Every year when Labor Day hits, I start down the path of painful memories. I was doing pretty well this year…September’s arrival was overshadowed by an amazing weekend with my family celebrating my Daddy’s 80 years. But we came home Monday and here I am again – staring September in the face.
Tomorrow marks 12 years since the beginning of the end, or the beginning of the beginning, however you want to look at it. It was shortly after 6pm when I went to the bathroom and looked down into a toilet full of blood. You hear the phrase all the time, “My heart stopped”. My heart did stop. I didn’t know what to do. I panicked. I was at a complete loss. And I knew in my heart of hearts our son was dead. I knew it. But if I didn’t do anything, then it wasn’t happening, right? I still thank God on a daily basis for the massage therapist in whose home I was. He was so utterly calm. He walked me through calling my (idiot) OB. He dialed the phone to call Michael when my hands were shaking so badly. He made the decision I could not make….to drive the 1/4 mile down the hill from his house to the nearest hospital. And then he drove me in my car to that hospital. He came in the ER to make sure I was taken care of and give me my car keys. And then he left. I never saw him again. He called our house once to find out how I was doing. Wherever you are, Steve the massage therapist, thank you. You saved me and you helped save my child.
Twelve years ago, we lost our innocence regarding pregnancy and childbirth. We knew the reality that too many pregnancies don’t go as imagined, as planned. We entered the world of magnesium sulfate, infections, prematurity, potential death of our child, the NICU, and a life of pain for all we lost. Every September those memories, so vivid, rush through my mind and heart. We lost so much. We have our child, but wow it still really hurts. Every September I remember those long, boring, lonely days spent in a too-warm hospital room in a very old hospital. I remember family pictures on the walls of my hospital room. I remember Michael bringing in a boom box so I could listen to my A’s who were on a playoff push, a fan to help cool things off, and a vcr so I could watch movies. I remember the basket my oldest sister had delivered….a basket full of entertaining magazines and my favorite candies and treats. I remember my mom coming one Saturday to wash my hair and shave my legs. I remember my mother in law basically quitting her brand new job and flying up to spend that first week with me in the hospital. I remember my Daddy’s arrival that first Saturday and him spending the week with me too. His face when they did one of many ultrasounds and he saw his grandson on the screen is etched in my mind. I remember that last night before Ryley’s birth, when I knew something was wrong and yet I tried to hide it. Once again, denial reared its ugly head. How can you possibly hide a fever of 103 from your nurse who is coming in to take your vitals? How can you hide contractions from the monitor you will be strapped to in a half hour? How can you hide the fact you are shivering uncontrollably and getting somewhat delirious from fever and pain? How can you hide a life-threatening infection? And how can you possibly forget any of those things?
Tomorrow marks the beginning of the end and the beginning. I will spend the next 16 days traveling through the memories of those 16 days in September 2000. And then we celebrate Ryley’s birthday….the day of his too-soon arrival. And we celebrate how amazing this 12-year-old is. I will wonder once again if I will ever look at him and *not* think about how he started out. I wonder if I will ever not be amazed at how far he’s come. I wonder if I will ever not be so very aware of all we should/could be dealing with and aren’t. I wonder if I will ever be at his soccer or baseball games, award ceremonies at school, or see him run, golf, swim, laugh, read, or write and not occasionally get choked up with tears.
We are incredibly busy this September. I’m kinda glad. It allows me to put this all in a box and take it out when I have a few minutes to myself to ponder, remember, cry. If I hear his songs, I have no control over my reaction. He’s My Son (Mark Schultz), Wake me Up When September Ends, Permanent, and With Arms Wide Open – those songs will always be linked in my heart to Ryley, to those 16 days before his birth, and every day since his birth. So I may wallow a bit over the next few weeks. You might see me with tears in my eyes in any given moment. I may pull back for a bit. Ryley will probably be 50 and I will still have this same reaction every September.