One day the blackness just lifted.
My family said Oh! Good. Everything is alright now, you’re better and well, I don’t know about that.
An anvil fell from the sky, pinned me under its weight for a few weeks. And one night someone came along and hauled it away, and so I’ve gotten up and kept walking. But I can’t promise there won’t be another anvil, or a grand piano, or something else equally disheartening to look up and see hurtling towards my head, all with YOUR BABY DIED spraypainted on it in sloppy block letters.
Despair comes in two flavours, did you know? There’s the ever-popular Rage, the anger that makes you want to rip the heads off anyone and everyone you meet. Then there’s Self-Pity, the woe-is-me that’s even more crippling than the rage. Standing there peering through the window of someone else’s trauma, you whine Friggin’ lightweight. This person thinks they’ve got it bad, but they don't know bad. They haven’t had a baby die.
I am medusa. Not you. But here’s what you don’t know. Someone else is peering through your window, whining Friggin’ lightweight. This person thinks they’ve got it bad, but they don't know bad. They haven’t <insert horrific event here>.
Every now and then, kind but qualified words arrive via email: “I’ve had (miscarriage / sickness / infertility / loss of spouse / loss of parent…) and it was nothing compared to what you went through, but it broke my heart, and I’m sorry your heart’s broken now too.”
Technically, I could say a miscarriage is less intense than the death of a six-week-old baby. But I don’t say that, because I’ve got this really handy thing called a functioning brain. Most of the time. I’m not you. You’re not me. We all see the world through this one set of eyeballs, despairing regardless of how our lives compare on paper. There's just no point to saying What person A went through is more worse/less worse than what person B went through.
We can't heal until we stop competing for who's got the shittiest luck. All we can do is be company to one another, hold hands in the face of the most ancient of human conditions: birth, love, loss. Heartbreak is heartbreak, no matter its source.
Before all this, I’d shrink away from trauma like cooties. Oh isn’t that terrible and get me outta here was pretty much my instinctual response to anyone pinned to the concrete under an anvil. Not that I didn’t care, or wouldn’t listen, or wasn’t moved. I was simply clueless and oblivious, and preferred to stay that way.
To a point, we all saunter through life like doo de doo and lah di dah until an explosion blows the blinders off our eyes and we realize that all along, we’ve been sauntering along the edge of a precipice. Then, we can hardly move one foot in front of the other. We whimper with backs pressed against the wall, the one misstep that will send us to our doom playing over and over again in our heads. From time to time the pathway narrows so that our toes hang off the edge, and we are paralyzed.
For some of us, that explosion is the slipping of an embryo, the loss not of a formed being but the potential of one. We can now see the precipice and we tremble and wail for intervention, for our blinders. For others, that explosion is the NICU. Or the death of a six-week-old son or two-year-old daughter or fourteen-year-old son or thirty-five year-old wife, or any other number of unfair events that give us sudden vertigo.
What’s the point in keeping score if we all win eventually, in one form or another? Yay us.
Recently someone asked me How has the death of your child affected your understanding of what it is to be a strong woman? and I had a hard time answering after the decidedly blubbery past couple of weeks. So I wrote to her I suppose strength is seeing peace even after seeing the precipice. To surrender to its inevitability, and to be grateful despite it.
Liam’s soul was purposeful. He chose to be ours, just as he was, just for as long as he was.
bo·dhi·satt·va (bō'dĭ-sŭt'va) n. Buddhism.
An enlightened being who, out of compassion, forgoes nirvana in order to save others.
Liam made me into the mama I’m supposed to be: more compassionate, more attuned than before. More able to see light like his. Thank you sweet lili, my bodhi-baby.