There has been so much to fill up these past few weeks, so many blog posts written, but never written, endless streams of consciousness fading into a tired sigh…..There was family, and shopping, Christmas, Nativity Plays, presents, parties, birthdays, New Years and my heart feels so heavy with blessings, and yet….also at a loss. The stinging loss of my nephew, Zion.
How can we talk for days about pregnancy and birth, but when it comes to miscarriage and infant death, all of a sudden we become tongue tied and desperate to switch topics? I am accepting this experience as a blessing…..to meet little Zion, and see what a tremendous amount of love you can have for someone you have never met. He was plump and handsome, and we don’t know the reason why he left us so soon, but we treasured the moments we were able to hold his bitty fat hands, and count and recount his little tiny ten toes. It makes me want to take back so many things I’ve said, or haven’t said to friends and family who lost a child. I’m so sorry. How limited I was by my lack of experience…..
Mary, my husbands youngest sister, became very concerned when she didn’t feel many movements. But, after going in to the OB and hearing her little boys heartbeat, she put her mind at ease and slept well that night. She slept well into the next day, and when she awoke–still didn’t feel much movement, and again went into the OB to rehear the tell tale chugga chugga choo choo of his tiny heart racing down the track. But….there was no sound on the other end of the Doppler. The baby had died. Mary handled the news valiantly, and was an incredibly strong force of nature during a difficult birth.
It doesn’t make any sense, and we were all shocked. And sad. And amazed that this had happened again, when only a little less that four years ago, one of my husbands other sisters, Hilde, had experienced a very similar outcome with her third pregnancy. It seemed wrong then, and it seems wrong now that a baby can die before he takes his first breath. And not only die a mysterious death, but leave a hole in our family that lasts for generations to come. Every holiday and family get together, with many children tooling around, there seems to be someone missing, and there is. Pippin and Zion, you are missed! Pray for us!!
What I learned: Never tell a mom in labor that she is almost done, when that may not be the fact. And also extremely important: the very instant you become pregnant, whether you know it or not, your heart becomes intertwined with your baby’s, and there is nothing that can separate the bond that is created there. Just like the famous Psalm says: “Before you were formed I knew you…..” It’s so true. That squirmy little fish, swimming inside the fish bowl of your womb, becomes a welcome guest that is the focus of pretty much everything you do, or don’t do until it’s time for the birth. Birth, ah, that special moment when you get to hold the tiny guy in your hands, and confront the truth of the waiting: oh, you are what has been tapping all my resources?! Hello there, tiny person! Mary’s story did not have this happy ending, but nonetheless her heart had been wrapped up in her belly baby, and despite many challenges and difficulties, had made herself ready and open to the life of motherhood.
There is so much we can do in this life, but it’s stunning…..when it comes to death……… our culture comes up dry. We used to have these little rites of passage for when a close-to-us-person passed away. There was the black clothing, the community visits, paying of respects, church services/masses/memorials/burials, receptions, processions, luncheons…..the richness of holding on to one another, crying, allowing and making allowances for there to be time for any amount of wailing to happen as it needs to…..space and time for the members of the family to kind of hole up in solitude, or a communal embrace. Eating, singing, sleeping, resting, grieving. There were vehicles for folks to be together to process the loss. It WAS expected…… Now it’s just back to business as usual. It’s too hard.
You can’t skip over grief.
I wish now to go back, and to understand what I know now. I wish I could re-comfort all the terrible losses, babies gone, parents laid to rest, grandparents, children, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, and cousins that have gone before us. I wish I could revisit wakes, memorials, and funerals, and cry a little harder, and weep a little deeper, and be a little more present to those that suffered the loss….now that I have seen and tasted the pain for myself. It lingers, and the grief keeps popping back up at different unexpected moments. It is a hollow feeling. Every time I feel overwhelmed by my circumstances I remember Mary, Hilde, and all the others: Lord, help them to heal, moving into this unknown territory of living without the ones they love…..
“Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”-JPII the Great
Here is a wonderful article my friend Pat Schloss wrote about his experience with losing a child.
AND!!! This is really cool. My sister & brother in law Hilde & Charlie, who experienced a similar situation almost four years ago, and lost their little one, Pippin, allowed me to share this letter that Hilde wrote, it really speaks to “how you can help.”