Per my request, my friend sent me a picture of her new baby. I began to reply, He’s perfect. Good job, mama. But the words didn’t suit what I meant to say, even if they were natural and well-intentioned.
Don’t get me wrong. He was beautiful, and he was healthy. But he wasn’t something she had control over. He was formed on auto-pilot, and it all went right even as he took his first breath, as it usually does. But barring any serious detrimental actions, she had nothing to do with that. She may have done her weekly baby bump photos, creative gender reveal, ate only organic, went to the best OB in town, and attended prenatal yoga. She may come from a family with amazing genetics. She may glow with anticipation and excitement and health only weeks away from her due-date.
All the time, babies are born perfect and alive without prenatal care, vitamins, heartbeat monitors, ultrasounds, and tests. By doing these things, we think we have some control, when we don’t. We just don’t. So when something goes wrong (heart defect; no kidneys; neural tube problem; the cord knots; the placenta tears away; the cervix gives out) ….what do we have?
The opposite of pride is shame, and that is exactly what I feel in my bones….an unhealthy, natural, deep-rooted sense of shame. I suspect it will be the last to go. They weren’t ashamed of me, but I didn’t get an approving nod from my teary-eyed mother–in-law when she held her in her arms. My husband didn’t receive a pat on the back from my father. We stared at the floor, fumbled over our words, cried. I still wonder about the million ways I could have unknowingly caused this. I wonder what people thought of me, or why my body didn’t know how to make hers, if that’s how it works at all (it doesn’t). I still go to her graveside and can only think of two words to say: I’m sorry.
But here is what I know to be true (even if I do not yet accept that I know it). This was something that simply happened to me, and not something I did. My body and her body were on a sort of biological auto-pilot. And let’s face it: Mother Nature can be a real bitch.
Have you struggled with shame after your loss? Are you able to feel pride in parts of your story?