So . . .
I mentioned awhile ago that I will be walking this year, and am very lazily chairing the 'campaign' for my division. I've done a frankly awful job, as things simply grew too crazy for me to devote any time to this, especially amongst the ghosts this raised for me, unexpectedly.
And yet, it's still happening, and I'm still walking, and time is running out. My goal was to raise $500; I've reached a little over 3/5 of that goal. A couple of people have privately asked about donating, which is so generous and so appreciated.
After giving it some careful thought, I decided to put this out here as well. On my birthday, I tweeted a bunch of people to solicit help in publicizing my walk. Some really awesome people retweeted my link and some really, really awesome people donated as well.
Below is what I wrote about our experience when this first started; ultimately, we didn't use this because what they were looking for was something this piece was not and a way in which I could not use Gabriel or our pain. But this piece is important, and I wanted to share it. At the bottom is a link to my personal page, if you wish to donate in honor of Gabriel or in honor of the premature baby in your life, living or deceased.
This place has been many things to me over the years I've written here, and the support in the aftermath of Gabe's birth and death is something I can never forget. Thank you all for helping me find a place in the world for my little lost son, and helping me remember that he *is* important, and that he *does* matter and that in his short life, he's touched so many people and helped to bring about more good and love in the world than I could ever have believed before.
I am a mother, but have no children. My son is a shadow, a spirit, a scent on the breeze, a wistful longing in my heart.
The day classes began in the fall of 2009 is the day my world stopped and shattered. I was 21 weeks into a complicated pregnancy; four days prior we had received word that our son was well and healthy and the problems that had plagued the pregnancy to that point were finally gone. We lived through four days of perfect happiness, content in knowing things were well with Gabriel.
But that particular August day was uncomfortable, then painful. I finally left to consult my midwife, who looked grave and called the doctor. I went home to rest, hoping the contractions would fade. Four hours later I was in the hospital. Three hours after that, I was in shock, watching my husband hold our child as he died, a victim of a previously undiagnosed incompetent cervix and a partial placental abruption.
Gabe was born too soon, too prematurely; three weeks before viability and life-saving measures could have given him any chance at survival. Our world crashed down around us. It felt as if life had splintered into variant paths and somehow I’d been stuck by mistake in this nightmare of a life, racked with grief and loss.
In the eighteen months that have passed since that day, I’ve changed. I am both more compassionate and less patient; more aware of the beauty of life, and the fragility of it. I go through everyday attempting to reconcile the fact of my son’s death with the rest of a life that insists on being lived.
It is impossible to state concisely yet clearly how the death of a child, your child, affects you; it’s not just a baby that dies, it’s your family, your hopes, your innocence, your future. Simple conversation makes me freeze, because I do not know the answer to the question ‘Do you have any children?’
The answer, of course, is ‘Yes. A son. Gabriel Ross. He died shortly after his premature birth.’ Some days I say those words and share Gabe’s story, some days I smile and say ‘No’ because I cannot bear to be an object of pity and the hurt is too great.
It is a dilemma I hope no one else ever faces, a pain I wish to see eradicated, a thing of which I think many people are unaware. So many advances have been made, so many modern miracles that people forget that prematurity remains the highest killer of newborns and infants. March of Dimes fights against prematurity every day in a variety of ways – through funding research that saves even 23 and 24 week babies, through education about healthy pregnancies and risks to the same, to aiding women locally in seeking prenatal care and providing untold support to families whose children are in NICU.
I will be walking with March for Babies this May 1, 2011 to support the efforts of March of Dimes; to help ensure that fewer women join the ranks of the baby-lost, to remember and honor my Gabriel. If you wish to support my efforts, please visit my personal page here.