I almost opened this post by saying something about not really knowing Clara, since we had to say goodbye to her before she was born, until I realized that this isn’t true at all. I knew her well, as I believe most pregnant women know their unborn children. This sensation, this powerful, primal connection before birth, is difficult to articulate. The best I can do is to describe it as both instinctual and spiritual. We shared a body, she and I. My womb served as her sanctuary in life, and in death. Oh yes, I knew her.
It is strange then, to think that this little person, who has impacted my life so profoundly, occupies very few actual memories in my mind. There is one, though, that stands out.
It was the day that we found out that her ventricles were enlarged. The day we were alerted that there may be a problem, but before we had our actual diagnosis. Before we knew how bad it all was. I had spent the entire day navigating the red tape labyrinth of our health insurance, and was emotionally and physically exhausted. Unfortunately, when parents are distraught we are rarely afforded the luxury of appearing so. Not wanting to scare my children, I came home from work that day and promptly asked my husband if he would hold down the fort so I could take a bath. He, of course, agreed and so I quickly kissed heads and removed myself to the bathroom.
I went to the bathroom to cry. I went to the bathroom because I needed to turn on the vent and run the tub as loudly as possible, so I could cry unreservedly. I disrobed and eased myself into the warm tub, releasing my muscles and with them, a shuddering sob. I held my swollen belly and cried to her. I told her that I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but that I loved her. I sang Bob Marley to her, and in the process, tried to make myself believe that every little thing would be alright. I, though not a religious person at all, begged God to make it all okay. If there is anyone up there, pulling the strings, I begged them. I begged them until my throat was sore.
Eventually, spent of my pleading and reassurances to Clara, I sat naked, hunch-backed and bent over my belly, in the now cold and near-to-overflowing tub, pulled the stopper and sobbed, “My baby. My baby. My baby.” until I was shivering and both I and the tub were drained.
Heart wrenching as this memory may be, it also holds some peace for me. In this moment, I was Her Mother. I was not a woman with a devastating diagnosis. I was not a writer with a tough story and a penchant for sharing it.
In that moment, I was Clara’s Mother.