Today I feel like I need a little venting session on the unfair realities of the death of a child. I’m feeling a little feisty and want to write my feelings out about how people have treated me differently since my son died.
People don’t want to talk about my child. Whether they are uncomfortable talking about death or they don’t want to hurt my feelings by bringing it up, people usually don’t want to talk about anything past the initial “what happened”. It’s so frustrating. I feel like so many people “cared” in the beginning and wanted to know what happened and how I was feeling, then they dropped off the face of the earth. It’s like a slap in the face. Did they only want to know what happened so they could talk (gossip) to others about me? I want to shout to the world that I have a son. I’m proud of him. I carried him for his whole life and now that he’s gone, no one wants to talk about him.
People don’t want to hear my pregnancy experience. I was talking to a lady at work who’s pregnant and she was chatting about normal pregnancy things. When I chimed in about my experience with that same thing she was experiencing, she got visibly uncomfortable, like my experience was jaded because my child died. My pregnancy was totally normal and healthy. Don’t make me feel uncomfortable for sharing those great memories. Also, people don’t want to ask you about your experiences. Again, I don’t know if they just don’t want to bring up potentially painful memories, but I experienced pregnancy and birth, please don’t leave me out of the conversation because the end result wasn’t the same as yours.
People treat the birth differently. When anyone in my department at work has a child, as a group gift, they are given a necklace with the child’s name and birth date. I was looking forward to this while I was pregnant! But, did I get one? No, and I’m upset about it. Why am I forgotten or left out? You may wonder, well, what did she get then? A plant and an Edible Arrangement. Because I’d much rather have a plant and fruit when my child dies rather than a beautiful necklace that I can wear and remember my child by (sense the sarcasm?).
People assume I should be “over it” by now. Many people have been so great to me, I want to start with that! However some you can see get uncomfortable when you talk about your child, their life, and their death. Yes, sometimes I still cry when I talk about him. No, I will never be over the fact that my child died. I live a new life now and I’m not the same I used to be. Just like if my child lived, I would not be the same I was before children.
People whisper about me. I can hear their whispers. You’re not protecting me with your whispers, you’re making it more like a secret than reality. You make my life seem more gossipy than protecting me from hurt. I was getting a pedicure with my mother-in-law one day and afterwards her hairstylist came up to her with excitement, “OH, are you a grandma yet? Did she have the baby?” My mother-in-law just whispered, told her to ask someone else at the spa about it, pushed it aside, and they continued with another conversation. After a great afternoon with her getting pampered, I got in my car and started bawling. It doesn’t make me feel better to whisper about me. Say it as it is! My child died. I’m okay with people saying that. It’s not a secret!
Last night I stood by the side of my bed before hopping in and decided my dry hands needed lotion. I got the lotion out of the nightstand drawer and put a dollop on my hand. While I slathered on my lotion, I looked at the Jesus Calling devotional sitting on the nightstand that was given to us after Joshua died. I prayed, Lord, please guide me to open this devotional to a page where I can feel the words speaking to me. Now, I really wanted this. So many times I’ve prayed this same prayer and opened a devotional or the Bible to a random page and find nothing that relates to my current state.
Last night was different.
God orchestrates the events of my life with a purpose in mind. I know with certainty that Joshua’s life – and death – has a purpose. One I may never fully know until I’m reunited with God and Joshua in Heaven. God “orchestrates” my life, as in a beautiful symphony. Joshua life was perfect. It touches my life in so many ways, even though his beautiful song was one only lived inside of me.
When I encounter a rough patch, God’s light is still shining. Oh boy have I encountered a rough patch in my life! Yes, my life is bumpy right now. Up, down, left, right. I don’t know where I’m going. What I do know is that without God, I would be going no where. During my sadness, I don’t always feel God’s presence. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to feel Him. Maybe it’s because life gets in the way. Maybe it’s because grief clouds my vision. He is there. Countless times I’ve cried out, “Why me, God? Why Joshua? Where are You, God? Why can’t I feel You? I’m sad and feel alone, where are You now? I need You.”
“But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29
God is with us every day, every second, every moment of our life! Watching us, seeking us, loving us – waiting for us to do the same for Him.
When you don’t feel God, know He is still there. He is still beautifully and carefully orchestrating your life. I see God as the conductor of life’s orchestra, directing us along the paths we are destined to be on and when we follow His lead, the result is exquisite.
Crying seems so frequent these days. I didn’t used to cry. I didn’t share my feelings outside of the comfort of my close family and friends. Now I feel like I have a story to share. One that people may or may not want to hear, but that doesn’t matter to me.
