Authority

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I was hoping for a SIDS diagnosis.  Doesn’t that seem bizarre??  But its true.  Since Graham is in fact dead and not coming back, it would be the best outcome, you see.   The least amount of questions, the least amount of guilt – it would be as tidy as possible.  “We don’t know why exactly, but we know this thing does indeed happen.”  “We don’t know how exactly, but we know how it did NOT happen.”  All other possible results oher than SIDS would hold questions, guilt, responsibility, surprises.  Anything other than SIDS would be an announcement of uncertainty.

The document arrived in an unassuming envelope, but the sheet of paper it held was busy and important looking.  Filled with official pomp and circumstance, and a raised seal proclaiming its authority.  His entire life, full to the brim with simple, sweet moments, had now culminated in a few short lines of medical jargon.

It wasn’t what I hoped for and it most certainly was not what I wanted.  Sudden Unexplained Infant Death (SUID) associated with a flannel blanket on his face.  Not SIDS after all.  Although, it still might be SIDS, or… something else!  For goodness sake, we don’t know enough to even say we don’t know, but we are certain, after all – that this is true…  We know he was sleeping with his face on his blanket and we know this is a risk factor in unexpected infant deaths, but it is important to note, of course, that this fact is an association with the death and not the cause of death (which is as before mentioned, unexplained). Therefore, your son is still dead.

Do you catch my drift??  To you see the absurdity?  The confusion?  Does anyone understand what the hell is going on???

Of all SIDS deaths only 0.5% occur between 11-12 months of age, which means so much of what we know about SIDS (which is barely anything) assumes an infantile victim, undeveloped and vulnerable – night and day different from our 11 month old little boy.  An immobile 2 month old found dead with a blanket – I can understand the association (although still not a cause),  but Graham was 11 months old!!!  A little kid!! Hardly a baby anymore at all!  He moved and rolled, stood up, laid down – whenever he felt like it!  He slept light and was easily aroused… I don’t understand. How could his death be associated with a blankie??  It makes no sense at all, but this document says so.  It declares it to be true.  It validates a question mark!  How presumptuous, how unfair?

To be honest, I don’t think his death had anything to do with the blanket at all.  A month older, he may have still died unexpectedly and without explanation, but it would have been declared a child death rather than an infant, and an unexplained child death carries no ‘sleeping with blankie’ risk association.   A month more, and Graham would not have been an infant anymore at all, but the thing is, at 11 months he already wasn’t.  Only, at 11 months, I don’t have an authoritative document proclaiming this truth.  So I guess it doesn’t get to be true.  Even if it is.

I know that stupid blanket doesn’t have a damn thing to do with his death.  But this ridiculous piece of paper – supported by spotty research, a misunderstood public health initiative and an arbitrary definition system says otherwise, and it has a fricking raised sealed after all!

Nothing is Enough

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He is everywhere… and no where.  I can’t find him, but he’s not lost.  This baby permeates every aspect of my life.  My sleep and my eating were not my own.  My plans, my patterns completely wrapped up in the needs and wants of a small child.  Pacifiers, toys, blankets, diapers, clothes, pictures, bits of trash and spills… In our car and under the bed, strewn about the floor, penciled in the calendar, on and on everywhere, in everything.  I can clean up, tidy up, sort and organize, put away, give away and he is still just upstairs. He’s ready to wake up from a nap or in need of being ‘checked on’.   He’s not there of course.  He will never wake up ever again, but I forget.  I forget that he’s not with me, because he is… with me. Every baby is him, but none of them are him.  He should be here, and it’s easy to feel him all around me, but I look and look and he is no where.  Nothing is enough.  But it is all I have.  So therefore I have nothing…

Scarred

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From the moment a baby begins forming, he also begins pulling away.  Every day of a child’s life is a step away from his mother, for the very nature of growth is independence .  A gradual and inevitable process, one we take for granted, but to do it right – it’s a conscious and careful act.  My greatest honor as a mother is also my greatest pain.  From the agony of childbirth to the first day of kindergarten, mothering is painful.  Separation is excruciating but beautiful.  Avoided and yet longed for.  

We have an inherent sense of the natural order of things.  We focus on the ways things are supposed to be because we can not fathom the alternative.  I can survive without my son.  I was, after all, designed to separate from him – only I was expecting it to happen carefully and slowly, allowing for precise and perfect healing.  A new version of myself would emerge triumphant, and my son would stand alone – strong and capable, fully developed and physically his own person.

Instead, Graham was torn away when he was yet at his most vulnerable, when we were still connected and dependent.  My physical and spiritual self is left jagged and writhing in pain, hemorrhaging and pulsing.  Of course my sweet son has gone through the stages of independence all the way to a perfect and holy completion – I’m the one left broken, a shell of who I once was.

I went to a tattoo parlor today, and got my first tattoo.  It seemed like such a simple way of celebrating and lamenting my journey with Graham.  I now have a tangible reminder, a declaration that the child who I once slung on my hip, nursed from my breast, cuddled in my lap – the child who was a physical extension of me, is still with me… somehow, and that he is also not with me.

The tattoo honors our connection, my sacrifice, it stands as a memorial to the emptiness that I live with.  My tattoo is also a testament to the joy, yes, but ultimately it is a scar.  A physical announcement that I am not as I once was.  My son’s life and death have permanently disfigured the very core of who I am.  I am not without beauty, but I also carry ugliness within me.  Forever.