On Friday I went to see Rebecca and Toby. She looked better than I expected. I thought she'd be more stressed, but she was okay. Shaky, but okay. He was snuggled up on the couch next to her, just looking at her face that way that babies sometimes look at their moms. Every now and then he would smile at her. A big beautiful smile that was pure joy. And when she talked to me, she didn't look at me, she looked at him.
She told me about how she'd been having panic attacks, how sometimes she lost track of time and did the same things over and over. She had some medicine that helped, but she didn't want to take it when she was home alone with him because it knocked her out. I told her it would get better. I said that anyone who had been through what she'd been through would be having trouble.
She said the doctors didn't think she had postpartum depression. They thought she had post traumatic stress disorder. She'd had such a rough pregnancy and then when she started bleeding so heavily they thought that she was dying, that Toby was dying. If she'd been home alone she probably would have died. If she'd bled into her body cavity instead of outward, Toby would have died.
He got a little fussy and I asked if I could hold him. I burped him and fed him a bottle. Then I patted his back and sang him a lullaby. He fell asleep against my shoulder and I kept kissing the back of his head. His hair was so soft against my lips.
I held him for a long time while he slept. Rebecca and I talked, not about anything in particular but just talking and passing the time. Then I had to lay him down again so that I could leave to pick up Zoe from school. I laid him down next to Rebecca and kissed her head and covered her legs in a blanket. Then I left.
Saturday morning the phone rang. It was Rebecca's mom Brenda and as I walked to the phone I couldn't understand why she'd be calling. She told me they'd lost Toby. It didn't make any sense at first. It was like random words had been put together. Then all of the sudden I understood.
When I got to the hospital I saw Brenda and Sam. She told me that Pete and Rebecca were in with Toby and that if I was allowed to go back, she thought they'd want me there.
I wish I had words to tell you. I wish I didn't. I don't think anyone should ever have to know that story. It should be as nonsensical as it seemed when Brenda said they'd lost him.
I should have reached out to them first. I didn't. I went to Toby and smoothed his hair. Why would I go to comfort him when he couldn't feel it? Why didn't I go straight to them when they could? His hair felt exactly the same as it had the day before. But this time, his head was cold.
Pete was crying and rocking back and forth. I could hear him praying under his breath, "Please don't let it be real. Please don't let it be real. Please don't let it be real."
Rebecca looked like the walking dead. There was no recognition in her eyes. When I hugged her, she made a little low moan that reminded me of the sound puppies make when they are dying but are still trying to wag their tails. I told them both that Toby is okay. We are not. But he is.
We sat and looked at him for a while, all of us together, but each in our own heads. I find myself watching to see if he's breathing. He's not.
His face looks bruised on one side where the blood has pooled. The other side looks too pale. But his head is turned to the side so the color changes from pale to dark across his face. One eyelid looks exactly like it did the day before. He still had the breathing tube in his mouth and tape across his face to hold it in place. I want to take the tape off but I'm afraid of damaging his skin. I don't touch it.
A man came to talk to them about donating Toby's organs. Rebecca went with him to fill out the papers. I stayed with Pete and Toby. Maybe I should have been with Rebecca. Didn't she need a friend there? But that would have left Pete alone with Toby and I know that Pete can't be alone now. He's not okay. Rebecca has the organ donation man with her. She's not alone. Pete would be alone. I stayed with Pete.
Pete thinks this was his fault. Toby died when they were asleep together.
How can he think that? I've laid down with my children more times than I can count. I've fallen asleep cuddling a baby so often that in my mind it's all blurred into one memory of sleep and warmth. Bad parents hurt their children. Good parents cuddle them. How can cuddling them be bad?
Pete hovers between wanting to hold him and not wanting to disturb him. He uncovers Toby, then covers him back up. His hands go to him and pull back. He smooths his hair. He said that Sam wanted to play with him. Now Sam won't get to. He tells me he's a bad father. I try to tell him he's not but I don't think he believes me.
Pete says something about Toby's red hair. I think, 'He had beautiful hair.' Then I realized that I just thought of Toby in the past tense. He's right in front of me and his hair is still beautiful. But I know then that he's really gone. I can't make myself think 'He HAS beautiful hair.' It just won't work that way in my head.
When Rebecca comes back in the room, she tells us they think they can use Toby's heart. Pete starts crying again. He looks as if his own heart has been ripped out of his chest. For just a moment, Rebecca looks like herself again. She seems alive again. She says, "But this way they can save someone else's baby." Then before the last word is even fully out she's gone again, off into her mind. Pete can't speak. He knows. We all know. This can't happen again. This can't happen to someone else. But why couldn't it have not happened to us?