Wednesday, June 01, 2005

To my friends who have been touched by grief...

I'm so sorry that you have reason to understand how I feel. This is a path I wish nobody understood.

First, know that this is an incredibly hard day for me, as it was three weeks ago today that I delivered Alex into the world. Yes...I've begun to measure things in days and weeks since Alex was born. It's probably not healthy, but I can't stop myself.

I wish I could talk...but even typing this out makes me sob. There is just so much that I can't even explain to people. A friend sent me a famous quote..."A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan. But there is no word for a parent who loses a child, that's how awful the loss is." It's true. I'm still a parent. But now I'm a parent to one living child and one angel. There is no one word to describe me...but I have found the use of many words helps people see some of what I am now.

My own sadness is obvious. But I'm sad for so many reasons. My baby will never get to grow up and have a first smile, a first word, a first kiss, a first love...nothing. It's a different grief than the grief over losing someone who had a life because there are no memories. There is little validation that the person even existed. There is only the prospect of a future where things are horribly different than you had imagined. It's not better or worse, just different. All those hopes and dreams you have for your child while you are pregnant are simply over. There is a vast nothingness that you can't seem to fill with anything else. Everywhere I look I see what should have been. It can be as simple as watching Sam play on the swingset with the empty baby swing next to him. Or stepping into the half-finished nursery that should be Alex's room. Or it could be seeing a young mother walking down the sidewalk, struggling with her clunky infant carrier and thinking how I'll never get to take that awkward walk with my baby. It's impossible to not see Alex in everything...every second of every day. I can't escape it.

I'm also sad because my husband and son never got to know Alex outside of my belly. I know they are both hurt and disappointed and I just don't know what to say to make it better. My husband said that seeing Alex born made him real, and made it hurt more to lose him. He only got to hold Alex twice, and those times were filled with love and sadness. Yes, he got to participate in my pregnancy, but it's not the same for the dad...it's not so...connected. I cherish those times I forced him to feel my belly, or talk to Alex, but I'm so sad that he has so few happy memories of his baby boy. I'm so sad that he doesn't get to remember all the kicks and all the hiccups and the wonderous weight of his son...I can't share that with him in any substantial way that can ease his sadness.

And my beautiful Sam...he is so innocent and is really struggling to understand why his "Baby Alex" isn't "coming to our house to live with us." I have no explanations. I can't make him understand something that I don't understand myself. All I can say to him is that even though he really wanted to come live with us, Alex got sick in mommy's tummy and died and went to be an angel in heaven with Grandpa C. But I can see the glimmer of a three-year-old's hope in his eyes that some day Baby Alex will make an appearance and things will be as they should.

I feel guilty too. I know everyone says there is nothing I could have done, but I feel like I failed everyone...most of all, Alex. He was my baby, I had one job...to protect him and care for him. And I couldn't do it. Despite what everyone says, I can't help but think that this is my fault...that I did something that made this happen. If I had only stopped taking cold medicine, if I had only had less stress, if I had only had that genetic testing to see if something was wrong, if I had called the doctor earlier... The guilt magnifies the sadness. And honestly, I'm terrified of the truth. What if the autopsy shows that this was something I could have prevented? How will I live with that guilt the rest of my life?

There are a multitude of other feelings swirling around inside me as well. I'm so afraid that over time Steve and I will be the only ones to remember that Alex ever existed. Like you said, life goes on. But this was our baby...our magical second child...our son. He's a part of us and we can never forget him. Will other people? I'm already faced with people who say, "I guess it wasn't meant to be," or, "Do you think you'll try again?" as if Alex was nothing more than a dream and I can just replace him with another. I'm angry that the thought would even cross someone's mind. I'm angry at God for letting this happen to us. We did it all right. We followed the rules. We're good people. So why our baby?

What are we supposed to be without him? How am I supposed to care about the silly problems of my clients? It all seems like a million years ago when my job was somewhat important to me. Right now, I would give anything to be able to walk out the door and never come back to this place. I think that's why they say you shouldn't make any major life decisions in the first year...so you don't do something you'll regret. It seems like a million years ago that I cared about anything. How am I supposed to care about the daily happenings in anyones life when I'm barely able to get showered and dressed in the morning? Nothing is the same...nothing even approaches "happy."

I was so gloriously happy being pregnant with Alex. I was scared about becoming a mom of two, but it was the best time of my life. I let myself enjoy this pregnancy so much more than I ever did with Sam. That seems the incredibly cruel irony of all this. As a first-time mom, I thought about the worst happening. This time, I just thought, "I've done this before, no need to worry, sit back and relax." Then wham...It's like some cruel cosmic torture.

And let's not forget that I now feel like Typhoid Mary around other women, particularly those who are pregnant or hope to be pregnant. Like having a stillborn baby is contagious. Crazy, I know. But if I hadn't experienced a loss, I wouldn't want to be around me. I'm like the walking billboard for what can go wrong...and nobody wants to be reminded of that. And, of course, everyone expects me to fall apart at the sight of a pregnant woman or a baby. In actuality, I've found the most comfort in seeing babies. They are a beautiful, life-affirming sight that remind me that even though this bad thing happened to me, there is good out there in the world that I can't even comprehend. The sight of a baby smiling at me still warms my heart. What is it they say? It's like seeing the face of an angel? (There was the most beautiful bald-headed, toothless, 9-month old girl at Thomas the Train on Friday...I know she was nine months because she kept smiling at me and I commented to her mother that I loved her toothless smile. Her mother laughingly said, "9 months old, no hair, and not one tooth." But I digress.) Quite truthfully, there is a sort of peace in knowing that another life has come into the world without grief or pain. For that I'm thankful. Like I said, this is a path that I wish nobody understood.

I see that I've rambled on far too long. Bless you if you've read all this.

No comments: