Yesterday marked one year since I lost our baby. I remember the first few months being so numb and dark after I learned that I was miscarrying our son or daughter. It was a devastating time but in thinking throughout this past year of the short life my baby lived, how small s/he was, and even the great sorrow of my loss, I saw glimpses of the greatness that s/he represented, reminding me of a very important fact of life: A person IS a person, no matter how small. And God's gift of life is the greatest of all.
(Note: In the interest of making more sense with less words, from here on out, I will refer to the baby as "he" or "him" in the parts about the loss of my baby.)
We found out in mid November last year that I was pregnant, and decided to tell everyone on Thanksgiving. The first people to find out that day were our "PA parents," two generous and loving people who have taken us under their wing, treated us as if we were their own, and last year had invited us to Thanksgiving dinner at their home. We adorned Sophia with a shirt I decorated with puffy paint. Four stick figures were drawn across the bottom, and a baby carriage. The shirt read "Big Sister 2011." That night, we joined my family in Frederick for dessert. I can't remember who was the first to notice the shirt but everyone was ecstatic by the time the news rolled through the house. But the next day, I started bleeding. The following week it was confirmed that I lost the baby.
Just 6 or so weeks along he was. And yet, his personhood had already indented a place in my heart. At 6 weeks his own heart was formed and beating, the areas for his legs and arms were little stubs ready to spring into growth. He was but a few millimeters yet his presence was enormous. He was an individual soul, living inside of me, borrowing my body for a short time, just like each of his siblings before him. He was a huge life changer, both by his life and his loss.
Yesterday also marked a sad occasion for someone else. A friend of my sister's buried two of her own babies. Lost at 24 weeks gestation, her twins, Josephine Angelina and Nadia Rose, were laid to rest after suffering complications from a torn placenta and then TTTS. Their mother went into preterm labor on a Sunday morning and her babies could not be saved. These babies, whose very lives hung in the balance for so long, these same babies that were so small and so fragile, were huge life-changers for their parents and family, both in their life and in their loss.
This past summer, just a few short months ago, marked the 1 year anniversary of the loss of a little boy named Declan. He was just shy of his first birthday when cancer claimed his life for good in August of 2010. Declan's battle with cancer was courageous. It was difficult. It was awe-inspiring and the details of it, which were so painstakingly related to us through the humbling blog of his parents, were relentless in their challenge to the hearts of many. That challenge simply was - fight for our children. Declan, too, was small, but he was a huge life-changer for so many of us, both in his life and in his loss.
All 4 of these babies, and all the babies who have ever been miscarried or who died soon after birth, were individual souls who were created for purposes unknown to us. They were tiny lives that were lost before they got to know what life is really like here in the world. But they did have a life inside the secret darkness of their mothers' wombs. Declan had almost a whole year outside of the protection of his mother's body. The twins knew only moments of this world. But they all knew some measure of a life of comfort and peace, of complete dependence and warmth. Of undeniable love. From the moment they were conceived, they had a soul. They made their mark in the Master's painting and made a splash in the lives of all who loved them.
There are so many differences in the stories of each of these precious babies. The situations and details surrounding the life and death of each one are incomparable. Yet there is one thing that each baby has in common. That is that they were people. At 6 weeks gestation, at 24 weeks gestation, or a few weeks shy of a first birthday, each baby mattered. Each baby's heart beat. Each baby knew love and pain. Each baby was a perfect gift; a special individual created by God for His purpose. It was His choice when and how they lived, and when and how they died.
The grief attached to losing a child knows no bounds. Some say that if a baby dies in utero, it's not the same as the loss of a baby who has already been born. I don't believe that's true. Ask that young mama who just lost her twins at 24 weeks, watched them take their first breaths..and their last within moments, and then had to suffer through a funeral for them. And then ask every single mother who lost a baby very early on in pregnancy, only to go through the next year a shadow of a person, mourning the loss of a baby they never got a chance to hold. Neither one would say that their situation is worse because most women know the value of a human soul - no matter what "stage" of life its body was in. It is often in these dark and painful moments of grief when we realize the power of one individual soul, his or her significance to the bigger picture of God's world, and the reality of his or her presence - or lack-there-of - here on earth.
"So let that be a lesson to one and to all...A person's a person. No matter how small." ~Horton the Elephant in Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss