Every year, 26,000 babies are stillborn in America. In 2003, one of them was my son.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Fast Away

For Ben - Happy Birthday, wherever you may be.


Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

-D.H. Lawrence

After Great Pain

After great pain, a formal feeling comes--
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs--
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?

The Feet, mechanical, go round--
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought--
A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone--

This is the Hour of Lead--
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow--
First--Chill--then Stupor--then the letting go--

- Emily Dickinson

Sunday, December 30, 2007


Four years ago today, Ben died.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ghosts of Christmas Past

I think maybe I have lost the magic of Christmas. I imagine I lost it some years ago, probably after Ben died, but I never really thought about it before this year. I didn't want to lose that magical feeling, the belief I used to have as a child, looking out my bedroom window at the vast dark sky on Christmas night, feeling that anything was possible. Peace on Earth, Joy to the World, Santa Claus and flying reindeer. Christmas was the most magical time of the year - I even saw Rudolph flying past my bedroom window when I was 3. I believed.

I hope Christmas is magical for my children, but I don't suppose I'll know that until they're grown. I hope my loss of magic doesn't rub off onto them; so far, I think it hasn't. Maybe it can't rub off when you're a kid - at least when you're a kid of parents who love you and each other, and can afford to buy you gifts and make it a special day.

So I sat in church last night and thought about the ghosts of my Christmases past. We were attending the church I grew up in, which is 300-some miles from where I now live. I remembered Elizabeth, who died 2.5 years ago, who was a wonderful presence in my teenage years and through my mid-30s. I remembered Christmas Eves when she was there, with her young children. I remembered her oldest son lighting candles as a 10 or 12-year-old on Christmas Eve, and the worry that maybe he wasn't quite up to the job. I remember her smart, beautiful daughter singing. And I remember how Elizabeth had this aura of love and life about her. There are some people you meet in this world who are exceptional beings, who radiate something - the love of God? Peace? I don't know. Whatever it was, Elizabeth had it, and I adored her for it. I wish I had it too.

Her husband remarried this summer, and it breaks my heart.

When I was in elementary school I belonged to the church choir, and we had a wonderful director whom we all adored. He wrote musicals and songs for us, amazing things, and we were really good. I even remember bits of songs he wrote for us. He made us believe we could do anything. I remember singing on Christmas Eve those songs he wrote for us, how much joy there seemed to be in the congregation as we sang.

He was arrested last year on three counts of gross sexual imposition and corruption of a minor.

And then there is my third ghost of Christmas past - Ben. I had one Christmas present with him, and a lifetime of Christmases past.

I miss you, my little love. Merry Christmas.

And to all of you who are reading, I hope you find the magic. I hope you still believe.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2007

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen,
Snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.

- Christina Rossetti

Do you know the Christmas carol, In the Bleak Midwinter? Preferably, not the choral version as sung by the King's College Choir at Cambridge University, which sounds far too lofty for my taste. I prefer the Shawn Colvin version (hear a snippet of it here), or James Taylor's version. It's long been a favorite of mine, but took on a whole new meaning when Ben died.

On December 30th, four years ago, I sat in a private room of the OB wing of the hospital where I was to deliver, having just found out that Ben was dead. I was waiting for my husband and a friend of ours to arrive, and life as I knew it was over. This song, sung by Shawn Colvin, accompanied by guitar and piano, is what went through my head.

Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone.

Despite the unrelenting grief I felt, I also felt those last two lines with my whole heart: Earth as hard as iron, water like a stone. This was my world, forevermore, this frozen, vast wasteland of pain and sorrow. Time stopped and there would be no spring without Ben - certainly not a spring I wanted. This moment was where I wanted to remain, forever. And this song will always remind me of that day, will always make me ache with longing for my baby.

