Monday, June 28, 2010

Perspective..., we had a secret in our family. Well, lots of them, I guess, but one that I knew was touchy--iffy to talk about and really one of those events that happens in a family that once swept under the carpet, is not really talked about much.

My mother had four children. Only three are alive today.
Only three were ever really acknowledged; only three are thought of as her descendants. Even in a genealogy book my mother wrote, only three children are listed.

Before Matthew died, in honesty, that seemed pretty appropriate. I mean, she had three live births. She raised three of us as we lived and breathed. She took pictures of three of us. She reveled in the accomplishments of three of us. The three of us attended her funeral.

But there was a fourth. I am the oldest child and my sister is three years younger than I. When I was five, my mother went into labor at 39 and a half weeks. The baby she carried to full term died during delivery and my mother never got to see her or hold her. I don't really know the details of what happened, and as my mother is dead, I doubt I ever will. In asking my father, it's obvious that he's put on some kind of blinders to that whole time period--probably his way of dealing with his grief. My sister has told me that she had talked about what happened with my mom but it so greatly differs from what my dad 'remembers' that I'm just resigned to the fact that I'll never really know. I just know that my mom was devastated...HATED her doctor and often said her doctor killed her baby, and that it was some sort of cord incident (which is yet another reason I was always terrified about cord issues with Matthew) and she was never the same.

A lot of that, I believe, was because she was not allowed to grieve. At all. Angel was born still, and the doctor whisked her away from my mom and under direction from my dad and grandma (who felt it best my mother not see the baby), did not allow her to see or hold her daughter. Nor did my father or grandmother think it was in my mother's best interest to go to the funeral. I can recall one picture--with my dad looking anguished and aggravated by the camera in front of a casket.

In our family, Angel was more often known as 'that baby mom had who died.' Never talked about or acknowledged, and if so, always as 'that baby mom had who died.'

Yes, this obviously breaks my heart as I now realize what an unbelievably difficult situation my mother was in and with no help or support...and two little girls left living that needed to be raised.

Growing up, it was just accepted that we really didn't talk about her. Out of sight, out of mind. For my sister and me, and certainly for my brother, Angel wasn't even really real.

So, so, so not what my mother needed. I remember my mom taking my sister and me to the cemetery and taking pictures of us there in Babyland. I don't remember this happening more than once.

One of the very few conversations I remember having with my mom that involved Angel was so contentious and makes my heart just weep thinking about it right now.

As my mom was aware of the fact that she was dying, we one day were talking about her 'final wishes' and she told me that she wanted to be cremated and have her ashes spread over Angel's grave. This made me SO mad and I told her could she DREAM of having her ashes spread over the grave of a dead baby when she had THREE living of whom moved Heaven and Earth to try and please her and make her happy. How could she be SO disrespectful of us? Of me?

I'd give anything in the entire world to take those words back. I had no way of knowing how I was crushing her soul. She wanted that because her heart, still, 28 years later, grieved the loss of that precious baby--HER precious daughter and not *a* dead baby--and she FINALLY wanted to be able to be with her. It didn't mean she loved us any less...just showed how much she still loved her baby daughter.

I don't think my mother ever had any problems getting pregnant. Heck, NO one in my family ever had problems getting pregnant but me, and then in typical 'me' fashion, I have problems AND good. Two years after Angel was born still, my brother was born and I remember some of the mother I used to know coming back. She smiled more and laughed more and my mom and dad didn't argue as much.

Growing up, my brother was SPOILED ROTTEN. I'm talking REALLY spoiled...and it always drove me nuts. Not materialistically--but in treatment. He could do no wrong. Nothing was ever his fault. He was never, EVER made to take responsibility for anything and my mother hovered over him like nothing I've ever seen.

This childhood did not serve him well as an adult. Unfortunately, my brother has issues and demons that stem from not knowing what real consequences mean. To this day, he will still say stuff like, "It's not my fault my parents didn't raise me right." Many, many, MANY times did my sister and I have conversations with my mother about the need to show him 'tough love.'
She just couldn't do it.

