We packed away the car seat the other day, tucked neatly in the back of the closet. I thought I might regret having such a big item if I lost Sam, but I don’t. What kind of mother would I be if I had believed the worst for Sam? It hurts to know that my dream of putting Sam in that car seat never came true, but I think it might hurt worse if I hadn’t hoped.
I hesitate to write about this, because maybe I should be more private, but I want my experience to be written down for other mothers with babies like Sam. It was the written stories of other mothers like me that lit the path before me, and I want to light the way for others.
Because I carried Sam to 30 weeks, after I had him, even though he was stillborn, my body thought I had a baby to take care of. My milk came in full force, and it was painful in so many ways (my advice–cold, crushed cabbage. Google it.). It was tempting to feel like a failure, to feel like a fool for having such a hopeful body and heart, but I couldn’t beat up my hope. Hope was my greatest gift to Sam, and my hope was evidenced in all the baby items we had ready for him, his car seat, and my milk. My body was only doing what it was supposed to as the body of a mother. I may not have a baby in my arms today, but Sam made me a mother from the moment of his conception to the end of my life. In return for that gift of motherhood, I gave Sam hope.
When I came home from the hospital, I had this feeling like what I imagine amputees feel when they try to scratch an itch on a phantom limb. I felt this intense need to mother, to have a baby in my arms with lots of needs to tend to, but my arms were empty, and so was my belly. It was the most unnatural feeling, and it could not be satisfied. I still have that feeling today, although it’s not as intense as the first few days. I think this feeling is intensified by the fact that Sam was my first, no other children to take care of. Steven and I talked about getting a puppy, which sounds like a funny thing to do to relieve the pain of losing a baby, but nothing will ever fill the space in my heart where Sam is. Another baby helps, I’m told, but we have to wait a little longer than usual to try again, so a puppy might be just the ticket. All I can do is find things that help me wait joyfully till the day I get to see Sam again.
The evening after the funeral, we returned to my parents’ house, and, for the first time, I felt l’d been hit by a Mack truck. I think I had worked hard to keep my head above water while we decided on details about Sam’s burial, made travel arrangements, visited with family, etc. It’s hard to give validity to conditions that have no tangible evidence. Even though we never brought a baby home, I really had given birth, and had all the physical pain and soreness of a live birth. I found that I had to keep reminding myself that I had just had a baby and needed to be gentle with myself. I even sometimes had to remind other people (and then sometimes other people had to remind me!). Steven also experienced some frustration with getting time off work at first… they thought he’d be back in the next day… it’s like people think that because Sam passed before he was born instead of a few minutes after, that he simply disappeared and my body snapped back like I’d never been pregnant… when he explained that we had to have a funeral for Sam, they were a little more understanding.
We’re lucky though. For every person who invalidated the experience, five validated it and offered us kindness. Our small group from church is organizing meals for us right now, even as I’ve physically recovered, I’m grateful they’re tending to our emotional needs. Our brains were absolutely fried for a long time. Recovery is happening though. We’re even contemplating getting our taxes done… although, our brains might be too mushy still… I take that back… We’re even contemplating taking our taxes to H&R Block. Ha ha! Actually, we have some exciting things happening other than taxes, and I hope I get to blog about what’s going on soon. For the first time in a looooong time, we might have some good news to share–stay tuned. Here’s to hope!