Tonight, I will go to a Christmas Eve service with my husband, children, and parents. We will sing "Silent Night" at the end of the service, just like churches all around the world, and, as I have for the last three years, I will cry. I will cry for myself, I will cry for my husband and my children who will never know their brother, I will cry because four years ago on this night I was ripe with expectations and love for my own son, come to fill my world with joy. I will cry because I miss him, I will cry for the innocence I lost the day he died. And when I am done crying, I will wipe my tears and walk away, and no one will say a word to me. My husband will hug me, and maybe my daughter, but the rest of my family will ignore the tears. Not because they don't care, but because they don't know what to say. I'd rather they said almost anything than pretend I'm not crying; they may even be surprised that I'm still crying four years later. And that hurts. Families are mysterious things, capable of so much hurt and so much love. I just wish this chasm of need inside of me were not so great; I wish some part of me were not still expecting them to fill it up.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Is it Spring Yet?

I'm tired. All this holiday stuff is getting out of hand. It's nearly 1p.m. and I have only now having a full, entire cup of coffee - just sips here and there so far today - which is not good for caffeine-dependent me. So how are your holiday preparations coming along?

So far today I've done 3 loads of laundry (not all dry or folded yet), made 24 delicious (mini) British mince pies to take to my family, wrapped 98% of my presents - well, maybe 95% - helped my 1st grader finish "holiday" cards for everyone in her class (everyone so there will be no hurt feelings and yes, she drew them all herself), played with my son, made lunch for my daughter and ran her to school. Yesterday I had a long meeting about my book (thanks, Katey!), spent 50 minutes doing Christmas cards (because I'm crazy), shoveled the ice off of my driveway, took my son to the library to play and read, got my hair cut, tried to help my daughter make a snowman, quizzed her on spelling words and helped her with math homework, helped her start her "holiday" cards, and made 2 batches of blueberry muffins. I nearly had the first batch done when I reached for the nutmeg, sprinkled it in the batter and realized it didn't look right. It was turmeric. I tried to scrape it out but dumped the whole batch. Made a new batch, which we gave out to the 4 crossing guards on the way to school and to Charlotte's teacher. Oh yeah, I did laundry yesterday too.

And in an hour I am due at my daughter's school for their "Winter Break Festivities" to help them decorate cookies with sprinkles and icing (yay! messy!). I also need to cut up a bunch of apples to take along as their healthy snack option. Then we have a "mini" recital at ballet class for 45 minutes. Then I am coming home and having a martini.

Oh, did I mention the ironing? I ironed 3 of my husband's shirts, because we are trying to have all the ironing done before his parents arrive next Friday. My mother-in-law judges my domestic talents on how much ironing there is to do. And my husband does the ironing. Mind you, I do everything else around the house, but it all counts for naught if the ironing isn't finished. And no, she doesn't understand that it's the one thing her boy does. (Not that he wouldn't do other things around the house - he does - but it's mainly me.) Gee, do I detect a little tension here? Hmmm.

Yeah, I'm feeling a little crotchety. I'm feeling a bit prickly about this. I mean, um, she's 16. He's 19. Hello, a minor and an "adult." So the babydaddy could get arrested for this. Did she not learn anything from her big sister? Talk about a train wreck. Although I have to laugh - their mom wrote a parenting book that was going to be published by a Christian publisher. Which has now been cancelled. If Lynn Spears can get a book deal, surely so can those of us who actually have talent. And it was about parenting? Raise your hands, all those of you who would take advice from this person's mother.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I need to go cut apples.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Could Someone Please Explain to Me...

...why there are so freaking many of us?

When Ben died, my OB told me that, in 20 years of delivering babies, what happened to us had happened about 3 times when he was the doctor. Initially I thought he meant stillbirth in general, but I later realized he meant stillbirth as a result of a cord accident. I've since learned that about 15 percent of all stillbirths are due to cord accidents - so not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but a high number when it happens to you.

I've been stumbling around the blogosphere the last two days, reading various baby loss blogs. (And may I say, if you're not reading Niobe, you should - she writes so beautifully it makes me drool with envy.) And I am continually staggered by how many of us there are, who have had stillbirths or some other kind of baby loss. These are two of the blogs I've read in the past two days, and they made me feel so sad: Still Passing Open Windows and Baby Theo.

