My friend Nicole buried her baby yesterday. Little Tai lived for 18 hours before dying.
Nine months ago Nicole called to say she was going to have a third child. I immediately made fun of her, cursed her with triplets as she was going to have the third child I always wanted, but she said she never did.
Soon after that, Nicole and her husband learned Tai had trisomy-13. Most babies with this genetic condition miscarry, come into the world still-born, or die upon birth.
I had just published an article on families who have children with disabilities and one of those profiles included a family with a child–a miracle child, really–with trisomy-13. I offered Nicole the article and to put her in touch with the family I wrote about. She said she’d read the article, but she didn’t need to talk to anyone, her voice was light, "Everything will be all right, I just want to spend as much time with her as possible, enjoy the pregnancy…"
Our wider circle of friends discussed Nicole’s calm attitude.
"She’s in denial."
"She’s going to have a nervous breakdown."
"Not even Nicole can pretend THIS isn’t a problem."
"Yeah, this is going to hit her hard."
But then it hits us, as it always does, Nicole is not like us. Everything from small details of life to the big stuff, she breezes through. If not for knowing her for 16 years, I’d think she was going to end up in the looney bin for all she seemed to struggle with the news her daughter’s brain was not compatable with life.
I spoke to her the day she left the hospital and her baby behind. She talked for twenty minutes straight, detailed each and every moment she spent with Tai for 18 hours. Every precious breath, poop, and cuddle is forever etched in Nicole’s heart, seeing and feeling the good in the situation.
Not that she hasn’t cried. She couldn’t even remember how long the funeral lasted or exactly what was said, but she said a few words, telling everyone how much she learned from her little fighter.
And as I spoke to her, after hordes of people left her home nine hours after the funeral, Nicole sighed.
"Well, I’ll go to the grave-site tomorrow, make sure everything’s okay, you know, just to be sure…"
I wanted to ask what she meant, that I didn’t know, but she’d already gone ahead with her end of the converstation, planning, thinking, making things all right just by saying they were.
And I realized, tearing up on my end of the line, that she would, indeed, be all right.