Like the rumble of an approaching train.
September, September, SEPTEMBER….. getting louder as it draws ever closer. And then….. silence. But not peaceful silence, this silence is like trying to scream when you are having a nightmare and nothing comes out of your throat. This silence has cold, painful fingers that grip your heart in an icy clutch. This silence is like living in a tumultuous snow globe while the rest of the world passes by, paying you very little attention, admiring the very pain that encompasses you and stirring it up from time to time, but blissfully unaware of what really goes on in your tiny world.
September has always been my favorite month, ever since I was little. When asked about my favorite day of the year I always said September 17. I have no explanation, it was not a super special occasion, I just liked the way the word September looked on paper and 17 was my favorite number. It may have also been the cooler days, or the fact that my cousin India (who was my first “little sister”) came into the world on that day, or that it was the start of Fall, my favorite season.
Whatever the case, when I found out my first child was due to arrive in September, I was quite pleased. All the events surrounding my pregnancy and her birth are mentioned in previous posts. (https://natasiachampion.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/maternal-instincts/ ) ( https://natasiachampion.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/when-the-honeymoon-is-over/ ) ( https://natasiachampion.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/my-happiest-moment/ )
For seventeen long days my baby was held at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Ky. As if in a dream those days passed, a flurry of specialists and nurses, exhaustion, worry, sanitizing, mask and gown doning, crying, sleeping, hoping, praying. In the middle of it all, as I pumped breast milk that never got the chance to nourish my baby, and while I sat and softly sang to her in her little glass box, I longed to hold her against me. There was one tiny window in her little room that looked out on concrete walls and pavement, but if I leaned over far enough I could catch a glimpse of the clear blue September sky and almost feel the crisp air. Her very name was inspired by this time of year and my favorite part, the clear, crisp, deepest blues of the sky. Elizabeth, her first name, was really just a formality for me, a compromise. Josh had not been too keen on the unusual name I had chosen, he’s a little more of a traditional type guy. However, I had known for many years that I would name my first daughter Skye, so we named her Elizabeth Skye, but it was understood that we would call her by her middle name.
As I sat there through the rest of September and the first part of October I could not help but think about the changes taking place outside. The leaves were changing colors, the days were gorgeous, but I sat by her bed in a foreign world of medication and strange devices and sanitation smells. I watched her tiny chest moving up and down with her breathing, listened to the beep of her monitors. They frequently went off in alarm as it was hard to keep all her vitals monitored beneath her gauze cocoon. I never got used to that alarm, it always made me nervous even though the nurses reassured me that most of the time it was because of a false reading.
I remember her daddy reading to her from her little pink New Testament, that is one of the few clear memories that stick out in my mind. He bought it for her from the hospital gift shop a few days after she was admitted. The print was tiny and he would have had a much easier time reading from his big Bible, but it was important to him that he read to her from her own. He started at the beginning, with Matthew and was just going to read it straight through, the whole New Testament. He told her it was a long book, but they had plenty of time. It turns out they didn’t have as much time as we all thought, I think he made it to the middle of the book of John, reading her some every day, sometimes twice a day.
I sat listening as he read, looking out the tiny window. I wrote a song and sang it to her once, but there was such a lump in my throat I could barely get it out. I have since lost the words, but it talked about wanting to dance with her in the leaves and show her all the beauty and color of the world outside her dim, gray room. I told her how I would sit with her, no matter how long it took, if the leaves became covered in snow, and if the snow melted into Spring, I would be by her side until the day I could take her home.
She never came home. She passed away in the wee hours of October 13, 2008, leaving a gaping hole in the hearts and lives of the people who had waited for her arrival and believed for her recovery.
I can’t say that I hate September. I cherish the short time I had with my first daughter and I don’t regret her arrival even if I wish every day that it had turned out differently.
Skye would have been 2 years old on September 25th of this year. Many people who have never gone through losing a child don’t understand why I’m not “over it” by now. After all, it isn’t as if she were an adult who had many years to touch many lives. She was a tiny baby, a person that very few people had a chance to meet, let alone get to know. People get uncomfortable when I mention her and I can’t blame them, it is hard to explain who she was and what happened in a five-minute casual conversation. But when people see my daughter Faith and ask me if she is my first I always reply “No, she is my second.” When I was pregnant with Faith and I was asked this question, several times I replied “yes”, just to save myself the whole explanation and the other person the awkward feelings and discomfort of not knowing what to say. Every single time I felt guilty, like I was trying to erase Skye’s memory and replace her with Faith.
I refuse to apologize for talking about my first daughter. She was a person, she had likes and dislikes, she had quirks and mannerisms. Just because she didn’t live very long does not mean she never existed. The only pictures I have of her are rather painful to look at. They are either of her in her painful condition or pictures of her in her coffin. Somebody questioned some of the ones I put up for viewing at her funeral, wondering if they were maybe too graphic (the ones of her with out of her gauze wrapping, where her skin was red and coming off) but that was my daughter, the person. She was not some freak show I wanted to hide away. If people did not want to see her, then they could just turn away, but I needed to display them. Those same pictures are framed and displayed in my home, they are not kept in storage or locked up away from view. When Faith is old enough, I want her to know who her sister was and ask about her and hear the beautiful story of how her life is inevitably tied up with Skye’s.
From time to time I get back-handed comments or over hear whispers, see a roll of the eyes, so to speak, when I bring up my first daughter. I have gotten this from some of my relatives and friends, people who should understand my need to talk about it and remember. I won’t lie, it hurts, but I don’t expect anybody to know or love Skye the way I do, and I understand that perhaps they are at peace with the whole affair and don’t need to revisit it. That’s ok. Some of them have been well-meaning, not knowing what to say, and they end up saying the wrong thing out of ignorance. For those of you in this situation, the worst thing you can say to ANY mother who has lost a child is, ” Well, you should enjoy the time you have with the ones you have, put it behind you, it’s over now. Keep those feelings tucked away for your personal time, where there’s a place for them.”
My baby is not something that happened, she was a human being that I loved, will always love, and I don’t want to forget her like a bad memory or “tuck her away” for private time after the day’s chores are done. If you are tired of hearing about her, then stop reading this blog, or better yet, stop being my friend because she is a part of me and I will feel the need from time to time to relive the events surrounding her birth and death. I will talk about them. I will share pictures. When September rolls around I will go through moments of depression and I’ll cry. I will do all this not because I am holding onto what’s gone, but because I have let go but still need to remember.
Blue as the sky,
Skye was your name,
but your deep blue eyes
were too full of pain.
Grand as a thunderhead
clouding the blue;
I only wanted
clear skies for you.
But rain falls on the just
and unjust alike
and it falls where it must
with all of its might.
Your little glass home
couldn’t keep out the rain,
it fell like fresh snow
as a blanket of pain.
I could not protect you,
I wasn’t allowed,
there was nothing I could do
but stare at the cloud.
When the rain finally ceased
my sky stayed gray
for though you were at peace
you had faded away,
And the pause of the rain
was short-lived I fear.
It started again
in the form of my tears.
© By Natasia Champion on 2/26/2009
Filed under: biography | Tagged: blue, death, death of a child, Fall, grief, mother, September, sky | 9 Comments »