But what I feel more than sadness is just completely pissed off. December is not a good month for me, but I was doing ok until yesterday. I'm feeling pissed off mostly because it's a damn site easier than feeling sad. What I need right now is a good cry for all of these beautiful babies, but I don't want to. We're approaching Christmas, the season of joy and light, and you know what? It's not such a season of joy and light for so many of us. And that pisses me off too. I want my life to be the way it was before. I used to just love Christmas, especially all the carols - I've been a singer all my life and I couldn't imagine my life without music. But have you ever noticed how sad many of the Christmas carols are? All those beautiful old melodies set in a minor key - In the Bleak Midwinter, O Come O Come Emmanuel - singing of a celebration but full of sadness, foreshadowing the future of the one being sung about. I wonder why they were always my favorites, those mournful melodies. It makes sense now, after Ben, but I suppose I was always filled with a touch of melancholy anyway.

Right now, I just don't get it. I don't get why babies die. And I wonder sometimes how we all can live in a world where they do, and keep going, and pretend that everything will be all right.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Imaginary Friends

Sitting with my daughter this morning, watching the Macy's Parade, on comes a float called something like "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends."

Charlotte turns to me and says, quite softly, "I have an imaginary friend."

"You do?" I said. "I didn't know that."

"Ben is my imaginary friend. Our baby that died."

"Is he your imaginary friend, too, Mommy?"

"Well, yes, honey, I suppose he is."

Friday, November 16, 2007

What Do You Wish?

After your babies died, what do you wish people had done - or not done - for you? What was the best thing anyone said to you, and what was the worst?

For me, the best thing anyone said to me was this: "I'm so sorry; I just don't know what to say." It was a huge relief for me and my husband to hear those simple words, and not have to listen to someone struggle to come up with something they felt was appropriate. And, honestly, if they hadn't been through the loss of a baby, they didn't know what to say, and I wanted them to acknowledge that rather than say something stupid.

It also really helped to have people bring us meals; we had no idea how much we would need that, and it was such a relief to be able to sit down to whatever had been given to us, and occasionally get to talk to someone outside of our immediate little world about mundane things, like the price of housing. I know it sounds silly, but sometimes we just needed to talk about anything but Ben.

The other thing I really appreciated was people checking in on the anniversaries - one month, six months, one year, Mother's Day - the hard days. Few did. And those who actually said his name and talked about him. They will all have my love and friendship for the rest of my life.

What about the worst things? Ah, relatives were responsible for most of those. "Use it as a learning and growing experience." Gack. If I hadn't just had a baby I would've hurled the coffee table at that particular person. "It's ok to be angry but try to move on." Yeah. 'Nuff said.

Or those who told me immediately after Ben died, "You'll have another baby." Well, I don't want another baby, I want this one. And then there were the people who said nothing at all, but looked at me with this look in their eyes - a look I can't really describe - of sorrow, sympathy, confusion, fear? I don't know.

All I really wanted was for people to say his name, to remember him. What about you?

Monday, November 12, 2007

That Time of Year...Again

So, yeah, it's that time of year again. No, not the holidays, though there is that; winter is approaching, and we're approaching the time of year when we lost Ben. Specifically, it was New Year's Eve when I delivered him, so four years ago right now I was 7.5 months pregnant and uncomfortable and starting to feel really ready to be done. Looking back, I can't believe I felt so anxious to be finished with pregnancy, but honestly, I didn't enjoy it. It was just hard and uncomfortable, and though I loved feeling my baby move inside me, I wanted to be able to walk up the stairs without huffing and puffing and sleep without heartburn or aching hips. I regret that I didn't appreciate that time more, but it wouldn't have made a difference to the outcome. That's the thing about parenting: there's always something to feel guilty about.

We've never really established a ritual around Ben's death; we have a lovely candle that friends gave us to commemorate him at his memorial service, and we light that on New Year's Eve for him, but we never do anything else. The first year we dropped our daughter off with friends for a sleepover and went to a hotel where we looked at his pictures, lit his candle and talked about him. Since then, it's all been hit or miss. Twice we've been with family, and his name hasn't been mentioned - though I don't really blame anyone for that, as we didn't mention him either. (Ok, maybe I blame them a little.) It's on his anniversary that I especially wish we had interred his ashes somewhere so that there was a place to go, to say a prayer, to say a few words, rather than attend to the cleaning, the cooking, the ordinariness of our daily lives.

