Friday, March 11, 2011

The Perfect Soul

I knew today was going to be interesting. I often sub at a middle school (like today) and knew that there was a pregnant woman there nearing the end of her pregnancy. It was the last day before Mrs. G's maternity leave officially begins. I already knew this. I'm pretty keen on knowing what is going on around me, especially since everything seems to be babyloaded lately. Ultra baby.

Sure enough, I walk into the teacher's lounge and Mrs. G is surrounded by lots of food and the staff as she is being showered before motherhood officially begins. I grimaced at the thought I had to visit the teacher's lounge today at all since my food had to be microwaved. I avoided it yesterday by making a PBJ. Yes, I specifically planned not having to enter the teacher's lounge so I might avoid the baby talk. I checked to see which lunch slot I would have, knowing she had 8th grade lunch. Phew, earlier. The rest of the day carried on fine.

During 8th period, I headed to the empty teacher's lounge to read since it was a free period for me. Another teacher walks in and asks me how I am doing. She was always really sweet during my pregnancy. She reminds me a little of myself; type A and brutally honest. She apologized to me and said she knows because she had a stillborn daughter born 35 years ago. She also told me that she went on to have two more children. I was frustrated. Of the two schools I sub at most often, I met two women who had stillborn babies. It angered me. Then, she looked me in the eye {...which is super impressive. It seems no one does that anymore} and said something very important. At least I think it is important:

It doesn't get better, but it does get easier.

I'm glad she acknowledged that it will never be better, or okay, that my son died. Never. But I am also glad she followed it with a statement of hope. You know when you're on a road and know that the only way to the good part is through the bad part first? That's what living in my shoes feels like. I know there will be times ahead where I am genuinely happy. I'm still on the beginning of that road, though, and it's so hard to see what's ahead through the fog.

She asked me if we were able to see him once he was delivered. I told her we were and that we even took photos with him (still no photos from NILMDTS, though I did email and receive a response). We held him. We spent time with him. We could have kept him as long as we wanted since he was our child, after all. Thirty-five years ago, that wasn't reality. You could not see your deceased child-- they would not let you. While I knew this also to be true, I still cannot imagine that. I can't imagine health professionals in hospitals denying me the right to see my son, dead or alive. It's not their child or decision to make, in my opinion. She told me that she really wanted to see her daughter and it still angers her that she was not allowed that right. Frankly, before I became a mother to a dead baby, I would've thought it to be disgusting that anyone would want to hold or, gasp, kiss a deceased person. I thought having ashes in your house was creepy. I'm ashamed of thinking such thoughts. How naive. How ignorant.

She then went on to tell me a story of woman she met while fresh from her tragedy. That woman also had a stillborn baby (more common then of course).  She told her a story that I'll probably mess up in writing/interpreting. I was half giving myself a pep-talk to prevent myself from crying as she was speaking. I heard parts of the story. The woman explained to her that sometimes babies are born perfect souls, like our babies. They never lived life on earth and just needed their souls to be born perfect into the arms of God. We were chosen to be mothers to perfect souls.

While I don't accept that as proof or explanation for Andrew's death, it does give me a small portion of peace in knowing he was born a perfect soul. He was born pure and lives on with God and all the other babies and deceased loved ones we've lost here on earth. She told me hearing that helped her tremendously. She was okay with being the bearer of a perfect soul as it takes a special person for such a job. Perhaps it's just what someone says to provide an answer in the midst of confusion, but it sounded wonderful, despite my scientific doubt that Andrew's death was strictly so I could give back to God a perfect soul. But either way, he was a perfect soul no matter why he passed and I have to accept that.

{...pausing for a moment as I watch two robins playing on our front yard. It's in the 50's, smells like spring, and I can barely contain myself...}

I walked into subbing 9th period feeling a little better until 3 girls shouted over the loudspeaker an announcement of congratulations to Mrs. G and her baby girl. Phew. Dodged a bullet there. I'm sure glad it's a girl. Why? I guess just knowing I never had a girl makes me feel better. My jealously is far greater when facing those who have newborn boys. It's the life I envisioned having... but I didn't envision pink and bows. Silly, I know. But again, it's my ridiculous logic.

Once the bell rang, I headed to a house of a woman who also gave birth to a stillborn baby a couple years ago. I have been reading her blog for sometime now (in tears far before I even conceived Andrew) and she has since adopted one boy from Africa and they are currently in the process of adopting a second boy. She and her husband will be flying to retrieve {what word is appropriate when talking about human life?!} their second child very soon. Since infants in Africa are not given the proper nutrition or formula, she asked if anyone would be willing to donate formula. She wanted to bring the maximum luggage allowance and provide formula as a gift to those children. I read this and felt that I immediately had something to give. You see, when you sign up for a baby gift registry, your information is sold to the masses. Similac and Enfamil sent me at least 6-8 cans of powdered formula with hopes to hook me as a formula feeder. When Andrew died, I threw out all the cans that landed in my mailbox-- all except 2 cans and a few smaller samples. When I read that she needed formula donations, liquid gold she called it, I entered the nursery and rummaged through the bags of stuff we quickly unloaded all of the baby contents of our kitchen cabinet into once we showed up back home empty-handed. (Holy run-on sentence! I don't care... my thoughts are winded sometimes) I managed to scrape up those two cans. I dropped those off today and met her adorable son, Tommy.

