So many people seem shocked that I went through labor with Lydie and gave birth to her. The horror of it, right? But how do they suppose she came out?
Do they think there's a trap door? Living babies can only exit via
vaginal birth or cesarean section. But dead babies? Here's the trap
door! Exit this way, please.
Almost two years ago, when I first heard that my cousin and his wife's son was stillborn, I thought, oh there's no way. You'd have to knock me out and cut me open. But when it happened to me? I've had a c-section and I did not want another one. When I was moved to the recovery room after Ben was born via emergency c-section, he was laying in the bassinet next to me. I asked my mom to pick him up and hand him to me. "That might make your incision hurt more," she said. "I don't care," I responded. "I need to remember this was worth it." I did want to have the physical pain and long recovery from a c-section when I didn't even get to bring my baby home.
So the doctors did not, in fact, cut me open, like I imagined that I'd insist. Instead, my girl gave me the vaginal birth I thought I'd never have.
In The Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, Elizabeth McCracken writes,
I would have to go through labor. I knew that already, the second the doctor had shaken his head and said no. The baby was dead but he still had to be born. I knew this because my friend Wendy's sister had lost two late-term children to placenta previa. Before Wendy explained it, stillbirth was something that happened in black-and-white engravings, in iron beds with nearby pitchers, and it was always a grim surprise. The baby was born. The attending physician shook his head. When Wendy was explaining it to me, I was shocked. I don't know how I supposed you got a late-term baby out.
"That's the worst thing in the world," I said to Wendy when she told me about her sister.
Now I understand. Of course it wasn't the worst thing in the world. The worst thing in the world had already happened. He was dead. Everything else was easy.
She's so right. When the worst thing in the world has already happened, this part is just a small detail.
When I was in labor with Lydie, I was very careful to speak of her "delivery" not her "birth." How could she be born when she had already died? Now, I feel differently about that. Lydie's death just happened to come before her birth. Which is tragic and horrific. But she was still born... and not through a trap door.