6.7.89 (try it aloud: six, seven, eight, nine) is a day etched indelibly in my soul. It was the day I birthed my son. It was also the day he died. I have had no other experience like this one.
Today marks the 22nd Anniversary of that transformative experience.
Here's what lead up to it:
27 doctors refused to take care of me -- I was too high-risk.
Finally, a Catholic hospital took me in. A routine sonogram revealed that I carried a devastatingly ill child.
A doctor on the staff woke me in the middle of the night and discharged me because the medical ethics committee was meeting the following morning and he knew from experience that they'd vote to save my terribly ill child over me.
That same doctor paved the way for me to be cared for in a Jewish hospital in New York City where the medical ethics committee held the reverse ethic.
I was in that hospital -- with a 5th Avenue view -- for 5 weeks. Space became conscribed to that view and that hospital. There were no other places on Earth. Time fell apart. There was no time in a hospital except the routine of hospital time.
The medical ethics committee was finally worn down by my cameo as Veronica Hamel's D.A. Joyce Furillo. They asked me: "What do you want, Mrs. Corso?" I explained that my faith dictated what I wanted. This was, I said, a soul agreement between me, my husband, my son, and Divinity. I wanted no heroic interventions. I wanted our son's soul to have whatever it needed.
So we made a "plan." Rather than spoil the story, live it with me.
They induced my labor. I had the worst cramps I've ever had in my life. I was surrounded by mothers who would take their babies home. Somehow, inside my mother's heart, I knew I would not. It was a take-off-the-band-aid-slowly sort of pain.
At one point in the middle of the night, I got up to relieve the pressure on my bladder. (Let me just say that to say that labor causes pressure on the bladder understates the case.) When I returned to the labor room, orderlies were wheeling my bed out of the room. Hey, I called, where are you going with that? Oh, they replied, we thought you were done. I wish, I said. Small mercies -- we had laughter in the process.
Finally, I was ready to push. Part of the "plan" was for the docs to "offer" me a Caesarian which I would then "refuse" so that in order to "save my life" they would do a procedure called a cephalocentesis. It's similar to an amniocentesis except that it draws the fluid off the baby's brain where it is overflowing. Thirty doctors were in the room for that procedure. My doctor later told me that he'd never done it, he'd only read about it. I was so grateful he hadn't told me that beforehand.
I went on to push and have my son. Childbirth was, at the time, the best physical experience I'd ever had. I was totally in my body. I didn't need lessons. Having a baby is not a pathology. We don't need to be taught how to have a child. We need to listen to and follow our bodies.
I saw him for a few brief seconds over my shoulder in the delivery room, and then he was whisked away to neo-natal intensive care. Those seconds were a few of the most important of my life. Right then, I knew for certain that he would die.
Sitting in the recovery room with the lights out on that scorching June day, those lights suddenly began to flicker. My husband and I looked at one another. The tears streamed silently down our faces. A few minutes later, two neo-natal nurses joined us with their own tears. We already knew.
Our son had lived for two hours and died. We were a mother and a father, but we were not meant to be parents. Not everyday parents.
Healing seemed to take forever, but as with all grief, life in its inexorable forward path goes on and takes over. No matter the grief, life triumphs -- eventually.
We made a lot of choices in the following months. Here are some of them:
I decided to be a mother to all the children of the world, especially to adults with hungry children inside them.
I decided, because of a geneticist's report, not to have any more children.
I also decided that adoption would be fine for me. (It wasn't for my spouse.)
I asked the "why" question. I screamed it too. The answer to the "why" was: because we could. Our son had a soul that had its own needs. We agreed to meet them because we could.
Souls are a mystery.
So, on this day, once a year, between Mother's Day and Father's Day, I visit the fantasy of who my son might have been had he lived.
It is not sad. It is curious.
I am grateful for the annual healing.