Guest commentary by Beth Rappaport
NEW YORK, New York, November 8. WE lost our son, Jonathan on March 9, 2012. I was 34 weeks pregnant and we had just bought a Graco stroller a few days before. He was stillborn. To make a long story short, I went into labor at 4 a.m. I rushed to the hospital and there was no heartbeat to be found.
I delivered my beautiful son; he was 3lbs 14 oz. I kissed his long thin hands with the gentlest fingernails and held him close. We felt as though the ground below us had shattered, like we were underwater and couldn't swim to the top. We were sinking.
Our lives and our plans took a turn and we were overcome with grief and sadness. There were days I would scream and yell and cry and it seemed like I couldn't go on. I would hold other babies and cry into them wishing it was my son, my Jonathan. I would hear a song and lose it.
We have gone to two support groups since then, even meeting a couple who we call our new best friends 'we wish we never had to meet through this' friends.
We tried to get pregnant as soon as possible, and did on the first cycle, but it ended in a miscarriage- trisomy 22. Again we were underwater, sinking and defeated, unable to achieve life's greatest joy.
Then I began to swim.
I joined a fancy schmancy aquatic center in Long Island that boasts four pools with diving boards. I took lessons as a child and could swim across a lake but still consider myself a novice. I bought a kickboard. The best eye goggles. I let myself feel truly underwater, that metaphor I had been feeling for so long, now here I was swimming through my pain. Letting it all out. I dove in and took a stroke. I think about my son when I swim sometimes. I think about how I wanted to build my life around him, how I miss him. I swim and I make my body strong and healthy, and I think about my hopes for a child in my future.
In the midst of all of this Hurricane Sandy hit us here in New York. I lost all power and heat for 10 long days. My brother's basement filled in five minutes with more than seven feet of ocean water and all of my son's things were destroyed- the belly book filled with every sonogram and silly craving I had, onesies with monkeys and bibs with giraffes – all destroyed.
Now, we really felt drowned, completely defeated because now even his memories were being destroyed. I continue reminding myself of the superficiality of material things and that my love for my son grows deeper each day he is with me.
I made a heartfelt vow to my son to go back to my pool as soon as it reopens to further heal myself. I will swim again. Sandy cannot take that away from me. I will dive off the highest diving board. As I jump, I will again yell my son's name proudly as I face my fear of diving and sinking into the water. I know my son is watching out for me. He has to be. I haven't sunk yet.