Eight Years of Silence…And Something I Need You to Know

We stood by their graves, our young early-twenties-something bodies contrasting defiantly the finality, the harsh impossibility of the tiny holes dug in the earth.

We wept. And, then we were quiet.

To the public, almost silent.

Very few people heard their names from us. Only those closest to us. We went back to life, as expected, doing our best not to make anyone feel uncomfortable. We barely spoke of them with each other most of the time, although I know he heard me crying with the strangled ache of a mother’s heart in the bath tub, doing dishes, curled up in our bed. In a heap on the kitchen floor in the corner, when I couldn’t hide it anymore. Sometimes he held me. Sometimes I cried quietly.

Those closest to me knew. But, the rest of you, I tried to spare. If you know me well, you know that although I cry easily, I don’t like to reveal the deepest of hurts for everyone to see. Those most vulnerable and tender hurts need to be kept safely hidden. If you hurt me, I probably won’t tell you. I will just pull away a bit, and cover my heart from you, until I recover enough to pretend like everything is fine. It’s safer than letting you see. This hurt was too big to reveal. Some may have thought I was brave. I was just trying to survive.

I was noticeably about 8 months pregnant for Thomas,  after losing Faith and Grace in 1996. We knew that Thomas had a fatal diagnosis, but chose to carry him to term. We knew, but most people saw a family expecting new life, another bundle of joy to fill our home. Most people didn’t know we were preparing for another goodbye. I was at the library summer reading kick-off event in our small community, with our oldest son, Timothy. Someone who worked for the newspaper was there to photograph the event, and sitting next to me. He made a comment about me being pregnant again. And, how many kids did I have now. He must have thought I lost my mind, or maybe wondered about his own sanity, when I answered….just one. I only have one.

No...he insisted. You surely have more. Every time I see you, you’re pregnant. The obituaries in our small town paper must have gone unnoticed to him. Or perhaps it was just too insignificant for him to remember. Or maybe he just didn’t realize.

But, I denied my children in the library. Like Judas. I shook my head firmly, feeling my throat swell as I held the tears in with all my strength and utter will. He didn’t deserve my tears. And, I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable at the summer reading kick-off, mentioning babies that died. No one wants to know that. No one wants to know that I had been pregnant, twice, and now for the third time, but I still only had one lonely child, sitting nearby watching the clown at the summer reading program. No one wants to know that three out of four babies in one family can die.

No, I just have the one. This time I said it in a tone that silenced him.

For eight years, I kept their pictures tucked away. I protected our family the best I could, from the hurt, the brokenness, trying to put on a face that said we were just fine. If anyone saw strength or bravery, know this, we were just being carried. 

Another pregnancy brought James into our world, filling our hearts with joy,  but still we were quiet about the three who were missing.

It was eight years before we started this ministry, taking the most tender of steps, our marriage still fragile, our hearts still protective. Eight years before we began to speak their names publicly. Eight years before their pictures were added to the pictures on our shelves. It was many more years than that before he first heard me tell the story, and it still opens deep, hidden wounds each time I do.

We had private services for our babies, protective of our grief, our tender young hearts. We didn’t want anyone looking on, seeing what we made us so vulnerable. We didn’t think we could stand in a line, as those in our little corner of the world filed through, with our precious babies laying in tiny caskets, our hearts bloodied and exposed. Almost in shame, we grieved silently.

I haven’t been as brave, as many of the mothers who walked this path. But yesterday, on the fourteenth birthday of our son, Thomas, I posted a picture on Facebook, of me holding him in my arms during his brief life, and a birthday message. And, the people of our small community embraced our beautiful son, and blessed us with words of love. You remembered with us. I cannot tell you what that meant to my mother-heart. I wept from the depths as I read your words of kindness and love, while sitting on my bed, as the boys filling my house still slept. It is a sacred thing…the few pictures we have of our son’s brief life. It was sacred for me to invite you to that tender place. A place, I’m certain many would rather avoid. Thank you, for walking with us, for treating that sacred offering with respect. Thank you for being brave enough to show compassion, and not to look away. Because 14 years later, I am still protective, still vulnerable. I can’t articulate what it meant to me, but I need you to know, if by chance any of you silently read this humble blog. Those of you who have quietly stood with our family as we walked this path, and those of you who showed us love yesterday and throughout the years, you have touched my heart in the deepest way…and I am grateful beyond words.

