1 Question Stillbirth Makes Me Ask

“Is he breathing?”

Ugh… What a dramatic question, right? Sounds as if it should immediately follow a horrific accident. Have you ever had to ask this question? My guess is no. My hope is no. It’s not a commonly asked question… for most. It IS dramatic.

It runs through my head constantly.

“Is he breathing?” I ask myself as I look at my baby on the monitor, watching for his little belly and chest to rise and fall.

“Is he breathing?” I wonder as I wake in the middle of the night making my way to him to be sure.

When his naps are longer than usual, I ask.

When I am not in the same room and he is quiet, I ask.

“Is he breathing?” It’s the question my husband hears when I ask, “How is he?” and he responds, “I think he is sleeping.” And he understands, answering patently and with the knowledge that in this family, this is a question that is often asked.

I can’t count the times I’ve asked as I’ve placed my hand on his little chest feeling it rise and fall or stared at the baby monitor as I squint making certain I see him breathe.

To you, I might be overreacting, ridiculous or crazy. I get it. I can imagine what an odd and even dramatic question that might be. To you, it is dramatic. To you, I could be crazy. Why else would someone ask THAT?

I ask because I am filled with fear. I ask consistently because in my life, that one thing that NEVER happens… it happened. I no longer have the privilege of living under the assumption (what I thought was a certainty) bad things only happen to other people. That privilege was lost the day my son died.

That doesn’t make me crazy. It doesn’t mean you suddenly understand my need to ask this question either. To be honest, you couldn’t. No matter how hard you try, you wouldn’t understand. I wouldn’t want you to. If you did it could only mean would you ask this question as I do and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

I could have never imagined the pain that came with loosing Mac.

One day he was here with his heart beating strong. All our thoughts and dreams of our future had him in it. We wanted and expected him to be with us in this life. Then one day he wasn’t. He was gone, without warning. All we knew to be safe was ripped from us.

The world looked different.

Our little boy was gone. Suddenly our parent parenting responsibilities went from buying diapers to buying a tiny casket. We didn’t plan birthdays we planned his funeral and pick out his marker. It didn’t seem fair. How is it that something we loved and wanted so deeply could be gone without warning?

I hear you saying:

“But you have a new little baby now. How happy you must be!”

“I bet so much healing came with your new little boy.”

“You can let go a little more now that Zane is here.”

“I thought you would be different with this baby here.”

“It’s not normal to be so paranoid about your baby.”

“You can’t sit and wonder these things all the time. You need to stop.”

I want you to know:

Yes, I am happy. We are happy. Zane brought hope and in many ways healing, but never did he replace anyone or suddenly wipe away his brothers existence. Zane is Zane, just as Hagen is Hagen, Suzie is Suzie and Mac will always be Mac. I am happy, but I am scared too. I look at Zane fully grasping what an amazing gift he is and how wonderful it is to be able to watch him grow…to live in front of me.

Let go? Grief isn’t something anyone is able to “let go” of. We learn to live with it, not let go of it. We get better at coping rather than deciding to just not do it anymore. Losing a baby is a lonely grief… I think you forget I do not have the privilege of waking up without this incredible loss. I wake up every morning with it. Every. Single. Morning. I think I’m doing pretty darn good all things considered.

I AM different now that Zane is here. The mom I am now is not the mom I would have been before Mac and Zane. I am not ashamed of it. I am proud of the mom I am. I am thankful for the growth and understandings that I have now because of Mac. My little boy changed my life and not all this change was sad or as terrible as you may think.

Yes, I can. I can worry. I can be full of fear. I can be what you view as paranoid. I can do ALL of these things and STILL be the most amazing mom to ALL my children.

I couldn’t not wonder all of these things after what I have experienced. I lost that privilege the day he died.  I don’t know how to live a life without the fear now. Once you experience something like this you really can’t go back to the way I once was.

I look at our children here with such an awareness of the gifts they are now. I guard them tightly. I watch them carefully. I will not apologize or explain why my fear exists. I will continue to ask the question, “Is he breathing?” because my fear will never just go away. I know you see it as a weakness of mine. You don’t understand the strength it takes to experience a loss like this and not act on every single fear that pops into our heads. I will get better at coping with this fear. I will grow because I continue to strive toward it for myself and for my family. That’s the difference between hopelessly living in fear and knowing that although fear will always be there I will be ok.

*I dedicate this to all the rainbow moms and dads out there whom, like myself, ask the question, “Is he breathing?” I get YOU. I understand the struggle and how lonely it can be. I share the most vulnerable moments in my life and my struggles for you. We will be ok, I promise.