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Parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: come here to share the technicolour, the vividness, the despair, the heart-broken-open, the compassion we learn for others, having been through this mess — and see it reflected back at you, acknowledged and understood.

Thanks to photographer Xin Li and to artist Stephanie Sicore for their respective illustrations and photos.

for one and all > How do you do this?

My sweet boy has been gone for almost six weeks. Just when I think I'm coping I fall apart. I have two children that need me but currently I'm sitting and crying on the floor of what is a playroom that should have been the baby's room. I see pregnant women and pregnancy announcements and my heart breaks all over again. My baby was healthy until he wasn't. Why couldn't he stay? He didn't even have a chance. I never bled. I didn't know anything was wrong. He should be here. My house feels so empty. I feel so empty. Our whole life was changing in the most wonderful way. To go from two kids to three. It was my dream. I never knew you could feel this sad, that you could feel this lonely. I want to scream at the moms posting pictures of their baby rooms on social media. Don't do it. Don't put up the crib. You may not get to bring the baby home. They will never sleep there and you'll have to watch your husband crying as he takes it down and it hurts too much. Sometimes I feel like I'm making it and then I see it hear about babies coming home from the hospital and it's just a twist of the knife to my heart. I see people or have heard their stories since this has happened to my family that have lost their babies to being still born and I just want to ask them one question. How do you live? Specifically, how do you live when your baby has died? I was so happy. Every part of my pregnancy was a reminder of the joy that would be coming into our lives. I can't talk to God. I've tried. I'm a Christian but I've never felt more alone and without hope. In my heart I know that somewhere there is still a relationship with God but where is He? Why did He do this to me?
June 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterErin
Erin, I'm so very sorry for the loss of your son. This isn't something that is processed in mere weeks, it's a lifetime of trying to "come to terms" with life as it has turned out, as opposed to how we had so hoped and dreamed. My daughter, Evelyn has been gone from this life for just over 10 months now and I wish I could tell you that it'll get easier, but I can't. I can only say that it'll get different. There is a softening, over time. The grief doesn't feel as raw all of the time like it did those first few horrible weeks and months. But I can't say it softens completely because there are triggers and horribly hard days that can reduce me to a puddle of grief. The numbness and shock subside some with time, too but again, they can return with a vengeance. We're not ever immune from the hand-holds of grief. And I HATE that. I hate knowing that life as we knew it is over. That life as we'd prepared ourselves for is no longer an option. I can so relate to feeling anger and envy at other people's perceived naivete with sharing their growing bellies and the nursery...because we know that life can turn on you, and that things don't always work out like they should. The very worst of things is possible, whether we like to admit it or not. Most people can avoid thinking that something as horrific as this can really happen but we know better. And it's so alienating and isolating to feel like no one else knows that, too.

It took my husband and I 8 years of many, many infertility treatments to conceive our Evelyn, who died last August. She was born prematurely (no risk factors, just piss-poor, horrible "luck") and lived for just under 9 hours. I still can't talk to God, 10 months later. Neither can my husband. We went to church every Sunday, never missed, and we were the happiest we'd ever been. WHY did this happen to us? Miracles aren't supposed to die and yet ours did. The rage I feel about that makes it impossible for me to communicate with God. But I think I'm coming around to realizing that He didn't do this. And this is something that has helped me arrive at that conclusion: a colleague of my husband's lost an adult child in a freak biking accident. After their child's death, his wife was talking about their daughter to another friend, who asked, "Aren't you angry at God? Where was He when she got hit by that car?" And his wife replied, "I believe He was there to catch her before she hit the ground, and I know He is crying, too." I keep thinking about that. I keep trying to imagine God crying with me, because my daughter couldn't be saved and He knows how much we wanted her, how much we so desperately wished for another miracle that would somehow spare her life and spare us this terrible heartache. Maybe, in time, this story will help you too.

