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.


  1. "Hug Your Kids" - great advice. I started Global Hug Your Kids Day in 2008. We lost our son Mark suddenly to brain cancer in 1998. He was 8 1/2 years old. Maybe your gymnastics mom friend would like to have an event in her town for the holiday in 2010. It'll be Monday, July 19. or for more info.
    And remember to hug your kids today, if for no other reason than it feels good to hug ‘em!

  2. broke my heart reading this today, but I needed a good cry.

    hug, hug, hug


  3. Yes, hug those babies tight. You are so right. Why did your baby live and the other woman's die? Just because. Callous, I know, but that's the only answer I could come up with myself, when it happened to me. Because life is like that. When I could accept that, then I knew I wouldn't lose my mind.

  4. I'd love to discuss this... over lunch.... oh.. wait... it hasn't been 4.8 years yet.... harumpffff

  5. I had a similar experience. I used to work with a gal at a restaurant in town several years ago. I saw her a few years later at the fair, she was pregnant. A few years later i saw her again out in public somewhere, she had a toddler and another new baby. Last week I went to put gas in my car and SHE was the clerk behind the counter. I said "how are your kids?" and she mentioned that her son had just turned ten. I said "Didn't you have two boys?" Her reply was that "My younger son died a few years ago" and she took a big gulp as she said it. I blabbered something about "I'm so sorry, it was nice to see you" and ran away. I sat in my car & cried so hard for her. A minute prior, I was thinking of how crappy it would be to have to work at a gas station, but she's had FAR more crap to deal with than I can imagine. I really have no idea how it happened, but it doesn't matter. losing a child would be the absolute worst thing ever.

  6. Gosh, this is so sad. I just saw this post. :(


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