In the dry, scorched heat of summer, a beaming woman, five-months-pregnant, stands in her kitchen. Apron draping over her pregnant belly, she was cooking for her husband and two sons, she wonders what parenting three will be like.
She was meant to be a mother. Yes, you can say that we all were, but this woman was meant to be a mother. She was taking time off from her career as a teacher in home economics, desiring to put her own life on hold to make the lives of her children more grand and full of love that she could have ever hoped hers to be.
With her engineer-husband hard at work, she played and loved on her two young boys like it was her full-time job and greatest joy of her life. Bringing a third child into the world seemed organic. Necessary. This was what she was made for. This third child would complete her family.
Experiencing symptoms of early labor, she went to the hospital. Since it was the 1970’s, there were not as many resources in place to stop her labor. So, progress it did.
The hours passed, and then ready-or-not, she was a mama of three.
But, wait. There was something wrong.
There was medical staff everywhere. Panic. More specialists. More questions. Joy, now confusion.
“What is wrong with my son?”
The local hospital where she delivered did not have any resources for their son, so he was rushed to Children’s Hospital on the other side of town.
There she sat. In shock. Confused grief. A mother with no baby in her arms. "He’ll be okay," she thought. Hoped.
“Wait, what? Incompatible with life?”
Her son, baby Christian, passed into Glory before she ever got to hold him.
Every single November she celebrated his life. And his death. His “heavenly birthday,” she called it.
While she had a daughter born three years after, she never quite healed. She always longed for her son. To hold him, just once. As her children grew, she longed for four children to call her mama.
She experienced grief, misunderstood, by herself and her husband; both having experienced the parental loss of the same child. Both doing the grieving in very different ways.
Years passed and tears seemed to dry up but her longing for her son never diminished.
As this woman’s life encroached on the end, she asked to be buried with her son. Breast cancer may have stolen her from the three children she had earth side, but she would spend the duration of time on this planet buried with the son she never held.
How do I know that she was meant to be a mama? Cause she was my mama and she was the very best. Her life was about her children. Her death was about the child she never got to hold.
Grief means a lot of things to a lot of different people. For those who are parents to babies in graves, it is not only a loss of life but a loss of one's entire life. It means a loss of a dream. A loss that feels like your soul is being ripped apart every time you breathe. Broken hearts. Empty arms. Impossible pains. Years of tears.
For many with whom I have the sacred privilege to treat, this narrative of grief is a path they are on. A path they will forever be on. It may look different at times, but on this path, they will be.
If you are traveling this path, let me encourage you to give yourself grace. Don’t rush the journey, but keep going. Don’t pitch a tent in the darkness of despair, but give yourself permission to be there while you grieve.
Surround yourself with people who will pick you back up. Who will say your child’s name. That will distract you with a belly laugh.
Society will not and cannot understand. Lucky for them. You have permission to love your baby for every day you carry their memory and for all of the people who forget to remember.
One more thing: You are stronger than you think, just by the very act of your survival and the fact that you got out of bed this morning.
Keep trudging, sister.
You got this.
Just like my mama!