Anyone who knows my son knows that he is funny, creative, and witty (sometimes acerbically so). He is a warrior for social justice and stands in his truth proudly and without fear.
What you may not know is that, before all of that, he saved me.
In 2004, less than a week after a long and mostly enjoyable road trip moving our family (my then husband, our daughter, my two sisters, three nephews, and two cats) from Pennsylvania to Tacoma, I suffered a miscarriage. I fell into a debilitating and what I quickly realized was a life-threatening depression. I felt that the only way to heal was to immediately try again. Within a month, I was pregnant with my son, and a new challenge surfaced.
One evening, very early on in the pregnancy, my husband and I had gone to the movies; midway through the film, I felt a rush of wetness that was very familiar. At the ER, we learned that I had a torn placenta that would either repair itself or wouldn't, that I would continue to bleed or I wouldn't, that the pregnancy, my child, would endure or wouldn't.
The bleeding persisted through my, our, entire first trimester. Every morning before work, I went into the lab to have my blood drawn to test the HCG levels that would tell if the baby was still with me. Over the 25 minute drive to school, I alternated between praying both to the Creator and to the creation within me and trying not to let doubt find purchase in my heart and mind. The darkness that had swallowed me after the miscarriage always hovered near, waiting. The moment I turned off the car, I'd call an automated line to get the lab results. Fear is heaviest in the moments before an annunciation. While every day, I was blessed to be able to go into my office full of relief and timid joy because of positive results, I knew that worry would creep in over the course of the day, and by the next morning, the whole process would begin again.
The poem below, Bearing Witness, which was published in The Pitkin Review Fall 2017 issue, is a reflection of that time, a song of my salvation, and a small tribute to my beautiful boy.
You were a promise of fierce being-ness
even as a small, silent sentinel waiting,
an island of resolve in an unreliable sea.
Circumstance never dictated your certainty,
but I didn’t know if you would stay or
drown and wash away in clotted currents.
Fear, like other muscles (optimism,
triceps), requires attention and use
to increase in strength. After one loss,
it had overpowered the organic
authority of my heart and brain.
Yet, you held truth before you bore flesh,
wisdom before teeth, knowledge before
bones and breath. You, my son, a gospel
stronger than any sea, any fear,
- Lydia K. Valentine