On Love and Loss

Trigger warning: pregnancy loss

This is a post 6 months in the making, and it’s why I’ve been so silent here. How could I share anything else before I managed to get this story out?

On Thursday March 22, I flew back to the east coast for my youngest sister’s baby shower.

On Saturday March 24, we shared the excitement of her soon-to-arrive first child with a cozy brunch party full of friends and family near her home in Brooklyn.

On Sunday March 25, I was spending time with my nieces and nephew in New Jersey and preparing to pack for the airport when she called me. They were at the hospital. The doctors couldn’t find a heartbeat. We got in the car to drive to the hospital in Manhattan. I called my husband and had him cancel my flight home.

On Tuesday March 27, after long days of disbelief, tears, and heroic effort, my sister delivered my stillborn nephew, Marley James.

He was perfect as she held him, he was just…gone. A spirit too bright to shine in this world. I am forever grateful that I was able to be present for his arrival. To kiss him hello and goodbye all at once. To know that he was real.

According to statistics from the Star Legacy Foundation, one in 100 pregnancies in the US ends in a stillbirth (defined as a baby’s death in the womb after 20 weeks). Much about stillbirth remains unknown, and the Foundation is a leader in research, education, and advocacy for families. And there’s so much to learn when this horrible news is first spoken. So much to decide. Discussing autopsy options while in labor? Unthinkable. But very real.

The strength my sister and brother-in-law displayed was unimaginable. Their commitment to following their birth plan with their doula to bring Marley into the world with love, peace, and acceptance taught me a great deal about the importance of intention and just how resilient our spirits can be.

In the six months that have passed, they have been vocal about sharing their grief, providing education, and communicating with raw honesty, especially via social media. They’re shining their lights into a deep, crushing darkness. They’ve made sure Marley has had an impact on this world through not only their own voices, but by many donations made and trees planted in his honor.

For me personally, it’s been more darkness than light. Sometimes I want to see him again so desperately that I cannot begin to imagine the weight of their pain. It’s become very hard for me to listen when people complain about their own children, though I also understand that we all see things through our own lens. If I had children, I’m sure I’d have a few complaints in the past 6 months…but I don’t, so even though it makes me feel like a bad friend, innocent venting just makes me want to scream. Every month, the 27th is a very raw day…full of feelings I keep working on embracing and processing.

Most of all, it’s been a reminder that every time we open ourselves to love, we also expose ourselves to the possibility of pain. That recognizing beauty also requires acknowledgement of suffering. So please, be kind. All of us who love are suffering somewhere inside, too.