Thursday, February 07, 2008

We're not so different

I can't believe Thomas' third birthday is coming up so fast. More than that, I can't believe he'd be three. Three already.

It was so easy to keep track of what exactly I was mourning when he'd just died because I knew what I was missing in a very tangible sense. I'd just seen him. Held him. Kissed him.

But now? Now I'm mourning for a three-year old I've never seen as well as my little baby. And I've already mourned for the one-year old and two-year old he would have been.

I didn't realize, in those dark, early days, how the mourning would change. I was so fixated on losing that beautiful little baby boy with his Daddy's chin that it didn't occur to me, at least right away, that I'd be mourning so much more than that, on and on and on for the rest of my life.

It's a fact I'm now acutely aware of, particularly as each birthday approaches.

I watch other children his age and see what I'm missing. I see the ghost of my child in them.

I sometimes wonder if it's healthy to think this way - to think so much about what Thomas would be like now and to feel the loss of that boy as well as the baby I did know.

But since this is the only way I know how to mourn a dead child (and as far as I know there's no manual for dealing with maternal grief), I'm just going to run with it. To do otherwise feels like I'd somehow be leaving him behind - and denying the mourning process that feels right and natural to me.

I don't dwell on it, the boy he'd be now, but it crosses my mind. How can it not? How can I see a child Thomas' age and not think about what he'd be like? How can it not make me miss him more? Or, at the very least, wonder about what might have been?

I can't help it. Maybe it's a mother thing. Maybe you are always this connected to your children, living or dead.

I find it interesting that no one blinks an eye when mothers of living children are consumed by thoughts of their children - of their daily doings, their accomplishments, their achievements, their triumphs and failures - but people furrow their brows and worry when the mother of a dead baby admits she thinks about her lost child.

I have yet to meet a mother - any mother - who can "let go" of her children.

We're not so different. We're not.

10 comments:

Denise said...

The one we lost before Matthew would have been three at about the same time as Thomas. I remember I got my BFP about two days after you. I still 'celebrate' birthdays and think about the 'what ifs'. I think it is normal. It's a way of staying connected and honouring their spirits. (((hugs)))

Kim said...

There is a sweet couple in our church who, 26 years ago, lost a baby girl at 24 weeks gestation. We were discussing this little girl (whose name is Kristin, by the way!) with her mom a couple of months ago - because she loves to talk about her - and just talking about how old she'd be, etc. And something the mom said made me realize that she's doing exactly what you are doing. She mentioned another girl in our church who was born around the same time as her Kristin, and just mentioned that she'd be the same age. She's had to watch this girl grow up, and recently get married, knowing that her Kristin would have been that age, going through those stages.

So I think you're right on the norm, I guess is what I am trying to say.

Also - she is always very adamant to say that she has three children, not just two. I have always thought that was so precious and so special - it made their daughter real to me. I always thought we would have been friends.

Monica said...

I go to babycenter.com and click on what age Jimmy would be all the time. I read what milestones he'd be reaching. Sometimes, when I really want to feel like crap I'll get on the bulletin board and read some of the posts from the mothers. Some of the women I even recognize as women who posted while I was still pregnant with Jimmy. You are right, we are mourning two things. The baby we lost and the person he would have become.

And you are right, we are mothers and as such we will mother our children. It just doesn't look the same as mothers of living children.

Teresa said...

I think 'we' will always mourn the loss of a child, no matter how long the life. I think it's normal to wonder 'what if' and what they would be like now, or who they would become in the future.

Julia said...

I bet you have heard mothers of living children say something like "I can't believe s/he is X years old already." Not so different indeed.

delphi said...

I just had this conversation on Thursday. I think that, if there were a manual on maternal grief, there would be a section dealing with the ongoing "ghost" milestones we watch go by.

Three years is an unbelievable amount of time. Eternity and a second all rolled into one.

Angela said...

I have yet to meet a mother - any mother - who can "let go" of her children.

It was really nice to hear someone else say that. Thanks.

loribeth said...

"I find it interesting that no one blinks an eye when mothers of living children are consumed by thoughts of their children - of their daily doings, their accomplishments, their achievements, their triumphs and failures - but people furrow their brows and worry when the mother of a dead baby admits she thinks about her lost child."

You make an EXCELLENT point here!! Part of me still thinks of Katie as a baby, but part of me also wonders about the 9-year-old that she'd have been. The little girl next door is six months younger & serves as my "yardstick," although she looks nothing like my daughter would have. (((hugs)))

niobe said...

Hmmmm....this post makes me a little worried that I am different. Which is a kind of persistent undercurrent to my thoughts.

I certainly understand your feelings. Sometimes, however, I don't understand my own.

B said...

I think I did "let go". We had a ceremony at Maya's grave with a few friends in which I said the words " I give you into God's keeping"..... which was a painful and difficult thing to do. I wrestled with it for a long time before.... but it was the best thing I could think to do as her mum..... to give her care to someone who went beyond this world.....

which is not to say I don't do the comparison thing. I do it all the time.

Becoming a mother changes you for ever whether your child is living or dead.

I am sorry you are facing three years. May there be some sweetness and gentleness in this time of remembering your dear son Thomas. Know that we know you are a mom inside and out, upside and down.

We are a witness to your love and pain. And to your family- mum, dad and all the little lives that have come from that love.

if you read this Niobe - please share some more about how you are different. (if you want) i feel for your sorrow and aloneness.