Thursday, October 22, 2015
I breathed in relief as I realized my baby had pushed its way safely into the world. "It's a little girl," Marcos smiled, and I smiled too. After a long, emotionally and physically draining pregnancy, Delilah Danielle Lopez would soon be placed in my arms. I heard her healthy cries as they took her weight and measurements while I lay patiently in the hospital bed for my long-awaited chance to hold her, a peaceful bliss filling me.
There's a new layer to the rhythm of the Lopez home. In the last ten days we've gone from a household of three with an only child, to a household of 4 with an infant. We move to a different beat, yet somehow it feels as though it's always been this way. In just ten days we've come to accept this new way of life. It only took ten days for our whole world to change.
Marcos asked me recently if, during Gabriel's ten days on earth, I ever imagined that he would be one of those outlying cases of babies who lived for months, even years. Every day of his life, I imagined we could be that family. Every day that Gabriel was here, a part of me thought about keeping him. It only took ten days for him to change my world, to become a part of my rhythm, for me to move to a new and different beat. When he died, so did the song that we we had been dancing to. When he died, the life I knew and the life that I had dreamed of came to a halt. The world that took ten days to build simply ended.
Just a few days before Delilah's birth I was walking through JC Penny to the children's department, and found myself passing the portrait studio. A woman with four children sat in the lobby, brushing the hair of one of her daughters. I found myself drawn to the girl, who immediately appeared to me to have a cephalic defect. My legs absently walked me in her direction and I heard the words coming from my mouth almost without consciousness.
"Excuse me, can I ask you something?"
She looked up at me. "Yes."
"I had a little boy with anencephaly. I notice your daughter has a similar facial appearance. May I ask about her condition?"
"She has microcephaly. Anencephaly? That's where the skull. . ." Her voice trailed.
"He was missing portions of his skull. His brain was exposed. He passed away. What's her name?"
"She's beautiful. How old is she?"
"Four." The same age Gabriel would have been. "She's very small." Indeed she was. She could be no taller than Eden, and she was clearly handicapped. I stared at her with tears in my eyes.
"She is small. But she's very beautiful." I looked up at the woman to find tears in her eyes too. I knew that she was imagining a life without Ambriel, just as I was imaging what the last four years would have been like with a severely restricted, special needs Gabriel. Nothing about her life appeared easy or simple yet I longed to stand in her shoes because I know that nothing about my life has been easy or simple since Gabriel's been gone.
"I'm sorry about your son." The exchange could have lasted no more than five minutes, but those five minutes were full, bursting with what might have been.
When Delilah was born a few days later, I felt an easy peace, a completeness I hadn't felt in so long. After four pregnancies, I have two little girls to hold and raise and love here on earth. And those two girls, my sweet Eden and my dear Delilah, can not replace the loss. They fill my heart in their own way, they complete me on their own. They each make me whole. Gabriel was the love of my life and I didn't know if I would love after him, but Eden brought the color back into my world by showing me that I could, and I would.
And Delilah. Delilah gave me balance. She's added to my new song, our song, the song that guides my feet in this dance with my husband, Eden, and now Delilah.
Her name is Biblical, but Delilah isn't the most favored woman in the Bible. She's often seen as the temptress, the woman responsible for Samson's downfall. I don't see Delilah that way. I see her as persistent and diligent, like Delilah's persistent, diligent, and predictable movement while I was carrying her. I read one explanation for her name which referred to Delilah as "One who weakens." It's what she does to me. She softens me, shows me that my hardened heart can grow and make room for this tiny little girl who is so much bigger than she appears. I find myself caring for her with a tenderness that I was reluctant to show Eden when she was a newborn. I realize that I'm more willing now to believe that she and Eden are both here to stay. In ten days she's changed our home, changed our life, and as her song says, "by the time that we get through the world will never ever be the same. " In just ten days, it's what she does to me. It's what she does to us.
Happy 11 Day, Delilah. I can't wait to see what you do today.