“Hey, how are you?”
Your voice sounds happy and cheerful on the phone. You are my gynaecologist. You know our child died in our arms the day before.
I’m trembling. I’m perplexed. Flabbergasted. “This can’t be,” I think to myself.
“Good, considering the fact that yesterday our child died in our arms.”
“You monster,” is what goes through my head. I am angry. I don’t want to feel this way while I am looking at my love cradling our dead baby daughter’s body. I want to protect us from this. I fail yet again.
What you don’t know is that my child means the same to me than your child to you.
“It gets better.”
You speak as if you know. You never lost a child. I have never heard a fellow loss parent say something like this.
“Have you ever lost a child?” I ask.
I don’t want to talk any further.
You want to make predictions about my pain.
You don’t know my pain. You know your pain.
What you don’t understand:
My Sorrow is my Love is my child.
Don’t you ever appropriate my child.
What you don’t understand:
I love my Sorrow.
“I would like to bear your pain for a day”
You seem to sympathise. You’re in ‘empathic mode’. You are the wife of a colleague of my love. You’re a nice person. You made food for us after She had died.
It was delicious. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
You had a lot of difficulty getting pregnant. Eventually it happened.
You talk about it as if that is this. This is not that.
“She means well,” I think to myself.
I answer her “That would mean your child is dead one day and then comes back the next. Our little girl will never come back. “
You seem to be angered and indignant by my suggestion you entertain this thought.
What you don’t understand is that this isn’t one-day-sadness.
This is Sorrow for Life.
“Being a parent is something you have to learn“
You text this to my love. You are his friend’s wife.
“What is she thinking?? Are we not parents just like them?”
I am mad. I feel stabbed through the heart. Anger and sorrow are two phases of the same substance.
“No. This love isn’t about bottles and diapers. That doesn’t make you a mom or a dad. Anyone can do that,” I think to myself.
“We loved our girl long before she was born,” my heart whispers.
“What are you thinking?? You are so wrong,” I answer her angrily.
She doesn’t reply. Never says a word to me. She calls my love’s mother. Twice. She weeps.
She seems to expect the woman who lost her grandchild to comfort her.
I tell her “Leave me and my family alone.”
What you, a young mother of two, don’t seem understand is that you have struck me to my core.
Never deny my motherhood.
Mama is my only name.
“It had to be that way. Everything happens for a reason “
You are my cousin. You are five years older than me. We grew up together, then lost sight of each other and got back in contact during my pregnancy.
You have a kind heart. You have already experienced a lot of shit in your life.
“No, I don’t agree. Why do you say this?”, I ask myself.
“I don’t believe that,” I tell her and I try to end the conversation.
What you don’t understand is that I have neither the luxury nor the energy to have this kind of philosophical discussion.
This is my life. This is my reality.
This isn’t a lesson I had to learn. This wasn’t written before it transpired.
This should not have happened. This. Should. Not. Have. Happened.
I will survive this. But only if I learn to trust Life again.
What you don’t understand is that it will never work if I have to believe in the cruelty of some sort of Cosmic Plan. For me, that’s worse than complete randomness.
“First there’s denial, then the phase of anger follows, next there’ll be sadness …”
You are working. You are our independent midwife. You are young. You are all-knowing.
You might’ve had one class on ‘the impact of perinatal loss on the parents’ and ‘the five stages of mourning’.
“What should you know about that?”, I think, utterly annoyed.
I want you to leave. I want you out of our house.
You say some other shit. Then all of a sudden you pick up your phone to help an even younger colleague who’s assisting a woman in labor. You take this call while you’re sitting on the couch with us.
“Is this really happening?”, I ask my love. “I can’t do this. I’m going to do some ironing in the other room.”
I flee from you in my own house.
Eventually you leave.
When you’re gone, I cry. He holds me.
What you don’t understand is that this kind of ‘help’ doesn’t help, it hurts. What you don’t understand is that you don’t understand. You have to school yourself. And don’t be so f*cking cheerful.
Afterwards I tell you “It stops here. You have done a lot for us during our pregnancy. You can’t help us with this.“
“A child like that isn’t easy either. I can know. It’s better this way.”
You gave birth to a child, a daughter, fifty years ago. You are an acquaintance of my love’s mother.
You say this to her in the supermarket. She tells me about it later.
Your daughter also had a lack of oxygen during labor and birth. Unlike ours, she survived. She is a sweetheart. She is always friendly, kind. I know her from previous summers when we spent our lunch break at the open air pool in our little town. She has a heart of gold.
And she has a mental disability. She can’t live on her own. She’s dependent on you.
“My son and daughter-in-law would’ve chosen Jolien to be like S. without a question,” my love’s mom tells her.
What you don’t understand is that a dead child is much worse than a ‘defective’ child like yours.
No, it mustn’t be easy, having to take care of her your entire life. And you probably worry what will happen to her after you’re gone.
But you have enough money, you’re going to buy a special house for her, and your son is this big shot career man who does extremely well for himself and his family.
We know this because you never miss a chance to brag about your son. Never about your daughter.
You envy us because our child is dead and yours isn’t.
“You don’t deserve your child,” I think.
You disgust me. I hope I never see you again.
I want to give you a smack in the face.
If I ever come across you again I will probably say “hi” and try to get rid of you as soon as possible.
“Better luck next time.”
We went to the same high school. I see you are suffering. You are dazed by the medication. You tell about your psychoses, about your depression. You talk very slowly.
You remind me of my parents, back in the day.
You say you have a daughter, she’s two years old.
What you said hurt me.
I think “Oh well, she doesn’t know any better. She doesn’t know what she’s saying. She can’t empathise. She’s suffering.”
“Yeah…” I steer the conversation in another direction. That’s not so difficult.
What you don’t understand … What you don’t understand …
“Such a pity. Nature can be so cruel. “
You are a nurse in neonatal intensive care. You have been doing this for decades. Maybe a decade or so too long.
During this shift, you are responsible for caring for my daughter.
You say this while you look at her.
I think this is a very strange thing to say. I’m perplexed.
I ask: “Do you know.. do you know our case?”
Just the day before we were told our daughter wouldn’t live.
“Yeah, that’s my job, isn’t it?” You seem to think my question is stupid.
I’m silent. I stare at her.
What you don’t understand is that this is not “a pity“. “A pity“ is a scratch on your new car, a piece of gum on the sole of your shoe. “A pity“ is your freshly bought plant dying because it can’t stand the underfloor heating.
This is not a pity. This is a horrible, pointless, heart-shattering, life-sized tragedy.
“But look at everything you do have.”
“But … but … but …”
What you don’t understand…. What you do not understand…
I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to fight anymore.
My Pain has a right to exist.