I spent the past few weeks writing an article on changes your baby brought to your life for the current issue of our Sharing newsletter. I talked to many different women whose losses were anywhere from a few weeks ago to many years ago. Some had early losses, some experienced stillbirths, and a few had babies who lived a short time before dying. In talking to all of these moms, I noticed certain “themes.” One area that many mentioned was their spiritual life and both the positive and negative changes brought on by the baby’s death. They talked about changes to their interpersonal relationships, changes in career paths, changes in the way they parent, and changes in their outlook on life. And while no bereaved parent wants to hear anyone say “this is all for the best” after the death of their baby, and it’s most definitely NOT for the best, many of the stories and thoughts shared with me were of positive changes.
As I was writing the article, I couldn’t help but think of my own experiences and the many changes in my own life due to the loss of my four tiny babies many years ago. I thought about the way I once imagined my life compared to the way my life is now.
Like many women, I had everything confidently planned out…I’d go to college, earn a degree in journalism, work for a newspaper or magazine, get married, and after a few years of being married, we would have a baby. Actually, my plan was to have 2 kids, 2 years apart. Of course, I was going to have a boy and a girl. I even had their names picked out, long before I had someone in my life I wanted to marry. I just always knew that I would be a mom, and that my life would work out the way I wanted it to if I worked hard and did what I was ‘supposed’ to do. I had no doubts about that, and never even considered the alternative--that I might not have the picture-perfect life I envisioned.
Unfortunately, as we all know, life doesn’t always work out the way we plan it, no matter how hard we work and no matter how closely we follow the rules and do what we are “supposed” to do. Mine certainly didn’t, and I know that all of yours didn’t follow the path you expected either.
I became pregnant before I intended, and just when I was getting used to the idea of having a baby, the baby was gone. Several years later, I became pregnant again, and that pregnancy also ended without a living baby in my arms. I was shocked and heartbroken. Having a baby is supposed to be the most natural thing a woman can do. I wondered what was wrong with me, while everyone I knew told me it was no big deal, that I was young and of course I’d have more babies--things that many of you have probably heard as well.
I ended up having 2 more miscarriages, which rocked me to the core. I remember writing in my journal one day that my life was officially over, underlining over many times. While I don’t remember specifically thinking my life would never be the same again, I can look back after all these years and definitely see a “before me” and an “after me.”
Some of the changes I underwent were sudden and jarring. For instance, a month or so after my 4th loss, it suddenly hit me one day that in my grief, I was not being the kind of mom that my then two year old son deserved and needed. On the day that I realized that, I vowed to change, and I did. I am glad that I had this revelation because it got me through many challenging days. Whenever I wanted to curl up in a ball in bed, I thought of my small son who needed me and how I needed to relish every moment with him.
All of my children, all 8 of them, have changed me in ways I could never have imagined.
Some changes in me developed gradually over time. I now have four living children who I can’t imagine my life without. I have been told many times over the years that I am overprotective, and I often wonder if I would be if not for my own losses as well as the losses of those I have met over the years. Another change I experienced is that I do not take anyone for granted. Ever. I truly know the meaning of “life is too short.” I try to always do whatever I can to make sure that my children and others I love and care about know that I love and care about them.
Even though it’s been many years since my losses, 25 years since the first and almost 18 years since the last, I will never forget the babies who didn’t make it. They all died early in the pregnancy…at 11 weeks, 6 weeks, 12 weeks and 10 weeks, yet those tiny souls have had a huge impact on my life. Even though I have no pictures or footprints or any other memento, they have been a force in my life that is sometimes mind boggling to think about and always difficult to put into words. Those tiny souls, who many people thought at the time didn’t matter because I really didn’t “know” them, caused twists and turns in the path of my life I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams. Those tiny souls eventually led me to a rewarding job that I love and can’t imagine my life without. And those tiny little souls led me to some very special, amazing people that I can’t imagine my life without.
Almost 18 years ago when I was in the depths of despair, I would never have anticipated that I would say this, but if I had my life to live over, I wouldn’t change a thing. The gifts that all of my children have brought me, and the person they have all made me…well, they all make me feel blessed beyond measure.
What ways have you changed since the death of your baby?