Almost three and a half years ago I was thrown into the world of the grieving parent. At the time, I was in a highly alert state, taking words that were said to me and dissecting them one by one. Sometimes people said things that I found confusing, and maybe even hurtful. I started reading…
As you stroll the aisles of Target, filling up your cart with everything on your list, plus twenty more impulsive “must-have” items, you round the corner and there it is: the baby section! It is filled abundantly with vibrant color palettes, such as turquoise and lime green or fuchsia and yellow, plus trendy patterns like chevron.
Displayed directly in front of you is a wall full of sleepers with those adorable appliques placed perfectly on the bum. Of course babies are absolutely adorable all on their own, but in some special way, a cupcake or baseball appliqué on the bum truly does surge the cuteness up to a whole new level. Then, to the left, you spot a rack full of onesies covered in phrases that celebrate the baby’s family, such as “Daddy’s MVP”, “Mommy’s Love Bug”, “#1 Little Brother”, and even “Womb-mates” for twins.
So there you stand, gazing over all of the endearing baby clothes, and your heart breaks just a little bit more.
Perhaps your heart is already broken because you have been struggling with primary infertility. Seven years ago, you married the love of your life and you innocently assumed that “then comes the baby in the baby carriage”. Sadly, your innocence and hopes were shattered by years of negative pregnancy tests. Perhaps you have even bought a few pieces of baby clothes as an act of faith. Just over two years ago, you bought a charming Christmas sleeper with “Baby’s First Christmas” written across the chest and a Rudolph applique on the bum. You bought it because you loved it and, even more so, you loved the idea of holding your baby in your arms, dressed in that sleeper, just a year later. However, now two Christmases have passed and you yearn to hold your baby but you are still trying to conceive.
In the back of your mind, the thought lingers, will you ever have a baby to dress in the Christmas sleeper?
Perhaps your heart is already broken because you have been struggling with secondary infertility. You conceived your first child with ease; however, you’ve been trying to give him a sibling for years. Yet, the months have turned to years and even the infertility treatments have failed. You hurt in secrecy as others simply remind you how lucky you are to have one healthy baby. Of course you are lucky but you are also hurting as you face the disappointment at your inability to add to your family.
A heavy sense of failure now defines your role as wife and now mother because your first-born frequently asks for a sister or brother. Your heart yearns for the opportunity to dress your next baby in the “Little Brother” onesies. If you are like us, you have already purchased the “Big Brother” shirts. Sadly, these “Big Brother” shirts are neatly folded and tucked away in his dresser.
Every once and awhile, you spot these shirts as you are getting him dressed for the day and it’s another dagger to your heart—when, if ever, will your son get to proudly wear his “Big Brother” shirts?
Perhaps you have a surplus of baby clothes back at home—each item just as cute as the ones in front of you. Nonetheless, your heart is already broken because your baby passed away hours after birth. A moment that was supposed to bring you the utmost happiness has ripped your soul apart to your very core.
You left the hospital with empty arms and endless tears. You returned home to find your baby’s perfectly decorated nursey with a closet full of delightful baby clothes.
You run your fingers over each item as you sob for what should have been. You are ambushed by immense sadness, guilt, and anger. You are haunted by infinite questions: how did this happen, why your baby, and what do you do with your baby’s clothes?
Perhaps you have twins—but, your heart is already broken because one of your twins lives in Heaven. So day after day, you raise your “one twin”; however, you have a “twins’ wardrobe” full of matching outfits that even include identical shoes and hats. Well, the hats do have one difference: the front of each hat is embroidered with their names so you could tell them apart because you thought that would be your biggest problem.
You yearn for your twins and all of the joyous chaos that comes with two babies; however, now that joy is bittersweet. You can’t bear to put your “one twin” in his twin clothes as you know it will trigger the onslaught of heartache.
You wait till your twin falls asleep and then you take out the matching outfits, laying them out side by side. Your tears stream down upon your twins’ outfits as you weep. Your heart longs for your twins to grow up together—matching head to toe and giggling with one another. As your one twin grows, these matching outfits will represent his identity and so you hope the answer is “yes” when you wonder, will these twin outfits be special to him?
There you stand, face to face with a sea of baby clothes. The vibrant colors, trendy patterns and adorable appliques claw at your heart, intensifying your pain like a jagged shard of glass. Infertility and/or baby loss has shattered your essence and robbed you of the hopes and dreams you had for your baby.
These charming outfits become an agonizing reminder of the baby missing from your loving arms. So yes, there is pain in baby clothes.
Guest story by Ashley Hoffman