Thursday, October 11, 2012

About 45 minutes ago, four years ago, I handed Josie to a tall, kind man from the funeral home and said, "please take care of my baby." He took her, all wrapped up in a Winnie the Pooh sleeper and hospital baby blanket, and his face just crumpled as he looked at her. Since my condition was listed critical and my own survival was not guaranteed by a long shot, I think he thought he might have to return later for me, too.

I hope this post doesn't come across self-centered. It's an attempt to explain what happened to "me" after Josie died. I know that many other people in the family felt horrendous as well, but I can't speak for them and for the experiences they had - only for myself. So here's my experience.

Today, four years ago, was meant to be her baby shower. I think it was supposed to be held at 1pm. There were bars made for the shower, which sat uneaten until after her funeral on Monday. Good representation of the ultimate nightmare, I suppose, having the cakes for her shower eaten at her funeral. Almost inconceivably horrible to this day, actually.

It would be another whole day until I could make it to the bathroom, and have a shower. The only thing they had on the ward to shower with were samples of Johnson's Baby Shampoo, which were given away with the new baby "kits." So there I stood, in this other world I simply could not comprehend, going through the numb motions of cleaning up after a major operation, without the little passenger I had carried for 9 months in my belly. There I stood, doing this normal task, which was the most horrible thing in the world - like the ultimate torture - washing with baby shampoo.

I can't remember any time in my life (and that includes some pretty negative personal experiences prior to Josie's death) that I felt more stripped of everything that made me, me. I'd watched my life blood come out on the floor of the ER, been taken, flattened out on an operating table, catheterized, pumped full of drugs and oxygen, torn open and c-sectioned in just under eight minutes. My baby girl had been hooked to an IV, shot full of adrenaline and worked on for almost half an hour before being declared dead. I'd held her for about 27 hours; the only way she got warm was through my body heat and the only way she opened her eyes was if I opened them.

My life was just...over. It was. Everything I'd known until that point was null and void, and would never return. The person I had been was gone. I had died. Nothing made sense any more. And it would never make sense again - at least not in the way it had previously.

Other experiences - even very bad ones - had left scars, sure. Some of the scars were deep. But I was still "me." I was just "me with scars." This time though, the "me" was gone. Totally gone. Exploded. Nothing left.The "me with scars" I'd come to accept was just obliterated. I had to rebuild.

I died on the way into hospital, watching the sun come up over the horizon, as I felt Josie's final turn in my tummy and knew she was gone. I was gone too. I was dead. That person is still dead. This person writing here now is someone new.

The person writing here now awoke in October 2008, alone and incomplete at the bottom of a meteor crater filled with wreckage and debris. Picture frames and torn paper, wood, rubble, weeds, tiny flowers hidden between broken pots and half-trashed pieces of furniture. The person here now trod on all the broken shards of glass as she went around, gathering pieces to add to herself. A makeshift leg out of a chair part. A torso out of pillow stuffing. Memories out of torn pieces of photograph and dust, swept up off the floor.

Beautiful new things too, found in scattered shafts of sunlight. I picked them up and made them parts of me. Eventually, I was functional in a rudimentary way, the bits of me held together in a body shape by clay soil, rainwater and tears - shed by other people as well as by me.  That was the beginning of the ascent out of the pit and into a different world.

The thing is, I don't mind this new person, made out of parts. Everything is very "now." I am very mindful and aware, a lot of the time. Sometimes I switch off, but when I am switched on, I am very grounded. So life is very tangible, almost all the time.

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