now, and I still wonder why I let that happen. Is there ever really any point to the way that we engage when we disagree? How much of this conversation is productive, and how much is merely to assert our own authority?
During my last week of pregnancy, I was cranky. I was tired and sore and I wanted my son to come out, but I didn’t want to force him. I spent a lot of time on Facebook. One evening, I snapped at someone over something pretty innocuous. My crankiness was no excuse. I still really don’t know why I did it. Unfortunately, although this exchange was quickly resolved, it was public, and it drew the attention of a lot of my working world peers. My initial and superfluous anger turned quickly to fear. What if I had affected my future employment? What if I had done irreparable harm?
That night, I couldn’t sleep. I messaged one of my friends who also engages in some pretty inflammatory conversations on the internet. I asked him if I had anything to fear. Of course, he reassured me, but no one can know for sure. Almost one year later, I still don’t know if these effects will be far-reaching. I still don’t know if I’ve been labeled, “that girl.”
I knew that stress wasn’t good for my body. I tried breathing exercises. I tried to forget. I eventually did sleep, but not well.
I woke up the next day, the incident never far from my mind. I shopped with my sister, did a little work. Barring finally going into labor, I had planned to go to a community poker game that evening. When it was time to get ready, I just wasn’t feeling it. I was cranky and I wanted to sleep. I lay down on the couch and looked at my belly, tried to send positive energy to my son. I would figure out this situation at work. I would survive and overcome. He was worth it. He was worth everything.
He had been fairly quiet that day, but while I was thinking at him, he gave a large kick. It was so intense I saw my belly move. I loved him so much! The next morning, he was dead.
I hate talking about these memories, because everyone is quick to tell me that it wasn’t my fault. Screw that! I don’t care about fault. I want to share my story. I want to remember the last week of my son’s life. I want to share these things that complicate how I feel about his death. I want to remember that this experience wasn’t entirely sunshine and roses. I want to remember what was real.
I don’t “blame” myself for what happened to my son. I don’t blame myself, but I do recognize that there were contributing factors. I do recognize that having had this argument so close to his death is always going to affect me. I do recognize that this argumentative, invisible presence on the internet is not someone I want to be.
After my son died, I deactivated Facebook. I felt stirrings, still, for a while; that desire to check in. I’ve heard it can be a pretty powerful addiction. But mostly, it was broken for me. Mostly, I was done. I heard afterwards this confused a lot of people. Some good friends had been trying to message me, wanting to check in about my pregnancy. I was already overdue. At the time, I neither knew nor cared.
About six weeks after Adrian’s death, I reactivated Facebook for the primary purpose of posting the announcement of his death. I still think this is weird, this electronic inclusion in things that used to be done solely in person and by phone. I wonder if, before the internet, so many far flung acquaintances would even have been aware I had been pregnant? I wonder if I would have been so provocatively argumentative?
I stayed on Facebook after that, but it was never the same. I don’t visit my interesting groups anymore. I’ve unsubscribed to almost everything. The few times I’ve scrolled through my news feed, I’ve become so easily bored. Or triggered. Oh, triggers — I wish people who railed about them understood what they really mean.
We talk about being changed people after loss. I think I never truly understood this until today. I am different. I am changed. But also still me. Sort of.
I scrolled through Facebook a few times this week. I paused in places, places where I used to engage. I admire two people who are trying so hard to spread some positivity. I think if I ever really return, that’s what I’d like to be. But I don’t see myself returning, not ever, not really. I think that part of me is gone.
I miss my son. Every moment, every day. I miss my son. I both miss and don’t miss me.
You write my name in the sand. I watch the sea water wash it away. You told me to go, but you think about me all the time. If I live, it’s because you hold me here. If I live, I live in your memory.
You wonder if I’m real. You wonder if I hear your words. You speak your mantra, say my name. You wonder if anything is worth it.
I know what you really want to talk about. I know the darkness and your fear. I know how you’ve come to hate your stubbornness, and also cling to it. Before I died, you thought it was protective.
You write my name in the sand and you scream apologies. It isn’t a question of fault. There are things that go so much deeper. I never doubted that you love me.
I know what you want to talk about. I know how it pains you when others try to chase your words away. It isn’t a question of guilt. It’s fact — if you had chosen to listen, I would be alive.
You’ve never asked me for forgiveness. This conversation doesn’t center around blame. You write my name, you scream out your apologies. Your regrets are wrapped up in the bonds of your love.
You don’t know if I’m real. You don’t know if I’ll ever hear you. You write my name in the sand, and you speak to empty rooms, and you sit with knowledge so painful that no one else is willing to hold it with you. You wonder if I hold it with you.
If I live, it’s because you hold me here. If I live, it’s all in the strength of your memories. If love could change fact, I would be real. If love could change fact, no one would ever die.
I love you too.
I remember everything about your life.
I remember the day I decided I was doing this. I had been thinking and planning for so long. I had done testing. I was talking to the doctors in my last city. They were so supportive. Then I found out I was moving here. Things were delayed, but you were always my plan.
This state was different. It was a bible belt hospital here, and I was an odd one. They didn’t want me to have you. They didn’t know how to deal with a single woman whose strongest desire was to have a child. But I fought for you, and I won.
But after months of fighting, I realized the hospital and I weren’t a good fit. I wanted to use a known donor, and they couldn’t accommodate. I wanted you to know your genetic history. That was more important to me than making that policy change.