I’ve known about awareness month and like most, I shuddered to delve too deeply. It was too excruciating to think about and “please, God, don’t let it ever happen to me.” How inconceivable that pregnancy and infant loss is so common there is an entire month dedicated to a parent’s worst heartache. After February 25, 2016, I’m “aware” in a way I never expected to be; I am the face of infant loss. Now I live in a state of understanding which has been the worst, most painful hazing and initiation into the darkest club I never wanted to join. My heart and mind connect with life in a way I never fathomed would become part of my emotional repertoire. My ability to be acutely cognizant far exceeds the designated 31 days each October.
In every moment, in every situation, these are the things I’m aware of now:
- You, hopeful parents, who see me with my son in the store. Burning for the love of your own child, worried you will only get to know this in your dreams. You, sweet couple, anxious to learn if this IVF cycle will be cancelled like the last…even though you did everything right. You, sneaky wife (with the perfect plan to tell him) choosing what feels like your thousandth pregnancy test, fearful it will be negative like all the others. You, precious momma, choking back sobs as you fill your prescription for pain following your D&C. You, heartbroken husband, hiding helplessness, trying to find the right things on your list to buy, not for postpartum, but because your little bean has been lost. You all think I had it easy because I was allowed this precious boy who is “driving” my race-cart. Oh, how I wish for you to know my journey so you know I am you too.
- Thoughts that lie. It wasn’t my fault that our son’s life ended hours after he left my body; there is nothing I did or failed to do which caused his death.
- Deceitful doubt wrapped around stressful moments trying to steal my joy. Mistakes don’t equal motherhood failure. I’m the perfect mother to my children simply because I love them as hard as I know how. The child I get to know on earth has zero expectations of me. He doesn’t know what a parenting magazine is, let alone whether I graced its cover or not.
- I need help during the during. I’m aware it’s uncomfortable and in my story, “it” is the loss of my child. My greatest treasures are those present to help me navigate THROUGH and not around because for me, this is the only path to survival. I want to be the person who will show up during the during for you – no matter what your “it” may be.
- February 24th. The day before, when we cared about things that don’t matter and wasted headspace occupied by thoughts I don’t even remember. One circumstance, one final little heartbeat can change everything. In hindsight, I’d tell my February 24th self to live and love like I know better.
- When I said “I do,” I also meant I will. I will hold you, my love, as tightly as I can during the moments our son will die in our arms and every day after. I’ll pray for you more fervently than I ever have before. I will recommit to you over and over again as we do this together. I’ll honor your pain and your healing as your own – sometimes the same as mine and sometimes different. I cherish the memories of our son that only we will ever share. I’ll never leave you or your precious heart alone. I still “do” and I always will.
- Fierce pain means knowing fierce love. There is a level of responsibility which comes with experiencing these in life. I’m a voice for babies lost, for those too fragile to tell their story, and for reinforcing that true healing requires a village of support in which there is no room for shame.
- His memory will far outlive me. I’ll do everything in my power to ensure that our little boy is not forgotten. Dear friends who acknowledge our baby, thank you for being brave enough to say his name; thank you for not leaving him behind.
- There is layer upon agonizing layer to grief, especially from losing a child. Relationships, self-identity, and everything else related to being a functional human being is a webbed mess of confusion and fear. Nothing about life will ever be the same.
- I’ve made you think I’m doing much better (because it’s less awkward for you that way). If my pain swallowed me whole, wrecked my career, or sabotaged my marriage maybe then you’d see how raw all of this is going to be for a long, long time. I’m aware that you’re fully unaware of how deep this actually goes. It’s constant and even though “she seems like she is doing much better today,” “she” is just really good at holding it together for the sake of having no other choice.
- We are more than just patients. To those who cared for us, we are battles won and lost. We are lives you mistakenly feel you let down when nature decides against your perfectly planned protocol. Because you cared, we are why you won’t ever be the same either.
- Knowing joy brings the deepest sadness. Celebrating life while accepting that our child isn’t with us means never fully feeling one way. Simultaneous happiness and devastation is allowed. Forever.
- Everything that matters is more important.
- You, little boy who just crawled into my lap. You didn’t sign up for a life of loss or sadness. All you know in your tiny world is a want for love. I’m aware of the flowers you picked for me, your popsicle-stained lips and the castle you built – because I’ve decided to be. You deserve a momma who is present and who will join you in each new day. Despite what we’ve gone through, it wasn’t long ago that it was you I hoped for so badly.
More than anything this awareness month, I’m aware of my blessings and the promise that I will hold you again, sweet little one we lost. As long as I do this life the best way I can, I’m “aware” that this will be enough.