I have three children, and my oldest boy, Ryan, was recently married. People say they remember exactly what they were doing or where they were when momentous occasions occur. To say I remember exactly what I was doing or even what sort of day it was the day that he told me he was getting married would be a lie. The fact is, when Ryan called to tell me that he had met the girl of his dreams at a mutual friend’s wedding, that her name was Georgiana, and that he was going to marry her, it was on a day that could have been as bright and clear as a raindrop in sunlight; or it could have been as cold and dark as a murder of crows in the dead of winter. I do not recall. I just know I was excited for him.
I do remember that Georgiana and her friends pulled that wedding together on a shoestring budget, and it was breathtakingly beautiful. I remember the awe I felt when I looked into the sky as I stood outside before the reception began and saw soft snowflakes drifting from the sky through the halo of a streetlamp. I even vaguely remember meeting all of the members of Ryan and Georgie’s devout “Christian family.” Most importantly, I remember the almost unbearable love I felt for both of them.
Because Georgie hails from a large, Mexican family, she wanted a big family of her own and Ryan’s, and Ryan agreed with. Georgie wanted to start recreating her own treasured girlhood family memories and start making some new ones that belonged expressly to her and Ryan. She valued family, and that included the family that she inherited when she married my son. She called my husband “dad” and me “mom” even though it embarrassed Ryan a little because he knew he would not be comfortable in calling her parents the same. And, my parents were “grandma and grandpa” to Georgie. There was never any question for her. I loved my new daughter-in-law from the start, and I could not wait for the grandchildren to start pouring in.
Ryan and Georgie did not just want a big family, they wanted to trip over the toys in their living room and maneuver through a maze of colorful, clambering toddlers as they made their way to the kitchen to get a jar of food and some cereal for the baby. The older kids would help in the cleaning later on. To accomplish this feat, they had to not only begin the journey that led to a child, they had to reach a destination somewhat soon.
Shortly after the wedding I received another phone call on another day I do not exactly remember. “Mom,” Ryan said. “We’re going to try and get pregnant right away.”
And shortly after that, I was overwhelmed but extremely happy when Ryan called and told me proudly, “Mom, the first month was a swing and a miss, but we hit a home run the second month.” I was going to be a grandmother. What stunning, humbling news.
In her pregnancy, Georgiana was a delicate flower in a storm, petals slightly bruised but intact. She bent with the wind of her first trimester, and glowed and grew round and soft in her second trimester. In her third trimester she ate whatever she wanted when she wanted and lumbered clumsily around the house dressed in comfortable clothing. Throughout her whole pregnancy, though, everything went exactly as it should. Even at the end there was never any indication of trouble. In fact, the only qualm in the whole pregnancy was my own. It came when I discovered, on a day that I don’t exactly remember, that they were using a midwife and not having a hospital birth.
Both Ryan and Georgie were steadfast in their belief that this setup was perfectly safe and trusted in the experience of the midwife. The Doula was no stranger to helping children into the world, and the demand for her services was high. Even so, I was scared. Every one of my three children was born in the safety of a hospital environment, and every one of them had to be cut out of me. What if this was to happen to Georgie, I wondered? What if Georgie, like me, had an emergency? What then? Who would get her into the operating room on time? Fear chilled my heart. It sat next to me, squeezing my fingers in its boney hand, and grinned toothlessly at me whenever my heart began to pound. But still, I smiled and nodded in all the right places when they told me that they were using the midwife. This was not my decision to make.
In the end, Ezra Ryan Masters entered this world on a day I remember vividly. It was April 21, 2012, and Ezra was born with no heartbeat. There was no rhythmic pulse to send life-giving blood and oxygen coursing through his body. He had aspirated meconium into his tiny lungs just before birth, so there was no room for oxygen there, either. His first breaths were not taken unaided, but given to him by the midwife. Before she began CPR, she turned to my son and said two words, “Call 911.” It took nine minutes for Ezra to let out his first cry. The paramedics weren’t even there yet.
In the hospital, Ezra fought, clinging tenaciously to life for two days. It was April 23, 2012 the day Ryan called to tell me that his first-born son, my first grandchild, had lost his hard fought battle for life and passed into the next world. I’ll never forget the heartbreak in his voice as he tried to be strong for me. I still hear those words in my head today. I lived in North Carolina, and Ryan lived in Virginia, so I couldn’t even hold my son to comfort him on the loss of his son.
The day Ezra died was a day I remember exactly. I remember it as if it were struck in crystal. The sun shone down on a picture-perfect day, and the birds opened their throats and sang the praises of being alive in this beautiful world on this beautiful day. People carried on as if nothing had happened. I wanted to scream. I wanted to grab someone by the throat and ask what the hell there was to be happy for. But the earth did not fall from its axis. Instead, it kept on spinning, even as my husband and I travelled to Virginia for Ezra’s memorial service.
In the week we were there, I watched my son and daughter-in-law slowly navigate their way through the muddy waters of the first stages of grieving. Their church family and friends closed ranks around them, buoying them up above the waves of this bitter storm. I swallowed an ocean of tears trying to stay tethered to my moorings so Ryan didn’t feel compelled to try to shore me up, too.
In the end, Ezra left us all better off for having known him if even only for a few precious days. And I know, one day soon, on a day I probably will not exactly remember, I will receive a phone call from Ryan who will tell me that Ezra will be getting a little brother or sister soon.
I look forward to that day.