It’s been five days since I lost our first child.
I say “I lost” as though it’s my fault, my experience, my tragedy although I know it isn’t. My husband is grieving just as much as I am; my family and his family are hurting for us; when it rains I feel as though the world as a whole is grieving for a little child that it will never know and yet there are still times when I feel as though I’m facing this heartache alone. I’m not. I know this and yet it’s still such a lonely feeling.
When you tell people that you are expecting a baby everyone is excited. There are “Congratulations!” and “You’ll be such a great parents!” flying at you from every possible direction. Everyone wants to speculate on gender, names, personality and appearance. People want to start thinking about shopping and celebrating. It’s so joyful!
When you tell people that you lost a baby no one knows what to say or how to respond. There are usually tears and a lot of “I’m sorry”s but no one really knows what to say or what to do or how to make it better.
You can’t make it better.
There’s nothing you can do.
You just have to…endure. Cope. Deal. Survive.
People, with their good intentions, offer words of condolences and advice to try to help the healing.
They will say things like, “You can always try again” and yet I hear, “Just remember, you can replace this child.”
They will say things like, “It wasn’t meant to be” and yet I hear, “God didn’t want you to have a child; He wanted you to suffer this heartache.”
They will say things like, “Maybe there was something wrong with it. Next time you’ll have a healthy child” and I resent the implication (however imagined it may be) that I wouldn’t have accepted or loved my child if it has been either physically or mentally handicapped.
They will say things like, “At least it was too early to be a child” and I’ll rage inside! I want to scream that it didn’t matter if I was 2 weeks, 6 weeks, 20 weeks, or 40 weeks that little life inside of me was a child and, to me, will always be a child! A child I lost.
They will offer advice and say not to stay indoors but to go out, continue living and try to get back to life as normal. Normal! As though life can feel normal after heartache like this. What’s normal now? I don’t know but still, I’ll try. I know I don’t want to stay at home and cry. My husband and I, we try. We go out. What is there to do?
We go out to dinner. Maybe being out for the evening will distract us, and it does, for about 10 minutes or at least it does until I notice the 2-year old boy at the table behind us. The little 2-year old boy with blond hair just like my husband’s. I see him and I can’t help but wonder, “Would our child have had blond hair like my husband’s?” If it had been a boy I would have hoped for blond hair. Like father, like son. I hate going out to dinner. I should have just cooked at home.
We go to the beach. The beach is beautiful, serene, and warm. It’s a great place to go and escape. There’s hope that it will keep my mind off of the heartache and maybe just relax. We arrive, set up the blankets, apply the sunscreen and finally settle in…when my eyes notice the young mother off to my left with her 6-month old son in a yellow hat playing under a bright umbrella to keep the harsh sun off of his sensitive white baby skin. I want to cry. I wanted to take our child to the beach. I wanted to watch our child play in the sand, hunt for seashells, discover his first shark tooth, splash in the waves. I wanted that but now I just see it and hurt.
But it’s ok. These are all little boys. Maybe our little baby wasn’t a little boy. Maybe it was a little girl. Maybe it was a little girl…like that little girl…the little one off to my right…the little one in the ruffly purple swimsuit and the floppy pink hat. Is there anything cuter than a 18 month old little girl toddling around the beach in a pink floppy hat? She is so cute! I smile. She has dark hair…just like me. Would our little girl have had dark hair like mine? I would have put her in floppy hats at the beach. Little girls on the beach in floppy hats are adorable! I feel nostalgic, which is odd, it’s strange to have such an intense feeling of missing something I never had to begin with.
I’m frustrated but try not to show it. I want to break down but don’t want to cry in public. I can feel the tears welling up but I want to hide them. I decide to hide the salty tears in the salty water of the ocean. I go into the sea, I stand there letting the waves hit me in the face over and over again. The salt water hides the tears on my face and the constant slapping of the water feels like punishment. I feel like I deserve it. One wave knocks me down and I go under for minute. I gulp water in and it hits my lungs. For a lightning-fast moment it feels almost like what drowning would feel like; it’s an odd feeling. I try to ignore the children and go back to the blanket. I lay down next to my husband, hold his hand, think about our marriage, think about how much I love him, think about what a great husband he is, think about how much I hate that he is grieving this way too, think about what an amazing father he would have been…
We go home. Our dogs are there to greet us jumping around and wagging their tails. I sit down and one jumps on my lap. He licks my face. I get frustrated, push him down and say, “Son! Stop licking the face!” The dogs are boys. I always call them “son” but now…it hurts in a way it never did before. I feel bad for snapping at them. I cuddle them close and love them, love my “sons”, regretting that I won’t be able to cuddle our baby.
I know my husband is hurting too. He’s aching inside just as much as I am. He’s trying, like I’m trying, to hold it in, to stay strong, to not show it, not fall apart. Occasionally we talk about it and when we do it’s hard.
What do we do?
How do we go forward?
Do we “try again”? Can we “try again”? Could we endure this grief again? It’s hard to even think about. What am I even thinking, “could we endure this grief again?” What’s with this again stuff anyway? I don’t even know if I could endure this grief now much less again.
What would our lives be like without a child? What if we never did try again. Could we, would we, be happy without a child? Plenty of couples live happy childless lives. We were happy before we found out we were expecting this child; could we go back to that? Or, has this experience changed us?
Our marriage is strong. Our love is secure. My husband and I are committed and deeply in love with each other. We were excited about this child. This child was so young, the pregnancy so new, and yet we already had dreams. We had discussed names and were dreaming of experiences. We wanted to take him (or her) places, teach them things, expose them to our favorite sports, games, animals and experiences. We already had visions of what our life, as a family, would be like and, in a single quick moment, it was over.
Yet, it’s not over. He and I are a family. We are a family as we are. We are a family of two and we have an amazing bond.
But our hearts are breaking. We are grieving.