Monday, December 11, 2006

I will be here for you. I will be the one who is still angry.

A favorite mommy; a woman with whom I would hope to be friends if we lived closer, broke down last week after class, as she told me about her friend's recent loss. Perfect pregnancy, everything was fine. And then life ripped her off. Her baby died. I believe she gave birth to a son, and I think he had died right before birth - but I am not sure of the details.

But I know her baby died. That is the only important detail. And I can only imagine her pain. Really. This mama got nine months to bond with her baby. To track his development, imagine what he looked like, anticipate his arrival, his existence, to feel him move, to love him. And then she was robbed of that most beautiful moment.
The first moment.
And the rest of it, too.

And her friend, her friend is a beautiful person who asked me what, if anything, she could do. She couldn't even ask those words. I just assumed that was what she was asking when she told me what happened. And, guess what? I don't have the right answer. All I can say is what helped me, and hope that some of it at least, will help this mama too. I am not sure if this was her first child, but I think he was. And yet who considers her a mama besides herself? I hope at least a few other people in her life can give her that hard earned acknowledgment.

But what I told her friend - who is strong and brave enough to want to help - was that these situations are very alike, but very different. Even if the details were more alike, our grief would likely be different. That said, I am still very 'in touch' with my grief, and although I sometimes wonder if I am stuck in 'the anger phase', I was more than willing to share what helped me in those raw first few months. This is not the first time I have been asked this question, either. When people seek me out to ask me what they might be able to say or do that could possibly help, I know right away that these are the best friends. These friends could even possibly save their bereaved friend's life.

When I mentioned that my sister-in-laws cleaned out almost all of Elijah's things from the house and packed them away in the garage, one friend was shocked. She thought it was cruel. I guess it could seem that way to some, but for me I could not look at any of my son's things without being reminded how 'dead' he was. So suddenly. I knew that someday I would want to see his pictures and hold his toys and smell his clothes. But not for months. I asked them to put his things away. I remember coming home from the hospital that morning after Elijah died and calling my friend to come and help me take down his crib. She did. It was excruciating. Excruciating does not even come close. I have yet to find a word that does.
After that, I asked that his things be put away, and not by me. I appreciated this help. It paralyzed me to think that I might have to touch it all and put it away myself.
I hope that someone will offer to put his things away and keep them very safe for her - if this is what she wants.

I hope that this mama has a picture of her baby, and I hope that when she is ready to look at it, someone will ask her to share that picture. It is not morbid or grotesque; it is the only photographic remembrance she has and will ever have of her child.
I hope that this mama was able to hold her baby for a long time if she wanted to. I hope that she was able to bathe her baby, and touch his toes and kiss his tiny fingers. I hope that she was able to cry and sing to him until she was ready. (you never are. never. but still you let them go.)
I hope that her friends will ask her about her time with him. I hope that she will talk about it with them soon. I think it helps. Her friends wanted to love that baby too; they are ready to share her tears and her pain. And her anger. Make plenty of room for that.
I hope that someone will offer to make a quilt for this mama out of the clothes and blankies that were meant for this baby. Most mamas will not want to use these in the future. But some will; the clothes will always hold some special significance.

I hope that her friends will call her nearly every day, just to check in. Just to say, "Hi, I was thinking about you and how is your day going, and 'crappy' is a totally acceptable answer."
Just to leave another message and say that she doesn't have to call you back, but you're just checking in, and you will call again later. She doesn't have to pick up. That isn't the point. The point is that she has a lifeline. I am not exaggerating when I say that this 'tactic' saved my life at least once, very likely twice. I had about three friends who called me constantly. For months, maybe a year. And when it had gone on too long without a response, they would ask for one. Just a quick check. But usually I talked. And cried. And sometimes I talked about my baby. And my anger. And they listened to it all. Whether I was talking or not.

Most of all, I wish for her some way of meandering through the following months just seeking some sort of peace, and not seeking 'normal'. I wish that I could speed up time for her; this really is the only concept (time) to which I can attribute any positive measures of healing and coping.

Losing a child feels like the biggest rip-off of your life. It is.

I am truly sorry for your loss. I can not even begin to imagine your pain. I know you have so much love you wanted to share.
I will be here for you.


