There are things you write about and things you don't. You take your trauma and turn it into narrative, metaphor, a neatly tied present to present to an audience. You turn your shit into gold. You turn the C-section of your dying child into a linear narrative. There was a dying child inside you, then there was a C-section. He continued dying for a time, and then he survived with brain damage. From A to D, though at the time and now, it feels anything but linear. Recursive doesn't describe it either. Your trauma and his trauma make no sense. Even saying, "It makes no sense," makes a certain sort of sense. Still, you beat your head against the event.
The moment they took your dying child out of you, it felt like you were a marionette and the surgeon was a puppet master who gathered the strings that give you life and sawed at them with blunt scissors. No, that's not it.
It felt like you were a fish gutted on a table. No.
It felt like you were dying. Yes, but there was more.
You write about the whiteness of his skin, your angel baby, drained of blood after massive in-utero silent hemorrhage. Statues, graveyards, fragile beauty. Yes, but that wasn't everything either. There are no words for the brief moment you touched his cheek before he was swept away. You felt like you hadn't given birth which was easy to pretend, waking to pump for your baby on a ventilator, your belly still swollen as if with child, and no child in the crib next to your bed. The only thing to suggest a birth was the pump's insistent sucking on your nipples, the milk flowing into syringe shaped bottles, and the crushing pain in your abdomen.
You try on different narratives. holding each one in your hands, then wearing it like a cloak for a time before changing into another one.
The Gratefulness Narrative: angel NICU nurses, fruit basket for the team and Christmas cards every year, thank yous all around, answered prayers.
The What If Narrative. This narrative feels like a well worn tread worn into a wooden floor, nights spent pacing its tortured grooves.
Then there is the Hope Narrative. You wear this one tightly, like plastic saran wrap over your face and mouth. The hope you carry as you parent your child with brain damage is omnipresent and suffocating. This is the narrative that allows for the possibility that none of this matters, that maybe none of this ever happened, if he turns out mostly "normal."
But you find a scar on your four-month old's head. Your husband says it's from the electrodes when they monitored him after his sixty minute seizure. There is a scar on his precious body. The memory of that scar comes back to you like something from a broken, drunken night. He keened when they took out the electrodes, his hair a tangle of matted blood. He was crying, and you couldn't hold him. So you looked away.
The moments following, as he cried, as he was scarred, as you looked away.
There are no words for the things you can't write about.
Cat Ennis sears is a writer and mother of three in Richmond. she blogs sporadically here: https://cluttercat.wixsite.com.
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