The last words I had with my mother were angry. She had called me to ask me to borrow money. She said it was for her medicine (she was on a new type of chemo) but I knew the sound in her voice. It was yet.another.thing for my brother. After rifling through the details, the bottom line was that my brother's girlfriend had done something to land herself in jail and my mother needed to borrow the money to bail his girlfriend out because she was afraid HE'D do something crazy if his girlfriend had to stay in jail.

I had some hateful words. I've worked hard my entire life and could not believe that I was being asked to bail my punk brother's girlfriend out of jail. That she would try to use my love and concern for her to get money for HIM. WHEN WAS MY MOM GOING TO MAKE HIM TAKE RESPONSIBILITY AND LET THE REAL WORLD HAPPEN?

The conversation was heated, she started to slur her words and I told her I'd call her later when her medicine wasn't making it so hard to understand her.

She died that night.

My point in this story is that I never, ever could understand what drove her to let him get away with any and everything EVER, while I'd always had such stringent rules and responsibilities.

When Matthew died, I finally could.

My brother was her hope restored. Her miracle who lived. She could not FATHOM anything happening to him in any way, shape or fashion. She fought his battles like a mama bear and hovered over all of us in a way that the term 'helicopter parent' can't even come close to matching.

And while I still believe that my brother would have been far better off in his adult life if he'd ever had to have any real consequences growing up, I can completely and totally understand why my mother was like she was. Why she was "THAT" mom--the crazy one who would tear anyone apart if they threatened her children and fought every thing from the school system to various church groups to her own family members--including my dad.

Their relationship was never, ever the same after Angel died. I don't think her relationship with anyone was ever the same.

I understand so, so much more about my mother now. I am heartbroken that our family was not one where that sweet little baby sister was remembered and honored and counted as a 'true' family member. I feel like memories and stories I SHOULD have were stolen in the name of 'moving on' and 'not dwelling'.

My baby sister was a week and a half younger than her nephew was. Those lives MATTER. They count. And they are part of our family's story.

I of course am just devastated that it took something like what is my life right now for me to gain this perspective. I wish I had more compassion and understanding for my mother when she was alive--it was just not the way in our family. I can't tell you how often I long to have a conversation with her now...knowing she knows what my heart feels like and that we could grieve together.

And through this perspective, I have insight into what I do and don't want MY family story to be...Matthew will NEVER be 'that baby mom had who died' nor will his brother or sister be so smothered with my fear of danger or responsibility for him or her that he or she is not able to have failures in life and learn from them. I know myself well enough to know that I have the tendency to hover anyway, and those feelings are SO innate and strong right now with my sweet little one.

We learn so much from our parents. While I am just brokenhearted that my mother's suffering is so rich in lessons, I am grateful for the perspective.


  1. You are such a wise soul. You are so correct, it's sad sometimes, what it takes to give us perspective. But, if you are anything like me, I am a stubborn, hard headed woman, and God has to use some pretty tough lessons to teach me. I wish I could say I was different, but it is how He formed me!

    I often worry that I will treat my future children exactly how you described your mother. Hovering and spoiling because they are so cherished and my heart is so broken, but I think your heart is in the right place and you have taken a step back and have learned from your Mom's life. She did the best she could, it was a different time, and I bet she would be so proud of how you are doing now! I bet she would be proud of the way you are honoring Matthew!

  2. :) Tears came to my eyes as I read this story.
    Thank you for sharing about your sweet sister, Angel.
    The things that make up this story are sad, but the outcome is "good".
    I'm so sorry that you are hurting.

  3. I can relate to this in a small way. I was in the NICU when my closest friends' 3 month old died of SIDS. I was terrified of it when my own baby came home. I had to sit myself down and take deep breaths and make myself recognize it was unlikely and that checking on my baby as she slept every few minutes would only wake her up. It's hard to walk the fine line between caring enough and caring too much sometimes.