Be gentle with yourself, Erin. This is the most terrible, horrifying of realities. To lose a child, there is just nothing worse. Allow yourself to feel what you need to feel, when you need to feel it. Seek counseling, if you feel it would help. We started seeing a therapist who specializes in bereavement about a week after Evelyn's passing and we still see her every other week to this day. I am grateful for her guidance. Find your people and hold on tight. Write here on Glow whenever you feel you need to; we're here and we'll always listen and empathize. I wish I could reach through this screen and give you the biggest of hugs. Love to you and your son <3
June 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
Erin,

I'm so very sorry.

As someone who had a major faith crisis amidst my daughter's death, I can attest to how it adds additional aspects of grief. Instead of simply having bad luck, we search for more...taught by other christians that in all of life's circumstances, there is a built-in plan, meaning, reason, and God is still good.

Initially, I simply needed to survive, but I still felt the pressure of the Christian message through reasons friends gave (it's the devil intervening, God knew you couldn't handle 3, its because of the fall of man with Adam and Eve's sin), and then the take on how I should feel (be okay with this because she's in the best place now, all she knew was love, God has mysterious ways, this will be redeemed revealing a perfect plan).

All of that felt like complete hogwash and still does. It makes sense for one to believe when you live a life that fits into the theological framework you subscribe to. When your life falls apart (and for me, with Agnes dying of birth defects, the downfall of my literal belief in "fearfully and wonderfully made").

So after some time, the BIG question of "why, God?" creeped in and would not let up, but no answers filled my questions as I followed them down the rabbit hole, and I could no longer go to church. I could no longer pray, as I realized my prayers had been entirely about the safety of my children and they hadn't worked. Some would say I am missing x, y, or z. That I just need to find it, find my way back, to accepting the mystery, to God dictating events for my good (or not being involved in the bad, or also causing the bad as he did often in the OT and some would say still does, for our character, to cause us to need him more)...

Here is how I make peace and only how I make peace. My daughter died because something went wrong. Biology makes mistakes, Mother Nature can be a bitch. I had a plan hoping and believing that plan would come to fruition- that I would welcome my 3rd and final child home- but biology happened, and it is not personal.

Believing in God, for me, makes it personal. And although I miss my faith, and wish I could lean into it with poetic language and emotional dependence, I don't know how to. For a long time I was afraid she was in heaven and now I wouldn't be. But I am not able to put myself back into a religion that makes sense of the world and finds God in things like dead babies. Also, he caused them in the Bible, and I just couldn't get over that. Stripping away Job's children, killing the Egyptian first born.

I don't mean to sway you to think the way I have. I wish I could feel the way the cards and Christian grief books and other christians told me to. But I never personally felt God's comfort, and have opened myself up to more than my religion offers.

My point of responding is that you seem to be struggling with faith, and there aren't many willing to be honest about that on the other side, those who are not satisfied with a pat answer and acceptance of what they cannot know. For me, nothing made sense anymore. I no longer saw women with babies being "blessed" anymore than I believed myself to be cursed. Pregnancy, birth, can happen without issue to many who cannot provide or seek termination, and it cannot happen to those most equipped and ready.

I'm so sorry you're struggling with this alongside your loss. I get it, 100 times over. If I go down the little girls decor area at Hobby Lobby, I get so angry about the simplistic way they view babies as direct presents from God. What was mine?
June 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterElaina
Melissa,

Such truth in your words. In reference to the story about the daughter's bike accident, I think her mother has found a way to make peace with it as best she can. Eventually, don't you think we all search for a way to make something terrible livable? She's found a way to authentically still believe in God. Anyway, thanks for your words, and good luck to you on your own path. 💜 I wish you and Erin much light as you process the unknown and unchartered.
June 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterElaina
Elaina,
Thank you so much for your words. You experience mirrors my own. I had been an avid churchgoer for years although I did have doubts from time to time. The death of my son shattered my faith. It made it so I can no longer attend services. I don't want to hear about the blessings and miracles people believe God is working in their lives, often over trivial things.
June 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMom2htb
Mom2htb,

Thank you. I also just can't.

