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.