  4. My mom also had a fullterm stillbirth, a year and a half before I was born. It was her first. Hers was a little girl too. Like your mom, my mother was never really allowed to grieve. She never held her daughter or named her. I always knew I had an older sister, but it definitely wasn't something my family talked about very much.

    Stevie dying has, in a way, helped my mom heal, I think. It's brought out a lot of emotions that she was never really given the freedom to express and process before. It's opened new wounds, but also brought some closure I think.

    I don't know if/how my mom changes after her first baby died, because I've only known her since it happened, but I imagine it's a big part of the reason she has always been on the "over-protective" side. I'm sure I will be on that same side when we have another child too. How can you not be? I think it will always be a battle not be too "hover-y."

  5. xoxoxoxoxoxoxxox

    i just don't know what else to say!


  6. Thank you for sharing your story, Lori! Your mom must be so proud up in heaven of the wonderful woman you are!

  7. Thank you for sharing that story. YOur family story almost makes me have a different perspective of my husbands family. He had a little brother who was born still. The family does not acknowledge the sibling. Maybe, my MIL addressed me in a manor as to how to grieve when I lost Anthony (to give myself a time limit) because she did not allow herself to truly grieve her other son. Maybe that is why she hovered over her children and sheltered them to a degree because she knew what loss was and did not want to go throuh it again. Ive saide this before, but I always gain something from your posts.

  8. You already know that I had a little sister, almost 2 years younger than myself, who died 2 days after being born. My mother never held her. Her name was Trudi Elizabeth, and she was born and died in 1967. My mother wants to be buried with her when she passes.

    I don't remember my mother before Trudi died. I was too little. But I do remember being put into foster care when she had a breakdown because of it.

  9. Your story only reiterates to me that we will ALWAYS grieve for our lost children...its a Mother's love and it is eternal.

    Thank you again for allowing us the privledge to have a glimpse into your private life. I gain new "perspective" each time I read your words.


  10. Dear Lori,
    Despite your best efforts, don't be surprised if your own children are just as callous to your loss as you were to your mother's. Children are born selfish and self-centered, and as you saw in this so poignant self-assessment, the wisdom of perspective is not easily gained. Perhaps the better lesson to be learned is forgiveness if they treat you the same way. On a more humorous note, a fellow blogger wrote on the same subject:

    "Our Sunday School classes always take prayer requests. After church today, [older daughter] asked [7 yo sister], “Did you pray for me today and thank God I wasn’t hurt in the [car] accident?” [Sister] looked at her and said, “No. You’re not even dead.”

    Lesson learned: Don’t ask unless you want to know."

    Back to being serious, I know you are sad about not being more sensitive to your mother, and I hope you believe she probably forgave you before your mouth even stopped talking. I think mothers understand such things and their love for you surpasses such spats. Don't forget to forgive yourself, and maybe even send up a little prayer thanking her for giving you the wisdom to forgive your own children if, in turn, they are less than understanding of your loss.
    As always, your post was an excruciating examination of a difficult topic, and I think others who read it will gain wisdom from it.
    God bless, Sherry

  11. This post gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes...I feel so bad for your mom that she had to go that many years grieving in silence...I can't imagine other people making the decision for me to see my baby or if I could go to her funeral...Ugh, I can't imagine...

    My mil lost a full-term baby due to a cord accident, too. This was 43 years ago and they wouldn't "allow" her to see her son, either. They didn't have a funeral...his grave only says "Baby our last name* She still cries and still misses him...they tried to get pregnant for 8 years and then lost him on delivery day...they adopted my hubby 2 years after his death...

    Thanks for sharing your family's story...

  12. Crying...

    Your mom does know how you feel now...I truly believe that all our loved ones spirits are with us and continue to love us from where they are. I'm so sorry you had to get this perspective this can be so rough.

