I finished ” When Breath Becomes Air” not too long ago. The book is memoir by my friend Paul. Paul was sick- diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at age 36. He and his wife Lucy were debating whether or not to have a child, knowing that his time with her might be brief. Paul wanted to leave Lucy with a piece of him- a child they had always planned on having. Lucy worried that having a child would make his death more painful.
“Wouldn’t it be great if it did?” replied Paul.
There was a time when I wished none of it had ever happened. The joy of becoming pregnant followed by shock of learning our baby had Down Syndrome and then the high risk of loss. The gradual acceptance and even excitement that followed only to have that taken away, when we were learned she would likely die due to birth defects. The magnitude of grief I felt after she died was overwhelming. I thought I was protecting myself by trying not to bond too much while pregnant with a baby with a life limiting diagnosis. I thought my grief would be manageable because I knew ahead of time. I felt like there was an expectation (self imposed?) that I shouldn’t be that sad because I knew ahead of time.
When I was in my darkest times, I sometimes wished it never had happened. I would have never felt the pain. I would have just continued to live my life, innocent of such sadness, happily married, practicing midwifery.
But then there would have been no Mabel.
Now that my baby has been gone for over two years, I can see things a bit differently. Oh yes, it hurt to lose my child- one that I had hoped for, one that I had said “yes” to under difficult circumstances. But that pain was evidence to the great love I had. Yes, Lord Tennyson, it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.