October 24th, 2012, the day of his in-utero anatomy scan, was the day we learned our 20-week son would not survive. The day we got the news.
And now. October 15, 2016. The third year I memorialize my first baby, my Ian.
I am one in four. I lost a baby, new to the outside world, and unexpectedly alive for one short hour. I carried him safely inside for so long and then delivered him and held him and surrendered him back to the earth. I never forget him.
I remember him again watching Dougie be big brother to Charlie. Wonder how he would have been as big brother to Dougie. Wonder what fresh mischief there would be in my house, how moving would have been, if I’d had him and been pregnant with Doug, imagining playmates for him among my friends’ children of that age.
I am not alone.
My friends and my family have felt their own losses, sometimes more than once. Planned, unplanned, blindsided every time. Run down by a random universe or surrendering to a mysterious plan.
Life is an undeniable miracle. We knew that before. Now we understand in a new way, as creators both of life that has ebbed and lives that thrive. We understand with our bodies, our cells, our souls. Anyone with a rainbow baby has this knowledge. A salve.
Life happens in the face of terrible odds. Life fights its way through whatever it can. It happens somewhere at all moments, just as it ends elsewhere. We know ever more deeply how swiftly we must embrace it when it comes or else miss it entirely. We try to guard it when we see its first flash, but we must surrender to the caprices of biology or design of the divine, for the outcome is barely outside our control.
It is little comfort to assign numbers to ourselves. One in four. Rather, it was me, it was you, it was her. We were each a different story, a narrative, memories and viewpoint and circumstance. There are many of us changed by the loss of a child and as many ways to lose a child.
Our families are reshaped, too, and maybe our friendships, when loved ones are unable to cope with our visible grief. Or when they refuse to understand, adding to our pain.
My hope or prayer this October, for everyone who has lost a child, is that none of you feel isolated by your loss.
Light your candle on the 15th, remember, and know other parents around the world do the same. Hug someone if you want or be alone. But understand that each and every one of us lighting a candle is thinking of you too. We do not know the details of your story but we know the validity and heaviness of your loss.