The Last Kick

I went for a brush-up driving lesson today. I had a "motor vehicle incident" last week, a young man was bicycling down the sidewalk, and I was turning out of a parking lot. And he hit me, or I hit him (the witnesses said he hit me, I am convinced that I hit him, not for any sensible reason, other than an absolute requirement that I blame myself.) The police assure me that I was in the right, and he was in the wrong, and he gets a ticket, and I am making myself take driving lessons, because surely there must be something I did wrong.

I didn't tell the instructor, that every time I saw a small child on the sidewalk, I was looking, watching, waiting. Waiting for them to run out into the road. Waiting for me to kill them. Because today, all I can think of is that I chose my life, and my son died.

I am thinking about Gabriel's last kick. I was coming out of the washroom in labour and delivery. I was waiting on a room. I had begged them for a room, sure that all of my sobbing and sorrow could not be good for women about to have living children. All was done, the decisions made. The perinatologist assured me that barring a miracle, my child could not hope to live. A ten percent chance perhaps. But, as I came out the washroom, he was kicking me.

I think of that kick now as a child begging to live, begging not to be torn from the warm and safe place he was. I think about it as his cry for a miracle, a cry wishing for just a few more days, a bit more hope. I think about it in terms of the anti-abortion movement, who describe the abortion process as ripping helpless babies from their mother's wombs, and who manage to paint a picture in my head, of me, murdering my own helpless, defenceless child. I can hear screams in my head. Of my child, of I, both begging to live.

I chose my life, you see. They put it to me baldly. They said you will die if you do not have this baby right now. Your life will end. Not in some metaphysical sense, but in reality. You will cease to breathe, your heart will stop, your brain will die, you soul will leave. Dying, dead. But, they said too: "Maybe there is hope for a miracle." And I chose not to believe in miracles, I put my faith in strokes and eclampsia and kidney failure. I chose my life. I, who could speak, was not the voice for my voiceless son. I used my voice for myself.

I took a deep breath, I asked that they would deal kindly with my infant son. We forbade medical technology, wanting to give him peace and tranquility and love. We forbade intervention, insisting that he have dignity. We did not let medical staff hold him, insisting that he be held by those who were connected to him, those that loved him.

But, still, I turned my back on motherhood. I let my body kill my son. I held him in my arms, and did not, could not, would not save him. I turned my back on Gabriel, to remain wife, friend, worker, volunteer. To do the work that I had left unfinished. I let go of being Gabriel's mother, so that I could do other things. I held my life above that of my son. And, I would do it again.

And I think back to our friends, who brought their children to our hospital room. Who are unwilling to step away from being parents, to be our friends. Who hold their children in front of us, silently, but conclusively, absolutely, determinedly reminding us, that they chose their children, and I chose my life. I think about her words early in my pregnancy, when she said "I would never have my children at home. I will sacrifice myself and go to the hospital, and have a safe and healthy birth. My wishes, my desires, they are not more important than safety" I think about his phone call before Gabriel's funeral, the words that their contribution to the funeral was too much trouble, it was taking them away from their living children, who were upset. And that my dead son was not worth it, not worth the inconvenience. My son died as a result of me choosing my life. I was not worth it.

And I wonder, is this my cross to bear? Is this my penance, my atonement, my rite of mortification, to make up for choosing my life above my son's. Do I deserve this pain, is what I called cruel, in actual fact deserved? Should I stand and take it, as something that is coming to me?

Because I come back to a single point, at least today. I do not fear heaven for sweet Gabriel.I come back to the words, the actions of my friends, who remind me that living children matter more than dead ones, that motherhood is the job of a woman. And that I failed at it. That I chose my life.

I do not fear a loving God, a gentle Shepherd for my son. Who gathered Gabriel up, and told him that He loved him.

No, I fear God and heaven for myself.