Last night, I cried and screamed until my throat was raw. I screamed and kicked and cried until I reached a point of physical exhaustion at which I wasn't able to kick or scream or cry anymore. My son is gone, and I'm angry. Furious. Experiencing sadness to a depth I didn't know was possible until he arrived.
All around us, people are having perfectly healthy babies. People are getting to hold their children after they are born and then they take them home. They never have to see their children's chests cut open or watch him scream as yet another tube is being inserted in his skin somewhere. I'm not angry that other people get the experience of "normal and healthy" -- I am angry that we didn't -- angry that we or anyone has to know what it's like to bury a child.
We hear a lot about how we will feel better someday -- that one day, losing Ewan won't hurt so much as it does now, that the ache we feel now will subside. I know this to be true.
But if we learned anything from being in the hospital with Ewan -- if there is one skill that we acquired that I hope we never lose -- it is the ability and the need to live only in the present moment. We cannot dwell on a past as recent as half an hour ago, or project into an imagined point in the future that none of us can know, no matter how short the reach into that imagined future is.
Those of you who rode this roller coaster along with us understand the up and down -- how short-lived a victory can be, how one moment you find yourself one step closer to taking your baby home, and how the next, you are making burial plans. Living in light of a congenital heart defect teaches you to expect the unexpected, to celebrate the victories and deal with the setbacks as they come, and to know that getting attached to either does no one any good at all.
While there is laughter in our days even now, the pain I feel at Ewan's loss is unimaginable. I'm not going to sugar coat it. I said goodbye not only to him, but to all the expectations and hopes of being a family and all that means. He was our first, and that means I'm a mother with no child. I've got all a mother's desires and instincts with no child to care for, no baby to hold. I've got an empty nursery, a closet full of laundered baby clothes, a pile of folded baby towels, and a stroller all ready to go. They were all for him, and letting go of all these things doesn't happen easily and will certainly take more than a week. It isn't without hope, but it is excruciating.
And that is where I am at -- all the imagined "somedays" where things are easier, where the burden of grief is lighter -- all the references to a future where it doesn't ache quite as much -- for all that those things may be true, that is not now. And like Ewan taught me, where our time on earth is concerned, now is all we can really count on. So as much as it hurts, as difficult as it is to hold such a painful thing so close, I know it is what I must do: be present without running away to the past or the future, grieve without wallowing, and cry and scream and kick when that is the most honest thing I can do.
Feeling anger and grief do not constitute a lack of faith or belief -- I can still affirm that God is good, that it was in the will of God for Ewan to go, and that much good has come and will come from all that has transpired in the course of Ewan's short life on earth. But there is a tension -- my faith tempers my grief, but it does not eliminate it. I find that I must accept both: the belief that this is not the end, that good can, has, and will come from this, and the truth that (regardless of religion) we all know to be true: this is not how it's supposed to be.
When that day comes where the laughter exceeds the sorrow, and where the burden of grief truly is lighter, I will embrace it gladly without guilt because Ewan taught me laughter too. But there is only one way to get there from here: as the saying goes, the only way out is through.