22 October 2010

Grief of a Maternal Sort

If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever." A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.

-- C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Life will never be the same. Our pastor said this at Ewan's funeral. It didn't require any analysis on my part to be convinced it was true. Everything has changed.

Comforting him
From a superficial point of view, our lives really do not look any different than they did before I was pregnant. I'm not working right now and for the time being, several kindhearted people have relieved us of the burden of making dinner. But aside from these things, our lives appear to be much as they did before Ewan was conceived. I've got less than ten pregnancy pounds to shed and I no longer have to worry about what I consume getting in my breastmilk. We sleep through the night and do the same amount of laundry that we did before. From the outside, we look just like any other thirty-something childless couple.

This makes me want to scream sometimes. On those occasions where we go out for coffee or go to the gym, I want to tell everyone I see that I am a mother, that there should be a baby with me but there is not, and how they too should notice how very off balance the universe is as a result. It seems that it should be more obvious what is missing. But unless they know me, there is nothing that will indicate to them that I am an amputee, a mother who has been unmothered, a woman whose heart limps along in its lub-dubbing, aching as it does for her dead child.

I miss Ewan terribly. While my faith provides me the comfort and assurance that he now enjoys the highest possible good, I still live with his conspicuous absence. He has gained, and I have lost all that I hoped for when he was born: the chance to experience motherhood and family. And while I will always be a mother, for now I am one in name only. I never brought him home. I never got a chance to feed him or change his diaper. I never bathed him or fell asleep beside him. I can count on one hand the number of times I held him. I could not do anything to alleviate what he suffered for the sixteen days he was with us.

Whenever I contemplated the notion of motherhood before Ewan came along, I was always fascinated with the notion that an entirely new person was formed out of the parts of two: someone with his own specific personality, a unique soul and identity. I always wondered about who that child of ours would be. As familiar as I was with his in utero antics, I was particularly excited to meet Ewan and to discover him. I desperately wanted to know who he was and to nurture those things that were uniquely him. It is impossible to describe just how much it saddens me to know I'm missing out on this now, and for the rest of my earthly life.

Even I try to offer myself the comfort of "someday," looking forward to the hope of eternity, but there is a bittersweet pang even to this. Ewan does not need me, and I can no longer care for him, even as I still carry around in my body the maternal desires and instincts that drive me to do just that. As C. S. Lewis says, that "specifically maternal happiness must be written off."

And so I learn to walk with a limp.


Michelle said...

Oh Kirsten, these feelings - I thought they would get better but they don't. I want to scream all the time too. It's like, your grief is so immense, how can people NOT know you aren't a mother. How can people NOT know that you have a beautiful baby boy...

Love to you

terri said...

The image of an amputee is very fitting. I imagine that you have something along the lines of the "phantom limb" of the amputee...the sensation that the lost limb is still here. And the phantom limb phenomenon causes an enormous amount of pain that cannot be relieved.

I'm so sorry that this is something you carry with you now. It's not fair. It's not how the world should be.

Loving you so much...

Kelly Sauer said...

I hate this for you... I hate it because I know what it is to walk around with grief. I knew it before I was a mother; as a mother now... oh K. I break every time I read your heart. How can *I* walk on knowing your pain? It feels wrong somehow, so I sit here and cry with you and wish I could fill your arms with the one you love and hate that I'm not God and try to trust Him for this thing I do not understand.

I am sorry to ramble here. I say too much; I know I do. I think I hope to craft a hug and a weeping with my words. Oh, this hurts...

Anonymous said...

Kelly said it...as I cry for you here on the other side of this nation, I tangibly feel your heart ache through each graceful word written. I ache to relieve your pain and sorrow and am angry that I am unable to do so. Your words...your heart...Ewans broken heart did many, many things in this world; but one, most important thing Ewan did with his little broken heart was that he single heartedly broke the hearts of every person he touched with that piercing fierce gaze! Broke our hearts enough to allow God to inhabit us fully...
This pain we feel, is transparent to the magnitude of yours and James', yet it is astounding and overwhelming...
My youngest son is an addict Kirsten...angry and antisocial and very hard to, lets say deal with...I mourn the loving tow headed boy he was, and ache terribliy for the fierce man that fights for his life each day. You help me to love him more intensly each day...Ewan helps me to know that is the broken children that move others to salvation and to the love of a Father who never, ever forsakes us.
Ehhhh! I apologize! I am way too long winded.
All our love and prayers from NJ. We are here and we love you.

Nonny Baby said...

Kirsten, to those who know and love you most, even many who just know you a little, you ARE a mother. We know you to be one with immense love for your son and an unquenchable longing for him. We hate that the rest of the world can't see how you treasure Ewan and your time on earth with him. We mourn with you. While strangers might not have the privilege of knowing what an amazing, passionate mother you are, those who cherish you most do. And for this we are blessed. You're one of the best moms I have ever known. Truly.

Sarah said...

You miss him so much, and it breaks my heart. Grief makes the world such an unbalanced place, and you're carrying so many wounds that are hidden from most of the people who see you. I love you, and I see you, what you're missing and how big it is. It doesn't change anything but still, you are seen.

christianne said...

You have suffered such an enormous loss. I know you are still just discovering all the losses that are there.

He has gained, and I have lost all that I hoped for when he was born. This struck me so hard when I read it: his gain and your loss and how the two happened simultaneously. It hurts to think of his not needing what you have to offer him and want so badly to give.

That's all there is right now: this loss, this specifically maternal kind of loss. It isn't at all what you'd have chosen.

