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My Memories of My Son Are Crystal Clear

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Have you ever experienced something so life-altering, the memory of it is crystal clear, every second of it, even years later? Like a thousand stitches, every part of it is etched in your mind. You can close your eyes, and if the room is quiet enough, it’s as if you’re still there, in that moment.

You can recall faces and smells, and even that gut-wrenching feeling you got in the pit of your stomach returns.

In the summer of 2001, I gave birth to my first child, my son. His health was in poor condition due to being born prematurely and having a grade 4 head bleed. My first experience at motherhood was confined to the walls of the intensive care unit. My ability to hold him was dictated by what kind of day he was having, and even then it was a difficult task because of the amount of wires attached to him. As I sat beside his incubator day after day, the sounds that surrounded me were sounds that just couldn’t possibly be mimicked anywhere else. To me, the NICU is likely to be the hardest place to be a part of. It’s quiet, but yet ear-piercingly loud.

The beeping of machines — though not just any machines, but machines designed to keep these sick babies alive. A machine that every time it beeped, every mother in the room would silently gasp and then breathe a sigh of relief it wasn’t theirs all while it broke their heart to see their fellow mother’s face when they realized it was their child’s machine. The sound of crying parents as the medical terminology floated through the air. The clicking noise from the ventilator that pumped air into my son’s tiny chest.

It’s funny how remarkably on-cue your senses can be. Some things will never be forgotten, The sterile smell that filled your nose as you walked into the room. The brightest lights, all of them different. The feeling of joy and fear tightly wrapped together.

This July makes 16 years since I held my son in my arms. The image and memories are crystal clear. The emptiness inside me is still there. Some days I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse that I can recall every second of every day in that hospital.

It feels like mothers like me are sentenced to silence. Just a deep sigh or single tear might make the world around me uncomfortable. So the people around me live unconsciously unaware. Unaware of the truth, unable to see my pain. It feels to me like they want me to shield them from the truth.

My honesty makes them uncomfortable. Who wants to talk about a child who died. Who wants that reality to sit on their shoulders. No one wants to wipe those tears. The tears that fall after a child has died.

I get it, it’s hard to hear. I assure you it’s harder to live with. All the questions I ask myself — “Did I do everything I could” ” Did I do something wrong” Questions quickly tear me apart until out of nowhere I’m sobbing uncontrollably.

I have flashbacks where I find myself back in that NICU. I’m standing over him. Every machine of his blares. The room is crowded, people moving quickly, but yet no one is moving fast enough for me. There are conversations, the eyes that glance over to me every once in awhile, then fear, fear takes over the room. I can still see the looks on the doctors’ faces; their body language speaks louder than words. I feel the pity of family in the room, from complete strangers. It takes me a minute to realize the pity is for me, the soon-to-be grieving mother.

I remember that feeling of wanting to escape, to just disappear into a black hole and wanting it to swallow me alive.

Yes, I remember every second of every minute of every day. Every sound, every smell, every face, every feeling. It lingers within my soul and every once in awhile it all washes over me. Floods every inch of my body, every time I almost drown from the clarity of my memories.

I choose to accept it as a blessing; it’s the only way I survive day after day living without him. After all, it has made me, me. This memory of a time in my life that managed to break me into a thousand pieces and left me alone to pick them all up has made me the mother I am today. A mother of two beautiful children here on earth.

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Originally published: July 11, 2017
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