I can hardly believe that four months have passed since I last held my darling Duncan. I thought the three-month mark would kill me, yet here I am, staring down four. And you know what? It’s not as bad.
Maybe because his due date has come and gone. Maybe it’s because I can look out almost any window at church and see the leaves of his tree changing in the autumn sun. Maybe because God’s peace, and time, does indeed let things begin to miraculously heal.
So this month, I offer a simple “Hello, baby. I miss you,” to my Duncan, and instead, share something that has been on my heart for a while. I pray this will bring understanding and clarity to some, while being a tribute to Duncan on his four-month birthday.
Even though we have traveled back and forth between Ohio and Tennessee numerous times since Duncan’s death, it seems each trip home places us in the company of someone we haven’t seen since our loss. Often, after the requisite small talk, one will ask, “So, how do you like living in the south?”
My standard answer has been, and probably will be for a while, “Nashville is great. It was the right move for us, even though the year of transition has been harder than we ever imagined.”
To which I get a variation of, “Oh, yes, about that…I’ve been so sorry for you.”
Well, in case you are wondering, there is definitely a surefire way to get my blood boiling, and that is to refer to the birth and death of my son as “that,” as if it were a mere inconvenience, like a leaky faucet or a fender bender. Am I still sensitive to all things Duncan-related? Yes. Am I overly sensitive? Maybe.
But when the “that” statement is followed up with the dismissive, “Well, you know, my daughter/coworker/neighbor’s dog-walker/manicurist’s sister-in-law’s babysitter had a miscarriage with her first pregnancy…,” I feel like I’m a little justified in my sensitivity.
I repeat these “condolences” to Jim, and while he shares my distaste, he never seems surprised. “Honey,” he says, “people don’t want to think of this as the birth of a baby, they want to treat it like a miscarriage.”
Forgive me my momentary rant, but maybe it is time to clear something up.
On May 19, 2009, I did not have a miscarriage.
I had a baby. A son. When he was placed in my arms, his heart was no longer beating, but it had been. He was alive, and then he wasn’t. He was here, and then he was gone.
Twice, I have had a miscarriage: February 25, 2007, with my first pregnancy, and on October 19, 2008, with my twins. What I am going to say in no way lessens the heartache and lost joy when a woman miscarries; but as any woman who has experienced both a miscarriage and a birth, whether still or live, will tell you, the two events are profoundly different.
Twice, I have had an ultrasonographer say “It’s a BOY!”: July 17, 2007 and April 15, 2009.
Twice, I have felt my son’s first movements in my womb: July 29, 2007 and April 2, 2009.
Twice, I have been pricked with an IV needle that would fill with contraction-inducing drugs: December 13, 2007 and May 18, 2009.
Twice, I have given birth: December 14, 2007 and May 19, 2009.
Twice, I have had a doctor announce my son’s time of birth: 6:06 pm and 8:14 pm.
Twice, a smiling nurse proudly told me my son’s measurements: 5 lbs. 3 oz., 19” and 1 lbs. 1 oz., 11”.
Twice, I have smiled up at my father, holding his grandson, and announced the baby’s name: Seth James and Duncan Thomas.
Twice, I have been wheeled out of the Toledo Hospital, my abdomen drastically smaller than when I’d entered: December 19, 2007 and May 20, 2009.
Twice, I have seen an announcement in our church bulletin heralding the growth of our family: “Jim and Monica ____ proudly announce the birth of their son Seth James, December 14, 2007” and “Former members Monica and Jim _____ sadly announce the birth and homegoing of their second son Duncan Thomas, May 19, 2009.
I have given birth to a son TWICE. I have had my breasts fill with milk for my baby TWICE. I have had a 6-week post partum obstetrical visit TWICE.
Do I need to keep going?
Just as I did not miscarry Seth, I neither miscarried Duncan; I delivered them both.
The only difference was that we got to bring Seth home, and with Duncan, we said goodbye much too soon.