I’ll never forget opening the bedroom door to find my wife holding our dead newborn son to her exposed breast.
“He’s not eating,” she said, perplexed. “It’s been over two hours. Do you think he’s not hungry, yet?”
I went to her. Knelt as if in prayer. Although the room was dark and we hadn’t yet confirmed our loss, I knew. We both knew. I started to cry.
“Maybe he’s tired. He’ll eat when he wakes up,” she continued with her thought.
“Yeah,” I said. “Can I put him in his bassinet?”
There was distrust in her eyes, then. The illusion was ending. As soon as she let go of him, we’d be forced to face reality.
“Can I hold him for another minute?” she asked. I could hear the strain of broken hope in her voice. My voice caught in my throat. Unable to speak, I nodded. I placed one hand on our son’s head—his hair, nothing more than some peach-fuzz, felt so soft—and the other on my wife’s leg. We sat like that for much longer than a minute.
Eventually, I felt her tremble. “Okay,” she said, and handed him to me. “Okay. Okay…” she repeated, and her tears came.
I gently lay him to rest in the bassinet. Mustering all my strength I said, “I need to turn on the light.”
“I know,” she said.
In the light our son’s skin was a blueish-purple. The pediatrician would later ask if we kept any blankets in the bassinet. We answered no. Then she asked if we laid our son to sleep on his back. We answered yes. At the end of the interrogation I could hear the resignation in her voice when she said, “Unfortunately, sometimes these things just happen.”
In the bedroom that night my wife looked as if her soul had followed our son’s to wherever the innocent go. She was pale, gaunt, and frail, with dark spots spreading beneath her eyes. I barely recognized her.
Our marriage didn’t last much longer than his funeral. We saw too much of him in one another. So, with the only thing worth living for taken from us, we agreed to live as ghosts until our next lives, when maybe things will be different.