Shared by Britni Pemberton
It can be your best friend in whom you find comfort. Living in a beautiful, false reality that is not truly yours. You can act like the things you have been through didn’t really happen to you, and if they did they are so far distant those emotions that should be pulling on your heart strings are numbed.
I knew I had lost my first child, my life wasn’t going back to life without child loss, but there was this huge part of me that kept repeating, “No, this isn’t your life, this is not you. You—Britni Pemberton, life of the party, did not lose your Brenden.” If I just stayed inside, if I just didn’t think about it, if I could just get myself put back together, everything would be okay. *read Britni's first story about her son Brenden.
How can I even think those things when there is no taking away that night, saying goodbye to my precious son as the nurse took him away from me and out of our room, knowing I would not see him until God decided to bring us together? See, denial makes you think it’s your friend, but then those memories creep in, and true reality hits, and you realize no matter how much you want to be okay, you aren’t. Then your realization that denial is a back-stabbing enemy knocks the wind right out of you. You don’t understand how you were able to push down the hurt only to have it come back tenfold, washing over you and consuming your very being.
The last year and a half, this has been my cycle. Denial with a smile, to falling on my knees begging and pleading for answers for why this happened to me. I’m in the middle of my story, no longer in the early fog of loss, but I am also not a seasoned veteran in grief. This is what my middle has looked like—knowing God is good, but I’m still looking for peace and understanding. Most people don’t get those answers in this life, I guess I’m just hoping God will find an exception with me.
You see, I’ve had a hard time writing this originally because I’ve been in the denial portion of this pattern. You can’t write about truth, life, hurt, and loss when you are telling yourself everything is fine, and you have nothing to offer or say. I know deep down that isn’t true, so I’m going to do my best to show you the goodness in all of this mess, too. So six months after starting to write this I am now finally going to finish it.
Three months after Brenden passed, I took a trip back to my home town. It was a trip that changed my life. I spent a week in the company of beautiful, wisdom- and love-filled women, women who had also in some form lost a child. Now some of these women have become the women I call on the days I’m struggling, or if you know me at all, these women are the ones who continue to call and check on me when they know my silence must mean something. Anyone who knows me knows “silent” isn’t really a familiar word to me, at least it wasn’t until losing Brenden. When you go through a loss of that magnitude, everything changes. Everything. I lost who I was, and somehow had the task of putting myself back together again. I had no idea what that would look like, and I’m still in the process of repair. Reshaping your life because of the imprint of grief is no small task. Thank God for these women reminding me to breathe and take a minute at a time.
October fifteenth is recognized as “Infant Loss Remembrance Day.” It doesn’t matter how it happened—miscarriage, in-utero, stillbirth, or infant loss—if you had a loss, this day is for you. Although that statement in itself is hard to swallow: one day. That’s all they get to be remembered. And of course, those of us who have been close enough to feel death in our bones, well we remember every day. There is no alternative.
2016 was the first year I had to celebrate this day. How do you celebrate a day of death? There is no guide or “how to” book on child loss. To me, every day is a “winging it” kind of day. You wake up, put on your smile, Lord-willing you press your feet to the ground and pray you aren’t overwhelmed by your thoughts. I decided if I had no choice in my son Brenden passing away in my body at nine months pregnant, I would choose to parent him the only way I could, at a distance with all the love I have for him. That is the ultimate description of grief—a deep love that has nowhere to go.
So I channeled that love, and we planned a party. The whole family and a slew of close friends were invited to meet at Brenden’s beautiful grave, say whatever words they felt, release balloons, and come back to the house for a chili and baked potato bar. At 7pm that night we lit candles that burned for an hour—so technically, worldwide, if everyone burns a candle at 7pm there is a 24-hour “Wave Of Light.” Over those first six months after Brenden’s death I met many parents that had lost children, parents that were already in that “Child Loss Club.” My fiancé and I decided those children needed to be remembered as well, they each got a candle, too.
I’m thankful this day happened, my sweet boy and so many others need to be remembered. Families need to know their child will always have a place here on earth, in our hearts. There is not a day that goes by that thoughts of his chunky cheeks and perfect lips don’t bring a tear, even if it’s a silent tear. There is an emptiness and an ache that never goes away. Grief does the craziest things to your mind and body. The pain it helps soften, but the hurt from the memories stings forever.
I spent the first six months in shock after his death, with anxiety that at times I felt took over my entire being. I couldn’t believe that I was a woman who lost a child, we were family with a dead son. A son that was loved and longed-for—gone without warning. I felt like my world had stopped, and for months I was just trying to catch my breath. While I struggled to breathe, everyone else’s lives continued in motion.
I had no idea when planning this celebration day that I would be hiding such huge emotions. I had an inkling that perhaps I was pregnant. On the day to celebrate the life and mourn the loss of our first born son, we found out we were having another baby. The stress and joy in one little two-lined stick is INSANE. Every ounce of my being was ecstatic with the thought of another child in our arms, but fear and anxiety take over quickly when your mind goes to thoughts of losing another baby and going through that excruciating experience again. Oh my gosh, there’s no way I could have handled that.
