About twelve weeks ago, my wife and I were quietly celebrating in the bathroom. We found out that we were pregnant. Last week we found out that our little one had died.
The doctor was wonderful. She quickly explained that there was nothing we could have done, while she wiped off the cold goo from my wife’s belly, no real reason for this happening, as she made room for me to stand beside the table, and that she would come back in the room after she gave my wife and me some time to be together.
Grief is trying to sob quietly, so that the expectant mothers don’t worry about their baby.
After a few minutes, the doctor came back, and again told us that everything would be okay. She gently explained the path forward, and gave us time to think, time to process.
Grief is picking up your daughter from school early, just to hold her close and appreciate what you have not lost.
My wife did everything right. She limited her caffeine, she didn’t drink alcohol or smoke, she took her prenatal vitamin, and she made sure to wait past the apprehensive first few weeks to tell everyone about our exciting news.
We were through the worst part. We heard the heartbeat. We told friends and family, and picked out names, and started the math for college funds, and started to get our lives ready.
Grief is seeing your child on the screen, after anxiously waiting for the reassuring warble of their tiny heart, and hearing only silence.
There was no pain, no blood, no signs. So we didn’t worry.
Grief is realizing your child had died before you had told most of your family and friends.
Grief is trying to spare them the misfortune of sharing your pain, and them joining you still.
Sadness comes when you watch a movie that makes you cry, your eyes swollen, some snotty tissues scattered on the couch. It is small.
Grief is the smell of weeks old dirty dishes, greasy skin, and putrid water.
Grief aches, and hides itself in your darkest places. Grief whispers to you that you should have talked to the baby more. Grief tells you that you are broken in some invisible way. Grief destroys you.
And then, Grief tells you that your pain is small. It tells you that so many others have it worse, and it mocks your tears. Grief tears you down, and then makes you feel foolish and shallow for your anguish.
For those mothers who know Grief: those of you who have had so many miscarriages that you almost lost hope, those families that can’t have children, those fathers who have held the hand of the woman they love as she had the pains of birth for a child that had already died, those who have held their child in their arms and felt the squeeze of a tiny hand before it died, those parents who have watched their young children wither away and die from disease, We have taken the tiniest sip from the well of Grief that you drank from so deeply. Some of my tears are for your pain too.
When a baby is born, and it is cold, hungry, or in pain, it cries. It bellows with all of the strength that its tiny lungs can muster because the pain that new child feels is the worst yet of its short life. Parents sooth the pain, with patience and love because we know that the pain will only get worse. As the little one learns that pain can be small, it will cry quieter.
So too will adults recognize that while we must grieve for one pain, that pain can still grow.
Forgive us if we cry loudly, dear reader, Grief is cruel.