Birthday take two

photo by lauren rushing

Robust, medically unremarkable babies are almost comical to me now, all linebackers and lumberjacks and riveter-rosies. Despite the safe arrival of these strapping boys and girls, labours that deviated from a triumphant ideal send some of their mothers into post-performance despair and the beast inside me tugs at its chain, lusting to snap.

But it's pointless folly to deny a hormonal, sleep-deprived postpartum mama her disappointment—like scolding "Think of all the starving children in Ethiopia!" to a teenager who sulks in front of a plateful of creamed spinach.

***

One year ago this morning was the dawn of disaster.

If we don’t do this right now we’re going to lose both of them. We can barely find just the one heartbeat, and it’s extremely faint.

I lay strapped down and shaking and a masked face next to my ear whispered urgently through the chaos make a fist, make a fist… and the eyes behind the green paper were glassy and full of doom.

Then the world went black.

Instantaneously I awoke wondering if there had been some mistake, wondering why it hadn’t been done yet, clattering uncontrollably. The fluorescent, sterile room looked as it does when people come to their senses again in movies, shot through a vaseline-smeared lens, all sounds muffled as if underwater.

Which was fair enough. By fault of my own body, one of my sons had drowned.

***

This is my goddamned territory. Stop choosing to be here. You don’t belong.

In my imagination I take birthers who mourn their lost goddesshood by the shoulders—especially those held dear—and prop them up in front of a billboard of my beloved Liam at his end, make them look as I had to make myself look. Turn them to stone with my snakes until the slats of the billboard rotate with that whirring click and these small, white words punctuate jet black:

BIRTH MATTERS.

UNTIL IT DOESN’T.

In a pre-publish fit of uncertainty about this post, of which you see only excerpts, I spoke with Bon:

I know it might be pain olympics, I know. But it’s totally true and don’t you think it’s justified and it has to be said and doesn’t that infuriate you too and there’s Us and Them and dammit, I’m tired of them thinking they can use the word ‘grief’ when Liam and Finn are gone.

In the space of this tantrum the post shrank in my head against my will, the venomous bits falling off with shame and imminent dissection.

A woman who calls her body a failure because of an unwanted c-section of a healthy baby leaves me with If you're a failure, what the hell am I? One of my babies is dead because of my body. Don't you dare presume to own my words.

Backed into a corner by the school of uncynical birth, I want to punch my way out. That’s all this is. One year later I’m still angry, blindingly so, hissing through a peephole at the rest of the world's sunshine-dappled daisy meadows.

What does birth mean to you, now? How do you support birthing friends after what you’ve been through? Most important: how is it possible to be up to your neck in self-pity and still have compassion for the relative heartbreak of anyone else?
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Kate

Author, photographer, founder of Glow. Mother of three boys, one of whom died at six weeks old nine years ago. Nine years ago, I was someone else. Love and sorcery and poetry and terrible luck and wonderful luck.