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

Gratitude through grief

When I lost my dad eight years ago, I was a daughter mourning her father. My mother was mourning her husband, and my grandmother/aunt/cousins mourned him in their own way according to the relationship they had with him.

As I mourn Henry’s death, I feel so fortunate to be grieving the loss of the same relationship with my partner. I hate having something so painful in common with him, but we draw a lot of comfort from each other. He has been my rock, and a constant source of love and support.

We’re together, but separate, mourning in our own individual ways. Some people pour themselves in to work to restore a sense of control and normalcy after something as devastating as losing a child. My partner had no choice but to start working pretty much right away because of deadlines, etc. I can’t do that, but I’m lucky to be a freelance writer with a bit of cash in the bank to help me coast for a little while. This means I don’t have to rush back to a job if I’m not ready, and my editors are kind enough to give me the time I need to feel ready to write professionally again (if any of you are reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart).

I rely on my fingers to fly across the keyboard for my livelihood. But in the first days after learning Henry’s diagnosis, and the days following his delivery and death, I couldn’t make sense of my computer. I misspelled everything, got confused, and just closed up shop, only writing to a few friends to tell them the news. I let go of all of my commitments (even a beloved pottery class), and just existed (I don’t mean to sound like this is in past-tense… I’m still just a breathing, sitting blob).

Through the past two weeks, I have also been floored by the graciousness and generosity of my friends and family. This has been, without a doubt, the most difficult time of my life.

This post is about other things that I am thankful for.

We received a beautiful bouquet flowers from my old workplace, and I don’t know how many meals from friends and family, left innocently on our front porch. And I thank you for each fork-full that I didn’t have to cook myself, each kind thought, and every card that has passed through our door.

Thank you DSF

I’m also very appreciative of my friends, who have been so kind and decent as to leave my partner and I in peace with our pain. We haven’t received any surprise drop-in visits or any mournful, uncomfortable phone calls. We’re still not ready, but we’re getting there, and we thank you so much for your patience while we stay in our cocoon.

We have literally been hiding, spending days in bed. I feel that I’ve made some progress because I’ve been camping out on the sofa rather than our bed – which is getting kindof grimy and full of crumbs. But we’re exhausted, even though our days are very sedentary.

I’m also trying to find the motivation to take care of myself now that I no longer have a baby to keep me eating healthy and exercising. While I was pregnant, Henry gave me every motivation for self-maintenance, like flossing and eating veggies and completely cutting out coffee and wine.

Now that my belly is empty, I find it hard to care whether I eat in a day, floss, or do other regular self-maintenance tasks. I’m thankful for my mom, who has gently urged me to speak with my naturopath to make sure I don’t go completely off the rails, and who is arranging that I get a massage eventually. Maybe one day in the far distant future, I’ll even get a hair cut and go for a walk in the day time.

Lastly, I’m very thankful to whoever is reading my blog. It is my hope that other grieving parents, no matter how you lost your child, reads these so that they feel they’re not alone.

With love and gratitude,

Mel