Wednesday, May 28, 2014


I can't remember how I got there, what the morning was like or what I thought as I drove the car. I don't even remember putting on the gown. But the memory starts in the hallway heading to the room, and she is in the wheelchair and I am walking. Am I next to her? Am I pushing the chair or is it the nurse?

My pants, the hospital's, are falling down. I have to hold them up. I remember she comments about it because I comment about it because I am trying desperately, I guess, to feel like this is all comfortable but nothing will let me. It's in these moments where I always fly well over the line into sheer oddness because I still do not understand normal. I say, something like, "Well, this makes sense. It's my pants falling down that got us here."

People laugh nervously when there's no real sense to anything. The walls are greenish white. There's artwork, something like a take on a take of an impressionist scene. There's a turn to the right, and there are white lights every few feet, and there is a window, or something. The memory is not complete. She is led into the room by the nurse, and I am seated next to her. There are a dozen people in this room.

She is on the operating table, and so is she. I am sitting there, taking in everything I can. All of my senses are open, but it's been such a long time and remembered so often, things fade in the retelling. Forgive me if I get some details wrong, like, for example, how many people are in the room. My hair was short then, I weighed more, I was still too young.

They have begun the operation. She is under a local anaesthetic, so she's conscious, but I know it's never been pleasant for her to be at the hospital, to be in surgery. I had surgery once, I think just once. I don't remember any of it. I don't remember the counting down or that morning's drive either. I remember feeling so in pain I didn't want her on the bed because the shift in pressure hurt me so much. At least, she remembered that and told me about it, and the memory was suddenly there. I trust her. I think when she is on the table, I am holding her hand. I like to think that, except I don't know for sure. But I'm on her left side, and on my left side there they are.

The surgeon is fast, but I have no way of knowing if this is how it goes. I've never been in surgery to observe. The nurses periodically count things. I figure they are counting how many cloths, staples, knives, scissors, spreaders, whatevers, there are, because an off count means it's either on the floor or inside her. I don't actually see the cutting or the pulling or the tugging or the shifting. I do hear a lot of sickening sounds that are the noises viscera make when they're in a position they're not supposed to be. There is also a sucking machine removing the amniotic fluid. I can see the output. It's a lot of fluid. I think.

This mystery goes on for a while until, suddenly, I hear her. It's a muffled cry from an infant person, but it's not like the baby cries on television or movies. They always hold up a child that's several months old. The doctor is holding and passing on to the nurse my child. I look at her as she looks at me, and I nod. "That was her."

More counting, and more quickness. Things are moving around, and suddenly the need for a dozen people makes sense. There are those who are tending to the mother. There are those tending to the child. There are those who are preparing the way for the transition out of the room. There are those who might have simply been observing for their own curiosity. I do not know how many child are born in this area with thanatophoric dysplasia, but I don't fault anyone who was there, if they were, for wanting to see. No doctor gets into it without having some appreciation for science and wonder. Or so.

My memory skips, and I am suddenly holding her. We are being wheeled and led to our recovery room. We are there. We're alone for a little while, except for her brother who is photographing what he's able.  I am holding her in my arms. She is dying in my arms.

People do not die quickly when they are dying from lack of oxygen. Her little body spasms every now and then, but I don't see her eye move. The other eye is a cloud of darkness beneath a swelled and veined forehead. Behind that skin and soft skull is fluid. Her brain is a thin membrane stretched like a balloon. Her mouth is so tiny, so small. Open and her little tongue, protuding because of the swelling. Little tiny hands, little tiny nails. Five fingers this hand, five that hand. Dark hair, so thin.

The families come in and cry, comfort, silence. My mother is gone. She wants to hold her, but she is so on the edge of a breakdown I'm afraid she's doing to drop my daughter on the floor. I am getting angry, but it's not really her fault. My mother could never help her tears or her own anger or her depression or her isolation or her son. I am more like her in all those ways.

When we are finally alone, just the three of us, she says she didn't get to see her little butt. That's right. So we pull back the cloth and look. There it is. Little baby butts are adorable. Our daughter's little butt is adorable.

There isn't this moment where she's there and she's not. The problem is, she had left in some fashion a long time ago, and what I am holding is the echo waiting to still. But have you ever tried to hold on, for as long as you can, to the dying of the sound?

I am.

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