Back to Life
Well that sucked.
Two things I had feared the most occurred within days of each other.
Losing an infant (a premature infant to be precise) must be only a little less painful than losing a child of some years, but not enough to bother with the distinction. When I held her shortly after her birth, after I was able to compose myself (one of the few times in my life where I actually had to compose myself in the most terrible and primary sense of the meaning), of the many emotions and effects I didn't anticipate, the most surprising was a profound sense of the loss of tremendous potential. Images literally flashed through my mind of all the places she would never be, and all the things she would never do, or get to be. I saw her little face in all those images. She was smiling.
For a while after I had to say hello and goodbye to someone I unexpectedly loved beyond the unknown boundaries of my soul, I felt I might actually rip in half. Other times it felt as though I actually had. Later, it felt like I'd been taped back together hastily with blue masking tape, constantly aware that I might tear in two again if I bumped against anything. As time has passed, I've gone through patches of reprieve. (With a pain that stop and starts, to quote Bob Dylan.) Finally, sunsets are beautiful again and laughter has returned.
The most beneficial result of this tragedy has been a massive renovation of perspective. Though forgiveness and understanding of others has gained, anger at thoughtlessness, at those who are petty or mean to their children, friends and loved ones, flares much more readily, and it's difficult not to march up and deliver a fiery sermon on how precious everyone is.
Fears harbored against other possible unwanted developments transform from monsters in the closet to dust bunnies under the bed. Ever since I endured an abrupt and unexpected layoff in my late twenties, I have carried around worry of it happening again. When I got laid off on my first day back to work after losing the baby, I found myself relieved. To be laid off in an economy that hearkens back to the great depression in terms of unemployment and disruption of the middle class, exacerbated by an unconcerned administration seemingly bent on extinguishing the middle class, is daunting. But it is merely something to overcome rather than something to dread anymore.
The HR lady (it's never a guy) looked stricken when they pulled me into the layoff meeting. The guy who was ostensibly my current boss rattled through the canned speech as quickly as possible. (I got a new one a week before the layoff; we had gone through reorgs and layoffs every quarter for about two years now; I've been told that the layoff I was in was probably the last one before the whole division finally completes its swirl down the drain with a big wet "ter-glook!") When he stopped, I said, "Are you done? Is that all?" The HR lady looked up in happy surprise, probably because it was clear this layoff wasn't going to involve wailing and gnashing of teeth. (I can't imagine how messy some layoffs must get.) No doubt they expected the worse since I was a grieving father, but my primary thought was that I would get to spend some needed time at home with my family. I signed a couple things and we all went happily on our way. I was flying down the highway towards home with my cardboard box of cubie contents a half an hour later, images of Office Space dancing in my head.
I have always striven to not take daily life for granted, but it is still that much more precious to me now than it ever has been. The time away from the corporate mosh-pit has been a blessing. The time with my lovely wife and wondrous daughter has been more so.
I'm not even remotely past losing our dear little one, but life isn't meant to be lived in a daze, walking around as if someone has whacked you in the temple with a ball-peen hammer. It is time to get back to life.
Thank you everyone for your kind words and deeds.
Now, let's have some fun!