Sunday, June 24, 2018


In the first weeks when Liam was still fresh, I'd watch the way he'd hold a tight fist that reeked of sweat, drool, and sour milk soaked in a ball of lint. As disgusting as it was, I felt that like him, my fists have been clenched, holding on to his birth story, or rather the pain of his story. And neither of us were ready to open up.

Sure I've talked about the surrounding circumstances leading up to his birth, but only as if I were reading aloud a genealogy, sparing emotions. Left to myself, merely thinking about the actual birth would make me sob—it was the scariest, probably most traumatic moment of my life. I'd frequently wake up in the middle of the night, not to feed him, but remembering the sounds of surgery and feeling the pain in my core (I still don't have nerves by the incision) and mulling over many unanswered questions.

I held that pain tightly, never admitting the terrors, because so many other women have done it, so many people have gone through much worse. In my mind every other mother carries way more strength, and I feel like such a weakling, and I hate comparing pain and discomfort, and I want to accept my story. Our story. I wanted to look back at the memory in the poetic way prophets would write, how mourning turns to dancing and weeping turns to laughing. How joy comes in the morning.

I had a doctor's visit around the time he turned four months. But what should've been a mere checkup turned into an unraveling. I blurted how postpartum depression got the best of me, how I still face the trauma, how I'm trying my best not to cry right now. I asked her about the birth. I told her what I remember, but mostly what I don't, and how I wrestle with the mystery. I asked her to look up my charts. I asked her why's after why's.

Why did it happen that way.
What was wrong with me.
Was something wrong with him.
And above all--WHY wouldn't you let me see his face, why couldn't I look at his crying eyes, why wouldn't you let me touch his skin.. why couldn't I meet him until the next day, why did it take so long, why wouldn't they give Wes skin to skin, why did my baby come into this world alone.

And a big part of me was so terrified of what I would find. That maybe it's better for me to stick with the story I know, the story in my hands. Because what if I can't bear the truth, what if I can't handle the real story? Or worse, what if there are no answers? What if there are no records? What if there's only the disappointment of a doctor shrugging her shoulders?

She didn't shrug her shoulders, but indeed, she had no answers. The sterile room felt a little colder. But I had barely left the atrium of the clinic when I got a phone call from my doctor saying that the moment I left, she looked up my charts and found a couple notes. And as she relayed them to me, I was both shaken but covered with peace and relief. I went to my car and wept until I was out of breath. Instead of the hopelessness I had readied myself for, here was my closure.

That night while holding Liam, I began to ruminate on my meltdown with my doctor and a different set of answers began to surface. The pains I held onto, the unknowns, the mysteries--they finally had names: loneliness, abandonment, and a strange sense of guilt, as if I entered motherhood inflicting my son with the very things I myself struggled with. But I had to remind myself that I can't protect him from everything, not from things unseen and unknown in the womb, not from my own insecurities and the places I still need restoration. All I can do is begin here: acceptance, forgiveness, and loving my son the best I can. I picked up his hand and said to him in order to say it to myself: "I'm sorry you were by yourself for a while... but you don't have to be afraid. You're never really alone. Not ever." I know.. it sounds a little soupy, but I had to say it. Because even soup on the coldest of nights can be the most comforting. He squeezed my finger.

These days, Liam's hands are wide open; they search for textures or the warmth of skin. He reaches for his toes and shoves his foot in his mouth. His fingers wriggle and play piano on my chest when I nurse him (a gesture I never want to forget). And my hands have opened too. I've been letting go of the ache by writing down his birth story, reading it aloud to myself. And as I do this, it's helped me invite God into my pain. I can say that it was painful then, and it's not so painful now.. It's just the way he came into this world. I'm opening up to healing, searching for warmth, and grasping joy so tightly, I can't let go.


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