Child Loss: The Secret in My Dresser Drawer
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?
There was the little package of diapers that had been bought for my sweet Samuel. I had held on to them for all of those years.
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!
I was a young bride, married in December. We found out in April we were to have a baby in January. We were thrilled. Then I started spotting and had a miscarriage. I didn’t know if the baby was a boy or a girl as I was not that far into the pregnancy. I have cried many tears over this child, but I did later have 3 children. It still hurts. I, too, have things I had received from my grandmother for this first child. Maybe one day when I get to heaven, I will see my baby.
Sharon, I think that losing a child at any stage is so hard and we sure do cry a lot of tears. What an empty feeling! Isn’t it amazing the things we save over the years? I call those things our “treasures of the heart.”
PS I’m sure you’ll see your baby in heaven! 🙂
Clara thank you for your post. On 9/9/12 my son and his family were driving from Maryland back to California. That morning at 5:20 on Hwy 80 near Potts, Nebraska they had stopped for a prior accident. A semi hit Christopher (30) at 75 MPh pushing him into Diana (28), Sam (3), Connor (2) and their unborn son Ethan (7 1/2 months along) under the semi in front of her and both cars exploded killed all five of them along with their two dogs and cat. My life stopped that day. This person took my only grandchildren because he was asleep at the wheel. My heart is broken and what you write is so true. No one understands the grief unliess they have walked in your shoes. My boss even said it’s been over six months. Get over it. How do we get over our children being taken from us no matter what age. Their is a whole in my heart that it will never heal. I too have thing to remember them in my home. Their couch where the kids play and watch tv with their mom and dad. My one son when I mentioned getting the couch cleaned said, “mom you can never clean it. Those are Sam’s and Connor’s finger prints. I know what he means. I just needed him to say it. Thanks again. Hugs from Cali…….
Donna, I cannot begin to imagine the hole that you have in your heart. I really and truly cannot. I’m so, so sorry. There are times when so much of life doesn’t make any sense, and this is one of those times. I hope and pray that you can find a bit of comfort in some of the things that you have that were from your family — I understand about the couch so much! The fingerprints, the memories…….I’m so glad that you have the wisdom to hold onto those things. Those who haven’t lost a child don’t always understand, but to us it makes perfect sense. Sending my love and prayers to you. Again, I’m so very sorry that your life has been touched by so much tragedy.
Thank you Clara, yesterday was so hard. Christopher loved Holloween and Diana and him would dress the babies and animals up and make it a family event. Thank you again for your prayers… God Bless.. <3 <3 <3
Hugs to you, Donna. I’m glad yesterday is over for you. You made it through. Sometimes we wonder how……but there is an inner strength that helps us when we need it the most. Prayers continue.
Dear Clara, I have been able to make it through all of your posts without bursting into tears until this one. I have never “met” anyone whose experience mirrored mine, and expressed their feelings about that time so close to what I felt. Your words, “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.” struck me today. Though my baby was a girl, everything else was so close to my experience. I remember looking at the ultrasound machine and seeing her tiny body slumped down in my uterus. Well…as far as a full term baby could be…she was 37 weeks old. I remember feeling like I was in hell, and afraid to move when she went still. Most of all, I remember the years of hell afterward. I had two more babies in a short amount of time, but I still grieved. I grieved hard, long, and deeply. I still do, and it’s been 17 years for me. I just passed the anniversary in August. For me it’s all wrapped up in one weekend. She died one day, we confirmed it the next, and she was born the next day. NO experience like it. I was a different person after that, and will never again be the person I was before. I’m finally at a point where I’m writing her story, and hoping to publish it. Just hoping to be a help, encouragement, and support to some other poor mama who joins this awful club, and has to go through the worst of experiences in her life. Thanks for this post…it touched my heart. BTW…I have a whole hope chest at the foot of my bed filled with “secrets” 🙂 I kept them all because it’s all I have of her. I look through it once a year on her birthday… Love, Kathryn
Kathyrn, Thank you so very much for your comment! I think there are a lot of us with “secrets” out there who have been too afraid to talk about our pain, or it’s been too hard for us to talk about our pain. I’m so very glad that you’re writing your story. I know that it will help many grieving mamas who are introduced to this terrible club. I will be among the first to get a copy of your book. My special love to you!
Thank you for giving me hope. My oldest daughter died unexpectedly 7 1/2 years ago at the age of 28. Packed away in my cedar chest are her comforter set and sheets that she had purchased not long before she died and was so proud of, along with her beloved wolf beach towel, hair brush and clips, and many other things. Up in the top of the guest room closet are several boxes with her journals and favorite books. Other boxes are stored in the garage. I know that one day I’ll go through those boxes. One day, but not yet. You’ve given me hope that that day WILL come.
I’m so very sorry for your loss. You’re very early in this journey yet….there will be a day when your daughter’s special things that you saved will give you comfort. Your heart will tell you when it’s time. Don’t rush it…..when the time is right, you will know. I’m just so glad you had the wisdom to know to save these things. My love to you!