This week started out horribly.
Everything I touched seemed to fall apart, and I was racked with doubt and fear about the cause of Michael’s death. I worried that I had done something to kill him during my labor. I agonized over the choices I could have made: a cesarean instead of a vaginal birth, pain management instead of none, staying at home to birth him into my husband’s arms rather than into the arms of the on-call O.B. I fussed and stewed and made myself miserable over it. My sense of self-worth hit rock bottom and getting through the day felt like a monumental task. Dear Husband and I fretted over our church’s discussion of what is a Trial, and certain people’s insistence that Trials are either a punishment for wrongs or visited upon us by God to “make us better people” — which we need to be “happy” about if we’re “good Christians.” J and I stressed over what we may have done to anger our God and cause the death of our baby boy at birth.
In short, I was a wreck and J wasn’t whole lot better.
Then yesterday morning, my adopted sister called to tell me she was going into labor with her little girl.
I was emotional all day, worried for their safety. When I finally could get on the road, I had to fight the urge to drive like a bat out of hell to the hospital so stressed I was. I cried, multiple times. I trembled with anxiety. The prayer to spare my childhood friend and her family from what I now knew never left my lips. “Please, God, let them both be okay. Let me not be driving over there to be a shoulder for tears and loss. Let them never know this pain.” I was beside myself, and I felt sick as I entered the maternity ward.
As I entered the room I nearly cried with relief to see her cradling her newest daughter. Everything was fine, just fine, and the little gal had vigorous Things To Say about the world. She was beautiful. My sister let me hold her for the better part of an hour after feeding time, and the little darling fell asleep in my arms with the most delicate yawn. It was amazing, and my heart ached over it. I cried a little, but they were good tears. And it felt so good to hold a living child.
My drive home last night let me contemplate much. As I drove, I found myself thanking God for the evening: my sister’s good health and that of her new daughter, my ability and emotional strength to hold the baby, and the comfort I found in it even though the experience was tainted by my sorrow. I paused, and then found myself once again voicing confusion over my son’s passing. “I’ll never understand,” I said to the dark.
In that moment, I heard God. And I get it now. It doesn’t make dealing with the fallout easy, it doesn’t tie it up neatly with a bow, because I will grieve Michael for as long as I walk this earth. I was — am — his mother, and as Angie Smith said in her book “I Will Carry You,” the mother’s heart doesn’t know how to stop loving, even in the wake of death. But I get it, now. Michael’s death was out of everyone’s hands, and while I suspected as much all along, hearing His words brought it into much sharper focus. There was not anything I or anyone in that delivery room could have done differently. Michael was mine, Michael was my husband’s — but he also belonged to God, and you know what?
I can’t think of anyone else I’d like to have in charge of my son.
Today, the turmoil is gone, and the hole left by Michael is quite a bit more closed than it has been.
Today, I have peace.
Today, I understand.