Wednesday, September 28, 2011
From Pumpkin to Angel
One year ago and ten minutes after I woke up, I learned that my second child was on his way. I hugged Ben and cried anxious, happy, but fearful tears; my previous pregnancy had ended four months earlier in a miscarriage and though I believed this pregnancy would be successful I couldn't help but be a little frightened. Ben and I agreed this would be our little secret for a while, and I smiled throughout the day at the thought of announcing our pregnancy soon.
As I pulled into the gas station that morning with my radio tuned to 96.5, Loggins and Messina's "Danny's Song" played. For perhaps the first time, I listened closely to the lyrics. A boy. We were going to have a boy. Kenny Loggins called it. "Think I'm gonna have a son," he said. It was surely a sign. Or maybe I just wanted a baby boy. As long as I could remember, I wanted my first born to be a son. No matter; he or she would be special either way. My little Pumpkin. But I was pretty sure he was indeed a he. A very, very special boy.
Gabriel Michael Gerard Cude turned out to be more special than I ever imagined. My anxiety and fears from one year ago were justified, but the joy my son brought to me was greater than I could have dreamed. But I also never dreamed that his life on earth would be so short, or that a child who was on this earth but nine months and ten days could so change the world. I never imagined that his loss could cause a hurt that runs so deep, that I feel from the bottom of my heart.
These days seem to be more of a struggle. I find myself wondering how I am getting through the day and I know that I am only putting one foot in front of the other at times because my brain is making conscious orders to will my body to move. Open eyes. Sit up. Put on slippers. Brush teeth. Take steps. Pet the dog. Go to bank. Smile. Greet others. "I'm fine, thank you." "He would be three months old, but he passed away." "His name IS Gabriel." "It's called anenecephaly; it is always fatal."
I feel sometimes as though I am sharing the details of someone else's life. This can't really be my life. I can't really have a baby boy. He can't really be dead. But he is. He died in my arms, I held him while he took his last breath. That was real. He was real. He is real, he's just not here. My little Pumpkin is an angel now. His name is Gabriel, he had big hands and feet and the Cude nose and crazy blond hair and a beautiful brain that we could see. That's right, remember? We could see his brain, and even though everything else about him was normal -- no, not normal, spectacular -- he was missing part of his skull. That's why he couldn't stay. God made him, but not to stay. Gabriel is gone.
My grief now is two-fold. I am consumed in missing Gabriel, but at the same time my whole being also longs for another baby. I wonder how it can be that I long for both Gabriel and Baby Cude AND another baby (many more babies) so completely. How can I want them all with all that I am, and how is there anything left to feel anything else?
I recently purchased some things for my personal nursery collection. That's right; I have a whole collection of clothes, a swing, cloth diapers, a crib, stuffed animals, bibs. . .Some I collected before I was ever pregnant. Other things were purchased in anticipation of Baby Cude, still others I picked up while I was pregnant with Gabriel. A few things have been purchased since Gabriel passed. Although I will occassionally buy things for either a little girl or little boy, usually I buy gender neutral items.
Shopping for these things seems perfectly normal to me. After having fallen apart after my last trip to Babies R Us, I thought I would give it another try. I found what I wanted, along with an "I'm-Sorry-I'm-A-Basket-Case-And-Couldn't-Make-It-To-Your-Baby-Shower" item, and walked them to the checkstand. When the cashier said, "Here's your gift receipt," I nearly lost my mind. "Look lady, these items are for my personal nursery collection," I wanted to tell her. "Don't look at me like I'm crazy! I have a collection of baby stuff, okay? It's filled with all kinds of goodies, in the event that I have a baby I can keep. Or maybe someone will drop one off on my doorstep -- or maybe she'll even drop three of them off like Alvin and the Chipmunks -- and I'll have everything I need. I've got all kinds of stuff, everything but the baby. So don't judge me, okay lady??!!"
Instead, I just told her thank you. I took my new little socks and onsies home and put them with the rest of my collection. I eyed Gabriel's clothes, some washed and folded in a basket, some stuffed in ziploc bags to preserve his smell. Though they were preserved for the moments when I need a whiff just to take the edge off, I've never opened the bags since he passed. I want to save his smell. I'm afraid of losing his smell. And if I lose his smell, maybe I lose him again too. If I never open the bag, I never have to lose his smell, or maybe if it goes I just never have to know.
On this most sensitive of mornings, I walked to the cemetary to visit Gabriel's niche. I expected and found Gabriel's nameplate has been placed since my last visit. With the cemetary's lawn mowers whirring around me, and people gathering for a funeral nearby, I cried and talked to my son. "You changed me. You made me a better person. You changed the world. I love you, my baby."
One year ago, my life changed forever. And even when I'm grief-stricken, tearful, crazy, heartsick, lonely, empty, shaken, longing, shattered and barely able to move, I will myself to go on. Start the car. Put it in drive. Step on the gas. Go to work. Wash the dish. Water the grass. Feed the dog. Eat your food. One foot. Next foot. Keep walking. Your babies are waiting.