MY STILLBIRTH STORY
6 weeks ago I screamed you into this world and I begged God to let me hear you scream back. Instead, there was silence from you, shattering my heart, completely deflating the euphoria that comes after birth. Earlier that day, I stroked my belly and asked you to stay – stay a few more days, despite no movement or contraction signs. Over the next 24 hours, I’d have to make a conscious effort to say “I love you” more than I said “I’m sorry.” Both are true, I am sorry, but I do love you so much.
Somehow, I think I kissed you a lifetime’s worth of kisses in a few hours’ time. All without one kiss back. And just where am I supposed to put all this love? This love that I reserved just for you? I still put it in you, of course. This love doesn’t leave just because you did. It’s a hard lesson to learn. My love for you spills out of me, in the form of tears, sobs, and that worthless guilt. But there are better ways to feel my love for you. Missing you something terrible doesn’t have to be the only way to miss you. I want to miss you wonderfully. As in, full of wonder.
I can’t help but think of the little boy you’d be today. At this point, you would be finding your voice – squawking and squealing, making our hearts explode. You’d have found your favorite pacifier by now and I’d be grateful that I was finally able to get those first 4+ hour stretches of sleep. Instead, I’m clocking in 12+ hours every night because sleeping in is decidedly easier than the waking hours. I should be looking at your face for most of my day, but instead I have to search for you elsewhere. I see you in songs, in the sky, in the sea, in your brother’s face, in your daddy’s arms. What would our days look like with you in them?
Would you be a snuggler? Sleeping skin to skin in my shirts while I work? Would you be obsessed with your daddy like your brother is? Would you have a full brown hair, still, or bald? Who would you be today if your story went a little differently? These questions don’t help, but I ask them anyway. I know I always will. I’ll love you all the days of my life, and loving you the way that I do makes me feel closest to God. So I guess it’s true what they say, that grief is next to holiness.
Thank you for teaching me how to love unconditionally. And that grief and love can sit beautifully beside each other. Thank you for showing me that even though losing you feels dark – it’s also true that with darkness comes depth, like the ocean. And just like the depths of the ocean, my love for you, the love of a parent for their child, it just keeps going. So yeah, it may be a little dark down here but it’s deep, too.
6 weeks ago but it still feels so very fresh. Like a newly picked over blister, like a raw patch of skin that stings when exposed.
I feel exposed when the neighbors ask, “Did you have the baby yet?”
Exposed when being wheeled out of the hospital and someone says, “Congratulations” because they glance at the labor and delivery cart.
Exposed when I see the big brother shirt you’re supposed to be wearing hanging up in your closet.
Exposed when they say, “I’m sure you’ll have more kids.”
To the others who didn’t mean to throw the grenades they did… when I say, ‘It’s okay” I don’t mean “I’m okay.” I’m saying I know that you didn’t know. But I promise, you’re not upsetting me by “reminding” me. I’ll never need a reminder. I’m just sad that the answer to your question isn’t what I hoped it would be. It should be a joyful Q&A, not a landmine. It should be different. I know I’m privileged in my grief, to have support of so many - even strangers. But it’s very hard to feel lucky right now, and yet, somehow, I know I am.
Surely I should be “over it.” Surely everyone’s sick of hearing about it. They’re over the unpleasantness of it all. Here’s one thing I wish others knew about you, Noah:
I don’t want to be over you. I don’t want to stop thinking of you, talking about you, and feeling my sorrow for you. My pain is a direct reflection of my love for you.
I’ve survived 6 weeks when I didn’t think I’d live another 6 seconds. How has it been so long since I smelled you or felt your skin? Each day since you were born has felt like the longest day, a spring solstice of suffering. And yet, somehow, time is passing. Time is pushing on, moving my body into another day. Another day further away from the last time I held you in my arms.
Every brown headed boy I see is you. That’s just one of the million cuts of losing you so soon. Your first gummy smile is a mystery. The sound of your voice, like the roar of the ocean in a seashell; it’s just in my head and only if I listen really closely. From baby-to-boyhood right before my eyes. It’s all a blur now, all the ways you could have been you. You in a wedding day suit, dancing with me to a song we picked together… that’s all just a dream. And that’s what you’re starting to feel like now – a dream. Did this really happen? Did we ever have you at all? The answer is a resounding yes, of course. Always yes. I notice that your name is my new “Hallelujah!” Every time the world gives us something beautiful, I shout your name. We love the way you’re showing up for us and opening our eyes to the goodness of God all around us.
This journey hasn’t been easy. But we keep going. When people would say, "I can’t imagine what you’re going through,” I try to ignore the fact that I’m living the unimaginable – and instead focus on the fact that I’m going through it. It isn’t stagnant. It’s a movement. We’re headed in a direction. So we keep going. And when people ask, “How are you doing?” I reply, “I’m doing.” Because sometimes that’s enough.
There’s a space where you should be, but each day it’s feeling less like a gaping hole and more like an invisible fullness. Being without you is hard, but being your mom is one of my favorite things about myself. We miss you something wonderful, baby Noah.