5.28.2015

being the one whose baby died

I think when you talk so openly about your child who has died, you are automatically cast into this category of hopelessness and sadness. After all, I'm fairly certain every other bereaved parent I know has been told at least once (five times, if we're being realistic) that they're grieving incorrectly or somehow "stuck" in their grief for even bringing up their child's name. Not only is there this weird stigma about stillbirth (and miscarriage, for that matter) but your flesh is automatically erased and you're penciled in with gray pencil instead. I don't think I post one memory or mention of Wylie without a :( emoticon being given in return, confirmation that my words are saturated with sadness and despair and heartbreak and depression. Sometimes I get so many :( that I peer into the mirror expecting to see Morticia Addams, but, nope, I just see myself.

Myself.

Myself, the same frumpy mother I was before I had a child who died. Only now I really am the picture of gloom that I so deeply desired to be like at fourteen when emo kid was a way of life. Or, I mean, that's how others make me out to be. Of course, a huge piece of me has died with my child. My perspectives have all been replaced with new ones -- some not so shiny, some a little jagged -- and instead of a picturesque perfectly planned future, I feel like most days I'm walking backwards with my eyes closed down a path I've never been down before. But I'm still me, and I think that is made most clear by the fact that Ethan's life has not changed. It has taken great strength and greater selflessness, but Ethan's life continues to be what it was before we said hello and goodbye to his sister a year ago. I went from overwhelming, paralyzing fear that I would never know how to get my living son over this pain or the shattering of innocence to navigating our nightmarish tragedy with a natural sort of ease. That is my greatest accomplishment as a mother, if we're being honest: normalcy. Ethan's normalcy.

My days without Wylie are frighteningly a lot like our days before Wylie, in terms of routine. There is someone missing, of course, in the biggest way imaginable, but our routines are on track. We have adventures and I make lunches and I homeschool and we make art and we do all of the things that we've always done, only now I'm not just a mom. I'm the one whose baby died. I'm the recipient of the sad face emoticon when I bring up any memory or longing for the little girl who I carried and birthed. I've wrestled with this. I've wrestled with the frustration over an unnecessary rebirth in the eyes of others. I'm Ethan's mom. I'm still Ethan's mom. I'm still the overly analytical, party planning, lunch making lunatic that I've been since I held my little boy in my arms for the first time. I'm Wylie's mom too, but she doesn't get any parties or lunches with shapes cut into cheese and I think that gives me the right to talk about her in any way that I can. I think it makes me the same mom I was, the same mom that I think I am. I don't think mentioning her name makes me someone entirely different, someone morbid and grim and sad. Really, I swear, I'm a functioning adult.

But I've also wrestled with being okay with being the one whose baby died. That would be an accurate description, even if it's not my preferred name or the way I'd address myself personally. I'm okay with people interpreting my words or sharing them because they're talking about them and that in itself is a karate chop against the stigma that has been holding it's own. I'm okay with getting people talking about stillbirth even if they're gossiping in the grocery store check out line about me because they're still talking. I'm okay with being the person that makes others uncomfortable because they spend too much -- or too little -- time thinking about the right -- or the wrong -- thing to say. I'm okay with it all because I lived the loss of my child. I did. I pushed out a baby who was cool and quiet and I gave her to a funeral home and never saw her again. I will live every day from here on out navigating through this life, but I've made great strides. I continue to make great strides. I continue to honor my daughter who has passed and also make life the most incredible, amazing adventure for my son who is so very alive. I'm okay with being the one whose baby died because it means I can help someone else. It means I can be a sounding board for someone who is first going through the pain. It means I can work at making the world a better place for the moms who will be in my place next week, next month, next year, a decade from now.

I'm okay with being the person people contact when they know someone who is going through a loss or a devastating diagnosis in utero. I can take the loss of my child and use it as a light to help others navigate through the darkness when they're close to giving up. And, so, yes, I'm okay with being the one whose baby died because although Wylie's death does not define me, her life did. As does Ethan's.

I'm their mom, after all.

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3 comments:

  1. Hey there. I also had a still born, my third baby and went on to have another "rainbow" baby after the loss. Fortunately I have an amazing group of friends who always acknowledge this loss on the date of her birth/death and have remained sensitive to my experience. It helps tremendously. I'm not the type to reminisce but I find comfort in the fact that others are aware of my baby's short life and mourned right along with me and supported me through it.

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  2. As usual, you just read my mail. I have also grappled with this. I think in the end I am okay with being "the one whose baby died" (in my case, "babies") because it means the people around me have learned so much about something that is needlessly taboo.

    It took me a long time to be able to laugh about the funny parts of my pregnancy and post-partum time, but I bring it up and laugh with friends about stretch marks and mom jeans and I feel I've been accepted where I'm at. I know I am fortunate; so many moms never do find that acceptance.

    We're moms, whether we have living children or not. We're survivors too!

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