(This turned out to be a LONG, messy, ugly post.)
I went to a smallish university about 50 miles outside of Boston. When I was there it was struggling city, parts were fine and suburban, but my school was located in the heart of the city, or a mile from it, where things were kind of grey and dingy. Main Street South was known for its poverty, homeless population and CU.
It seemed any time my mother came to visit, the weather was crappy. From my first visit my senior year of high school, it would be unseasonably cold, with grey rainy skies and wind. Low light. (The only time the weather was strikingly different was my graduation day, when it was 75 and sunny, a gorgeous day.) In my family, and then with my college friends, we began to refer to days like this as Worcester Days. Just grey, rainy/drizzly, shitty weather. Lo these many years, the expression has maintained, and that's what's bouncing around my head today. It's a Worcester Day here in March in the Midwest.
It occurs to me too, that a family joke was that my mother brought the rain and lousy weather. Frequently when she visited anyone, the weather was unseasonable and usually rainy. On my wedding day, a little more than a year after she died, there were torrential downpours. It's a nice fiction.
I'm out of sorts today. More than usual. Or, again. While I usually enjoy my husband's writing, his telling of our story is stirring up all the feelings from that time. Things I hadn't thought about, or hadn't in a while. Perhaps I need to get out some of the difficult stuff. This is going to be long and messy.
**This first part may be disturbing/graphic, discussing physical -- might want to skip down a bit ** I may take this part out.
This week, I broke down and looked at the pictures of my boys. By myself. Hadn't seen anything with their image since we left the hospital. Jacob looked about as I remembered him, like a very little baby, but with reddish skin. In these photos, they posed him, and I was aware of things being placed strategically, over an ear, over a hand. The shape of his head looked odd. Joshua looked horrible. There, I said it. His head, his face and his body were distorted with the effects of death and the other d word I can't bring myself to use. My sweet baby barely looked like a baby. But they took a picture, and a picture of the boys together. It ripped my guts out, and I could only look for a moment.
(PLEASE, I am not interested in debate: You have your feelings, I have mine. Let's just respect each others' differences and let it go at that. None of this is easy for me to say.)
I have very mixed feelings about pictures of my children, dead. Holding them, dead. As a Jew (very, very, very reform, more cultural than religious) I don't really believe in an afterlife, as much as I would like to. I would like to picture my mother tending my boys in heaven, finally getting her grandchildren. It's a comforting image, that they're not just gone. Just gone. All these people I love. But I don't believe in that. I always considered myself an agn.ostic, just not too sure about any greater power. After the last 7 or 8 years, I have grown far more skeptical -- any god I would want to believe in would be loving and compassionate; lessons would not have to be learned this way, or any of the ways i have been forced to learn them, and would not subject those I love to the suffering I have seen.
What I'm trying to get to is that it is -- and was -- hard for me to believe that there was anything left of my boys' spirits or souls (or whatever you believe in) once they died. I would so love to think that they were hovering over me sending their love as they left this earthly plane. That they waited to say good bye me, for me to say good bye. Somehow it would be so much more comforting to think that inside those poor sweet little bodies was anything left of my sons. Anything I could hold onto for just a little while longer.
When I gave birth to my sons, at those moments, I was too drugged or out of it to be a mother to them. Or to remember being a mother to them. And that kills me. Makes me wish I could be with them now, to make up for it somehow. The day after then night they were still born, I slept a lot, met with social workers and medical staff, got a transfusion. C had already said that he did not think he wanted to see them. He wanted to remember them as he always thought of them, and with the joy he had felt while they were alive in me. I had decided that I would want to spend some time with them before we left, to say good bye. To see them and hold them. But as the time drew nearer, I knew I couldn't do it. The idea that they would be cold and still. That I could be holding their bodies, but not THEM. I broke down when I decided I couldn't see them. I just couldn't hold them knowing there was no life in them. That they were already gone. A held me while I bawled my eyes out.
I often regret not holding them, seeing them during that time. My only chance to hold and touch my children. Ever. Even if they were dead.
But. I look at these pictures. I think about how I was barely functioning in the hospital, and after. And since. I really believe that if I had gone to see and hold them that day I would have completely lost my mind. Hysterical. Kneeling in the corner, rocking back and forth.
I'm not proud of that fact. It makes me feel week and neurotic and compounds the "bad mother" voices in my head. (And I am not looking for reassurances here, just trying to be honest.) I read so many stories of women fully conscious for the stillbirth of their children, how they held them, and bathed them, and dressed them, and I look at them with awe, envy their presences of mind and their strength. I envy them those few moments they got to spend with their children.
I don't go very often to visit the gravestone of my mother, it's not comforting to me -- I don't feel close to her there. My dad and brother go relatively often, on her birthday, my parents' wedding anniversary, the anniversary of her death. I've talked with my sister, and she has also said she doesn't care to go to the cemetery because that's not her there. Like me, she feels that the spirit of her life, and the things and people she touched are not in that box in the ground.
We had the boys cremated. There are times when I wished that we hadn't, so there would be something substantive left of them. Even if it's just a box in the ground. We haven't memorialized them yet, but I would like to get some sort of stone, some sort of marker put somewhere for people to see. Something permanent that says that these boys existed, they lived, if for a short time, and they were loved.