A story of lost hopes and dreams, or, the little things

When you lose a child before he or she is born, parents like my partner and I often aren’t recognized in our grief and sorrow.

Even though we have been sheltering ourselves from the world, we have still managed to hear the stinging, slap-in-the-face comment from some well-meaning friends and family of “you can just try again.” Or people liken our experience to a miscarriage.

I even had one family member call me the other week – it was a nice intention, checking up on his niece, but he did all of the talking. He went on and on about things that are not meant to be, and how he and my aunt actually went through the same thing when they were young and weren’t ready to have kids, so they had an abortion long before my cousins were born. He then told my mom that I sounded fine, and didn’t see what the big deal was. I’m young, and it was just a fetus – why don’t I just try again?

How am I supposed to talk to someone like that, though? He called with a certain agenda, to “make me feel better” but I felt he was so out of touch with what actually went on, and he gave off a vibe of “been there, done that, it’s not a big deal,” so I just said “uh-huh” until he felt like he gave me sufficient ‘help’ and I could just hang up and get back to my mourning.

I know it’s difficult to talk to us. It’s difficult for us, too. I know there are no words to adequately express anything. There isn’t anything nice anyone can say about losing a child. Any silver lining this dark cloud has has already been exhausted by us (yes, we ended Henry’s life before he could really suffer, yes, we at least had five whole months of being happy expectant parents, yes, it wasn’t meant to be, bla bla bla). We don’t need to hear filler, we don’t need to be distracted from our pain – that’s only going to make us feel guilty for leaving Henry behind. We’re not there yet.

Let me gently spell it out for anyone who has thought of, or wondered these things:

No, it’s not the same thing as a miscarriage or electing to have an abortion because you’re not ready to be a parent (absolutely no judgment for those who have had an abortion for whatever reason, and we do feel terribly sad and sorry for you if you had a miscarriage, which is also an enormous loss – I’m just saying what we’re going through is in no way the same thing as these).

No, we’re not going to “just” have another kid – we didn’t lose a puppy that we can just replace, and we didn’t simply “lose” our baby. We actually chose to end the life of our son. He had a fatal disease. His life was ripped from my womb through dose after dose of medication, and I gave birth to a tiny, non-viable, dead baby. We gave him a name. He is part of my family. We love him and cherish him, and, we already have to stick up for him as a baby that counts in this world.

And our grief is real. We’re not going to just ‘get over it’ and make another one to fill the void Henry has left. If we have other kids, it will be on that kid’s terms, and not as a replacement for the one we had to say goodbye to.

The type of loss parents like us experience is a loss of dreams and hopes and the little things we did in preparation for Henry in our lives.

I had a closet full of maternity clothes that I had not even had the chance to wear. When I picked out those clothes, I had bigger, winter-sized me in mind. And another full set of clothes sent to me from a dear, beloved friend. I was even starting to look for a winter coat that would encircle my rotund shape.

We even had a package in the mail that was en-route from a dear friend in New Zealand for our baby. It arrived after Henry was gone, and I didn’t open it. All the maternity clothes are packed away and hidden at my mom’s house to stave off any reminder of the ignorant bliss we lived in for nearly half a year.

We had an entire bedroom set up, and a few months prior, we rearranged our house to make room for baby. We moved the rabbits downstairs, and my step-son in to the rabbit room. My step-son’s old room became the baby room. The room had been filling up with so many wonderful gifts of clothes, furniture, books, baby monitors, and many other useful things. It still smells like a baby room, and even though it has now been emptied, I can’t go in there.

We were looking in to daycares here and in the city we might be moving to in a few years, and were giving hints for the baby shower friends and family were planning for us and had a registry all drawn up.

We were wondering what this little person was going to be like, and were already figuring out the types of books we would read to our precious little one. We definitely wanted him to be well-versed in imagination and happiness, with an early introduction to good music and science.

We were preparing for months of sleeplessness, and rearranged our room so that our bassinet would fit on my side of the bed. We even bought a new dresser that better fit the new setup. We had everything planned for how long we were each gong to take off work once baby was here.

We thought we passed the first trimester miscarriage danger mark that all parents-to-be endure. We assumed we were in the clear. I could feel baby kick nearly constantly, which brought me so much joy. My food preferences and body had all changed for baby. I visualized daily play and snuggle time with baby on my living room floor on a blanket I was making for the occasion. I pictured myself spending my days outside walking, introducing Henry to animals, trees, and how the outdoors smells and feels, and couldn’t wait for Henry to meet and play and grow up with two other newborns of my partner’s best friends.

This baby was real and already the most important part of my life.

My dreams and hopes shattered at around 11:00 a.m. September 19 when that first ultrasound doctor didn’t tell us that our baby measured just fine. Now, we’re that couple, walking the nighttime streets with our heads bowed low, just wandering, just the two of us – no longer three. We’re mourning Henry and the dreams and hopes he brought with him when I first saw that positive pregnancy test.

