An Awkward Place In The Middle
Lori is the Owner and Editor of Still Standing Magazine. She is the mom of three little boys: Matthew and Trey in Heaven and Luke–the joy she is privileged to raise. A proud military spouse, she also blogs at www.loridoesmd.blogspot.com
How often is it heard, “I love each of my children equally. Different, but equally.”
So, I don’t understand why some people don’t have that same mentality when children die.
Recently, I was asked to participate in a study on the ‘subculture’ of infertility and pregnancy/infant loss. In answering questions about how I felt about my infertility diagnoses, the loss of my first child, and then another loss after having a healthy, living child, a lot of emotions I’ve not felt in a while were stirred up.
My first son died the day after he was born. He was full-term, healthy and people were shocked. After years of infertility, for us to receive the brick in the face that we did in his death was pretty unbelievable for most people. I have no doubt that many, many people wept rivers as they looked at pictures of my husband holding my dying son in his arms. We were well supported, both my husband and I, and I am lucky enough to have lots of precious pictures and memories that our support system can share within. I very, very rarely feel that people question my ‘grieving’ him.
My second and only living son is the epitome of joy and every picture of him screams that at high volume. Although while pregnant with him, (and even now, sometimes!) I got the typical, “Oh, losing Matthew must be easier because you now have Luke,” I am fairly capable of brushing that idiotic logic aside for the sake of showing grace to those who probably need it more than I do. It’s like saying, “Hey, your mom died, but I bet that new gal your dad married makes things a lot easier, right?”
Sure it does.
In answering questions about my pregnancy with Luke after the loss of Matthew, I remembered very vividly that I did not want a single second of joy stolen–AGAIN–so I refused to live in fear. REFUSED. It was not easy, and it was only through the Grace of God that I was able to, but I am thankful that in light of the circumstances with his brother, my pregnancy and delivery of Luke were nothing short of more miracles and more joy. Remembering this time was so nice for me.
And then I got to the parts of the interview that were about losing again.
AGAIN, for crying out loud.
That’s when the ugly came up.
I am lucky enough to have pictures of Matthew and most people really remember him because he was born and died the next day. It’s hard to forget. We celebrate his birthday, talk of him as he’s a family member and never shy from conversation. It’s different with Trey…the third son I carried and lost at 13w4d.
The difference in support I had for Matthew as a neonatal death vs. Trey as a ‘miscarriage’ is shocking and sad. I saw that baby sucking his thumb in my womb a week before his heart stopped beating. As all of my children were conceived via IVF, and I am fairly an open book on my blog and Facebook, the WORLD saw everything we did! The sweet little gummy bear shape. The video of him sucking his thumb at just 12 weeks. Luke wearing his “Big Brother” shirts and my very bulging belly even at 12-13 weeks. There was no doubt I was pregnant and there was nothing but “New Baby” talk in the air.
And yet, once I posted on Facebook that his heart stopped beating and we lost him, it was almost as if I was never even pregnant a third time. I’ve gotten questions like, “Why did you name it?” because it was ‘just a miscarriage’. While I readily admit that losing Matthew as we did was very much a different situation than losing Trey was–I had no empty nursery to come home to and Luke was here to throw ourselves into after losing Trey–losing two children has been hard on my heart. Losing two children with different values placed on their lives? Even harder.
Much, much harder.
Because I’d been told, “I do pregnancy well” (Matthew and Luke were both full-term, perfect pregnancies) I was surprised to lose Trey. And more, I was surprised that my support system was so different. The support system is far less strong for miscarriage than for neonatal death and when you have a living child???? You get a lot of “At least you have….”
“At least you have Luke.”
Yes. Thank God I have Luke. But I should have his brothers too. And, because of my age and other extenuating circumstances, there are no chances for me to have any other living siblings for him. We have attempted a few adoption scenarios that did not work out, and to be honest?
We are worn. We are weary. We are tired of loss.
There’s so much support in this community we call “BabyLoss” and I am forever grateful for it. How women survived these traumas in days gone by where discussion was not acceptable makes my heart ache at the thought of the pain they went through.
But there’s this small niche of us–we just don’t feel like we fit much of anywhere.
To complain because we can’t have TWO living children when there are so many who never are able to even have one? Gluttonous. We know.
However, gluttonous as it is, I cannot lie. When I see the “Rainbow Babies” born near the time mine was become Big Brothers and Big Sisters?
I now am in the middle. I don’t fit in with the comparison conversations. “Baby A did this, but Baby B is soooo different,” or discussions about how to keep big brother busy while tending to little brother. No talk about what double stroller is the best.
I sold mine. I foolishly bought it when I was 10 weeks with Trey. To borrow from Hemingway with a bit of creative licensure: “Double Stroller. For Sale. Never Used.”
While I’ve certainly been that Pregnancy After Loss Mom, I’m just that. Pregnancy After Loss Mom. Not “Mom to two Rainbows.”
And I’ll never be.
The ache in my heart is exacerbated by the comparisons of my losses others make.
Many tell me it’s not the same. At least I have one living child and I should be grateful. I knew Matthew more. He was born alive.
Whatever. Maybe it’s NOT the same.
But seeing all three of my sons wiggle and dance and perform other assorted tricks at my twelve weeks checkups sure felt a lot alike.
Amazing. Miraculous. Wonderful.
No difference at all in my love for each.