I don't remember what I was wearing that day. I remember my long black winter coat because before I left I asked Monkey for a hug. But I don't remember what I was wearing under it, what I must've seen all day as I caught sight of myself-- my sleeves as I typed, my pants as I sat down, my belly as I balanced the laptop on my lap while I waited for Monkey at gymnastics that afternoon or as I waited for the kicks that never came that night. I remember the dinner I ate as I tried to coax those kicks, but I don't remember what the shirt was that covered the belly on which I balanced the plate. I remember that the radio was on as I drove to the hospital, and I remember that I thought the program was interesting, but I can no longer remember what it was about. Now that I know that the full moon was in fact supposed to be there, I can verify that the memory that started knocking on my brain's door recently, of the full disc as I drove, wasn't a figment of my imaginataion fabricated later on-- I really did see it. But I don't remember what I was wearing. Not as far as anyone else could see, at least.
I remember what I was wearing under my shirt. A bellybra, that wonderful contraption that distributes the weight of the belly over the whole back, making it much easier to function. Even if I didn't rememeber, this detail I could reconstruct, as I never went a day without it the last couple of months of A's pregnancy. But I do actually rememeber. I remember because the nurse asked me about it as she was preparing the probe to look for the heart beat. I gave her a glowing review, and she said she needs to remember it for next time because her back was killing her the last couple of months with her first-- what with being on her feet all day. I wonder, given what happened in the next 5 minutes, does she remember it now?
When I first discovered that I couldn't remember what I was wearing I thought of it as a good thing-- next time around, I reasoned, I wouldn't have bad associations with any of my maternity clothes, I could wear all of them again. Except for that bellybra, of course.
I am 28 weeks 4 days along today. If you come to my house, I doubt you can miss the belly. And yet, when I am out and about, I still wear a shawl. Unless it's over 90 degrees outside, and then I put on this net-like thing that goes over my head, is long, and a bit shiny, but is far less of a disguise, though it still makes me feel a little covered, a little protected. I waddle, by the way. Thanks to the pelvic pain that makes it hard to walk straight. So I waddle, and the belly sticks out farther then the boobs, and has for a couple of weeks now. And still I insist on having something that gives me some illusion of maybe fooling someone out there.
At first I thought that the shawls were my protection against the stupid that is out there, against the untouched who think a pregnant belly equals a live healthy baby 40-X weeks from now. I didn't want to talk to them. I didn't want to deal with their "congratulations" and their "is this your first?"s. I didn't want to give them an opportunity to tell me all about their utterly normal life where assumptions of invincibility hold. A bit later I understood that I was also avoiding having to tell people that I am not jumpy and comfy because the baby before this one died. I didn't want to have to tell the story, anew.
It's a weird thing, really. I want people to know about A. How few people know that he existed used to be one of the biggest crazy-makers in my head. It's better now, the crazy is, but this particular thought is still sad to me. It seems, though, that I need to control the context in which I want people to learn. I don't know that it is even possible, but I seem to want to introduce him in some way that isn't all about pain. I want people to see that the pain is there because of how much we love him, how much we wanted him, how much we miss him now.
I remember, so very vividly, being pregnant with A, out and about with Monkey, and conscious of how lucky we were and of how much our luck can hurt to look at. I was thinking of infertiles at the time, but boy can a sight like this hurt a dead baby mama's heart. I remember, too, last spring seeing pregnant bellies and babies wherever I turned my head. A veritable sea of happy that had no room for me. I started coping by making up sad stories for these happy people I saw on the street-- this one had five miscarriages before this baby, that one needed an IVF or three. I knew, even as I was making up these stories that they can't all be true. But that was what I needed to do to be able to navigate the world around me.
Recently some of the dead baby bloggers have been confessing to having a hard time with other people's pregnancies. Is it any wonder? And what I realized, reading these bloggers, is that my shawls are a little about all of you too. If I can help it, if I can help it at all, I don't want to add to your hurt. I don't want to, as Bon so aptly put it, stab you with my roundness.
My sister is getting married this weekend. My parents arrived a few days ago and other family is about to descend on us in mere hours. To some degree, I have been measuring this pregnancy in intervals of and between significant events. For the last few weeks I have been terrified that this baby would die before the wedding, adding new layers of terrible to what would be horrific any day all on its own. Before that I was similarly scared he would not make it through the week Monkey and JD spent in the Old City.
That Monday, Memorial Day in fact, I wan't feeling as much movement as I had been used to. I tried the water, and the couch, I tried this, that, and the other. And finally I couldn't handle it anymore, and I went in to triage. A friend of mine is a high risk OB in my practice, although he didn't start there until last summer. When I first heard that he was joining the practice, I thought I didn't want him to ever have anything to do with my care-- I didn't want him to have to feel bad if shit hit the fan again. But as I pressed the intercom button outside of triage that Monday, I saw my friend walking down the corridor. And suddenly I very much wanted him to be there. I was alone and scared, and not until that moment did I know how much I wanted to at least not be alone.
It is good to be a friend of the attending, let me tell you. He brought the shiny new ultrasound machine, not the old clunker that told the doctor all those months ago that A was dead. He was gentle, and kind, and attentive, and exactly what I needed. He didn't just do the one peak to make sure the heart was beating-- he sat there for ten or fifteen minutes carefully studying everything, watching my son wiggle behind my anterior placenta that with its movement-cushioning ways was the likely culprit behind that day's freakout. Twenty more minutes on the monitor and one fine-looking strip later I walked out of the triage room next door to the one in which they told me A was dead. I was light-headed, shaken a little. But I managed to only be ten minutes late for dinner with a friend. And the next morning I took a deep breath and pulled that bellybra out of the drawer.
When A died, six months seemed like a ridiculously long way off, like it should be enough time to close the gaping wound, to let my heart scar over. And now, nearly a year and five months out, what I am wondering is whether there is ever an end to the layers left to uncover. I suspect not so much.