On Forgiveness

April 4, 2016

I was nineteen weeks pregnant when I announced my second pregnancy to family and friends on social media. In the picture that I posted, my older daughter Zorah held up a cute poster announcing that she was being promoted to big sister. Looking back at that particular day, it was the happiest moment of my life. I had no idea, that less than a week later I would be rushing myself to the Doctor’s office in the middle of a heavy snow storm because of a nagging feeling that something was wrong with my baby.

This ill feeling began almost immediately the day before I had announced my pregnancy. We had just walked out from the nineteen week ultrasound where our baby was declared healthy, and “beautiful” as the Doctor put it. I had no reason to feel anything but elation that our baby would be coming home to us in just a few short months. But this feeling wouldn’t go away. I chalked it up to nerves on the fact that our lives would change with this new little person entrance into our lives. I spent that week shopping for the baby, my husband and I discussed names. But. That. Feeling . . . it wouldn’t go away.

Finally a week later I couldn’t suppress it anymore and I made my way to the Doctor where he would utter the words that changed my life forever . . . “there is no heartbeat”

open Baltic sea at the sunset
open Baltic sea at the sunset

After the storm of emotions that followed in the months after those words were first uttered, one single emotion relentlessly sat in the background. It hovered around grief, anger and sorrow. It sat in the corner watching me, even on my good days.

This emotion was guilt.

Guilt followed me everywhere. On nights I couldn’t sleep, I could hear it whisper into my ear, “You didn’t save her.” On days where the pain was bad, guilt would come up to me and sa,y “You killed her,” or, “You let her die.”

I have made mistakes in my life and asking for forgiveness from myself or others had never been an issue. But when my Aurora died, I silently lived with the blame that I was the reason she died. She was in the safest place she could be—my womb—but yet I couldn’t protect her from death. How does one begin the journey of forgiveness from that place? Where do I even go? How do I even start?

My journey with grief has taken me down a long road toward self-discovery, but guilt has always veered me off my path. It wasn’t that guilt was throwing unfounded accusations at me, it was that I believed them in every way. Had I spoken up about the ill-feeling I had prior to my daughter dying, maybe I could have saved her?

Any normal mother has her doubts about how she fares as a mother, but as a loss-mom I was taking guilt to a whole other level. I was at a place where you couldn’t reason with me. I had resigned to the fact that I would carry this guilt with me for the rest of my life. I would carry it to my grave. I let my daughter die and I couldn’t save her.  End of story. Full stop.

But as I began to grow in this journey, all the lies guilt had told me began to unravel. My child may have died under my watch, but every moment that she lived I had given her nothing but unconditional love. I nurtured her little body with every fiber of my being, I had given her everything I could give. Being pregnant with was happiest event of my life and her death cannot negate that. And guilt can’t take it away either.

As a mother, you love your child unconditionally. You never really wait for them to reciprocate it back, but instead you just love. Asking for forgiveness works in a similar way. I can’t hear Aurora say those words to me, but I know she knows how much I mean it. When you hurt someone who is living, you have the chance to hear from them that they forgive you. But when that person has died, you are left on a one way road that leads to torment and guilt. But now it’s my road to redemption.

Forgiveness is another great act of love I can give to my child. And because I love her with everything I have in me, I forgive myself too.

  • Malka Ahmed

    Malka Ahmed is a writer, and book critic and newborn photographer. She lives in Boston, MA with her two children and her husband of ten years. Her daughter Aurora was stillborn at 20 weeks, and things just haven't been the same. 

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