Love Always Wins
I went month to month, week to week, day to day, praying that this sweet baby would stay with us. Even in all the pain, we chose to give this baby just as much love as Brenden got. The loss of Brenden hurt so deep because there were buckets of love being poured on him daily. The anticipation of his arrival and then loss cut to the core, because we loved to the core. This time with bundle #2, we would be no different. That was terrifying, to open your heart up to that possible loss again. We knew we wanted no regrets, to know we did it right. Bill and I had peace beyond understanding after our loss, because we knew that we loved Brenden as much as humanly possible from outside the womb. We knew his entire life he knew nothing but love and affection. Baby #2 deserved just as much love, no matter how wounded his parents were. Love Always Wins.
I had friends checking in on me on a daily basis. Reminding me that me and this precious baby were at the top of their prayer lists. For being a stressed, grieving momma full of anxiety, handling year two of grief while being pregnant, let me tell you that was an amazing blessing. Being reminded to breathe by women who love you is a life saver. I worked out and did yoga throughout my pregnancy, I tried to gain as little weight as possible (because we all know that always works, HA!). I took the best vitamins and made sure my body was getting the best possible nutrition prior to getting pregnant, and I just upped the amount when I knew I was taking care of the both of us. I did everything in my power so that if I somehow had to live this tragedy again, I wouldn’t have any doubts that I did everything to help this baby make it here safe.
Doubt and Blame
The life of grief is swirled with doubt and blame. I have been told a thousand times that it wasn’t my fault, and there’s nothing I could have done to keep Brenden here. I, of course like many other mothers, wondered if that was actually true, if somehow I could have changed the outcome with different actions. Doubt and blame have been ruthless.
Finally, because you know it felt like FOR-EV-ERRRR, came the day we got to bring him into this world. This nursery that had been set up and taken down was set up again, rearranged and decorated for this sweet baby boy #2. It was a scheduled C-section, three weeks prior to his due date. That was a decision made by the doctor, Bill, and I. There was no cause found for why Brenden had to leave us—absolutely nothing. Mentally, I didn’t know if I could bear those three extra weeks waking up each morning, praying he was still with us. My readings and levels throughout the surgery were better than textbook per the surgery staff: the result of my efforts of a nutritious, healthy diet, exercise, and watching my sugars truly made themselves known over that hour surgery. William Klas was pulled out at a hefty seven pounds and measuring twenty inches—SCREAMING. That’s the best sound you can hear in a delivery room, believe me. It was the exact opposite experience—the life and tears of joy. Every nurse and of course our doctor knew our story—they cried tears in celebration with us.
I could finally breathe. The worry of his safe arrival could finally dissipate. I got to hold this breathing, sweet-smelling, little baby in my arms for more than four hours. He stayed with us. The moment he was with us, life felt just a tad fairer. Within forty-eight hours, we were bringing him home. He passed all his tests with flying colors. Walking through my front door with a baby carrier was way more pleasant than walking in the front door with a box of memories and a blanket. Having a baby to place in his crib is priceless. The sleepless nights, painful nursing and pumping schedules, figuring how to run a household and work from home with a little one has all been amazing. I’m probably more grateful for a poop-filled diaper than most moms. I believe he is wonderful as he is, because he was literally prayed for by hundreds of people. Hundreds of people lifted this boy up in prayer on a daily basis. I believe prayer changes things. He is my proof.
Klas was almost five months old when our second Infant Loss Day was celebrated. We had a smaller gathering of just family and ordered pizza after visiting Brenden’s grave. It was different, but we did it, and baby Klas was with us every second of it. It’s not every day a mother like me gets to feel like we were able to mother all our children.
And over the last year, Brenden seemed to have made more friends. Unfortunately our “Child Loss Club” has gotten bigger. There is something helpful about knowing your child who isn’t with you at least has some pretty rad compadres.
So that’s where I’ve been—figuring out the balancing act. Trying to tell denial to take a seat in the back. Trying to accept that this is my beautiful life—including loss & life. Trying to balance this life of being a mother to two very special boys. One of them is here, one of them is missing. I’m still figuring it all out. The thoughts can jump all over the place within minutes. One thing I can say from all of this grief and loss is that Brenden truly taught me how to be a mother. I would not be the patient, loving mother I feel I am now without loss. Talk about feeling guilty, I’m not sure I would have been nearly as good of a mother without it being taken prematurely from me. Again, the thoughts go all over the place. Like I said, grief makes you think weird things.
I’m thankful for the MANY women in my life reminding me, I am a good momma, and we are all just trying to keep it together. No momma is perfect, I am going to make many mistakes. I just pray that I make as wise of choices as possible for my boys and my family. That Brenden can feel the love I have for him through the love that is poured on his brother. That my boys can see I tried to make the most of the pain, and laugh as much as possible.