This year my in-laws will be with us on New Year's Eve, as they were last year. I need to figure out something to do that will fill that hole in my heart that day, that will make me feel I commemorated him on his birthday. I realize that Ben doesn't care, but I do. I've just never figured out what would feel right. One thing we do like to do is make an annual donation to a charity: Save the Children is the one we've usually picked, and we also give money to the hospital where he was born. I like knowing that something good came out of his life, that somewhere in the world another set of parents doesn't go through the grief of losing a child because of our donation. Somewhere in the world a child lives because Ben died - and that means the world to me.

Monday, November 5, 2007

How Long Does it Take?

Right after Ben died, I remember asking a friend of mine how long I would feel this way. How long would this unbearable pain last, when would it stop hurting so damn much? The intensity of that pain was overwhelming, unlike any I'd experienced before and it didn't feel survivable.

Well, here I am, nearly four years later, and I did survive. Not that I necessarily wanted to some days, but I knew I had to, and I knew I would, ultimately, survive losing Ben. I've been reading lots of blogs recently, those that are listed in the Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Loss Directory, written by mothers who lost children some time ago, and by mothers who lost babies only recently. The recurring theme in all of them, and here, is the pain.

Nobody tells you what to expect after a stillbirth. Oh, they can generalize about the stages of grief and the physical manifestations of your pregnancy - the leaking breasts full of milk, the fatigue and sleeplessness, the depression. But what about speaking to the pain in our hearts? Only fellow parents of stillborns can speak to that.

In my first post on this blog, I quoted a Carly Simon song and wondered if the lyrics she sang were true: "there's more room in a broken heart. " This is what I can tell you I believe: there is always pain after you lose your child. The first year is the worst, but as you get through all of the seasons, all of the holidays and anniversaries, as you grieve that missing child, you are getting stronger. As the years pass, the pain remains, but it becomes manageable, it becomes part of who you are, much as my blue eyes and blonde hair are part of who I am. I think of Ben every day, so much so that it surprises me sometimes until I remember that there is no "right" or "wrong" amount of time for me to think of him. He's my son, and I think about him as much as I think about my other two children. It doesn't take forever to get over the pain, though while you're in the thick of it it feels that way. It takes however long it takes, and though you are still left with that broken heart, I believe that brokenness opens you up, if you let it, and shows you what there is to appreciate in this world. I believe my broken heart makes me love even harder, hug my children longer, do more for others in need because I know how precious this life is.

I appreciate so much more since Ben died. I try harder to do good things. I try to take each day and find the joy in it, because I chose, after many months of grieving, to take that brokenness and make something better with it. I don't always succeed - and no one could. While I had him, he brought me great love and I am so glad I got to be his mom. I would change the outcome of his time with us if I could; instead, I am taking what I got - a broken heart - and trying to live better because of him.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Somewhat Random Thoughts

Niobe left a comment on my last post, about the woman I recently met who lost a baby in 1963, who had nothing of her son, never even saw him. Unlike (I presume) many of us, Niobe chose not to see her twins, not to have any of their things after they died. It got me to wondering if I could have done that myself with Ben.

I didn't want to hold him, initially; neither did my husband. We were so afraid of what he might look like, didn't know until after the placenta had been delivered, why he died, so we had no idea what to expect. Would he be deformed? Would he look...strange? How do dead babies look, after all? I can't remember if the nurses gave us the choice to see him or not, I just remember the fear, and not wanting him. As the nurse approached us with him, I wanted to tell her to go away, but I didn't, and I don't know why.

Instead, I held him, as they seemed to expect it of me. And once I realized he didn't look strange (though his coloring was all wrong), I wanted to hold on forever. I know every mother thinks so, but my god, he was beautiful. He didn't have much hair, but what he had was medium brown. His hands and feet were so long, and he was skinny, just like his dad. Before they took him away, the nurse unwrapped him for us, because we were too scared to do so, and I'm so glad she did. Those moments with my son, as hard as they were, are so important to me now. The photos, the outfit, the blanket, the things they gave us to take home, priceless. We don't look at them every day, they sit in a box for most of the year, but I think I would die without them.

