There’s a difference…

…between a parent
who has lost a child,
and one who has not.

So many parents tell me
I am not alone
in my worries and fears…

They they, too,
for example, have compulsively checked
if their child is breathing
while napping.

 These confessions
are meant to make me feel better,
more normal, I guess,
but I have always suspected
it is not the same.

Yes, we both may
check on our babies while
they are sleeping,
but that brief moment
you see the tiny chest rising and falling
isn’t for most people,
filled with thoughts of
how to do cpr,
what to say to the 911 operators,
what the look on the doctors’ faces
at the hospital will tell you,
how you will tell your husband, parents, siblings, friends,
how this time you will hold your baby’s body
as long as you want,
where you will bury your baby,
what life will feel like afterwards.

Yes, all of these thoughts,
fleeting as they may be,
can run through my head,
and the relief that runs straight
through my heart
when I see Liam’s chest
rising and falling
is so strong,
it feels like someone has shot
adrenalin through it.

(And I want to drop to my knees
in gratefulness.)

But I never bother explaining this,
the Difference.
It’s too hard to put into words,
and it doesn’t really matter.
I don’t want any other parent
to know how I feel.
There are enough who do already.

But it was only recently,
when I was watching a tv show
that showed a rape scene,
that it occurred to me,

There’s a difference.

While I was watching the horrible scene,
I really felt for the woman.
As I thought to myself how awful it was
for her, for people, to experience
the horror of rape…
and I could, briefly, place myself in her position.

Just the thought was terrifying.

So immediately my mind
shook it off,
and I could tell myself that

It won’t happen to me.

Statistically, I am probably right.
And that gives me comfort
and lets me shrug off the awful thought
and move on with my life,
blissfully unaware of how,
for some people,
it does happen
and their lives are never, ever the same.

And that’s the difference,
isn’t it?

I can shrug it off,
convince myself that
it won’t happen to me,
and therefore never
really understand
how it must be
for rape victims.

I knew babies could die.

But I didn’t really feel it,
understand it, appreciate its magnitude,
until it happened to me.

And now
my mind can go there in a second.

I know exactly what it feels like
to have a baby daughter die before she was born.

I know exactly what it feels like
to never have enough time.

I know exactly what it feels like
to have to say the words
that break my closest family’s hearts.

I know exactly what it feels like
to lay my daughter in her casket.

I know exactly what it feels like
to watch my husband shut the lid on our future.

I know exactly what it feels like
to listen to a priest
talk about my daughter in the past tense.

I know exactly what it feels like
to watch a hearse carry my daughter
to the crematory and wonder if that is the right thing to do.

I know exactly what it feels like
to sob every night for months,
wishing my life was the one that was over.

I know exactly what it feels like
to wake up every morning and
try, unsuccessfully, to convince myself
life after
is worth living.

I know this and so much more,
and yet
I don’t know what it is like for
other parents
who have lost a child.

Because we share a lot of the same thoughts,
but it is not the same.

Just as each life is unique,
so is each person in their grief.

There’s a difference.

Published in: on June 15, 2011 at 22:41  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. There absolutely is a difference, and I see it this way:
    Others can only imagine how awful it would be.
    We already know.
    I’ve had the same thoughts and said the same thing many times over the past three years, especially the past 19 months since Angus has been here.

  2. I am in absolute awe of you sometimes my sweet Stephanie. That was beautifully written and so true. I will say it again – you have such a gift.

    I love you

  3. I know what you mean!! The other night I started freaking out because I hadn’t felt Arthur move and I realized I was at the exact point when Ada had died. I sat there, wide awake in the middle of the night, thinking about all of the details. What time could I call the doctor? Where would they send us for an ultrasound? What would I do differently during labor this time? I knew for sure I’d bring a camera. How could I tell my family that my body had let them down AGAIN? etc. etc. Early that morning he moved, and I was able to relax again.

    I think you’re *totally* right about your thoughts on watching the rape scene though. There are plenty of other things in life that I convince myself won’t happen to me. That’s how other people feel about what we’ve been through. I know, because shortly before Ada died I heard about a mom losing her baby at 8 months. I thought “how horrible!” and then convinced myself that I shouldn’t get too upset by it because it couldn’t happen to us. Of course I felt horribly for the mother, but I just mean that I wasn’t going to let it keep me up at night or anything.

  4. This is so brilliant and true, Stephanie. I sometimes wonder how people can know me and still go on believing so strongly that their pregnancies and births will be okay, and their kids will be fine. But I think, just like your reaction to the rape scene, it is a human survival skill to believe that it just couldn’t happen. Until you see it from the other side, it is extremely difficult to admit that anyone can be vulnerable. I knew that babies died before Naveen died; I just didn’t believe that mine would. Even in the face of logic and knowing that sometimes bad things happen for no reason, I could think of all kinds of reasons why my baby was going to be just fine. And then he wasn’t and now I can totally understand how your mind can travel so quickly to that worse case scenario. I know mine will too.

  5. Such thoughts so beautifully written (again) Stephanie. How true it all is. We can ony imagine how various people are feeling during and after personal tragedies and we are very luck if this is the case and we, ourselves have not experienced these terrors. I am so proud of you, Steph, and miss you like crazy.

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