As the founder of Care.com, I can tell you that I always dreamed of this company’s growth and ability to help families all over the world. I also envisioned a company with incredible culture. A company that truly cares for each other and feels like family. This year, one of our Care.com family members went through a terrible loss, and our whole team felt it. Michelle M., from the marketing team, most generously and compassionately asked to share her experience with our broader community. This is her experience of a unique, important motherhood.
When they told me my son’s heart was no longer beating, my first reaction was, “Get it out of me. I just need to get through this and start over immediately.”
Moments later, I was greatly ashamed of these thoughts. How could I think this about my son? But when you face a tragedy, you have to understand that there is no wrong way to grieve. This was my initial way of protecting myself from the intense pain and heartache that was about to hit me.
Twenty-four excruciating hours later, I gave birth to our son, Hobbes. This had been his nickname throughout my pregnancy and seemed fitting. As Calvin and Hobbes fans, we have a dog named Calvin. So Hobbes seemed to complete our family unit.
It was my mom who first recommended that I hold him after he was born. I was very averse to the idea. But spending time with him was the best decision of my life. I got to cuddle my son for the first and last time. He looked peaceful. He looked like his father.
And then we had to say goodbye.
From what I have read, I’ve learned that many people feel that stillbirths (or even miscarriages) are a very taboo subject. It's hard for some to talk about it, or to accept that he is truly a child lost. Over time, people expect you to get over it. To move on. To try again. Some may also think it was a blessing that I didn’t get to know him first. But I have to tell you, this is a whole different sense of loss. I lost the ability to feel like a parent. I lost my firstborn son.
Accepting that this is a loss I will feel forever is both gut-wrenching and reassuring.
Mother’s Day was exactly one week after my son’s birth. I did not know how to feel. I never got to soothe his crying, and I will not get to take care of him as he grows into a man. As I grieve, I have to find different ways to mother him. I am still learning how to do this, but I know it is important to remember him. When your child dies, you can bury him. You just don’t bury his memory.
This grieving process has been hard, but important. My grief is mine. And there is no wrong way to do it. I sing to him, songs I sang when he was growing inside of me. I read Calvin and Hobbes cartoons, which make me laugh and cry. I talk about him and hope those around me understand. I will always do this. And I will continue to find more ways to honor him and honor myself as a parent.
While I never got to see my son open his eyes, he was my baby boy -- and I am his mother.