When Henry was born, things did not go as planned. At 35 weeks, I had a full placental abruption and he was delivered by emergency c-section. So, uh, no. Not as planned.
And it was really, really scary. Really scary. And then, it was really, really joyful. So joyful, so blissful, such utter relief, such celebration and rejoicing. In the first few days with my sweet boy, it felt as if those few moments before he was born, those moments of pure, clear terror, of dread, those moments where we peered over the edge of agony, it felt as if those moments just washed away. For a while, all I could think about was my sweet boy. All I could feel was joy, and relief and love.
People would talk about his birth; family, friends, doctors, nurses- I would talk about his birth- but all with a certain detachment. As if maybe it happened to someone else. Or, maybe it happened to me, but in another life. In a parallel universe. Or, maybe, it happened, but it didn't matter. It didn't matter that it almost wasn't okay. Because it was okay. We were all fine now. And we were so happy.
And, that's really true. I'm not trying to dress it up all pretty for you. I really was (and am) so happy! My heart, my soul, my self were all wrapped up in the unbelievable joy of that perfect, precious little boy.
It was my brain though. My poor, exhausted, sleep deprived, brain. I think it just couldn't process it all.
A few days after coming home from the hospital, I stared having these flashes. Jolts. Hard rememberings. Uninvited, unwanted, I would remember. And it would be too fast. Too hard. With no warning. As I was falling asleep, or washing dishes, or nursing Henry, or talking to a friend. For just a quick second, reality would disappear under the remembering. And it would take a moment to make it go away. To shove it away and be back in the now. I remember shaking my head a lot. Like one good side-to-side shake would get it out. Out, out, out.
I hated it. I felt so happy, I was so happy, so why was this happening? Why couldn't I forget? Why couldn't I stop remembering?
My heart, my spirit, my life had moved on. But my brain. My logical, rational, organized, OCD brain would not have it. It needed to process. It needed to understand. It needed to remember. And I wouldn't let it. Deep inside, underneath all the celebrating and rejoicing, beneath all the congratulatings and the cooings, the feedings and the cuddling, behind all the new-babying, my mind was just screaming at me.
Hey! it said. What happened?
Hey! it said. I don't understand!
Don't you remember? I remember, and I don't understand.
We were on the floor, remember? We could see the pool of red creeping up, spreading out around your tummy and your knees, remember? Your socks were wet and sticky. Your hands were shaking. Your knuckles kept rattling against the floor. We could see the hands and knees of the paramedics, remember? But not their faces. You wouldn't look up. Remember the voices? The shouting. The banging.
Remember how cold it was when they carried you outside? The loud sirens in the ambulance. Remember, the phone rang? Remember the white walls inside the hospital? The loud voices. The running. Doors opening. People touching you all over. It hurt. Remember the nurse who held your hand? The one who said he still had a heartbeat?
Remember the doctor who yelled? Who said "Get out of my way, NOW!" And pushed the heartbeat nurse? The nice heartbeat nurse who held your hand. Remember the paramedic? The one who said "Holy Shit!"
Remember the shiny operating room? Remember the cold orange stuff they dumped on you? Remember when David finally let go of your hand? He had to.
Remember, we thought about the nursery? All the baby things. All the clothes. All the presents. Remember, we thought about how this pregnancy was an accident? Not on purpose. A surprise. The best surprise. We thought about when you told David you were pregnant. Remember how happy he was? How proud.
Remember laying down on the floor in the bedroom? Remember calling for David? David. David, poor David. Remember how badly we scared David?
Do you remember now?
Remember, our baby? Something was wrong. So, so wrong. Very wrong. Our baby.
My baby. Please. Not my baby. Not my baby.
My poor brain. It remembered. And it needed me to remember, too. But I didn't want to. I still don't want to. It hurts. It's uncomfortable. Like my heart is wearing a too tight sweater, made out of some gross synthetic material. I want to squirm. I want to wiggle. I want it off, now.
Even now, months later, I want it off. I don't want to remember. I don't want to think about it.
Even now, when I remember, my body physically reacts. It tenses. Curls in on itself a little. As if it's bracing for a blow that has never come.
I don't want to remember. But, sometimes, my brain still makes me. Not in the same insistent, screaming, flashing way that it once did. But softer. Gentler. In a familiar voice. The voice of a smaller, more confused, less sure version of myself. My poor little brain girl.
Remember? she says. Remember how scary it was?
"Yes," I say. "I remember. It was scary."
Why? she whispers. Why did it have to happen like that? Why did it have to be so scary?
"I don't know," I say.
And then, in her quietest voice yet, so that I can barely hear her, she whispers in my ear, What if it wasn't okay? What if he was really hurt? What if he died? What if he wasn't here with us? What would we do?
"I don't know," I whisper back. "But I'm still praying about it. I'm still writing about it. I still think about it. I do remember. But, please, please, can we talk about something else?"
Okay, she mumbles, as she softly fades back.
She is embarrassed that she brought it up again. She knows I don't like it.