Tomorrow is January 2.
One of the five happiest days of my life.
It's the day Kyle was born.
Dave was so excited. All through the pregnancy, Dave was sure this was a girl. He bought this little pink sleeper. He was just sure that Kyle was a girl. Actually, he was sure it was a girl all four times! But if he were to be a boy, his name was to be Kenny or Erik. Kenny or Erik. Erik or Kenny. We went back and forth. Dave said, "Oh, it didn't matter anyway, since Amanda Loree was going to be born." A few days before Kyle was born, we had an ultrasound, because there had been so much confusion on his due date (turned out he was 3.5 weeks overdue!), and we discovered he was a boy! A boy! We were amazed. And suddenly decided to name him Kyle. Don't ask me why or how. It just happened.
Dave's brother, Bob, was in town for the weekend. I'd had a lot of contractions on Dave's birthday, he was hoping that Kyle would be born on his birthday, but it didn't happen. Then early, early on January 2, I started having contractions. Dave was completely beside himself. He got the stopwatch, and not only timed, but wrote down every contraction, with full description. It finally made me crazy and I threw away his paper and pen. So no cute memento for the baby book.
Dave loaded the car.
You can see how excited he was. He took a picture of my giant belly on our way out the door. I don't have that one scanned....sorry! Or maybe not. That's something else you might not know. Dave LOVED baby tummies. He continually rubbed my tummy, talking to the baby, reading books and singing songs. All our babies immediately recognized and sought out Dave's voice. He loved other baby tummies, too. Just ask Denise.
A textbook, almost silent, exactly 12 hour long labor later, Kyle was born at exactly 6:00 pm. He was beautiful. Perfect. Dave was amazed. Simply amazed.
I've always loved this picture. You can see the excitement, the nervousness, the awe.
Dave was the best Daddy ever. He was thrilled. He cut the cord. He gave the first bath. He changed the first diaper. He flew Kyle through the air on his hand...Air Kyle, he called it. He soothed Kyle by snuggling him next to his skin and nestling his little head against his neck, humming deeply, so Kyle could feel the vibrations and hear his voice. He loved to sleep with the baby, could hardly bear to put him down.
We were a family, we were delirously happy. I had planned to go back to work. The minute I held Kyle, I told Dave, "I can't do it. I can't leave him." So we changed plans, so I could stay home.
We had 25 gloriously happy days. Days of joy. Days untouched by fear or doubt or pain or sadness. Nothing but pure hope, a trust in the future, a closeness, a growing together that was simply miraculous.
Then, one day, at the mall with my friend, Dave with Erik and Mark on the way to a gig, Kyle stopped breathing.
I remember it like a movie. So surreal. I remember my heart beating so loudly in my own ears, pounding, pounding, adrenaline rushing through my body. I couldn't tell if Kyle was breathing, if his heart was beating or if that was my own heart. I started CPR. Someone asked me questions. I couldn't answer, so a little black girl, about 14, tiny, willowy, took Kyle and continued rescue breaths. I watched her in amazement. The ambulance arrived. I remember seeing the paramedic uniforms. It was like my dad had arrived. I felt safe suddenly. I knew that if anyone could save him, they could. They ripped open his sleeper, blue and white striped. They started an IV. They put a tube in his mouth. They motioned for me to follow them. I saw Kyle's pacifier on the floor and grabbed it. I would hold that pacifier for weeks, afraid to let go of it. I climbed into a police car which followed the ambulance to the hospital. It took forever to get there. We were at Cinnabon when it happened. I remember smelling the cinnamon on my clothes and feeling sick, retching in the police car.
We couldn't find Dave. He was somewhere between Tacoma and Seattle in the days before cell phones. We kept calling, calling anyone we knew. Finally, Dave came in the door. I couldn't look at him. Couldn't bear to see those eyes. I just held onto the pacifier. And we waited. Finally, the doctor came in. I don't remember what he said. I saw his face and I knew. I remember feeling like a block of ice. I couldn't think, couldn't feel. We went into this room, and Dave held Kyle, combed his hair, sang to him. I watched. I held Kyle, but felt nothing. Nothing at all.
They took us to a room. A room with a phone. We called some people. The lady from the funeral home came to take Kyle's body. I remember asking her to be careful, be gentle with my baby.
Then it was time to go. We didn't want to walk out that door, knowing it meant that once we passed that threshold, that real life would start again.
We went home. Decided we shouldn't be alone. Dave wanted to sit in Kyle's room, I couldn't go there. Immediately we knew that this was going to be hard, that we were going to have to work to understand that while we were on the same journey, we were taking different steps. We had to work to make sure those steps were toward each other and not away.
We called Peter and Cheryl and they came to be with us. The band arrived late at night, breaking our hide-a-bed. My dad and sister arrived, Denise with one shoe and one pair of pants. My mom was stuck on the highway with a broken down car. Dave's parents came. Peter fixed the screen door, it was squeaking, it sounded like a baby's cry to me, so Peter fixed it.
There were a lot of people there, I remember Mark and Doug and Peter and Cheryl and Denise stayed for days. They never left. Our parents, too. They all stayed until we told them to go home.
I remember Mark and Doug and Denise and Peter cocooning with us for the few days after Kyle died, waiting with us for answers from the doctors (hypoplastic left heart syndrome), sitting with us, crying with us, just being there. We planned a funeral. We found a cemetery. We selected a gravesite, a headstone. We had the service in a beautiful chapel overlooking the sound, trees all around, Mark and Erik's voices surrounding us in songs, songs that had just been played at our weddings.
On the way home, it began to snow. People rushed back over the pass, hoping to beat the weather. We went home. The tension lifted, enormous relief in the air. And we had this huge snowball fight, (I have pics somewhere...will try to find them.) screaming and laughing, almost hysterical, verging on mania from days spent inside, grieving. The diaper service kid came to pick up the pail, a somber look on his face. He looked at us like we were lunatics, having expected to find us grief-stricken. We laughed at that, a laugh tinged with just a little hysteria, not sure yet how to "be" in this new world. How to find our place? How to find each other?
We did. We made it through, with a lot of help, a lot of support, and a lot of effort, too. Another of Dave's famous sayings:
"Love is not a feeling, it's a decision."
How right he is. It's the commitment that carries us through. The choice. The decision. The being there, even when it's easier not to.
Some say that time heals. I'm not sure that's true. I miss Kyle every day, just as much as I ever did. It hurts, just as much as it ever did. The death of a child leaves a scar like no other. On the psych diagnostic "v-codes" in the DSM-IV, losing a child is on par with being in a concentration camp. It's wrong, on that level, on that scale. It's out of order. There is no healing that. You learn to live with it, around it, in spite of it. Dave and I talked about how it always felt like someone was missing. Always. Counting heads, "One, two, three.....(silently, in my heart, 'four.')"
At least Kyle's not alone now.
I, on the other hand...