We also have his ashes in an urn, sitting in our living room. Most people we know - the few who do know we have them - are weirded out by this, but one or two of our friends get it, this need to have him close. After we left the hospital, my husband and I felt so guilty, so empty, because we left him. We left him. I cannot tell you the power of those words on my heart. My therapist would later tell me that we had no choice, and she's right, but as a mother, you don't anticipate, you don't ever want, to leave your child behind. Not like that. Bringing those ashes home was so important because finally, Ben was with us.

Now, however, I've been feeling that maybe it's time to find another place for his ashes; a place I can go to and remember him, talk to him. Maybe home isn't the right place any more. I worry that I am clinging on too hard, maybe it isn't healthy, but then again, I think I'm the only one to know what's right for me. And I would also say that I needed his things in that first year to make me believe he was real and to help me cry when my body and emotions were just too numb to do it on my own. So no, I couldn't have done what Niobe did, but again, I'm just so grateful that both of us had the choice.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day

It's October, which means that it's Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and today, the 15th, is loss awareness day. And wow, I sure wish I didn't know that.

My boy would be nearly four today, attending preschool, running around like a wild child, loving Bob the Builder, trucks, cars, macaroni and cheese. I don't expect he would be napping any longer, he would have declared his favorite flavor of ice cream, and would probably be in love with the Cars movie. I expect he would be at that really wonderful stage of adoring and needing his parents, still a bit cuddly, but on the cusp of pushing us away as he started to grow up and become a "big boy." And I know he would be driving his sister crazy.

I also know, that, had he lived, I wouldn't have a James. I have thought, over and over, that I could have had them both: Ben would have been 19 months old when James was born, so it's all physically possible. It would have been hard, but I could have done it. But that's not how the cards were played, and now, I can't imagine my life without James, and I can only dream about my life with Ben.

I'm not doing anything today to remember Ben - except what I wrote above. I do more on his anniversary, and I don't really know what else to do today. I think of him, like I do every other day, and I think of all the other babies who never came home, like mine. And I know how unbelievably lucky I am, that I had him at all, and that I have what I do, with my two children now. I recently met a woman who had a baby in 1963, her second, a boy. He was born severely deformed - and of course, this was before all of the testing they have now, so they didn't know anything was wrong with him until birth - and they took him away from her, and he died three days later. She never saw him, never had a footprint, a lock of hair, a shirt he wore. Nothing. The hospital had him cremated and buried, and she was encouraged to forget, to move on. Those were the dark ages of infant loss, and I am so grateful that I lost Ben in 2003, and that I got to hold him, and kiss him, and see the whole of him before I had to let him go.

And I am thinking today, of all the mothers and fathers who are aching for their babies; the ones who will lose their child today, the ones who lost their child decades ago. The ones who are waiting, hoping, for another chance, another child. If I had a magic wand I would be waving it like mad right now, to make it all better for all of us who've lost the most precious thing in the world.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

I Do, I Don't

This picture is of Charlotte and James, Christmas 2005. He was 4 months old, she was almost 5.

Ah yes. Babies. Been thinking a lot about babies this past year, because mine are growing up. In a fairly fruitless effort to tidy up my house (why is it I always end up with piles of stuff everywhere?), I've been looking through some old photos recently - pictures of Charlotte as a wee babe, and James. Pictures from just a year or two ago when my little girl looked like a little girl, not like the big first grader she is now.

My husband and I have been talking about another baby, and honestly, we both want one, but it's not going to happen. I'm getting older - definitely of an advanced maternal age - and everything that could go wrong scares the bejebus out of me. And then, well, I had three babies in 4.5 years, and part of me feels like I just want some of me back. James will start preschool in February, one day a week, and I am working on writing a book, and I don't want to be an incubator anymore.

Don't get me wrong - I love my children more than anything else in the world. I didn't love being pregnant; it was hard. I never particularly wanted to be pregnant, I wanted the baby. And that's where I am now - I want a baby, I don't want to be pregnant again. I can see the end of diapers, I can see my son becoming more independent (which I love and which makes me terribly sad), I can see my daughter as a teenager (heaven help us! she's already quite the handful). I just wish it wouldn't all go so fast. I wish I had a time capsule or some kind of child compression chamber where I could return them back to babyhood again.

