When we left for the hospital the night before I lost my twenty-week-old son, I wasn’t worried. I was convinced that something small was going on, something that would need some antibiotics, and then we’d be home in time for bed. Through what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions, I rubbed my stomach and told Cory that he was fine and everything was okay. I was reassured by my belly that was getting round and firm, no longer just extra weight but clearly carrying the baby we had been praying for since 2012. Cory would only be safely and cozily in my belly for another eighteen hours.
As we were leaving the hospital after the stillbirth, the nurse mentioned an organization called Molly Bears and encouraged us to look them up. A few weeks later I typed the website into my browser. It wasn’t long before I ordered a teddy bear. Molly Bears’ teddy bears are weighted to match your lost child and I read so many reviews singing these bears’ praises. When our teddy bear finally arrived, I was surprised at how heavy it felt, how solid it was in my hands. My husband and I both cried holding this tiny, heavy bear – a little link to our stillborn son.
After the labor that seemed so out of proportion for such a teeny baby, the nurses handed Cory to me. Through a haze of pain, sleep deprivation, and deep, dark, deadly sadness, I still remember the shock that went through me at how heavy he was. He looked so insignificant in size that the unexpected denseness of his body, his head, his arms and legs, was a jolt. He weighed very little in the grand scheme of human weight, an eighth of what he should have weighed in another four months, but his little body with no heartbeat remains the heaviest thing I have ever held.
In our lives since January 19th of 2017, the most horrible and painful day of my entire life, Cory has only grown heavier. Of course, with time and distance there is some alleviation of sharp, searing, blinding pain. However, with time comes a different kind of pain – a sort of deep yet familiar aching that I don’t think will ever go away. I carry my son with me everywhere. Not physically, of course, but within me. Every part of my body is a visible reminder that I carried his life. Every part of my mind is tinted by his imagined presence. Every action is surrounded by curiosity as to what would have been, what should have been. For me, Cory is a black hole. He is dense and heavy. He tugs me in. Everything in my life is touched by his gravitational pull. Often I worry that my whole life might one day shudder and collapse under his weight.
Sometimes I wonder if I imagined it all. After years of infertility, is it possible that I dreamed this difficult but glorious pregnancy? Did my mind invent my beautiful, tiny son so I would have something to cling to? Are the people around me just humoring my delusions? Did Cory really exist? But then I can pick up this little bear, the bear that is heavy just like my son, and I am reminded. Of course he existed. I remember the jolt, the shock of his weight when the nurses handed him to me. I remember hoping so desperately for an impossible breath, for a cry, for a heartbeat, for anything that meant I could at least meet him and tell him I loved him. But there was nothing, he was gone. The only thing left in that fateful moment was the heavy density of him, the gravitational pull that began the day I found out I was pregnant and will last for the rest of my life.