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?

Parallel Lives

She was telling me about a problem she’s had since her baby was born. To get a better sense of the duration of her symptoms, I asked when she had the baby.

February 15, 2014.

As I typed the date into my note, I my fingers began to freeze. They understood the significance of that day. For the woman in front of me, it was the best day of her life. For me it was the worst. We were in the same hospital, on the same labor floor at the same time. We both held our first borns that very day, changing our lives forever.

My family came to meet my lifeless child, while hers came with balloons and teddy bears.

While she changed diapers in the middle of the night, I slept in an ambien-induced haze.

She woke to the sound of a crying baby; I woke to the sound of my cell phone, a call from my credit card company to inform me of some fraud that happened while I was listening to the nurse ask us if we wanted to call the chaplain.

A day later, I was leaving the hospital empty armed and she stayed learning how to nurse her child.

Her milk came in, as did mine, but she had an outlet for her brimming breasts.

While I planned a funeral, she learned to care for a baby.

I sat on my couch, staring mindlessly at the tv; she longed for the free time she had pre-baby to catch up on her shows.

She watched her baby grow into an infant, learning to smile and respond; I placed photos of my dead baby around the house, knowing that I would never see her smile.

She raised a baby while I got a puppy.

She is a mom and I am the shadow of one.

She lived the life I was supposed to have.

At the end of her visit, I slipped into the bathroom and cried.

 

Have you come across someone living the life you were supposed to have?