I believe in the healing power of a child’s smile.
In 1997 my husband and I were expecting our first child. It was a normal pregnancy, and everything progressed as planned. Then, three days before my due date, I went into labor and realized I hadn’t felt my baby move in several hours. Our worst fears came true in the hospital when the doctor told us our baby had no heart beat and would be stillborn.
I had been prepared for almost every other adverse pregnancy outcome, because at the time I worked for the March of Dimes. I knew about miscarriage, premature birth, and birth defects. But, even though I worked for an organization dedicated to prenatal and infant health, I never contemplated stillbirth.
The grief and guilt I felt when my son died was overwhelming. There were many days when I simply didn’t want to get out of bed or leave the house again. But, I did. It wasn’t easy. Anything could reduce me to tears: the birth a friend’s baby, passing a baby boy on the street, even a pretty sunset or a song on the radio.
The hardest thing was not finding a “reason” for our son’s death. We consulted several specialists at top notch institutions, none of whom could give us an answer. And so, we made the gut-wrenching decision to try again. Getting pregnant again was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done. After all, there was nothing we could do differently this time around. And so, for the next nine months, I lived in fear.
When our daughter was born, a month early, but healthy and very much alive, I started to feel a bit better. And then one day, she smiled. That simple, perhaps even involuntary act changed my life. For I believe everything good is reflected in a child’s smile: love, innocence, curiosity, joy, hope.
It’s been eleven years since our son died. Our daughter was born and then another son. When the pain of losing my first born bubbles to the surface, I seek out my children. They always know when I’m feeling sad. They’ll ask me what’s wrong, and I’ll tell them, “I’m thinking about your brother today.” “Don’t be sad mommy,” they’ll say. “You have us and we love you.” Then they smile and their smiles make me feel whole again. Their smiles have the power to heal the world. This I believe.
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