Xo.
June 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterElaina
Erin, I'm so sorry for the loss of your son. Your experience sounds much like my own - 2 living children the (not nursery) playroom, and so on. I'm almost 16 months out, and I don't really have an answer for your first question "how do you do this?" Somehow you just do - and you will find a way that works for you. Your post made me think about something Kate posted several months ago, "If there is a god, she is Time. She passes. She is the only interventionist, and she works on an exquisitely fine scale. You feel abandoned by her until the point you realize that she has been doing her work all along."
As for your other questions about God, I can say at 16 months out, I'm not talking to God. Like Elaina, I used to just pray for the safety of my family and say thank you. I had such a grateful heart for my pregnancy and the son I thought we'd get to keep. But losing our baby changed everything - including what I thought about God and how he works. I still feel grateful for many, many things, and I can keep a grateful heart in thinking about God, but I can't talk to him yet. I don't know what I'd say - except maybe, "You're not at all who I thought you were, and that's not your fault-it's mine." I thought things that I can no longer accept as true.

Elaina, thank you for your response here. The piece you wrote on Faith in 2015 is one of the pieces on Glow that I've read many times. And what you say here, "But I am not able to put myself back into a religion that makes sense of the world and finds God in things like dead babies" is exactly how I feel.

I do feel like books like "When Good Things Happen to Bad People" and "Here If You Need Me" (which I read years before our loss) offer a version of God I feel comfortable with, or at least a place to start when I think about God now.

Erin, Elaina, and Mom2htb - I'll be holding you in my thoughts tonight.
Maeve, Will, and Jacob's mom,

I'm so glad you wrote. Yes, 2015, fresh out of my loss and the beginning of my journey out of the bubble I had come to believe as truth, and real, and given to me. All my life, people told me how to think about God, and I had my ideas about God fine-tuned into a set theology and a set denomination. But nothing ever happened to make me truly think deeply, and once it did the words just seemed like words, and church felt hurtful. I wish I could say I felt peace, comfort, or some sort of message back. I just never did. And now it all seems quite silly.

I have no doubt there are those that come to Glow and hold a valued relationship with God, and I am sure there are others from different religions other than Christianity, and those who find spirituality outside of religion. I mean them no disrespect. This is just my experience and my journey. And at least where I come from, nobody talks much about questions. Nobody expresses doubt, and nobody thinks too deeply into the unknowable. It is refreshing to know I am not the only one who didn't come out with a strengthened faith.

Peace and love.
June 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterElaina
Here is my view on 'God', and it comes in the form of a joke, an actual joke.

I prayed for a bike
I didn't get a bike
So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness

I've never been religiou and after my baby died I've felt that Budhism is the closest path I can take, mentally.
So many people thank god when they have a healthy baby, yet when mine died I copped a few people tell me that God didn't take you child, a sickness did?! So pretty much God doesn't make your children live to see another day, their health does?

I'm sorry if I offend anyone, whatever gets you through.
June 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnon
Erin, and all of the other baby lost mothers and fathers, my heart breaks for all of us in our loss. Although I am one place removed from your loss (I am a grandmother, not a mom) my grief is still deep. I am sorry that in addition to grappling with the loss of your babies you also find yourselves grappling with the loss of your faith. My experience has been different. I have had to dig deep and ask myself if I really believe what I thought I believed. Perhaps the recent deaths of my parents and mother-in-law gave me a better preparation for baby A's death. I understand that confronting some of those deep questions and feeling that we are not receiving answers or comfort can be devastating. But I would hope that you would leave that window open. Perhaps in the coming days, weeks, months, and years you may yet feel that solace in your faith. In the months after her fatal diagnosis and before her birth I spent a lot of time crying and praying and ranting and accusing and bargaining with God. In fact I joke that my couch has seen so much water I am amazed it is not growing mushrooms. But in the depth of all of that searching I have come to a place where I understand that the "why" only leads to dead ends, and I have had to make the conscious decision to put aside some of the "why" questions because for me, living with faith - even with unanswered questions - is more comforting, hopeful, and peaceful, than living without. My faith tells me that we will see our sweet babies again, and that hope is enough for the dark days and darker nights. May you all find peace and hope in your own dark days and even darker nights. HUGS and prayers for your comfort and peace.
June 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterC
C,

I hear what you're saying about choosing to have faith along with unanswered questions. I think people either move towards previously held beliefs or away from them during major life events, and I think either way it's okay.

