Tiny Noises

Ian made two small sounds in the delivery room, but I can’t hear them anymore. I knew my memories would fade, slip a little, as all memories do, but I’m surprised how quickly some of the details have dissipated.

I never could come up with the right word to describe his first and only two sounds. If they were squeaks or squawks, they were the smallest, softest ones I’ve ever known. If they were cries, there was no force behind them, as if he knew he didn’t have the breath to spare.

Occasionally I pray to dream about Ian’s birthday, that in my sleep I will feel the blurred rapture of finally seeing his face and hearing those two tiny noises. It felt so strange to set his birthday, unkind to sleep the night before, and bewildering to finally hold him.

When they laid Ian on my chest while surgery continued, I hardly understood what was happening. I wanted my baby there on top of me, but I didn’t know what to do with my arms. He was so close to my face; it was surprising and confusing. When David picked him up and cradled him next to me, it began to feel so natural: our little family falling into place. He barely breathed when he was first delivered and became so still in the recovery room during the following hour that I have no idea exactly when he died. Truthfully, I don’t need to know; I was so happy that his death was peaceful after the ups and downs of that winter.

Last September I was getting used to being pregnant. Learning what to eat first thing in the morning to settle the nausea. How to sit up in bed without feeling faint. David and I were thrilling at the fact that we had made a new person. And it had been so fast!

This September I wonder what other stories lay before Ian, in an alternate future where his condition was misdiagnosed and he came home with us in good health. Now, those stories matter little in real life. Ian wasn’t given any of those paths and, as a result, his reward is already sealed. Meanwhile, David and I are still here, and we still miss him.

Those two noises weren’t mewling or coughing, squalling or screeching. Ian barely parted his lips and out came something, twice, which I hadn’t dared expect he’d be able to do. Two tiny miracles.

We heard his real voice that day, so I don’t want to imagine I hear him in the wind and the rain. But I wouldn’t mind the memories sticking around a little longer.

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Tiny Noises

Burying Baby

Remembering it over and over, my soul is downcast.  –  Lamentations 3:20

My son’s name is Ian Brandon.  He was born on February 5, 2013, weighed eight pounds even, and was 19 inches long.  He was delivered by C-section four weeks early because the true size of his abdomen was difficult for our caregivers to judge.  Canal delivery would have been dangerous for us both.  I carried him for 36 weeks.  The day his father, my husband, met him and held him for the first time, Ian stayed with us for one bewildering hour.

He had a head full of dark hair, lips and nose like his father, and eyes tightly closed.  I unwrapped him twice while I held him, gently, curious about the size and color of his round belly.  In his father’s arms, he looked so perfect; the look on David’s face when he brought him out to me was the brightest thing I’d seen in months.

We learned the hard way how joy and sorrow dance together.  We first dove into parenthood with a boundless and naive form of joy, then sorrow threatened to crush us.  In time, we found we could create joy again, but I will never forget the day and the news that our baby would not survive.

October 24, 2012.

Nearly five months on and today we bury our baby.

I still carry him, from the music of his heartbeat to echoes of his head, hands and feet inside me.  My breasts still occasionally release a drop of milk or two.  My husband carries his own memories and we walk through this side by side, watching one another carefully and trying to understand each new type of grief we encounter.  I cannot find an order or pattern in it, so I breathe and lean in, hoping the next wave will be more familiar.

In two hours I will be in a car headed for the church.  Yesterday my family picked wildflowers.  We hiked Cathedral Hill and I realized that I would never protect this child from bees or poison oak, or witness him look up into the trees in wonder, or spot a deer and scare it away with gleeful noises.

My son is already gone to sleep.  We part with his remains today and it is no light thing.  I felt that little body’s weight on my chest the day it was pulled into the world.  For 36 weeks and an hour, that tiny body breathed, grew, and moved gently with life.  But, after today, he will rest deep in the earth.

Burying Baby