For your first pregnancy, I highly recommend getting pregnant at the exact same time as one of your very best friends in the world. Nothing is better than becoming a mother with someone who knew you from before your entire life changed.
My fellow pregnant friend and I obsessed over every single pregnancy symptom, analyzed and rehashed developmental detail each week (“I think it’s the size of a squash, but this other website says it’s the size of a banana…is that the same??”) and upon having the babies 30 days apart, experienced the shock and awe of parenting together. Without her, I would have been a hermit (and sometimes was) in those early days. But a pillar of positivity, she would text me a one-liner to get me out the door:
“taking walk with stroller. wanna meet for coffee”
I’d get my daughter ready, grab an extra diaper and hike down the 3 flights of our loft to the ground floor. Unshowered, teeth usually unbrushed, bits of vomit on my shirt, I met her for coffee 2 blocks away. We traversed the Mission District together, sipping caffeine, laughing, complaining. As our kids grew, we planned outings where both of our families would be together. It’s like an extended Brady Bunch.
When I got pregnant again, she watched from the sidelines, and took care of my daughter while my mother stayed with me in labor. She was one of the first people to ever meet Jay, take his picture, to ever love him. Weeks before he died, she put together a bag of clothes that her son had outgrown. She wrote his name on it. The next time I saw her I was going to get them. I was looking forward to putting Jay in these clothes that I watched her son grow up in.
Days later, I walked down the hallway in the Children’s Hospital holding my cell phone. I wanted to find a place to go for privacy, although now I don’t remember why I didn’t want to talk in my son’s hospital room. Maybe I needed to have a conversation without the nurses coming and going, the beeps and boobs of the machines going off. I don’t remember those noises bothering me at the time. But I left his room anyway, traveling left and right through a hospital I wasn’t familiar with. I soon settled down on the floor between two large pillars overlooking the side of the hospital and dialed my friend.
“Hey, it’s me. I need to talk to you.”
“What’s up?” Her voice light and cheery, as it usually was. She was away at her vacation house, with friends or family, I can’t remember. I imagined her seated comfortably on the couch, a beer in one hand and her son running around somewhere nearby.
“Jay fell and hit his head, and we’re at the hospital right now and he’s probably going to be declared brain dead.”
I dropped it like a ton of bricks. I had been living this nightmare for over 24 hours by the time I called her. It felt like a week already. I had barely slept or ate in 30 hours, not that I was really aware of it or cared. I had to just say it. Amid calling family and hearing several times “We’ll pray for him. He’s going to be fine!” there was just no sugarcoating this semi truck full of utter hell and bullshit. Given all the time in the world at that moment, I didn’t have enough to say it any other way than that.
“What?! Are you kidding?” she asked. This clearly was over the line of what could possibly be deemed a joke, even by my standards, but I knew what she meant. There had to be another reason for me saying what I did. There had to be a better, logical explanation for why I was making that statement. I couldn’t possibly mean that Jay was brain dead, because that is otherworldly. It is too horrible. It couldn’t be true. And yet I was not only telling her this on the phone, ripping her weekend into a thousand pieces, I was asking her to get up to speed without a moment’s notice. I was asking her to comprehend the worst about my son who she had known since his birth.
“They don’t understand how this happened. They think we hurt him. We’re talking to detectives.” I went through our whole ordeal. I barely remember the rest of the conversation. I don’t remember hanging up.
Whenever I did hang up, it was back to my son, back to the doctors and the detectives. I didn’t imagine what my friend and her husband were doing. I didn’t think about them at all until she texted me the next day. ” and I have been looking online and doing a bunch of research. Our friend is an attorney who is familiar with these kinds of situations. You need a lawyer.”
When we got back home, my friend watched my daughter play with her son while I frantically made phone calls and faxed paperwork for medical records. She watched silently while I did everything I could to to protect what was left of our shitty ass life. She offered anything I could possibly need. And when she looked me in the face and told me she thought everything would be ok in the end, I believed her enough not to lose my mind.
That bag with her son’s clothes, the one with Jay’s name written on it, is in my closet now. Full of her son’s old clothes. When Floyd is big enough to wear them, I will think of how they were intended for Jay, and that Floyd wearing them is like weaving an old life together with a new one. That weaving together of both lives happens often, and it’s healing, because it allows you to move forward while staying connected to the person you lost.
I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by people who make this weave happen. A handful of magical people who knew me before motherhood, and before Jay died. They see the parts in me that are paranoid and fearful. They let me have all those pieces without defining me by it. I’m not the lady who lost her son, and then her mother. I’m just me. And that allowance gives me the freedom to be both those people. The regular mom and the fucked up person. If you lose a child, I recommend having one of your very best friends in the whole world around. Someone who knew you before your entire life changed. Someone to help you keep the weave going.