There are certain things I never wanted to know in life. Like the statistic I learned in third grade about how many spiders I will swallow in my sleep in this lifetime. Like how many calories are in a glass of wine (I am still plugging my ears to that one). Or the worst of all the things I never wanted to know: what it feels like to lose a child. Unfortunately, I entered a whole new realm—the realm of grieving parents—on October 27, 2014, a day that will forever be marked as the worst day of my life. On that day, my son, my 6-month-and-17-day-old boy with a gummy smile and sick lungs breathed his last breath in my arms.
I never wanted to know what it felt like to hold half of my heart in my arms and say goodbye, never to kiss those lips again on this side of heaven.
I never wanted to know what it felt like to ache—physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually—and long with all I have for a boy who locked eyes with me for only 200 days.
I never wanted to know what it felt like to cry until my abs hurt—deep, guttural sobs, silenced in the night so I wouldn’t wake my older son.
I never wanted to know what it felt like to throw grenades at people when they asked me simple questions, like “How many kids do you have?” and the horrible follow-up, “How old are they?”
I never wanted to know what it felt like to dry my tears, pat my cheeks to remove the redness and carry on, so people wouldn’t constantly ask me questions like, “What’s wrong?” because in social terms, I should be moved on by now.
I never wanted to know what it felt like to forget. Forget his smell. Forget the softness of that little tuft of hair on the crown of his head. Forget the happy noises he made when he watched his little lion mobile spin.
I never wanted to know the anger I would feel at well-meaning comments said in passing, like “God does not withhold any good things from us when we ask in prayer,” because after all, if that were entirely true, my son would still be here.
I never wanted to know how it felt to carry on, chin up, shoulders back, game face on, even when my legs shake. Taking every step knowing that he would want this for me. He would want me to be happy. He would want me to give love. He would want me to engage in the life before me.
I never wanted to know the lack of understanding—all the “at least”s and “just”s that people throw around with the best of intentions: “Well, he was just a baby,” or “At least he is no longer in pain,” or “He was sick, so…” I just wish they could understand that any amount of sickness, trial or pain didn’t make him more or less of my child. He was mine. He is mine. There is no “at least” or “just.” Period.
I never wanted to know. I never wanted to understand. I never wanted to empathize or be able to look in the eyes of another grieving mother and tell her that she will never be alone. That I’m beside her. That I get her.
I never, ever, wanted any of that.
But unfortunately, I know. I know all too well. And I know that I’m not alone. I know that 1 in 4 women will experience pregnancy or infant loss. I know that 1 in 4 women will go through hell. I know that 1 in 4 women will be broken and shattered, because the child they lose isn’t a just a bump in their road—it’s a part of them, gone.
I know. And so do far too many others.