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.


BelleDownUnda said...'re AMAZING, girl!

Dixie Mom said...

Well said and truer words were never spoken. Thanks for putting into perspective for us all. I can't imagine the pain and hope and pray I never have to.

Jess said...

You have a gift for cutting through all of the chaos and really getting to the point of it all, and having a good solution on top of it all. I so admire the way you take your life lessons and translate them into everyone's life lessons.

Michelle said...

OH, how refreshing it is to hear from someone who really understands. I relate to you so well--even though we are very different in personality--because of having shared the experience of losing a child before birth. I love how you applied what you have become/are becoming to the recent tragedy. I want to save this post to read again. . .

Erica said...

Beautifully true.

Sue said...

Oh, my. I love the way your mind works. Natalie. It is just a pleasure to know you.

I am in agreement that the vitriol has to stop, on both sides of the aisle. I only hope that, someday, it will.

In the meantime, this shooting took place directly across the street from the lab where Todd does his research, which has somehow made it even more personal for me. It is such a tragedy for those who lost loved ones, but too much of the focus has been on politicians and their reactions. Todd says that the area is just covered with media; you can barely get into the building, especially now that Obama is there speaking today.

I am praying that we can all learn something from this. And, of course, I am praying for the families and victims.


Barbara said...

Hello sweetie, I've missed you.

Well said, very well said.



karen said...

Hi Natalie - nice to see you back! I agree - I think everyone should just STOP. Stop and realize that a great tragedy occurred here that has nothing to do with politics or "sides." I wish people could just be kind and comforting instead of pointing fingers. Honestly, politicians and the media should be ashamed of themselves.
Victoria taught you some precious lessons - her little life had great meaning!

Em said...

Your ability to express your emotions and thoughts never ceases to amaze me!

Anonymous said...

I remember all of that with Victoria from start to finish just like it was yesterday. I love and miss you.

Carly said...

Beautiful, as always. It's been a rough stretch in AZ this week--you have done a great job summing up what's really needed to move ahead--peace. It's sad to find so much rancor and blame about where to place the rancor and blame. I was living in Tucson at the time of the 2002 shooting at University of Arizona. My roommate (now sister-in-law) was in the room and witnessed the attack. This week has brought back a lot of memories and of course, feelings, and I can't bring myself to blog about it yet. I'm glad you did. My heart goes out to the families of those involved. It's a horrible thing to go through, and I hope they will find peace.

jen said...

Glad to hear your opinion on this issue.
I think the hardest part is watching such a disastrous event, especially the death of the little girl, politicized. If there had been no politicians involved, would it have been like this? Would the president have even come? Doubtful.
It's just weird how it has all spiraled out of the realm of regular, run-of-the-mill crazy guy with a gun to who else can take the blame?
My kids have seen all the flags as half-mast. Watched the President's speech last night (half tribute, half political). And I wonder what I should learn myself from this experience.
Still don't know.
I just think the entire political world has gone crazy, and I'm glad they don't carry guns. Heartless, maybe. True? Definitely.
The funeral today of Christina Greene was the first thing I've seen in a few days that was reminiscent of 9/11--when the people came together for comfort, not for finger-pointing. And that's how, I think, the people of AZ would have handled it, if the media hadn't come and stirred the pot.
Just know, AZ isn't like that. It's the media.
Glad to hear your voice on something again, Sister!
Sorry for the essay.

Kelly @ Sufficient Grace Ministries said...

Beautiful post, my sweet, snarky friend. I can completely relate to the pre-Victoria and post-Victoria thing. For me it is known as pre-Faith and Grace and post-Faith and Grace. I, too, thought my daughters would survive all of the interventions the doctors discussed and never expected them to be stillborn. I, too measure life in terms of before and after their time here. And, I too, have learned an empathy and compassion I would have never known otherwise.

My heart breaks for the sorrow inflicted on those families...and I pray God's comfort and peace for them.

Love to you...

shahna said...

I remember well. I, too, feel like I have learned most of my lessons in life from the trials we have been experiencing with Brent's health the last few years. There are times I want to find someone to be angry with too. It helps me to focus on the tender mercies Heavenly FAther has afforded us and try to be mindful of those things on the hardest days.

Fiauna said...

I know it's been more than a year since you wrote this post, but it touched me just the same. And I hope you read this, even now, all these months later. Thank you for sharing your experience with me. I needed it today.