I was holding another friend’s year-and-a-half-old daughter following a church service one day when a seventies-something friend approached me. She leaned in close then whispered in my ear, “Wouldn’t you just love to have one of those?” Bull’s eye! I gasped for breath. My whole body felt skewered, bloody, weak. Physically sick.
I’m certain—God, I hope—it was a mere slip of the brain and lips; that she never would have uttered those words had she remembered. Aftershocks reverberated like knife pricks to my heart’s core as I smiled weakly, lowered the toddler to the floor, shrugged indifferently and replied, “Oh…I don’t know.” It was a defensive tactic, a fake ambivalent demeanor I resorted to when I teetered dangerously close to losing control. Otherwise I risked dissolving before her eyes into a heap of sobbing, quivering flesh.
Ten months after our loss, a friend brought her beautiful two-week-old baby girl to Sunday service. Naturally the baby drew the attention of everyone in our small congregation, from children to seniors. I briefly admired her soft, delicate beauty from a relatively safe distance and congratulated my friend.
Then she stunned me. “Do you want to hold her?” she asked. I momentarily gaped at her. Retreating quickly, I waved my hand and choked on my words, “I can’t…I just can’t.” Then I pivoted to flee the throng of happy onlookers. My feet didn’t stop moving until my slumping against our car stopped them.
Nowhere could I retreat to hide from it. Within days of our loss, my favorite television anchorwoman beamed radiantly through the airwaves from her hospital bed—holding her newborn infant daughter. My mind flooded with questions—jealous, accusative thoughts—about whether she knew how precious that miraculous gift was lying in her lap. Disgust rattled me as I envisioned her taking a standard six weeks maternity leave then returning to work, leaving someone else to raise her precious infant. Don’t you know what you’ve been given? I wanted to yell at the screen. How can you just pass off that beautiful miracle into someone else’s arms so soon after birth, especially by choice? I wanted to pound the couch and holler, You don’t deserve her! (Your thoughts and heart can get pretty ugly when mired in despondency.)
To further complicate my grief and stall my healing, four friends expected children around the time of Victoria’s original, August due date. My anxiety elevated as the date neared, then passed, and one-by-one, announcements arrived in my mail. As they each celebrated safe deliveries and new additions, envy and disabling sadness pried open my still-healing wound. Two out of three had boys, giving them their “perfect” families: one of each—a boy and a girl. A complete set.
One friend, however, didn’t mail us an announcement of her daughter’s birth. I really did want to know how everything went, and when the baby arrived, but my heart was secretly thankful it had escaped another assault. It was almost a full year before I gathered enough mental strength to shop for baby gifts.
Would it ever be my turn again…?
NEXT WEEK: Stupid Comments That Make a Grieving Parent’s Heart Bleed
Until next week.
Thanks for joining me!