Alive

I recently reconnected with an old friend/colleague who had moved away. She had learned of Mabel and her story from some mutual friends and called me. Her message seemed urgent and when we finally were able to link up by phone, I understood her urgency. She too had lost a baby. I had known her for many years and knew of her two living adult children, but I didn’t know that there was a child that came before. She told her story; I told mine. Thirty years and very different circumstances separated our children, but some of the emotions were the same.

She relayed a story about one of her living children, a daughter in her 20s who is trying to find herself, her career. Her daughter asked her, “Mom, growing up, what did you want for me? What did you want me to be?”

In her head the answer was clear: “Alive! All I wanted was for you to be alive!” It was not the answer she gave- she spoke of happiness and fulfillment, but her thoughts are so true of those who have lost a child.

What do I want for any future children? I used to think about how I wanted them to go to good colleges, for them to have good friends, for them to be kind, compassionate children. Then I was told Mabel would have Down Syndrome and realized a good college was unimportant. I focused more on hoping she would meet other kind and compassionate kids who would befriend her. I had no doubt that she herself would be kind. I secretly hoped she would still excel in her own way- she was the daughter of two well accomplished adults who would teach and love her in all sorts of ways. Then I was told Mabel would be sick- very sick- and she might not live. She might not live through pregnancy even. I didn’t know what to hope for- hope that she was born alive and we would be faced with all sorts of difficult decisions, worrying about our child suffering or hope that she died in side of me, where she only knew the comfort of my womb, but I”d never hear her cry. I think I ultimately hoped she would be born alive and we would take the decisions as they came. I hoped she would defy the odds, hoped that the doctors were wrong, hoped that she would live. Not just be born alive, but actually live.

I was lucky. Mabel was born alive. She lived- six short hours, but she lived. In my grief, I try to remember to be grateful. I recognize I am among the fortunate in the babyloss community, if there is such a thing. My baby lived. Barely, shortly and sometimes even suffering- but she lived. I hope that she did not suffer long and I am grateful that she died in my arms.  Not every parent can say that- many are separated from their child when they die.  Many children suffer longer than Mabel.

What a weird world I live in to be grateful my baby lived a whole six hours.

Regardless of whether our babies lived only inside of us, lived for a few hours, a few days, a few months, regardless of where and how long they lived, we all had the same hope for our children and my friend put it well. We hope that they are alive.

How did your hopes for your child/children (living or gone) change with your loss?

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7 thoughts on “Alive

  1. This was a beautiful post. Funny enough, I didn’t end up thinking about our lost babies, instead I thought of one day in the car with my Dad shortly after my mom and sister died in a car accident when I was 14 years old. The clock said 11:11 (and there is an old saying that you make a wish at 11:11 because its good luck), so I said Dad, you need to make a wish, it’s 11:11. He said something along the lines of “I only ever wished that my children would live a healthy life. M is dead, my only wish didn’t come true, so I don’t wish anymore.”
    In that moment, I think somehow I had a new appreciation for the bond between a parent and a child, and the intense grief that my Dad must have been feeling. And now, I have a much better understanding of what my Dad went through losing my sister, and losing all the hopes and dreams that went along with watching her grow up.

    • What a powerful statement from your dad. There’s something in it that struck me- perhaps because I’m so wrapped up in my loss, losses of my peers that to think of the generation above me having the very same thoughts is just striking (funny enough this friend of mine is a generation above me, but I put her in my generation, because she is my friend).

      • It really is weird to think that we now share so much more with the generation above us. I guess the longer we are here, we have a much better understanding and appreciation good and bad.

  2. I’m so glad your friend reached out, even though it is sad that she has also experienced such a terrible loss.
    Just yesterday I was looking at my youngest daughter and thinking that, if it was in my power to spare her any particular pain, it would be that of losing a child. But actually “alive” is perfect (and a prerequisite for just about everything else).

  3. Yes. Like you, I had a lot of dreams for my child. Like your friend, now all I want is a child who lives. Not only lives, but outlives me. And selfishly, I also wish for it to be my biological child, and my full-term pregnancy that brings me said child. Like the Dad in the comment above though, I no longer pin many hopes on wishes and dreams and prayers. I prayed and wished so hard for Ander to make it, and he didn’t. So I kinda lost faith in the universe, or God, or whatever.

    • why is it selfish to want your own biological child??? it’s only something we even entertain having gone through babyloss- most people simply take it for granted they can have their own biological child. I want to experience pregnancy again. I want to experience ultrasounds that are exciting and not fear producing. I want to have a baby shower. I want to look forward to birth, thinking its the event that begins my new life with my child, not the event that starts the end of my child’s life. So if you’re selfish for wanting a biological child, I am selfish too!

      And I lost some faith too. My mantra in pregnancy was if I’m just good to the universe, it’s got to be good to me, right? well, i thinki I was pretty good to the universe- and my baby still died. so what am I to believe in now?

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