I think I’ve cried more in the last 5 months than I have my entire life. Writing that makes me sad. Thinking about my sadness makes me more sad. I don’t want to look back on my life and see how sad I was, but the reality is I’m going through what’s likely going to be the most tragic time in my life.
In the beginning I cried because I felt alone. I cried because this wasn’t supposed to be my life. It wasn’t the life I imagined. I cried because I wanted my baby back. I cried every time I told my story or people acknowledge Joshua. I remember saying, “I’m so ready to be to the point where I can share my story without crying. I’m ready to be able to tell someone I have a son without crying every time.”
Later I cried because I felt alone. I cried because I didn’t want to accept this new life I was given. I felt like everyone around me was happy and had moved on with their lives. I felt like people had already forgotten about Joshua. My mom and a couple very close friends were the only ones who seemed to remember. Some people never wanted to bring it up. My in-laws never do and I feel awkward talking about Joshua with them. My mom has been awesome. She remembers big dates, like the 26th of each month or the date we told them we were pregnant, and lets me know she’s thinking about me on those days. I have one friend who is also amazing! She sent me a card every week for quite some time just to let me know she was thinking of me. She called to check in and when we got together she made it a point to talk about Joshua. She even told me one day that she was looking at his picture before we met up for coffee. These little things validate his life. My “situation” isn’t being swept under a rug. I’m a mother who misses her son and would give anything for one more minute with him.
I used to think it was odd when I would see people chatting at a local coffee shop clearly upset and crying about something personal. Now, I’m that girl! I’ve learned it’s okay to cry in public. I have no shame. If someone wants to look at me a wonder what’s going on, that’s fine. If someone wants to snicker at my tears, I’m okay with it. Life is more important than what strangers think of your tears. In the very early days, it was so nice to get out of the house and have a change of pace. I was bound to cry no matter my surroundings, but I wanted to get out of the house rather than people coming to see me.
I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my amazing friends and family to help me through this time. But above all, God. Without my faith in God, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
God has comforted me. Though sometimes I don’t feel Him every second of the day, He’s there. He sends reminders when I can’t see Him (or refuse to see Him).
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
He’s knows how I feel; He’s cried the same tears I’ve cried. He knows all of our situations, no matter what they are, and He will comfort us. We simply need to let Him in. It may not always be easy to let Him in. He may not reveal Himself to us in the moment we demand. But He is there. He wants us to come to Him in times of need and to rely on Him for all we need – each and every day.
When I started working again after Joshua died, I cried everyday on my way home from work. And I must be honest, I’d sometimes cry on my way to work and during work. It was hard to hold back the tears.
I cried in the car because I remembered spending time with Joshua in the car, just the two of us. A song would come on the radio and I’d remember singing along when I was pregnant. I wanted to make sure he knew my voice and knew about God. I only listened to a Christian radio station while I was pregnant. [Over]protective mama-mode kicked in; I didn’t want my baby exposed to non-Christian music at such a young age. In the car, I’d also cry because I just made it through one more day at work and today was better or maybe worse than the day before. It didn’t matter what it was at that point, anything would start the tears.
At work I would cry when people asked me about Joshua or gave me their condolences. But mainly I’d cry because I felt like nothing mattered at work. Before I went on leave, I loved my job. Yes, some things at my job brought me down and after years of working for the same company, I was ready for much deserved time off just the baby and me! Then one of the most life-altering events happened to me which made me reevaluate just about every aspect of my life. When I got back to work, I felt like it didn’t mean anything. I wasn’t changing the world. I sat at my desk numb.
Aside from feeling like my job wasn’t important anymore, between what people call “pregnancy brain”, the stress, and my 10 weeks off work, I was fuzzy. My foggy brain extended past work. At church someone asked me what my parent’s names were and my husband had to answer for me. Embarrassingly I could not even recall my own parent’s names! At work, doing simple daily tasks took twice as long; this is, if I even remembered how to do them. I would sit in meetings and think, what the heck is everyone talking about? I used to be on top of meetings, contributing and taking away new to-dos, but soon after I was back to work I’d just stare blankly. All I could think about was, there’s more to life than what I’m doing right now.
