01 September 2012

Bracing myself

I think that even if I hadn't seen a calendar in God knows how long, I would know. Even without the advantage of moving my fingers past a few hundred squares, each one marking the passage of a day, something deep in my viscera would tell me it's coming.

It is telling me, and it has been telling me. A birthday, and the anniversary that follows ... oh, say ... 16 days later.

Once upon a time, I thought that marking these milestones was more or less meaningless. Every day has its pains, its challenges, its giggles and its tears. Grief isn't married to a date on the calendar. It doesn't wax and wane with the moon, or arrive only with marking the earth's annual passage around the sun.

His birth day.

But it's like my body knows somehow.

And why shouldn't it? It was his home for nine months, give or take a few days (I hope you'll forgive me for not doing the math). My body was how I came to know him: through his kicks, his rolls, his hiccups, his punches. An unceasing experience of another person. I remember telling James I couldn't think of anything more intimate.

My body was how he gained entry to the world. My body didn't know his was broken, though -- at least not in the way my mind did. So my body made him milk anyway, even though almost from the moment he left me, he received his nourishment through one of many tubes on a metallic tree near his isolette. The tubes had digital readouts that announced what they contained ("Lipids", "Proteins"), how much was being administered. Even so, I pumped and I pumped, I poured the milk into bottles and then deposited them into a pink plastic tub in a NICU freezer.

Then he died, and I stopped pumping. Just like that. We drove home from the hospital at around 2 or 3 am that night, slept in our own bed. It was the first night in 16 I hadn't gotten up to pump, and so I woke up to the offense of sunlight through our white curtains, remembering my dead child, and to the sweet, pungent scent of breastmilk that had spilled out from me and onto our sheets. I touched it and looked at like an afterthought, a distant memory. I decided to let it dry out (from the sheets, from me) on its own.

So why shouldn't my body remember and know and remind me:

It's coming. It's almost time.

Another child, lack of sleep, a cross country move. Nothing has taught me to forget. Nothing can make my body unknow his birth, his death. Him.

Nearly two years of knowing, remembering this, and this body, this heart is still not strong enough.