An unexpected thing happened Wednesday. Well, two things.
The first was that I hoped to call someone out. A few some one's to be honest: people who had talked about abortion in a particular way, and with a particular tone, and frankly, they'd made me feel uncomfortable, and it's pretty hard to make me feel that way. So, I wanted to point out the error in absolutes - which did not seem to work. I was hopeful that perhaps my story, the reminder that we are talking about real people, would remind others to chose their words carefully, to be kind when disagreeing. I was preaching to the converted, which, in some sense, is nice, because you all said really lovely things about me, but wasn't what I intended.
The second thing was much more troubling. Much, much, much more troubling. I would not have thought that we had membership rules and sub-clauses to be a dead baby mum. I wouldn't have thought that you had to qualify, based on your circumstances. And I struggled with what to write about this. I have not been around this community all that long, and I wasn't sure if it is my place to speak. But, in the voices of other dead baby mum's (dbms), I heard these words:
I didn't think I fit in.
I didn't think I qualified.
I thought it was my fault.
I had to convince myself I made the best/the only decision I could.
What? No, really. Excuse me? There's a qualification test other than your child dying? It's not enough that our babies died? Now, we have to pass some sort of other test? We need to be socially acceptable? We need to grieve the right way? We need to fit a religious or a societal exemption? We have to believe in the right things - the right God? We can't offend your ideas of how we should grieve? Your kidding, right? And I don't know if I get to set the rules for this community. It seems like no one is. No one does. And maybe that's why it works. But. . . .
We are a group of women, those of us who lost our babies later in pregnancy, or shortly after birth, who miss, and want our children with us. For some it was last week we said good-bye to our babies, and for some it was ten years ago. Together we are a group. And we are only as strong as the care and concern and love we give to each other. When we set rules, when we tell others the right way to grieve, when we try to limit who gets in and who stays out, based on our feelings, our own sense of right and wrong, well, the group falls apart. Broken people get more hurt.
Here's the thing about grieving - it's individual. It's your story, your show. You are here because your baby is dead. How you handle your baby's death, well, it's how you handle it. There's no right, and there's no wrong. You grieve how you grieve. There's no exam, and no one's marking you. (And if you are marking others, knock it off.) I assure you, there are no medals for grieving properly, and no one is going to hold you up as an example of how to do it well. No prizes, no models, no best-practices. There's no great way to do this. Do what you can, with what you have. Tell your story.
And when someone is grieving in a way that you wouldn't? For the love of all that's holy, would you remember that there is someone who is looking at you and thinking that you are wrong?
Whether your baby died before you got a chance to say good-bye, to beg the universe to allow your child to stay. Whether your baby died before you felt their kicks, picked out a name. Whether you had to make a choice, whether your life was up against the wall, or just your heart. Whether you came home to an empty room, or packed up the nursery furniture. Whether they slept in their crib, or in a NICU isolette, or never slept here on earth at all. Whether they were born still, or born alive and gone to soon. Whether you gave your child a name, whether you held them, baptized them. Whether their ashes are at home, or they are in the ground. However. Whatever. Whenever. Our babies are not with us. And you have a right to grieve. A part of your heart is not with you. It belongs to your baby, and your baby is gone.
If you have to ask, the answer is yes, you belong.