“My stars shine darkly over me; the malignancy of my fate might, perhaps, distemper yours; therefore I shall crave of you your leave that I may bear my evils alone.” -William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
I shield no one.
I wrote about every excruciating detail of giving birth to both Nelle and Iris. I knew that I would likely cringe and look away from my own words someday, but it was important to me to make people aware of how devastating it is to have delivery induced for a baby that is already gone. So often, women skip over that part when describing their losses. There is the emotional, but also the physical.
I wring out every drop of ache and sadness into my words, and still I am not dry. Still, I am a limp, damp rag, waiting for the next chore where I become wet again, mopping up some trigger that has crossed my path. Whether public or private, the words travel somewhere. I do not shield the world from my pain.
Except for my children. I shield them, but in a different way.
I remember reassuring Theo, older and more understanding of the world than his brother. When we found out that I was pregnant with Iris, I told him not to worry: that what happened before could not possibly happen again. That what had happened to Nelle was a “fluke,” using the very word that the doctor had used to describe what had happened. Only a few short months later, I had to sit him down and tell him that we had lost our baby, again. In some eerie, twisted deja vu, I had to backtrack on what I had promised him could never be repeated.
It wasn’t so much that I wanted to spare him the pain. I wanted to spare him the fear. I wanted to be able to tell him something and have him not worry. I look far into the future and how this could impact him. Will he spend the entire pregnancies of his own children, terrified that something will go wrong? Will he always wonder if some underlying condition could be lurking in our family genetics? Will he spend nights, sleepless, agonizing over the unknown? The only way to quench the fear is to act as though this just “happens sometimes”, that sometimes babies just die, for no known reason. But of course, that isn’t entirely true either.
Deep grieving comes from deep love, but fear comes from the darkness in human nature and the world around us. Fear can be paralyzing, in an unhealthy way. I do not know how to calm that fear in my son, because I cannot even calm it in myself. I want him to learn to grieve the ones he loves, but I do not want him to be afraid. It is a horrible burden, to know that if I cannot control my own fear, that I may inadvertently pass it to my child. He is attentive; he can see in me that I am afraid.
I speak calmly. I try to minimize the unknowns. I try to brush off the future as something that we have not even considered yet. I hope that he does not look too closely at my face while I talk, because if he did, he would likely see the flicker of unending fear in my eyes.