In mid-March the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story titled “Dealing with a Newborn’s Death” (http://www.philly.com/philly/health/womenshealth/Hospitals-and-bereaved-parents-join-forces-to-help-families-facing-the-loss-of-a-baby.html) Some may wonder why I was eager to read this. Over the past 19 years I have read tons of articles, books and interviews about infant loss. I read everything I can get my hands on so I can help other moms and dads, who have lost a baby, and so I can bring awareness about what this type of loss experience is like. Also, I can help those who have someone in their life who has suffered such a loss. I offer tips on how they can best understand and support them through their grieving journey. That has always been my mission. When I first began to read books and articles on this subject, I felt strong physical pain and sadness, but I always forced myself to finish. Over the last 10 years I have been able to read them (usually) without any emotions.
On that day in March when the article came out, I had not yet seen the newspaper. I was sitting at my mother-in-law’s inhaling cheese and crackers, large green olives and a glass of white wine. We were all sprawled out comfortably in her living room while she finished cooking dinner. I walked over to the round table and perused the newspaper. When I saw the photo under that article, I felt a punch in the stomach. The photo was of a mother and father cuddling their new born baby boy. His eyes would never open. I knew this picture well for I have an identical photo of Glenn and me taken right after Margaret was born. I keep this Polaroid in a Margaret’s memorabilia box. It is hard for me to look at the photo for the pain is written all over our tearful faces. It is the moment when we knew this was our special baby girl who we would never truly meet. The photo in the newspaper took me back to that moment. On the next page is another photo of the mom and dad and their older two children and their baby boy, Chase. This photo made me jealous, a trait I pride myself on basically never feeling, but at that moment, I did. Margaret had been our third and we too, had an older daughter and son, but they never got to meet their sister. They were oblivious, making drippy sandcastles at the beach with their grandparents, the safe haven where we had left them when our nightmare began.
We mothers want to be with “all” of our children. I realize I felt jealousy because I knew I would never have a photo of “all’ my children together. But just as quickly, I felt happiness for this family for being able to be together. And I felt joy for their fundraiser that is to go towards buying Cuddle-cots* so that deceased newborns can remain with their family for longer amounts of time. When the time is over, like it was for us after only 2 hours with our baby, it’s over, so I am ecstatic that that time will be extended for many new families of loss.
I had not expected to feel the amount of pain and sadness that I did while looking at those photos. But that is what grief is like- It hides away like a large cloud on a sunny day and then suddenly it stretches itself over your sun. The rush of grief is unexpected as is becoming a mother to a child. When our child is first put into our arms, we are immediately overwhelmed by the powerful amount of love for this being we do not yet know.
Mother’s Day is coming. Mother’s Day is about that love: the unbreakable bond of love between a mother and her child. The day celebrates it. And whether you have your baby with you or whether your baby is in heaven, you are their mother and your love is ferocious, strong, beautiful and everlasting.J
- A crib-cooling device used to preserve a body while parents say goodbye.