Recently I have been following a Christian Blogger, whose son passed away in September from a drowning accident. It is heartbreaking, and devastating to read his posts, partly because I think it is every parents’ fear, and partly because I have a little girl the same age as the child who died. I can see how this could have been me. My four-year-old son and three-year-old daughter are huge water bugs. After hearing about a local girl drowning early in summer my Husband and I decided that we would not assemble our five-foot-deep pool. It is just safer that way. Then, at the end of this season, a prayer request came in for a three-year-old boy who had slipped past his parents and into the pool at a BBQ. Reading about the parents’ devastation as they took their son off life support and made the difficult decision to donate organs, and then to have to say goodbye, I couldn’t help but think that could so easily be us.
A couple of years ago, when my son, now four was just barely two years old got curious he slipped into my Mom’s coy pond. Our older son, seven at the time without thinking reached in and yanked his little brother right back out. He didn’t realize that without him there his brother would have died, he just reacted to his brother falling into the water. We are so blessed that he was there and that he acted so quickly. As I read through the posts of this other family, I constantly think this could be me. The pain of losing a child is so immense; I cannot imagine how I would survive.
Yet I do, survive, every day.
Before my oldest was born, I was pregnant. Seven weeks and four days, when I hemorrhaged. We went immediately to the ER where they diagnosed an ectopic pregnancy and prepped me for emergency surgery. It seems now like I was pregnant, and then instantly not pregnant, but the truth was, on that cold, frightening November day I lost my first child. I struggled for years with depression, even after my son was born.
I still look at children, specifically, my niece who was born a couple of months before my due date and think that I should have a child that age. I wonder what the child I lost would have been like. Would she or he be like my oldest son, funny and goofy, and still wanting to cuddle on my lap at nine years old? He or she would be 11 this year. How do I not look at an 11-year-old and wonder what my lost child would be like?
I didn’t get three years to bond, and grow in love with this child; I only had a couple of weeks, and yet I know the kind of pain that someone who loses an infant or toddler goes through. I don’t have pictures or mementos to remind me of my lost child, but I do have that loss of everything that comes afterward. Her first steps. His first skinned knee. Her first words. Kisses, hugs, and I love you.
In March of this year, we experienced another loss. At just eight weeks after going into a routine ultrasound and finding no heartbeat. My husband and I prepared mentally for the fact that we would go through another miscarriage. Unlike the ectopic pregnancy that found a heartbeat, just in the wrong place, this loss was a little bit harder to deal with. After all, we never got to hear this baby’s heartbeat at all. Was there even ever a baby there?
Our children all three knew we were expecting, and our four-year-old named the baby Sam, after Fireman Sam his favorite cartoon. Explaining to a nine-year-old, four-year-old, and three-year-old that there simply wasn’t a baby anymore was difficult. The two younger children eventually moved on, but our nine-year-old, like my husband and I struggled with the thought that one day there was a baby and the next there simply wasn’t. Where did that baby go? Why did it leave? Why don’t we have someone tangible to blame?
October 10th was our due date. When it came and went without the new baby, it renewed our sense of sadness. Now looking at newborn infants reminds us of the child that never was. As the years go by, all our family photographs will be incomplete, the older child and now the youngest child is missing. The possibility and potential these lives had gone in the blink of an eye.
We don’t talk about pregnancy loss the same way we speak of the loss of a toddler, or child. Only the immediate family understands that there ever was a child there that is now missing. Neighbors, friends, and extended family might not even know that there was a pregnancy that ended. Millions of women every year go through this loss, but because it ends privately with the family it isn’t seen as the same thing a child passing away, it is just one of the sad facts of life. 1 in four pregnancies end, and now we are part of that club that no woman wants membership in.