Twenty five years ago something happened in my life that I didn’t think I could live through. One day I was happily pregnant anticipating a new baby joining our family. And, then without warning I didn’t feel any of the kicks and somersaults that I looked forward to all throughout the day and night. My body was so still and it was frightening. I was too afraid to move. Too afraid to say anything. Too afraid to allow my thoughts to enter that dark chamber where I knew my heart was going to receive news that would cause my heart to break in two.
I waited ’til morning to call the doctor. Maybe I was only imagining the stillness of my body. Maybe this child — my child — was just taking an extra long nap. Maybe……….maybe I was just too afraid to make the phone call that I knew would change the course of my life forever.
When I walked into the room, the doctor was waiting for me with a somber look. He asked how I felt and I said okay. “I don’t feel the baby moving, though, and I’m really worried.” I could tell he was worried, too. He wouldn’t allow me to look at the monitor and I knew he was expecting the worse.
As he moved the doppler across my swollen belly the silence was killing me. I was praying so hard to hear the swoosh-swoosh sound of that sweet baby’s heart beating as I’d heard so many times before. But all was quiet. Not a sound in the room except the panic that was heard in every breath that I took.
Finally, he said, “I’m so sorry. Would you want to look?” As I turned my head to see the lifeless body still attached to me, hot tears ran down my face like lava on fire. There are no words to describe that moment when all of life stopped for me — frozen in a timeless pit of hell. My heart no longer beat in sync with that of my baby, and he lay still and lifeless inside of me letting me know that his soul was already gone.
My heart dropped into a pit of dark, lonely despair and remained there for a very long time. So much of life as I thought it would be ended on that tear-stained day in May. The journey has been rough. There were days when I didn’t want to open my eyes. There were weeks when my legs felt paralyzed with grief and didn’t want to carry me from the couch to the kitchen. Many days it took all of my strength to get a shower only to climb right back into bed again. Depression is such a sad place to live.
I won’t talk about the weeks and months following this loss today — that will be for another time. What I will say is this. Grief is different for each and every one of us. The loss of my son, Samuel Adam, was a loss that reshaped my life — literally. I stopped living for a while. I couldn’t go on. There was nothing left inside of me. I was an empty shell — at least that’s how it felt.
But, little by little, one day at a time this twenty year journey has been traveled to a place I call “now.”
A year ago while cleaning out some dresser drawers, I came across that lump in the left upper drawer of my dresser and I thought I would do as I’d done for the past nineteen years — touch it, but not look. But, this time was different. I paused. I reached in and pulled out that little bundle of things wrapped ever so neatly in a tiny, soft blue blanket.
I held the banket up against my face and tears started flowing, but they were more gentle. They were not hot and raw as they were the other times. Dare I? Should I open the rest of the package?
And, my pregnancy test. I remember how my heart was racing with excitement and immediately filled with so many dreams when I saw those two lines appear! This is a moment in time that will be forever frozen!
And, the baby lotion. Isn’t it amazing what we mamas save? I always loved the smell of a baby after a bath with some lotion rubbed on their already soft-as-angel skin. I opened the lid and took a smell. After all of these years, it was still there — the scent that I had longed to snuggle with and hold close to my heart.
There was one final item in that little bundle stashed away in my dresser drawer — this is the one that I longed to use the most. This is the one that broke my heart to see. I’m not sure exactly why, but seeing the little blue hat tore open my heart again and again.
I guess I just always assumed that this little sweet baby of mine would be born healthy and alive and would live with us forever. How wrong I was!
There was something special about this day, though. I was finally able to open up the contents of that little bundle that had been so carefully stashed away — hidden — in my dresser for all of those years. Today I felt a bit of peace for the first time. Peace in knowing that Samuel is okay. No, he’s more than okay. He’s actually fine! He’s in heaven and is surrounded only by love and warmth and beauty. I have a son who sits in heaven waiting for me, and I have his little blue hat to take to him when we meet again!
Child loss is a difficult, long and painful journey. This particular journey has taken me twenty years to get to the point being able to unwrap my secret hopes and dreams that were lost on that day when Samuel took his wings. I’ve finally been able to let go of a lot of the pain, and it feels freeing to be able to say that.
No longer is there a secret in my dresser drawer, but I do have Samuel’s hat, and I will keep that forever. I often pick it up and hold it and smile. “Samuel, I love you so much! I see you in the sunbeams that dance on a springtime day. I see you in the evening stars that light up the darkest night. I feel you in the warm summer breeze. I see you in the smiles of little children as they are running and playing. And, I am so glad that I was chosen to be your mom — if only for twenty-eight short weeks.”
It has been such a rocky road to travel to be able to finally say those words, but I can finally say them and mean them, and for me that is wonderful! I hope that somehow these words with encourage other mamas who are traveling this journey of child loss to not be so hard on yourself. You can’t rush grief. You can’t make it go away. Every day is a challenge, and every time you pull out your little “secret stash of hopes and dreams” the tears will flow. But, one day there will be a bit of a change. Yes, you’ll always, always, always miss your sweet child. But, mixed in with the anguish of missing your child there will be sweet tears of hope for that day when you meet again.
PS When extra lonely nights surround me, I sleep with Samuel’s hat next to my face. I can almost feel his sweet breath against my cheek saying, “Mama, it’s okay. You’re never alone. I’m right here with you.”
If you live in the Somerset – Johnstown, PA area and are free the night of November 14, I will be speaking to moms who are facing the holidays without their child. I’d love it if you would join me! You can register here!