It began with one sentence, “I’m so sorry, but the situation is very grave.” It was that one moment, the moment that began a new chapter in my life. It was then that I knew my life would now be the before this loss and the after. It’s a line we create when experiencing a great loss; a loss of any kind, really, one that cuts down to your soul and creates an ache that doesn’t go away. Oh, it may ease with time, but the scar remains. And it becomes almost welcome, one that we are loathe to miss. Because in feeling the ache, we remember. And in the remembering, comes the validation of the precious thing that was lost.
We all experience various losses throughout our lives as I had before losing my little boy. The year before I had an early miscarriage. Brimming with excitement, I had barely begun sharing my happy news, when it was over. When I finally became pregnant again, it was with a mixture of such hope and anxiety. The joy was complete as I passed that “magic” number week 12, only to be dashed as I ended up in the emergency room. Put on bedrest, I was determined to make it through to the end. My family and friends rallied around us. My parents, who lived close by, along with a friend who came to stay with us for days on end at a time, took care of my two little boys and our home. Friends came with meals, bearing gifts of books and magazines to pass the time as I lay in bed or on the couch.
Then one day I went in for a checkup. I had been very lightheaded for a few days, actually passing out at times. I asked for an ultra sound to make sure things were ok. The doctor didn’t think I needed another one and recommended that I start to move around a little more. It is still with regret that I remember that day, wishing I had had the courage to stand up to him and demand an ultrasound. But, we chose to trust his knowledge and we went home. I tried to do what he said, even having short bursts where I felt better. One morning as I woke up, I knew that something was wrong. My belly was so large, far bigger than it should have been at the time. And every time that I tried to do anything, I felt as if I would faint. As I was sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting to be seen, another expectant mother came to sit next to me. Eager to share and connect over swollen bellies and ankles, we compared due dates. “You’re so big, you must be having twins,” she said. With that comment came the confirmation that something was indeed wrong. As soon as the doctor saw me, she measured me and immediately sent us to the hospital. It was there that I received the ultrasound I had requested days before. The screen showed a belly full of blood, a placenta almost fully abrupted, and a sweet, baby boy not long for this life. The doctor’s next words as he sat on the side of my bed were, “I’m so sorry. I missed it.” And that is how the next week in the hospital became my new timeline. The one I refer to as my before and after in my journey of motherhood.
People are so kind. They want to help, to comfort, to take away your hurt. The love that was poured out on us was amazing. But, there are some who said things like, “it wasn’t the right time,” or “try not to think about it,” or “just be thankful for the boys you have.” And I didn’t get frustrated because I knew. I had been the one before who tried to find the right thing to say or do, even though I had not experienced that pain. There were also the ones who seemed sent from heaven to comfort my heart. It was these few who stood beside us and a tiny hole in the ground. On a beautiful, warm May day, my husband and I were surrounded by those few. There was the dear friend who did truly know my pain, a pain that I had not understood as we buried her little boy on a cold, wintry day just a few years before. The family members who stood by my hospital bed and prayed for a miracle for our two lives, helping me keep my faith when only one of our lives was saved. And my two little dark haired boys, who only knew that now, instead of just one, two of our babies were in heaven. They stood there next to us as I looked down at them with very different eyes. I had loved being their mother, devoting my whole life to them to do it. But, in that moment putting that tiny box into the ground, I had a new perspective; one that I had never wanted to have.
A few weeks ago, I ran into someone I went to college with over twenty years ago. Full of hope and anticipation, we had stepped out into our futures. In that time, our only contact had been the recent peering into each other’s lives through social media. As we stood there, trying to fit twenty years into a few minutes, I was amazed at how quickly the subject of losing a child came up. We both were fortunate enough to have four children, but with quite large age gaps between a couple of them, explained by the losses of our babies. How quickly the invisible bond that draws two hearts together is woven. Because in that moment you are understood. Another mother who knows the heartache of knowing one or more of her children are missing. A child that she loved from the moment she saw the line on the test, a child that she dreamt of holding and loving, a child whose future is not in her arms, she understands. I looked at her beautiful face, more lined, her hair laced with gray, and saw not the young woman twenty something years old, but a mama who has experienced that joy of expectancy and the pain of loss. We spoke of this bond. We spoke of how sad it is to have it, and yet so comforting to just be known. We spoke of how perspective changed from the moment that line is drawn. It’s in the after, that we begin to see how precious life is. We see how fragile it is, and how quickly it can change. The loved ones we have begin to be seen through different eyes. We don’t always remember to appreciate the moment, but when we are reminded of what we have lost, we remember that difference.
In the end, there are some mamas who don’t show the heartache, suffering silently, wondering if people will understand. Any woman who has lost a baby to miscarriage, a stillbirth, and even an abortion, has lost their child. I learned so much during that time from those around me who showed me that they understood, that shared their stories with me. And those who may have not had the same loss that I did, but still reached out, willing to hurt with us, bringing comfort in our loss. I learned it’s ok to grieve, and it’s important to have something tangible to remember the one who was lost to us by. Every year we go visit that grave, to remember, to feel, to not forget, and to look at the boys we have with us as the miracles they are. We watch them grow, some looking down at me now as they wrap their arms around me, and we know that as full and as wonderful, and as miraculous it is to have them, there are ones missing. Ones not with us now but never forgotten. And when I am privileged enough to have a precious woman share her story with me, I get it. I understand. And somehow, whenever that happens, a tiny piece of my heart heals.