Mothering After the Death of a Baby
It has been almost a month since I posted “An Unnamed Stage of Fear after the Loss of a Baby” and I still do not have concrete answers about how to mother without fear. I would love it if I could post a pretty list of ten things to do to parent normally after having lost a child but thinking about it only made my brain hurt. There are no easy answers.
I did, however, have a breakthrough this morning that I think can help.
My newborn slept through the night last night and while many mothers would be cheering, I woke frequently and watched the clock. I resisted the urge to run into my baby’s room every few minutes to make sure he was still breathing. Instead I continuously told myself, “Eden is okay. He’s fine. It’s okay…”
Then I eventually heard him! While he made the first squeaks of waking I ran into his room with the biggest smile on my face and peered into his crib where our eyes met and he smiled back up at me. I welled up with so much love in that moment that I cannot even describe.
The first words that ran through my head were, “He’s alive! My baby is alive!” That may sound strange for anyone who has not lost a child but I am sure my reaction is not uncommon for those also on the journey of loss. It was then that I realized how to survive the death of a child and yet mother living children:
Celebrate that they are alive. In a greater proportion to the fear, love lives and reigns.
My son Zachary’s passing acquainted me with fear but more importantly introduced me to an even deeper capacity for love and a revived appreciation for the blessing of life.
A month ago I wrote about worry for the safety and health of my living children which seems to me more terrifying after losing Zachary. From the feedback that I received, many friends and family tried to comfort me that all parents worry for their children – but something still did not feel right. This worry I experience is different than the concern I had for my daughter’s wellbeing before Zachary’s death. It was a gentler worry back then I can now reflect.
The difference, for us who have lost a child, is that we do not worry about our children getting hurt or being sick – we worry about them dying. Our minds immediately jump to death. Another major difference is that we have actually had the worst case scenario happen. It is a fear grounded in reality.
While these realizations are helpful in recognizing why we who have lost a child parent so differently and fear in such a unique way, I still found myself wanting a solution. I crave resolution for a problem like this; maybe it is my desire to fix and correct what I see to be overcompensation in me. After a month of asking, “How can I mother without fear?” in my post, I still do not have a game plan but the revelation of this morning helps.
My fear may be great, but my love is even greater.
I may overprotect my children, smother them with kisses, stay up to three in the morning when they are teenagers and come in late from a party, call them too much, search Dr. Google too often for their ailments – but at the end of the day, no matter how annoying I may be, they will know that they are loved beyond compare.
With my almost three year old daughter, we often play a game where I say, “My love for you is as big as…” and I let her finish.
“A house!” she will say.
She thinks. “A whale!”
“Bigger,” I say and I mean it with my whole heart.