I am so going to miss the baby noises, the funny way my son crawled (one leg bent at the knee, foot in the air, one arm propelling him forward, other arm clutching a toy), the way my daughter first said "big girl pants" (she called them "bagel pants"), the way my son now asks for help with something ("Mmm How"). I wish I could mix up the first cereal again, one more time, and feed it to them spoonful by messy spoonful. Or watch my son be completely fascinated by the discovery of his hands. All of that newness - it's such a miracle.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Thank You

Wow. All of your comments on my last post were great - so insightful, so beautifully written. And they helped.

LouLou commented that "Grief conjures him (her son) up more solidly than anything else does." And she's so right - I'd forgotten that. The first year after Ben died, I remember saying to my therapist that I didn't want the tears to end - because the tears connected me to Ben. That overwhelming grief felt like my only connection to my son then. And after a while, I realized that I had to find other ways of connecting with him. And I have, and I carry him in my heart every day, but tears will always be about Ben somehow.

Niobe said in her comment, "Loss evokes loss. It's like when you pluck one string of a musical instrument and another string, one that you haven't plucked, begins to vibrate as well. You hear the sound of both strings, not just one that's actually been touched." Wow. That is just beautiful. Thank you.

I am still missing my little cat, and when I walk in the door from running an errand I wonder why he isn't there to greet me. We definitely have a kitten in our future; my daughter is desperate to get one, but her parents aren't quite ready. We'll get there.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Headache, Heartache

I've got one of those awful post-cry headaches that no amount of pain reliever will help. Today I had to have our wonderful little cat, who we've had for 10 years, put to sleep. It was time, and it was the right decision, but boy, it hurts.

Why am I writing about the death of my cat on a blog about the death of my son? Well, I'm just wondering...anyone else out there find that every subsequent loss, after the loss of your child(ren), is somehow still about your child? I'm very sad about our cat, but I found myself crying over my cat at the vet's, telling him I'm sorry, and that I will miss him, but in many ways, I'm telling Ben I miss him, telling Ben I'm sorry. I don't know how to separate the grief for my son from the grief for my cat. I remember when my dear friend Elizabeth died two years ago - not unexpectedly, after a long battle with cancer - and I felt like I couldn't really grieve for her because I was still grieving for Ben. And that all my tears, for the rest of my life, will be for him, no matter who I've lost.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Living Children

I have two living children, one from "before" and one from "after." Charlotte was 16 days away from her 3rd birthday when Ben died; James was born 20 months after Ben's death. I remember writing in my journal at some point after losing Ben, that I wonder if Charlotte will grow up to think of us as always being sad. Will she always feel she missed out on getting to know us as happy people? Will there always be a sense of something missing - whether that be her brother or something in her parents? I'm afraid she'll feel that we were never wholly there for her after Ben died. I realize she won't have much, if any, memory of life before Ben - I guess that's what worries me. We were different people then, different parents. I'm afraid her life will be forever tainted by Ben's death, and she'll feel cheated out of us because of it.

Maybe I'm not making any sense, but I wonder what she'll think and feel in 10 and 20 years, about what might have been, what was, what wasn't. Part of me died the day I lost Ben, and that part of me can never return. I hope she can forgive me if I'm not the mother I could have been.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Boys Who Could Have Been Mine

I met a Ben yesterday, a sturdy little towhead, 3 years old, whose big sister is in the same first grade class as my daughter. Most of the time I don't think about the kids I meet who are the same age as Ben; I feel time stopped when he died and that his life and death somehow belong to a separate universe, and that all the children born thereafter are of a different time and place. Mostly.

I can't help wondering sometimes, what my Ben would look like now, and I can't stand that I just don't know. He was very long - 19.5 inches, 7 lbs, 10 ozs. He had the longest hands and feet; feet just like his father's. I expect he would have been reasonably tall, like me, and thin, like his dad. He didn't have much hair, which was a medium-brown color, though he may have gone blonde like his brother and sister did. Or would he have been dark like his father? And what color were his eyes? I will never know.

