There are those clubs in life that we join with enthusiasm, that is within our control and decision, that we decide to engage because it coincides with our interests, our hobbies, passions, joys, and identity. Although life’s path indoctrinates us into other clubs or groups that we never sought membership for, but we received a lifetime membership that usually involves emotional fees instead of monetary fees. Almost one year ago, I received one of those unsolicited lifetime memberships to the Mother of Dead Children when I delivered my full term 38 week old stillborn son, Mr. Baby (aka Mohammad Hatem Mominah). A membership card I have tried to burn, to throw away, and return to sender, but the damn gold status membership card keeps finding its way back into my hand of cards. This unsolicited club membership likes me to invest my emotions, my cognitive energy, my time, my sleep, my lack of sleep, and at times, my sanity. While the members of this club experience some of the same initiations, each club member also gets specialized individualized treatment dependent on their own story, their personal characteristics of the card member, but most of us get to pay the yearly premium of guilt, blame, and sadness.
There are no rules and regulations of expected behavior of carrying this card from the membership itself, but people that have not gained membership to this club have developed stereotypes of how you should “be” and what is acceptable to say to you or not say to you. I have perfected the art of listening, and composing a smile, or at least a blank expression, but I also have a ticker tape that silently runs through my mind, that if ever was exposed, could unleash a nasty sarcastic spew of my inner coping. As a member of this club, I have gathered support and understanding from other gold card carrying members, but those outside that club, that have never experienced what it means to lose a child, will offer their own advice of how you can be a gold star performing card carrying member. While every parent that has lost a child has a different way of coping, my own inner dialogue, which I long ago nicknamed as my “ticker tape” has at times ran rampant in my mind in response to messages to what others have said to me in the past year.
- You should be grateful that you have other children. Yes I am selfish and ungrateful…. (guilt) What is wrong with me?
- You need to get over it and move on. I am weak and sorry I have those days that I secretly wish that I could have crawled into the grave with my child….(guilt) What is wrong with me?
- God never gives you more than you can handle. Really? Ummmm….because I am about one second away of letting you see on display what falling apart looks like.….(guilt)What is wrong with me?
- Far worse things have happened to other people, you should be grateful. Yes far worse things have happened….I did not gain membership to compare my experience with tragedies of the rest of the world. Yeah I get that far more horrible things have happened in the world, but thank you for your insight and wisdom, but it still doesn’t change how I feel….(guilt) What is wrong with me?
- Say “Thanks God” or “Al Humdallah”. I have never been one to do or say things unless I really feel that way, and maybe I am an ungrateful, selfish person, because I am not grateful for carrying a child for 9.5 months to hand that child over to be buried in the desert’s sand. I am not grateful to get this unsolicited membership card……Sorry if this upsets your world view, and doesn’t coincide with your perceptions….I will not say something that I do not mean, because I do not view this as a will of God…this was because of medical human error, my own screwed up body, my own inability to deal with stress, and because I was too physically and mentally exhausted to stand up to the voices that said a C-section could wait for a couple more days, even though I knew it couldn’t. I am not in the mood to make you feel better…because I feel like shit. If it makes you feel better, please say it, but do not say it to me, and do not expect me to say it. Special note to medical professionals….please shut up and do not even have the audacity to mention this to me…. (guilt) What is wrong with me?
- At least you are still alive and here. Really? That could be questionable on a moment by moment basis…..(guilt) What is wrong with me?
- Maybe it was for the best, maybe there was something wrong with him. A doctor examined him, there was nothing wrong with him visibly, although I would not allow the hospital to dissect his little body. Even if there was something wrong with him. I just wanted the chance to look into his eyes…even for just a little bit. I wanted that baby, even if there had been issues…. (guilt) What is wrong with me?
- You are not the only person to lose a child. I know that, and do you think that I don’t’ realize already that I am not handling this with grace …Do you really think that if I could I wouldn’t stand up and be this fortress of strength? (guilt) What is wrong with me?
- At least you never had the chance to get emotionally attached…it is better that he died before you had the chance to know him. Please fuck off because I did know him. I carried him for 38 weeks… you have no idea…… (guilt) What is wrong with me?
- You gave yourself black eyes/ bad luck because you were so happy to have the baby. Your statements are more of a reflection of your black heart and how you view others as well as how you view yourself… Please…could you just please shoot me and get your freaking torture over with. I was happy to be expecting a child…and you stand before me and say that it is my fault that I made other’s jealous……really….this is just too much….while you may think it, and that is your right….really shut the fuck up. Trust me….I have enough guilt for not standing up to doctors, changing physicians, or dealing with stress effectively…I don’t need your negative energy to add to my black world right now. Bad things happen in life, and death is one of the inevitable truths of our existence. (guilt) What is wrong with me?
The only real benefit that I believe I have gained from my membership, is the right to say “Please consider what you say to someone that has lost their child”. I know the intentions are there to try to comfort the person, but each person deals with loss and grief in their own way. I apologize in advance to anyone that I have offended by my honesty and language, that is not my intention, but to provide an insight into the grief of one mother on a year long journey of coming to terms with the death of her child. Entering the private thoughts of another is one way to understand a situation and have some empathy. I am sure that in the past that I have unintentionally made statement in regards to someone’s life events that were not helpful. This experience has taught me that sometimes words unspoken are best. No one can tell a the person what they should feel, or how they should behave when faced with death. Sometimes the well intentioned comments only add to feelings of guilt, sadness, selfishness, and unfairness experienced by those grieving. What you can do…sit quietly, listen, and understand that person will never be the same in some ways. Yes they will learn to smile again, they will learn how to live again, they will learn to breathe….but it is in their time, and in their way. Grief is a path that each person travels differently and it is not a path that can be magically fixed.
Happy Birthday Mr. Baby. You earned your angel wings before you ever had to breathe in the experiences of the harsh realities of life on earth. One of my favorite messages sent was “The angel opened the book of life, and said “This one is too perfect for this world…and closed the book”. For this, I can honestly say “Alhumdallah” or “Thank God”. Until we meet again my little baby.