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.
Lately my expression of grief has been lingering in the anger phase more than usual. Probably because all my emotions of frustration and anger regarding the loss resurface every time we celebrate our son’s “birth” day (October 3rd). I inadvertently return to that earlier stage of trying to make sense of why we lost him and who was at fault. It’s an extremely lonely and depressing place to be, but I can’t escape it, it keeps me up at night and tortures my mind endlessly. Couple that with the perceived indifference or apathy that I feel others have toward our loss, especially now three years later, it’s a dark and alienating feeling I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Clearly no one would dare say anything suggesting we move on or that they don’t see why I’m still grieving, but it’s what they don’t say. The difficult moments when I or my husband decide to tell someone we lost a son don’t happen as often as before. But when we do, especially when he shares our loss story (because he doesn’t express his grief as much as I do so when he opens up about our son I know it took a lot), I would expect that the person listening could offer their condolences. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy conversation, but a simple “I’m sorry for your loss” would be much less cruel than silence and a change of topic. Why is it that people skirt passed uncomfortable conversations about grief? I guess maybe they think if they talk about the loss then we’ll be reminded and somehow hurt more? I know it’s hard to go there and feel empathy for someone when they’ve experienced the unspeakable and some people are surprised by the shocking, sudden knowledge that we lost a baby so they just don’t know what to say. But coming from a loss mom, if you don’t know how to react just say whatever you can come up with: “I’m sorry”, “That must be so hard”, “I am here for you”, “Can you tell me about him?”, anything, just don’t stay quiet please. It breaks our hearts our child is no longer here and your avoidance of talking about him doesn’t help. If anything it dishonors his memory and makes us feel even more alone.
And since social media is where many interactions take place these days, if you see a post about a person’s loss, please don’t “Like” it or nod and keep on scrolling. And if you planned on just tapping the sad faced emoji (????), reconsider and kindly take a moment to write out a sentence. Again it can be brief, but it means so much if you acknowledge our pain with a few words. I hope my advice doesn’t come off preachy, but I’ve experienced this enough times in three years and I know people mean well, so I’ve decided to share my feelings to tell others who want to be there for us and anyone else who lost a child that it’s okay to talk about our babies. We crave hearing their name and knowing you still care.
If you’re a loss parent reading this and you feel alone, you aren’t. I’m sorry we are here in this unfortunate club together, but I am glad that we can offer each other support knowing exactly what one another is going through. I will always be honored to hear about your child and grieve them with you. Please tell me about them. Comment with your baby’s name and story below, share my post, and let’s keep talking and honoring their little lives. I miss my son, Owen, just as much yesterday, today and always. It is still so hard, but on the good days something or someone reminds me of him and I can smile because he is mine and I am his forever. ????
April 1, 2017
Had a hard night. Just looking through old photos on my phone to try to delete some and make some memory space. I was looking at the days before losing our son. How naively happy we all were. Then all of a sudden, complete and utter heartbreak and unimaginable sadness. I didn’t know this could happen during a perfectly normal pregnancy. I wish I could go back and tell myself that day we lost our son to take a trip to the hospital earlier just to check on him, but I had no warning signs until that night when Owen stopped moving. Why did we have to go through this? Why did we lose our strong, sweet boy?? Being pregnant with another rainbow still doesn’t make me feel any better. If anything I am more saddened that we lost a perfect baby and we have no promises that this time will be different. All this aside, I am very thankful that I’m alive and have a chance to be a mother again to a son who I know I will love as much as Owen. Just wish things would’ve been different and he could be here too.
June 14, 2017
My new purpose since our loss is to spread awareness about kick counting and trusting your intuition in your pregnancy. Don’t take no for an answer if you feel that something is wrong. Be the annoying patient that calls or goes in whenever you feel something’s off. Always push for the extra tests and scans you need to feel at ease. Worst case scenario they find something wrong and you can try to save your baby or yourself. But hopefully everything is fine and you can go back to being blissful and excited about the miracle growing inside of you. All I want is for you to be able to bring home a healthy baby, so I don’t recommend putting blind faith in your medical team. They can be busy, overwhelmed with clients and confined to what they can offer through routine healthcare based on the rates insurance companies pay them, so it’s up to you to be your own advocate and more importantly to be your unborn baby’s voice. I don’t know if any of what I’m saying would have saved my baby boy, but I feel in my heart that it could help you. Please try not to stress, but be an active participant in your prenatal care. I pray that you will have no complications and enjoy every second of this miraculous process. And please, if you have a healthy baby at the end, know how blessed you truly are and treasure that little life!
Praying for all of you and cheering on every mom out there fighting for their baby’s survival through a high risk pregnancy. You are my sisters and my heroes.
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.
Days go by,
Further from goodbye
Closer to hello
Never letting go
Memories of you
Tiny, precious, true
Nothing more real
Gone yet present still
Speak, breath, grow
A son I didn’t get to know
So much to learn, see, do
So little shared with you
From the first hello
My heart you stole
To the last goodbye
I never understood why
Your purpose is greater
Trusting in our Creator
Until we meet again
Your momma till the end
“Is she your only child?” That’s a question I’m still struggling to decide how to answer. Often asked harmlessly by acquaintances, like last week at a kid’s party, it’s a question that throws me into a downward spiral for days. Of course, they see my perfect, sweet four year old daughter running happily about and wonder if I would like to have more beautiful children like her; Or even more importantly, do I plan on giving her a sibling? And the obvious answer to me is, We have other children. We have a son. My equally treasured and loved baby, Owen, whom we lost unexplainably towards the end of my pregnancy this October. And, if we’re speaking honestly, I also had another child I miscarried too early to know his or her gender, so technically we have three.
But how honest should I get with those who don’t know my circumstances or how devastating their question is to me? I try to be candid of course; I explain my losses, trying not to get upset, and hoping that it won’t make me into the “Debbie Downer” of the party. Most woman are sympathetic, especially those who are finished growing their families and have no fear of my bad luck rubbing off on them. But I get this feeling from other young moms who are still in their childbearing years that what I’m saying might be too much for casual conversation. Though they listen (with terror in their eyes), I feel like I need to censor what I say so as to not worry them if they plan on having more kids. Truth be told, I am worried whenever I hear of anyone getting pregnant and all I can do is secretly pray that everything goes better for them; That they can get to keep their healthy babies. Please God. Don’t let this happen to anyone else.
My son is gone and that’s a pain I have to continue to endure until I get to hold him again. Meanwhile I am trying to wholeheartedly enjoy the special moments I get to share with his sister. I know I am lucky and have a lot to be thankful for, but I am still struggling to be okay; the pain, sadness, loneliness, emptiness, hurt and anger of losing our son makes my postpartum depression even worse. Our loss has changed our lives and challenged me to try to rebuild my heart from all the shattered pieces. I’m not there yet, but I’m in therapy and trying to focus on the good, taking it one moment at a time.
At the end of the day, I just have to tell myself this is God’s plan. I heard a DJ on the radio yesterday say, “we have one child in the target and the others still in the quiver”. With that he was saying, our children are like arrows and the target is heaven, so we have to remind ourselves that the ones we have lost have already made it to that amazing place. Meanwhile we all must continue to take aim at that bullseye and try to earn our way in. It somehow gives me a little peace knowing we have our son waiting in the target and the rest of us will hopefully join him when it’s our time. Our three children will still get to play joyfully together some day; This is God’s promise of eternal life for all who follow him and a truth I cling to when I am desperately missing my son.
So I guess I’ll just keep on trying to be honest when I reply to that no longer simple question… It may be painful, but it’s true; We have three children, although only one is with us now.