As I was driving home, I began to weep, yet again. She allowed me to borrow two books that she read when first dealing with the loss of her daughter, Leah. Holding on to Hope, and The One Year Book of Hope, both by Nancy Guthrie. While thankful, I was taken over emotionally by this. My thought process went as follows:

Really, a year? I have to grieve my baby for a year? No wait... a lifetime.
Someone wrote a book of hope for grief because they had experience with it, sadly.
She read these because she lost a daughter, also to stillbirth.
I saw two women in one day that lost babies also to stillbirth. That's not acceptable. 

A song came on the radio-- something about a newborn and how time flies as babies grow-- so I turned the channel, obviously. Channel 3: a Christian channel. And then Praise You In This Storm by Casting Crowns came on.

So, weepily, I did.


Just the 3 of Us said... [Reply to comment]

I agree that the teacher's statement of it not getting better...just easier was a very important thing for her to say to you.

I just wanted to introduce myself as a semi-new follower :) to let you know I am reading.

I went back and read lots of your posts...but was curious (as I never saw it mentioned) why you sub instead of teach full-time? I am currently a teacher...hoping to become only a sub when we relocate this summer.

B. Wilson said... [Reply to comment]

I am credentialed and certified to teach (also holding an MA in ed. tech.), but there's a reason I don't.

I was a teacher in CA, then we moved to Germany for 6 months. Once arriving back in the states and relocating permanently to IL, we made the decision to start a family rather than (me) seek employment. All was well-- I was pregnant about 2 weeks after arriving back in the US and would give birth, stay home with my son, and live happily ever after.

And then he died... so my plans were foiled. I want to become pregnant once again and plan to stay home just as I planned with Andrew. Subbing was just meant to be an interim to stay busy and bank a little extra cash. I also taught a university course for teachers in early 2010 to pass time as I was baby-making. If I were to get a job and become pregnant this year as I hope, I would be quitting before the end of the 11/12 school year anyhow. I would feel guilty taking a job from someone who intends to be there for the long-haul. And, I'd feel deceptive knowing I had no intention of staying employed.

I never imagined staying home because I love teaching. But now that I lost my son's entire life and missed out on everything, I can't imagine NOT staying home with subsequent children and missing anything. I'll teach again someday, I hope-- now is just not the time.

Where are you moving? Why?

LauraJane said... [Reply to comment]

I think that other teacher is onto something, the easier part is coming, I can feel it. But absolutely no way is this ever going to be better, because it's something which can't be fixed.

I also agree with what you wrote about you know there will be a point at which you will be genuinely happy. I hold onto thoughts like that, they're the reason I am able to get through this awful stuff.

BTW, I read your response above about why you don't work as a fulltime teacher, and that makes a lot of sense. I'm jealous you'll get to be a SAHM, I'll get to take my year, but then it's back to work for me after our next one (except for our devious plan for me to return already slightly pregnant again, if we're lucky). :)

Just the 3 of Us said... [Reply to comment]

We are moving to Rhode Island with my husband's company. He is most likely going in April or May and our daughter (who is 11) and I will follow at some point in the summer once school is out and we have a home.

Your reasons for wanting to stay home totally make sense. I hope to expand our family soon as well and REALLY want to be able to stay at home as I think it is super important. Not to mention I am also pretty much worn out when it comes to teaching.

Caroline said... [Reply to comment]

I find it easier to handle when those around me have baby girls as well. Just like you said - it wasn't something you envisioned or planned for so it doesn't sting as much I suppose.

I'm sure your day was emotional and a little overwhelming, but I'm glad you were able to talk about Andrew with someone else and they were able to talk about their baby. And I never even thought to save all that formula that came free in the mail!

I hope your next few days (weeks, months, etc) are gentle and good to you. xoxo

Becky said... [Reply to comment]

I couldn't agree more with the comment of it doesn't get better but gets easier. I don't think I could ever get over Liam's death, nor should I have to, but do hope for easier coping days ahead.
I had been working part time for the past few years while trying to get pregnant, wasn't expecting it to take so long, but figured it was the perfect job to have so when I had my little guy I wouldn't have to be gone so much like with a full time job. I want to get pregnant again asap but now feel I like I could never leave my child, not even a few hours a week working part time, and want more than anything to be a stay at home mom

boo and stacy arnold said... [Reply to comment]

I loved your husbands love letter to you...