In Greek mythology, a phoenix or phenix (Ancient Greek φοίνιξ phóinīx) is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn. Associated with the sun, a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. The phoenix was subsequently adopted as a symbol in Early Christianity. The phoenix is referenced in modern popular culture.
In his study of the phoenix, R. van der Broek summarizes, that, in the historical record, the phoenix "could symbolize renewal in general as well as the sun, Time, the Empire, metempsychosis, consecration, resurrection, life in the heavenly Paradise, Christ, Mary, virginity, the exceptional man, and certain aspects of Christian life".
At 7:00 am Chris and I headed in to work. Chris thought something was up because at about 9pm the night before I was tidying up. Chris lit an extra large candle that night for Perry, still thinking of and taking care of him in our own way. By the time we got into Nashville at around 8pm, we detoured to Vanderbilt. This time the front staff at triage put me immediately into a room. I was at 7, placed on a monitor. The anesthiologist came in. By the end of his talk I could already feel pressure and I sent Chris out to get the nurse practioneer. They were already headed in to tell me the good news that I could finally go off the monitor. About 30 minutes later (after begging them to help me and various other assorted words I can vaguely remember) Paiden was born at 9:31 am. I have to admit that I am glad that I was planning on going 'natural' anyway, because I think if I had been planning otherwise, I might have panicked quite a bit more. The rapidness reminded me of Perry's birth, and I was very glad that we had started carpooling together that week. I think I would have been stuck on the interstate calling 911 otherwise.
I guess you might remember all of my nightmares? Well everyone was very careful with us, as if they sensed the tension. The one exception was the nursing student. As Paiden arrived, I heard her exclaim "look at the knot in the cord!". I heard the nurse midwife tell her that we didn't need any additional stress and she quickly explained to my husband that it was still lose and inserted a finger to show him. I wondered at that moment if that knot was the bull in my dreams, and imagined some divine finger keeping it from tightening. In any case, I am glad that we didn't know earlier as everything turned out well and I can only imagine the level of stress I'd have felt. But that little knot reminded me how fragile life is, it seemed to whisper that I'd been gifted with another child and not to take him for granted.
I guess it was natural for us to compare Paiden to Emily and Perry at birth. He was a large 10 lbs 1 oz, the biggest of all. His eyes were slits, the same as his siblings. His cheeks seemed puffier, but the hair was that same dark brown almost black. His hair was thick like Emily's. At times Emily and Perry seemed to swirl in Paiden's features, but his feet, small and compact instead of long and narrow, reminded me that he was his own being.
About an hour after his birth, I laid down to rest a bit and I felt a cold drop on my back. I looked up and there was nobody around me and the air vents were across the room. It reminded me of a tear. I felt the moisture with my hand and convinced myself I wasn't imaging it, but I still haven't decided what it was or what it meant. Far from being sad, I was at peace on Paiden's birthday.
When Paiden was taken from me, Chris followed. He was brought back in a sleepsack. The next week they were expecting the sleepsacks to come in to begin using them in the nursery. Paiden's group will be some of the last babies to only use receiving blankets. The nurses were kind enough to bring us one of demonstration sacks, and I can only imagine what Chris said or did that prompted this. But I was grateful for the thoughtfullness as this was the one thing I hadn't brought with us in the duffle bag.
After bathing him, we refused to let him be wrapped in a blanket instead of his sleepsack. I realized then that we were clinging to it so tightly because we firmly want to believe that if we do this simple thing, Paiden will be safe. Later, I found myself watching him and the clock as he slept, feeling relief everytime he cooed or grunted, and walking across the floor quietly to feel for warm breath from his nose if he hadn't made a noise in five minutes.
The next day, as I rocked him and watched the snow drift down outside the window, I heard the helicopters take off and land. It reminded me how similar and yet different he and his birth were from his brother. I thought about the irony of sitting in a maternity wing and hearing the life and death sounds of lifeflight. Perhaps the other patients did not think about it, but I did. I hoped that what was a good day for us was not the beginning of the rest of their lives 'without' for another set of parents. But I forced the thought away and just enjoyed him curled against me. This was not our bad day, and we needed our good day. It was ok, I told myself, to just enjoy it.
I am trying to take all the conflicting emotions surrounding a new baby in our house as they come. I try not to judge myself for how I feel, I just accept that they are normal for us. Sometimes I am scared when Paiden is asleep and then I try to cut myself slack. If other sleeping babies are hard, why shouldn't Paiden also be sometimes? But I love the fact that Paiden is the first baby I have held since Perry, there was no guilt, sadness, or anger there. Instead of being the first baby since Perry, it is the first time I held Paiden, if that makes sense. We have cried a lot the past few weeks, but we have also smiled. Emily gets to hold a new brother. I start to think in terms of the future again instead of just the past. While I can't decide which is better- past or present, I know my ideal would hold some of both. And that is truly a relief to me as I wondered at times if all of the best in life was already behind me. Perry's death is no longer the period that serves as a insumountable wall around my life. Is it still defining? Yes, but the frozen in time feeling has eased a bit. Some of the sharp bitterness remains, I don't think losing a child is something you ever get over. But there is life in the ashes.
Paiden is my phoenix.