I know somewhere else in the last few weeks, I have said this...that I am a mother.
John and I have always said that we are a family. Telling your spouse this when you spend 10 years trying to 'build' your family is sort of the way you comfort each other when you are struggling so hard to have what everyone else considers a family to be. I have always, and still do believe that, though--when John and I got married, we became a team and our own little family.
Things have changed. Not only are we a family, but we are a bigger family now--and he and I can add father and mother to our life resumes. Those titles do not change because Matthew only lived for a few hours and is no longer with us.
I have been reading tons of books--some great, some so-so...and I've been most put off by the books that try to group the death of my child under the umbrella description of "Pregnancy Loss" --which includes everything from failed fertilizations in an IVF process to ectopic pregnancies to miscarriages for all different reasons to stillbirths to death within hours after birth to death within days after birth to death within weeks after birth....you get the idea. It's almost like some of those books discount the fact that a baby is not a member of a family unless it's been alive for some set, predetermined time frame, and there's no disservice in grouping it all together as pregnancy loss.
Technically, Matthew's death would be considered neonatal because he died within 28 days of birth. His death would also fall in the perinatal mortality statistic grouping because he died within 22 weeks of gestation and 7 days after delivery. He's not considered a postneonatal death (after 28 days of birth but before one year) because apparently there's some big difference between the 27th and 28th day of life. Whatever.
My point is that to me, whatever the classification of death his would fall in, the bottom line is that I had a child and he died. I carried him for more than 40 weeks, I gave birth to him and he died. The fact that I am not able to hold him right now, nor did I spend more than 3 minutes at BEST with him does not change that. He was my child from conception, and our family is a family of 3. Period.
So, while I understand that so many, many people love us and are praying for us, I want to ask a favor. Please, please, please do not pray for us to "finally become a family," or to "have a child," or for us "to become parents," because ALL of that has already happened. We were a family; we had a child; we became parents. Upon learning that we will be going back to Shady Grove in the next several weeks, many have wished us the best and told us that they just know we will finally become a family. They tell us that they just know we were meant to be parents and they pray that this is the year that finally happens.
Friends, as I said...it's already happened. We just are a different family. Our child is no longer with us on earth, but he is our first-born child nonetheless. Having a second child will never replace Matthew nor would I ever want it to. Any child we have in the future is his brother or sister--our 2nd (or 3rd?) child.
I know people mean well when they say stuff like, "In God's time, you'll have your family," or they offer prayers for me to "Have the strength to wait patiently for God to give us a child," and I know that what they 'mean' is that in God's time, we'll have a family-where there is a living child we are raising, or that if we wait patiently, God will give us a child we actually will be able to parent a lifetime. And I know their heart's desire is to comfort us.
Please don't doubt this...God DID give us a wonderful and precious child. A wiggle-worm who liked to kick me, liked chocolate (especially cake and milkshakes), loved to hear his daddy read to him and slept like a baby at night...and he only made our family even better than it already was with just John and me. I understand it's hard for some people to realize that just because you don't bring a baby home from the hospital, you still are parents and what you lost was your child--not a dream, your child. It *does* seem weird when the time with your miraculous baby is so, so, SO short.
But please acknowledge how precious that time is, no matter how short it ends up being. It is no less real to us than were we to have him for years. He has been part of our hearts since he was either Red Fish or Blue Fish, and he was a member of our family from the get-go. You look at the pictures of John holding his son as he died in his arms and you tell me that we aren't parents and Matthew wasn't part of our family just because he was only alive for a few hours and doesn't really fit what people *think* of when they ask you, "So, do you have any children?"
I am Matthew's mother and he is forever a member of my beautiful and beloved family.