Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dividing Lines

When my daughter died, there was no one to blame. Believe me, I tried to find someone.

I wanted to blame myself. But that didn't work. I had taken my prenatal vitamins. I never missed a checkup. I was a healthy 23 year old. I didn't smoke, drink or do drugs. Of course I was far from perfect. But overall I was a good girl, did everything pretty much by the book.

Blame my husband? Nope, that didn't work either. He didn't cause her Trisomy 18. He desperately wanted to fix everything, and felt completely helpless when he couldn't.

What about the doctors? No such luck. They diagnosed the problem as soon as signs appeared. They were compassionate and amazingly thorough. Couldn't blame them either.

No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't find a person on this earth to blame; therefore, I blamed God. I stayed angry for a solid 3 years. Since I couldn't save my child from her own chromosomes, thus allowing her to live in this world, I chose to become pissed at the world. And God had created it, so who better to blame? Do you know what it feels like to have a full-term baby, a human being, die inside of you? Trust me, you want someone to blame. Your rational mind tells you blame won't bring the child back to you. Blame will not erase the horror of that moment when you realized your first child would never go home to the nursery you lovingly prepared. Blame does nothing but fuel the fire that's already raging.

You may wonder why I speak and write of my firstborn so frequently. It is because the majority of my life lessons have stemmed from my experiences with her. I know others have similar experiences and never speak of them. But, with the death of my firstborn, a passion ignited within my soul. She was my defining moment. In 1996, the dividing line in my life was etched... "pre-Victoria" and "post-Victoria".

When we found out our child would not live, there were many questions. Would she be born alive? If so, how would doctors keep her alive long enough to perform surgery on this tiny infant? They would have to remove her heart, and reconstruct it. How long, if at all, would she live after that surgery? Her little body was full of tumors and defects. I sincerely believed we could survive all of the above. I just needed her to be born alive, so that I could look into her eyes. Just once. I never dreamed that would be too much to ask. I remember telling my family that I would survive, as long as she wasn't stillborn. I needed to share just one moment with my first child, both of us having open eyes.

Take my experience and please see that even under the most loving circumstances, death can wreak havoc in the lives of those it touches. My heart was shattered with the passing of my child, and all she ever knew was peace. All she ever knew of this world was warmth, light, and love. The only negativity surrounding the death of my child was that which I knowingly invited into my life. I did not invite grief, but I also don't believe grief is negative. Grieving allows us to heal. I chose anger. I also chose bitterness. I invited them in, and they became my constant companions. No one forced anything upon me.

What if the opposite happens, and all the negativity is forced into your life? My heart truly aches for the families of those lost in the recent Tucson tragedy. Tremendous pain has been forced upon them. So much hate, fear, and bitterness that they did not invite into their lives. It saddens me beyond what I can describe. This was a tragedy, it needs no dramatization. But unfortunately, as can be witnessed in the media, there are those determined to do just that. This post is not at all what I thought I would be writing. Over the past few days, I have spent hours researching, successfully dredging up nasty comments from politicians on both sides of the aisle. It became quite clear. You can easily find countless statements to support your opinion of who is to blame. And I had every intention of showing that politicians and talk radio hosts, from every political party and all walks of life, have made vitriolic comments. I had every intention of naming names. I was set on pointing out that regardless of what is reported, the rhetoric flows all too freely from both sides. And the majority of us (those who are stable, healthy individuals) are capable of discernment.

In the end, my heart got the best of me. I thank Victoria for that. My nature moves me toward cynicism. I often say I'm a realist when, truth be told, that's just my way of sugar-coating the pessimism. Thankfully, the lessons learned from my daughter move me to greater things, if I allow them. I don't want to be part of the nasty back and forth. Call me naive, but I just won't believe it represents who we really are, not collectively anyway. I choose to believe that the majority of us prefer civility, and wish our government officials would speak more kindly. Most importantly, all the blame in the world will not return lost loved ones to their families. They are hurting enough already. When my child died, there was no firestorm surrounding my grief. There was no media blitz, no barrage of opinions or outbursts beating down my door. And still, I wasn't sure if I could survive that pain. How must the family members in Tucson feel? I can't imagine.

Having a stillborn child robbed me of many moments. Christmas mornings with all of my children together, family pictures with all six of us smiling...I could go on and on. But more than what was taken from me, is what I gained. Empathy, and the desire to rid my life of any more dividing lines. The "pre-Victoria"/"post-Victoria" dividing line is more than enough for me. I will certainly always have opinions. But I know that I honor my daughter most when I refuse to allow those opinions to fuel fires and foster division.