Loss, Life and Love

I wanted to have a baby for the first time in my life only after I watched my husband suffer through two surgeries for colon cancer over a five-week period.  My mind was numb and I was almost on the edge of a nervous breakdown watching the man I loved suffer. I was 39 and had been married for 4 years.  We did not want children. Things changed. I became afraid of not having a part of him so after three months of discussion we decided to have a baby.  We had to wait until his chemo was completed and within 2 months I was pregnant.

My baby’s due date was estimated for the birth date of my father, a man who had abused my brothers and molested my sister and ended his own life with a bullet in the head several years earlier.  Then, two months after I became pregnant, I received the news that my sister was diagnosed with an advanced stage of ovarian cancer.  She had perhaps one year to live. The universe seemed to be having a cruel game.

I wanted a girl; a boy was out of the question. Because of my age, I was requested to endure an amniocentesis. The health and sex of the baby was confirmed – a boy.  The unsympathetic woman doctor couldn’t understand my distraught tears at this news and made her views known.  I never went to her again.  She had no right, she didn’t understand I was losing my sister and I needed this little girl to take her place.

My sister was happy because she felt like her soul was going to be replaced if it had been a girl. That she was going to be an auntie overjoyed her.  She loved my child from the moment he was conceived.

But I was angry. I stopped talking to the child in my womb.  I stopped talking about my pregnancy to everyone.  I tried to ignore it.

Finally, toward the end of the pregnancy I began to accept I would have a son.  He arrived two weeks prior to the due date, after 17 hours of labor, the epidural drug that made me vomit and the use of a suction cap to pull him out of my right side where he was wedged.  He was a healthy baby.

I was horrified when the afterbirth came out in the toilet and again in the shower.  My coccyx was so painful I could barely sit up in bed or walk and had to take mild painkillers.  There was no coddling at this hospital.  It was down to business.  The first day, I was told to bring Gabriel to the baby washing area to learn how to wash him.  My husband was there, thankfully, because I couldn’t have done alone. I stood one day in the hallway crying from frustration, exhaustion, pain and feelings of inaptitude as I watched the other mothers who seemed to do everything with such ease.

I lived in Belgium at the time and the hospital in which I gave birth was big on breastfeeding. It all had sounded like such a good idea when pregnant but when it actually started, I hated it.  After Gabriel was born, he was cleaned up and immediately placed to suckle on my breast as I lay recovering on the birthing table. In my room, every few hours the nurses would come and force Gabriel to my breast, manipulating them to release milk and positioning my nipples in a way that he would take them. It was as if my breasts no longer belonged to me. I questioned why the hell I had decided to breastfeed.  But the idea that this was the best thing for him had lodged itself in my head so I tried.

I continued to try at home. Within two days of release from the hospital, one of my breasts clogged. The solution was to get Gabriel to suckle.  It worked but it was hard going.  After a month of forced feedings, unpleasant for both of us, I guiltily resorted to pumping and bottle-feeding for the next two months until my milk dried up.  The obligation I felt to breastfeed and pump was tinged with resentment.   I felt forced to this action by people, who in my opinion, had never endured the frustration.  I felt no bonding with my child, only alienation. Friends assured me babies didn’t suffer from not being breastfed.  I hadn’t been breastfed and I turned out all right.

It used to shame me to remember the day my son was crying incessantly and I couldn’t bear it anymore.  I picked him up, shook him and put him back down in his crib screaming at him to shut up and to give me peace. I regret it but I forgive myself now for it.

My son was born on September 9 at 5:25 pm.  My sister died on May 25 of the following year.  I’m sure there is a symbolism in these numbers that I do not understand. My sister saw Gabriel twice before she died when we brought him to the Bahamas where she lived.  When she died, I was devastated for many reasons too complex to write about here.  The long and short of it is that for the first 18 months of my son’s life, I would gladly have given him up if it meant I could have my sister back.  I regretted the birth of my son and if I had had to do it all over again, I would not have.

I know my actions and feelings toward him have affected him, even in the womb.  He is a sensitive child.  He felt my emotional distance during my pregnancy and the three years it took me to recover from my sister’s death.  The moment I decided to change my life and leave all that pain in the past, he became more loving toward me.  My husband noticed the change.

I’m not a perfect mother but I know now how much I do love my son. I would never give him up to have my sister back or for any other reason.  Through Reiki and working with an intuitive healer, I have cleared those negative emotions from my life and, have hopefully cleared the damage done to Gabby as well.  Now, I am cognizant of every thing I say to him and of all my actions.  I still get mad abruptly at him from time to time but now I step back and try to understand what else is happening in my life that causes me to vent on my son.  And I apologize to him and explain that I was wrong.

He is always forgiving, telling me he loves me.  And I know I must do the same for myself for my actions now, in the future and all that has passed.

By:  Regina Sayer