Eight years, three months and 27 days ago our NICU doctor and his assistant gave us a report on the babies. It was a jumble of foreign terms mingled with Baby A, B and C ending with information I still don’t fully remember. What I remember is what came next, a few minutes in time I have replayed over and over and struggled to forgive myself for.
I remember I took my time, I walked my recently c-sectioned body to the restroom and asked Mark to get me water and he looked at me as if I was speaking Latin. He told me, as gently as he could manage, that we needed to hurry. Now wasn’t the time for water or a few minutes in the restroom and he insisted I sit in a wheelchair rather than hobble down the two hallways to our babies.
I have no concept of the time between then and a little while later, but I have measured it by the last of my daughter’s living and breathing moments a million times over. I’ve envisioned shaking my clueless self and telling her to hurry up. I’ve thought about what I could have done with that one extra minute I would have had with my daughter, had I realized what would happen next. And I’ve rolled the scene over and over again in my mind, each time scolding myself for my lack of motherly instinct.
It is a scene I have never replayed out loud, only right now, in written words. I can tell the story today without guilt because somewhere, in my years of grief, I forgave myself.
The grieving carry around moments of regret and hours of “what if’s” that years cannot erase and nothing but time can change. Here is what I know now, that I never understood before…
It is not your fault. It is not mine either. We could not have done better or worse. We did not know it would be our last picture or our last hello. We could not run faster or make time move slower. We are not fortune tellers or crystal ball holders, we are human.
There is no amount of cards or acts of sympathy that can bring us to a place of forgiving ourselves. If we all sat together and aired our regrets about our time, or lack of, with those we have lost, the person next to and the one across from you and the one on the other side of him would tell you that you did what you could with what you had and what you knew at the time.
If your grief is fresh you may be shaking your head at my words and finding a way to fault your ways. Because sometimes it feels like the only way to hang onto memories is to hang onto the pain that goes with them. So hang onto pain for as long as you need to, it will work its way out and stretch to a point of manageable doses and as those pieces of grief surface you will look at them from a place not so raw. You will turn them around and around in your hands and see yourself for who you were at the most unbearable time in your life. You will put your pieces back together, almost, and know the last piece is held by someone with nothing but pure love for you, imperfections and all.
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