The school year before our second child was born, a student really did ask me—in a voice as obnoxious as his question; “how did a baby get into your belly Mrs. Massimini? Does the food you eat turn into a baby?”
Thinking fast, I gave him a thoughtful response: “Well, you have to be at least 30 years old,” I explained, “you have to be married, and you must contribute to a savings account. Many people think it is enough to simply open a savings account – but it’s not; no regular contributions, no baby.”
He seemed satisfied at this. And it brought some laughs in the teacher’s lounge when I relayed our conversation.
But the business of bringing a baby into the world obviously isn’t this simple. (In a pinch, I opt for tidy and humorous over accurate and awkward.) And my husband and I know this best of all.
We met all those conditions, and I delivered a big, juicy (over 8 pound) cherub of a boy, at term after an uneventful pregnancy. The trouble is, he was born still and not breathing, chalked up to a cord accident that a full autopsy was not able to explain.
Having a healthy baby is supposed to be a given. High school dropouts do it. Moms who abuse drugs during pregnancy have living children more often than not. Play by the rules and everything will be ok.
Wouldn’t it be nice if it were so…
As all loss moms, and anyone who has ever been hurt by life knows; things get messy on the ground.
Psychologists term the degree a person believes their decisions determine their fate the “locus of control.” An individual with a strong internal locus of control believes their actions directly steer the course of their life.
They feel competent and in control of their circumstances. And if they don’t like their circumstances, they strive to change them. Individuals with an external locus of control feel effectively ineffective in impacting their circumstances.
Everything is determined by external events/decisions they cannot control. So why bother. They are a plane without a pilot. A ship without a sail.
Related: Control (Or Lack Thereof)
An external locus of control makes people less likely to take action and more likely to be depressed. An over-developed internal locus of control leads to self-blame and guilt when things do go awry. (It also leads to books like The Secret, and wealthy but exceptionally annoying Tony Robin-esque style motivational speakers.)
The sweet spot is in between. Neither a strong external locus of control nor an over-developed internal one.
My story is exceptional because it is so… exceptional. “Almost all of the time,” I have reassured my students “moms have healthy babies. And most young people who are sick become well. But sometimes, something terrible and unexpected happens. And we remember it, not because it is common, but because it is so rare.”
I always preface the story of our first child with a disclaimer—to anyone who is pregnant, wants to be, or knows someone in either category. “Mine is not a cautionary tale. It is a horror story. And probably best not told to you at all.”
For my own emotional health, I tell myself that our baby died because of a freak accident; not because I missed warning signs or waited too long to go to the hospital.
On good days I believe that.
But fortunately for us, the very sad story of our first baby was followed two years later by a very happy and typical one. She is 16 months old and named Claire Samantha. We are expecting a third baby late spring.
Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash
About the Author: Arrah Massimini is a high school teacher, living in Wichita, KS with her husband and daughter. She blogs for the Independent Women’s Forum, where she formally worked as a Junior Fellow. (Fiscal, and education issues—not personal.) Still Standing previously published a guest submission she wrote August 2018. Their first child, named Samuel, was stillborn in 2015. They had a daughter Claire in 2017, and are expecting a third baby June 2019.