Thursday, January 13, 2011

Another Mother

When David started his new job this year, he reported back that one of the teachers at his school was pregnant and due the same day as me.  A few weeks later, we found out we both were having baby girls.  What a coincidence, right?

After Eliza died and David went back to work, he came home and told me how hard it was for him to see this teacher.  She's about the same height and build as me, and also brunette, and he said that seeing her was just a reminder of how I was supposed to look (you know, fat and happy, not shrunken and hollow-eyed and in need of a shower).  He said he could hardly look at her.

I only met her once, when David was giving me a tour of his school back in August.  We made brief smalltalk about our due dates.  But I would ask David about her from time to time (mostly questions like "Is she as big as I am?  Because I feel huge.  Do you think I'm weirdly, abnormally huge?  Or would you say she's about the same size as me?").  Later, I thought about her having her baby girl the same day I should have had my baby girl, and I wished so desperately to be in her position--happy, safe, relieved. 

On December 23rd, David and I had our first meeting with a grief therapist.  David had gotten a voicemail from the principal of his school and so he asked if I felt up to driving so he could call her back.  As I drove, I could only hear David's side of the conversation.

"Hi, Angela.  What's up?"
*short pause*
"Yeah, well, we're doing okay."
*longer pause*
"Oh my God.  Oh, no."
"Oh my God.  Do they know what happened?"
"That's terrible.  Terrible, terrible, terrible."

There was already a pit of grief in my stomach, but a pit of dread managed to open up beside it.  When David got off the phone, he didn't say anything right away, he just looked at me.  I had to ask him what happened.

And would you fucking believe it.  That teacher lost her baby, too.

An umbilical cord accident.  At a regular check up, her baby no longer had a heartbeat.  She had to be induced and had to deliver her daughter at 36 weeks.  Stillborn.  On Christmas Eve.  The baby girl who should have shared Eliza's due date.  Another baby girl who was so wanted and so loved.

"This world is a terrible place," David said to himself.  And then, to me, "Do you need me to drive?"

I shook my head.  It was unbelievable.  But I could keep driving.  As long as I kept driving, I could keep from flying apart. 

In those moments, I felt my own grief move over a bit.  It felt like a physical shift inside my guts, making space next to my own pain to feel so desperately sorry for someone besides myself, someone I'd met in real life.

I'd read stories online--far, far too many of them--about other women whose babies died.  But this was someone we knew, someone I'd talked to, someone who hadn't been there before me, someone who was going through exactly what I'd gone through just two weeks ago.

My grief made space for a sympathetic ache and it was not one bit more comfortable than the nauseated feeling I'd had before.

In the few days after hearing that news, it was harder to bear than I would have thought, given what we'd already endured.  After finding out about her loss, I felt like I was reliving my own.  Those hours at the hospital, that initial shock, the sympathetic expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, the agony of contractions, the unreal moments when I thought somehow everything could still change and go back to normal, the feeling that I truly, truly wanted to die and that my heart would just have to stop beating because surely no one could feel like this and go on living--I felt all of it again, just as vividly as the first time.

Knowing that someone else's heart was breaking did not stop mine from doing it all over again--for her, for me, for both of our babies.

I am in no position to be a guide in this ridiculous business of baby loss.  I am still drowning in my own self-pity, I still haven't hit the bottom of my own bottomless well of grief.  But Liam's mother put out her hand to me and so as Eliza's mother, I reach out to this other mother.  How could I not?

I helped David write a letter.  I mailed her my copy of An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination.  A few days later, I sent her an e-mail.

I don't know this other mother personally, but I know that she loved her daughter and that she deserves to have that baby here with her.

I don't know why we were connected by due dates and now we are connected by baby loss.  I don't know why our babies are gone.  I'm neck deep in the same suffocating grief she's feeling and I still don't know what to say to her.

I can only hope that she is overwhelmed by love and support, as we have been, and that even when the sympathy cards stop coming and the "Thinking of you" texts become fewer and farther between, that she will somehow know that I am always and forever remembering her baby girl as I remember mine.


  1. My heart is aching along with yours...I think it is amazing that you have found the strength to reach out to her. I hope that I could do the same if I were to experience something similar. I have a hard enough time with my own grief. Hugs to you and your husband!

  2. You've done a lovely thing. I remember how much it meant to me when other baby loss moms reached out to me in those early days.

  3. :( this is such a terrible world we now live it - the world of baby loss is a place that none of us should ever be. it's so hard to go through it, and it's so hard to watch others go through it, especially if you know the person at all. i think it's so nice of you to reach out to her even though you are in the midst of your own grief. i have found other BLMs are the most compassionate people in the world. i think it's because we have all had our hearts ripped out, and hate that someone else is experiencing the same pain. i'm sure she will appreciate you reaching out. i hope she is overwhelmed by love and support too.

  4. My heart breaks for both you. Sending you virtual love and support.

  5. is awful to think how often this type of loss occurs. I'm sure she is thankful for the support she is and will receive from you guys in the future. It is a commonality none of us would ever choose to be a part of, but one that requires we reach out to each other in the depths of grief as others did for us in the midst of our losses. Sending thoughts to their family and hope that they feel surrounded by an immense amount of support and love.

  6. It's so terrible, Brooke, such a terrible coincidence and such a terrible terrible hand to be dealt.

    I remember in the first few weeks that I was so supported by close friends and family that the "friends of friends who had been through this" didn't necessarily feel like people I needed to be contact with. As time spaced out though, I desperately craved connection with mothers in my shoes...and those who did repeated check-ins with me even after being met by silence on my end were the godsends.

    much love to you, and remember eliza today and every day...

  7. Oh, that's so sad. :( Even now, years after my daughter's stillbirth, I am terrified for every pregnant woman that I know, until I hear that their baby has arrived safely. They may not be afraid, but I'm afraid for them. It's hard feeling alone but it's also hard to know that someone else is suffering the same way as you.

  8. it's so wrong that this could happen. so wrong.

    i don't know if i could have held out my hand to someone who had suffered a similar loss to me so quickly afterwards. i'm in awe that you have done so much for her, even though it might not feel like much.

    thinking of you, and thinking of the other mother. and being glad that sweetsalty kate held her hand out to you.

  9. You don't need to know what to say. You know how to *be*.

    That is more than enough. xo