(PC: Peter Bang, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep)
After losing Bobby, there's been so much to grieve, process, think about and educate myself on. So many questions were left without answers and when your child dies you just want to know why. I never wondered or thought I did something wrong, but to me there had to be a reason. The day we found out Bobby died and some of the things that were said still haunt me in a way. But I also left there with a false sense of "reassurance" as to the why behind his death and a lack of understanding of what I was experiencing as a result of his death.
My mind swirled with emotions that day we found out and sadness ultimately prevailed. Grieving for my boy took over and I didn't think to ask questions or even question what was said until recently. No one writes a book or hands you a manual on all the how to's of child loss. I get it. Its a book no one would want to buy and certainly not a pamphlet anyone would want to hand out to a grieving parent who just found out their baby died before they ever breathed earth's air. There were so many practicals to figure out: cremation or burial, cemetery, what day to go in to be induced (they left that decision entirely up to me since my body wasn't going into labor), a mortuary to handle all of the funeral arrangements, packing a bag for a hospital stay, crying all the time, sleepless nights, brain fog, etc. Processing the deeper elements of all this fell to the wayside.
It could be a peaceful quiet moment, a drive in the car, a trip to the store for one of these thoughts to pass through my mind:
"Janet, I'm sorry, your baby isn't alive." Worst thing in the world to ever hear.
"It looks like he probably has a chromosomal abnormality, you're welcome to come back for genetic counseling." No medical doctor should ever say that unless they have something to go off thats a surety.
"It's a miscarriage and you're gonna go to the hospital to deliver the baby." It wasn't a miscarriage. It was a death. My baby died. That never sat right with me. After doing the reading myself, a fetal death is defined as a stillbirth at my stage in my pregnancy. As hard as that was to realize, it was validating. Understanding also brings about healing. So many women came out of the woodwork talking of their miscarriages (and I am not saying that to demean any of them or their experience, the loss of a child is a loss. period.), but I never felt like I could fully relate and conversely so it felt wrong to put myself in the shoes of a mother who gave birth to a stillborn child at 36 weeks. But understanding the simple medical definition helped me know where I belonged and I didn't have to feel lost in the middle anymore.
Moving beyond that, after a lot of back and forth we finally got the pathology report back a few weeks ago and it was devastating in a way. We had been following up and asking for answers on the status of it, but finally, after 10 weeks of waiting the news came. My phone rang at 7:53am and I knew it was the midwife calling. I knew exactly what she was calling for and I wasn't ready to face the news at that time of day. I barely get out of bed before 10am on even a good day and hearing the results that early was too much for me. Seth called a few hours later to let me know she got in touch with him about the pathology report results.
Our little Bobby was completely healthy and normal in every way. He. Just. Died.
Punch to the gut. I don't even know what I said in response. It was one of those moments, almost out of a movie, where your ears ring and your mind goes to another place. It was so hard to hear he might have had a chromosomal abnormality, but the converse reality made me look to The Lord and beg "WHY?" Our perfectly healthy, completely wanted, and fully loved boy just died. No explanation. No reason. No answers. With the news brought another deeper wave of grief.
Unfair. Wrong. Confused. Backwards. Messed up. God got this wrong. Shake my fist. Angry. All sorts of feelings emotions, tears, questions, and doubt. When I stop to think too much about it, I feel sick. My boy is gone and with him went my dreams. Life felt perfect and in one single moment it was changed forever. In any loss, in any grief, there is a wrestle that comes. If you don't wrestle you can't heal. You can't move forward. You have to face it. I knew I had to stare death in the face and to acknowledge the hurt I felt from it and what it took from me. I feel it every day. I also knew I was going to have to look to God and his Word and wrestle with my faith and what I said I believed all this time. This hurts like hell and missing your baby every day is the shittiest (sorry, but words like devastating, sad, wrong, etc don't really sum it up) reality. I'm still wrestling. I'm still processing grief and I'm done calling this a "new normal" cause this awful place is anything but normal. Every single day is a reminder of that.
Last week, my best friend, Becca and I, grocery shopped together at Wegmans. Our three kids squished into the race car cart made shopping a breeze after a quick pit stop at the bull candy aisle. We found the shortest aisle at checkout and started loading our items up onto the belt. A familiar face turned around in front of us. It was Becca's parents neighbor. She commented on Beccas growing belly and how cute Her little boy Behr was. She politely greeted me and introduced herself, looked at the cart and commented on me having two kids. I calmly replied with a "yeah" but as my necklace jingled as I put my stuff on the belt I felt like I was telling a lie. Knowing she had lost her daughter too I knew if I explained that actually I am the mother of 3 children she would have understood. But who really wants to have a moment like that with the cashier awkwardly looking on, as I talk about delivering my still born little boy at 21 weeks.
On our way out we ran into another mom from church who enthusiastically greeted us asking us both how were doing. Becca answered first and I think I probably mumbled "doing ok" still trying to catch my breath from the interaction at the register. Nothing is ok or good about what this is right now and when you're grieving there is this lie that I feel like I sometimes buy into that I need to make everyone think I'm fine and good when I go out in public and look put together. And my gosh, you don't want to just word vomit the truest answer on someone who just wants to carry on with their grocery shopping. Sometimes I wish I could be blunt enough as wearing at shirt that says "my baby died" so at least people would know why it's a miracle I got dressed at all, let alone made it out of the house. Loss hurts in the most unexpected ways sometimes.
Today, it was in our pediatricians office on the way out. The age old question of "How many kids do you have?" never stung SO bad. It being the 3 month mark and Thursday Bobby has been on my mind, and I just blurted out "3." It was one of those moments where you say it and you can't take it back. I then went on to explain that one of our babies died recently as I am looking down at this perfect tiny, week old baby girl, feeling like a total kill joy. "Im so happy for you, enjoy every minute, she's beautiful" is all I could say to recover from that moment. Ugh. It was awful.
I don't know what it's going to look like to answer that question moving forward. When you lose a child all you want is for their life to be remembered, cherished and celebrated. Grief makes people clumsy and I don't fault anyone for asking me how I'm doing, but it's ok to speak Bobby's name. I love to hear it. If you know I am a Mom of 3 it's ok to say that out loud, because Bobby will always be counted as one of my own. It's ok to say I'm praying for you without it being awkward. I'm carried by those prayers. It's ok to say I'm thinking of you because it feels like Bobby is remembered and not forgotten. It's ok to share in our grief because there's more than enough to go around and I am sharing his story so that people can know what grief is and what it does to your life and how it rocks you.
I've be listening to a song on repeat recently from Needtobreathe and its been a simple profound truth thats kept me going. His love has surely found us.
Your love will surely come find us
Like blazing wild fires singing Your name
God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design
May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Halleluiahs be multiplied
(Bobby bear goes for his first swim.)