The assignment this week for RemembeRED, the memoir prompt at Write on Edge, asked us to explore our worst memory. What was it? How did it affect us? What would I have done differently, if anything? Imagine the act of writing it would free me from it.
I’ve thought about this memory a thousand times, wondered how to paint literary pictures of an inner battle still lingering inside. I feel it the most when I kiss my kids goodnight, tuck the covers around their chins, and listen to their prayers. I see the fruition of love and life in their faces, project splendid futures for them both, and thank my God every day for the privilege of being their parent.
But I am missing one.
My heart knows there should have been three little hands holding mine, not two.
The amount of shame I carry holds me in the dark sometimes, keeps me from introducing myself honestly, especially after the woman who just miscarried. She is the mother of three: John, Jane and one in heaven.
I am the mother of three.
Only my child is in heaven because I put them there.
There is an emptiness and a grief that finds you unexpectedly. It didn’t find me filling out medical forms when I checked yes next to the word abortion. It didn’t find me when my peers got married or had children. It didn’t find me even when I made the decision to get pregnant at twenty-five.
It found me the first time I heard a heartbeat buried deep within my womb. The penetrating realization of what I had done reverberated off the walls of the doctor’s office. The thump, thump, thump, broke me in sharp pieces, cut my soul like broken glass. A reflection of a life I would never know flashed before me, induced tears of loss and grief before I could find the celebration in being pregnant.
I understood my baby had been real, and for the first time, I mourned their death.
When I went into labor 9 1/2 weeks early, I truly believed God was punishing me, condemning me for taking a life. An eye for an eye. I spent hours alone in my thoughts, waiting for my daughter to be born, and then again sitting by her side in NICU. Nurses buzzed about, saving lives, but all I could think about was the life I had not protected. At twenty, being pregnant was inconvenient and embarrassing. It was a problem needing a quick solution. The process was only a minor monetary frustration, a physically uncomfortable but bearable experience. I couldn’t see my child’s future, because I was selfishly still figuring out mine. Other options were available, I was just too self-absorbed to consider them. My body healed quickly. What I didn’t realize was that the real pain, the real scars, would surface years later.
I am sorry for a life that should have been.
I am sorry for the family that could have loved my child.
I am sorry for not cherishing what so many struggle to achieve.
I am thankful for the safe office and reputable doctor that protected my mother’s daughter.
Experiencing the all-consuming grief of losing a child planned for, a pregnancy anticipated or hoped for, is something I have never experienced, but I do understand the emptiness of feeling like my family is incomplete. My heart has felt the pangs of wanting a child that will never be, with the added darkness of knowing it was my fault.
Forgiveness does not always come easy, sometimes, it comes slow and steady.
But it comes.