We were late and I wanted to be irritated. I considered not going at all, why bother when we were already going to miss the beginning. A woman approached us as we arrived on the grounds and directed us to join the procession as they were just starting out.
And so we walked. And I cried.
The surge of emotion took me by surprise. As soon as we joined the end of the long line of baby lost families, my knees went weak and sobs wracked my body. I have no idea who the tears were for. For my lost baby? For myself and my family? Or for the many, many families plodding in front of me. So many bereaved mothers and fathers. So many brothers and sisters without their siblings to run with and play with. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends all loving and supporting their loved ones, all missing their sweet babies who should have been cuddled in their arms.
I usually feel survivor’s guilt when I interact with other baby lost parents. I have been greatly blessed in the progeny arena. I have 5 living children, including a newborn baby. I understand how difficult it can be to suffer the sight of other’s pregnant bellies and babes in arms, when your arms are empty. My arms are full now, full of babies to love. But they know the gut-wrenching ache of longing. My arms know what it is to hold a ghost baby. And I feel guilt now that my arms are full while other’s are empty. I try to be sensitive to the feelings of those who may feel dismay at my current joy. But this day was filled with families. Families with full arms, but who knew the pain of empty ones. Unfortunately, not all the families are so blessed, there were many with no children to hold, those with multiple losses as well.
The whole event was just lovely and surprisingly cathartic. We hadn’t participated in any group rituals of remembrance before. We didn’t have a funeral for Kalila, we went to the funeral home on our own to say good bye. We didn’t go to group therapy or to the tree plantings. We mourned in seclusion. We observe the anniversaries quietly at home.
Being a part of a group of people like us, all celebrating the too-short lives of our babies-lost, was incredible.
I love the almost solemn walking. Being at the very end of the line, I was able to observe the other families and their interactions. There were happy, playing children. There were smiling, chatting adults. There were mourning mothers who were deep in their own thoughts as they walked beside hundreds of others. There were lost fathers, who didn’t know what to do with themselves, how to manage their grief. There were volunteers, smiling gently in support and care. We meandered along the pathway through the legislature grounds. Our walk ended as we walked past our babies’ names written in chalk along the pathway. Kalila’s was the very last name.
There was a brief service afterward. Kate from sweet/salty and Glow in the Woods spoke a brief message that touched every heart, and a tear to more than a few eyes. She was incredible, and so generous in sharing her heart with all of us, and leaving her babies across the country in order to do so.
The event ended with our babies names being read aloud as we released balloons, tagged with the names and our wishes for our babies. At first I felt that this would be an artifice riddled exercise. But hearing Kalila’s name read aloud, in front of hundreds of people, made her feel so real to me again. Releasing her balloon allowed my broken heart to soar to her. My Monkey kept asking me if the balloons were going to God, and I felt like I should explain the impossibility of that. I was then reminded that there is no impossible with God.
We also released a balloon with the names of some of our friend’s lost babies, and thought of them throughout the day, as we do often.
As the crowds scattered, we lingered with a family we are acquainted with from church. Their sweet little girl died at 21 weeks, just a few brief weeks ago. I have wanted to connect with her for a while. We briefly chat after Sunday services, but never really get a chance for realness. Yesterday was the perfect opportunity. They are in the trenches of their grief, and I hope that I was able to offer her a glimpse of hope of the future. That someday it won’t hurt quite the same.
I am very thankful that my husband was there and was able to speak a bit with her’s. In some ways, baby loss grief is more difficult for the men. They are not given the same permission to grieve as mothers. They didn’t get to carry their baby within them and know them like mothers do, but they are still mourning. Men feel the need to be strong for their wives and suppress their own hurts. Their peers expect them to ‘just get over it already.’ I think baby lost men need to be there for each other, to guide each other and to support one another in their way of grieving.
Kalila's balloon and the one for our friends' babies.
My family, bringing up the rear of the procession.