We seem to be in a season of loss right now.
Since the beginning of the year,
I have seen and heard of so much suffering
at the loss of children…
during pregnancy, infants and even older children.
Maybe it’s not worse now than the last year or two or eight.
It sure feels like it, though
My heart aches and prayers ascend for those who are suffering so much right now. I do not know or fully understand the grief of each, but I do know the kind of suffering losing a child brings.
It’s been 8 years since our Mary Clare was born. She was 30 weeks when we lost her to complications from Fifth Disease. I know a couple of 8 year old girls. I love to see them smile and play and I love watching them grow. It puts a smile on my face to think that my own Mary Clare might have done this, liked that and been just as sweet.
It still hurts to not have her here. That’s not to say that I’m not okay. I am. I am changed forever, but God is faithful and my heart is scarred, but mended.
Eight years ago I could not imagine how I would ever be okay… how anything would ever be okay. If you’ve looked down my sidebar, you see a tribute to all of our lost children. There are ten of them. Mary Clare lived the longest of the them all. The others were between 5 and 12 weeks. One pregnancy was twins (the first lost on my birthday, the second on Good Friday.) Every loss was different from the other, but my grief was just as real and as deep for those whose lives (here on earth) ended at 5, 7 or 12 weeks as it was for Mary Clare. The loss of Peter at 5 weeks caused as much grief as the loss of Mary Clare at 30. Why? I lost my child. My child. Peter was no less my child at 5 weeks than Mary Clare was at 30 weeks and no less than SoldierBoy is at 24 years old!
Mary Clare died in utero. We knew she was dead before my labor started. That doesn’t make our grief, our sorrow, our suffering any less than any other parent who has lost a child at a different time. It does make it different. Just not less. And our loss of Mary Clare does not mean our suffering was more than those who have lost through early miscarriage. It means it was different. I know this because I have worn those shoes, too.
Was our loss somehow less because I never nursed her or changed her diaper? I have no memories of watching her breathe, feeling her warmth, listening to cries. Is there anyone that cannot see the suffering in this? I still remember that she was cold. Always cold. Only cold and still and lifeless. I do not think that having different memories and experiences, the ones I am missing, makes it better (or worse) or easier on other families. I don’t think not having them makes it better (or worse) on us. I think it means we have our own tragic, difficult sufferings in our losses. In all of our losses. So, yes, it was different for us than it is for others whose experiences are different. It was different with her than with our younger losses. But is was not more or less! It. Was. Different.
In our first trimester miscarriages, the pain of the loss was not less because we didn’t get a death certificate. In some ways that heaps another pain on us. The pain of lack of recognition or remembrance. The world and our neighbors too often don’t recognize our lost little ones, do not value them as the real, actual people that they are. They say things like, “those who lose later suffer more grief.” That is a suffering in itself.
In the end, we had to hand her lifeless body over to people who did not love her. We still had to buy a tiny casket. Plan a funeral. Choose flowers and a stone for her grave. We watched our young teen sons be pallbearers for their tiny baby sister. We had to get a plot and know that her body…. all we ever had of her besides our hopes and dreams… would be placed into the ground.
So sure, there were practical differences. Dealing with funeral homes. Getting a death certificate. Planning a public funeral. Having a body to hold in a close embrace. Footprints and photographs for memories. We have a grave to visit (well, we have 2, actually.) The loss of Mary Clare was more tangible to the children as they saw and held a baby that they could recognize as the baby they imagined they’d meet soon.
These things make the time of Mary Clare’s death stand out in our memory. Not because losing her was “worse” than losing the others, but what came after the loss was bigger. (And in her case, it doesn’t help she was born the day before 9/11.) Early miscarriages are more private. Quieter. More personal. They are not less.
Mary Clare’s death was more of an “event” if I may use that word respectfully. This is why her birthday is “Saint Baby Day” at our house. A day to have a “party” and celebrate our little “heavenly host”. Because ultimately, that is what it is all about. We are the parents and siblings of saints. They enjoy now what we hope to enjoy at the end of our lives, too.
It is horrible to have to bury your child. Every time. No matter how old they are. I don’t for a moment believe that a mother and father who are searching for a tiny box, measured in inches, that will be suitable as a teeny, tiny coffin hurt less than I did when we needed one that was 2 feet long. I think it is time for those outside of someone else’s grief to stop saying one is loss is worse than another. It is different.
I had a lot to say today. These things that have been on my mind for a couple of weeks. It is good for me to get my opinion “out there.”
Eight years ago I didn’t know how I’d ever be okay, but I am. As always, God is faithful, gracious and merciful and he heals each heart, no matter how wounded, if we let Him.
Happy birthday, Mary Clare. I love you. Pray for me.