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In the nearly two hours I’ve been awake, I’ve been going over things to write today. All kinds of random stuff that I won’t get into now. Because ultimately, they were nothing but half-thoughts. Distractions. Something to keep my mind off what happened in the last week of September last year.
Last year on the 25th, I was doing the same thing, trying to distract myself. I tried to make a batch of peanut butter cookies. I baked about eight of them before I gave up and went back to bed, miserable and confused and frightened. All of my instincts were telling me that something was wrong with my baby, but I didn’t want to listen because that doesn’t happen. Babies don’t die.
Obviously, we know better than that now. At the time, I was unable to wrap my head around it. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that nothing was going right. I had been fighting that feeling all weekend, turning myself into a completely useless blob of tears and terror. By Sunday, I was wishing we had gone back to the hospital on Friday or, at the very least, Saturday. I felt nothing from the baby on Sunday. If I’d been capable of any kind of rational thought at all, I would have demanded that Geordie take me to the hospital after he got home from work.
Instead, I cried and slept and cried more when I woke up. Maybe, on some subconscious level, I already knew it was too late.
These are things I can’t talk about today. I thought I might be able to, now that a year has come and gone, but I can’t, not without crying. Not without feeling that impossible weight of guilt. It feels like I’m back in that little hot room in Susono, trying to deny the truth I dreaded so much. These are not moments I want to relive, the moments of unknowing, the moments of panic and uncertainty.
The moments of powerlessness.
There are so many lessons we learn from the loss of a child, and this is the one I feel most of all today: I am powerless. By the 25th of September, I was powerless to save her.
A year ago, I made all the wrong decisions. Today, that’s all I can think about.
And all I can say is that I’m sorry. There’s nothing else.
One year ago, I took a pregnancy test, and my life changed.
I don’t know why made me decide I was pregnant. I was still three days away from the expected start of my bleed. I had all of my normal symptoms, but I also knew that all of those symptoms could also point to pregnancy. How weird is that? Why do monthly bleeds and pregnancy have the same signs? The only thing that was different was that my body felt just a bit . . . off. Not wrong, not outright weird, just off.
And my temperature was still up. I’ve kept track of my basal body temperature for years, and for my January cycle, my temperature never took the typical post-ovulation dip. It went went down the tiniest bit and then rose again and stayed put. We’re talking fractions of a difference here, but that had never happened before. I didn’t have to ponder what it might mean.
Geordie and I tried to think of reasons I might be wrong. He suggested maybe I was getting sick (I felt fine). He pointed out that I was very stressed about work (I was – I had arranged to quit my job in March and I was in the midst of a job-hunt). I wondered if it was because I bundled up so much at night (close-to-freezing temperatures, and I don’t like turning the heat on when I sleep). But, really, I didn’t think it was any of those things. I didn’t want to say the P word, but it was in our minds.
We bought the test almost a week before I used it. Geordie was leaving the next day (Sunday) to go back to work in Hitachi-shi, and he would be gone until Thursday. Friday was a holiday, but I had to work all weekend, and he would be gone, back to Hitachi-shi, for Valentine’s Day. We had decided to do our romantic dinner on Thursday evening. We planned on doing fondue, a full three courses: cheese, oil, and chocolate. I imagined a romantic evening.
Except for that great worry over our heads. I couldn’t keep it off my mind all during the evening. Finally, in the middle of the main course, I leaned against Geordie and said, “I think I want to take the test now.”
He didn’t try to talk me out of it, he didn’t force me to do it. He just said that I should do what would make me the most comfortable. If I wanted to wait, okay. If I didn’t want to wait, okay. He would be there, no matter what.
I thought perhaps I was being silly. I tried to tell myself that I was being foolish, that I wasn’t even late yet. But if I was pregnant, I wanted to know. I wanted to do things right and not live in denial.
We went over the directions together (they were in Japanese), and it was pretty self-explanatory: no line = not pregnant, line = pregnant. I went into the bathroom and did what needed to be done.
The line appeared immediately. No waiting necessary. I waited anyway, hoping that it would start to fade. It doesn’t work like that. I tried to figure out what I would say to Geordie. I wanted to stay hidden in that bathroom, but I knew he would start to worry. After the two minutes had passed, I packed myself up and prepared to face him.
The bathoom opened into the hall, which opened into the kitchen, where he stood waiting for me. I didn’t know what I was going to say. He turned around to look at me, and I blurted, “I’m sorry,” just before I burst into tears and threw myself into his arms. He stood there holding me for a while, asking no questions, saying nothing, just stroking my hair. After a few minutes, he took the test from me and studied it and held me tighter. I had no idea what he was thinking.
