April 5, 2014. The day that we birthed and lost Akash.
I sit here two years later, with our beautiful 9-month old daughter whose laughter lights up and feeds my soul. She is my greatest blessing and I am thankful for her every day. I am exceptionally aware of my good fortune to have her love, warmth, and infectious spirit in my life.
And yet, two years later, when I get a frantic helpless text message from a best friend about her cousin A unexpectedly losing her baby girl during an emergency c-section at 40 weeks, I am immediately, without warning or expectation, boomeranged back to the dark hollow recesses of April 4, 2014 when we learned Akash was not going to make it out alive, the grueling 22 hours of labor that led us into April 5th to birth and meet our sweet sleeping Akash, the unforgiving haunting eeriness of the hospital room where we forever parted with Akash, those subsequent days trying to comprehend our dark reality through the fog of shock, desperation, postpartum hormones, and drugs, and the hazy aftermath ever since.
Two years and sometimes it feels like two minutes.
And yet, when I learned of A’s loss, I wanted nothing more than to wrap her in my arms of experience, and do what I could to protect her from the harsh realities of this gut wrenching void. There were so many secrets I wanted to pass down in this ugly sorority of loss A had regrettably joined, to help ease her transition and assure her she was not alone.
Talking to A in the hospital was like talking to a younger, more naïve me in the cold sterility of the maternity ward which was otherwise teeming with joy and new life. I wanted to share with A everything I had since learned to navigate the maze I was completely unprepared to traverse in the immediate aftermath of Akash’s loss. Autopsies, placental pathology reports, death certificates, last rites, cremations, the handling of ashes.
I wanted to tell her everything I would have wanted told to me at that time. That it wasn’t my fault. That I did everything I could have and should have done. That there were no adequate words for the time.
I wanted to reassure her that her obsessive, never-ending cycle of “what if” questions and rewinding and replaying every minute of the last week leading up to the shattering news was completely normal, and experienced by all the childless empty-armed mothers that came before her.
To prepare her for the betrayal of when your biggest cheerleaders – your OB team – throw up their hands and explain stillbirth as sudden, unpreventable, and unexplainable, and yet you know there should be more to the story.
To prepare her for the weeks ahead of having to be her and her baby’s own medical advocate and unearth all the answers of what possibly went wrong, because your mind refuses to accept “unexplainable” as an answer. For when your OB and previous medical team shirk away from explanations because it’s glaringly obvious protocols were botched and red flags were missed.
To prepare her for when you have to become your own medical expert and spend weeks pouring over your child’s autopsy and placental pathology reports with a trusted medical dictionary, and consult with your own newly found team of obstetricians, neonatologists, and pathologists to reconstruct your baby’s birth timeline and piece together what actually happened.
For the pain she will experience when she realizes her milk has come in and there will be no hungry waiting baby to feed. For the lifetime supply of sage she will have to consume and frozen cabbage leaves she will have to apply to curtail production.
For the suffocating fear of seeing newborns when her guard is down and the vulnerability she will experience when seeing friends, coworkers, and extended family after reappearing from self-imposed hermitage.
For how she will eternally question her ability to be a good mother when she failed to keep her first baby safe in her womb.
For the betrayal and disassociation she will feel with her body that failed to protect her most prized possession – a baby of her own flesh.
Two years later and it is still raw.
Two years later and an unexpected text message on a Sunday morning can pull me back to that hospital bed and the crushing loneliness of April 2014.
Two years later and I still carry the guilt of “what if” I had done something different.
Two years later and I still hate the first week of April with an inexplicable passion.
Two years later and I still physically shake when retelling our experience on the phone, imagining A in that hospital bed and the journey yet to unfold ahead of her.
Two years later and I still have been unable to move Akash’s ashes from the temporary cardboard urn he came home in.
Two years later and I still feel the breath knocked out of me and the walls close in when I’m transported to those early days of April 2014.
Two years later and parts of me are still stuck in that initial stage of shock.
Two years later and I still find myself taking a detour to sit quietly in front of our old Austin home and imagine what should have been.
Two years later and I still think of Akash every time I see the moon, hoping and praying he is happy and safe.
Two years later and I still find myself talking to deceased friends and relatives, asking that they please take Akash under their wing until his mommy arrives.
Two years later and I am so, so grateful to have sweet daughter in our life.
Two years later and I still wonder if I can be “enough” and provide our daughter with two lifetimes of love, to account for what Akash deserved.
Two years later and I still never let myself vent about her or get upset with her, knowing how quickly I can be robbed of my good fortune.
Two years later and I still so deeply miss my sweet Akash.
Two years later and how I still wish I could rewind time and do anything – or perhaps everything – differently to have Akash here with us.
Happy second birthday to our sweet boy. We love you and miss you deeply. Fly high, and be happy.
Photo credit: author