notes from a veteran

Red Pen Mama's baby boy was stillborn more than six years ago. When she started blogging three years ago, her instinct was to follow the 'mommyblogging' path. "I wanted to talk about my kids," she says. "I wanted to be funny. I think sometimes I am (my kids give me great stories), but I was searching for my own voice."

In 2007, she discovered the online world of babylost parents for the first time. "I realized that I could talk about it—talk about him, my baby boy. That along with talking about my living daughters, my anxiety, my struggles, music and books, my thoughts on faith, and my city. But to see that I could share my thoughts and my feelings about Gabriel, and tell his story, and not have people turn away—that was literally breathtaking. I would have people who understood."

Even in the first, fresh few days, I knew that I would feel better some day.

But I didn't want to feel better some day.

The first time I didn't feel absolutely beaten down by the fact of my baby's death, I felt terrible. I was the mother of a dead child, and that was wholly my identity in those first days and months. I wasn't a daughter or sister or a writer. I was a wife—wife to the father of a dead baby.

That dead baby, my son Gabriel, was my whole world. I couldn't believe it. I could not wrap my head around it. I thought it was a dream. I would wake up at night with aching breasts, expecting to hear him cry. I simply could not fathom how this was my life.

I did not want to feel better. But eventually, I did.

photo by niko_si

I can't tell you if it was six weeks or six months later, but I started freelancing again; I went to a concert or two (which was extremely disorienting); I made love to my husband; we traveled to San Francisco with his family, including my pregnant sister-in-law.

I was still the mother of a dead baby. How could I be more than that? Despite my best efforts to not move forward, I was. It was not easy—it was terrifying. But it was forward.


The kindest thing someone said to me in the days after Gabriel's loss came from my uncle, my father's brother, who had lost his 22-year-old son in a car accident years and years ago. You will never get over this. It was such a balm. I didn't have to try to get over my loss, put it behind me, pretend to "be okay". It was never going to be okay.

You will never feel as good as you did before you became the parent of a dead child. That woman, that man, is lost to innocence, lost to the pure joy and miracle that is making babies. Even sex will be fraught for some time. I suggest wine. Not too much.

Every pregnancy you hear about—even (I hope) your own—will be shadowed, sometimes so darkly you will wonder what you are doing in a world where people want to have babies. It's madness. Madness you may recognize someday as your own.

Though you may need help to heal from such devastation—therapy, medication, a vacation someplace far from everyone you know—you will never get over it.

But you will feel better.

Do you remember one of the first moments that it occurred to you that you might be feeling better? Where were you, and what were you doing? How did your heart react, and how are you now?