A quote from “A Grace Disguised” – a book about grief and loss by Jerry Sittser:
“Catastrophic loss by definition precludes recovery. It will transform us or destroy us, but it will never leave us the same. There is no going back to the past, which is gone forever, only going ahead to the future, which has yet to be discovered. Whatever that future is, it will, and must, include the pain of the past with it.”
A lot of the books I’ve been reading discuss what goes through the mind of someone who has suffered infant loss when asked questions like, “So, many children do you have?” or “Wow – so is this your first pregnancy?” I suppose it depends on the context, who may be asking the question or how much I really want to get into our personal history with someone. But the quote from Sittser is true. This loss has transformed us – we will never be the same again.
Yet we are parents of children who are no longer living. We were blessed to have been able to spend some time with Judah and Micah while they were still alive – which is not the case for all who experience infant loss. But our children are dead. They are no longer living. Yet we are still parents.
Some have written about how they wish they could just make business cards to hand out to people that tells folks what happened. I think that telling people can be one of the hardest things, especially at the very beginning when everything is still so fresh and raw.
Just yesterday as I was out raking leaves in our yard, our neighbor came over to say hi. We really don’t talk much with our neighbors, but we small-talked for awhile and then he asked, “So, did you guys have your baby yet?” I got the chance to be Debbie Downer for him for the day, and briefly shared with him our story. I got some of those typical platitudes (“At least you’re young…you can try again…”) but they didn’t seem to bother me as much this time. He was trying. His family had also suffered two losses this past year – a mother and a mother-in-law. We decided 2010 was a shitty year.
But I wonder about those cards; perhaps hospitals should provide those as well. In addition to sending you home with a certificate with footprints, the baby blankets and a few informational booklets, they should give you small little cards that you can hand out to people you might encounter on your way home and in the days immediately following your tragic loss.
Something that says, “My name is __________. I’ve just been through a traumatic loss. My children died before they should have. Please don’t ask me any questions about children. Please don’t ask me when I’m expecting…” And then perhaps you could have more made for you later on, cards that acknowledge the loss and yet gives people some sense of how to proceed in daily conversations. “My name is __________. Our children died too soon. But please don’t pretend that nothing has changed. Please don’t avoid the topic. Please don’t pretend like we aren’t parents. It’s okay to talk with us.”
Perhaps that would make things easier…I don’t know. Maybe I should make some. What would mine say? Maybe something like this:
Adam Walker Cleaveland.
Father of 2: None Living
My name is Adam. I am a father, but none of my children are living. Our two twin boys were born at 19 weeks and were too premature to live more than an hour and a half. Their names were Micah and Judah and we loved them for the hour that they lived. You can ask about it, it’s okay. They are part of my life. I am their Father…