Incision update: I feel minimally better today. Will be calling the doctor at 9am sharp tomorrow. I really think I just overdid it somehow.
We went to a birthday party today and I spoke with several people who didn’t know what happened. The last they knew I was pregnant – and I still look it. It was hard to tell the story. It was good to tell the story.
One of the people I talked with is a photographer who works with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a national organization of volunteer photographers who go to hospitals to take pictures of dead babies and their families. I didn’t know anything about them, other than the fact that someone called a photographer to take pictures of Benjamin. At the time, being just out of surgery, suffering from grief, shock and blood loss, I didn’t want to be anywhere near a camera. Now I wish I’d made a different decision. I imagine the feeling of his weight on my chest will fade over time.
Oh you should have called me to take pictures, she said. If only I had known. I told her someone had been called but I didn’t know who. She mentioned a name and that this woman was the organizer for the local chapter. She does about one a week, she said. She what? What? She takes pictures of a dead baby about once a week in a town of 103,000 people? Then take into account the parents who don’t know, or refuse. Those numbers are incredible to me. More than fifty dead babies a year in one small city – from second trimester losses to babies who die sometime shortly after birth. There are thousands upon thousands of us grieving our children in this country and NO ONE TALKS ABOUT IT except those who’ve been through it, mostly in our own little community. Society leads us to believe that if you make it through the first trimester, you’re home free. It’s just a matter of getting through labor.
Even I, who knew several women who had babies die, thought pregnancy loss was an anomaly. Yet here I am and now I know. I grieve for all of us who have suffered this loss, many of whom have been through it more than once. I hold space in my heart for all of our healing. My doctor’s voice rings in my head, an impossible situation.
In all the blogs I have read, with all the mamas I have spoken to, I have yet to hear one say I wish I hadn’t gotten pregnant. We all wish there was a different ending to the story. We all desperately wanted our babies to live. Some of us have live children, some of us do not, but we are all mothers and fathers who love our babies dearly. Society doesn’t want us to talk about them, but we need to acknowledge their existence. So if, one day, you happen to ask a pregnant woman if this is her first, or a woman with a child how many she has, and she turns to you and says, I had another but he died, please don’t change the subject, or walk away. Take in the gift you’ve been given and give one in return. I’m so sorry, you must miss him terribly, or I’m so sorry, that must have been devastating, or even I’m so sorry, I don’t know what to say but my heart aches for you. Whatever. Say something honest, say something genuine, just say something. And if you know someone whose baby died, when you see them for the first time afterward, acknowledge what they’ve been through. Ask how they’re doing or tell them you’ve been thinking of them. Don’t worry that you’ll make them feel bad – they already do. Talking about it won’t make it worse.
If you are reading this and are pregnant, remember that the odds are in favor of you having a healthy, beautiful baby. If you are a baby loss mama (or papa), my greatest wish for you is that a rainbow baby will come into your life when you are ready. And for all of us experiencing this life on this earth, I pray we find peace with whatever life hands us – that we grow through our challenges, heal from our losses and find joy wherever we can.