Here she is again; That viscous, heartless bitch, grief. She has no care for what day it is. She storms in, flinging the door wide open whenever she damn well pleases and ruins everything; Holidays, anniversaries, special occasions are all fair game. Four years after loss, her arrival has gotten a bit more predictable. We don’t feel the weight of her constant, daily presence like we did the first couple years. She’s more like the annoying uncle everyone puts up with at Thanksgiving and tries not to engage in conversation to avoid his off-color jokes. But that doesn’t mean she can’t show up without a moment’s notice and turn your whole world upside down again. People say grief comes in waves. In my experience she’s more of a tsunami attack. You can’t just wade in the shallow side of grief, she’ll drag you into the deep end and dunk you under as you gasp for air, crying out in vein for someone to save you. All it takes is a small trigger or a bad day for her to see her way in. Kick you while you’re down, that’s her style. A real bitch I tell you. But you know the weirdest part of this toxic relationship? Sometimes I see her coming and I invite her in. I welcome her like a long lost friend. Ah (sigh of relief), there she is, just when I was afraid I had “moved on”. That the pain of loss had decided to let go of my heart and somehow that means I miss him less. After a long spell of her silence, of being able to go through my daily routine without a tear, I feel somehow thankful when she returns and she reminds me of how much I lost, how badly I still long for my baby boy. She’s the only one who knows how truly broken I still am. She heard my guttural screams when I was told the news, “I’m sorry, we couldn’t save him. Your son died”, or some similar matter of fact statement that I couldn’t believe I was hearing as I was coming out of the black fog of anesthesia. My husband held my hand, tears flowing. Cries followed that sounded so foreign, but somehow were coming from deep within me; uncontrollable and piercing wails like a wounded animal. Only she knows how we sat together in the darkness every hour of every day after for months on end. I couldn’t imagine life without our son. The only moments I could see the light were when my sunshine came to my bedside to sit with me. My four year old girl, sitting sweetly in my rocking chair smiling at me and instinctively coming to my bedside to hold my face within her tiny hands making mommy smile back at her when I was at my worst. She kept me from being swallowed whole by grief in those early days. My husband too, with his rock solid strength, pushing forward, going back to work to keep us afloat and putting on a brave face though he was also fighting off grief and severe PTSD. God was there too, silent but steady, understanding all to well the pain of losing a child. He never left my side and kept promising me beauty for ashes, asking me to trust Him. Then inexplicably, somehow life continues moving on. We learn to cope, figure out ways to honor our lost loved one and by some miracle we can experience joy and hope again too. Grief takes a break, maybe she finds some other poor unsuspecting soul to ambush. Yet she won’t let you forget her, she comes back unannounced and as much as I dread that day, I can’t help but smile because I know she’s going to bring me right back to that place. That moment I held him in my arms for the first time, smelled his fresh baby skin, took in his perfection, every inch from his soft blonde hair, handsome cleft chin, long, thin body, down to his slightly crooked toes (just like daddy’s). He’s gone now, but he was here. He died in delivery, but he lived in me, and that’s where he continues to live today. Always in my heart, my son, Owen Nathaniel Vick. Grief lasts forever just like our love, they coexist hand-in-hand, and I’ve learned to accept the crashing waves that allow me to feel the depth of that endless love.
Almost a year baby boy. Can’t believe how much we have endured in such a short amount of time. I feel like I’ve aged so much more than a year. Pretty sure I look like I have physically, with all the tears that have continued to swell out of my eyes and the crop of new, spiteful little grey hairs that have sprouted from the constant stress. But emotionally I notice the changes even more. It makes sense, I’ve carried the burden of your loss daily for over ten months now. Sometimes the load feels heavier, the pain sharper. Other days, my heart is lighter, more focused on the present. But it’s always there, making itself comfortable in the complex fabric of this messy, imperfect, yet still beautiful life.
Being your mom and having held you are of course counted as great blessings. I know I am lucky to have experienced your life for 7 months inside of me and that we were able to meet you, even if it was tragically after you had passed away. Is it greedy to wish for more? Some women don’t get this far in their pregnancies. I know this. I’ve lived this (and sadly witnessed it too). How heartbroken I have been, losing two pregnancies in their early stages before and after losing you.
The first, before you, was our sweet baby Jordan who slipped away quickly and with the least physical pain. Still, I cried inconsolably over the weekend after bleeding more than I thought a person could. Having an ultrasound the next Monday to be told the baby was gone was just standard practice. We already knew. We silently mourned the baby we wouldn’t get to raise or see grow up alongside our daughter and waited to be able to try again. Back then I knew miscarriage was the loss of a child, but I let the doctors convince me that the baby was just a few cells. They didn’t care if I flushed the baby down the toilet or named him or her. They didn’t want me to bring anything in for testing (doctors won’t help look into causes of miscarriage until after three losses) and we didn’t know what to do with the little bit of tissue we saw floating down the toilet along with all that blood. So much blood. I still have nightmares, a deeply rooted fear of seeing blood when I pee, and I even wake up from sleep every so often with a strange sensation like I’m miscarrying again. Now I regret that we didn’t honor that baby’s life more back then and after losing you we decided to give our much loved and wanted baby a name, Jordan. (Jordan, I’m sorry for everything we did or didn’t do for you while you were here. You know you meant the world to me and daddy and we love you like all our other children. You will be in our memories and hearts forever.)
