Every second, of every minute, of every hour, is what I have inscribed on my twin’s headstone. It was what I read in the eulogy at their funeral. It is what I repeated over and over in my mind as I held them in hospital – the three of us were together again, one more time.
The small mercy of an evolving society that encourages parents to be with their child for as long or as short as they need after they have died.
My first son was born four days after I drove myself to the hospital in the middle of the night. A first-time mother, the sign of broken water exactly on 24 weeks was confusing, but it was the drop of blood that sent every cell, muscle, bone, and organ in my body dead still. He passed away in intensive care four days later. My second son, born three days later, stayed with me for 36 hours.
Ten days, two sons, three days apart, empty arms.
Having read and listened and researched, I did not go blissfully into pregnancy. I knew, academically, pregnancies could be lost. I worried, would I be enough? Will I tell them about how they came to be? Will I have enough maternity leave? Can I afford it? The answer was always yes and maybe to every question. Growing up ostensibly alone, a migrant child with siblings I never saw, the one thought that kept my heart placated was that at least my boys would have each other.
Related: Empty Arms, Cradled Siblings
What I didn’t truly comprehend was that babies die. And by babies, I mean children, and by children, I mean toes and eyes and fingers and giggles and first steps and sleepless nights and breastfeeding and crawling and tugging and yelling and running around and banging on pots and pans and, and, and. Babies die. Beautiful, perfect, beloved to the moon and back babies.
What I also didn’t comprehend was the profound lack of understanding or room for grief in society. Not in workplaces, families, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. People don’t necessarily treat you with more kindness. Bills don’t stop needing to be paid. Drivers cut you off. People still forget your birthday or that it’s Christmas and no, you won’t be spending it with your kids and no, you won’t need school holidays off.
We walking wounded don’t go around wearing t-shirts saying my babies are dead. We also don’t all grieve the same way. The horrific nature of our loss is different, but there is a silent kind language between parents who have lost children. We know better than even to begin to think how each should feel and we can finish each other’s sentences about the utter devastation.
One weekend I was having brunch with a new friend, and she was discussing a disagreement she was having with her landlord. The friend could not understand why the landlord was ‘still’ upset about the loss of her husband. It’s been two years, this friend said, exasperated.
Being a bereaved parent, you hear all sorts of things from people’s mouths, and you learn to live with daily slights. I held my breath and asked my friend to think of the passage of time as not a sign of distance from the loss, but a reflection of the time her landlady has lived without that love. Imagine, I pleaded, she’s been living with that loss every day for two. Years. Imagine in a few more years, she will have lived every day without that person for five years, and ten years and 20.
This barrier, between losers and keepers, is now too a relic. Once thought to protect both those who grieve and society, from that grief. This thinking no longer serves us. It means many people, often those with limited family or societal support have to recover alone. Grieve for their children every day, on their own.
I want people to start to see the advancement of time, not as a dilution of the pain, but a mark of survival in spite of the pain.
Photo Credit: Author’s Own
Featured Image: Carlos Quintero on Unsplash
Hausatu is a Ghanaian-Australian mother to twin angel boys. A change and communications professional for many years, she is starting an MA in Counselling to work with people of all ages from diverse backgrounds living with trauma and grief. Every step taken when living with such loss is a win. So many false starts, stops and starts, no starts. She’s started an Instagram thing to keep track of those daily steps… http://www.instagram.com/stella.steps