Thursday, November 7, 2013

Being the "expert"

Dear Luke,
I got a call from two of my nieghbors today.  One of their friends, who had lived in the neighborhood before we ever came here, lost a baby today.  Stillborn.  Gone before she ever even got to be here.  So very heartbreaking.

I was touched that these women would call me.  Both were concerned about how to reach out to this friend in a way that would be most helpful.  What true friends they are - wanting only to comfort someone who means so much to them. 

But then there is the other part of me that wishes they had no reason to call me.  I wish I had no idea how their friend feels.  I wish I had no words of advice.  How very surreal to be the "expert" on this topic of conversation.

Some days I wonder if it is really me living this life.  On a day-to-day basis, my life is like anyone else's.  I get my children fed and out the door for school.  I mop floors, make beds, straigthen messes, and everything else a mom does.  Life is so normal, in fact, that when I really stop and think about what we've been through, I can't imagine that this stuff really happened to us.

Did we really watch as one of our son's nearly passed away?  We watched him fight for his life, crying tears that were silenced by the ventilator that kept him alive.

Did we really listen from the waiting room in the hospital as a "Code Blue" was sounded over the PA system, filled with the dreadful knowledge that they were talking about our daughter?  Later a nurse would talk in hushed tones to another nurse about how they had to give her chest compressions to get her heart going again.

Did we really hold you in our arms, so perfect and tiny and lifeless?  We talk about you everyday as if you were here.  As I snuggled Sam into bed tonight we talked about what we think you would look like if you were here.  He thinks you'd have Halle's red hair and maybe even glasses like her (let's hope not, seeing as how you'd only be 3!).  He also thinks you'd have Dad's teeth - I'm not quite sure what that means.  And you would have "fruckles" on your nose like him.  Such an ordinary conversation that it never really hits how very tragic it really is. 

The truth is, people come to me for advice on how to grieve, and I have absolutely no idea.  Three years after the fact and I still don't know.  Some days life is so "normal" that I figure all the tragic stuff that has happened to us must really belong to someone else and I am merely the bearer of their memories.  Other days I am still overcome by my brokenness.  How can I possibly continue on with this load that at times suffocates me?

To illustrate my point, I will tell you a little of the inner battle I experienced when I found out you had a new little cousin.  My day began very normal.  Breakfast, cleaning, playing with kids, shopping.  All the normal things that every mother does.  Then I get the text.  A picture I can't bare to look at, but like a train wreck, I can't seem to take my eyes off of.  A little girl, healthy and fat.  I want to be happy.  I so desperately want to be happy.  What kind of monster isn't happy about a new life from heaven that is joining the family?  I am standing in Carter's at the time of the text.  I began to cry.  Tears of someone who is completely broken hearted, so broken hearted she doesn't have even the smallest amount of pride or common sense (or both) to keep her act together until she can get to her car.  I prayed for weeks, knowing this was coming, for God to strengthen me.  But even He cannot, or will not, take away the grief of a lost life.  That pain never, ever goes away.

I bought her a shirt.  I didn't want to.  I wanted it to be us that gave birth to that baby.  I wanted you to be alive and mourning the loss of your status as the youngest at the birth of a little sister or brother.  For three years now we've known our days of more children is over.  When will my heart finally accept it?

We went to see your new cousin at the hospital the next day.  We had to travel a few hours to see her, and when we arrived we were told the kids couldn't come in.  Dad and I would have to go in seperately.  I completely broke down.  I started hyper-ventilating.  I couldn't go in that room alone.  I needed Dad to be there to talk to your aunt and uncle and keep them from noticing me recede into that dark corner of my mind that I subconsciously go when life gets to be too much.  I needed Halle and Sam there so that I didn't have to hold the baby.  I would just help them hold her instead.  The emotional pain I felt quickly became physical.  How can this still be so hard after three years?

I wonder if it would be different if you were our first, or if we had been able to have more children after you.  There is no doubt that a dozen more children would never take away our sense of loss over you, but at least my arms would have held another child in them.  My mind could revert to other memories when bombarded by your loss.  But as it is, that is the last moment I have, the last memory, of holding my youngest in my arms.  You were so cold and no matter how many blankets I bundled you in, I couldn't get you warm.  When I handed you over for the last time, my arms felt so empty they literally ached.  They still do.  They will never know the pleasure and hard work of a baby again.  Only the borrowed moments of someone else's child.

I did hold your niece, by the way.  I went in alone.  I did it.  One ordinary every day occurance for mankind, one seemingly impossible leap for the mother with a broken heart.  But I did it!

Oh how I miss you tonight.  Thinking of this other mother who now knows my heart, I can't help be relive it all.  What a very long road she has to walk...or crawl.  I wish I knew how to help her, but I don't.  I haven't yet figured out how to master this grief of my own.  It still sneaks up on me and startles me when I least suspect it.  It seems the more time goes by the better I get at pushing it aside, but it's still there, waiting to pop up again when I let my guard down.  At times I wish that I was more of an expert on how to handle grief, but then again, who really wants to be an expert on something like that?  And so I will continue to stumble along this painfully ugly and strangely beautiful path and hope that it leads me back to you.

I love you buddy!

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