I'm interested to hear how you made peace with a fatal diagnosis on a spiritual level? When a baby is going to die outside the womb, how do you fit God into that, specifically? I am not looking for anything other than your personal opinion, if you want to share. I don't see it, myself.
June 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterElaina
(Im asking because our baby died of a fatal diagnosis like your grand baby). I'm so sorry for your loss.
June 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterElaina
Elaina, your sincere question about how I make spiritual peace with a fatal diagnosis, how I fit God into that has really caused me to think deeply. I understand the shock, horror, grief that is attached to that day the doctors say there is really nothing they can do for our babies, that their condition is incompatible with life outside the womb. How is it possible that this infant, who seems so strong and kicks so powerfully and consistently, who makes her presence known so often, will die when the connecting link between mom and baby is lost at birth? There are no words for that grief. My son and daughter-in-law decided early that if the only time they had with Alyssa was these few months they would try to frame each experience, each kick, each hiccup with the lense of faith and love. But of course even with their and our faith we cried every day. Every night was long and painful and dark. And that was even with our deep faith in Heavenly Father and his love for us and our baby. I cannot even begin to understand the depth of pain for those who do not have that faith. My heart hurts for you and I cry for your hopelessness and emptiness, your empty hearts and your empty arms.

To even begin to explain how I make spiritual peace with God in this I have to first explain a little bit about our faith. We believe that our life did not begin with our conception or birth - that we lived as a spirit child of God in heaven before we received a physical body, and that our life does not end after death, that our spiritual body will return to God and our family who have passed away to wait for a future day when our spirit and body will be reunited as a resurrected being and we will live together in eternity with our family. That faith sustains us in the partings, with the hope that it will be for a brief time, and that our baby is with her great grandparents, her uncle and aunt, and others who know her and love her. We believe that every life, however long or short, however imperfect the body, is sacred. We believe that families can be united forever because of and through Jesus Christ.

We believe in a Heavenly Father who loves all of his children. Who created the earth as a place where we could come to receive bodies, live together in families, and hopefully choose righteousness, and bless the lives of those around us. While some see God as the source of their pain and hurt - as the reason for wars, and disease, storms and hate, I see God as the source of love, strength in the disease, peace, and hope. I believe that wars and hate are when we choose not to follow God. And that disease and death is a natural part of life in this imperfect world, not as a punishment for sin. One of the stories in the New Testament that teaches me that God is a God of love and compassion is when Lazarus died, and Jesus Christ, knowing he had the power to raise him from the dead, seeing the pain of Martha and Mary - Lazarus' sisters, wept. Imagine that - the God of the heavens and earth wept for their pain! His compassion and his love for their loss has spiritually strengthened me. I know he wept for our family. I know he wept for your family.

I do not know the reason some babies are saved. I do not know the reason some babies are not. I do not know the reason some miracles come and some do not. The experience of her birth and death is a hard hard hard thing for us, even with our faith, but our peace is in the little miracles we witnessed during the pregnancy and after, and the hope we will see her again. In fact, her middle name is Ki' i mana, which is Tongan for little miracle. I make peace with Heavenly Father when I acknowledge those little miracles in our life with Alyssa. I see God in the people who enveloped our son and daughter-in-law with love in those dark dark days: the nurse at the doctor's office who, every single appointment, would wrap her in a deep hug and whisper in her ear that she was an amazing mom and was carrying an amazing baby. The dear friend who handcrafted a beautiful hand carved little casket - with the initials of each of the children and the words that families are forever to hold our baby until that day of resurrection. The doctors who cried with them. The neighbors who brought meals, and hugs, and tears, and love. The unknown person (perhaps the woodworker friend?) who anonymously left a hand carved Noah's ark and animals, with the reminder of what the rainbow stands for. The college students in their town, who, upon learning about their baby tried to brighten their Christmas by donating gifts for the other children. I saw God in the funeral home workers who lovingly cared for her sweet body who do not ever charge for baby funerals, and in dozens of other people and their love and light and compassion.

