Lullabies I Never Sang

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.

20 thoughts on “Lullabies I Never Sang

  1. Oh, wow. Hugs to you. I can feel your pain, your regret. Your heartbreak.

    I admire your honesty–I’m sure this was hard to write. And exceptionally hard to publish. That courage is admirable.

  2. Thanks for opening your heart and sharing a difficult memory. There are so many of us who share your story, fears and concerns, Thanks for writing on the Edge.

    Society tells us the decision is ours to make…then it is done and no one talks about it ever again. We are left building a wall around ourselves, one brick at a time and before we no it we have successfully hidden ourselves from those around us. It took decades for me to believe that God could or would forgive me. I am forever thankful that He is a forgiving God and we do have the promise that one day we will be re-united with our unborn children.

  3. This is a brave and heartbreaking post. Sometimes we need to make decisions we are bound to regret later. I hope by sharing your pain here you have made a step in finding self forgiveness. Large hugs to you, brave, beautiful lady.

  4. I cannot tell you how this touched me. I can only say God loves you and was not punishing you when your daughter was born premature. I have often wondered the same thing about my own life but have come to understand God’s love is only good and compassionate.

    Thank you for being a real transparent woman today. The world needs more women like you.

  5. Thank you for your bravery in letting your readers into your heart and the shame and guilt that a decision like this can bring up. I know how you feel. Really. I linked the story of mine up to this group (well, to TRDC) in February, so I didn’t want to link again. But I have a story like yours. If you want to read it, this is the link to it:

      1. Thank you both for sharing your stories. I admire your strength and I’m sure your words would help more people understand the internal struggles in making this decision.

  6. I remember the moment I first heard my son’s heartbeat.

    I reveled in the miracle of life – how so much has to happen, how truly amazing it is.

    I cannot even imagine the smack you past gave to you in that moment.

    You are amazing for sharing this, for writing it. Your words are strong as they bring me to tears.

    Perhaps one day they will help someone else decide what choice to make.

    Hugs to you, for writing this.

  7. Emily, thanks for sharing this and being so honest about what happened, how you felt then, and how you feel now. I thought you portrayed your memory with respect and pain, which is a tough combination.

    Also, like the other comment, I don’t believe that God punishes like that. I think you are the toughest judge of yourself, harder than anyone else could be.

    Hugs for both your younger self and you today 🙂

  8. Thank you for your courage and honesty today, Emily. The best gift we can give to our daughters is our truth. You have done that here, not just for your own girls when they are ready to talk about such things, but also for any young woman who might be struggling with the same decision you had to make. She may still choose to abort, but what more powerful gift can you give a her than the understanding and hindsight of a woman who’s actually been there?

    We all make terrible mistakes when we are young. That you are brave enough to put them into the world so that others may perhaps learn from them is extraordinary. I admire you as a writer, and as a woman.

    Thank you again,

  9. This is a very powerful piece of writing. Your description of the moment when this particular grief found you “unexpectedly” is vivid and immediate; your description of feeling punished when your daughter was born premature is heartrending. Every mother of a premature infant feels guilty and searches her heart for what she did wrong to bring this terrible calamity down on her child, but not every mother has such a perfectly matched transgression waiting at her elbow. I admire your skill in writing this, but not half as much as I admire your courage.

  10. My heart goes out to you. I hope you – and so many others out there in this same spot – are able to find comfort.

    And I choose to believe God does not punish, He teaches. and the lesson of how precious life is was certainly learned..

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