Thursday, May 31, 2018

morning reflections

At 5 am I airlift you over the high side of the bassinet and into my bed
You are still newborn enough it's awkward and I wonder what you make of being lifted high while your head slightly flops and your whole world shifts
You are restless, but I'm hoping for more sleep
I stretch my right arm out - the one that aches from 3 months of this
- overuse - my chiropractor said shaking his head when I walked in wincing and cradling my right shoulder -
I place your head on my tender shoulder and you instantly roll to your side, press your face to my neck, and enter a deep sleep
This is our reward for making it nearly an entire night on the recommended "seperate sleep surfaces"
In the beginning I strived to place you in the bassinet
The older ones slept with me as infants, but you seem content on your own so I work hard to deposit you in your bassinet, even as my head nods sleepily over your nursing body - curled like a tiny shell on a warm sandy stretch feet from a cold ocean -
At 28 days old - the number etched in my mind by the constant repetition of doctors with furrowed brows - you developed an upper respritory infection that knocked us all for six
Our anxiety rising like a tide as we were tasked with nursing you through your first illness
We held you upright through sleepless nights
Counting your breaths and willing you to continue breathing
Though we knew from experience willing a baby to breathe doesn't always work
When you were healthy again I continued sleeping with you in my arms
We were both comforted by the nearness, but I'd pray every night for safety
I'd scour the internet for safe bed sharing guidelines at 3 am when you woke hungry and seeking comfort
One night I read that mothers should only co-sleep if they would not feel guilt if their infant died next to them in the night
I threw my phone aside
Could anyone ever achieve such a lofty place of motherhood? A mountain top of achievement and enlightenment where guilt doesn't exist?
I already carry the guilt of one dead baby  I've been assured I can set it down by all the professionals and loved ones imaginable
However, after all this time, the critics who don't know me are the ones whose voices are the loudest
They encourage me to hold the guilt close. To accept fault. To shoulder the blame.
I've set it down a thousand times, but at their urging I always return to it and heave it into my arms once more
The next night I placed you in your bassinet
And you slept
Without me
Though I hardly slept without you
So when you wake for milk at 4 or 5 am I keep you with me
I don't know why my mind believes you're less likely to die between 5 and 8 am
But it does
And the hurting, broken part of my mothering heart that split into pieces when your sister died craves the comfort of a soft infant head pressed against a swollen shoulder
The pain reminds me I kept going through the worst pain of my life; that an aching shoulder pales in comparison to outliving a child
- A backwards order that should not exist, but if you take the time to ask you'll find many mothers without children, with less children than hoped for, with heaven side babies they wish to drag earthside, because while the fierce missing abates it is never entirely gone - 
Your tiny curled fists and squeaky sleepy noises are a reminder of the power of hope to carry one through the darkest most anxious moments of pregnancy and childbirth after death has visited a sacred time that should never be visited by such darkness
If you grit your teeth, if you rely on all your sources, if you take it minute by minute, it is possible to wade through the trauma of pregnancy and birth after loss and find yourself in this peaceful place where babies live and breathe and need you
I doze, never quite falling into a deep sleep, as the house wakes around us
Perhaps that's what makes me feel the early morning hours are safer than the middle night hours when sleep is deepest and caution overpowered by the basic need to sleep so the following day isn't filled with the harsh voice of a snapping sniping mother
Your dad is on the other end of the house
We - the mother / infant duo - always send him to another room for a few months
It creates a powerful us against the world feeling
Though we don't hesitate to tiptoe through the dark house - bare feet burning from the cold tile floor we must cross to get to him - if the night feels long and sleep hard to come by
Your siblings sleep next door
Not all of them
One of your sisters is busy with heavenly things
I'd like to think she's waiting for us, but I'm fairly sure the waiting is our task and burden to carry
But two of them are next door
Your face will light up when you see them in a couple hours
I'll feel full of joy as we all tumble out of warm sheets and begin our day
As we rise I thank God for your life
That we made it another night with all of our lives intact
Eight years ago I confronted the temporary fragility of life
I learned breath can crumble in an instant
That ceasing to be can happen fast as a thunder clap and resonate through those who are left for years and years and years
You have two sisters, dear heart, I whisper as the sun begins to rise
You'll always have three siblings though you'll only know two
We'll always be surprised by you, darling unexpected one
And I'll always believe you were sent to us by a wise God advised by a loving sister who knew we needed another dose of the healing only a baby can bring

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