Today in the locker room after my morning swim I overheard a conversation. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but the ladies were talking loud enough that from my position I could hear a little and it sounded like they were talking about a mom that had recently lost a baby. Again, I only heard parts so I could be jumping to conclusions, but what I did hear was disturbing. “Is she going to get the pizza” one lady said. “That’s what she said, if she ever leaves her bed” sarcastically stated the other. Then the only pieces I heard after was, “It’s not like you can get your baby back.” “She needs to just get over it and move on.” “She can’t just pretend to be a mother for a couple of hours and then go back to bed.” and “Her kid’s don’t care. They don’t even know what’s going on it wasn’t like…” I tried to move to listen in just a little more to be sure they were talking about what I thought they were talking about. Just then a friend from the swim group distracted me and by the time I finished talking with her the two ladies were gone. I came home a little miffed. Surely they could not be talking that way about someone who has just suffered a great loss. Surely I must be mistaken. Did my friends talk like that behind my back when I lost my baby? I hope not. And that got me thinking.
It’s almost been 7 years since I lost my Spencer. I carried him nearly 9 months (my babies are always early). I felt his spirit. I felt him kick me. I felt him hiccup. I couldn’t wait to meet him. When I found out I lost him, my whole world crashed in on me. Shock. Disbelief. I didn’t know what to say, but I think I just said the word “no” over and over again. I was supposed to have a healthy baby. I went to that hospital to have a baby and to take him home. The hours I spent in labor waiting for him to arrive were torture. I wanted it to be over. I didn’t want to feel the pain. Not just labor pain, but pain. I was sick. I was exhausted. I was sad. Here I was supposed to be waiting for a new arrival, a bundle of joy. But what I was waiting for was my son to emerge from my body so I could hold him for just a brief moment before he was taken from my arms to be prepared for burial. I could have held him forever. But there is a moment when you realize you have to let them go. You have to bury that child. I had to move on without him, because I had no other choice.
The reality of what “moving on” meant to me was quite different then the fantasy of what it meant to those around me. To them, I needed to pick myself up, and not be sad anymore. Not to “dwell” on it. They wanted me to act like it was OK. They wanted me to be normal not broken. They wanted me to see the bright side of things. The “at least” part of the situation. “At least you know you have one in heaven.” “They are in a better place.” “At least you made it out OK.” “At least you can still have more kids.” “At least you still have your daughter. Make the best of that right now.” And my favorite, “At least you lost him early. It would have been harder if you had gotten to know him.”
Yes, I never got to know him. I don’t even know what color his eyes were. I don’t know what his new baby cry sounds like. I don’t know what his laugh sounds like. I don’t know what he would have done during his baby blessing. I don’t know what it is like to feel his arms around me. To tickle him, to cuddle him, to read bedtime stories to him. Think of all the things you do with your children. Would you trade it for one minute so you wouldn’t have to hurt so bad if you ever lost them? I wish every day I had more memories of him. Moving on for me was trying to live my life knowing I would never have those memories. I was moving on with out him. It was my new normal.
To those who have lost a baby, I am so sorry. If I could give you one more day, I would without even thinking. For those who have had to stand by and watch someone you love suffer a loss. I am so sorry. I wish I could make it normal for you. I know you are suffering a different kind of loss. But just like we have to adjust to how things are, so must you. It requires an enormous amount of patience and love. If you don’t have that to give, well, I have nothing to advise. I am not mad at those who could not journey with me through that horrible time in my life. I am so grateful for those who did. Thank you for not giving up on me. For understanding that you don’t understand. For sticking by me through every stage of grief. I did not know how I would grieve. I didn’t know the repercussions at the time. So thank you for being selfless, and patient, and loving me. And if you talked like those ladies I heard today, please never let me know about it.
Full circle is a funny phrase. When I lost Spencer I wanted something I could give him somehow. Something I could do for him. I decided to run. I started slow but I remember the first time I ran for him was just around my neighborhood and I felt he was somehow with me. Over the years I would run to his grave and stop for a visit and then keep going. Those where my long runs and somehow visiting him would give me the strength to keep going. I started to run races. I wanted to be a mom he could be proud of. Every race I ran, I did so he could be cheering for me on the other side. I wanted him to know I was going to take care of myself and my health so that I could be a good mom to his siblings. I found the best way to honor his life was to live mine to the fullest. I looked everywhere for a race that honored lost babies. I found one , “Running with Angels” but I wanted one more specific to what I was going through. I asked my local SHARE group and they just had a walk. Just when I thought I would research how to put on my own race, I found a flyer on my windshield at the grocery store for “Race for Grief” put on locally by the Blonde Runner. I was so grateful. It was like an answer to a prayer.
I kept running and training. Then one day I thought, “hey why not a triathlon?” So I now do those. I contacted Lora Erikson aka Blonde Runner for training and joined her triathlon team. I did my first sprint distance triathlon in September. Now that the team is on a break till January, I felt it important to keep my promise to my son, as well as get ready for next year. So I swim with Masters Swim Team at the rec center Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to get me ready. And it was after Masters that I came across these ladies talking about their friend. Here I was training for races to honor my son when I hear a conversation that brought back so many memories of when I first lost him. I guess we really never go “full circle”. I will keep training and racing and living. Because that is what I am here for. I am here to live. And next time I think I am hearing a very insensitive conversation, I may just butt in and ask for details before I lay in to a couple of jerks.