This is a sad post.
I’ve been dreading writing it. I want to write happy, humorous posts to hopefully bring a smile to my fellow moms out there and any readers that stop by. But even though I dread it, even though I’ve sobbed my way through writing it, I felt like it needed to be said.
Life is not always happy.
Lately, I’ve seen a lot of sadness. And it seems, the worst form of it, in the death of our beautiful angels, our babies.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, I went to Kohl’s with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and Ada to get a jump start on Christmas shopping. They took Ada to the shoe section while I ran manically around the store, trying to finish all my shopping before Ada got too whiny on their hands. While having the use of both hands, I of course also used the time to catch up on some phone calls. As I darted down an aisle, talking on my phone, I happened to see a girl I went to school, passing by with her mom. I had last seen her in July, for Mya’s baptism and she had been near the end of her pregnancy, her first. She knew she was having a boy. We had chatted about babies, pregnancy, and parted with mutual warm feelings in the glow of mommyhoodness. Seeing her push her cart, back to her skinny self as I passed by, still talking on my phone, I just gestured excitedly to her and mouthed “Baby??”
As soon as the word left my mouth, I knew.
Please dear God, no, I thought.
Her face held for a brief moment, and then crumbled in grief. Her mom put her arm around her, offering up a tight-lipped semi-smile for what must have been a dreaded familiar scene.
The girl cried, her tight blonde curls shaking. “I lost him at eight months,” she sobbed, “My baby.”
I felt sick. I wished I could rewind time.
“Oh my god. I’m so sorry.” The inadequate phrase. It didn’t feel like enough. I felt her grief pierce through me like a broken piece of wood. “What is his name?” I hoped she would notice that I knew he was not gone, that he would always be her baby, that he is with us. An “is,” not a “was.”
She told me his name is Brayden and I asked if I could hug her. She nodded yes, so I hugged her, feeling like a murderer, and cried with her.
It was an awkward parting. How do you walk away from someone after their life has shattered in front of you in the aisle of Kohls? A “nice to see you, have a good one” doesn’t exactly cut it.
I found my way back to my family, sobbing uncontrollably. My mother-in-law thought that someone had robbed me. I felt like what happened was even worse. I hated myself for doing that to the poor mother. She must dread going out in public for exactly that reason–callously unknowing near-strangers, forced to share her innermost grief in public, a reminder over and over again that she is not a normal person Christmas shopping at Kohls. I know that I didn’t know. I know that. But still. I should have somehow known. I should have spared her yet another moment of grief.
Baby Brayden and his mama have been on my mind ever since. That night, Ada and I added them to our bedtime prayers.
About a week later, I was at work at the hospital I missed a call from a good mommy friend of mine, Meghan. That’s strange, I thought, she doesn’t usually call–we are more text people. Being at work until 11:30 pm, though, I didn’t return the call.
Early the next morning, she texted me.
Meghan: Have you heard?
Me: Heard what?
Meghan: I don’t know how to say this….but Lily died.
Lily is the daughter of Meghan’s best friend, our mutual friend Lauren. We had all three been pregnant together, all given birth to our daughters. Lily’s birthday is May 14; Ada’s, May 17. They are a mere three days apart. It had been a lifesaver to go through the experience of having an unplanned pregnancy with Lauren. She gave me strength, hope, and inspiration. Our daughters played together and I often dreamed about them growing up together, starting kindergarten together, becoming best friends. For those of you who don’t know the story of Lily’s death, please visit Justice for Lily. Lily’s death is unimaginable, too unbearable to even talk about. But I urge you to support the cause against child abuse and honor Lily’s memory.
The funeral was horrific. The whole day was almost cliche in its sadness–the hauntingly beautiful grieving mother clutching a teddy bear, the tiny pink coffin, the cold and gray November sky. No mother should have to endure what Lauren went through. No mother should have to bury the baby that they carried for nine months, loved and cuddled. It’s hard to pick the worst moment, but I couldn’t bear the thought that Lauren had to leave her. As mothers, we kiss every part of our babies’ bodies–they came from our bodies, we boast stretch marks and saggy skin as testament to their passing through us, our bodies nourish theirs through nursing–they are a part of us in more ways than one. How could she possibly walk away from her baby, leaving her in the cold, hard ground?
Lauren has been incredibly strong. She has an amazingly close family and her faith is incredible to see. But every day, I wonder how she does it. How she gets out of bed in the morning, how she bears to see another baby, how she can stand seeing me and Ada, a reminder forever, of the age Lily would have been. How do you keep faith in God after such a tragedy? It’s not a normal tragedy. It’s not an accident, a “nothing could have prevented it” part of God’s plan…it’s the worst, most unimaginable, unspeakable horror in the world. The pain of an innocent, beautiful baby and a mother’s loss. A mother who only wanted to love her child, a mother who is more dedicated to her child than you can imagine.
I can’t believe that it can happen. But it did. And it does to more mothers, every day. Yesterday I saw this blog post, a mother asking people to put bows on their babies to honor the memory of her four month old daughter, who loved to wear bows. The blog is full of posts of the mom dreading going back to work, even a countdown of days until she had to leave Maddie. And then sadly, one day, she left her forever when Maddie stopped breathing at the babysitters. Another mother and child to add to our nighttime ritual.
What are we to do with all this pain?
I find myself hoping I can find the good. After all, that’s what we cling to isn’t it? If we can’t find the silver lining, what are we left with? Just the pain.
I find myself wondering when it’s my turn. Nothing bad has happened to me yet, but I feel like it has to hit sometime. Imagining myself as the mother walking behind the pink casket. What would I do? How do you pick out an outfit for your daughter’s funeral? Do you put on make-up? How do you care about anything, ever again?
I want to use the remembrances of these little angels to transform myself into the perfectly patient mother. To kiss my babies every chance. To laugh lovingly with my husband. To always use kind words to all I meet. To cling to the knowledge that there has to be a God out there to help us through this, a eternal happiness to look forward to.
And yet, this morning, in the darkness of the early dawn, I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror. Pale, blotchy skin, under eye circles to the floor, inside out pajamas. A truly ghastly sight. Ada lay naked on the floor, crying and constipated. A potty chair full of pee that I forgot to empty last night emanates a not-so-pleasant odor. Mya wails in her crib, awoken too early by her miserable sister.
How do we reconcile the divine spark with the everyday? Whining, poopy diapers, potty chair full of pee, greasy hair. Where do we find God in all of that? How does a mother bury her child one day and wake up the next?
I want to believe that there is a transformation that occurs in all of us before death. A sudden grace to sweep away the imperfections, a elegance of manner that infuses a personality, a graciousness that only death can bring. But it’s not always that way. I think part of the reason I lob along as a nurse is hoping to find God…I see so many people near death, and acting, well…like two-year olds. They whine, they complain, they need diaper changes. It scares me to think that’s all there is. I want to find dignity in death, to see evidence of the eternal in someone so near to the other side. But I haven’t yet. So far, all I’ve seen is…just death.
I don’t know the answers, or even all the questions. I want to know that there is a greater good, a higher purpose, but it’s so hard when I see so much destruction, so much waste, so much pure evil in the world. A mother who has lost her child represents the greatest loss of all.
Please everyone, pray for these mothers, pray for ourselves, that we may keep our babies close, our tempers in check, and somehow, someway, find joy in living the every day.