Sometimes she asks me a question out of nowhere and it catches me by surprise.
“Do you have pictures of him,” she asked?
I pushed my lips together and thought about it. I considered lying to her for about half a second.
“I do,” I said. “Do you want to see them sometime?”
I didn’t know if she was ready. At 5-years-old, I didn’t know if she was old enough to actually see him and be okay with it. After all, he didn’t look normal.
“Yes,” she said without wavering.
“Okay,” I agreed and vowed that I would show her her brother’s pictures…someday.
That conversation happened over a year ago. She still hasn’t seen his photographs.
More recently she said to her young brother, “You know we have a brother, right?”
Her tone was sweet, educational and filled a wisdom somewhere beyond that of a 6-year-old.
“Oh! A brother,” my younger son exclaimed! At 3, he is rather oblivious to the ideas surrounding his older sibling.
“Yes, he lives in heaven,” she told him.
That was it.
It’s these little moments that I miss him most. The moments where my daughter wants to see him or talk about him too.
It’s like her constant wondering about him makes me snap out of it – the life I live where I no longer think of him on a regular basis.
The truth is, I wonder about him too and her innocent, questioning brain digs up the reminder each time. I wonder what the three of them would have been like together – the adventures, the arguments and the memories that would be a part of their childhood had we actually been a family of five.
I see his birth in flashes now – the bright lights, my husband’s eyes closed, him gripping my hand, the sheet over my legs… I hear the tone in my doctor’s voice as he tells me to push. Then I hear nothing. It’s silence as he is born.
No crying. No shouts of joy.
I am 1 in 100. I am the mother of a stillborn baby.
According to the March of Dimes, 1 in 24,000 pregnancies is stillborn, or 1 in 100. October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month and like my daughter’s questions, it always catches me off guard even though it comes around each year.
I don’t focus on it like I used to, so it creeps in now, slowly. It used to hit me like a ton of bricks and I’d allow myself to wallow a bit. But now, over seven years out, I just let it wash over me in waves, some that lap softly past me and some that hit me straight in the face as I come up for a breath through the busyness of life.
The moments with my daughter come like that too. Depending on her questions, depending on my days, I simply answer and move on. Other times we have a longer discussion.
Sometimes it’s what she needs to understand. Sometimes it’s what I need her to understand. Sometimes I realize she understands so much more about life and death than other kids her age do – certainly more than her clueless, little brother – and I wonder if I’ve burdened her with it, like many “replacement” children often are.
But she sees me. She sometimes sees me when I’m sad about him, even though the moments are few and far between now.
And in those moments, I know I’m so lucky to have this child who gets how much it must hurt me to be without him.
She doesn’t know about the others yet. The four miscarriages in between her and her siblings that led us to be a family of four and not nine. I’m not just 1 in 100 but I’m also 1 in 4. Mother to four miscarried children in addition to our stillborn son.
Someday I will tell her. But that day is far away because it also carries with it an additional burden of wondering if I’ve sentenced her to the same pain just through sheer genetics. My hope is science will be smarter by the time she’s ready to have a baby.
Science only gets you part of the way though. The idea that you gotta have faith isn’t just a whim in a song. It’s a fact if you have also miscarried, had a stillborn baby or lost a child. Hope may always float, but the force that gets it to the top again is faith.
After our son was stillborn we decided we were done. We were done trying and fighting and hoping and praying…
But if any of that had really been true, we would have always been 1 in 100. We would have remained a sad statistic and we would have never had the intelligent, light-filled girl that reminds me each day how wonderful, fragile and magical life can be.
She may carry a few more burdens than most children her age, but it’s better that she’s here and carrying them versus never to have been born at all. And I can help with the load.
During this month of remembrance, if you’re struggling after a loss my advice to you is this: Read the science, find the faith and hold onto the hope until it gets back to the top and you can come up for a breath. You need all three to get through it and to move on to the point where you can have the strength to once again try.
My personal statistics may only be 2 out of 7, about 29 percent, but that’s a lot better than living with the label of 1 in 100. I may be a mother of a stillborn baby and a woman who has miscarried, but now I’m also a survivor too.
As we remember this month I carry all the labels with me – that of loss and that of success.
And, because we tried again, because we had her, I also now get to carry the most important label of all; mother.
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