Mama to Corbin David
Still born January 19th, 2011
My second son, Corbin David, was born on January 19th, at 11:10 A.M. He was beautiful. Past full term, he was born at forty-one weeks gestation. A chubby nine pounds and thirteen ounces. Twenty-one inches long. Black hair that curled as it dried. Long fingers and legs. Sweet turned up newborn nose. I gush about him like any other new mama.
He was born in the hospital even though we planned a home birth. I spent most of my eight hour labor standing in the doorway between the bathroom and the delivery room, gripping the trim on the door frame like a barnacle clinging to a rock. My Midwife, friend and husband were all there with me. Sometimes they would share my contractions in the doorway and sometimes I would have them alone.
When the time came to push, I moved out of the doorway and back into the bathroom. I wasn’t there for long. The doctor came in and insisted that I give birth in bed, pushing me into the delivery room. I remembering calling for my husband after I got settled, and then a big push and feeling my son’s body leave mine. And the silence in the room. The absence of his cries. His blue lips. His closed eyes.
Corbin David was stillborn. Most people miss the word “still” when I write or say it, and I have to explain that he died. In my womb. Sometime between dinner on the 18th and when I went into labor on the 19th. My Midwife feared this when she could not find his heartbeat after her arrival to attend his birth. She rushed us to the hospital where a doctor confirmed her fear and swept us off to the room at the end of the hall where Corbin was born.
My pregnancy was normal. There were no concerns. I passed all of my tests: strep B, gestational diabetes, the second trimester ultrasound. His heart was strong and beating at all of our previous appointments. My kick count chart was full and does not show any gaps, even on the day before his birth.
My labor haunts me: the doorway has become so symbolic. I didn’t want to leave the comforting familiarity of labor and join the new world that I knew was waiting for me. I wanted to go home with my son and introduce him to his brother and to watch them grow up together. To call our photographer friend and have her come over and take pictures of them in coordinating bear hats. To struggle with balancing my time between my newborn and my toddler and my husband. To fight with my husband about changing diapers. To hear Corbin cry.
I didn’t want to become a babylost mama. To be wheeled out of the hospital cradling an empty white memory box rather than the chubby baby I had just given birth to. To have to explain to Corbin’s brother that we could not go visit him at the hospital because he died and wasn’t there. To impatiently wait for the photos taken in the hospital by a Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer to arrive, and then to be afraid to look at them. To field questions about the size of my family and age of my children, and then to deal with the inevitable discomfort my honesty caused. I didn’t want to join a world where I would have to learn how to be a mama to my dead son.
The first few weeks were very much like those hours spent in the doorway: a time of transition and a time of doing. I planned Corbin’s memorial service. We called it a celebration and told everyone not to wear black. We released doves and shared his beauty and some of the hopes and dreams we had for him. We planned travel in order to be at the Shrine when his funeral rites were started. We had an imprint of his tiny foot taken so that we could have it cast in glass, a keepsake for us to treasure through the years. We planned for and attended his cremation. We began to understand the enormity of our loss and the weight of the pain that we would carry.
As we have passed through the doorway and past the threshold, we are finding that beauty and love live here too. They come unexpectedly and touch us deeply and profoundly. Both love and beauty live in the kindness of the complete stranger who sewed a 10 pound heart shaped pillow to fill my arms during our first days without Corbin. In the words of honesty that granted my husband and me the freedom to begin grieving more openly. In the way that old and new friends circled around us, offering protection and nourishment. In the way that my oldest son refused to play with the stuffed elephant in the rocker because “that baby Co-bin’s el-phant”.
I remember many of my struggles as a new mama to Corbin’s big brother; the successes and failures that began to define me. They were so different than my struggles with being Corbin’s mama. Needing my body to stop making milk for a baby who was not with us. Wondering how to find the strength to hang his photos next to his brother’s. Not knowing how to pack all of his tiny things away without feeling like I was losing him again. I’m finding that these struggles are allowing me the chance to redefine myself as a mama, with new quirks and strengths. I know that being a mama to Corbin is painful and heartbreaking, but I’m learning that carrying him and his memory with dedication, commitment and the deepest love has moments of breathtaking beauty.