I’ve Never Been

A few years ago a woman at work lost her son. He was in his ’20s. He went to bed one night with the flu and an aspirin; he never woke up. She was at work when her husband called her to tell her. By the time I got to work that day, she had already gone home, gone home for a year or more. The story flooded through the office, lapping up against everyone, each at a time. The people who were parents had tears in their eyes all day. Those of us who were not, we felt merely sad.

This is not my story and I feel uncomfortable telling it, even in such vague detail.

On Sunday, Trombone had a fever. He had come down with something on Saturday night, crying in the night like I haven’t heard since he was half this age. He wandered around Sunday all woozy and red-eyed, coming for hugs every few minutes. We gave him some ibuprofen Sunday night and he went to bed.

Yesterday morning I went to work before he got up. I was preoccupied with my own preparations for work, my own breakfast. Suddenly, in the shower, I remembered the woman at work.

Was this how she had started her day, that day? Had she taken the bus to work, thinking only about her own anxiety, her own plans for the day, for the week? In trustful ignorance, not knowing what was coming, in fact not knowing what had already happened. Believing everything was fine.

I am not a worrier. I tend to assume that things will go OK until I am confronted with the opposite. At the same time, sometimes I feel as though my lack of worry might be tempting that terrible Fate, she who is waiting in the trees to drop the other shoe on my head at any moment. That I am lucky enough to not have to worry because nothing bad has happened to me yet.

Sometimes, like yesterday morning, when I stop a moment to consider, I think, well, terrible things happen. Terrible things that should not happen. And yes, because they have not happened to me, I am lucky. But there is a difference between

being lucky because terrible things have not happened


having terrible things not happen because I am lucky.

I can rejoice in the former but not believe in the latter. The latter implies I am somehow exempt; not just blessed but treasured above others. Not true.

Because I have left the first trimester of pregnancy or survived childbirth or my baby is out of the SIDS danger zone does not mean that I am free of worry, free of concern for my son, free of the knot .

I am not safe. Yet most of the time I feel safe, which in itself is a privilege. I record this, I guess, just to remember that I am as safe as I can be and also as lucky.

I know of people who have lost babies at 4, 8, 16, 25 weeks gestation. At birth or days before birth, after healthy pregnancies. Who have lost infants, 2-year-olds, 16-year-olds.

I have never been to this loss. I have no concept of the pain. But having become a mother – and I specify “mother” not because I think mothers are more than fathers but because I do not have the experience of being a father – I am constantly realizing, being reminded, that the egg in my hand is as fragile as the egg in her hand, in her hand, in her hand. In the hands of all the women who have held this egg, who have held the tiniest potential of something, who have lost that something or dropped it to retrieve it slightly cracked or held it gingerly or with confidence their whole lives until, at their own deaths, they finally let out the breath they have been holding since their children were born.

Yesterday morning SA’s dad sent me a text message saying Trombone had woken up healthy and happy. I hadn’t realized how tightly I had been holding my breath until I let it go.

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8 Responses to I’ve Never Been

  1. MonkeyPants says:

    Oh, wow. This is such a beautiful post.

  2. erin says:

    That second to last paragraph brought tears to my eyes.

  3. mo-wo says:

    Our Christmas was very much taken up with the hell of close friends and their hospitalized life-threatened little guy. It was a ping-pong paddle and a half to the head.

    We did not know all you know but I have a measure of thanks for your sage assessment of how we felt. — he came home last week after 39 days; still at risk but looking up.

    [… insert right turn]

    I always thought it was just that the act of giving birth — so hard, so vague and chance-like … ending in a swift rattle of bones and a kind of amnesia that creates a disbelief that life even begins that way. The cynic in me wondering all the while if any of it was true. Wondering if any moment it might be — she and or he might be — taken away or otherwise dissappeared.

    It might be a bit of that. But more so it is what you say about luck and about terror.

    ps… “This is not my story and I feel uncomfortable telling it, even in such vague detail.” I understand this. I wanted to talk about our friends case but seems the blog equivalent of unspeakable. An odd blend of etiquette and superstition?

  4. mo-wo says:

    And here I thought you were going to tell me you’ve “moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo and showed ’em what you’ve got”

    Its that title first thing again, I guess.

  5. Shelley says:

    Damn, girl. You can write.

  6. cheesefairy says:

    Thanks all.

    Mo – too right about the act of labour /sense of disbelief at my own creation & its permanence.

    I don’t think I could write about a friend – unless that friend said I could. But mainly it’s etiquette. Superstition I hold at bay with the knowledge that all this could end at any moment; regardless of what I do. (within sensible boundaries, of course)

    Glad your friends’ boy is doing well.

  7. sarah says:

    That thing that they tell you, before you have kids, that it changes everything. They’re right.

  8. Beautiful..I think the reality of parenthood REALLY hit me when I saw how worried my was for ‘me’…her daughter…her baby, when I was going through all my hell.

    She told me she was so relieved to see me ‘normal’ now…healthy and so on.

    I realized again how much of a hell last year had been on everyone.

    And also that being a parent..worrying never ever ends.

    That tug at your heart is there always…and totally changes how you think and deal with life.

    My mom mourns the losses she see all around her. A friend of hers lost her 20 year old son last year…he fell down a cliff. My mom was crushed because she can really feel..not just imagine the pain that woman is going through and will to this day.

    She grieved for my lost boy as much as I have done…..a mothers pain is universal.