    My mom lost a baby too (her first), and baby was never spoken of. In fact, when baby was mentioned once, my mom and dad shunned the conversation. I never really thought of it this way before (b/c we never grew up knowing baby) but I guess I have a bigger brother or sister watching down on me! Back then it just wasn't spoken about.

    Sending many hugs and warm thoughts your way. XOXO

  13. this post is full of soooo much, i know the story from when you and i began our friendship....but hearing the whole story again just brings tears to my eyes for all of you...your mom, especially for NOT getting any closure, for feeling compelled to "save" your brother each time he was in trouble, probably cause she couldnt 'save' your heart breaks for your dad who also lost a wife along with the death of his daughter. as close as anthony and i are NOW, we struggled our first few weeks as you know from the blog. we are sooo close now, but the wife he married isnt the same either...i died when she died and im learning everyday, even with all the other stress how to survive aunt had 6 m/c and a stillborn daughter. she had a daughter amd after 23 yrs had her rainbow son. i never understood why she was so "mean, bitter, angry" until after i lost alyssa and she told me she experienced just like your mm except they NEVER buried the baby....she cries and has regrets as she thinks they "threw it away" she and i unfortunately know truly what this pain holds and she finds closure, repressed feelings, and comfort in visiting alyssa's grave/garden....i wish you could find some peace with the last words you had with your mom...she knows you could have NEVER understood fully why she did what she children we feel like they are the "favorites" we know they are simply the rainbows...Miney will get plenty of love, and m sure you and your husband will show Miney a fair and a little spoiled life too....=) thinking of you

  14. Beautifully written, as usual. Just ... loving you. XOXO

  15. Such a great post. I've heard from many of my friends that having a child makes you relate to your own mom so much differently as it seems to open your eyes to some of how they felt and acted. What an eye opener you had with precious Matthew. And I am certain your mom forgives you, and surely would be so sad to know you know that heartbreak!

    Miney will be super spoiled and hovered over, and you'll work to balance those things. You'll do amazing, and you'll enjoy every minute! Praying for her (maybe his) safe arrival on time!

    Love you so very much. Thank you for your love, support, encouragement and prayers!

  16. My story is a little different. My mother's middle daughter died at 11 weeks old. My mum and dad divorced nearly 30 years ago and my dad remarried and just recently died. Before his sudden death, we were in the beginning stages of getting the deeds of my sister's grave put in my mum's name (of course, back then the men took care of everything and the plot was in my fathers name only), but he died before the process could be taken care of. His wife is now refusing to give my mother the grave as my father died without a UK Will and all his belongings goes to his wife. After a year of trying to get this wretched women to sign over the grave of my mother's child to her, she still wont. We are unfortunately having to go through the stages of trying to get her moved to another resting place, even though my father's parents are buried next to her. There are some horrid people in this world. I can't even imagine what my mum must be feeling right now, but we are at the end of the line as we have been through solicitors and MP's and nothing can be done.

  17. I believe you do share those things with your mom no. I believe she hears you and if there were tears in Heaven, I believe she would weep with you. You are such a beautiful person, Lori. xxx

  18. Wow, Lori, your best post to date IMO. Isn't perspective amazing? This story also reminds me of my husband's mother who lost a child at birth as well. She never spoke of it much until Greg and I learned we would lose Jonathan. I think watching us walk through something like that so openly (opposite of how she did it) has been healing to her as well. I know your mother is healed (physically and emotionally) in Heaven, with Angel, and that must bring so much comfort to you, even though I know you miss her so.
    Blessings to you.

  19. Lori, your post has me sobbing. Absolutely sobbing. You write so beautifully and so clear and it hits sorta close to home for me, too. My mom lost a baby at full term as well-same kind of thing-wasn't allowed to see her-her mom went to her house and took apart the nursery before she got home, etc. I had never really talked to my mom about it-I knew about Mary, and we put flowers on her grave every year, but that was it. Then when I was pregnant with the twins, I had a random conversation with her about it. It was as though I did it because I somehow knew I would need her in just a few weeks. It's very strange how it works.
    I'm so sorry your mom is gone and I'm so sorry about that last conversation-that's so hard.
    You are amazing.

