I was born on a Thursday, and on a Thursday thirty-seven years later my second son would not be born alive. I was close to six months pregnant, twenty-three weeks exactly.
His name was Jayden Brice.
It was 5:19 a.m. on Thursday, May 22, 2008 when my water broke. Within an hour I was at Chestnut Hill Hospital in a room staring at beige walls with flowered borders and colored canvases that seemed to blend into one huge space of nothing.
I hadn’t known Jayden’s identity the moment I arrived because the week before he had stubbornly refused to unlock his tiny legs. But I did know that his heart had been beating a healthy 160 beats per minute. I did know that he had opened and closed his mouth as he twisted and turned with much vigor before resting comfortably on his back. I did know that things were well just a mere week before.
But I braced myself for a different reality that Thursday as the monitor, that just a week prior had showcased energy and hope, was deliberately positioned to make it impossible for me to see the images. I laid without a hint of movement while the doctor and midwife probed my abdomen, reviewed the screen and spoke quietly to one another.
Softly, never taking my eyes off of the wall, I said it first. “It’s gone.”
The doctor held my hand, confirmed what I had known since the moment I had left home, and assured me that there was nothing that I could have done to prevent it. That it was not at all my fault.
“Sometimes this happens,” she had said.
The doctor explained that the natural course of birth had to be followed – though birthing death seemed so unnatural to me. Labor would be induced the next day, delivery performed at five centimeters, and I needed to decide whether I wanted a natural birth or an epidural. Explanations followed medical forms and ended with, “Do you have any questions?”
Fragmented thoughts performed somersaults without graceful finishes in my mind, and although I wanted and needed to speak, I was muted by disbelief. My lips had refused to separate as if the mental conjunctures were a foreign language my tongue could not articulate. Heaviness was my only clarity. So I just dropped my head, and cried.
The doctor left the room first, the midwife a few minutes later, but only after she had given me one more thing to contemplate.
“Would you like to hold it?” she asked.
* * *
To this day, I have never felt as devastated, as deflated, as uncertain as I did on that Thursday in May. While losing Jayden did not kill me, I’m not quite sure that it has made me either any stronger or any weaker. It did, however, form new truths for me.
I know that I cannot plow through grief, that grief is a process with its own natural rhythm that cannot be ignored. No amount of work or grad school – or both – forfeits the process. It only prolongs the start of it.
I know that no matter what I do, how well I do it, or how close things come to fruition, there could be a tragic disappointment, or two, along the way. And though I am innately optimistic, I know that not all of my hopes and dreams will be fulfilled. At times, I will be able identify what went wrong and may even have the chance to correct some mistakes. Sometimes I will not. Either way, I will be fine.
I know for certain that even when I’m sad or broken or confused, or sad and broken and confused, I can still choose to love, that loss can be a powerful motivator, that life is fragile and any minute really could be my last. What doesn’t kill me may not make me stronger or weaker, but it will teach me something.
And, I’ve learned that people care. They really do.
* * *
I held Jayden, gave him the name that had been decided within the very same week that his little heart had stopped beating. I told him that I loved him, that I was sorry, and that I would never ever forget him.
That stands true today.
Very truly yours,