As I sit and watch my newborn son try to figure out thumb-sucking, I can’t help but think of his older brother. Would he have preferred his thumb or a paci or would he have cared for either? It seems that whenever Benji, as young as he is, expresses an interest or preference, I think of Silas. Would Silas have been stubbornly opposed to breast-feeding? Would Silas have preferred to be swaddled with his arms tucked in or out? Would his hair be strawberry blonde like mine was or orangey red like Blake’s?
At times I feel bad that what Benji does is never just that; what Benji does is what Silas never got to. When I hold Benji, I wonder what it would have felt like to hold Silas.
I’ve already been clear that Benji isn’t a replacement for Silas. Human beings aren’t like car batteries—you don’t just get a new one when the old one dies. Still, Benji’s presence here makes me so much more aware of the joy and wonder that death stole from me.
I also wonder what Silas might think of his little brother. Would he be like my younger brother Jonathan when Joey was born by yelling “My beebeeya,” as he shoved his baby brother off his lap? Would he be like me when Sarah was born and curl up in a baby doll cradle, trying to reclaim youngest child status?
All of these thoughts are intensified this week because this is it. This was it.
A year ago this evening, I sat alone in the Maternity ER (men are not allowed back—even with their wives) listening to the reassuring lub-dub of the monitor placed on my swollen belly. My concerns for his total lack of movement were brushed aside by a busy midwife who told me that a solid heartbeat was good enough to tell us he was fine and that Silas was “just lazy.” Though he told my doctor that he saw me and all was well, the doctor on shift never even darkened the door of the triage room I was in. He was too busy with a teenage girl who went the ER for a pregnancy test. The same teenage girl who, as I waited to be called back, sat next to me and told me that she already had one baby she didn’t want and was terrified that she might be pregnant again. The minister in me was not available at that time, so I sat there, angry and terrified, and listened to her nervously talk.
I left the ER confused, but reassured that all was well. I called my sister when I got home to tell her of my visit. She sounded concerned and gave me the name of a test that I needed to request at my normal doctor visit the next day. A test I had a million times during my pregnancy with Benji. A test that could have saved Silas’ life. By the time I got to the doctor the next day, it was too late. The deafening silence we heard when the doctor put the Doppler on my belly prepared us for the worst. The still ultrasound confirmed it. Our son was dead.
Blake and I have discussed, many times, the differences in women and men and how we remember things. Or maybe it’s just the difference in me and him. For him, a familiar place can be a trigger. The coffee shop where he and Alonso ate while they waited on some of the paperwork so we could bring Silas home—just walking past it would send him into a darker place. For me, dates are triggering. For the last 13 years, I have relived the nightmare that culminated in my nephew’s stillbirth on October 25th. For the last several days and for the next month, I will relive the hell that has brought me to where I am now.