Thursday, June 02, 2005

A Terrible Night

I'm not much of a God-fearer, mostly because I'm not much of a God-believer. I generally call myself an agnostic with a proviso: My agnosticism is not based on "uncertainty" about whether there is a God. My agnosticism is based on the belief that, if there is something to which the label "God" could be applied, it is something that absolutely cannot be anthropomorphized or otherwise made comprehensible in any way to our feeble brains. A person talking about God is like a dog talking about calculus. And the idea that there exists a God that micromanages the lives of people is just absurd to me. If God is carrying out any plans, they are blueprints so grand in scale that all of humanity is an immeasurably tiny speck.

Last night confirmed for me that, if I'm not right, then God is a terrible, terrible monster.

At about midnight, my wife received news that her friend and former co-worker, whom I'll call Leslie, had gone into labor. My wife has been waiting for that moment for months. In our childless, aging household, the absence of a baby grows more and more conspicuous each day, especially for my wife. When she encounters baby-hood in the lives of friends and families, she embraces it enthusiastically. For months, my wife has been talking about how great it will be to babysit Leslie's baby. There has been, no doubt, some vicarious family-building going on in the fantastical mental world my wife and I share. Two weeks ago, my wife hosted Leslie's baby shower at our house. I even helped with the decorations, coating every household surface in pink and green balloons and ribbons. I made myself scarce for the actual shower, but when I came back, my wife gave me an exuberant report. One of the primary activities was making personalized "onesies" for the baby. The shower attendees created about 10 of them, colorful and bearing cheerful greetings for the baby. They drank wine and played bawdy games. It was all hope, no fear.

I was asleep when my wife got the news that Leslie had gone into labor. She said she and another friend were going to go to the hospital so they could see the baby after it was delivered. Through my sleep-drool, I told her to drive safely and hoped that labor wouldn't turn into a 20-hour ordeal. She dashed off and I fell back asleep.

About an hour-and-a-half later, she came back. I was vaguely aware that not much time had passed; certainly not enough time for a complete labor cycle and celebration with the mom and baby. My wife's face was stricken, not glowing. "What happened?" I asked.

"The baby died."

I couldn't speak. I just stared. My sleepy brain spooled into action, but not quickly enough to cope with the horror it had just been dealt.

My wife told me what had happened. "We got to the hospital, and the nurses wouldn't let us see Leslie. I could tell something was wrong. The nurse looked terrible. We asked what was going on. She said they couldn't tell us, because it was confidential. But the nurse said Leslie was okay. We asked about the baby, and the nurse said she couldn't tell us. She said Leslie didn't want to see anyone though. I had brought the onesies with me to give to Leslie. The nurse took a blanket from us to give to Leslie, but said 'I'm not going to take the onesies.' She was very careful with her words."

Although the nurse hadn't said what happened, it was clear.

Today, what was unsaid yesterday outside the confines of our bedroom has been said. The baby died. The baby was active and acrobatic in the womb, and her umbilical cord became tied in a knot during the first stages of labor. The knot prevented oxygen from getting to her, and she suffocated before delivery. Leslie gave birth to her daughter and she and her husband held her in their arms, but it was far too late. A few hours earlier, their baby was twirling and dancing in a sea of amniotic fluid. Now they held her lifeless body. What was sure to be a life full of joy, heartbreak, angst, and love was snuffed out at the earliest possible moment. Simply gone.

How can this world be anything other than a churning bucket of chaos, sending drops of evil sloshing over the side and into our lives at random intervals? There is good in the bucket too. But anything can spill out when you jostle it.


Blogger Joseph K said...

Shit, man, that is terrible. I used to be a huge deist, and am again becoming more of one hearing stories like this. God does not determine individual fate; God is something bigger, more incomprehensible, and more detached than than.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Magazine Man said...

God, that is tough. The identical thing happened to a woman at a previous job and your post brought it all back with an awful jolt. I'm so sorry for your friend, for your wife, for you.

I'm not much of a praying guy, and based on how you feel right now, prayers may not be what you want anyway. But I will have a thought for you and yours.

10:05 PM  
Blogger tequilita said...

this is heartbreaking. i'm so sorry.

12:40 AM  
Blogger Henry Baum said...

Man, I'm sorry. I hardly know what to write here. This almost happened to my daughter. My heart goes out.

12:41 AM  
Blogger Spiral Stairs said...

I feel kind of guilty accepting condolences, since it didn't "happen" to me or my wife, and all I did was write about it. It did, of course, affect us, and it continues to, but the person who really needs the condolences won't read this blog (and I don't think I'd want her to).

8:45 AM  
Blogger Joseph K said...

Yeah, I understand your reluctance to read the blog. After all the story of her tragedy does follow a joke about Mark Felt having a clit in his throat.

11:56 PM  

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