Last night I returned to teaching our hospital’s monthly Breastfeeding and Beyond parent class. (I think of it as the Buzz Lightyear class – “to infinity, breastfeeding and beyond!”) I hadn’t felt ready to be in front of this class of excited expectant parents since Brandon’s death. Although my baby was 38 years old when he died and I had been perfectly happy to allow him to be an adult with a life of his own, he became my baby again in almost every sense from the moment I learned his life, his earthy existence, was threatened.
He is one of my babies. I knew him before anyone else. His body grew within my body. I felt him move and kick, and I nudged him when I hadn’t felt him for a few (minutes or hours, depending on how busy I was). I knew him and loved him before I ever officially met him with his birth. I gave him, my newborn baby, his first kiss.
I gave him, still my baby, his last kiss – at the crematorium before his wonderfully made body, which had started within my body, was reduced to ash. (I was glad the disgusting disease that took his physical life was burnt out of him. It was not worthy of being buried with him, and he did not deserve to have it remain part of him. If that makes no sense, I don’t care – it makes sense to me.) I didn’t want to let go of him there. I didn’t want to leave him, although I knew it was only his (lifeless) shell I kissed and hugged good-bye. I love that shell, which grew in my body. I didn’t want to leave, knowing I’d never again see that beautiful shell animated with life.
But I wasn’t thinking of all that when I went in front of last night’s expectant parents. It has been three months and I thought I was ready. I started the movie I show at the beginning of the class, giving any stragglers who’d been caught in traffic or had difficulty finding the conference room time to arrive without having to repeat what they had missed. The movie, Baby,Baby, Oh Baby by Stark Productions, is my favorite of this genre. I'd won the copy I was using in a raffle at its premiere screening during the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) Conference in July 2011. (I was in a daze at that conference, as I'd flown to San Diego to attend the conference later on the same day that Brandon’s PET scan showed more “spots.”)
I’d forgotten the movie includes a number of mothers’ references to nourishing and nurturing their babies within their bodies before birth as well as afterward via breastfeeding. Every time a mother restated the profound meaning of having nourished a growing little person within her body, it felt like a knife twisting in my gut. Tears threatened with every mention, and I was glad I was in the back of the conference room handling the lights, glad no one could see me. I dropped the veil over my feelings and stopped the tears from becoming anything more than a threat, knowing I might not have it together again by the time the movie was over if I let the tears flow. The couples attending the class had not signed on for that.
When I arrived home a few hours later, I popped the cork on a bottle of chardonnay, poured a glass and pretended to myself that I was all right, that I had gotten past a(nother) difficult moment. After Joe, my husband, had gone to bed, I checked my Facebook news feed and came upon some photo of Brandon and a reference to something he’d said or done. I went to his Facebook page and I looked at many photos of him. I played the photo montage video that my brother Eric had made and posted to YouTube. The tears I’d bottled inside welled up, overflowed and I heard myself make the wheeze-like keening noise I’d never known I was capable of making until moments after Brandon left that beautiful, beautiful shell that had been given its start within my own shell.
Sometimes this is simply unbearable.