When I had the 20 week ultrasound with my daughter I was only excited to see the little being I had been feeling for weeks. In the waiting room I joked that she thought my full bladder made a great trampoline. It never once occurred to me that something could be wrong. The worst I was thinking was that she would be stubborn and we wouldn't see the sex. The most magical part of the ultrasound, and the best picture, was when she pressed both tiny feet against my stomach, as if she wanted to show me how perfect and tiny and cute they were. I literally gasped in wonder and cried. I still have that picture and treasure it.
This experience made it especially painful when my second 20 week ultrasound was so drastically and tragically different. By the time I had my follow up scan just prior to the amnio, the baby was partially paralyzed. I remember laughing at the ultrasound tech trying to get a view of his feet. They were not easy to see and he couldn't move them so the tech pushed in with the device and jiggled my stomach hard, trying to knock them into another position. My whole stomach jiggled in a really unattractive way, and even in the midst of the worst thing to ever happen to me, I laughed. I don't know why they needed to see his feet when there was so much else wrong with him. They said they thought he had rocker-bottom feet, which can be another indication of chromosomal damage. It hardly mattered with all his other problems, but I was very disappointed that I couldn't see his feet. I think I was more upset because I was thinking they were deformed and I couldn't have even that little piece of wonder in all the horribleness.
*** Warning - really graphic description of a dead baby - skip this paragraph if you need to ****
When Aiden was born I wanted badly to hold him, but at the same time I was very afraid to see him. I will be forever grateful to the nurse who helped deliver him. As soon as the doctor removed the placenta the nurse told me that I had a beautiful baby. I knew it wasn't true, not in the traditional sense, but it helped that she didn't think he was a monster. When they finally brought him to me I did the same thing I did with my daughter - I immediately undressed him. I couldn't take off his hat because his head was mostly fluid and I was afraid it would just come apart. I remember in my nightmares the way his overly large head flopped on his tiny little neck. For one horrified minute I thought I was going to break his neck. I tried to uncurl his poor little fingers but I couldn't. They were clenched tight to his palms, but they weren't grown into the skin like I had imagined. He had an adorable little pot belly, which I couldn't figure out, because they said he had no stomach. When I made my way down to his feet I just stopped breathing.
There in my palm, like a gift from a God I don't believe in, were two tiny, beautiful, perfectly formed feet. I felt guilty that this made me so happy. Would I have still loved him if he had deformed feet? Silly question, but I still felt like being happy about that made the rest of his body, in it's pitiful brokenness, somehow less. But I've held on to that image of those perfect feet. It's what I see when I think of my son and the only picture I can look at.
All of this was brought back tonight by my stupid idea to read "My sister's keeper" If I had known what a horrible ending that book had, I never would have read it. But the end got me thinking about my Aiden, and how long it's been since I looked at his pictures. I wondered if I could still remember what he looked like. I can, mostly. But still all I really see are his perfect feet.
The thing I can't remember, the thing that hurts right now, is how small those feet were in my hand. I wish I had gotten a picture of his feet resting in my palm. I have prints, but somehow it just isn't the same. Maybe one day I will try to make a cast from the prints I have.