Geordie led me over to the couch, and we sat there for a long while. I cried, and he held me. I cried a lot that evening, a precursor to all the crying I would do later in the year, during the pregnancy and after. Geordie held me all through it; he has been my rock ever since that moment. When I had calmed down some, he said to me, “Whatever happens, I’m here for you. If you want to raise this baby, I’ll help you. I’m not going to leave you.”
I have never loved anyone as much as I love this man.
After I had calmed down enough to carry my side of a conversation, we talked about what we were going to do. It never came into my mind to terminate the pregnancy. I didn’t even mention it to him. I am pro-choice, but I have always suspected that it wasn’t a choice I could ever make, not without extreme circumstances. Telling the parents was the first thing that came to mind; finding a doctor was second. I worried about the doctor, and Geordie worried about the parents.
Honestly, telling my parents was the least of my concerns. I knew they wanted grandchildren, and my younger brother was not in a relationship and in no hurry to be in one. I’m pretty sure my mom thought she would be hitting seventy before she became a grandmother; torture when you consider that a lot of her friends and co-workers who were younger than her were already grandparents. She always told me that she wanted me to be happy, and if that meant I decided not to have children, she would accept it. I believed that, but I didn’t think she’d be happy about it. Geordie was half-convinced my father would want to track him down and do terrible things to him for knocking up his little girl. I knew better. Mom would be thrilled, and Dad would be right there with her.
I was right. His parents were thrilled too, as I thought they would be. After all, it wasn’t the best of circumstances, but it certainly wasn’t the worst. We could support a child, we could take care of ourselves.
And we loved each other. We loved the baby.
Never did I imagine how our lives would change in the following twelve months. I knew things would be different, and they are, but not how I expected. Not how I wanted them to change. It took me a while to accept the role of mother, but once I saw our child on the ultrasound, I knew I would do whatever I could to take care of her.
A year ago today, I found out I was a mother. I still am a mother. I’m Lauren’s mother, and I always will be.
Four months have passed since Lauren died and was born.
Again, I am startled that so much time has passed. I still remember how it felt to have her inside me, to feel the pressure of her small body against my insides, to see the ripples of her movements across my belly. I thought by now the phantom kicks would have stopped, but they haven’t. They keep coming. Not so often now, and not even every day. But it is still a reminder that she is here with me.
As though I could forget her! My sweet angel, the thought of whom passes through my mind every hour of the day. I can do nothing without thinking of her. She haunts me, a most welcome ghost. It would hurt more to lose her, now that the memory of her doesn’t always bring tears to my eyes. The sting of her loss never lessens, but it has become more bearable. I am learning to live with it.
The tears still come – they will always come. I imagine that twenty years from now – forty years from now? – I may still have moments of weeping when I think of her. That wave of loss will come crashing over me again and even when I am contented with life, I will weep for what I lost. That too is better, I think, than forgetting her.
I have her totems as reminders of her. Little things I associated with her when she was still inside me. Many babyloss parents have special mementos of their lost children, a symbol that they associate with the dear life no longer with them. Animals, often. Or flowers.
My memento of Lauren is the clover. Before we knew her gender and long after we chose her name, we called her “Lucky.” It was Geordie’s nickname for the baby, given to her early in the pregnancy, perhaps the seventh week or so. We were sitting on the couch in my apartment in Moriya, snuggling and ruminating on this unexpected turn in our lives. He said, wonderingly, “What a lucky baby to have come into our lives. To have us as parents.” From then on, we spoke of the baby as Lucky. Even after we learned I was carrying a girl, we called her Lucky. Her given name almost never slipped from our lips.
Because of the nickname, I began to associate clovers with our baby. When I bought my pregnancy journal, I chose one when a clover motif. Because I dislike the color pink and we didn’t learn the gender until the 31st week, I wanted a green and white color scheme for everything: clothes, decor, furniture. We called her Lucky, and over the course of the summer, I came to understand how lucky we were to have her in our lives.
It’s become a hard word to hear now. I’ve said it a few times, and after it’s slipped from my mouth, I pause, thinking of her. Clovers are still her emblem; she comes to mind at once when I see a patch of green in the midst of Florida’s sandy brown soil.
I have not called her Lucky since I was admitted to the hospital. It hurts even to just say the word; to use it in reference to her sends a stabbing pain into my heart. Lucky was the baby I carried, that I day-dreamed about, the baby I never knew I wanted. Lauren is my daughter, the real thing, the truth. Lucky is the past, the expectation; Lauren is the present, the reality.
Four months, and I miss her as much as I ever have.
My Lauren, my daughter, my precious child: I love you, I miss you, I want you more than ever. I think of you always, of what you were when you were with me: my cherished baby, my squirmy girl, my stubborn darling.
I am lucky to have been blessed with you. My good luck charm. My Lucky.