Monday, January 13, 2014

When Mommy Has to Say Goodbye

The other night my husband watched a movie trailer; a movie that has been a huge hit in box offices this month. It is the story of a soldier who ends up being the sole survivor of his group. That preview made me cry, possibly thanks to crazy hormones...but I just kept thinking about all those babies who didn't return home to their mommies. And I cried. I cried for all those mommies who lost their babies that day. You see, I've come to the conclusion that no mommy should every have to say a final goodbye to her baby.

Just over 5 years ago we lost our first baby at what should have been 1/4 of the way through the pregnancy. It was Christmas time. Especially in church and in songs we heard a lot about the miracle of Christ's birth. In my grief all I could think was that it wasn't fair that Mary got to have her baby, and I didn't get to have mine. It was a rough Christmas. Shortly after Christmas I was listening to a song (at the insistence of some family members) about a soldier who didn't return home to his mother. Several of us were in tears. One mother in the room mentioned how hard it was to hear that song while having a son over-seas, not military related. And another cut in that it was even harder to have a son who had served in the military. I wanted to scream at them both. The one line of the song I remember talked about memories and pictures being all that was left to remember her child by. At least they HAD memories to remember their child by. I suppose grief is sometimes narrow-minded - I hadn't come to the realization yet that no mommy every wants to say that final goodbye to her baby.

A little over a year later a Marine from my hometown was killed in Afghanistan. I hadn't met him before, but knew his parents. I remember the moment the realization hit. Another mommy had had to say goodbye to her baby. My son was not yet 5 months old at the time and I remember going into his room and watching him sleep with tears streaming down my face. This time I wasn't crying for myself. I was crying for another mommy who had to say that final goodbye to her baby. He may have been in his 20s, but most moms will agree that their children are always their babies, no matter how old they are.

In the past 4 years I've met a lot of mothers who have had to say goodbye to their children. And I realize, even more strongly now, that no mommy ever wants to have to say goodbye to their baby. All of our experiences are different, and there's really no way to say what experience is hardest; a miscarriage, a stillbirth, a little one who couldn't live without machines, a tragic accident, cancer, war....and so many, many other things that take lives. Sometimes the mommy has passed on before the child, and I'm certain there are a great many reunions in heaven. But sometimes a mommy is required to stay on earth without her baby. And it just isn't fair. There are a lot of things in life that aren't "fair" and never will be. Today I'm specifically writing about one unfair thing that is especially close to my heart.

We never know how long we might get. It may be just a few days or weeks, it may be months or years, but ultimately, we never feel it is enough time. We feel cheated, I imagine, no matter how much time we have. Personally, I have only experienced one type of loss, that of a child we never got to see. And I know there are people out there who think a loss that early shouldn't matter that much, but it does to me. I picture her as a 5 year old with blond hair and blue eyes. She is sweet and kind and a perfect child who I have never argued with or been frustrated with. Perhaps they are silly daydreams. But she is real to me. And I fully believe that someday we will get to have her as part of our family. She inspires me and helps me to help other families who are having to say that final goodbye to their tiny babies as well. There are still hard days, days when my heart feels like it's been ripped out of my chest and I can barely breath and I don't know how I can go on missing my baby so much. But there are so many good days now. I often feel especially close to my sweet angel when I have a chance to visit with other angels though volunteering with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.

Sometimes I come home from a visit with an angel and I cry and cry. But I no longer only just cry for myself. I've been able to let go of the hurt I feel knowing other mommies got to hold their little ones, even for just a little while. It truly doesn't hurt me any more. I still wish my baby was here, but I know that just because I didn't get to hold my baby doesn't make my experience any harder or easier than these other mommies face. Having to say goodbye to your baby is a hard thing...no matter the circumstances.

And other mommies can, and do, understand this grief. Mary, the mother of Christ, can understand my hurt over losing my baby. The mother of the Marine from my home town can understand my heartache. There are mothers all over the world who have said goodbye to their babies, and they can all understand that grief. And of course, Christ understands better than anyone. How grateful I am for his sacrifice that he might be able to truly know each heartache we suffer. I don't know how it works, but I believe it does. I keep this picture to remind that even if I can't be holding my baby today, Christ is taking good care of her.
In the Arms of His Love - Del Parson

Someday we will all be together again, and what glorious reunions await in heaven for all those mothers and babies. I imagine it will be a truly beautiful day.


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