Sunday, June 6, 2010

He counts

In the weeks since Aidan died, I have read many babylost blogs (actually I started reading these before he died...pretty much since our disastrous 17 week appointment, when I wanted to get a heads up on how bad being a babylost mama was...and let me tell you...the blogs didn't sell it short)

Many themes are common, but probably the most universal is how babylost parents want others to remember their lost children. They want people to see their babies as people who mattered, people who counted, people who took up time and space. How it warms the babylost parents' hearts to hear you speak of their little one, especially when it is done spontaneously and naturally. "Remember when you were pregnant with (insert dead baby's name here), and we went for dinner at that restaurant...the food was great". Or "(Dead baby) had the cutest (hair/eyes/nose/toes/pretty much any body part)", or the best one "I really miss (dead baby), I wish I had got to see him/her grow up". The need for others to remember and include our babies is a deep seated ache.

However, many babylost find that others do not bring up their dead children as often as they would like. Many are hurt and angered by this, as though the dead child doesn't rate a mention. Although my loss is still pretty fresh and people are still getting in touch with us to say "I'm sorry"....I'm aware that pretty soon this will likely peter out and people will go about their business and expect me to as well. I'm also aware that this is going to hurt like hell, and that I will likely have to hold back from screaming "I'M NOT FUCKING OKAY" when, in six months (or 10 years) someone innocently asks me "How are you".

But as a babylost mama, I wonder sometimes how I can I get angry at other people for not talking about Aidan or 'not counting him', when I fear I do that in my head sometimes. How can I fault people for not counting me as a mother (no "Happy Mother's Day!") when I'm not sure I really feel like one. Sometimes, I worry, that EVEN I don't give Aidan as much 'credit' as I would a living child. For an example, see my previous post on his name. As much as I'm glad we named him Aidan, sometimes I'm angry that we 'used up' my favourite boy name and now I can't ever use it again for when my 'real' child named Aidan comes along. (You know...the one that lives). Or, when my husband said tonight "I'm going to be 32 this year" and my thoughts immediately go to "I wanted to have a baby before you turned 32 and I turned 28" and then I feel awful and admonish myself "We DID have a baby before then...he just died is all". Or when I think of our friends who will both have babies in 2010 and think "Wish we had a 2010 baby" and then remember "We DID have a 2010 baby...but he died". Or wonder if I can reuse the really awesome ideas I had for a baby boy's room if I ever get lucky enough to have that kosher in babylost land? Would that be too much like negating his existence?

When I was pregnant and we knew we would likely lose him, I remember saying that even if I go on to have ten more children (and I'd be happy with just one), I'll always feel like I should have eleven. But, I worry that as time goes by, will I see Aidan as less...will I feel with 10 other living children that I should have had 10 and a half?

Sometimes I worry that I will come to view him as 'less' because he was premature. I know I've struggled with seeing my pregnancy as less 'valid' than other women's because I delivered at 23 weeks, and because I spent much of it on my couch. I never got swollen ankles from standing too long...I never got that sore achy back from running around while pregnant...never really felt Aidan move all that much because of his lack of fluid. I was pregnant...but I didn't feel I really got the 'full experience'. Kinda like saying you've been to Disneyworld, but never went on any of the rides. Although it hurt like hell and was scary, I've come to appreciate my un-medicated, rushed delivery...somehow that has helped with my own validation of my pregnancy. ("That ring of fire thing they talk about...totally true!" or "Yep, I could really tell when it was time to push...just like on TV!") So, if it took a 'normal' delivery (and I use that term loosely), complete with war wounds, to make my pregnancy real, I wonder, will my love for Aidan seem diminished if (dare I say when?) I have a healthy baby?

