With horrifying regularity, life goes on. It’s a lesson I have learned before, but never with this kind of pain or desperation. My entire existence is somehow still trapped at 11:46am on Thursday, January 19th but everyone else goes on. No matter how far I move from Cory’s birth and death, something pulls at me every second of every day until I give in and ricochet back into that eternal moment when the doctor said he had no pulse.
I have done an insane amount of research since we left the hospital. It is rare for babies to live before 24 weeks, although not unheard of. It is almost impossible for babies to live before 22 weeks. I read a story about one mother who lied to her doctors nd convinced them that the baby was further along, prompting them to do everything possible to save her child. She was a little over 21 weeks. Why didn’t I think of that?
The nurses were shocked at how big Cory was. They told us he would be no bigger than a coke can. He was. A coke can is 4.83 inches tall. Cory was 9 inches. He was shockingly well-developed, big for his age, and very much alive until I began to deliver him. There was not a single thing wrong with him. He was perfect and healthy, just not strong enough to survive the trauma of birth, especially a breech birth.
There are so many ifs running through my mind from the second I get up to the second I fall into an exhausted and troubled sleep every night. If he hadn’t been breach, his heart might have kept beating. If we had been one week further, he might have survived. If I had just not coughed and my water hadn’t broken, he might have been able to stay in long enough to reach viability. If I had realized I was in labor and gone to the doctor more quickly, maybe the medicine could have stopped my contractions in time. If I had lied about how far along I was, maybe the doctors would have tried to resuscitate him. But the ifs accomplish little. During rational moments, I know this. I know that I did everything I could. The irrational moments are the hard ones, though. I’m so consumed by how one small action or one minuscule choice could have been the difference between Cory’s life and death. No matter what I know in my head, my heart will wonder with every single beat what it could have done to keep Cory alive.
I’ve read many blogs about stillbirth since last week. It’s so good to see that I am not alone in what I am going through. One particular sentence stood out, which I have not been able to find since I read it over the weekend. A woman was writing about the difference between stillbirth and other ways of losing your baby: miscarriage, SIDS, etc. While she made no attempt to prove that one is worse or better than another, she wrote in depth about the uniqueness of stillbirth. When your child is stillborn, you are forced to participate in its death. You contract, you break, you push, you go through all the terrors of labor with none of the joys. Every time you push, you know that you are ruining your child’s chance at life. Each contraction squeezes the life from your child and there is nothing you can do to stop it. You are an unwilling, kicking, and literally screaming participant in the end of your child’s life. And you just have to live with it for the rest of yours.
It’s been one week since Corban Josiah died and was born. People have visited and left. Meals have been made and eaten. Flowers have been delivered and wilted. Neighbors have left cards in our door. Friends have reached out, concerned but with no way to help. We have cried until it seems that there cannot possibly be any more tears left. The world has kept moving. Morgan had to go into work. My family headed back to school. The movers come in less than a month. Life has trudged, indelicately and quite rudely, on to the next day. The sun did not stand still. My heart did not freeze at 11:46am on Thursday, January 19th. It just keeps beating.
There is a quote that is often attributed to Robert Frost, although it’s authorship is debated, that has been on my mind lately. “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” Even without my sweet baby, life goes on. It must. We have no choice, we have no say. Even as we grieve, we are dragged along behind the momentum of the world. And life goes on.