But even with those reminders I have had some honest hard talks with Him. I have ranted, I have raged, I have cried, I have pleaded, I have begged, and I have sometimes ignored and given Him the silent treatment. Because I learned in my experience that faith and doubt can sometimes live together. What I found is that He is strong enough for my grief, and that in my sorrow and in my grief, in my hurt and in my sadness, even when I do not always feel His presence, I know that because I felt it before I will feel it again. And in that I find spiritual peace and hope. Even in a fatal diagnosis. Fatal, but not hopeless.
June 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterC
C,

Thank you for sharing and taking the time to think and process and reflect. It was a sincere question- I find myself interested in how others handle their loss. It seems to me, everyone has a personal way of coping. While I don't subscribe to your beliefs, I don't feel hopeless. Even if the only time I got was the time I did, even if I don't have an eternal life with her, even if she happened to be because something went wrong and nothing more, I still wake up each day and keep going. It is interesting to me how some choose dependence on a faith and some choose something else. While someone of faith would find this sad, I feel as though I've chosen myself. I am glad you have your family, faith, and the certitude that brings you.
June 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterElaina
I'm so sorry to hijack the thread with my own questions, OP. Please forgive me and thank you for the discussion, I genuinely love to hear others thoughts on God, or no God, while they process a great loss. Mine have changed drastically and at times I feel alone in that.
June 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterElaina
I began this post last Monday and I am truly thankful for all the people who took time to respond. All the thoughts and questions have made me feel a tiny bit less alone in how I am feeling. It has been six weeks and four days since I first said hello and goodbye to my son. It has been seven weeks since his funeral. This pain and sadness has been the worst I've ever felt or faced. I think that's why I'm struggling with my relationship with God. I grew up in church. I believe in His death and resurrection for my salvation. My husband and I even took our two children to VBS last night because I want them to know Him. The whole time I'm hoping that people don't think "She's fine or she must be doing ok" because I'm not. I'm not ok. I'll never have the life I once knew, the life without this devasting heart break and I'm not ok. But I never want my kids to know this heart breaking questioning that I am dealing with. I want to pray but every time I try I am scared. I'm scared because I think of the prayer that I prayed on the way to the hospital begging for my son to be ok when his heart had already stopped and his life was gone. I think of the prayers every night I prayed with his brother and sister for him to healthy and safe. I question why I am praying when things are already decided. How much do my prayers move the heart of God? I want my relationship with God. I want to believe He cares and that there is a reason that I feel so hopeless but I'm afraid that's it's just my human reasoning looking for an answer for my broken heart. I envy people now that never have this crisis of faith, BUT in all of this even though I can't talk to Him right now in the way that I used to, I KNOW in my heart that HE is still there (somewhere) and that Jesus is big enough and powerful enough to withstand my doubts and my fears and my questions, that He is still my Savior when my life is going well or when I am literally in the valley of the shadow. All I have is hope and sometimes I don't even have much of that.
June 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterErin
A few weeks after I lost my baby, someone I know on facebook liked or commented on a Christian radio show where the host and his wife had just lost their baby at 37 weeks. I listened to the show and the host directed people to his wife's instagram: @jessicalatshaw. Every day she has been posting about her journey through this hell and I've found it fairly compelling. Some of you may be interested in looking at it as well, since she does talk a lot about her faith and God. I'm an atheist, but I've found it interesting just the same and I thought it might be of interest or help to some of you who are understandably struggling with your faith in this time.
June 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSR