Surviving the Death of our First Child

When my infant son was accidentally killed by our baby nurse, our friends and family gathered around to offer support, love and to lend us their strength as best they could.

We got books I didn’t read like When Bad Things Happen to Good People.

We went to bereavement groups where I felt like an intruder on strangers’ grief.   Compassionate Friends offered a measure of solace.  Because, in my grief, I wanted to follow my son into his tiny grave, it was helpful to be surrounded by other mothers who felt the same way.

Acquaintances offered words they hoped would soothe.

“God gives us as much as we can handle”

“You will have more children”

“He is an Angel now.”

“Perhaps he avoided a far worse death”

My husband withdrew.

“It’s all chance or luck.  There is no grand scheme.  There is no reason this happened.” He would say softly.

“Join me at Compassionate Friends,” I asked.

“It doesn’t help me,” he said.

I knew I would survive somehow.  I knew I could have more children and I would become a mother again. I knew my husband and I would stay together.  I knew I would stop crying all the time.  I just didn’t know how.

I learned I was strong at his funeral the day after he died.  I watched the small white box being lowered into his tiny grave.  He was wrapped, I knew, in the white blanket I knitted for him during pregnancy.  I had unwittingly spent my pregnancy knitting my baby’s shroud.  I stepped up to the side of his grave and I read a goodbye letter to him.  I heard the weeping around me.  My body shook as if I had become a metronome of pain.  I had no choice.  I had to say goodbye to my child, I was his mother and this was my last act of motherhood for him, telling him I loved him and would miss him.  I never knew that in my first short cycle of motherhood, I would need to bury my child and write and read his eulogy at his grave, only 28 days after giving birth.

This is what I wrote the morning after he died and this is what I said at the side of his grave

My Dearest Baby Sweet Pea,

I have to say goodbye now.  I love you my baby and I always will.  When I held you in my arms, it was my greatest pleasure.

You have left me with a great gift.  I understand the value of life and what’s important in a way I could never get to on my own.

I’ll hold in you in my heart forever.

Sleep well my child, sleep well.

I cry every time I read this.  The pain lives deep within me.  I am the mother of three active teenagers and forever the mother of one infant who died too soon.

Six weeks after Max died, my husband threw himself into work.  He hyper focused.  Four months after Max died, I became pregnant with twin girls.  I cried when I learned they were girls.  I wanted my son back.  Three years later, I was blessed with my second son.

Our marriage survived.  We grieved differently.  We tried to be kind to each other. We carved out the world.  He conquered work, I conquered motherhood.

Aphorism – Bad things do happen to good people

Takeaway – People always ask what to say when someone is grieving.  I advise to listen and share the moment.  If the mourner is laughing, then laugh.  If the mourner is crying, then feel the pain and sadness with her.  If the mourner is reminiscing, then reminisce.

Recipe – Baby Food

Becoming a mother again began the process of healing.  I still feel enormous sorrow, but rarely now.  Cooking for my family has always been a direct way for me to affirm my participation in keeping my children alive.

Peel fresh peaches or pears and cut into chunks.  Steam with a little water until soft and puree.  Nourishing my babies has always brought me great pleasure and joy.


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