Sunday, August 2, 2009

Unspeakable

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.

21 comments:

Dani819 said...

Wow- I am wincing as I read this, thinking about your cousins stumbling and fumbling their way through calls that should have happened 11 months ago. So much more to say about this, but I'll save it for an email or a call. What a paradox, though- what happened to Ezra is unspeakable, but it's so important to speak about it.

Sending you love.

Hope's Mama said...

For some just thinking about their children dying sends them in to a tailspin of hysterical tears. Just thinking about it. But we have to live with it. Every second of every day for the rest of our lives. Through new pregnancies, when new babies hopefully arrive. The deep loss will always be there. I'm sorry you have had to deal with this on top of the loss of Ezra, your son. There are just too many stories like this out there, for all of us. Why do some people find it so hard?
xo

Sara said...

I know how hard it is to have babies in the family who were born so close. We have three of them. It's hard enough when people are kind and considerate and acknowledge your loss. How awful to ignore your loss and you, to be unable to speak Ezra's name.

Lindsay said...

I hate that I feel like I represent a woman's worst fears. I know though, that I do.
I once asked my cousin, who I saw at five-months pregnant at a family event, what it was like to be pregnant. Her reply was that it was heart-breaking. I didn't know that the day before, she had gone to the dr. and there was no heartbeat and was waiting until after the weekend the induce.
She represented my biggest fear back then. I didn't know how to talk to her until I lost Zoe. Now we have alot more in common. sadly.
I suppose I've been on both sides of the fence. We forget how painful silence can be.
I'm sorry they were so un-caring, but I hope it's not too little too late with regards to your cousins.
My love to you (sorry my comment was so long)
Lindsay

Paige said...

I'm proud of you, Sarah, for making the calls. Scott's first cousin had a baby boy the same day Cayden was born and we never received a card, and only a call in May. I can't speak to them at all, ironically Scott is there this weekend.

What's happened to us is everyone's worst nightmare, so sometimes I'm not surprised that people find it unspeakable and are too frightened to talk about it. But it doesn't excuse their silence. I hope these calls pave the way for speaking Ezra's name, loud and clear, and with the love he deserves. xo

Funsize said...

I'm in the same boat as you. Although you half expect them to give a crappy excuse, it doesn't make it any better. It's as if they're not even acknowledging the life (and death) of our baby. All because the harsh reality that yes, babies do die, is hard to deal with, and it's better to pretend as if it's not acknowledged then it never happened. But we live it, we can't turn a blind eye.

I'm sorry you have to deal with this, on top of Ezra's upcoming anniversary. I've learned, the people who don't acknowledge our babies, really don't matter. It is what it is, and all you can do is shrug them off.

xoxo

Mirne said...

But the world is full of people like your cousins. I know lots of people like that. People who think that if they stick their heads in the sand, they can just pretend nothing bad ever happens. They're the ones who don't call, or visit, or send a card. I can't stand it. And I remember them all. I can't forgive them either. It's like my cousin who thought (for some bizarre reason) that my son's death would be worse for me than my daughter's death ... They have no idea. And most of the time, whatever they decide to say or do, it's the wrong thing.
((hugs))

afteriris said...

It's so unfair that you have to be the bigger person when you're already going through so much. Like you said the death of a baby is unspeakable. It's so taboo that we all have to be as brave as you, and keep speaking up.

Michele said...

We were discussing this last night... How people dont know what to say so they say nothing at all, thinking their silence can somehow erase the pain and the hurt. Not realizing they actually make it worse.

Most people, especially who have children and have never experienced a loss through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death, have no point of reference and cannot even begin to understand. There are exceptions, of course, but I found that we experienced more comfort from aquaintances who had loss a baby through m/c at 6w than we had from friends we'd had for years who had never experienced a loss. On the one hand, the couple didnt know us well but they knew the joy of being pregnant and having that ripped away from you; the friends who knew us so well were heartbroken for us but had no idea how to verbalize that. And, in turn, we lost some close friends. They didnt know what to say and we didnt have the strength to try and comfort them in their loss of words.