  20. So sorry to hear of your mother's loss of her daughter, and yours of your sister. How very terrible and unfathomable that the tragedy was repeated in your family.

    Withholding contact from the person is not unusual. In older generations, they thought it was the right thing to do. When DH lost his first wife in an accident, his mother did the same--refusing to let him see and hold her body. She only saved a lock of hair for him. After I met him, we went to the place of her death and did a personal ceremony for him. It was very important to his grief and recovery.

    I think the hopeful part is that we can all learn from your life stories and each other's stories, and teach the next generation a bit differently.

  21. Thank you for sharing this story, Lori. Praying for you, moms and babies.

  22. Thanks so much for sharing this story, Lori. I'm so sorry for what your mom went through.

  23. What an incredible testimony to your journey, your mom's love, and your story. I was just talking to another today about how our perspectives change once our circumstances quickly it all switches. I am sure that your mother knew your love for her, as we all do...even when our children are angry with us. I am most sorry that you never got to speak these words to her. I too have a punk brother who's life is so totally different from mine but equally effected ( just differently) from our father's death ~ perspective is a crazy thing.

  24. Oh Lori, thank you so much for sharing the story of your precious sister Angel. Your mom does know your heart and know your greif. You know understand something about her many other people would not. Unfortunately you know her pain.
    praying for you !

  25. No amount of explaining or visualizing or whatnot can substitute for certain perspectives - they have to come from shared experiences. I'm sure your mom knew this and, while it may have hurt, understood why you felt the way you did. I wouldn't expect children to see where she was coming from - and even as we get older, we see our moms and dads through a filter of sorts. But adults should've know better. This post made me cry for your mom...the loss of your sister seems to have had such far-reaching effects.

    My grandmother had a somewhat related situation when she lost the son she was five months pregnant with in a car accident and already had two daughters. It sounds like she and your mother walked similar roads afterwards; even the parts about your brother sound familiar. I take the tiniest (microscopic!) solace in the fact that your grief for Matthew isn't compounded by such treatment as seemed to be the norm back then.

    I wish she was here with you. I think it'd be cathartic for both of you to grieve Matthew (and by extension, Angel) and celebrate Miney together. Since that can't be, letting what you've learned from your mother's grief shape you for the better means you'll be an even more fantastic mom to Miney - as you raise him/her with the memory of Matthew front-and-center.

  26. Oh Lori! No words...

  27. Oh my sweet friend, how many tears I shed reading this, your poor heavy heart. Thank you for sharing this most intimate of feelings, you speak such truth and with great heart. I am so sorry this hurts you. Your Mom holds Matthew and your sister together until you can be with them somedday. Love your beautiful soul xxx

  28. Wow. I'm sort of speechless. I too wonder how Nora will view this all. I hope and pray she will know how loved and wanted she is. I don't want her to think she's 2nd to her sister or for her to see that I still carry sadness in my heart. Nor, do I want to over spoil her. It's just hard. All of it. xo

  29. I definitely think our perspective change so rapidly after losing a child. Perspective has slapped me on the face a couple of times.

    Your mother sounds like an amazing woman to have raised three children on top of having to be forced to "move on" from the loss of her child.

    I am glad for our blogs and talking about all of our children. We need to show the world that though yes it is sad that we lost a child it is ok to grieve them. Doesn't make us any less of a person.

    Your mom knows you love her and I bet she is very proud of you for starting your blog and writing.

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us in this post.


  30. I wish that some perspectives could be gained without the experience but unfortunately losing a child isn't one of them. You just truly have no idea until you're there. Thank you for sharing about your mother. I'm really glad you post this.