What I have learned in the last seven years about grief is that when you stumble upon it years after the trauma, the severity and shape of it is unknown until you are right in its face. Sometimes grief is a bunny rabbit, soft and subtle, and makes you sit with it and remind you about the simple beauty of the world. Sometimes, though, grief is like a rabid wolf, attacking when you are most vulnerable, and all you can do is try to avoid it taking out your jugular and dying. You fight it with all your might, because you can't die---others depend on you and need you. Failure is not an option. All you can do is pray that you get out without too many wounds and that you are still recognizable to the outside world after the attack.
Grief is also an asshole, making sure to whisper at every happy moment,
moment of sheer bliss, beautiful moment with your living children, "your
son is dead," reminding you that you do not live in a normal reality
now. Your reality includes a world where babies die. The majority do not
live in this world, nor wish to know about this world. It's
understandable to feel that way. As a person who resides here, I can
tell you that it sucks. And I wish I could go back and live in the other
reality. Life was so much easier there.
In the ~2,555 days since Ronan died, I have learned how to weep softly
in a bathroom stall, my office, in the corner of a lab, clenching
soaking wet Kleenex at the corners of my eyes, praying that the tissues
can hold while the storm is passing. I have lost friends (close ones),
gained friends, and learned about the human experience in the way that
can only be learned when your world is turned completely inside out.
For the majority of my days, grief is around, quiet...waiting. I keep it
in check. I acknowledge its presence and respect its power. But for one
day of the year, I put down my guard and allow grief to flow freely as
it's meant to at that given time. January 26th. Ronan's birthday. I
allow myself to remember the way the technician's voice sounded when he
said 'nothing' looking at a still ultrasound on the screen. I allow
myself to remember the way Peyton stood facing the windows in the
hospital room as he told his father his grandson was dead. I remember
the pain of the 8 tries to get an IV in that night, bruised and bloody,
until the doctor whispered to leave me to rest and to try again in the
morning. I remember weeping when we were finally alone, sobbing in a way
that was unearthly and us holding on to each other like frightened
children who were thrown into a dark dungeon, unsure of what the morning
light would bring.
I remember the horrifying 17 hours of labor, worst of the three I have
now experienced, how I begged my nurse Tonnya to kill me as she pushed
the narcotic to help ease the pain, and how she hugged my nearly
unconscious head after her shift and said 'you can do this, I know you
can do this.' I remember the pop of the epidural, the quieting of the
pain, and holding the white flower they tape to your door to tell
everyone 'in code' that the baby is gone. I remember hearing the lullaby
that is played when a baby is born at least 10 times that night, and
how sad I was that I was not going to hear it being played for Ronan,
for they only played it for the living children.
I remember 3 pushes and how quiet it was when he was born. I remember
thinking that the word 'stillborn' was appropriate, because except for
the sound of my breathing, I heard nothing. No cries. No happiness. No
speaking. Just sorrow. Up until that moment, I was not aware sorrow had a
sound, but it does. I remember Ronan's red lips, his dark hair, and his
feet that were miniature replicas of Peyton's feet. And just how robbed
I felt at that moment holding him. So very robbed.
I remember the older security guards who walked with Peyton as he
brought Ronan to me on another floor for the last time. How one of them
wept and hugged me, saying he was so very sorry. How I promised myself
to remember this cop whenever I got pulled over for a speeding ticket.
How I sat alone in the room by myself when they took Ronan away for the
last time, and how I made myself look at the setting sun to calm the
panic I felt that he was gone for good, telling myself he was in the
light. Look at the light. Spell the colors of the light. P-I-N-K. R-E-D.
Y-E-L-L-O-W. He's in the light.
Grief has been at my doorstep since Christmas, and I have been fighting
with it, knowing that when my guard was down today, that I would take a
beating. Some years are easier than others (unfortunately), and all I
can do is cover my head and let the day come. I respect this process,
because despite the pain and the sorrow, I don't ever want to forget him
or what he meant to me. My firstborn son, who would have been 7 today.
Today I mourn what Peyton and I have lost, and honor the memory of a
child that held so much promise and hope for us---a baby who taught me
so much in his brief life and so much more in his death.
Tomorrow, I will order grief back in its resting place. But for today....it has full reign.
Happy Birthday, Ronan. I miss you. Love, Mommy.