It’s been a month. A month since I held our baby boy in my arms and watched him breathe slower and slower until he stopped. A month since I watched his little fingers turn the wrong colour, covered them with a blanket as if to stop him being cold and didn’t call for help. A month since I asked for water so I could wash his cheeks so he died with a clean face. A month since we decided to let him show us if he wanted to be alive. I know I’m all for following the lead of a child, but my god that was a big lead to follow.
A month since I saw the bridge of his nose turn dusky and then more so and then white. A month since we became people who had watched a child die, let a child die, held a dead child, kissed a dead child. A month since I put him down on the bed, said I was sorry to him and let someone take him away. A month since I did all those things and never once thought to ask Max if he wanted to hold him too. A month since I realised I had to let him go because when I moved him slightly there was a noise from his lungs that I didn’t want to hear. A month since I put my fingers on his wrist, on my child’s wrist who I had watched like a hawk and prayed would be a miracle, and didn’t feel a pulse. A month since I watched a doctor listen for his heartbeat and hoped, bizarrely, that i wasn’t wrong and he wasn’t somehow holding on in there.
None of those things seem to fit with my idea of who I am. I keep reminding myself that I’ve done those things, that we’ve done those things and I can’t work out why I haven’t changed more. I feel I should have changed more. I feel I should have rent my clothes and poured ash on my head and hurled myself into a state of not eating or drinking or sleeping. I feel I should have my hand on my brow and be wailing and raging and crashing.
It’s more akin to… “Oh. Well. Gosh. Oh.”
Not an offhand “oh” – more a slightly stunned ‘what the hell has happened, how can everything still be the same and be so utterly and completely different?’ Sort of “oh” in the kind of voice you might use if someone had told you that you didn’t get the job you wanted but never mind, it just wasn’t meant to be and you were under qualified anyway. But actually, since you asked, we’re making you redundant.
“Oh. Right. What now then?”
A month since we came home and told our children he had died. A month since we went, without ever really saying it aloud that we had become so, from 5 children to 4.
And here I am, still really quite the same. Not particularly altered. Not particularly more or less compassionate, not more alive, not less alive, not a better or worse mother. Perhaps it hasn’t sunk in yet. Perhaps it sunk in months ago and that’s why it isn’t a shock.
The thing I mind most is that I knitted him a blanket and it will never be the loved blanket of a little boy who sleeps under it night after night. I feel almost cross about that.
Perhaps that’s because it was the only thing I had done to get ready for him.