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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