(My entry for the Support a Mom Contest.)
One of the things about losing a baby that is so difficult is that you feel so very alone...as if the world has suddenly turned its back on you and you no longer "fit." Your old life isn't quite right and the new life you're left with is something you really don't want. And then, by some miracle (or the internet), a special kind of person reaches out to you and lets you know that you are not alone...that someone understands. And that someone for me is my friend, Catherine.
Catherine's son, Nicolas, was stillborn in March of 2003. My son, Alex, was stillborn in May of 2005. That sadness that normally relegates grieving mothers to solitude and silent grief is what brought us together. Instead of mourning in private, she showed me the healing to be found in shared tears. And amazingly enough, when I thought I couldn't survive another day of sadness, she helped me find things to smile and laugh about.
Catherine's thoughtfulness knows no limits and her love fills some of that empty space you sometimes worry might remain empty forever. She is the first to offer the comfort of a kind word (or a bag of caramels) when it is needed. She reminds you that life marches on and it's going to drag you along with it (and hell...it's better than the alternative, right?).
Catherine is the kind of person who will send you an envelope of seeds because you tell her you admire her daisies. She sends you pictures of her baby daughter because she knows you need the hope you see reflected in her innocent little face (even if it is covered with chocolate).
She tells you that you're normal...even when you know you're not. She understands...when nobody else can.
Catherine will probably be embarrassed to know that I think of her as an inspiration. But she has turned her story into something beautiful, despite the ugliness of losing Nicolas. She honors her son's memory by making 'comfort' baskets filled with things that will create a lifetime of memories for mothers cheated out of a lifetime with their babies. She knows the pain and sadness, and she is the first to offer a hand to hold along the path of grief...the path toward healing.
She won't tell you to move on, even though she recognizes that you will...eventually. She will be there to help you move on at your own pace...no matter how long it takes. Never judging. Never telling you what you "should" do. Just quietly and gracefully showing you how to smile again.
Catherine was blessed with another child after losing Nicolas. Her name is Chloe and she is...in a word...adorable. She also has an amazing son named Alexander who just turned 14 years old. And now Catherine finds herself pregnant...with twins. While pregnancy is, in and of itself, a difficult thing to deal with, Catherine has the added stress of managing her pregnancy with the knowledge of the worst that can happen and the increased risks that go along with her personal history. But despite her fear, she still manages a smile as she showcases her mid-renovation home on a Victorian Christmas tour, teaches crazy fainting college students, prepares her tulips for the spring, volunteers at a pregnancy center, and illegally photoshops her daughter's picture.
She will never forget Nicolas. But she has made her life about so much more than just her sadness. She shares what she knows so that other women, like me, will know that we're not alone...that she walks this path just a little bit ahead and is willing to look back and offer whatever love and support is necessary so that we can get to where she is.
I know she is tired. Not just from the first trimester flood of hormones, but also from the emotional weight she is carrying with her. Fear is her companion along her pregnancy journey. But she doesn't rail against it...she makes it a cup of tea, makes sure it is comfortable for the long haul, and lets it know she plans to win this battle of wills. Every now and then she has a conversation with fear, but she never lets it get the last word. Not now...and hopefully not ever. According to her ticker, she gets to permanently kick fear to the curb in 217 days. In the meantime, anything that will lighten her load would be truly appreciated.