Recently, I was talking to my husband about something not-so-nice. He will listen and nod and offer wonderful commentary, preferably commentary that aligns with how I had been passionately pleading my case. Often discourse that challenges me to think in ways I may not have been.
But sometimes I’m not looking for even that.
Sometimes, Husband, I’m talking out loud, as if to myself, about things that aren’t allowed to be talked about. And I do it with you because I can be anything with you: you lost your child alongside me, and you know everything I say even when I am not saying it. You know this ugly side of Grief.
This time, however, I was divulging in a cringe-worthy discussion about how the picture of a baby that was sent to me does not make me smile, does not make me happy. Makes me irritable. Makes me sad. Makes me turn the phone off quicker than I turned it on.
Related: I’m Sorry I Can’t Like Your Baby
I’m not always happy when I’m shown this baby or those children. Sweet or funny photographs of children don’t make me feel good. Then, I feel bad for not feeling good. Then, I’m forced to look at the picture again to try to feel happy for said-baby. Then, the cycle continues on and on and on…
It seems cruel, maybe abnormal. One might say, ‘How unmotherly of you!’ But, I’m not: unmotherly nor happy.
That picture that is shared showing her chubby cheeks that fold over onto her chubbier, pouty, red lips. Her button nose. Her crystal blue eyes and bleach-blond, pin-straight hair.
That picture that was sent with his tiny, chubby hands that have dimples where knuckles should be. Hands that haven’t quite mastered the pincer grasp, trying to put a toy in his wet, drooling mouth as he gazes off towards the voice of his father.
With his tummy, round and protruding. With such an earnest, endearing smile. Whose joyful laugh breaks hearts and crushes even the most serious-natured. With the rolls in his thighs! Oh, the rolls!
As she toddles away, her full diaper, hanging unabashedly off her rear end. With his skin that is like porcelain and her innocence while she sleeps, closed-mouthed and quietly, rapidly breathing as babies do.
These babies are your babies — not mine. Oh, but how I picture mine! With that wet mouth and those dimples, toddling away. I see mine in yours, and it tears me apart. I wish I could change that full diaper. Perhaps you scoff and tell me to be careful what I wish for, but I long for my son and everything that would have come with him, full diapers and runny noses abound.
I understand you share out of pride, love, and joy. Wonder and amazement at your brilliant and gifted baby are what prompt you to share him and her with the world. I understand this because I too felt awe and wonder at my baby’s body, at his beautiful face, at the strength in the power of the love that I felt as I held him so close to my chest after I delivered him.
His lifeless body void of breath and cries, weighing so heavily on my heart. But to share with you his ruby red lips and his eyes that are forever closed is not the same. It’s different. It brings sadness and tear-filled emojis and pity for my heartache.
Who wants to bring us all down like that? She asked ironically as she picked herself up from being down.
There is a girl, a fellow bereaved mother, whom I have only met once but who is allowing me to talk, to listen, to respond to her with love, and to express my need for love. I am so grateful for her. She reached out to me because someone had reminded her recently that she should reach out to other grieving parents.
And here I am, reaching out. I am grateful for the friend and the husband who allow me to talk about the taboo topic of not wanting to look at pictures of your beautiful children that you proudly share with me. I’ll never share my first born’s first wobbly steps or his slobbery kisses.
At this stage, I’m only able to share this ugly side of Grief, the sad side that doesn’t allow even a sweet baby’s face to feel better. This Grief rears its ugly head at any time and brings with it shaming thoughts and nasty feelings. I know that it is uncomfortable to read that a loved baby is not loved by all and at all times.
It’s uncomfortable for me, too.
Somewhere beneath the envy, and as the foundation for every step along this arduous path, is great love.
I love your baby; I love my baby.
Photo credit: Author’s own
About the Author: Kerry led a healthy, happy first pregnancy until she was diagnosed with “mild” Preeclampsia when she was 34.5 weeks pregnant. The illness took the life of her son, Oliver, just two days before she was to be induced at 37 weeks pregnant. She and her husband are learning to live life without their first-born child. She writes about him and the importance of his life here, https://oliversspace.