I have thought, from time to time, of trying to find someone to do an age progression on his photos, like they do on the missing children posters you see at rest stops on the highway and in flyers that come in the mail. I want some idea of who he was - though I don't suppose they can do much with photos of dead babies, and an age-progressed photo of a child who never opened his eyes won't tell me who he was. How could it?

Here's what I know about Ben, from the time I had with him:
  • He loved music, and kicked a lot when he heard it;
  • He was quiet in my womb, quieter than his sister, and he pushed more than he kicked;
  • He was beautiful;
  • He was never mine to keep.
And I miss him.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

My Two Boys

We traveled to my parent's house this past Friday for my Dad's 70th birthday celebration, and this morning my dad handed me a piece of paper containing genealogical information - my name, place of birth, date of birth, my grandparents, my husband's information, our daughter's birthdate and name. It's all part of a genealogical project taking place near where he grew up in Lansdale, PA.

My dad gave me the paper and explained what it was, and said, "I've got you and Charlotte in there, but I haven't done your two boys, but I thought you could do that while you're here."

My two boys. I don't think anyone's ever said that to me before, and I couldn't believe how good it sounded to me. I can't even remember thinking it to myself - it's far too dangerous and sad a thing to do.

But he said it, your two boys. And I am reminded, again, how important it is, for those of us for whom a child is permanently missing, to be acknowledged. How desperately we want our children to be remembered.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Baby Loss Meme

Msfitzita at the Baby Loss Directory blog put up this meme a few weeks ago, and since I'm new to blogging, I thought I'd post it here and answer some of the questions.

1. What do you want people to know about the child (or children) you have lost?

Ben was beautiful, perfect, and he was real. I sometimes think that people believe stillborn child aren't real people, that somehow they don't count because, if they didn't see him, he didn't exist. And I want to scream at the world: He was real. He was here, he was ready to go, but he died.

2. What names did you give (or plan to give) your children and why? His full name was Benjamin Thomas - names we just loved because they were gentle but strong. I always wanted a Ben. He was going to be my Benjamin Bear; I'd planned it before he was born. My older daughter was already the Bunny.

3. What rituals or ways of memorializing your children seem to best help you cope with their loss?

Writing in my journal, talking about him with friends, holding the bear given to me to remember him.

4. What are the kindest and/or most helpful things people have said to you? What are the worst?

The best thing said to me was 'I don't know what to say" and "I'm so sorry" - because, unless you've been through it, you don't know what to say. So much better than all the other things I heard, like "You'll have another child," or "Try to move on," or, God help me, the woman who asked me FIVE times where my baby was, and every time I told her "He's dead."

5. Who is your hero? Who helps you make it through the dark days better than anyone else on the planet?

One of my heroes is Elizabeth, who died in 2005 from breast cancer. She always believed in me and always loved me, and even when she didn't know what to say, she found something comforting to say, or simply offered me a hug. Her spirit lives on in my heart.

My other heroes: my husband, who has loved me through the best and the absolute worst, when I've been awful and I haven't deserved his love. He has always been there and I am so lucky to have him.

6. Is there anything you need to say or want to say but haven't been able to? Can you say it now?

I don't know. I think what I need to say now is this: I'm through the hardest part of the grief, but I still grieve. To everyone who thinks I'm "over it" - I'm not. I will spend the rest of my life wanting Ben back.

7. How are you doing? How are you really doing?

I'm ok. I still don't always believe this happened to me, and the sadness hits me at different times, unexpectedly, but I no longer care who sees me cry. This is who I am now. I don't know that I've "accepted" Ben's death - I know he's gone, I can't change that, but I am going on with my life now. It took a long time to get here.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Three Years and Counting

My son Ben died on December 30, 2003, and was born the next day. I was 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant; January 2nd was his due date. It was not the happy new year we were expecting, and we're still figuring out life without him. This is where I'll talk about losing Ben and parenting his 6.5-year-old sister and 2-year-old brother, and where I'll try to figure out if, as Carly Simon once sang, there's more room in a broken heart.