I distinctly remember the first time I experienced it… It was the day after our son was born and passed, and I was being discharged from the hospital. As I climbed my broken self into the wheelchair to be wheeled out, I began to feel it. Slowly but surely, it grew stronger, similar to the waves of contractions I had endured just a day ago. With each push closer to the exit and away from the sacred delivery room, every cell in my body was weeping, my lungs burned as they were ignited with some sort of toxic fuel, my heart broken, desperately trying to continue to beat, and as each tear dripped down my cheek, my soul was crying out. Yet, I was silent. The hallways were grey, endless, and the only reason I knew I was alive at that moment was because the feeling was so intense. That was the beginning…
Looking back, and after many counseling sessions and with time to reflect, I have learned that “the feeling” I experienced that day was me crossing my first milestone without him. Up until this point, he was one with me. He was the baby inside my belly, the miracle my husband and I created. Nestled in my womb, with each step I took, he was there. My grief journey had truly begun that day.
Over the last 6 and a half years, “the feeling” has come back time to time. I must admit I have had my share of anxiety and panic attacks too, but “the feeling” is different. In a weird sort of way, “the feeling” is driven by a precious sacred love that has vanished from this physical earth, but is very much alive in the depths of my soul.
I longed for the sleepless nights, the dirty diapers and most of all the midnight snuggles. Because our first child died, (I) we were unaware of the milestones we were missing with him. I only had the picture I constructed in my mind and heart as I would lay awake at night trying to envision what could have been.
11 months after our son passed, I gave birth to our first daughter. Our first rainbow baby. With cheer and sheer joy, we embraced another precious gift from God. But, I must say she did not and does not take the place of our son. Each child is a blessing and each child is special. We still longed for the big brother that never toddled through the doors of the hospital room to visit his baby sister.
At the end of my stay in the hospital, I was wheeled out, this time with a baby. And “the feeling” came. The bittersweet moment of this milestone that I missed with my son, I was at that moment experiencing with my daughter. The years have been full of bittersweet moments that tug at my heartstrings and ignite my soul to silently scream out, “I wish all my children could be here.”
Since my son, we have been blessed with three daughters, all who are loved, cherished and aware that their big brother is looking over them. And as each of them have taken their first steps, fell in love with Mickey Mouse, squealed with excitement on Christmas morning, from time to time I have experienced “the feeling”.
Well, last year at this time, our son would have went to kindergarten. My tired eyes remember gazing out my front doors as the big yellow school bus drove down my street, but passed us and continued on. I imagined the silhouette of our family standing at the corner, checking his shoe laces one more time and adjusting his Spider-Man backpack before he made his first step on to the big yellow school bus. I pictured his strawberry blonde bedhead and toothless smile as he would have waved at me and his sisters with a sense of excitement and accomplishment as he started his educational adventure. But, instead it was a dream, a vision, a milestone we missed and “the feeling” was there.
Now, it is time for our first sweet daughter to embark on her first day of kindergarten. Her outfit has already been selected (something I know our son wouldn’t have cared about) and her folders neatly packed in her backpack. Our family will walk her to the bus stop and stand there anxiously awaiting the big yellow school bus and watch as she climbs the three giant steps to embark on her educational journey. In my mind her brother would be in front of her, encouraging her to follow. She will select a seat and scoot toward the window to blow me and her sisters one last kiss, wave with excitement, nervousness and a smile. In my mind her brother would be sitting next to her, trying to push her out-of-the-way so that he could make a funny face and laugh before the bus pulls away. Then, the door will close, and off she will go.
I know “the feeling” is coming. I will cry and tears will flow- I will cry because it is such an honor and blessing to send your child to school, because it is a wonderful to see your child grow up, to watch them mature and be brave to try new things and because it is a milestone her brother has missed. He would be in first grade.
Over the years and even now, veteran bereaved mothers have shared their hearts with me and have coached me to prepare for the milestones. They are so bittersweet and God knows when you can accomplish one as a family, it is a true blessing. We don’t take any of them, not one, for granted.
Each bereaved mother and family are on their own grief journeys. There is no time-table for grief, and in my case “the feeling”. I think that I will always long for the son that never grew up and the amazing milestones and memories we missed together. I’m thankful for my girls and I truly cherish every little detail, strand of hair and giggle. The milestones, “the feeling”, the big yellow school bus and more. It’s where I am on my grief journey and I’m okay with it. It’s sad, it’s happy, it’s our story and we will continue to let it unfold….
This was written by Lauren McLean our Executive Director who lost her first son, Emerson, to a rare genetic disease in March of 2010. Since then her husband Jason and her have been blessed with three darling daughters, a little soul that came and went last September, and are now expecting a baby boy at the end of January, God willing. Both Jason and Lauren are dedicated to raising awareness and being advocates for pregnancy/infant loss in our community and beyond.