Saturday, July 14, 2012

Learning to Move

Gabriel was always mine.  Ben loves him, without question.  Maybe it's not fair to say this, but he could never love Gabriel like I do - no one could. From the moment he was conceived, we were linked, and because most of Gabriel's life was spent so close to me, and most of my life was spent wishing for him, I think we were just meant for each other.

In what I hear is typical male fashion, Ben was very detached from my pregnancy even prediagnosis.  As it was all happening I was so wounded by his behavior.  The first time I heard Gabriel's heartbeat, he wasn't with me.  The first time I felt Gabriel kick I was up late watching TV while Ben slept, and when I woke him to tell him he couldn't have cared less.  When Gabriel was diagnosed with anencephaly, though he became even more alive to me, Ben grew even more distant from us both. So Gabriel and I spent much of the pregnancy hanging out, just the two of us.

I find myself getting angry sometimes at the kind of father Ben is.  I wanted him to be that dad that hung ultrasound pictures on the fridge and bragged to all of his friends and family that he was expecting and drove himself crazy trying to assemble a crib and poured over the names in the baby name book.  Now I realize that Ben and I just have different world views.  In his view babies, including fetuses, are for moms.  Ben was going to be in charge of making baby food, and teaching Gabriel how to ride a bike and how to change a car's oil.  Ben was doing the best he could with what he knew.

I guess the truth is, Ben's attitude is probably a prevailing one.  In most cases, our children will survive beyond ten days and fathers will have plenty of time to bond with their children.  I think I might have even taken things like a heartbeat for granted, if I hadn't miscarried before I could ever hear Baby Cude's. I have, since losing Gabriel, put unfair expectations on a lot of people.  Recently a friend let me change her son's diaper and I remember thinking, "She has no idea how lucky she is to change his diaper every day." As if mothers of living children don't have struggles and troubles too.  I think many moms who have lost infants probably feel the same way, especially if we have no living children to care for.  We unfairly think that if we still had our children with us, they would be perfect because we would be perfect parents to them.  One of my greatest pleasures in taking care of Gabriel was being able to wash his laundry - most moms like me never get that chance, and the clothes their child wore for their one day of life will never be washed to preserve their baby's smell.  I wonder how long that would have been a joy if he survived and at what point it would have become a chore.

There are moms who feel guilty when caring for their children feels like work, and there are moms who don't feel guilty at all for doing this most important job very poorly.  A mother who has lost her child has a different role, and with it comes a different kind of guilt.  I feel guilty that Gabriel isn't my first thought every morning or my last thought every night -- Is he supposed to be?  I feel guilty that I don't hear him crying in my sleep like Susan Sarandon does in that one movie.  I feel really bad when someone asks about Gabriel and cries, but I don't -- How cold and heartless must that appear?  I feel guilty when I realize that in fact, days have gone by and I haven't cried and I wonder what kind of woman can become numb to the fact that her child is dead.  I feel guilty when I am changing another child's diaper and I feel at once envious, and like I am betraying my own son.  I feel guilty when I am relieved that Gabriel is not here to be a factor for clinging to a failing marriage. I feel worse when people "okay" the divorce with phrases like, "Well, you two went through a lot with the baby," as though somehow it's Gabriel's fault that his parents couldn't get their crap together.  The feelings of a grieving mother are complex but can be reduced to one simple notion:  We miss our child constantly.

I imagine learning to live without my child is like learning to live with a handicap.  It's just a little less visible.  Gideon was born with hip dysplasia, and he learned to walk and move despite it.  He had surgery, and his fur grew back in to cover up the scar.  He had to learn to walk again and now he moves with much more agility, but he will always have hip dysplasia.  We got Noelle, and she keeps him moving and she gives him a reason to get up and go.  Every once in a while, the pain is really intense, especially when it's cold or when it rains, and he has a hard time standing up but he does.  The presence of the defect is constant too, and he's constantly learning to adjust.  Both of us -- all of us, I suppose -- are just learning to move forward the best we can with what we have.

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