My son is currently outside jumping on the trampoline.
It is about one degree out there and blowing an icy gale. I am watching him through the large windows which bare his hand and mouth prints all over them. He is wearing a fluorescent orange beanie of his own choosing, a t-shirt, tracksuit pants and nothing on his feet, as per usual. He is singing/bellowing a tune of his own devising, creating it as it comes to his mouth whilst making the lego figure he has spent three days refining and reimagining soar through the air by his own hand. He is unaware of any world around him which is not of his own making. He is defiant and raw; unaffected and pure. He is everything I want to be. He is nothing I ever could have imagined.
I don’t remember life before him. Surely I was born the same time he was. What did I feel before him?
I am sure I felt something just as I am sure they must have been emotional scraps. Coming into love for your child must be like coming from a third world country to live in a five star hotel. I have equated the change in emotional landscape from having children to water; before your child your emotional capacity was a bathtub, after an ocean. It is something you can never prepare yourself for. People will warn you, how your life is going to change, how nothing will be the same again. Yet words cannot begin to express what it does to your heart, to your soul.
In many ways it gives you one.
It refines it and gives it purpose, manifests it in form and delivers it back to you with every gesture, smile, laugh and sigh. Every moment confirms the fact that I did not give life to him, but he to me; that I did not bring him into the world but he creates one around me daily, full of him and the me I should be. He is a slice of sunshine. A glorified piece of blue sky. He is all my love made flesh.
When born he had no vital signs. He was still born, a dark purple colour, unearthly. He was whipped away from our flailing hands and taken to a table in the corner of the room, where three nurses, like the witches of Macbeth huddled over him performing arcane rituals of a modern malady. I stood paralysed; a statue to inability and powerlessness. I felt a wail build in my throat and it nailed me to my shadow. The Artist Formerly Known As My Wife’s voice rang out in ever decreasing circles of panic. Why can’t we hear our child cry? Why can’t we hear our child cry?
I didn’t know. I didn’t know anything. Something had gone catastrophically wrong. One second of standard procedure had ticked over into one of dire circumstance and the arrival of a whole cadre of assistants. Shouts and panicked instruction ensued and the artist formerly known as my wife bore the brunt of their weight and procedure. I stood, the world moving in sickening, calamitous speed around me. Within my mind it slowed to a crawl, my hand crushed within that of my former wife as she screamed and strained to force an increasingly impossible notion through her. He had twisted, our baby, had been forced, we came to realize, induced against all sensibility. He had become caught between the earth and his home.
He had already lost his brother, his twin earlier in the pregnancy; an unknown spirit to us all, lost to that place before life. In that moment I felt the loss of his other half and with her sugars dropping and her pain painted all over my former wife’s face, I felt sure that I was to lose everything. Yet he appeared, lifeless, but present. I saw his leg, in between two of the nurses attending to him, almost black and still across the other side of the room. His body remained still and silent. The stillness was like concrete and in my mind I heard words bubbling to the surface, clear and concise in their desperation.
Please, they said, whatever you are, whatever is out there. God. Life. Whoever can hear me. Please don’t let this happen. Please. We will not survive this.
It was not a prayer, nor a plea, but a last breath of a dying man. It was like striking your arm upwards as you sink beneath the waters, not looking but hoping against hope that your hand strikes a stray branch or vine with which you can pull yourself to safety. It was pure desperation.
I don’t know if it worked. I am loathe to think I am important enough, that my cause was more worthy than the million others I’m sure were lodged with the appropriate services at the time, but it worked. The air became punctured with a sound, a sustained cry like an air raid siren warming up, a cry which had been nine months in waiting, which had suffered the loss of its sibling and which had nearly been denied him. He was alive. I did not care what circumstance had done to him, what those long moments denied air or thought had committed him to, he was here. I would stand in direct opposition to all circumstance, would carry his weights however long and in whatever way I could. He was here.
Fortune was on his side and there were no lasting side effects from his unconventional birth, save for a slight turn in his eye which has corrected over time and a slight protrusion of his left shoulder blade. He is bright, like the sun, a joy beyond my own very obvious bias. I wonder, sometimes, what happens to that energy, that life force which is lost or displaced by the loss of a child in embryo. I wonder how much of his lost sibling is within my little one, how much he has inherited. Or maybe he was always meant to be this; bigger than life, constantly reinterpreting its boundaries. I try and put reason to loss, that it was always meant to be, that we’re helpless before life and its sometimes thrilling, sometimes arbitrary flow. I am a very small man in the face of such things. I was never smaller than on that day. I have never felt bigger since.
He has come in now, his lips a slight shade of blue, his eyes wide and alive. He is the coldest boy on the planet earth, apparently. I just told him that I’m writing about him.
“Am I battling in your story, dad?” He asks.
You are, I tell him. He seems happy with that.