Trigger warning: child loss
With October 1st kicking off Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I expected to get on social media that morning and see several child loss advocacy posts from both my friends and support groups alike. I’d even considered what I might say as a testament of my own experiences the night before. But instead of the usual “if-tears-could-build-a-staircase” quotes, the first thing to catch my attention was an article reading: Chrissy Teigen and John Legend Lose Baby After Pregnancy Complications.
As I began to read the article, looking through the black and white photos along the way, I read that Chrissy and John named their sweet boy Jack. “We never decide on our babies’ names until the last possible moment after they’re born, just before we leave the hospital,” Teigen said in a tweet. “But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us.”
— chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) October 1, 2020
I was sitting on the cold steps of my back porch when I read this. It was early morning, the sun wasn’t quite out, and my kids were still sleeping. So in the stillness of that moment, I paused, thought of the Teigen-Legend family, and said their new family member’s name aloud softly. Jack.
I have to feel that bereaved parents share an unspoken connection, one that pushes us to do for one another as we would want done for ourselves and our own deceased children. A grieving parent’s biggest fear is that their child will someday be forgotten. That this world will become too uncomfortable with the subject of their brief life and avoid the “topic” (that topic being their child) all together.
I know that there is nothing I can do to make a bereaved parent’s pain any better, but at the very least, I can say their child’s name.
So, I did.
If I could sit down with Chrissy right now, one loss mom to another, I wouldn’t praise her for her strength. I wouldn’t tell her that everything happens for a reason, or even that everything is going to be okay.
I would simply tell her that I am so, so sorry. I’d say, it’s okay to not be okay. I’d remind her that she has every right to sulk in this sorrow, scream into a pillow, and ask, why me? repeatedly.
I would tell her that she didn’t deserve this. I might say that I don’t know why bad things happen to good people, and how I wish so badly that there was some magic potion out there that could put a stop to this pain.
Driving home from the hospital with no baby. How can this be real.
— chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) October 1, 2020
Not only did I see the beautiful photos she posted, but I’d tell her that I felt like I could hear them too. The wails of a mother whose child has died is not a sound that easily escapes its victim. I’d tell her that the tears I shed are just as thick and familiar as the ones falling from her cheeks — that they are the unasked-for badge of a newly bereaved mother, and it shows itself all over our face.
If I could talk to Chrissy, I’d tell her about my first few days of wearing that badge. The ones where my breasts were so full with no baby to feed, so I pumped and dumped over the kitchen sink in agony. I might say, if this happens to you, it’s alright to cry over spilled milk, too.
I’d tell her to share these heartaches in the upcoming weeks, months, and years ahead as much or as little as she wants. And I’d express my gratitude for her honesty. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s influencing entire bereaved communities to shine light on the losses society has told them to tuck away.
I would tell her that people have big opinions about lives they’d never lived. And I’d remind her that there is no one on this earth who could ever mother her deceased child like she can.
I would tell her that she will find her smile again, and there will come a day where she doesn’t feel guilty for it either. I’d tell her that, though this world may feel darker without her sweet boy, a time will arise where she’s once again able to find the bright, sweet spots in this up and down ride called life.
I’d tell her about the band of grieving moms who can become like sisters if she’ll let them, the ones who will still see her as a mother of three while she parents two.
And after some time, I’d tell her all about how beautiful it can be to watch your grief and joy coexist.
I don’t know Chrissy. I don’t know John, either. Their loss isn’t of more importance to me because they are celebrities. Their loss matters to me because I intimately know what it’s like to feel that dark, heavy suffering. I know what it’s like to be so new in your grief that everything good left in this world feels so out of place. I know what it’s like to come home from the hospital empty handed with only the footprints of your baby, unable to look at your baby’s belongings without your heart throbbing.
These are the things I want to tell Chrissy. But if I was beside her right now, truth be told, I might not say much of anything — I’d probably just listen to what she needed to say.