Last week Katie called Kate with the eerily similar and heartbreaking news that this time it was her sister who had lost a baby.
When my sister called me she was so upset. So upset that this tragedy continues to happen, so upset that her friend is hurting, that she knows what she is going through - to not only grieve for the baby, but for her sister as well. She was upset because it brought back so many memories and she was upset because she still misses Cale.
Obviously, I don't like seeing or hearing my sister so heartbroken, but I do appreciate how very real baby loss is to her and how much she loves her nephew.
Kate asked me what they should do. She asked what advice I had for her to pass on to Katie and what she could help with. Immediately I rattled of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. I told her to encourage them to take as many pictures as possible, to hold their baby (they didn't know the gender at the time, and learned at delivery that they had a baby girl), and just take their time with her and examine every part of her. I contacted Katie and sent her links and blogs and tips without trying to be too overwhelming, though you just want these people, these poor unfortunate parents who are walking in your shoes, to know everything you didn't and to know that you are so very heartbroken for them.
And I am heartbroken for them. It doesn't matter that I don't know them. Because they lost a baby and that alone means I know them better than I ever should.
When you hear of a new loss, you not only grieve for all that should have been for this other baby and this other family, but it brings back a lot of your own grief. It's not like I don't know that I still miss Cale and am still so sad that he's not here, but sometimes these things happen and just remind you how very much you still hurt and how very horrible it all still is. Despite all the good that has come, despite the 20 incredible months we have had with his brother, I still desperately miss my first son.
But along with my grief also comes a lot of guilt. I don't like that I know what to recommend to a grieving family. I don't like that I know how to respond, or have some helpful things to share. I obviously don't like it because I don't want to have the first hand knowledge and experience, but I also don't like it because a lot of the things that I say are things that I didn't do with Cale and things I will forever regret.
The fact of the matter is that I did not do Cale justice when he was born.
I don't say that to fetch for kind words or for anyone to tell me otherwise, because that is just a fact and always will be. I held him for far too brief of a time and I didn't even unwrap the blanket he was wrapped in. We didn't know about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, but when asked if we wanted to take pictures, I said no. Thank God my nurse took two anyway, but what if she hadn't? It would have only make my grief, and my guilt, that much stronger.
I can make excuses and I know that I was in shock at the time, lost and confused, and how could we have known exactly what to do? But as his mother, as someone who carried him for nine months and loved him and planned a life for him, I felt like I should have, and I could have, done more for him in the short time we had together.
What it all goes back to is that I just wish I took my time with him. I do wish I took pictures - pictures of his hands, his little feet, pictures of us holding him, etc - but I mostly wish that I saw more of him. He's wearing just a diaper in one of his pictures, but I wish that I saw that with my own eyes. I wish I kissed his toes, and dressed him in the clothes that were already packed in my hospital bag. I wish I held his hand in mine and really took a moment to just breathe him in.
I know what I did do when I had him was important. I did hold him, and I did kiss him and tell him I loved him, but that will never be enough. And I will forever wish that things were different.
All I can do now is try to make up for it. To honor Cale and do him justice the best I can. Maybe it's by sharing his story or by helping others. And hopefully in the process other baby loss families will have a little less guilt, because no one needs guilt on top of grief - their grief is already so much.
Please keep baby Emma and her family in your thoughts and prayers. This is a tough road they're walking on.