This post is part of a ten-post series I’m sharing about the life and loss of our son, Afton. Click here to read more of Afton’s story.
Wow. It’s been a whole lifetime since we last met here.
Words are hard to come by, but also not. Maybe they’re hard to come by because there are so many – does that even make sense? I don’t trust my grief brain these days.
Right now, my writing life has one Big Question: how do I tell Afton’s story? how do I document every critical moment, every raw emotion? how do I do his short, precious life justice? It’s so long and wide and deep – the thought of writing it all out feels motivating and important and completely overwhelming.
I have a vision that someday I will get his birth and his life all written out in one chronological piece. Someday.
But for today, for the next ten days, actually, I’d love to invite you into some of the small stories. They tell about the beautiful smaller moments, and I think, even though incomplete in their scope, they are where a lot of the magic lives. They are the stories within The Story.
Recipes will come back – I can feel it in my bones. Somewhere deep down, I want them to come back. But I am forever changed, and this telling of Afton’s story is one of the ways that the blog is reflecting my newness. With that, I’m excited to introduce you to a ten-part series that I will be publishing over the next 2-ish weeks – I’m calling it Afton’s Story.
Thank you for being here. Honestly, THANK YOU. You are lighting our way.
Here’s Afton’s Story, Part One.
Our 6 days in the hospital held a lifetime of trauma. The shift from “things are getting better” to “we need to move to an emergency c-section.” The decision to resuscitate. The hopeful sound of two meowing cries as he was born – the only sounds I’ll ever hear him make. The joy for having an otherwise healthy baby, and the desperation for him being born at 23 weeks.
The 2am call that our baby was struggling. The dark walk to the NICU, me in a wheelchair, wrapped in hospital bedsheets and shaking uncontrollably, and a terrified Bjork pushing me through deserted hospital hallways. The panic as we rounded the corner and saw room 44 overflowing with doctors and nurses and medical equipment. The sharp, stabbing realization that things were not going to be okay. That this was both the beginning and the end.
In all the darkness, there is one moment of clarity that feels bright and divine, and I am clinging to the memory of it like a lifeline: the moment they laid my beautiful, perfectly formed, 1lb 3oz sweet Afton on my chest.
His skin on my skin. My baby, warm and tiny. I felt his heart beating right over my own heart, I touched his delicate new skin, but even beyond the physical realm, I felt something lock – solidly lock – into place inside me, in my heart. It was beyond description. The physical and emotional feelings were SO BIG and so real. In that split second, with the two of us touching heartbeats for the very first time, my world clicked into place. It was my heart fully realizing, 12 hours after the c-section: yes, there you are. My baby.
I stopped shaking. I became calm. I felt a literal rush of love. I was able to whisper to him without crying. All this, even in knowing that we would be saying goodbye to our baby in our very next breath. It was the most profoundly beautiful and hard moment of my life.
It has been 25 days since that moment, and things have quieted down, which is both welcome and scary. I cuddle Sage, I laugh at a text message, and then in the next minute I feel so sure that a part of me has died and I wonder if it might never come back. It gets literally hard to breathe.
There are no easy answers, no cliche comforting phrases, no silver linings that could make this all okay.
But I am holding so fast to the hope that someday I will have him in my arms again, feeling his heart beating against my chest, in perfect peace and wholeness.
It’s one of the most powerful and unexpected things Afton could have ever given me: freedom from fear of death.