Last weekend, I was talking to my cousin who had a miscarriage a few years ago at 8 weeks. She said to me "I was so attached to this little heartbeat on an ultrasound machine...I can't imagine how hard it has been losing a little baby". While I'm really appreciative of her trying to comprehend the magnitude of my loss, people's need to compare always brings up a squeamish feeling in me. Like "would I have been sadder if he had died at full term?" or "would I have been less sad if he'd died at 17 weeks?" I don't know, but I'd like to think my love for him and my sadness upon losing him was not contingent upon how long he was with me...but is that realistic? I might have been more disappointed?...more shocked?...MORE devastated?...if he'd died at full term. I might have been able to move on?...get back on track?...feel less sad?...if he'd been a miscarriage. I don't makes my guts hurt to try to imagine something else...I can only feel what he was.

And my feeling...which I hope to hold on to, which I need to hold on that he mattered.

He counts.

So, since I got a rousing response of 3 (!!!) last time I'll ask another question.

Do you worry sometimes that your lost children will fail to count, even in your own eyes (and hearts)? How do you hang on to them, validate them, without 'clinging' to to what is gone? Does this post resonate with you (or am I a horrible person for questioning my own son's worth)?


  1. I just had a similar thought last night and said to my husband "Sometimes I feel guilty when I get excited over a new baby. Is that a horrible thought?" He quickly told me that it's not horrible and we have to move forward and we have to be excited about a new baby. We shouldn't be bringing a new life into the world and only have grief and dread in our hearts. My point is that I hope I can be both--treasuring my son and grieving for my son that I only had for a short while and a person who still has a future to be (somewhat) excited for.

    I went into pre-term labor at 23 weeks in April. My son lived for an hour but I didn't see him or hold him until after. I am not pregnant again (of course) but these thoughts spring up in my head when I have that momentary excitement about another pregnancy.

  2. I want to show this post to everyone on the entire internet.

    'Kinda like saying you've been to Disneyworld, but never went on any of the rides.'

    Oh god yes. That's exactly how it feels.

    I'm scared of forgetting. But I'm also scared of never moving on. Of never being really happy again.

    I started a pregnancy journal the day I found out I was pregnant. I thought that one day I would show my child that journal. But then it died. And now... if I ever get pregnant again, I will start another journal. But it won't be the same. It won't be filled with joy. It will be filled will love tempered with fear. And I don't know if I'll want to show it to the child.

    It's just so unfair.

  3. Hello Emily. I'm here from B's. I think this is such an interesting post, thank you for writing it. I really appreciate your honesty. I'm so sorry to read about the death of your little boy, Aidan. You gave him a lovely name.

    I went into pre-term labour with twins at 23+4. Both my daughter survived birth but my eldest died in intensive care at 3 days old.
    I haven't gone on to have a term pregnancy since, only a very early miscarriage. I do wonder what the whole experience will be like, pregnancy. I feel as though I have never been pregnant at all.

    I don't really know where I'm going with this comment. I tend to think of my lost daughter as 'the same' as her twin, who is now a toddler of nearly two. So when I look at her photographs and see the terrible reality of her prematurity I find it quite shocking. Her smallness, her obvious unreadiness for the world.

    But I agree with you. Although I might wonder if I would feel differently if I had miscarried at an earlier point, if she had died at term, if I had never had twins these are kind of merely the idle wanderings of my mind. Just testing things out. Feeling out all the different ways it could have gone and if anything could have been less, or more, agonising than what actually happened to her.

    She did matter, she did count. I can't wish her to be any other than what she was. Because I loved her just as she came. x

  4. a beautiful post, one that brought tears to my eyes from the first lines.

    i couldn't have said it better myself.

    i definitely cling to them, to their memory, to my maternity clothes, to my fat. the only things i have to remember them by.

    i wish i knew another way.

    your son is beautiful

  5. very well said, emily. YES, aidan counts! and so does kenny, and all our other angels. i, too, struggle with these thoughts. ken and i just had our 5th anniversary, and that morning, i had thought, "i so wanted to have a child or at least be pregnant by the time we reached five years." and then, of course, it occurred to me, we DID have a child! it made me feel horrible, like he is already an after-thought. isn't horrible that we have to follow everything up with "...but he died."