Note: I originally posted this on my personal Facebook page as a raw and cathartic release of thoughts and feelings. I did not write with the intention to publish this. However, the SHEis.com team asked and said they thought many of you could relate. I agreed. If Cagney’s short life helps anyone, it will bring a glimmer of peace to my pain.
So here it is…
Cagney Joe—as the earth takes that long trip around the sun, I wait patiently for the day his name gets to bask in its warmth and glow. A cake. That’s all that is left for us to look forward to. A birthday cake for our sweet angel.
This year it will carry the weight of five candles that will never feel his gentle and excited breath. I am angry this year and fantasize about those candles just burning, wax melting, making the cake unpalatable with tarnished beauty. I want to throw the cake against the wall and watch it burst and smear. It’s what my heart feels like.
I am given cultural permission to care for only one day. I haven’t given my raw feelings space or vulnerability because it makes others uncomfortable. You know what’s uncomfortable? Aching arms longing for a babe that I’ll never hold…bitter and dry lips that never kissed delicate newborn skin…guilt for denying my child the right to be one of six by telling people I am the mother of five, for an explanation would birth empathy I don’t have the strength to own…a hoarse voice and shaky knees standing at a lonely counter to tell a stranger the beautiful name that will never be spoken enough.
My pain is hollow and cold. A frigid howling cavern takes residence in my soul, a Cagney-shaped absence, and I’m not sure how to fill it or if I want to. So today I choose to be angry.
I am a mother, been a mother since I was 17 years old. I have six amazing children…three boys, two girls, and what Chris and I feel in our hearts was another boy. His name is CAGNEY. When people ask me how many children I have, they don’t realize it’s a hard question. My voice always answers five, and my soul whimpers six.
This is Cagney’s story….I was still nursing my littlest guy, Canyon. I hadn’t had a cycle in a long time—since I got pregnant with Canyon actually. I had, however, in the past few months experienced other signs of ovulation. I’d kept track because we were wanting to try for another baby. I hadn’t had any of those signs in the past few weeks…on the contrary, I felt “different.” I held a secret, a jubilant, joyful, happy, hopeful secret of MAYBE and I’M SURE WE ARE.
I planned in my head…being full-bellied is wonderful in the winter…another February birthday. How will we share the news?? It’ll be Cagney Joe, no matter if it’s a boy or girl.
Well that last night, as I got in the tub with Canyon, I noticed a few bright red clots. I continued over the night to have bright red bleeding, clots, and a general sense of being un-whole. I had cramping, but it wasn’t like labor with my other children. Somewhere in my gut I had wished it would be—at least I could own that. At least I would have something. But I didn’t. I didn’t. My entire being was saying, “I’m losing something important and special and unique and worthy and meant to be. I’m confused. I’m feeling emotional and regretful…guilty and sad….uncertain and quite alone.” I had so many whys. Why didn’t I share the news? Why is this happening? Why me?
Because I never had a pregnancy test or an ultrasound that gave me the scientific yes, I took on this societal NO, giving me a weight of NO. No Andie, you don’t have a reason to celebrate, and no, you don’t have a reason to mourn.
I can’t live with that. I just feel…I don’t have a good word for it…but something. There was something, and now I feel empty. When you share in creation and carry a life, no matter how long, and when that life goes, a piece of your soul goes with it. My body was going through a new experience, I know my body well, and this was foreign.
I will share this story every year on July 19th, mostly because of an inner voice telling me not to, and that’s not right. This happened, and why should it be a secret that lives only in me. I don’t want to ask permission to be sad over this, I’m giving myself that privilege. I deserve to have my feelings, and my baby deserves my heart. It’s strange how a mother can love a being she barely knew existed, but I do. I’m in love with the tiny babe my husband and I made, I’m in love with God’s creation, and I’m in love with knowing Jesus is rocking the baby I can’t and that one day he will return that babe to my aching arms.
It brings me comfort to know you were a water birth baby, Cagney. It’s what I would have planned for you, if I could have. You were in the tub with Camden and Canyon and me. I’ll hold that memory as a gift. We celebrated his birthday the first week we lost him with a cake because it is his still-birthday. We donated a cake in honor of Cagney to Alexandra’s house so another family struggling will have a joyful moment too. It gives me a peace to know my oh-so-wanted baby will touch another heart besides mine. We do cake for him each year, and I remember him every day. We all love you our precious baby Cagney Joe. It’s forever your day, your still-birthday.