October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. This time last year, I distinctly remember sitting on the couch during my sons’ napping hours and scanning through Facebook. Many of my friends had lost pregnancies and were posting a meme. “I am 1 in 4,” the caption read over simple symbols like the one you see on women’s bathroom doors. Agh, so sad, I thought rubbing my giant belly, and I kept scrolling.
I used to think that I could prevent loss. That it was something a woman had done that caused a pregnancy to end or a baby to die. I had to. It protected me from believing it could happen to me. There had to be a cause, right, something medically wrong that fit in a box and diagnosed so “they” could not become “us?” But no.
As I have walked this journey the last eleven months, I hear people telling me “It’s not your fault. You didn’t control his death any more than you controlled his life.” But I am not sure it has really stuck. As mothers, we feel that instinctive drive to protect and provide. And when our babies die, our instinct to protect them feels like failure. In motherhood, we are constantly doing. Feeding, comforting, teaching, cleaning, touching. Verbs upon verbs in the world of motherhood. But there isn’t anything that can be done about losing a five pound baby that was medically perfect.
I couldn’t have saved Reece from death any more than I could save my husband from a horrific car accident. Logically, I know this. But the self-blame is still there, my maternal drive to protect and provide and fend off bad things from my babies is still there. Bad positioning for one bad moment in an otherwise beautiful and mostly comfortable pregnancy. How do you fight one bad moment to protect your baby’s life? Especially if you don’t even know the moment is happening? You can’t. No woman can.
I feel sure that I know the moment Reece died. I was exercising. I was building my endurance for labor, I was taking care of myself, and in essence, taking care of my baby. Some women were sleeping. Some went in to the hospital, excited to be in labor, only to find out their baby had passed possibly weeks ago. Some women notice a lack a moment over a few days. Some never get to feel their babies move before they learn they have been lost.
I’m not sure why I feel locked into the self-blame. When I look around my circle of mamas, I don’t blame them for their babies being in Heaven. I know they didn’t control life and death anymore than I could. But surrendering the control is another thing entirely. Perhaps that is where a spiritual life grows. In the dark gaps of realizing we don’t control life and death. That’s how we know life isn’t truly made by us. It’s lent to us.
I am so lucky to be Reece’s mama and to be asked in helping to create his soul. Some days it is so clear to me that I was merely a vessel for the giant impact he would create. I grew a tiny acorn. The seed is small and easily forgotten. Buried, even. It’s shell breaks down to become part of the soil and nothing is left of what we know an acorn to be. And then, one day, a tree starts to grow. A tree with potential to reach 200 feet in height. The tree provides shade and shelter, a food source to animals, works tirelessly to clean the air and water, improves the soil, cools a house in the summer heat, the list goes on. The impact of that one tree is immense. And it started with a tiny acorn.
One I didn’t even intend to plant.