A lot of people tell me that they can’t even imagine what I must be going through. I get it, I couldn’t have imagined either before it happened to me, and even what I had imagined doesn’t stack up to the reality. I write this as a mother who has experienced the birth of my living child and how it compares to my experience of having a stillborn child. I wrote this in hope that through my experience parents will gain an even deeper appreciation for their children, as I have for my own living child through this experience. I also hope to bring about a deeper understanding of the emotions and experiences a bereaved parent faces. If you really want to try to understand, here is the best I can do.
Picture the moment your child emerged from the womb and you heard that loud, beautiful wail and saw their limbs flailing as they drew their first breaths. Now imagine they emerged completely limp, still, and silent.
Remember gazing into your baby’s eyes, watching that rhythmic sucking of their mouth as they drew in nourishment, evolving from the moment they were born. Now imagine their eyelids never opened, their mouth never rooted in anticipation of being fed, every moment wasting away a little more.
Remember that moment you dressed your baby up in their going home outfit and proudly buckled them into their car seat for their first ride home? Instead, imagine kissing your baby goodbye for the last time, sending them to their autopsy and walking empty handed out of a birth center that is so full of new life, never to see your child again.
Think of when you first brought your baby home, and brought him or her into the nursery you put so much love into preparing, with stacks of outfits and diapers waiting to be worn, and a crib ready for much slumbering. Now imagine the same as you come home with empty arms and these things sit unused, collecting dust.
Think of your older child kissing his little sibling’s head or holding them while you look on proudly. Now imagine they can only kiss a picture of their sibling and hold their hospital blanket.
Think of the postpartum recovery, the pain, hormones, producing milk, a body that is geared up and ready to care for and nurture a baby. Now imagine there’s no baby to nurture and help you forget those ailments, with the added grief that your baby is gone.
Recount all of the dreams you have for your child and all of the experiences you ever hope to have with them. Now imagine those hopes buried forever along with your child.
In the good times, when you hold your peacefully sleeping child and watch them reach each new milestone, give thanks to God because there are mothers with empty arms who can only imagine what that would be like. In the hard times, when your child is crying, fighting sleep and their eyes refuse to close, give thanks again because there are mothers who never get to see those eyes open or hear those cries.