“A lifetime ain’t no time at all.” -Mary Gauthier, “Lifetime”
“I like to look at my baby’s pictures every day.”
“I used to go to the pregnancy and infant loss memorial every year. I think I have a different way of remembering her now.”
“The day he was born is our family day. We remember him and we think about who we are as a family.”
The loss of a baby seems to leave us with so very little and so very much.
In my office, I’ve been handed slippery ultrasound pictures and had people hold up their iphones cued to pictures of sons and daughters wrapped in small blankets. I’ve seen fresh tattoos of the names of the babies that can’t be physically present and heard the hushed and stunned words of parents speaking about their children’s memorials.
These moments for me are often beyond words. They are reverent and touching. They are heartbreaking. And they are beautiful in their display of honesty, connection and love.
Sometimes we worry about what we are supposed to be thinking or doing after the loss of a baby. Is it unhealthy to cry so much and to want to talk about the baby all of the time? Is it OK to keep the pictures of our baby in view? Should we repaint the nursery and get rid of the clothes? What about laughing- do we ever get to do that again?
There may be so many reasons for these concerns: guilt about focusing too much or too little on our loss, social pressure to not make others uncomfortable and the burning desire to “get it right” with our grief process in order to find a way out of this staggering pain.
All very understandable…
Another understandable reason may be our fear of being changed. Or maybe we already feel changed in such a scary or painful way that we want to rush out and prop up the previous trappings of our life. Maybe we can form our face back into a smile, talk about the weather, work or if the Giants have a shot in the post-season this year. Then maybe we can feel OK again.
When we attach to a pregnancy or baby, a lot of our being voluntarily or involuntarily commits to a wild ride. And if we lose that pregnancy or baby, we are affected in all kinds of ways. Yes, that high price for love and connection does have to get paid- we’re changed by the experience.
But that doesn’t mean we need to fear or fight the change. You are crying and miserable and thinking about your baby because you are missing someone you love. This isn’t some distorted or bad version of you, this is just you on grief. You don’t know yet where that may take you, but I promise you it will change again.
You might be feeling being stretched beyond capacity and challenged, but you’re still here. It may be extremely meaningful and important to kiss your baby’s picture every night. It might be very healing for you to make a scrapbook or visit your baby’s grave every day. And it may be wonderful and important to laugh at a good (or bad) joke and notice something pretty in the world today. Maybe the only rule right now is to try to let your emotions show up most of the time.
Strong feelings about relationships indicate our ability to feel the pain and beauty of our messy lives and be touched by what we experience. It’s not a detour from living, it is living. It means we’re connected, even if we feel mostly broken. It means we are still here and that there is more to come.