Our other little angel, Avery, clung to me for several weeks after we were told the pregnancy wasn’t viable (the baby stopped growing at 6 weeks, but we didn’t find out until our first scan at 8 weeks). What a devastating moment. After losing you too, I allowed myself to believe that surely this time everything had to be ok. I prayed so hard (to God, Jesus, Mary, the Saints of pregnant women, anyone who I could think of) for this pregnancy to be healthy, to finally have a sibling for your sister to grow up with. Our dreams were again shattered. At first I hoped and prayed that maybe the doctor was wrong. Not likely with this doctor, he’s the best high risk doctor there is. Yet, I waited anxiously, fearfully, and yes, hopefully, until the day the painful experience of miscarrying Avery began. Nothing happened for over four weeks, so I never expected it would be that physically painful. I called the nurse at my doctor’s office panicking, asking if I should rush to them or the ER. No, she confirmed, labor type contractions are to be expected. Over-the-counter drugs did nothing to curb the immense pain. The only thing that I could think other than, God please let this be over soon, was thank you God for allowing me to continue to miscarry our baby naturally. I didn’t want to have to have a D&C. I just couldn’t bare the idea of having another baby ripped out from my womb and I hope to be pregnant again one day, God-willing, so I didn’t want to risk having my uterus scarred at all. Of course being put under for a procedure scares the life out of me too. The last time I was put under, I woke up to the devastating news that you were gone.
How could that have happened??? I’m still in total shock baby. I’ve fought depression like a fierce warrior with therapy, prayer, and of course, love and support from your daddy, your big sister and our family and close friends. I’m still fighting that battle. I can’t allow myself to be broken, lost, forever damaged by your death. I still need to be a mother to your sister, a wife to your amazing daddy, and keep living for them and everyone else who loves me. But it’d be a lie to say I feel better. No, I’m still devastated. Heartbroken. Traumatized. Angry.
Without the truth and justice, how could there be peace in my heart? God teaches us to forgive even those who have hurt us most. Those who don’t admit their wrong or offer an apology. Ok, you got me. I’m not sure I can do it, but I’ll try baby. Not for them. Not even really for me. I do it for you. For you and your siblings, my love, because I need to be able to join you all one day in Heaven. I know I have to accept this new reality even if I don’t understand it or think it’s right. What happened to you, to us. But in order to get to that place where you are, I have to learn to forgive. It’s not easy, but I promise I’m trying.
Still, my heart breaks every time I read your medical records. Relive that day. Discover mistakes. Tell your story. So I haven’t quite yet given up on getting to the truth. How could I? You were our sweet, healthy, perfect baby boy. The apple of our eye and daddy’s spitting image. Those dimples, your curved little toes, just like him. No I haven’t forgotten you. And I won’t let anyone else. I promise. Even if that makes them uncomfortable. Even if I lose their friendship. Who cares. You are more precious to me than a friend who doesn’t want to hear about what I’m going through. That’s not really a friend is it? It’s okay. I still have plenty of real ones and have made new ones too. Even some that are pregnant or had babies recently and still manage to sincerely feel empathy for us without letting their own fears keep them from being there for me. This experience of loss has taught me both who and what is worth my time as well as who I am important to. In the end, we owe it to ourselves to spend our time with only those who matter most to us because life is short. I have you to thank for that very clear perspective.
You, my little one, will always be in my ever present thoughts, be they of love, joy, gratitude, sadness, despair, frustration, fear, anger, isolation, anxiety, resentment or, in time, forgiveness. I may have to accept you are in Heaven, far away from my embrace, but I will always miss you and long to see you again Owen (my how I love to hear, speak and see your name, I wish that would be more often). For you I fight, our Little Warrior. I’ll be your voice and until there is change in prenatal healthcare, in the value of unborn babies’ lives, and in the stigma and silence of the loss community, I won’t just “move on”. Two words that should never be said to a bereaved parent, or anyone else for that matter. You’ve awakened me to a greater purpose. I wish it didn’t take losing you, Jordan, and Avery to do so, but I know now what God is asking of me. But better late than never right?
Owen, I know you are happy where you are and though you may see me cry, sometimes even collapse under the weight of it all, don’t worry. I know God is with me even when I feel completely alone. He will help direct my steps. I won’t ever lose sight of His love or the blessings He continues to shower us with, even in this our darkest hour. Love always outshines every other emotion. But we have to allow ourselves to feel, even if that means being hurt. Never forget Owen, your mommy may be desperately sad that you left us, but I will always be happy that you are our son. I know you’re probably learning to stand and take your first steps in Heaven (because your cousin your age is doing that too down here). How I wish we could be there to catch you and cheer you on, but we are so proud of you and look forward to seeing everything you can do one day. Sending so many hugs and kisses up to you, Jordan and Avery. Good night our little angels.