It all happened a few days ago. Like an assault, we were unsuspecting and so unprepared. My daughter and husband, pleased to be expecting their 2nd child, opted for the amniocentesis procedure at about 4 months, since she was nearly 40 and at some risk. They decided not to tell anyone about the pregnancy until they got the results from the test and knew the baby was OK. I was visiting at the time and we all rejoiced when the results came that they were expecting their second little boy and he was OK. We celebrated family birthdays and the coming new baby in the same family gathering. I went home, much relieved, and looking forward to the August birth of my 4th grand baby. The next day my daughter called…still at her OB appointment. Her voice was soft and halting. “The doctor cannot find a heartbeat”, she said. Joy instantly turned to disbelief, shock, grief, fear and the big question: What went wrong? I live nine hours away. I just wanted to hold her, cry with her. Nobody knew about her pregnancy, not co-workers, not other grandparents, aunts, uncles, not friends, just two sibs, her father and me. The couple still wanted not to tell anyone, but without telling, they had no support. I was frantic with worry, for her betrayed body and for her broken heart. The procedure to remove a dead baby from its safe nest, I learned, was dangerously risky for her. It had to be postponed for days.
Two brilliantly capable engineers, both fiercely independent and self reliant, were ill prepared to deal with this tragedy….alone. They did not know how to reach out They had confidently painted themselves inside a box and could not find the door going out. My daughter has a kind and generous spirit and gives back to her community many fold, but she has never figured out how to do close girlfriends…so she has none. She is respected and loved in her managerial position at work. But she did not know how to share this bad news with the people she spends half her life with. So she did not.
I was calling and calling. “How are you?” I said lamely and repeatedly. I came to understand even more surely that none of us is independent. Independence is way over rated, in my mind. It is a cultural illusion. The emails were flying mostly in their direction. I realized with great certainly that we are all connected, interdependent. If I survive without you, I do it badly. I connect, at the deepest level over troubles, yours and mine. To care for and be there for each other, this is my best gift and my highest value. All the rest of my busyness to and fro is fluff.
Not to tell the ones that care about us most, not to share the heartbreak of a dead baby when the day before there was such joy and sweet anticipation, robs others of caring for us, denies the truth, stalls the healing, Grief is to be shared, not to be endured alone.
36 years ago, I lost a full term little baby boy. And they put me in the ward with all the new mothers. No one came to comfort me. No one knew. No! I would not let that happen again. I embraced my strong, grandmotherly wisdom and acted with certainty and trepidation. I insisted on discarding the secret. I told a few caring people My daughter and her husband got to be loved by those dear ones, got to cry with them, creating memorable moments that I am certain will help them heal.
Troubles there will always be: the scary phone call in the middle of the night, important people leave us, dreams run amuck, illnesses descend out of the darkness and frighten us. But you being there for me when that happens and me being there for you, is what it is all about. I believe. . . that is all that truly matters.
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