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

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bitter and Sweet

This morning I had coffee with a friend who lost her son a year ago tomorrow. R. was stillborn at full-term, and they don't know why. My friend blames herself for his death, thinks she did too much in the last few months, didn't rest enough, didn't pay enough attention.

She is learning to live with a broken heart.

And though I can tell her it gets easier, there is only so much I can do, for until you arrive at "easier," it is only . . . hard. Some days are better, some days are worse, but one day you find you are still alive, still here, you haven't quite survived it--not so you could leave it in the past--but you are surviving it, here and now, moment by moment.

As she learns to live with her broken heart, she is trying to look forward, to believe that the child she now carries will be born, alive and healthy, in about six more weeks. I remember the terror she feels now, the guilt for having another child, the longing for both of her sons to be healthy and strong and alive. Knowing that will never be possible.

While I sat with her I thought of an acquaintance, in labor today, right now, at this very moment. Hoping that her innocence will not be shattered today, that her boy goes home, alive and well.

How hard it is, some days, being alive, knowing too much, fearing the worst, wanting the best.

For 10,958 mothers in the world, today will be the worst day of their lives. And for them, my heart is breaking even as I continue to hope for the women I know waiting to deliver their own healthy miracles.

This is life: the bitter and the sweet, sometimes so closely intermingled as to be indistinguishable one from the other. This is what it means to be alive.

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