02 November 2008

A Price For Pearls

What price wisdom? What would you really pay to learn something meaningful? I have always been a curious sort, and I thought I would be willing to pay a steep price for knowledge. I lived with that conceit until the birth, and death, of my first two children.

It started in 2002 when my wife (The Spouse) and I finally decided we wanted children. We took it on with a lot of enthusiasm because we realized it was right and we were as ready as we would ever be. Almost nine months went by with no luck, and we were starting to worry. There was a lot of praying and consultations with doctors. Then came the big day: we learned in March 2003 that she was pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl. Boo-Yaaahh! Things were proceeding smoothly, until one Sunday in July she developed a severe headache along with swollen hands and feet. Her doctor ordered her to the hospital for rest and monitoring. Over the next three days her condition worsened, with her blood pressure spiking to frightening levels. She developed preeclampsia and the doctors said the babies needed to be delivered now, or they all could die. After four-and-half months of pregnancy our son and daughter were brought into the world by emergency Caesarean section.

Delicate creatures, they were radiant like sunflowers and small like soda bottles. Both weighed about 1 ½ pounds. We saw them briefly before they were rushed off to the neonatal intensive care unit, ensconced in their own isolettes. We were with them as much as possible, and it never felt like enough. Being at the limits of viability for life meant the odds were heavily against them. Our luck ran out six days later when our daughter died, her tiny body overwhelmed by an infection. Our son fought it out, but he too succumbed about two weeks later when his lungs just stopped working. In perhaps the worst moment of our lives, we watched as the monitors and machines were turned off, and our only remaining child slipped away.

Crushed by anguish, the next few months became a constant struggle to simply make it through the day without breaking down. In the black night of our broken souls, living again seemed impossible. There was no energy, no will to continue. We took leave from our jobs. There was a lot of contemplation and a lot of tears as we tried to make sense of something so utterly senseless. Gradually, as time went by, some of the edges of the heartache began to dull. There finally seemed some distance between us and those awful feelings of despair and helplessness. Ultimately, the deaths of our children served as a catalyst. It was during this period that I began to wonder how we could find some beauty in the midst of all the devastation we had endured. It was on the tail end of a particularly unsettled night of half-sleep, that an answer came to me in a waking dream: a vision of an oyster and a pearl. At first, I had no understanding of it, just a strong feeling that it meant something positive. Life began to regain some color. Later in that year, we decided that we would try again to start a family. This decision came with some trepidation, especially on my part, but somehow seemed it right. It was with tremendous joy that, in early 2004, we learned that The Spouse was pregnant again. The feeling was not unlike what I imagine it is like to have your deepest wish come true while falling off a cliff.

In 2007, I had an epiphany. I knew now the reason for my vision of three years past. The awful truth is that pearls are revealed by violence. The mucky shell is split open, a humble life is consumed, but a precious treasure is discovered. Would we go through something as horrific as the death of a child again for the sake of such tremendous knowledge? Not willingly. But neither would we give it back for the sake of erasing memory; what we learned is far too valuable, and will be guarded accordingly.

The passage we suffered may have been through the hinterlands of Hell, but endurance and the refusal to give up had brought its own rewards. The pearl had coalesced for us in October 2004 upon the birth of our beautiful daughter, Wee Lass. When we touched her tiny hands we finally understood something of Life: live it in spite of the pain, and know something of Love.

No comments:

Post a Comment

"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...