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

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.