The hospital where I delivered my stillborn son, Lennon, has a beautiful little angel garden on its campus. A sweet, peaceful place tucked in between the wing of the hospital where you enter to deliver your baby and the doors you use to leave the hospital, fresh new baby in hand.
It’s a tranquil place, covered in greenery and dotted with comfy benches to sit and listen to the water feature while gazing at the wall of plaques.
Each plaque holds a baby’s name, a baby who passed away and who is missed terribly.
Each plaque represents a different family who is irrevocably altered by the chasm that was created when their sweet little one could not come home with them.
I visit this angel garden often. It’s where I come to center myself when grief feels like it’s too much.
I go to the garden; I read his name as I allow myself to be vulnerable and cry.
My living children come with me too. They visit their brother, ask him questions and then run off to watch the butterflies that often visit.
While I sat in the children’s ward of my local hospital with my two-year-old rainbow baby, I had the best view of the angel garden.
With my stomach tied in knots, my youngest was hooked up to oxygen to help his little lungs. The very sight of the angel garden brought about two very different feelings.
These feelings are pretty much what any loss mama feels while parenting her rainbow.
The terrifying fear of loss living hand in hand with hope and reckless optimism.
I saw the wall that held my son’s name trickling quietly with no one in sight, and I couldn’t help but feel this need rise within me to look away.
To pretend that the horror that my family had to live through didn’t happen because if it can happen once – what’s to stop tragedy from striking again?
The instinct to protect is illogical, your mind can’t make bad things happen, but that thought is easier to say than to live.
The fear that the bad thoughts of worst-case scenarios can magically create a new reality is something that I’ve attempted to work through since my very first few visits to group grief counseling.
In my view, it’s easy to blame your mind when nothing else quite makes sense. It’s easy to give in to superstition when you realize that there is no control in what’s happening to you.
You can’t control the fact that you once had to hold your child, still in your arms, and you can’t control if something terrible should happen to another living child.
So magical thinking is an easy thing to give in to.
So, there is a different kind of fear you feel as a loss parent when you parent your rainbow child.
There is also a realization when sickness or tragedy or outside stressors (coronavirus, I’m talking about you) that horrible things can and do happen.
There is a calm that hits you though. A peace, an unwillingness to give in that is mixed in with the fear.
Witnessing the place I go to sit with my son who passed away, while sitting close to my rainbow baby who needed medical care to breathe comfortably, forced me to remember the defiant optimism it took to have my rainbow.
The decision to understand that life can be scary, and there is no fear worse to realize than to live on after your child has passed.
Yet, somehow I’ve remained.
Though every day I feel the pit in my stomach from not having my third son to hold, the beauty in life is not lost on me.
My rainbow is the very embodiment of that beauty, with his easy smile and unwavering strength (no matter how many times he was poked and prodded).
Parenting a rainbow is so confusing at times. I try not to behave differently to him than his brothers, but it is a feat that is nearly impossible.
Every day is a lesson in fear and calm, hope, and yearning. With each passing moment, I thank my lucky stars that I was able to have my children while simultaneously cursing the heavens for taking away my third sweet boy.
Sitting in a hospital, mere footsteps from the rooms that held me while I learned of my stillborn son’s fate, delivered him, held him and said goodbye is jarring given the reason for being there.
It would be so easy to give in to the panic that wells within me at even a whisper of a thought that circumstances could worsen, tragedy may visit again.
Yet, I know that life happens whether or not you live in fear of it.
So, I choose to hold on tight to the reckless optimism that said it was okay to get pregnant again. To cling to the notion that there is strength enough in me to drown out the fear that bad news may arrive on my doorstep.
I choose to be as I have been since I heard the news that my Lennon had passed away. To live one breath at a time, to find glimmers of hope even when that fear trickles in and to hold on to the calm of knowing that somehow we will make it through.
And he did, he is home now, he is healthy. He can now breathe easy and so can I.
That view of the angel garden reminded me that there could be comfort in the most unusual of places.
I may, at first, want to quickly look away in the face of my very realistic fear but I know that there is a force in me that is capable of taking it on.
So, thanks for the view.
Morgan McLaverty, a world traveler that has taken roots in southern New Jersey where her husband Sean was born and raised. Now, a stay at home mother, she cares for her three living boys; Gavin Cole(5), Rowan Grey(3) and Holden Nash (1). She also is a mother to Lennon Rhys. Lennon was born still at thirty one weeks and five days. His loss spurred on a need in Morgan to write her feelings, share her grief and help others in the process. She hopes her words will help shed the silence and taboo nature of discussing pregnancy and child loss.