Then I came to appreciate the birthdays of my parents and siblings. I grew up. Had my first real relationship. It ended on April 13, when my then-fiance died.
Since then, the dates have come fast and furious. I met my husband Jim on February 20, which is his birthday, his father's, and the day I first arrived at the Grand Canyon. He proposed on May 11, during a hike, and we were married on August 23.
September 11, 2001 holds great meaning in America now, but there are two other days that year which I remember more easily. August 13 was our firstborn's due date. September 2 was when he finally decided his time to be born had come. The three weeks between these two dates felt like extended breathholding.
In 2002, February 15 was the day we closed on our house.
This year brought too many significant dates - significant for reasons I never suspected. Our second son was due on July 17. Made his debut four days early - and not breathing. From July 13 through July 25 will now always be Elijah's Days in my mind. An endless round of fear and hope, hour-long drives to and from the hospital, timeless periods spent with our always-sleeping baby in the otherworld of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, coming home to pump breast milk and try to live a normal life. Failing utterly.
|Elijah James Burton ( July 13-25, 2003(, at 5 days old. St. Peter's Hospital NICU, Albany, NY.|
And then, suddenly, the endlessness - ended. We held our baby son, and felt him die. Jim kept holding him for another hour, knowing he would never be able to do it again. I couldn't. That tiny face so perfect and beautiful, so like his big brother's, first looking like porcelain, and then starting to take on the strange characteristics of a wax figure, was not truly my son. Elijah had long since left us.
On August 2, we held Elijah's birthday party. My mother thought it was a macabre thing to celebrate the brief life of our dead child; we felt a funeral would have been more so.
And on August 30, we held a private ceremony, my husband and I , as we planted a tree and scattered those ashes. A 10 pound baby, minus his heart (the valves were donated) does not create many ashes. There was pitifully little to his "earthly remains".
But this was not the direction I wanted to take with this post. Of course, it wasn't the direction I wanted to take with my life, either, and I think I will need to remember Elijah via the written word forever, because not to do so seems to me as though I am hiding him, ashamed of that perfect little boy with the irrevocably broken brain.
It has now been two months since my second child was born. We are eagerly awaiting clearance to "try again": a delicate enough way of saying we are desperate to fill this empty place in our family with another baby, knowing all the while that another baby can never replace this child we lost. But with another baby would come more important dates - and we can hope that, this time, they will be joyous ones.
If I live long enough, will all dates eventually become significant for one reason or another?