Thursday, February 26, 2015

Siblings II

I love my brother in a million different ways. As you read in my last post, he has a fun sense of humor and still finds it amusing to harass his older sister. Today I love him for a very specific thing he did many years ago. This Saturday is the 12th anniversary of my son's passing while he was tucked soundly in my womb. It was a pain that came upon me so quickly, and it has never left.

Initially, it felt like my heart had been ripped out. The pain was so severe, I did not think I would survive. Year after year, the loss has become less and less acute, and instead it has become a permanent, deep, somber feeling. I always feel him with me, and I feel so blessed to have had him at all, but the heartache never leaves. He is with me every moment of the day.

Just into my sixth month of pregnancy, I had an appointment with my OB/GYN, and I took Keith with me. I wanted him to hear the baby's heartbeat, as much as did he. That may sound odd for some people, but my brother and I have always been close, and he supported my pregnancy. So we went to my appointment, I had some blood work to test for down's syndrome and spina bifida, and finally Keith and I went in to hear the baby's heartbeat.

I was laying on the table, and Keith was up by my head. The doctor was moving the Doppler all over my belly, and I recall being a slight bit nervous. Then that magical sound of my baby's heartbeat filled the room. I remember the doctor looking relieved, but Keith and I were both drunk on the sound of my baby's life. We left the appointment feeling hopeful and happy!

It was February 28, 2003 when the blood work from earlier in the week came back. I was called in for an emergency ultrasound so they could search for down's syndrome or spina bifida. The doctor called me herself  and prepared me for the baby having a serious genetic defect or illness. When my mom and I went into the ultrasound, we were terrified the baby could be sick. Instead, it showed that the baby had no heartbeat. My mom and I were devastated , as were my dad and brother later that day when they heard the news. When my brother came home that day, he brought me a single rose, and went into the corner and cried.

I was crushed. The baby had to be delivered the next day, but I was asleep. I think the doctor was trying to spare me, but in retrospect, I wish I could have held him just once. I sobbed uncontrollably for days, even weeks. I would wake up in the morning and sob in the shower, the kinds that wrack your body with uncontrolled spasms of heartache. At the time, I was living with my parents and brother, and the whole family was excited for my pregnancy. Every morning would begin with "Good morning, Baby", and every night would end with "Good night, Baby". So when I lost him, it was like we all lost him.

The weeks that followed Gabriel's death, I went into what I can only consider a coma of despair. I cried anytime I saw a baby. My milk came in, yet I had no baby to feed. My brother was so supportive, but no one knew what to do. I walked around in a trance. At the time, I wanted nothing more than to be with my child. I wasn't suicidal, I just wanted my baby to come home to me.

As spring came, I would often wake up crying, and I would go to sleep crying, and I would cry in my dreams and try to wake up, but I'd be shackled to my nightmares. It was just so hard to smile when my spirit was weeping so. One spring morning, I woke up to my dad and Keith out at an errand. I didn't think much of it. They soon returned, and I saw them lugging this tree through the yard. I asked my mom what they were doing, and she tried to keep me away from the windows.  I was curious, but had no clue.

An hour or so passed, and my mom told me to look out the west living room window. There was a beautiful tree with buds all over it. My mom told me it was a weeping cherry tree, and that its buds would turn into beautiful flowers each spring. I asked her whose idea it was. She told me it was a gift from Keith in honor of Gabriel. I got teary. When they came inside, I gave Keith a huge hug! He told me I could also see the tree from my bedroom window, and sure enough, I could.

My brother is an amazing individual. He is a kind, creative, selfless and sensitive man. I still remember him as a newborn in my arms. And I also remember him hugging me tight as I cried in his arms when I learned my child was dead. The way he unconditionally loved and supported me after Gabriel's death is nothing short of extraordinary. He was as excited about being an uncle almost as much as I was excited about being a mom.

Gabriel's tree has grown into this huge, weeping display of a beautiful green umbrella. For about one week a year, the most glorious white and pink flowers shower down on the garden around it. I can look outside and see it, and it gives me such joy! Thank you, Keith! Thank you for being my tremendous brother and friend! Thank you for the exquisite gift of Gabriel's tree! I love you, and seeing you as the tremendous father you are, I have no doubt you would have been an amazing uncle. I love you, baby brother!