Anonymous said...

So deeply, wonderfully said. I groaned, ouloud.

Anonymous said...

Oh you made my heart skip a beat when I read this post. That woman was exactly me a year and a half ago. Your words are powerful and right. I hope her friend listens to you. Time was healing for me but most of all processing the grief was so important. I fought the idea of processing my grief - I was so angry and hurt. I wanted to avoid the processing part. Understandable as the processing / accepting was like ripping open my heart and reliving the first stages of grief. Horrible. Hard. Nightmare. Especially as I wanted to hide my grief under the layers of anger. Anyway I guess I'm still processing because this post has effected me. You have me thinking about my baby boy again. Which is good.

Important for me was/is my friends to mention my son by name. Always painful but not mentioning him is worse. Also important was friends to talk of my future children with certainty. The guilt of conceiving again is another huge emotional mountain and you need to draw strength from your friends. You also need to build hope for the future. I lost faith in my body and it ment the world to surround myself with friends that believed my future held another baby. And it did.

scribbit said...

I had a friend who lost her son and she packed away all his pictures, his lock of hair, anything that would remind her of him. I thought it was strange until I lost my own daughter and now I have pictures that I keep hidden from everyone but can't bring myself to look at them either.

mamadaisy said...

beautifully said. thank god we have friends who love us and can help us through.

Elizabeth said...

"I hope that this mama was able to hold her baby for a long time if she wanted to. I hope that she was able to bathe her baby, and touch his toes and kiss his tiny fingers. I hope that she was able to cry and sing to him until she was ready."

Tears flooded my eyes when I got to this part. And when I read that your friends kept calling you, that they didn't give up or get tired of hearing you talk about Elijah. Your post title shows what a beautiful heart you have.

Jeanine said...

Thank you for writing this to me and to others who are touched by it. Jared & I just got the link to your blog from our mutual friend and read it together. We both cried and at the same time felt good.

Max lived only 2 hours. We did hold him and rock him and cry with him for hours. And I am so glad for that. I would have regretted not holding him.

They believe I had a cord avulsion - the cord tore from the placenta and Max lost blood during labor. And I do blame my body - though I hope to forgive it someday.

My body has failed me before. I had an early miscarriage years ago and then my daughter, now 2, was born with an undiagnosed CDH (diaphragmatic hernia). She had a hole in her diaphram and her intestines were in her chest cavity. She had surgery on day 3 and luckily she is fine now.

They say Simone's CDH and Max's cord avulsion are unrelated --- are freak occurances. They said, it was like we were struck by lightening twice.

It isn't fair. But the reality is, life isn't. And I don't say that with self pity. I have to remind myself that no one is keeping a tally of the good and bad in my life. It just is what it is. And right now, it is dreadful, sad, and often lonely as I ache for Max.

Simone still pats my stomach and says "Hi Max", then get's confused that the belly is gone. We do have some friends that still call - that is so important, even though I never call back. I have left Max's room with all his clothes and toys. I find it comforting to sit there or play there with Simone. It is so different for everyone. But it is comforting to know that that is ok.

Your words are beautiful, your advice is true. Support and love is the only thing that is comforting. And knowing people knew Max lived, even for such a short time is so important to us. I fear that over time, people will stop asking about Max, because there will be no new history for him. I will have no new pictures of him, just the same black and white picture I carry today. That makes me so sad -- each Christmas as we put a new picture of Simone on the tree, Max's frame will remain.

We have talked about our fear and if we are too scared to try again. What if we are hit by lightening a third time? And of course, we want to grieve for Max first. But I have to remind myself that we do not live in fear. We have never not done something because we were afraid of an undesirable outcome. So I type this as a way to remind myself -- Do not to live in fear.

Thank you again, my heart aches for your loss of Elijah.

Joanna said...

Thank you so much for this beautifully written post -- I am that mama you describe. We had eight days with our Ben, our first child, who was born this past September. I'm so glad to have found your blog, and particularly this post. I suspect I'll be re-reading it many a time.

Anonymous said...

Losing a child rips your heart right out of your skin. I cannot even explain how painful it is to another person but this seems to capture some of the feelings. I miss her so.