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

Monday, August 11, 2008

This Is Not a Fairy Tale

It's a bit like a fairy tale, this story of mine. Not in the "happily ever after" sense, for we all know how my story ends. It's like the original tales, by the Brothers Grimm, where the stepsisters cut off their toes to try to make the shoe fit. Mine begins, 'Once upon a time...' just as all the modern tales do; 'Once upon a time, there was a happy couple with a beautiful daughter, a beautiful home, everything they could ever wish for, except a son. Then one day, the happy couple found out they were to have a son, their perfect family, and they had nothing left to wish for, for their happily ever after was about to come true.'

Except it didn't. And in the aftermath of death, we tried to sort out 'ever after.' For no matter how stark the real stories by Grimm, Cinderella still got her man; Rapunzel, after years of wandering, found her prince; and Hansel and Gretel escaped the witch, who burned to death. The bad met their just end; the righteous prevailed. And in my story, in your story, the righteous don't prevail, though we are left trying to learn how to live with it for the rest of our lives.

I was told by someone very wise, when I asked her how I live with this unimaginable sorrow for the rest of my life, that, one day, Ben's death would become a part of me, like my blue eyes are a part of me. Something I carry with me, always, in every moment. I clung to those words, waiting for the time when that would be true, as it is for me now. But anyone can look at me and see that I have blue eyes; only those I've told can look at me and see Ben's death etched across my face.

His death has become a part of who I am, as that wise woman said, though I wish that part of me wasn't so hard to share with those who don't know. What she didn't tell me - and perhaps what she herself did not know - was that the biggest part of me, my son's death, is the biggest secret I keep. There are no conversations that include, "I'm from Pennsylvania originally, I'm home with my kids right now, been married for 12 years, and have a dead son."

And I pretend I have the fairy tale, the happily ever after. I hide the biggest part of me from all but a select few and wonder how anyone could miss seeing the hollow emptiness I carry with me always.


c. said...

Yes. The fairy tale life. I appear to be living it as well, to those who don't know. Even to those that do. That's what the big house and the nice car and the million dollar family appears to say to those around me. Strangely, or not so, the dead son doesn't seem to play a part in this fairy tale life. Not in the way I hoped he would. And certainly not in the way that will ever offer me a happily ever after. That, I'm sad to say, is gone regardless of what happens in the sequel.

Debbie said...

Oh yes. Where does the deadbaby fit into the fairy tale? For us, our fairy tales have taken a different turn. How I wish we could go back to that fork in the road and have the option to go down the other side.

Jenn said...

After my miscarriages, I didn't understand how the rest of the world could go on largely unchanged when my world had been flipped upside down. Thinking of you..


mrsmuelly said...

This is a truly beautiful post. It's so true that it hurts - we do hide the biggest part of our lives as it's just not something that comes up. I wonder every day if others can see what I feel...what I hide...and that a part of me is gone forever.

Amy said...

I know this is an old post, but it really spoke to me. Thank you.