My last post was hard to write. I have felt so many complicated feelings about my place in both the non-loss and the babyloss worlds since M was born.
It seems that many other babyloss mothers who have subsequent babies have felt that the nonloss world expects them to be healed by the births of their ‘rainbow’ babies. After the new baby is born, the dead baby can more easily be swept aside, glossed over, forgotten. Likewise the mother’s grief for the dead baby. The new baby is thought to make everything fine again; the train derailed for a while, but is back on the line and chugging along just as it should. Of course, this is painful for the bereaved mother, who knows she will never get back on the same train she was on before her baby died, that nothing will ever be ‘normal’ again and that while the birth of a new baby brings enormous joy, it does not ‘heal’ the hole in her heart.
When you have a new baby, a significant portion of the non-loss world expects you to have ‘moved on.’ A woman at the conference I went to in June asked me about having M after A. ‘Is that what they recommend?’ she asked, as if there was a solution to a dead baby and that solution was a new baby. But M is not a solution; no baby could be or should be expected to be a ‘solution.’ There is no solution.
I have felt less supported by my non-loss community since M was born, though there are a few people who continue to recognize that A is still painfully missing from our lives. I expected this, but it still makes me feel lonely and tired and isolated. I look like a ‘normal’ mom of two, a girl and a boy, how perfect. My invisible child, my second daughter, seems to have been made even more invisible by the birth of her brother.
As I said, I expected this. What is harder is to feel less accepted in the babyloss community. Maybe accepted isn’t the right word. It probably is not. Maybe I am just too sensitive. I am so worried about hurting others who are already hurting so badly. I know that the presence or even the mention of babies is torture to some bereaved parents. I know this. And so I don’t want to mention M, to hurt those whose hearts can’t bear it. But I can’t tell our story without him in it. His birth was not a simple and purely joyful event for our family; his birth is intricately tied into our grief and the narrative line along which our grief has unravelled. He is bound to his sister, bound to our experience of stillbirth, to our second child’s death. He is not the end of our story, he is a part of its continuance.
And I still need the support I needed before he died. I still need to talk about Anja, to say her name in a community that accepts her as my child.
I can’t edit M out of my grief for Anja; in so many ways, his existence is a result of that grief.
There have not been any instances where I have felt specifically required to edit M out of my story, but I have definitely felt a weight pressing on me, an awareness of the pain he might cause. I went to a conference last weekend organized by a wonderful group of families who have started a not-for-profit society with the intention of raising awareness about stillbirth and improving bereavement supports. I had to bring M if I wanted to go; he is too small to be away from me. I agonized over whether I should bring him and finally decided I should, for all the reasons I’ve just mentioned. But once I was there, I felt awful. There was a woman who was only eight weeks out from the death of her beloved baby. There was another woman who, when she saw me and M, took a deep sharp breath and said, ‘OK. Right.’ Steeling herself against his presence. There was a woman who talked about the intense anger she felt toward mothers of healthy babies.
And there I was breastfeeding my healthy baby, stroking his sweet head.
What an asshole.
I tried to shush his little coos. I tried to hide him under a blanket.
After a few minutes, I left. It was not the right place for me to be. And I understand why it wasn’t. I really do. But it still hurt. It hurt me as Anja’s mother, to feel that I no longer belonged,* that I could not share my grief for her with others, could not be part of what seems to have been an amazing, empowering, heart filling event.
Yep, I feel like an asshole writing this. ‘Complaining’ about how my new baby has left me out of a particular grief community. A giant asshole.
And I feel vulnerable writing this. What do I want from it? I’m not sure. I just know that I need to be honest and open about these feelings because they are incredibly powerful. I can’t deny them.
Our stories are all so complicated. None of them are the same. The only constant is that we have all experienced the death of a child, that we are all grieving and grieving hard.
*I should be very clear here: there was no one who ever suggested that I didn’t belong. The organizers were adamant that I did. I might have imagined that I didn’t belong. But, it’s how I felt and so I have to deal with that feeling, even if it inaccurately represents what happened.