A few days ago, on August 8th, I began a post about it being one month since Sebastian’s birth.
I’ve always been the type to measure and commemorate, even just with some focused thoughts, the anniversaries (and monthaversaries and weekaversaries) of important things in my life. I guess it makes me feel closer to those events, to think “It has been exactly a month since ____…” or “At this time last year, I was doing _____…”
I tried to write, and I found myself blocked. One month since a baby’s birth is supposed to be happy. He’s supposed to be one month old, something we can celebrate. Recently on Unspoken Grief, one mother posted that her baby would have been one month old that day – something that clearly still needs to be commemorated.
I didn’t want to say that. I started to, but it was wrong. My baby boy would not have been one month old, because if he’d lived, he would still be inside me right now. That was not supposed to be his birth day.
And it messes with my brain to think about his death coming before his birth. Since we calculate our lives as starting when we are born… by that system, Sebastian was never alive. Of course, he was alive, we just don’t have the language for talking about it in that order.
As his due date approaches, less than a week away now, I can feel a sorrowful pressure building. Somehow, in my mind, it’s almost like he’ll be more gone after that… a notion I can’t even come close to explaining. I’m glad I will have something else to celebrate that day: it is my mother’s birthday.
We are more certain now that Sebastian would not be one month old. Yesterday, our midwife B came to talk to us because she had pathology results from the examination of the placenta (nothing from the autopsy yet, we’re told that could take a few more weeks – which B sees as a strong possibility they have found something). The pathology report told us that Sebastian had severe anemia. Because we can rule out blood type incompatibility as the cause of this (I was tested after the birth and we know for sure there was no mixing of my blood with his), it looks like it was either a developmental cardiovascular problem, or a genetic abnormality.
Essentially, this means that his chances were never good. We don’t yet know why there was no amniotic fluid, but that was not the crux of the problem anyway. If we had seen the fluid level and someone had said, “We need to get that baby out right away,” I would have had an emergency C-section, and Sebastian would still have been born a very sick little boy. If he’d been alive, he would have been whisked away for surgery, and it is probable that he would still have died. If not, the odds of him being healthy and normal… weren’t good.
When I imagine scenarios based on that, I don’t have any regrets about the way things were handled. All of those scenarios are stressful and harrowing – even just to think about. For many reasons, Sean and I are both thankful that I avoided a C-section and went through labour and delivery, painful and fraught though that was. If I don’t get to nurse my son, or sing to him, or comfort him when he cries, at least I got to have the exclusively mothering experience of giving birth to him.
And really, those scenarios were never going to happen. That’s why we had a non-stress test – and it is comforting to remind myself that Sebastian was not in distress. The night we had that test, we went home calm – and so did he. It was a fluke that we knew anything was wrong in the first place. So… it seems to me that he would have died on the day he died, no matter what… and there is a measure of peace in that. I just feel fortunate to know what day that was – both so that we got to see him while he still looked like our own boy, and so that we can honour that day in the future.
One of my wise friends, on hearing of Sebastian’s death and birth, wrote me a message that included these words: “It’s sometimes said that it’s the baby that chooses when it’s ready and it seems that Sebastian, dear soul, wasn’t ready to be on this earth. He stayed with you as long as he could.” I cried to think of him just needing to stay where he was, never to be in the world, because he wasn’t ready. At least he was with his Mama, loved by his parents always. The words were tragic, but also comforting.
Now I find myself thinking, more than ever, that they were simply true. He stayed with me as long as he could.