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

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Six Years On

I never dream of him, though I have always wanted to. I've wanted a chance to see him, because I can't picture how he would look real, here. I've had dreams about people I have lost, dreams in which I've been granted the chance to say goodbye. Other dreams have ended when I wake up, bewildered, because in my dream the person I love has really been alive all these years, and I've been lied to about their death.

Why can't I dream of him? Would it give me any comfort if I did?

* * *


Six years ago I sat in a different house from the one I sit in today, across town, disbelieving. "I'm sorry, he's gone," the doctor told me that morning, and my life fell apart.

* * *


Last week I sat in the candlelight at a Christmas service for people who have a hard time at the holidays, in the very same chapel where we gathered to say goodbye to Ben six years ago. I felt him there. I always do. I almost never feel him with me anywhere else. And I talked to him.

Where are you, little one?

I'm here, mama, I'm here.

Where?

Right here, he said, and I felt a flutter in my heart.

I'm always here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Death's Dark Shadows

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel...

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel


It's little wonder to me now, how my favorite Christmas hymns and carols have always been the gloomier ones, the ones that speak not of "the most wonderful time of the year" but of "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams," and "From now on, our troubles will be out of sight." The melancholy songs. Which is how I feel today. Melancholy. Six years without Ben for Christmas.

What does it mean, "death's dark shadows put to flight?" I know, Christ come to save the world, promising reunion in heaven for the righteous, but here, now, I want to scoff at those lyrics. Because God didn't save my son. Even though I don't believe that's what God does.

I just miss him. That's all.

Six years ago, right now, he was alive. And six years ago, in 7 days, he was gone.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Shadows

I just read a post over at Moments of Pause, about missing children, shadows, photos notable for an absence known and seen by a very few.

Fuzzy, indistinct outlines of what might have been. I have wanted a shadow to appear in my family photographs since Ben died, to represent who should be there. An outline of what's missing, for all the world to know.

That's not how it works, is it? The whole world doesn't want to know what we have lost, and I can't say I blame them. I understand. I wouldn't have wanted to know either, if I hadn't lost a child of my own. And some days, even now, I don't want to know of other people's pain, because my heart is full from so many stories, so many losses, so much grief at what I almost had.

It feels, some days, that I have already had a lifetime to get used to being without Ben, though it is closing in on six years. Six years is forever, and no time at all. I think of my friend, the one I told you about in my last post, in her second month without her boy, only beginning to learn what life means now without him. Her daughter is in kindergarten, and the last time we met she told me how, since meeting me, she thinks of Ben every day when she drops her daughter off at school, sends her into the very same classroom where I expect Ben would have started his elementary school education. Knowing that, if things had gone differently, Ben would be playing with her child. She thinks of him while her daughter plays on the playground after school, thinks of the two of them running around together. She thinks of the shadow in my life, knowing she has only begun a lifetime of remembering her own.

She's given me a gift, I think, by remembering what is lost. Seeing the outline, the shadow, of what will never be.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

When Did You Know You Would Survive?

Last month, one of my neighbors phoned me up to tell me that a woman on our block, E., just around the corner, had suffered a stillbirth. She, her husband and daughter moved here in June, and most of us hadn't yet met her. My friend was phoning to see if I could help in any way, as E. and her husband are not from the States and have no extended family here.

We've met a few times, this mother and I. And talked, and talked, and talked. Like me, E. was surprised by how little information there is about surviving bottomless sorrow. Where are the books, the first-person accounts, where is it written down somewhere that you will, you can survive? I bought her two books, the one by Elizabeth McCracken, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, and Empty Cradle, Broken Heart, by Deborah Davis. She's read the first one and is working on the second. E. has asked me to give her the answer to the same question I had after we lost Ben, a question unanswered in most of the babyloss books: how does she survive?

And what can I tell her? Words are inadequate. There is no map or blueprint, though I remember being at the same stage she is in now, wanting directions, something to follow, something to do with my time now that there was no baby occupying me. Steps to take to make it through.

There are none.

And I wonder when I knew I would survive. I can't pinpoint it, really. It wasn't after I got pregnant again, not after James was born, not after my marriage nearly fell apart two years later. It's gradual, and agonizingly slow. I've been able to tell her she will survive, but it will take a long time, it will always hurt. I've told her that she needs to get through the first year, observe the holidays and anniversaries, before she can come to terms with what her son's death means for the rest of her life. I've told her she can only get up each day and do the best she can.

What I've told her is not enough, but it is the best I can do: "You will survive. I promise you. But it's going to hurt like hell."

When did you know you would survive? Was it a moment, a particular day, or is it still a work in progress? What would you say to someone in these all too familiar shoes?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

For Jenni

Warm summer sun, shine kindly here.
Warm southern wind, blow softly here.
Green sod above, lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear Heart, Good night, good night.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pregnancy Loss Questionnaire

I came across this site, BeyondPregnancyLoss.com, via Twitter recently and thought I would share it. The site is maintained by an Australian woman, Helen Abbott, who suffered a loss of her own several years ago. Currently, she is researching a book on pregnancy loss and is asking people to fill out a questionnaire about their loss to aid in her writing. Go check it out and consider lending her a hand.