Chris, always cool and calm, offered to get the charger and bring the machine back to life.
These moments still happen. The ones when I dramatically say something that, frankly, is ridiculous. They are intermittent thankfully. It’s one thing to put my emotions into written form, but there is no backspace button in real life. When I say something out loud, I cannot swiftly tap Control+Z and erase it. Perhaps I should stick to writing…
This week, I had the privilege to meet with a woman from an Infant Loss Agency to share Audrey’s story. She contacted me last fall and I remained true to my commitment, if ever asked to share her story, I always will. We planned to meet at her office. At the very last minute, the night before our meeting, I had a change of heart. I absolutely wanted to relive Audrey’s life…to recount her days, weeks and months with intricate detail, but I needed help.
I needed to do it at what feels like Audrey’s earthly home. The place that housed her body for so many weeks, the place that gave us hope…the place where she earned a pair of wings. I asked Sheri if we might change our meeting place to Children’s Hospital.
She quickly replied with an absolute yes.
I couldn’t wait to get there. To walk in to the atrium and feel that familiar rush of emotion. I needed it, I wanted to feel her.
And I did…
I felt instantly at home and strangely enough, I momentarily felt hope. Although I’m not sure in what. I spotted Sheri without effort, never having met her before, I just knew this kind-faced woman must be her, waiting patiently. I slowly walked toward her, soaking in all the feelings of being back in this place. I looked around, I turned my gaze up toward the giant butterflies, closed my eyes and prayed for bravery.
We talked…well, I guess I did most of the talking…for over an hour and a half. I told her about each stage of Audrey’s life. As much detail as I gave her, I didn’t have the time to go into the better ones. The ones like I think she had my nose, or what it felt like to hold her against my heart for the very first time, or describe her intoxicating scent or how I took pride in swaddling her like a perfect Chipotle burrito. I didn’t tell her how much I admire my daughter. I didn’t tell this patient listener how I hunched my entire body over Audrey’s the day she died and heaved uncontrollably, wishing life into her to no avail.
Her story…the whole thing…would take me hours and hours to tell. But I would. I have. I love meeting new people who want to hear about her because for a brief moment in time, I get to go on and on about her, to close my eyes and see her, feel her and help her capture their heart just as she did mine.
Another task I completed while at the hospital was obtaining the final autopsy report. It’s been ready for months, but I haven’t made much effort to get it. I’m certain part of my hesitation was knowing it would or, perhaps worse, wouldn’t provide closure. Reading through the first page, I realized quickly I was far out of my league. Words like pulmonary vasculopathy/lymphangiectasia and hypoxic-ischemic felt a bit like I was reading a sci-fi love story…in Russian. I asked Chris to translate it for me. In the end, it confirmed, in great detail, everything we already knew. There were no surprises, no news. I suppose this is preferable to the contrary.
As I scanned through this 12-page document, I couldn’t help but notice that it didn’t mention the length of her feather-like lashes. No one dictated just how small and delicate her hands were. Where is the part that describes her gold hair or defines just how soft her skin was? I know, I know, the pathologists don’t need those details. But I can’t help but wonder if they noticed the beauty of this baby’s body as during their research.
Between the lines of this Russian-esque jargon, I noticed something. My eye was drawn to words that you might not expect much of in her case. The word “normal” was used 44 times. 44 TIMES. Even more beautiful? “Well-formed” can be found 11 different places in this medical document describing a tiny human that grew in my own womb.
I couldn’t help but wonder how we have made two babies that were formed so differently. But I believe BOTH Cooper and Audrey were formed well. They were each formed for different purposes. Their stories look different but they are the same in that they are ours.
Yesterday, driving Cooper to school, I told him that he is growing up far too fast. He replied after a pause, “Mama, even when I grow all the way up, I’ll still be your boy.”
I thought to myself, “I hope so, my darling son. If only you knew how much I needed to hear that…” I then thought about my other child. I said silently to her, “Audrey, even when I grow all the way up, you’ll always be my girl.” And it hurt. I’ll keep going and growing, but she won’t. Cooper will become a man without his sister watching his every move, admiring him, looking up to him, her brother…learning from him like I have from both of mine.
I’ve been contacted by people I know and some that I don’t that have chosen to open up to me about their stories. I love this part. I love that my own sadness, pain and grief has, in turn, opened my world to empathize with others on a new level. A level I couldn’t understand before her. A level I didn’t really ever want to know, but I do. We do. And now that I am here, I’m thankful for what He has given me…the gift of empathy. Keep the stories coming, I want to encourage you or someone you know. It plays a healing role in my own life when I have the privilege of being a listening ear to someone, for I must pay-it-forward. It also reminds me that I’m not alone in any of this. It has come to my attention that I have never shared my email, I guess that would be helpful: firstname.lastname@example.org. Use it, any time, I never get enough of hearing from you.