We lost our child before we got to know him. We’ll never know what he would have looked like, sounded like, what foods he would have preferred, what hobbies he would have picked up, and the relationship he would have had with this step-brother. We mourn our son as though he has always been here, and our nerves are sensitive and raw on some days.

Please feel compassion for us before asking us if we’re going to try for other kids, like Henry never mattered. Please don’t wonder how long it’s going to take us to move on. We move with – not away – from the child we made and love who is walking on the other side.

This song has been with me since last night, thankfully replacing the “I lost my baby” torture song. I don’t understand what Grimes says in the song, but the feel of the tune is about right, and the video is interesting. And, because sometimes I feel like a mad-woman, I like watching the ladies mess up their faces with makeup, or paint, or whatever, and their dancing.  Enjoy.

With love,

Mel

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7 comments on “A story of lost hopes and dreams, or, the little things

  1. tersiaburger says:

    People are so insensitive. I am told “at least you get to say goodbye” http://tersiaburger.com/2012/06/08/8-6-2012/ Don’t people understand there is never a good time for one’s child to die?? There are no “good circumstances”. My heart bleeds for you and your partner in this difficult time. You are doing the right thing mourning baby Henry. He is worthy of your tears and grief. You are his mommy.

  2. Mel Lefebvre says:

    Thank you Tersia. My partner was actually concerned that my post today was too “attack-y” but it needed to get out. There aren’t any good circumstances in saying goodbye to your child. Only a deep, dark ocean of sorrow and pain that people only tend to “get” if it has happened to them. That’s what makes it so hard to talk to people like us! I know everyone means well, and not everyone knows what might set us off, and that isn’t to say that nobody should talk with us… it’s so awkward. I’m also so sad for you for what you’re going through with Vic. xoxo

  3. greenleela says:

    Mel,
    Never fear that what you are saying is hurtful. Someone needs to reveal that others are being insensitive so they can respect your limits, or then perhaps prove to be an absolute jerk. There is no easy sentiment that will make you feel like the sun coming up tomorrow isn’t a cruel and harsh reality, because you want so much to have little Henry there with you.
    I am really happy to have read all the things that you did to prepare for him. Not being around you all that often, I was exposed a little bit more to the fervor this pregnancy had brought to your life. You are and will always be the most caring and concerned mother I know. And yes one day you might put that stuff to use, but you don’t even have to think about that now. Think of Henry. Other things can wait.
    I love the video you posted. It is muy confusing with the words you can’t understand and the actions that you can’t even see a pattern in, but still very full of emotion and meaning.
    Sending my love

    • Mel Lefebvre says:

      Thank you Alicia, you are so right. I’ve been shocked by some of the things some people who consider themselves my friends have said to me. I’ve read in a few places that losing a child rearranges your address book – and that there’s only space for people with compassion in this new, unwanted life.

      I guess the song is like grief itself – hard to understand, hard to find patterns in, and confusing. It’s haunting, and has been playing in my head nearly every day.

      Thank you for everything you said
      xoxo

      Mel

  4. […] A story of lost hopes and dreams, or, the little things (writerightmel.wordpress.com) […]

  5. samlandshaw says:

    Sorry for your loss of your child. They are special and deserved to be honored.
    we recently lost our son sam who was born thursday october 11th 2012 at 9:49 am. the week before i was in nesting mode, trying to get everything in order so that it was perfect for him. We made the decision to take him off all his tubes and let him pass away, it was the hardest decision we ever had to make. I miss him so deeply and wish that i could hold him and cradle him and bring him home to the house that we had prepared for him. People can never really understand that your baby was a part of you and that you had hopes and dreams that will never be reached. It’s like our world was ripped apart and people expect us to just move on.

    • Mel Lefebvre says:

      Even people who lost a child can’t fully understand another bereaved parent’s pain – I can just thank you, so much, for sharing your painful story with me, and I am deeply sorry for losing Sam. I pictured myself writing out the message you did, and that I would have had to take many pauses because the tears in my eyes would have make it impossible to see the screen. My heart and arms ache for you. Life isn’t f*king fair, and it doesn’t make sense, and I feel so crazy and confused sometimes.

      I thought I would be able to handle dismantling Henry’s room. It was one of the first places I went – to put something in there – when we left the hospital without him. My partner tried to warn me off, but I did it anyway, and was a howling, sobbing mess, so he guided me out of the room and I just collapsed on my bed and didn’t budge for a couple of days. We had friends come and take everything out of there for us while I hid. It’s torture even having the room there, because although it’s empty, it still holds shreds of the dreams and hopes we carried in the months leading up to our farewell.

      I wish you lots of time and space for your mourning. This type of loss doesn’t make any sense. Whenever you have time, I hope you are able to look through some of my posts, I put up links and books that I found helpful for myself in the last month. I still haven’t felt ready to see friends, and have only spoken to a couple of people on the phone. Please be gentle with yourself. Nothing diminishes this pain – it seems you just have to get used to it being there.

      With love and compassion,

      Mel

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