It didn’t help that my new manager that I got while on leave is not a compassionate person. My first day back at work, I didn’t expect a welcome back party, but I expected a brief meeting to go over my transition back to work, any changes that happened in the last 10 weeks, and for her to check in on how I was doing in general. My new manager breezed by my desk an hour after I had arrived on my first day back, simply said hi and walked away. A while later I passed her in the hall and said, “Do you have 5 minutes today where we could catch up and go over my transition back?”. She got a weird look on her face, “Yeah…….I’m really busy, I’ll set up a meeting with you sometime this week.” She didn’t say more than “hi” to me until we met three weeks later after I followed up with her two more times to meet.
It’s now been two months and I can say that I’m much more content with my job; almost to the point where I love it again. I no longer cry in the car and seldom cry at work (only if I read a sad story in the news or I am chatting with someone about Joshua). In the beginning, I wanted to throw in the towel, but would quitting my job or getting a new job make me any happier – no. It wasn’t my job I was unhappy with, it was life in general. I was (and am) still grieving and still reevaluating my life. My job isn’t going to take the pain away from losing my son, but I am grateful for my job which keeps my mind on something other than my grief.
As prepared as I was for childbirth itself, I wasn’t as prepared for after childbirth of a stillborn baby. After childbirth, I expected to be sore and tired, but I didn’t expect some things that stung a little more than I would have wished given my baby was born still.
When your milk comes in. The hospital prepped me for this before I left. They said to take ibuprofen, wear a sports bra, and ice. What I did not know was that I’d wake up on day two looking like I had just gotten giant implants! What a slap in the face. Oh…and the pain to go along with that. Ice and ibuprofen didn’t seem to help, but after a few days the pain subsided. The physical pain was bad enough, but the emotional pain to go along with that is what tore me apart. My body was responding well to feed my newborn, but what my body failed to realize was that I had no baby to feed.
Leaking. People warned me how hard breastfeeding can be and if you’re not consistent, your milk will dry up. Seeing as how I wasn’t breastfeeding one ounce, I figured I’d be dried up in a couple days. That wasn’t the case for me. I had what I assume was a great supply for at least a month. Breastpads were my best friend.
More Leaking. I didn’t realize that going through childbirth can cause some issues with incontinence. It makes sense to me now, but going into it, I had no clue! For the first few days I couldn’t tell when I had to use the restroom. I typically forced myself to try every couple hours until I gained feeling back. And always make sure you have an extra pair of pants around if you plan to cough, sneeze, or laugh! There is no control!
Jiggly Belly. For a while I went back and forth disliking my stomach and liking it. I liked it because my stomach grew to carry my baby and I actually liked my three tiger marks under my belly button that I only noticed after giving birth. But then again, I’m human, a woman, and can be self conscious. The first few weeks, that belly is just out of control. Little muscle tone – so much jiggle. I was thankful for my maternity jeans well after I got home from the hospital. And today I am back to my pre-pregnancy weight, yet it’s still hard to button my pre-pregnancy jeans.
Phantom Kicks. I wasn’t prepped for what I learned are called “phantom kicks”. When I got home from the hospital, I swear I still felt Joshua kicking me. I Googled it and learned I wasn’t the only one who felt these kicks after giving birth. During the first couple weeks, the kicks felt so real. In the first few days those kicks made me feel pregnant again. I’d perk up and thinking, the baby’s kicking, only to come back to the cruel reality that I wasn’t pregnant anymore. Even to this day when my stomach twitches or grumbles, I think of Joshua.
Emails and Mail. I was prepared for my milk to come in, but I wasn’t prepared to be inundated with emails and mail congratulating me on my new arrival. I unsubscribed myself from a good majority of the emails telling me how big my baby was and the milestones he was supposed to be reaching. I had looked forward to those weekly emails the 41 weeks I carried Joshua and to no longer share in that excitement was hard on me. It seems like every day there is a new formula coupon in the mailbox or survey on my hospital experience. For a while I wanted to pick up the phone and call every website that was sending me emails and every company sending me mail and scream at them, “don’t you know I lost my baby? Stop sending these dreadful mailings!” I still receive parenting and baby magazines. I sigh whenever I receive these, but still end up reading them. I enjoy learning about babies and parenting and know someday I’ll need those tips and techniques.
I admit, I’ve asked this question way too much! Sometimes I still do. It seems like such an innocent question, but people don’t realize how badly it can hurt.
My husband and I were high school sweethearts (swoon, I know!). I knew he was The One right away. We dated all through college and got married right afterwards. I wanted to be a young mom. My mom was 31 when she had me and I when I was younger, I thought she was old. I realize now that I was wrong! I’m nearly that age now and don’t feel one ounce of “old” in me.
