what can you say when a baby dies?
ive been wanting to post for a long time about what to say when someone loses a child. some days i feel like i really didn’t lose a child so much as i lost the possibility of one, or two, as it were. when my mother remarked that i didn’t really have them, i knew what she meant, and i agreed, after i recovered from the initial sting of her candor.
i didn’t after all. my dear ayla, the one whose bag of life was so grievously compromised, never showed us any signs of spirit after she was born. she was on the shuttle already as we nuzzled her warm body.
sweet juliet was pink, opened up her little mouth, stretched her limbs. morphine i cried out, “T! cut her cord!” so desperate was i to believe the deceit of her movements. silly people, my daughter is fine!
run along now. ah but reality resurfaced all too soon. the amazing wonderful caring loving angel at my bedside nurse worked swiftly to baptize her and deliver her to our arms.
this is where is gets hazy for me.
i know T held his sweet girl as she went on to join her sister. he says she made a face that looked just like her mama right before she drifted off.
i slept in and out of consciousness for hours, waking only to deliver the placentas and fill the space-age barf bags i was provided. when i finally half-shook my stupor, my mom helped me shower and put on a stretchy netted undie.
the doctor came in and told me i could leave whenever i wanted or i was welcome to stay. i gave him a ‘watchu talkin bout willis?’ kind of look. i was in no shape to leave and after awhile i was moved out of the birthing suite into a regular room.
T showed me the text he had sent out to our friends and families:
‘this morning at exactly 20 weeks we delivered Ayla Joy and Juliet Grace. we held them in our arms, baptized them, and kissed them goodbye.’
i never would have thought to send a text and i forwarded it, in disbelief, to many. one went out as an answer to a ex co-worker who had not 5 minutes earlier asked how everything was going: not good. its not good.
the condolences started rolling in. well, mostly condolences. T got a few ‘congratulations!’ back, from people who had just scanned the text. that’ll teach em to cut corners. this is where it gets tricky.
i in no way want to sound ungrateful for people’s sympathy. any words of consolation or comfort were of course appreciated, and the commonplace ‘im sorry’ and ‘you’re in my prayers’ were lovely to hear. though
T wondered aloud exactly when all of his friends had started praying.
its just that the words that meant the most to us were unique. one friend wrote ‘you gave them such beautiful names’, another, ‘your little girls are angels now, they will always be with you and i will never forget them.’ after he and his wife could gather themselves enough to be able to call me; my cousin, a dad of two boys, cried with me. he said ‘i wish i could have met them’.
so what can you say when a baby dies?
certainly nothing that anyone said took the pain away, but having the girls acknowledged was something that meant a lot to both T and me.
when an older person dies, you don’t just say you’re sorry, you usually elaborate about the person and what you loved about them. that’s what we especially appreciated about these few comments. people were not just pitying us, feeling sorry for what we went through, they were remembering our girls to us and acknowledging that even though we didn’t really get to have them, lord, they were here.