If Sam had been born as we’d expected, his name would be Jem and he’d be about seven months old. This is about the time I had predicted I’d start enjoying my life as a mom of two.
Obviously, things turned out a bit differently than I had envisioned in those months of pregnancy. And while I’d certainly never hope to lose a child again, I can see the ways that we are a stronger, more serious, more thoughtful family than we would have been otherwise. Life moves on, you know, and I am enjoying my life as a mom of two; it’s getting normal to me to have my toddler underfoot and my baby in Heaven.
It is strange, though, that I have recent acquaintances who don’t know our story. My body is healed, the baby things are packed away; from the outside we look like a normal, happy family of three. And that is what seems weird: that one-fourth of our family is so significant and yet so invisible.
I recently read a blog of a mom who tattooed of the name of her stillborn child on her wrist. A car I’ve seen at church has little Christian fish on the back of their car to represent all the members of their family, including three little fish with halos. At the root, I think it’s the same impulse that moves some people to put RIP stickers on their back windshields or to make screen printed t-shirts displaying a photo of a loved one.
None of these demonstrations is really my style, but I am more sympathetic to them than I used to be. Early on, a deep loss can feel like such a central part of your identity it seems necessary to make sure every one knows about it. As life moves on, it feels important to prove to yourself, and maybe to others, that the loved one has not been forgotten.
I have considered for a long time about how to walk the balance between appropriate versus morbid degrees of remembrance in conversation and in family practice. But whatever it ends up looking like from the outside, there’s no doubt Sam will always hold a piece of my heart.