There was a time when I thought I couldn't possibly continue to breathe - couldn't fathom the idea of loosing a child. Then I held you, and I knew that with your strength, I could do even the unthinkable.
I feel lucky to have had our triplets at a time when mothering is an important aspect of care. I feel lucky that I was able to have those moments with all of them - but especially Kuylen.
I found some pictures recently. I was looking through some "early days" albums and happened upon the day we told our sweet Kuylen goodbye. I remember feeling so distraught - nothing short of absolutely broken. It was 5 days after a most horrific surgery...5 days after...I felt as if my pregnancy hadn't ended - but was continuing outside the very womb that had both carried these babies and kept them safe -but also attacked them. Each time I walked into that NICU and peered into the isolettes with countless machines breathing for these babies- keeping them alive...each time, I felt as if I was standing there naked (and not in a super cute - like pin up sort of way - more like a documentary "this is so wrong" kind of way just in case there was any question).
I wanted to badly to break down and scream, to ask why, to make the biggest most spectacular scene...instead, I was silent. In my heart, I didn't have anything left but shock, horror, and desperate pleading that we somehow, some way would be able to snuggle these babies and take each home. They were (and are) perfect to me. I also believed wholly (and still do) that the luxury of a "break down" just didn't exist. I was to be strong, stoic, think, memorize, manage. Emotions could happen later. Now was a time for decision, action, presence.
This shows in the pictures. I have absolutely no expression on my face. I am hollow but focused; quietly broken...then I held him.
Though my expression didn't change, my heart did. I felt his weight in my arms, his warmth as it left, his strength as it stayed.
I remember the doctor taking me aside. He said, "You are making the right decision." I nodded. He added, "You can do this however you like - sit with him as long as you want. I only insist that you hold him. You must hold him."
I thought it was an odd request...then realized quickly that I was terrified. Of course I wanted to hold him...sort of...I mean what difference would it make? I had failed. Before even starting, I had failed miserably as a mother. My internal dialogue was beyond scarring. But this wasn't about me, I reminded myself. I was about him. He needed to be held, and I would hold him. That was that.
So, I held him. I held his tiny hand. It was the beginning of an exhale - one that took my pain from absolutely intolerable to the very tip top of manageable. I turned off the alarms, they turned off the lights. In a room full of people, no one existed. I focused. I needed to really look at him - really see his face. I touched his swollen feet, his velvet cheek, his tiny nose. He was at peace, and gave me strength. He still does today.
I really believed I couldn't survive the loss of a child - but in those last few moments, I realized I didn't have to. He's still here with us, in our hearts. He taught me to be present. For the rest of their hospital days, Mary Louise and David had a different momma - no less intense and quite possibly manically meddling (yeah - I know) -but with the most divine intentions. I would offer those babies everything I had. I would allow my body to heal, I would be present, I would revel in the most mundane and typical moments. I would choose to be better and to do better for them. We would be together always - even if Kuylen wasn't seen. We would learn and grow together.
Not a day goes by with out kisses, hugs and "I love you's". Not a moment goes by that we don't remember our Kuylen, thank him for watching over us and for staying just long enough to make his point.
Happy 4th Special Day Kuylen Stafford.