One part of your story gave me hope, though. When your cousin asked how Ezra died. Perhaps, if he ever runs into anyone in the future who has lost a child, it will be your compassionate explaination and the fact that you shared your grief even after they ignored you, that will allow him to say at leat an "I'm sorry" to the next orphaned parent he encounters. Most people dont know what to do. We have to educate them and let them know. Would we have known what to say if we'd never experienced this??? I like to think that yes, we would all have made an effort, but sometimes I wonder if we would have made the same mistakes that non-orphaned parents make...

Sending you big hugs... And thinking of Ezra with you today.

Rach said...

If only our families had the guts to call us at the time...

Thinking of you and Ezra always.

xxx

AnnaMarie said...

Hopefully these phone calls will turn out to be good ice breakers for the beach trip - not like your cousin's behavior should be excused but I don't want you to feel uncomfortable around them while at a place that is so special to you.

I agree with you. Many people are uncomfortable with the death of an older person but the death of a baby is so horrific that words can be hard to find. It took me a while to get used to even thinking "my son died".

Limping with you. Wishing you peace.

Monique said...

It is hard to forgive, I'm slowly learning but stumble often. xo

erica said...

You're right - the horror and fear that people feel when confronted with the fact that some babies die is no excuse, but the silence so often leaves us feeling isolated and abandoned. Worse, it sometimes feels to me like people are trying to erase my son because they can't deal, and I so very much need his life to be acknowledged and remembered.

Sending love and hoping the family get-together goes as well as it can.

angie said...

What seems so impossibly simple to me must not occur to friends and family who are unsure of what to say--the longer you wait, the more awkward it gets. GEESH! It seems like a no brainer. In fact, the best thing they could do is not really say anything except "I'm sorry. Tell me. I will listen."

I recently had a conversation with an old friend who told me, "All your friends talk about how sad it is, how much they want to help you, they all cry when they think about it, they just don't know what to say." I just looked at him and said, "Does everyone think that I know what to say to make them feel better? I don't know what to say. My baby just died, I'm still figuring out how to breathe. And comfort myself. I haven't mastered comforting them yet."

With love, Sarah, I hope the shore trip is even slightly easier by getting those long long overdue calls.

c. said...

Time lessens the intensity of it all and I find it much easier, now, to forgive those people who hurt me with their silence. I don't think I'll ever forget though. I don't think I will.

Samaria said...

I think about this everyday, my friend's daughter died not because of stillbirth but due to being born too soon. And I didn't call to say sorry, I didn't attend her funeral. I was so afraid that "parading" around my pregnant belly or hearing my voice was the very last thing she needed to see at this point so I stayed away. I thought that was the best thing to do...

Until my daughter died.

Ya Chun said...

They say it was too hard to make this call, but wouldn't it have been 'easier' if they had done it right away?

That having been said, I think (hope) that maybe there is a chance. They have been called to task, and they DID call, and talk directly about it. Maybe they will be able to support you a bit now. It's good to have those family you grew up with back - there is some connection there that is unique. I have cousins like that, and I miss them a lot now.

(I also have lots of people on my shit list too, for never responding etc)

Inanna said...

I hated hearing: "Oh my god, if that happened to me, I would just die." Oh yeah? Ya think? The sucky part is you don't... you keep on living. And you live with it, every single day. No matter what. It's not something people want to face, and turning away is the easy thing to do.

Lea said...

Sarah - I am just catching up and realized that you are expecting again. Wonderful news... and so very terrifying, I know. We are very, very close in this new journey. I am due Jan 13.

Thinking of you all. Ezra will guide his little brother or sister through this.

xo

Anonymous said...

I made the call when a close family friend's son died during her 9th month of pregnancy with the exact same due date as me. I was told that I was wrong to call. Why in the world would she want to har from me, she asked, didn't I understand it was too painful. I still feel I did the right thing.

Sophie said...

So sorry I am late reading this. My stupid aggregator waited till you'd posted 8 posts before it sent them to me!!!!

Wow, I am amazed they even called. The only cousins who have said anything to us at all are my husbands. I've had aunts ring me, but no cousins.

I think you're right. A part of us will never totally forgive that radio silence, that lack of acknowledgement... but it is what it is. I often wonder what I would have done were the shoe on the other foot... Of course as babylost mamas we KNOW now what we'd do...

xoxo