I’d spent the day running around town exploring different options for selling clothes on consignment. My last stop was a kids store filled with rows of perfectly hung clothes arranged by size in rainbow order-an organizers delight. I only needed to purchase one small thing for the giving tables at our church. I was careful not to buy anything else as the purpose of my trip was to make my house lighter by consigning some clothes, not heavier, by bringing more deals home. I had time to spend as they sorted through my overflowing laundry basket of things. I surveyed the store making note of what they carried for future reference. I came across a rack of clothes that struck me…premie sizes. They were so tiny. It was hard to imagine a human fitting into these doll sized garments. And yet, I thought, they would have been too big for my little Dominik.
Our son Dominik was born on May 22, 2007. He weighed just 1 pound, 9 ounces. He was 12 inches long and 28 weeks old. He had anencephaly, a condition where the top of the skull does not close. He couldn’t survive outside of the womb. The day he was born was definitely the hardest day of my life, and one that I treasure the most. I remember wanting desperately to be prepared for the day of his arrival, but how can a mother ever prepare to say good-bye to her son? I was so thankful when the hospital had a tiny garment for him, much smaller than you could buy in any store. Some dear soul had handmade it, someone I suspected who knew that children were born into the world so small it was hard to be prepared. I was so thankful for the dignity of a soft flannel outfit made with love.
Today is Dominik’s 11th Birthday. Days pass and the wound heals, but the space in a Mother’s heart never fills. It always aches, forever on this side of eternity.
I didn’t realize the impact of those tiny clothes at the consignment store until the next morning. My subconscious brain held onto them and crafted them into the sweetest dream. I dreamed that Adam took me to the hospital and I gave birth to a tiny son, so small no one believed that he would make it. The nurses all left the room and busied themselves with other patients. Visitors came and went all exchanging small talk and paying little attention to the little baby that I held, but I held him close. I coaxed him to nurse and he did, like a champ and his weak body gained strength little bit by little bit. I held him sweetly and fed him over and over again until at the end of my dream he had become a strong boy and no one remembered my stories of him being so small or that everyone else had given up on him. He grew to be taller than me and played basketball.
If only it was true. If only a Mother’s love was enough to make my son whole and strong and alive. I love him fiercely, but it is not enough, and so I weep again. I weep as I long to hold him, to have him here. To watch him grow. I weep for a life too short. I weep wondering what my family would be like if my children had another brother.This is what grief does. It strikes when we least expect it and when we couldn’t possibly predict it.
Perhaps you are sorting through a life time of memories, treasures that trigger moments you never want to let slip away. Know this: there is no magic formula for what to keep and what to set free, it is highly personal. I am thankful that most of all nothing can take away the moments that I shared with my son. I held him in the most intimate of places, my womb. I felt him move and kick and wiggle. He was very alive, and I got the high honor of holding him for those brief months. If sorting through your home triggers emotions allow yourself to feel deeply. Joy, sorrow, nostalgia they are all sweet emotions that remind us that we are alive.
Dear one, remember most of all that you do not walk alone. I didn’t want to wake up this morning. Usually my husband can get me out of bed with one of his silly tunes, but this day I just wanted to savor, I wanted to imagine holding my son a little longer. I wanted to stay in the dream. When I finally sat up Adam was there knowing something was stirring in my heart and he held me. When Dominik was born we felt the presence of the Lord in the room comforting our hearts. I am so thankful for family and friends that have walked with us. It is my honor to walk with you as you process the stuff of life. It is way more complicated than putting like items together and labeling bins. The journey is so much better with a friend by your side.
Today as I woke up each of my children I lingered a bit longer and told them how I loved them. I crawled into bed with my son for our morning snuggle and I pulled him in close. I prayed over him with a heart that has a strong grasp of gratitude. I know how precious each of my children are because of the loss that I have walked through. My Mother’s love is fierce and I want to see them each thrive. I vow to not waste a moment on stuff and striving and to be present each day to play and teach and savor my family. When grief strikes, I remember, and then I take another step forward.