In the early days of shock and tears, my husband reached his last straw in trying to comfort me: she loves us—she would want us to be happy. I couldn’t believe him. It sounded so strange and wrong. She was dead, and a baby. How could she want anything for her parents? But he believed it. He felt her with him.
I haven’t heard from her in a long time. I could tell you that we once had a long talk, or that I saw the spiritual path her soul is on. But now those communication lines seem dead, so I fall back on logic. I say I don’t believe in signs, that my baby does not have special powers, and that she can’t communicate with us.
So have I become a rational creature now? Or are my feelings just hurt by the silence?
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Other parents see signs. In a precious moment, they notice clouds or rainbows or lightning bugs and think, this is for me from him or her, or my child has something to do with why this is so beautiful.
I envy that belief, because it eludes me. If I could see my daughter in the trees or hear her on the wind, maybe I would not be so lonely and angry. But it doesn’t work for me anymore. My child can’t be trying to contact me, because she is a baby. Not an angel. Not a fairy. A baby. Her little fingers can’t operate the paranormal phone system. She can’t align the stars or send me a butterfly. She’s too little.
I don’t like hearing that she wants me to go on or wants me to know she is okay; that only points to my massive maternal failure. All she should be thinking about right now is snacks, cuddles, toys, and trying to pull herself up to standing. Not how to make Mom feel better. If she were alive, she would not want the best for me. She would want me to find her damn pacifier right now. That’s how I want it too. I want me to be the mommy, and her to be the baby. Still. Even though she’s dead.
And please God, or whoever is out there, do not let my baby be a ghost, wandering between this world and the next. Please let her be someplace safe.
* * * *
On the other hand, I have had messages. And I’ve imbued her with a very special power: the power to leave me.
In the hospital I began, irrationally, to worry that she did not like me very much. Her little face was so frowny, her lips so pouty. She looked mad. (Maybe they all look that way?) Holding her in my arms, this is what popped into my heart:
She needed unconditional love. Something bad happened to her, maybe in a past life, and she needed to know that Brian and I loved her absolutely purely. She wanted love untainted by the scoldings, power struggles, and tears that come with being a human child. By leaving us so early, she was assured of our white hot love forever. It would heal her, so her soul could go on. But it would break me, and I would have to accept it.
I had one visit from her after that. A friend did a spiritual healing on me a few weeks later; the smell of strawberries wafted through my living room on a cold March morning, and we both felt it was my baby saying hello. I could envision fields of the spindly green plants heavy with fruit, and how much my girl would delight in them. Later I planted a pot of hearty alpine berries and got a strawberry tattooed on my ankle, her name hidden in the leaves.
Since then, there has been silence. She feels utterly gone to me, and I feel rejected. I may say it is not her job to comfort me, yet I sit here like a spurned lover, hoping for the phone to ring. This is my deep dark secret—that I am kind of mad at my baby for dying. That I am kind of mad she never calls.
* * * * * * *
Why did I make up this terrible story about her needing to leave us? For a while it felt like a message from her soul, or from God or the great beyond. As the days have worn on, without answers, without comfort, my faith in most things of a spiritual nature has dissipated. Now I think it was just my brain trying to make sense of an incomprehensible event.
I’m not sure this was the best story to tell myself, though. It gives her the power to choose death over life. The power to abandon her parents. The power to hurt us intentionally. All of which is insane. She was a tiny baby inside my body. A very bad thing happened to her, and we don’t know why.
Maybe that’s just too much for my heart to take. I would prefer to think that she never wanted to be here, than to think she is out there in the dark crying for her mommy. I’d rather say that we do not get clouds and hearts and stars from her, because she’d rather be free. That’s easier to face than the plastic bag of ashes upstairs.
Most of all, I need to believe that this experience is far worse for me than it is for her, because I just can’t stomach any other option.
So some days I try hard to think of her as happy. I try to see her as part of everything, reveling in the universe, sending love to our family every day. Usually I can’t. So instead I absolve her of all responsibility—it is one way communication down that parental, paranormal phone line. If she’s anywhere, I hope she can hear that I love her.
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Have you received signs or messages that help you connect to your child(ren)? Was there a particular window of time when you felt most connected that is now closed? What are the stories you tell yourself to help make sense of your loss(es)?