Mother to Isla
Born and Died May 17th, 2010
Today is your birthday. I wish I could put a pretty dress on you, kiss your delicious cheeks and throw a party for you filled with love from your family and friends. Instead, I will hug your father and try not to fall apart because on the same day you were born last year, you died.
You came easily to us and what started out as fanciful imaginings turned into concrete preparations when I showed your daddy the positive pregnancy test. We loved you from the start. I was afraid of losing you every day, every trip to the washroom an exercise in will and then a shower of relief. I played this tense game every day for 13 weeks while I waited to get in the “safe zone” – the second trimester. And then I did. And I was so happy. Research began in interest – hours upon hours spent looking at cribs, strollers, and carriers. I bought books in the hope of preparing me for the un-plannable labour that would come further down the line. But what I loved to do more than anything was to dream of you and bask in the wonder of your life within my body.
When I was pregnant with you, you were the light in my era of darkness. When you kicked me the first time, after I had been reduced to tears by the actions of someone, I was so grateful for you. You made me open my eyes to beauty and I came to look forward to our time alone on the train back and forth every day. You were so active then. Perhaps you liked the thunder of steel and speed under our seat or perhaps you just liked that I was so placid at the beginning and end of each day. It didn’t matter. It was our connection time.
I’m not sure why things stated to go wrong. There was that cramping, pulling and stabbing pain that everyone told me was normal, and perhaps for a while, it was. Gas, round ligament pain, growing pains – who knows? I didn’t truly believe anything was wrong especially since it would go away and then I’d be okay. Around this time, your daddy and I went to a baby fair and we tested out strollers and bought you all your reusable diapers. We bought them in different sizes. We saw you in them, having grown right before your eyes.
The pain in my body would come and go and I would take days off from work and visit the clinic and put my feet up because I was fine and everything I was feeling was normal. Yes, everything was normal until it wasn’t. When I couldn’t walk upright, when I felt my belly grow hard and I’d wince from pain and then it would release, I knew it was bad. You gave me reassurance, though and would happily kick away while I was breathless from anguish, but what had started could not be stopped. Unfortunately, the timing of this pain was off as it disappeared the moment I laid on that gurney and the Irish nurse spoke a language that was incomprehensible to me. I wish I asked them to be more thorough with their examination. Because maybe things would have been different.
I spent the evening alone that night because I had chased your daddy away so that he could go out and have a good time at his weekly pub night. The pain had returned and over the span of a several hours grew so severe I couldn’t talk or walk. Your father helped me into the tub in the morning and when it was obvious that wasn’t working, we went to the hospital.
At this point, we found out nothing would have worked. I was 2cm dilated and my membranes were bulging through. A team of doctors, residents, and midwives began to prepare us for what they described as the inevitable. I, for my part, was incredulous. We were at 22+5! We were in a first world country where such things could be managed to positive ends! We were going to be ok dammit! And then I saw a sight I’d never seen before: your father crying. And for a split second, I was incensed. Why should he be crying when everything would be ok? And then it hit me. If your daddy was crying, nothing would be ok again.
I moved in to the hospital that day, a Friday. And we waited and hoped. We counted what could now be classified as contractions, praying they would stop. We ate terrible hospital food. We played scrabble. I continued knitting your blanket. I watched Sex and the City while I waited for the night to pass and to feel normal again. We listened to your strong and reassuring heartbeat. Whoosh whoosh whoosh. You were there and there we wanted you to remain.
When my waters slowly leaked out of me overnight Sunday, and then the contractions came hard and fast like waves during a storm, I tried to will my body to stop. Sadly, it wouldn’t listen. So on May 17th, when you were exactly 23 weeks old, and days before my own birthday, you were born. And you were alive. You didn’t cry nor did you open your eyes, but you were alive. And I was so grateful.
I was so scared to look at you, Isla. I didn’t know what you would look like. I didn’t even know you were a girl until you came out. But when I held you, I couldn’t believe how beautiful you were. Your father and I marvelled at you. I told him that you looked just like me. And you did. You had hair, a cute nose and massive feet, feet that we saw on the ultrasound only a few weeks ago. You were a foot long and weighed 1lb 1oz. You were substantial, you were real and you were all ours.
You lived in for an hour and words can’t describe how it felt to meet you when you were alive. You were born on a sunny day and we cremated you on a sunny day. I used to be bitter that Scotland was in the midst of a heat wave when you were born and died, but now I’m grateful that the sun was out in the world when you came to us.
So it has been a year without you and we don’t have all the answers. We don’t know why I went into premature labour and we don’t know if it will happen again. Your daddy and I work through our grief together, missing you, loving you and thinking about you every day. Your name is like the sweetest fruit for my ears and my eyes. I remember our time together and it helps me to put one foot in front of the other and keep on living. Isla, my love, we continue on, your daddy and I, for each other and most of all, for you.
Kaki is the co-leader of the Toronto Face2Face Group.
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