Saturday, March 13, 2010

When Children Die

My friend Eva recently told me that the friend of a friend just had a baby who had meconium aspiration like my baby Sam had when he was born. This baby was in the NICU a couple of days, and then he died.

This story haunts me. I keep asking myself this impossible question that I will not know the answer to until I’m dead: “Why did my baby live and her baby died?” It’s not like I’m a better person than that baby’s mother. I’m certainly not more worthy.

A few weeks later at gymnastics class I met a woman who told me she had 4 kids, but one had passed away only 8 months earlier. And she’s pregnant again. Her son was 3 ½ when he wandered into their pool … a pool that normally had all gates locked and an alarm system. I didn’t get all the details because I didn’t want to pry too much on our first meeting. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing, so I told her I was sorry and that she’s amazing and congratulations on the new baby. I savored a little book of photos she had of her son.

They’re in the process of tearing up the pool. She came upon Hell and couldn’t go around it. She had to go through it. She is amazing because she came out the other side. She’s trying to live a normal life, taking her kids to gymnastics (among other things), when I’m sure she would much rather crawl into her bed and stay there all day, every day.

She mentioned getting together sometime. I gave her my “mommy card” (my business card with email, phone and web site). She told me she’s writing a book about her experience of the first year after a child dies. I believe there is a reason for everything. For sure these days I’m seeing my kids differently, taking them less for granted. What if today is the last day of life for one of my kids? Accidents happen all the time.

I still look at Sam and wonder what I would have done if he had died. We never know how we’ll respond to something like that. Divorce often ensues. Relationships with the other children are damaged. It’s hard to comprehend that the dead one is most likely better off than we are; happier, at peace, looking down on us or hanging out among us wanting us to live life to the fullest and probably not wanting us to let the death envelop us.

Thank you to that mom for sharing her story with me. And now I’m sharing it with you. Maybe you want to share it with a mom you know. Or maybe you want to go eat a pint of ice cream. Now go hug your kids.