There's something so bizarre about four years. It's close enough that it's surprising -- I'm startled by how much I remember about that week. The smells, the food left on trays, the name of the nice nurse at delivery hospital whose name I remembered because she was a character in Little Women. The ice machine, the sound of jackhammers outside my window (what could they have possibly been working on in a snow storm?), the un-smart phone I was using in those days. I remember how to buzz into the back at Children's, the freezer where I banked my milk, the out-of-the-way restroom that the nurse pointed out to me, the cafeteria bowl of oatmeal I ate for breakfast the day she died. I don't know whether to be thankful or not for these memories; mostly not, truth be known, because it's like reliving a nightmare. The memories still have a way of making me feel as though someone just punched me in the solar plexus. I still pine for a lobotomy, a way to forget those six days and the nine months prior and the whole mess frankly. A way to look at my family and my life without the bright orange traffic cone warning everyone of the chasm that lies beneath ready to swallow you whole should you veer too close.
And yet. It is at the same time so out of body, so other-worldly at this point, that I often wonder if it indeed happened to me at all. At times I can take out the whole week like a foggy movie in a crystal ball, and just stare at it in wonderment that such shit actually occurs to anyone. Maybe it was just something I read in the New Yorker.
I've had a few nightmares and dayscares this week -- of horrible, lethal things happening to the two living children under my roof. Wayward knives, shallow diving boards, rip tides, broadsides . . . the words "be careful" are uttered more frequently than profanity -- which says a lot. I understand why; why the anxiety ratchets up this week when my brain is sated with images of tubes and wires and oxygen meters and those cataclismic conversations about removing my baby from life support. I know exactly why these feelings are here, and I know they'll ebb once the week is past. It doesn't make it much easier, though.
When I went into labor last May, in addition to spending (apparently too much) time folding laundry and packing Bella a lunch, I meticulously removed my Maddy bracelet and put on in it's stead the blue plastic one. I worried it would get caught on an IV drip, or snagged on bedding, or someone would tell me to take it off -- and people, that bracelet doesn't come off -- or lost or stolen or wouldn't feel terrific while holding a newborn (should it come to pass) or otherwise get in the way.
Crazy how sometimes life hands you the metaphor, huh.
I had realized around 30w that I was quickly approaching a place where I could no longer wear my wedding ring. Which drove me up a tree. Rather on a whim I decided to order tiny id tags from here for Bella and Maddy and wear them on a chain with my wedding ring. Dead or alive, I'd add another tag in a few weeks I figured. I had a choice as to whether to put hands or feet on one side of the tag, and I opted for hands for Bella, feet for Maddy. When Ale showed up I got him a tag with hands on it as well.
I can wear my ring again, but since I'm still carting around and feeding a baby I've kept on the rubber bracelet and only wear the other one if I'm going out. I wear the necklace with the tags on occasion, and more often, more recently.
The other night Bella was looking at it and reading everyone's statistics and turned them all over.
"Why did you put hands on mine and Ale's?" she asked.
"Because I can touch you," I replied, and burst into tears.
I realize now that remembering and missing are really two different things for me. Remembering comes with a host of ugliness and terror. Remembering comes at a cost; remembering makes me want desperately to forget.
Missing though, is something else. Because underneath the strata of hospital smells and medical personnel and the the cruel twist of fate that today will always signify for me followed by years of profound grief lies, quite literally, the most beautiful little girl. It's hard to say I miss her because it means I must miss all that other bullshit, but I don't. I don't want to go back there. You couldn't pay me enough to go back. I want only today to miss the being at the center of the medical mystery, her wispy hair, her button nose, her clenched fist. I've known four years now that her fist is a sign of seizure, and I still decide to view it as a sign of defiance. Now that I'm plodding through the infant stage(s) and phase(s) again, I miss that -- I miss not feeding her, not holding her nearly enough, not bathing her except right before she died. I miss having another girl. I miss the middle of my family where puddles still form. I miss saying her name. I miss her.
Somewhere in this nightmare was a small girl who was mine, and I was hers, and we were all we had.
I love you so incredibly much Maddy, and always, always will.