Comments

  1. Thank you for writing this. It has only been 11 months since my daughter, Grace died. She was 4.5 months old and lived her entire life in the hospital so to people who didn’t really “know” me before, wouldn’t have noticed her missing. I have 3 healthy sons before her and am 38 wks pregnant with another little boy. To the entire world it feels, I don’t have a daughter. The comments when I am out with all of my sons “hope the one in the belly is a girl!” “are you hoping for a girl this time?!” “you have all boys!?” slice through my heart, but like you said I don’t want to upset anyone, out at a chidrens outing or the library isn’t really the best place to go ahead and talk about dead babies,to people who truly may have not even realized that sadly, babies DO die. And so, 95% of the time, I deny her as well and it hurts so much, when really I want to tell the entire world about her, she was amazing. I am so glad that your community remembered him, I am sure that felt so wonderful.

  2. I had no idea that sharing that photo was such a huge thing for you. I am so honored that I got to see him and you together. Sacred indeed.

    Thank you for writing this post. I feel like you are telling our story in many ways, although the details are different. Often I cry quietly, alone, separated even from my husband. People tell me that I am brave, to stand and smile and not cry so soon after Eve’s death. But they don’t know that I am not brave, that I am hiding this hurt that is too big to share via tears so publicly, that I am carried. Beautiful, Kelly, excruciatingly beautiful.

  3. Linda Babcock says:

    Kelly, when I saw your picture with Thomas, my two thoughts were, “What a perfect little face!” and “I’m so glad they took this picture to remember how he looked!” Your tender look showed how much you had loved and still loved him, even though he was not destined to live. I didn’t know 1) that you knew while you were pregnant that he wasn’t going to live and 2) that you hadn’t shown this picture for so long. I’m really, really glad you posted it, because I’m sure neither your joy over his perfection and his precious life nor your grief over losing him so soon have ever dimmed. You help many people with this sharing, Miranda and Beth being two of them. Do you have pictures of Faith and Grace, too? You were soooo young when they came so briefly into your lives — I have thanked God often that your marriage survived such heartache. When I see you and Tim, or see pictures of you, I think of you as parents of Timothy and James first, but also as parents of the three little ones. People should not forget any children who are in heaven, sinless and perfect. Kelly, you are certainly going to have your arms full when you get to heaven.

    • Dear Linda,

      Thank you so much for your words of love and encouragement. I have actually shared that picture of Thomas before a couple times in the past few years…it was just the first 8 years after our losses that I didn’t share pictures or put them up in our house…or talk much about our babies. But, in recent years, I have. I was just so touched by the outpouring of love on Thomas’ birthday when I shared that picture this year. I am beyond grateful to the nurses who thought to capture pictures of those moments, and it’s the one thing I encourage all mothers that we meet in our ministry to make sure they do…take pictures! We do have a few polaroids of Faith and Grace and I’ve had photographers try to touch up the pics, because they are poor quality. But, I am still grateful to have something. I prefer to remember them as I saw them, though. I saw them through the eyes of a mother’s love. Faith’s and Grace’s pictures don’t look the way they looked to me when I held them in my arms. I am very private about their pictures and do not post them.

      We are grateful everyday for the way the Lord has been faithful to heal our family and to carry us…and most of all to preserve our marriage. Thank you for seeing the beauty of what He has done in our family. May He get all the glory, because it truly is one of the most precious miracles of my life…what He has done…and the truth that His grace is sufficient.

      Thank you again, for the love…and for your friendship!

      Blessings,
      Kelly

  4. I know I always love looking at the pictures that us mamas choose to share of our babies. Such precious moments that touch my heart. It’s not always easy to share them because there is so much emotion wrapped up in just a picture but they are always beautiful.

  5. Oh my sweet and tender Kelly girl…You shared your heart here in such an intimate way. These feelings are so hard to put into words. There is a journey to healing…and it is a painful path. But I do believe that sharing does help. Your ministry is such a beautiful thing. You have lovingly helped so many mothers who needed it so very much. What is so lovely is that you yourself have been right there in the same situations as the grieving mommas that you minister to…and that it is all done from a heart of compassion, and love…and understanding.

    God knew you would honor Him…and the memories of your precious babies in this way. I love your courage and your strength…and I know it is given to you by God! In and of ourselves we would simply not be able to do this. Lynnette has walked in the strength of the Lord for 20 years now. Sharing her story with others to encourage them, and to give all glory to God through it all. Her Samuel would have turned 20 on July 1st. This is where her painful journey began. Even as a grandma…this is where my minister began also. Over the years I have been able to share Christ with so many because of what He taught me through all of the pain. He has brought us to a joyful place…and I praise Him for His goodness and His unfailing love.

    You are special to me…and to all who are blessed to know you.

    Love, Momma Linda

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