Reflections on the first year after my son’s death
When I first thought about having a child on my own, I thought I must be just a little bit crazy. But if you know me, that’s probably not very surprising.
I also must admit, I’ve always been a bit of a control freak. My sister used to tease me about the layers to my backup plans, but those plans were important to me. They held the shape of my dreams.
I spent three years preparing to give birth to my son. I read all the books. I made changes to my world. I did everything possible to ensure he came into a life designed to welcome him, a world completely filled with love.
I lived my pregnancy in a happy daydream. I wrote to him, and talked to him, and through it all, I made plans. I thought about schooling and considered cloth diapers. I made a reservation for daycare at barely 16 weeks. And I’m thankful for these things, because I had already started to mother him. And these memories now are precious to me.
And I think that, had he lived, this would have been an unremarkable story. Because that’s just what parents do. That’s inherent in the job. And I never imagined, for a moment in my pregnancy, that there would ever be a problem that my planning couldn’t solve.
My son, Adrian James Hernandez, was stillborn exactly one year ago today. And his loss was the first time in my life where there was nothing I could fight and nothing I could do or say. And it maybe sounds a little crazy, but until he died, I don’t think I understood the permanence of death. And maybe because of that, I never stopped writing.
Sometimes I talk to you, too. It’s not as common, and it still feels more comfortable to write, but sometimes I talk just for you. I tell you about my day. I tell you that I miss you.
It feels funny to say that: I miss you. It feels like there should be another word, something that acknowledges that part of what is missing is this unrealized idea.
I don’t know who you would have been. I am missing the chance to watch you grow, to discover your adult identity. I will never know the age at which you would have taken your first steps, or if you would have liked broccoli, or when you’d have your first kiss. The span of your living life is forever limited to the time that I held you inside of my body.
So I guess when I say, “I miss you”, what I’m saying is so much more complicated, because it includes that time at the beginning, but it also includes what shouldn’t have had an end. I miss the fact that you were a living person. I missed the chance to see the color of your eyes. I have missed already the lifetime that you should have lived. Past, present, and future; all of this I miss.
At last count, there were 113 letters. And they just keep coming…I think sometimes that I write now because this energy has to go somewhere. Because this isn’t the life I planned to be living. Because I’m realizing the futility of such uncompromizable planning.
When my son was living, he made me want to be a better person. And at the time, it made sense that that need came out in my plans. I thought by covering everything, that he would be protected. But somehow, I couldn’t protect him from death. And this leaves me thinking.
I’ve lived this past year in another kind of daydream. I floated, and I let so many things just happen. And I watched old plans fall apart, plans that used to feel important to me, and I’m starting to realize how very little control I have over anything. And life continues anyway. And that’s starting to be okay. I’m starting to be okay. I’m starting to find hope again. And this is all part of his legacy. This is his gift to me.
My son was a gift. His life was a promise. And of all things I miss, I most value his existence. Because he was a real person, and his presence made me want to be the best person I could be. And his absence makes me want that more. Because I’m living life for both of us. And that isn’t any burden. It’s just my new role as his mother. It’s how I take care of his memory. And I’m realizing, like most of motherhood, there is no plan big enough for that. I finally have to wing it.
Thank you all for sharing Adrian’s birthday with me. It’s been beautiful to share this moment with you.