I have a post drafted from May 28. It was a post to announce my pregnancy. I am no longer pregnant.
It was a post to tell you that Ryan and I would be parents come September. We are now parents, but not in the way anyone dreams about. We are parents in the way our son needed us to be. Still, we are his parents.
I was always cautious to post online about our baby news. I was as excited as could be, but something in me was holding back. Call it first-time-mom superstition. Call it caution. Call it a claim to privacy while much of our lives no longer seems private at all. Just to be safe, I saved the draft. I had an ultrasound later that afternoon anyway, I told myself. I would simply post after then. After I heard the heartbeat again and knew everything was still okay. Nothing so reassured me about life and its inherent force as those heartbeats traveling across the bottom of the monitor, as their echo within the small, darkened room where my husband and I looked in awe at our growing baby.
We had two ultrasounds like that. I framed the pictures. I saw a knee and a hand, the swish of a moving arm, and the crown of his head.
Then we had our third on May 28. The one that told us the heart was “not normal.” Or did our doctor say the heart was “abnormal”? Two words or one? It doesn’t matter because that is when our lives started to change forever.
When Ryan and I first learned I was pregnant, we realized that we aren’t really in control in this life. It’s a scary, liberating thought. Sure, you decide when it is you think you’re ready for a baby. You go through the motions, but then it’s out of your hands. Fertilization and gestation are in their own ways involuntary.
It is only now, that I truly understand what it means not to be in control. To have no way to truly repair a fatal heart defect. For there to be no way to take your own heart and make it beat for somebody else.
I have wanted to be a mother as long as I can remember. I never really played with stuffed animals. It was always baby dolls. I made my mom take me to get real baby bottles and a real baby stroller and real baby diapers, I suppose, so I could feel like a real mom. While I wasn’t consciously ready for a child until last year, I have always known it was my destiny.
As I’ve always known it would be my worst fear to lose a child.
We were together from January to June. He kicked. He had a life force, a life force dependent on mine. We were one together and apart, apart, we are still one. He has changed me. He is teaching me. He is my first child. A son. A beautiful son with half a heart.
There is an alternate reality, one where we have a healthy ultrasound on May 28 and I come home and I post our good news here. In that reality, my biggest concerns are how to keep blogging about our expat adventures without turning this into a full-time mommy blog. How to manage an international trip with an infant. How to lose sleep and breast feed and grocery shop and cook dinner and meet the needs of our new family of three.
Now, those are not concerns. Those are my dreams.
I would give anything for this to become a mommy blog because it would mean he was still growing inside of me.
I would give anything to be up all night, to be sleep-deprived, to have a different kind of postpartum depression than I do now, to be worrying about how to get my post-baby body back. I have my body back and I wish I didn’t. It is empty. It is pre-maturely vacated. Its milk gone dry. Phantom kicks left in its abdomen.
May 28 was a Monday in Santiago, Chile. Our son lived his short, powerful, time-stopping life until June 2, a Saturday in California. Through everything in between, I am changed. I feel like a real mom. I am a mom who loves and misses her son. I am a mom whose worst fear has been realized. I am a mom who has lost a child. Still, I am a mom.
I am back in Chile. I stare at the walls and time feels like something that happens to other people. At some point in the day, I make dinner because it’s important I feed my family and stay healthy so that I will be ready to be a mom again one day.
I walk Ruby, our new puppy we adopted because our hearts are so full of love to give. She is pure love, especially when the tears arrive, and they arrive every day, ebbing and flowing like the current our bodies, too, are made of. Like the beat of a heart, which I hear and see and feel everywhere now… in sneakers moving briskly over gravel, in the rotating orange lights at the airport luggage carousel at an early morning hour, in the motor of big equipment starting up at the construction site across the street when I consider not getting out of bed.
But Ruby needs me, so I get up. We go out together, at another early morning hour. I will tell you more about her because she is making us smile during a time when smiles are hard to taste. I will tell you more about our son, caution withstanding, because he is never far from my mind and he is nestled forever in my heart, a four-chambered heart that beats involuntarily. Otherwise, I’m not sure I could make it do what it was designed, perfectly in my case, to do.
For the first time in my adult life, I am not concerned with what to do. As my husband’s aunt told us because she was told at a time she needed to hear it: “We are human beings, not human doings.” It is okay just to be. That was one of the more comforting things we have been told during the past few weeks. “Everything happens for a reason” is not comforting right now, but I understand if it brings you comfort or makes sense in another alternate reality.
This is the first time I’ve been able to write in a coherent fashion. Is this coherent? You tell me because I may not be able to judge anymore. All I know is I couldn’t come back here and continue to write about my mishaps at the market, for example. Those are not problems anymore. None of it is a problem anymore. In order to come back here, I have to acknowledge and honor our son, his life and his death.
It has been 27 days since I held my son, Lorenzo. It takes 21 days for the human heart to form. It takes at least four and a half months to be able to see it clearly.
Now, like I said, I see it everywhere.