By Still Standing Contributor Amelia Kowalisyn of Emma’s Footprints
Many people, even friends or family can be confused as to how hard parents who have experienced infant loss grieve. They may not understand how someone can miss a child who was with them for such a short period of time. How they can grieve so hard for someone, they barely knew.
When you become pregnant there’s that immediate glimmer of hope that this pregnancy will go all the way, that in just mere months you will have a child in your arms, you’ll kiss their sweet cheeks, count their precious fingers and toes, that they will come home with you.
You dream of what they will look like, who they will be. You look forward to birthdays, holidays, watching them take their first steps, play sports, and all of those in-between moments that we all imagine with rose-colored glasses.
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But when you lose a child, when you hold a baby in your arms as you say goodbye, as they take their last breath, all of that is gone. Every ounce of hope, every dream, every prayer for them to be the person you had waited for is ripped from you.
My daughter was with us for 23 days. She lived, she breathed, I rocked her in my arms as I read to her and sang to her. I prayed over her, for her, for us. We dressed her in cute little clothes, we changed her, bathed her, we experienced what life was with her. And then we lost her.
She existed. But even if we hadn’t had that time with her, if she had passed away while I carried her, she still would have been just as important to us. We would have loved her just the same. She is our child. She is our daughter. She is a part of our hearts forever.
For those parents who haven’t lost a child, think about it. Your baby, who you carried, loved, and were so excited to meet, what if they never came home with you? How would you feel if after a few weeks of getting to know that child they were gone forever? How would you handle having to choose a tiny casket, to stand over their grave as they were lowered into the ground? How would it feel to spend your holidays not with them at home, but at the cemetery visiting your child who would never be there to open a gift on Christmas Day?
How would you feel to see others around you having babies, experiencing those moments that your heart aches for? Those sleepless nights that you’re up with your infant? Try being up without them, when you’re the one crying, sobbing into your pillow because you wish so much that they were here waking up ten times a night.
What if when you heard others complain about parenthood, complain about their children, that it felt like someone punched you in the stomach. That you wished with everything in you that you too could have those struggles rather than the heavy heart that haunts your every day.
On your child’s birthday, the day you gave birth to them, it’s nice to hear them acknowledged by others. It’s so kind when people wish your child a happy birthday, right? Well, what if they didn’t? What if even though just like every other mother out there, you want to celebrate your child, but people ceased to recognize that she even existed. They ignored your child’s birthday, pretended like it didn’t count?
Wasn’t it important? What if even family and close friends did that?
How about when people ask how many children you have? How would you feel if by merely being honest and talking about your children, it made people uncomfortable? People didn’t know what to say. They changed the subject because it was too much for them to handle. What if people asked you if you count all of your children as yours or if you leave any out when sharing about your family.
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These are all my truths. These things happen, and it’s painful on top of grief. To love someone so much, only to have to fight for them to be acknowledged. To already be in a world that while beautiful, is always shadowed by pain because my child, my daughter isn’t a part of it. That is child loss.
So, next time, before you tell someone to get over their grief, to move on, or when you even think for a second that their loss isn’t worthy of the pain they share, imagine even for a second that this was your life.
I can guarantee you if you were in our shoes, and I pray that you never are, but if you were, you would look at this in a whole new light.
Photo courtesy of Amelia Kowalisyn