Today it has been 6 months since Luke was born. My new friend Kate, who lost her son very close to the date we lost Luke, wrote me “I’m not sure how you feel about things… but 6 months seems like a milestone, yet such a strange and sad one. I hope that you get some time for peace and have a lot of wonderful thoughts about beautiful Luke.” That sums it up perfectly. It is somehow a milestone, but of what I’m not totally sure. Six months of survival, I guess.
I spent a day fishing with my husband and his cousin’s family a couple of weeks ago. His cousin was about 10 weeks ahead of me in pregnancy. Her baby is close to close to 9 months old now. She can sit up on her own, has 4 teeth, and has a little personality. Toward the end of the day when I had relaxed more in her presence, she played a game with me where she would scrunch up her nose, watch me do it back, then doing it again. Since this baby is a girl with dark hair and eyes (she looks nothing like Luke), she is easier for me to be around. But I couldn’t help wondering what my Luke would be doing now at 6 months. All those developmental milestones outside the womb are still quite mysterious to me. I find it amazing that so many people get pregnant and have babies that live and grow and do all of these normal things at such a rapid rate. It seems so miraculous to me now. Such a precious and delicate thing, yet it happens all the time.
I had an interesting encounter this past Sunday. A lady I didn’t know needed a ride to church and she lived near my area, so it was arranged that I would drive her. She is 90 years old. I thought to myself, “I wonder if she’s going to tell me that she’s also lost a baby?” This is something that happens fairly often lately (so many more lost babies than I had ever imagined) and I just had a feeling that that might be part of God’s plan in placing us together. I was right. She insisted on buying me lunch after church. She told me she has been married twice (both husbands have died) and has 4 children, each 6 years apart. I commented that that was a long time between children. She said, “Well, you want to know why? I had miscarriages!”. I sighed and thought she meant early losses, but then she gave more details. She said she lost twin boys and a little girl and a baby that she carried until 6 months without knowing it had died at 5 months. She listed them off casually in a factual manner. I shared that I had just lost a boy and teared up. I asked how she got through it all. She said that the worst was the one who died at 5 months because it made her really ill. I thought, “What? That was the worst part?”. This didn’t seem to match my experience.
Somehow the conversation turned to other things, but I needed to know more, so I brought it back to her lost babies. I asked her if she named them. She did. The twin boys were Mac and Mel and she named the girl too, but I forgot the girl’s name. She asked what I named my son. I told her. I asked if she named the baby that died at 5 months and she said no. I asked if it was a boy or a girl and she said she didn’t know. She said, “If they told me what it was, I don’t remember.” How can that be? Granted, she is 90 and she did have trouble remembering some other things and times were different in her generation, but I was shocked. She didn’t seem sad–we didn’t share the heartache as I was hoping. She said “I’m strong and I didn’t give up”. She spoke of it like a battle she just kept fighting through to get her living children. She said her daughter had one child, then lost the second. She reported that the doctor told her daughter she would just lose any future kids and tied her tubes! She said, “She could’ve had more kids! In my day, I lost more than one and they didn’t say I needed my tubes tied.” She closed, “You just have to keep trying. Things will turn out alright” like it was a piano piece to master or a test to get a better score on. I’m still struggling with how to somehow align my experience with hers. I didn’t feel like we connected on the loss experience. I wanted to see that she hurt for her babies.
I have a classroom aide in her 60’s who lost twin boys in 1974. We have talked about it some and she mentions the dates of their birth and deaths, but she too does not seem to feel any sorrow about them. She goes about the school literally singing and dancing and prides herself on being cheerful, so this is partly her nature, or at least how she presents herself. I tried to discuss the encounter with the 90-year-old lady with her in the hopes of understanding it better, since they are both from a generation before mine when things were handled so differently. It just made it worse. I asked her some questions about her loss like how long it took her to feel better again. She said she was pregnant again right away, like that solved the problem. I asked if she had pictures of her twins out in her house. She said, “Oh noooo. I only have two pictures and they are put away.” She said things like “I am just different than you” and “You just have to find the positives”. She said “It’s been 39 years.” She said, “Well, I hadn’t bought anything for the twins” like it was just the stuff I have for Luke that made me sad. The conversation got to the point where I actually felt the need to say “Do you think I’m weird or something?” I don’t understand. I do hope that I feel differently when I am 60 or 90, but I also want to still talk about my Luke, cry for him and have his pictures out.
I gave my aides a note yesterday to alert them that the upcoming holidays might be hard for me. I mentioned that I found Halloween to be harder than I expected and that I had had a froggie costume for Luke hanging in the closet. I asked them to please cut me some slack if I am not as happy as I would like to be during the holiday season or don’t want to talk about my holidays. It was hard for me to put myself out there like that, but I was hoping for some sensitivity and maybe a little less holiday hoopla. I’m trying to learn to advocate for what we need. This morning, one of my other classroom aides was talking loudly across the room about the pink cowboy boots she got her granddaughter for Christmas and how she was telling her son they should get pregnant again. So much for my letter. I also told them today was 6 months, but they seem to have forgotten. I wish I could just crawl under a rock for awhile sometimes.
All of this could be adding up to me feeling like a freak who is overly sad about this loss, but my heart tells me No! Plus, I have all of you blog friends who write and share similar feelings. You mirror my heart. You let me know I’m not weird and I’m far from alone in my sorrow. I’m so thankful for you friends who understand.
There’s something I can be thankful for this Thanksgiving;)