Thursday, October 27, 2011

Life sentence

The heartbreak of infant loss

By Laura SchubertDid you know that October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month? I'll bet not. Despite the infant mortality crisis that's been at the forefront of Milwaukee's public health news for months, the only people who have more than a cursory comprehension of what it means to lose a baby are those who've lived it.

Infant loss is nature's cruelest practical joke. It's investing all of the required time and effort into pregnancy, only to be robbed of the result. It's cradling a body that grew within your own and trying to reconcile the cold, lifeless form in your arms with your memory of the baby who turned double flips in your womb.

It's worrying that you'll forget what your child looked like and snapping an album's worth of photos that no one will ever ask to see. It's sobbing so hard you can't breathe and wondering if it's possible to cry yourself to death.

Infant loss is handing off a Moses basket to the nurse who's drawn the unfortunate duty of delivering your pride and joy to the morgue and walking out of a hospital with empty arms.

It's boxing up brand new baby clothes and buying a 24-inch casket. It's sifting through sympathy cards, willing your foolish body to stop lactating, clutching your baby's blanket to your chest in hopes of soothing the piercing ache in your heart.

It's resisting the urge to smack the clueless individuals who compare your situation to the death of their dog or who tell you you'll have another baby, as if children are somehow replaceable.

Infant loss is explaining to your 7-year-old that sometimes babies die and being stumped into silence when she asks you why. It's watching other families live out your happy ending and fighting a fresh round of grief with every milestone you miss.

It's being shut out of play groups for perpetuity. It's skipping social events with expectant and newly minted mothers because, as a walking worst-case scenario, you don't want to put a damper on the party.

It's listening to other women gripe about motherhood and realizing that you no longer relate to their petty parental complaints because, frankly, when you've buried a baby, a sleepless night with a vomiting toddler sounds something like a gift.

Infant loss is pruning from your life the friends and relatives who ignore or minimize your loss. It's recognizing that, while they may not mean to be hurtful, the fact that they don't know any better doesn't make their utter lack of empathy one whit easier to bear.

My baby girl would have been 5 years old this month. I don't know what she'd look like, what her favorite food would be. I've never had the privilege of tucking her into bed, taking her to the zoo or kissing her boo-boos. I will never watch her graduate or walk down the aisle.

Infant loss is more than an empty cradle. It's a life sentence.

I know lots of people have posted this on blogger and facebook, but its too well written not to repost.

I'll add a few more...

Infant loss is...

-hesitating every time someone asks how many kids you have, or "is he your first", because there never is a good way to answer, and sometimes answering with the truth just leads to really crappy comments.

-never looking at anything quite the same way as you did before

-figuring out how to do family pictures when one family member is always missing

- living with random flashbacks of the worst moments of your life

-struggling with your spouse being sad when you aren't, or not being sad when you are, or just grieving differently

-Books for children like "We Were Supposed to Have a Baby But Got an Angel Instead" and "Someone Came Before You" and wondering when you will be able to read it without crying, and when is it appropriate to start reading anyway. And wishing you could burn that damn book and get your baby back instead.

Feel free to add yours, fellow babyloss mom's


Addi's mom said...

I like that you added your own at then end. I agree with all you added. I think one I would add would be:

Infant loss is falling asleep to the sound of crying, but instead of the sounds coming from your baby, they are coming from you.

MrsH said...

I agree with your additions as well, in particular with hesitating to answer the question "is this your first?". Infant loss is always hurting when someone asks that question. It is also hurting when you see your living child reach milestones that the other one never will. It is pain mixed with love.

Kim said...

Thank you for sharing, I'm going to repost because it all really is so true.

Infant loss is wanting to talk about your babies just as you would your living children, but resist in fear of someone feeling awkward.

Kim said...

As well as wishing to be the carefree person you were before your loss.

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