I have a cousin who was due the same week as me last year. I'm not especially close with this cousin, although our dads are first cousins, and they are very close -- so we've spent a lot of family time together over the years. She and her brother are close in age to my brother and I, and when we discovered our babies would be born so close together, everyone rejoiced that the cousins would once again be able to grow up together. Sadly it was not meant to be.
My cousin gave birth to a healthy baby girl in October, right around when Ezra should have been born. She (and her brother) never called or sent a card after Ezra died. She never called or sent a card after her baby girl safely arrived. There has been radio silence ever since.
Until this past week. In anticipation of our families getting together at the beach next week, and unable to take the conflict anymore, my dad finally said something to his cousin. This shouldn't have needed to happen - we're all adults now. And honestly, the damage is done...nothing my cousins could say would rewind this past year of silence.
But of course it prompted my cousins to call me immediately, leaving overly-hysterical messages congratulating me on my new pregnancy. I took my time calling back...waited until I was in the right mental space. I didn't want to hear their explanations - it doesn't matter why anymore, it just is.
I called each of them back and tempered the hyper excitement about my new pregnancy with a dose of realism - its awfully scary this time round and there are no guarantees. My cousin who was due the same week as me immediately blurted out an apology. She told me she felt so guilty having a healthy live baby that she couldn't call. I didn't tell her that was the stupidest thing I'd ever heard. I never expected the explanation to make sense. I don't expect her to understand that I'm happy her baby is healthy and alive. I just wish mine was too.
Her brother was a bit more tongue-tied. There was no apology. He just said, 'I haven't talked to you since...since...well I don't even know how to talk about what happened to you. How do you say what happened?'
My son died, I said. His name is Ezra and he died when I was 8 months pregnant.
To his credit, he plunged ahead: How did he die? What happened? And so I explained.
I know he was just being a boy, a very uncomfortable boy whose parents had caught him in a breach of etiquette so brash that they forced him to make this call. Having two beautiful daughters of his own, he probably knew 'miscarriage' wasn't the right term, but didn't quite know what was. But does my son's death make him so uncomfortable that he can't even say the word 'death'?
Mulling this over this afternoon, I realized he had spoken the truth. What happened to Ezra and so many of our babies is unspeakable. An unspeakable truth that makes people so uncomfortable that their only response is silence. It isn't what we grieving mamas and papas need...its not an excuse at all. I'll never fully forgive those who were silent and disappeared when tragedy struck our family...but at this point it just is what it is, a part of this journey...and all we can do is limp forward.
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