To the mother who can kiss all of her children goodnight.
To the one who will get to watch her baby grow.
To the mama who hasn’t had to say goodbye too soon after saying hello.
Please, I need you to listen. I need you to pretend we are face to face—look me in the eyes.
I’m going to tell you something that will make you uncomfortable. It is one of those societal truths that we pretend doesn’t exist. It’s not a happy ending so we tuck it away allowing it to become nothing but a whisper in the shadows of playground playdates. One of those moments that creates shocked gasps, over the shoulder glances, and muffled murmurs of, “It won’t happen to me.”
Are you ready?
My baby died.
My daughter, my firstborn, died.
I am the face of pregnancy loss.
No. Don’t look away. Don’t look down. Don’t fidget with your hands or pretend you’re late for a meeting. Just stay right there.
It has taken me years to be able to say those words. I feel them vibrate around us and suck the air from the room.
I see the pity forming in your eyes while discomfort and panic flash across your face. You can’t control your reaction, only your attempts to hide it.
Yes. Babies die.
Do you see these stretch marks, the faint ones, right here around my belly button? Those are her stretch marks. They are softer than they once were; like my memories, they have faded with time, but they are one of the very few physical reminders I have left. They are proof that she existed.
I can hear your mind swirling and scrambling to process my words as you search for a response.
No, no. Please, don’t sprinkle out platitudes.
It is what it is.
Everything happens for a reason.
Heaven needed another angel.
At least she’s safe now.
These words strike a bitter note and fuel an anger that is already difficult to tame.
These words sugarcoat the anguish. They belittle my grief into submission and infer that I should remain silent in order for my loss to be more palatable to others.
These words perpetuate the suffocating loneliness. They give power to the stigma that child loss is unmentionable and it is wrong to live my grief out loud . . .
Because dead babies are too sad to talk about.
Because she never took a breath in my arms or felt sunshine on her skin, so she must not be real. She doesn’t count.
Because her life was short, her story should be shuttered away like some ugly secret.
I never asked to give birth to death—this is a future I never asked for. I wanted a child not a lifetime of endless wishes. Yet with her death, I was given the beautiful, albeit heavy, responsibility of carrying her memory. Sharing her story. Creating her legacy.
Now, look at your child. Wouldn’t you want to speak about your child if they died? Wouldn’t you want their memory to live on?
That thought makes you squirm. You don’t want to think about it.
Yet, I have no choice but to think about it. About the little girl, I can’t see. About the daughter, I carried but cannot hold. About the gnawing guilt of my body failing her.
This is the reality of love and loss.
Oh, innocent mama, I see your eyes searching mine. Inevitably you utter how you “can’t imagine how hard it must be to lose a child.”
For a while, I assumed you said this because you didn’t want to imagine it. Or perhaps, you were covering up selfishness and wouldn’t try to imagine.
But you’re right.
You can’t imagine the crushing silence of your child’s absent heartbeat or your primal scream as it echos down hospital corridors and haunts the recesses of your memories.
You can’t imagine holding your dead baby—feeling their limp weight, seeing their darkened lips, and frozen face. How you beg and plead for them to take a breath, wishing it was your heart that stopped. You want to tear at your flesh and pull out your hair to try and escape the hollow aching of your womb and arms.
You can’t fathom having to decide whether to burn your baby to ash or bury them beneath cold, hard earth. Either way, you cannot hold them again.
And you can’t imagine walking out of the hospital, eyes to the ground and holding back tears, clutching only a packet of papers. Your consolation prize—a packet of papers.
Everything that was once familiar has become unrecognizable.
I feel my words fall flat as I try in vain to describe something that is indescribable. I feel as if I’m talking in circles to an empty room.
No, unless you have lived through it, this is a loss that is truly unimaginable.
But dearest mama, I beg you to look past the heartbreak and stigma; quell the urge to stifle my grief. I wish for you to simply see me and understand that, even though my child is invisible, I am still a mother. Still her mother.
I want you to see the sparkle in my eyes, the glimmers of pride and joy when I say her name. I hope you can understand that I speak of her not from a place of sadness but out of love. My love for her did not die when she died. Her death is not the end of her story.
Know that when I tell you about my dead baby, it is a sacred privilege. I don’t take sharing lightly.
Open your heart and keep us safe in that space. Let me embrace all of the pieces of my motherhood.
Please, don’t fidget, don’t look away—just let me share.
And, if only for a moment, remember her with me.