I wrote a post last year (well, numerous posts) about how I was terrified of the day that people no longer remembered Carter. Many months and two additional losses later, I had so much more to be afraid of. But now, it seems that day has finally come.
One of the hardest things about life after loss is watching everyone else move forward with no recognition that life for us has stopped. Everyone keeps going, and I can't blame them. Their world hasn't come to an end quite like ours has. As loss parents, you get held in people's hearts for quite some time. Every action, every interaction, is laced with thoughts of you and the one you lost, and you get the occasional text or card that says they are thinking about you. Eventually, the texts and cards stop, but you know they still remember.
At some point though, life goes on. Comments get made, too many things are left unsaid, and it seems that the world has stopped remembering. Or even worse, that they stopped caring. They don't remember that your heart still aches every single day. They don't remember that you'd like your loved one to be included. They've forgotten the pain because they don't have to live with it every single day.
Losing a loved one is hard, because unless others have felt your pain, it's easy for them to brush it off. They don't know how much it hurts to wake up and remember that that person isn't there anymore.
I can only speak for losing a child before birth, but it's so hard to watch other people keep living as if that void no longer exists. Babies are born every single day, and at some point, the life of those babies seems to overpower the short time you had with your unborn child. People don't understand why it hurts to be around the new babies. They don't understand why you get upset that they don't include your baby in stories or numbers. They forget. Deep down, they still remember what you've been through, but in casual conversation, everything you've been through no longer matters.
In the year and a half since we lost Carter, we have gained two nephews and one niece. I should make it clear here that we love these little babies to pieces. They bring so much love and light to the family, and we are so grateful for them. The hard part of it all has been the aftermath. Now that there are real moms and dads in the families, it seems that we no longer count. Because we haven't parented a live child, we aren't considered parents anymore. We are just two people that spend their days in the cemetery visiting some children. The world seems to forget all the preparation we put into the nursery. The 39 weeks I spent growing a child. The 15 weeks I spent growing the one after that. The twelve-hour labor and the invasive d&c. The fact that we went to a funeral home not once, but twice in eight months to take a last look at one child and to pick up the ashes of another. They may not have been born living, and they may not have taken a single breath on this earth, but they were real. We made them, and my body took care of them until it was their time to go.
They are real. As real as anything else I know in this world.
When people ask, we tell them we are pregnant with our third child. We have a son, and a daughter, and another son on the way. I'm not afraid to share our whole story with people, even when I know it might make them sad. I'm sad every day, but this is our life. We are loss parents, and even though others may forget, we never will.
I know that parenting a live child is hard work, I will never deny that. And I can't necessarily speak from experience, but I'm guessing that most parents would choose to parent their live child rather than lose one. So yes, maybe we're not doing all the hard work of parenting a live child, but we are doing a lot of other hard things.
In the beginning, people were quick to tell us that we were parents. They were quick to say that the important people would always remember. But lately it just feels like we've been kicked out of a club we were hardly allowed to belong to in the first place. Membership was revoked before we were even given the chance to prove our worth, but people were still kind enough to recognize all the work we put in. But now other people are in the club, and no one cares about the work we've done anymore. It feels like, in some people's eyes, Hudson is our first baby. Yes, he will (hopefully) be the first one we get to bring home, but he is not the first child we've conceived. Nor is he the first child I've felt wiggle around in my belly. In fact, he's not even the second. I got to feel Carter and little bean move. They were real.
In support groups we've been to and online discussions we've been a part of, everyone always says to count our babies the way we want them to be counted, and others will hopefully follow suit. Brandon and I are proud to say we are parents, even if we haven't had to do the "traditional" hard work. When people don't count our children, they are taking away the biggest, most important part of our lives. They are forgetting the cute little babies that we made and had to say goodbye to. They forget that we spend 90% of our days thinking about our babies and trying to put on a happy face. They make us feel worthless. But how are we supposed to have that conversation with them? How do we tell them that we wish they'd include our children? When I think about having that conversation, I feel like it would upset the other person, so I just hold my breath and try to move on without throwing something. How stupid is it, though, that I'm the one concerned about hurting others when they have hurt me? Why should I be afraid to have that conversation?
Answer: because I'm afraid they'll tell me what they really think.
All the things they don't say might actually surface and come out for a change. You're not a mom. You haven't parented a living child. Giving birth doesn't actually make you a mom, you have to raise the child. Just because you gave birth to the first one doesn't mean you can count the second one. Why do you even remember their birthdays? It's not like they were born. You guys will actually be a family once Hudson is here. When he's here, you'll stop missing the other ones so much.
I'm afraid to hear the things they have to say, but I'm also afraid of the way I'll react, because I don't think it would be very nice.
I don't write this post for sympathy or apologies. I write this post because I know I'm not the only person that feels the way I feel. So loss moms, even if the important people in your life don't count your babies the way you'd want them to, you just keep on doing it, because there are so many of us that will count them with you. They are real, and they matter. They are your babies, and you are their mom.