Anonymous said...

I mourn with you and for you. But in my heart I feel that yes Ewan was a gift...a wonderful gift...but he is also the instument to get you to where you are supposed to be. Ewan touched so many lives and so have you..You continually give of yourself to us. You don't know me at all..I have a grown daughter and yet you have tought me so much thru your pictures and blog....thank you..for I think you are an angel too!!

Ausmerican Housewife - Creating with Kara Davies said...

That is such a good quote. I may have to borrow it from you.

The amputee analogy is quite on too. A part of us has died, a part of our heart is gone and will not come back. I feel the limp too.

Rebecca said...

Kirsten, God has truly gifted you with an ability to express the inexpressible. I've always thought this, for as long as I've known you. But, it has become particularly obvious these last few months.

On those occasions where we go out for coffee or go to the gym, I want to tell everyone I see that I am a mother, that there should be a baby with me but there is not, and how they too should notice how very off balance the universe is as a result. It seems that it should be more obvious what is missing.

This really spoke to me the pain you're feeling. Warriors who return from battle, scarred on every level from their hellish encounters, at least have their physical scars to show for it. But for you and James, the scar can't be seen. People go on with life around you, never even realizing that they shouldn't. I am so sorry. The world *should* stop to grieve with you. The world *is* out of balance now that Ewan is gone. It makes me wonder how many times I have overlooked someone carrying a grief like yours. Someone who needed me, and the world to know, that half of their heart was missing. How sad that you have to grieve even invisibleness of your pain.

I wish I could sit with you, in that coffee shop, and know. Just to sit and know. That's what I would offer you.

Nadine said...

I'm so sorry sweetie :*( Wish I could give you a hug!!! I cannot imagine your pain...it pains me to know my friend is going through this, but I also know that pain doesn't even come close to what you feel in your heart. Your experience has made me relish even all the uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms that much more. In the back of my mind always sits "what if this time is all I have with him, better enjoy every moment of it" I thank you so much for always being so honest and open with us all. You're helping us all be better mommies because of it! I know that in no way makes up for losing Ewan, but I hope that in some small way it does bring you comfort knowing what a difference his short precious life has made! Hugs!

Unknown said...

I have been reading your posts for a couple of days after stumbling upon it unintentionally. My heart aches with yours for our children gone from this earth. Here is a post from my own blog that I hope can bring you comfort http://lovinglaynee.blogspot.com/2010/09/missing-nothing.html. and another that I think you might be able to relate to http://lovinglaynee.blogspot.com/2009/11/forever-changed.html

While our situations are very different, the pain is much the same.

Lauren said...

Reading this post, I felt that you wrote exactly how I feel. Losing our Caleb three weeks ago, at 3 days old, I never got to feed him, change his diaper, only held him once while he was alive. I know the difficulty of feeling so empty, and the sadness of it not being able to be acknowledged by strangers. You said it so true, we look like normal, everyday people. Noone can see the magnitude of our loss. My prayers are with you.

Shannon said...

I want to say something, but I have no idea what to say. You have such an incredible way with words, Kirsten. While I have no idea the pain you feel, your writing gives an incredible glimpse into your world, your heart, and for a moment, I can imagine that horrific pain.

Praying for you always!

melifaif said...

I get chills from your words. Because they penetrate. My heart. My soul. Everything about me. Your pain and loss, I will never really "know." At least I pray I will never know it. And I pray for you everyday.

HennHouse said...

Oh, the ache.

Praying and loving.

RHONDA said...

My heart is so broken with you.
Praying for you every day.

Anonymous said...

I was listening to the radio while reading this post. "Don't Want to Miss a Thing" came on, and I lost it. I almost hate to quote Aerosmith, after you quoted C.S. Lewis. I know this song is not about a sweet baby, but your picture and these words seemed to fit each other so well:

I could stay awake just to hear you breathing
Watch you smile while you are sleeping
While you're far away and dreaming
I could spend my life in this sweet surrender
I could stay lost in this moment forever
Where every moment spent with you is a moment I treasure

Don't wanna close my eyes, I don't wanna fall asleep
'Cause I'd miss you baby and I don't wanna miss a thing
'Cause even when I dream of you the sweetest dream would never do
I'd still miss you baby and I don't want to miss a thing

Lying close to you feeling your heart beating
And I'm wondering what you're dreaming
Wondering if it's me you're seeing
Then I kiss your eyes and thank God we're together
I just wanna stay with you in this moment forever, forever and ever....

Praying for you.

Anonymous said...

I keep praying for your family. this loss is indescribably, yet you put it in such amazing words. What a lucky boy Ewan was to have you both here. What a team he has to root as he watches from heaven.

He has touched my heart and brought me closer to my children and to the Virgin Mary.

I am so sorry.

Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com said...

I'm still sending you so much love.

Anonymous said...

There are no words to describe the grief, pain, agony, frustration, hurt you feel. I can NOT even imagine. My eyes are filled with tears every time I read your blog. There is no doubt in my mind you are the best mother Ewan could have. I will pray that God will comfort you in the days ahead. And though things will NEVER be the same, may your little angel Ewan watch over you, bring you peace, and open the door for many blessings the future will hold for you. Peace and Love to you and your family-

Sara said...

My heart breaks for you. I know how much you hurt - I have walked that road myself. It has been just short of three years for me and I miss my son so much. You write beautifully about your sweet Ewan.

I am just so sorry.

Baby Hung said...

I'm still praying for your journey with grieving. I can't imagine and I ache for you when I read your blog. I'm sorry.

From Texas