Triggers happen frequently. Some are intense, some are subtle, some are manageable, others are not. Sometime when I get an intense trigger and traumatic memories and thoughts start flooding my brain I get an urge, a yearning to go to the grave site and dig the dirt. Dig the dirt with my hands, see the dirt under my fingernails until I reach the white box and hold my babies again. I feel like it is a primal, motherly instinct that takes me to this place. I made it to the cemetery one time. I sat there on the ground bawled and cried out in agony. I didn’t start digging because deep down I know what remains in the white box is not want I want to see. It won’t satisfy the yearning. It would probably add more traumatizing images to my brain. I called my Dad for help that night and Lord did I need it. I didn’t call my husband because he was at home with our – at the time – grieving 6-year-old. Like a good Dad he drove right to me and sat on the cold ground and cried right beside me. I thankfully haven’t made it that far again but the urge still happens.
Speaking of cemeteries and grave sites- here’s my expectation when I go to the grave site. A beam of sunlight suddenly and magically appears from the clouds and shines down on the headstone. There is a light breeze and doves are gently circling above me. I get an overwhelming sense of peace in my heart knowing Nathan and Liam are always with me in spirit. I walk away feeling like I had a heavenly conversation with my boys. Here’s what really happens- I.feel.nothing. I go there and decorate for the season, say a short prayer and then drive away. I have felt my boys speak to me in many different ways just never at the cemetery. I used to feel guilty for this- like I wasn’t praying genuinely enough when I was there or didn’t visit often enough. I now know that is a crock of crap. My boys are so proud I am their Mama. They tell me in their own ways – perfectly designed for me.
– Leslie Johnson
Baby showers… They are supposed to be a celebration of new life and the beginning of an exciting new journey. But for someone who has had a stillborn, baby showers can be painstaking torture. I feel bad I feel this way. “It’s not her fault my baby died.” “Shame on me for thinking about myself during her special time.” “What happened to me usually doesn’t happen, so her baby will probably be just fine.”
Exactly 2 weeks and 1 day after my baby shower I was told my baby had no heartbeat at 34 weeks gestation. That was after I lost his twin brother at 18 weeks gestation who remained in my womb until his brother passed 4 months later. I can still picture all the decorations- the wilderness theme, bears, moose, buffalo print. Nathan’s name in painted block letters above the fireplace, the tribute to his brother Liam where everyone put there thumbprint on a tree with the saying “There are two gifts we can give our children. One is roots and the other is wings.” I remember giving a speech and Nathan kicking me during it, I was crying saying how the day was bittersweet because as I was trying to
celebrate one twin while also mourning the other twin. I remember the centerpieces, the moose cake pops, the food, the weather (snow), the gifts, the guests. It was a beautiful, quiet, perfect “somber celebration” if you will. Now, all my baby shower reminds me of is the forthcoming pain, death, that fateful ultrasound “Sorry there is no heartbeat” the screams, the phone calls, the crying, the wanting to die, the hospital room, the clock on the wall with the little black minute marks in between each number, the yellow flower on the picture in the room, and so on and so on. As much as I dislike showers my guilt
usually guilts me into going. I do however imagine what that voicemail would sound like if I was completely honest with the mother to be “Ummm, hi I was just calling to let you know I can’t make it to your baby shower on Sunday. I just reminds me of impending death but I hope you have wonderful time and and I’m sure your baby will be just fine, Ok Bye-e”
The first baby shower I attended after giving birth to a stillborn was extremely rough but it was for a dear friend who I love and I wanted to be there for her. When I walked into this baby shower I instantly felt like a bad luck charm. Because I’m at this shower my friend’s baby might die. Sounds ridiculous right?! Life after stillbirth is full of these ridiculous thoughts! I felt like the acquaintances I knew at the shower were super scared of me. I felt like I could hear them whispering in their heads “Gasp!!! there
she is, the woman who had a stillborn, quick!!! act like nothing ever happened and just smile and make small talk” Ugh. It was uncomfortable to say the least. I didn’t go to another baby shower for a long long time after that one. I hope the cringe of seeing as baby shower invitation goes away one day. With the Grace of God and some time under my belt I can now make it through a baby shower without feeling like there is big “S” on my forehead or having a complete emotional meltdown after. And that is progress.
Published by Olivia’s Grace contributor and Board Vice President, Leslie Johnson.