I cradled his tiny unmoving body in my arms. Angelic and peaceful, his perfect and adorable face with an unchanging expression peeked out from the bundle of blood-stained nursery blankets and still it did not cause a single tear.
I did not cry even though my mother insisted nearly every five minutes – as if she had set a timer – that what I really needed right now was a good cry. Not just a good cry, but a breakdown. A howling, screeching, gut-wrenching cry. As if that would fix me.
I did not cry as I held my son for countless hours – sometimes alone, sometimes in the company of others who scrutinized me with faces flooded by sorrow. Instead, I failed to grasp the reasoning behind why everyone was so upset – the reason I should cry.
I did not cry as nurses took foot and hand prints for our memorial box – cautiously moving his miniature limbs; or as we took countless photos I wasn’t sure I’d ever have the courage to look at.
I did not cry as I was wheeled past the nursery, full of new babies, to the hospital gift shop where I bought Ryan his only stuffed animal…which he would “sleep” with for two days, but I would end up sleeping with indefinitely.
I did not cry the first of many times that we had to send Ryan’s body down to the morgue, his tiny newborn box quietly wheeling down the corridor with a blanket covering the opening, the cool room a tool to keep him “fresh” so they could perform his autopsy.
I did not cry when they brought him back to me and the shock overwhelmed me, my breath taken away as I felt death in my arms for the first time; I held him again and he was as chilly as a block of ice, instead of the warm bundle I remembered.
I did not cry as I laid there picturing what it must be like for him, down in that cold morgue all alone on some slab of metal; the image boring a permanent blemish on my brain.
I did not cry as I placed his tiny little fingers around my index finger and fell asleep with him nestled in my arms, or when I woke up and was, momentarily, surprised that he hadn’t moved.
I did not cry as I silently willed him to squeeze my finger, just once. Squeeze. Squeeze. Squeeze. It became a mantra. It never happened.
I did not cry when we found out the Catholic Church refused to baptize him because he had already passed away; or when the chaplain performed a small, private service in the hospital church for Jake, his parents, my mom and I.
I did not cry as we silently wheeled Ryan’s covered bassinet through the halls of the hospital as if it were a casket in a funeral procession.
I did not cry when confused staff came in and congratulated us on our new son, or consoled us on the loss of our daughter.
I did not cry the first time the nurse made me try to walk, the pain so bad that it radiated from my incision out to every point of my body, and I was forced to immediately sit down in fear of passing out. I wanted to take that next step. I wanted to pass out.
I did not cry any of the times I strolled the hospital halls on doctor’s orders getting me strong enough to be released – even though I knew in a perfect world I should have been pushing my son around, and if he had been there to push, the pain would have been nonexistent.
I did not cry when I took a shower and noticed my deflated stomach, felt the peri-strips covering my stitches and saw my incision for the first time.
I did not cry when a visitor said, “Two months and you can try for another”, as if my son – with his cousin’s button nose and his father’s long limbs – could be replaced.
I did not cry when lullaby music played over the loud speaker every time a new baby was born – although I found myself wondering, but unable to ask, if they had played that music for my son. He deserved the music too.
I did not cry as I sat in the hospital room and called a list of funeral homes to get quotes on infant cremations. The sound escaping my mouth was monotone and factual, and I couldn’t even recognize myself.
I did not cry when I signed the papers releasing my son’s body to the Neptune Society to be cremated.
I did not cry when I unwrapped my tiny baby from the blankets he’d spent three days in, and placed him in a new blanket, so that I could bring the only things to ever touch his body home.
I did not cry when I said my goodbyes, for they only lasted a moment. It wasn’t until hours later, sitting in a parking lot, that I realized I couldn’t go back and say and do everything I should have said and done. I should have kissed him. I shouldn’t have left him.
I did not cry when his father broke down to the point he could no longer hold is own weight and buckled to his knees while saying his goodbye. Instead, I stared at him like he was a stranger, wondering what he was making such a big deal of?
I walked around in a haze where nothing made sense – and I did not cry – not then.
I saved my tears for later.