My body may be erasing the signs of him, but my brain is holding on for dear life, even though it knows that life is gone. I want to move past grief and sorrow but I don’t want to forget his little life. He and I were going to have such grand adventures in the months we had together. I knew our time was going to be short, just 37 weeks but I had planned to make the most of them. We were going to take pictures together in front of the grand canyon, my belly bump and I. Then we would take pictures in front of the Welcome to Alaska sign. We were going to listen to all kinds of music together and read all kinds of stories. That kid was going to know the Bible backwards and forwards from the craziest stories to the weirdest, most amazing things Jesus said. Like anything I do with my youth group kids, our time together wasn’t just going to be time together, it was going to be an experience. We would create a whole book full of adventures together, that I would happily give to his parents, when I handed him over. He would have a record of the places he went to, the noises he heard, the people who surrounded him. He was going to know, even if it was only in his uterine subconscious, and a photobook of memories that he was loved by me, by my community and by an amazing God. We didn’t get thirty seven weeks though, we only got five and a half (he was three weeks before they put him in, because science pregnancy is crazy like that). I guess we got seven and a half technically, but thankfully only one of us was truly there for those last awful two.
We had some moments together the two of us. We had a couple of days of bedrest while he nestled into my womb. I hope he knew he was loved as he was thawed out and given a home. We had some trips to the zoo and gardens, and he sloshed around my belly for walks and youth groups and church. We had a moment of pure joy together with his parents, as we saw his heartbeat on the monitors and heard it’s own amazing music. We had lots of blood tests and pee tests and tests of patience with one another as we experienced nausea. We ate lots of bagels together, because that’s the only thing we could stomach for a while. We snuggled the big black dog a lot. In fact that is one of the few physical things I have left of this whole experience is the smell of the big black dog, that is still all over me, because he refuses to let me feel alone, after the Hitchhiker is gone; that dog continues to drape his big drapey self all over my empty self. I got two more weeks with the Hitchhiker, then he did with me. Mercifully he was absent when we saw his lifeless body on the screen. He had his back turned to us, like he had already said goodbye. He missed the tears, the physical pain, the huge weight of carrying death, he was already gone. We had thirty seven weeks of memories planned but got just a few instead, the Hitchhiker and I.
He is gone, but he will always be with me. I may not be able to name him, or bury him, I certainly wasn’t going to raise him, but he is still a part of me. Whether I was going to raise him or not, he was always going to be with me, just like all of the youth group kids I have cared for over the years, only a bit different, as I carried him with me quite literally. I didn’t just make space in my life for him, but in my body itself. For a while my own son would not drink anything or eat anything that someone else’s mouth had touched. He said he could smell their breath, he and I share a very keen sense of smell. My son decided though that he could eat or drink something my lips had touched, since he had been inside me and shared my breath once. I couldn’t believe the wisdom and depth of that statement uttered when he was only six. You share so much with the child that you carry, even if you don’t share DNA. The Hitchhiker and I didn’t have much time together but in what little time we had, we already shared so much.
This is where tattoos are truly a blessing. They allow you to carry someone with you physically for all of your days. They give an illustration to the story, that is hard to tell, but you don’t want to hide. I will get to have him with me. I will get to tell his story, when people ask what is the symbolism of that tattoo. I will get to share the story of the kid I had for a bit, of the hope that he was filled with, the dreams, the two families that were connected by the hope of him. I will get to remember him verbally in my own way, even if I am not his mother. That, for me, is more meaningful than any tombstone or memorial service. I won’t have to wonder when people ask how many kids I have if I should tell or not, and then feel guilty that I don’t and his story never gets told. I will be able to tell his story and that right now is what I need to keep breathing. I need to know that though my body may move on, he will not be forgotten. If tattoos are defiant, I am defying my body itself, by refusing to let him be erased. I am rebelling not against society, but nature when I allow a friend to draw more ink into my skin. I am rebelling against the stigma, that this life was too short to matter, or this story is too sad to tell. It was a life, it is our story and it matters, the Hitchhiker, he matters. He was loved so much, he was longed for, he was worked for, he was significant and he will be represented on my skin for as long as it lasts. Longer than my belly, longer than my hormones, longer than the tears. He may not have been mine to raise but he was mine to grow and to love first so intimately close, then from afar.
(Once again I am so thankful to the amazing friends I have, and to our incredible artist friend, all of our friends amaze me with the way they can take my broken heart and make it feel a little more whole. The bird is like the ones I have for my other kids, and a kid we lost long ago in a different sort of way. The anchor, is a symbol of hope, which is what this adventure was all about, and my grandpa has a Navy tattoo on his forearm that always fascinated me growing up, so it’s something I have wanted for a while. )