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?

Everyone has a Purpose

Today a colleague told me “everyone has a purpose.”  Not the “everything happens for a reason,” which I’ve gotten so many times before.   Both comments are made with such good intentions, but hers really hit home.  We are all put on this earth with some purpose.  She has shared life changing moments with people.  Moments that might not have come to pass if she weren’t there.  I’ve had those moments.  As a midwife,  I have those moments almost daily.  I am the first hands that greet a child on her way into the world.  I have made women feel welcome and listened to. I have let women cry about the baby they know if going to die.  I have cried with women about the baby that died for no good reason.  I have helped women feel comfortable with their bodies and in control.  And this is just my work life.  I do volunteer work on the side.  I am a good friend.  I have had many purposes and have many more.  This baby has a purpose too.

There are some things I just can’t think of a reason for.  Why do children die?  Why do some people who work so hard still struggle?  Why do some women who would make such great moms, face infertility? Why do I, who consciously planned this pregnancy- took my folic acid, timed my ovulation, wished and hoped for a baby- have a difficult diagnosis.  While others who don’t even want to be pregnant have a baby without any issues?

I’m learning not to compare- everyone has their own struggles and I’m not sure I’d trade mine for theirs.  But my own struggle is not happening “for a reason.”  It makes me feel like somehow I deserved this.  Tell me, what is the reason if my baby ends up with open heart surgery?  What is the reason if I lose my baby- tomorrow or in sixth months?  There is no good reason to make children suffer.  Or parents suffer for that matter.

Whenever I heard, “everything happens for a reason,” I would cringe on the inside.  I tried to respect the good intentions behind the statement, and so respond in some benign way.  Now I think I’ll respond- “I’m not sure if everything happens for a reason- some reasons are unknowable.  But I like to think everyone has a purpose.”