It showed up this morning. The freight train that I’ve been hearing rumbling and sounding a low whistle off in the distance bore down and ran over me head on, full steam ahead when I woke up. I literally physically feel deflated, heavy. I feel like a plastic bag is over my head and I can’t breathe. It is August 8th and in 15 days I will deliver my son. He will cry, he will breathe, and then he will decline. His heart will not function like it should. His lungs won’t be able to keep up. I will hold him and he will gasp, several long, sighing gasps. And then he will die, just after midnight, on August 24th. It’s coming, and I can’t stop it. I can’t protect him. Can’t hold him in any longer. Everything in me wants to curl up around him and surround him, shield him, keep giving him life from my body. He deserves that. He is pure love. But he’s not even really here. Not anymore.
I had the opportunity this summer to climb a pole and sit on a wooden platform and clip myself into a harness with carabiners and rope. I then had to choose to push off of the platform and ride the zip line to the bottom. I’d seen plenty of people do it before it was my turn. I’ve been on ziplines and ropes courses before. But in that moment, sitting there, nothing but open air beneath my feet, I was frozen. And I was in the delivery room, on my back, fully dilated, ready to push. My nurse held my belly, my baby, over to my left side because his heart rate had dropped as his head was compressed. Because he was coming out. We were waiting for my OB to drive back to the hospital. In a signature move, after delivering all of the other patients on the schedule that day and seeing that I, expected to go quickly since it was my third, my OB announced that she was leaving the hospital but would be only minutes away. She assured me that this would bring Gavin quickly. She was right. She raced back to the hospital and literally ran into the room, paused to brace her hands on her thighs to catch her breath, and then it was time.
My labor had been slow all day, intentionally so, the pitocin turned up slowly and carefully so as not to over stress him. I had hours to myself, since late the night before, listening to his galloping heartbeat on the fetal monitor. It would drop with contractions, my heart would sink, his heart rate would come back up, I’d breathe. Over and over. I was reassured a dozen times. He was tolerating labor. What he was doing was normal. But those last minutes before delivery it dropped very low, I knew it was dangerously low, and I couldn’t roll over onto my side because it was time to push. I knew that heart rate might not come back up. I knew it could stop altogether. It was low because he was on his way out, and he couldn’t go back in. It was go time. Do or literally die. He had to come out, and quickly. In that moment, I took a breath before bearing down and knew that nothing, nothing, nothing would ever be the same. My life would forever be split into before and after those critical moments. I had to jump off the platform. He would die if he stayed in. But I knew that he would very likely die if he came out. Pushing him out meant surrendering my ability to protect him, sustain him, hold him in peace and safety. I had to push anyway. I had to leap. I’m not sure I’ve taken a deep breath since then.
When I jumped off the platform, the same terror gripped me, but soon I was safely on the ground after coasting smoothly down the zip line. No significant trauma outside reliving the fear in the moment before jumping. I put my feet down, and I stood up. The line held. I was ok. Not so for Gavin. Not so at all. Once his literal cord was cut, he hovered for a moment, an hour, 6 hours, and then plummeted. To his death. My heart went with him. It is still lying in that spot where he died, 349 days ago.
So the pain is here now. And the only way through it is…through it. It is like walking through the center of a hot, burning fire. Every step is painful. But what choice is there? It threatens to consume me. Somehow I still stand, and walk.