I finished ” When Breath Becomes Air” not too long ago. The book is memoir by my friend Paul. Paul was sick- diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at age 36. He and his wife Lucy were debating whether or not to have a child, knowing that his time with her might be brief. Paul wanted to leave Lucy with a piece of him- a child they had always planned on having. Lucy worried that having a child would make his death more painful.
“Wouldn’t it be great if it did?” replied Paul.
There was a time when I wished none of it had ever happened. The joy of becoming pregnant followed by shock of learning our baby had Down Syndrome and then the high risk of loss. The gradual acceptance and even excitement that followed only to have that taken away, when we were learned she would likely die due to birth defects. The magnitude of grief I felt after she died was overwhelming. I thought I was protecting myself by trying not to bond too much while pregnant with a baby with a life limiting diagnosis. I thought my grief would be manageable because I knew ahead of time. I felt like there was an expectation (self imposed?) that I shouldn’t be that sad because I knew ahead of time.
When I was in my darkest times, I sometimes wished it never had happened. I would have never felt the pain. I would have just continued to live my life, innocent of such sadness, happily married, practicing midwifery.
But then there would have been no Mabel.
Now that my baby has been gone for over two years, I can see things a bit differently. Oh yes, it hurt to lose my child- one that I had hoped for, one that I had said “yes” to under difficult circumstances. But that pain was evidence to the great love I had. Yes, Lord Tennyson, it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.
I was listening to a podcast while I walked the dog this morning (yes, I know, I’m a nerd and I own it). The podcast was about mattresses… why there are so many mattress stores and why they are always clustered together. (#nerdentertainment) At one point it described a mattress ad explaining how buying the wrong mattress can be an 8 year mistake because it’s recommended you replace your mattress every 8 years (by whom? I don’t know). Made me think about when we bought our mattress.
I remember the day in early december. Chris and I were at the mattress store buying two for a trundle bed we purchased for the nursery. The nursery seemed too big for just one baby so we figured a trundle for guests (and kids when older) would fill the space nicely. I was 26 weeks pregnant, though it might have been hard to tell behind a big winter coat. After picking out the mattresses we came for, Chris asked me if I wanted to test out some king-sized ones. He knew I had been wanting one for a long time and now we had the space for it. I jumped at the chance. We literally lay on one that was too hard, then too soft and the middle one was just right. Our family was growing and I thought it was the perfect chance to expand our bed. When the salesman rung us up, we added a bed frame and mattress cover. He said the cover protects against all things- spills included. “What about water-breaking” I half-joked.
A week later, I learned just how not-funny my line had been. A week later, we learned my water would likely never break, or at least I wouldn’t know when it did because there was such little fluid around my baby. A week later we were in the hospital, on a snowy weekend, learning the sad fate of our baby. A week later we had to call on some friends to go snowblow our driveway and wait for the delivery guys to come deliver the mattress meant for a grwoing family. A week later I arrived home to that mattress, the one bought for Mabel that she didn’t get to use.
The podcast made me realize I will easily know when my 8 years are up for my mattress. The mattress is as old as Mabel would have been.