After a couple years of being married, I was ready to have kids….my husband wasn’t. I spent a good 2 years waiting not-so-patiently until he was ready. I was so incredibly excited when we set a date to start trying for a baby. A month went by, then 6 months, then a year. Just as I was about to visit the doctor to see if something was wrong, I found out I was pregnant!!!! Tears of joy fell down my face when I told my husband! Nine months went by and we had our beautiful baby! The ending was not what we expected however, and we went home empty handed.
Way too many emotions went through my mind during that time. From little things to big things. I would say I developed a slight social anxiety. Afraid people would ask me what happened. Afraid people wouldn’t ask me what happened. Afraid strangers would somehow know my child died and look at me in pity. Afraid strangers would ask me how many kids I have and how would I answer that kind of question I always thought was so simple.
The first time someone asked me if I had the baby was at a wedding 2 months after Joshua died. I ran into a girl in the bathroom who I saw a few months prior at the bachelorette party.
“Did you have the baby!?”
I answered, “yes”.
“Did you have a boy or a girl?”
“Cute, what’d you name him?”
“Aww, where is he tonight? Is he here?”
That’s when the tears came and I told her that he had passed away during labor. But for a those 30 second prior, it felt like he was still alive. Someone was asking me about the baby who didn’t know the outcome and I could pretend for just a moment that he was still here.
Then the second time it happened we were out of town for another wedding about a month later. The dreaded question happened three times in one day. The first time, I had come back to the hotel room as it was being cleaned and the cleaning lady and I were making small talk.
“Do you have any kids?” she asked.
“One, do you?”
To my surprise, that was the extent of it. She went on talking about her own kids and I didn’t have to explain one thing! It felt so great to be able to honor Joshua by remembering him and including him our “count”. I was lucky that day that she didn’t ask any follow up questions where I’d feel the need to explain that my baby died.
About an hour later I was on a walk with a friend’s girlfriend that I had just met that morning. The boys all went golfing and the girls had an activity later in the day, but we had some time to waste, so she and I went for a walk on the beach. After some small talk, she was asking how long my husband and I had been married.
“Wow, that’s a long time. Are you guys going to have kids?”
“Well, we actually just had a baby in October, but…”
“Oh that’s so exciting!”
“Well, he actually passed away at birth…..it was totally unexpected…..” and so starts the story.
It was good to open up to her. She just listened. I explained exactly what I wanted in as much or as little detail as I wanted. Later that night I got the same question from another girl I had just met and I felt prepared from my earlier encounters that day.
That night, I sat on the bed and cried. Such an innocent question was hurtful. I had never thought of it that way. When I’ve asked that question in the past I never thought maybe they are struggling to have a baby, maybe her husband’s not ready to have a baby and it’s a source of tension, maybe they had a miscarriage, maybe their child died.
I’m happy to count Joshua in our line up of kids (and future kids). Right now, that’s the right decision for me. Maybe one day it will change, maybe it won’t. I feel I honor him by remembering him not just in my heart but with others.
I’ve been talking to God a lot lately.
And I’ve been trying to quiet myself enough to listen.
I can hear Him talking to me. Whether it’s through a song, a verse, a pastor’s message, or something else – I can hear Him. From God speaking to me, I feel more at peace with Joshua’s death. I’m still sad; I always will be. I still wonder what life would be like if he were here; I always will. But lately, I’m more at peace. I’m starting to feel more blessed for the time we had together, happier when I think of him, and able to hold back tears (sometimes) when I talk about him.
When I allow myself to listen when I ask God, “why me, why Joshua?”, I hear Him say, “because I love you”. Now – I have no idea what that means. Zero. But I know God is protecting me and loving me along this journey. In the same way I would do anything for Joshua, my child, God would do anything for me, His child.
I hear God answering my prayers for another child when I posted a prayer on the Prayer Works app a month ago and am still receiving notifications that people are praying for me. Typically you receive notifications the same day the prayer is posted and maybe one or two afterwards. However, for this particular prayer request for a new, healthy pregnancy and happy, healthy baby, I continue to receive notifications that people are praying for me. I know this is God easing my mind, “it’s going to be okay, you will get pregnant again”.
I trust God. It’s hard to give up control to God, but I trust His will and His way. When fear strikes me that I will never become pregnant again, I trust that He is telling me that I will. Although I want to be pregnant now, I feel Him telling me it’ll be soon. Patience. Trust.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
So tonight and for many more nights to come, as I sit in the rocker intended for rocking my baby, I will be rocking while I pray for God to bless us with a baby again.