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

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.

1 comment:

Monica H said...

I think you are right on about the grief that you feel and how it evolves, and how you as a person changes and grows. Beautifully said.