“Most women say there is no greater pain than to bear a child. I say there is no greater pain than to bury one.”
Whoever wrote this quote, thank you. From this mother’s heart to yours, there is no greater truth on this earth. First I read these powerful words on social media, then I tried to find the source to give proper credit but failed in my attempt. I can’t let them go. They stick in my brain, taking me back to the beginning . . . so long ago now, but I remember the details as if it were yesterday . . . particularly when I am forced to face yet another anniversary of my firstborn’s death.
In honor of my son ~ gone too soon
August 21, 1974 ~ August 11, 2005
My firstborn was long awaited and excitedly planned for. We got the room ready, filled up the drawers with tiny baby things, and put the crib together. Then we waited. We didn’t have long, for our little guy had already planned to come out early, and he would do it on his terms ~ backside out first.
Breech birth is not delicate and sweet the way nature intended. It required x-rays on the hard surface of the x-ray table while in labor and lots of tugging during delivery. All was done in a record time of four hours. Once I got to hold my sweet baby boy, I easily forgot the struggle it took to bring him into the world.
Our precious newborn was so tiny and wrinkled, so sweet and fragile, that we hesitated to even hold him, but that didn’t last long. Before we knew what hit us, he was front and center, disrupting any life we had before and instantly changing us into a family. Daddy was ecstatic and refreshed. Mommy was thrilled and exhausted. Now I was to learn how it feels to be permanently tired until our nest would once again be empty.
Sandwiched between birth and death is a lot of living, creating many memories. Some are laced with pain, but many more bring a smile to my face, even as tears threaten to spill over. If you are also outliving a precious child, you know the painful truth of the quote above; no doubt words pulled from deep within this mother’s heart. She is a mother who knows and understands that this pain sets up residence in our hearts forever.
Time passed quickly and soon I was very pregnant with our second child. When he was born, it didn’t take long before I realized that two children were not only double love, but also double work and double trouble. Toddler big brother was so curious about this new creature. He stared at his tiny baby brother in wide-eyed wonderment. After all, this was not the four-legged pony he’d asked for, but rather a two-legged, smaller version of himself.
One morning, soon after I had arrived home from the hospital with our second son, I had gotten little sleep because new baby brother had been fussy all night. In the wee hours of the morning, I finally took him to bed with me, hoping the two of us could at least doze a little before big brother woke up. That plan, however, was short-lived. Big brother was awake early, out of bed, and ready to get on with his day. I scooted off the bed and called to him to follow me to the kitchen. My plan was to fix him breakfast to keep him occupied while I took care of baby brother.
When I reached the kitchen, I turned around, but my toddler was not behind me. Quickly retracing my steps to the bedroom, my heart nearly thudded to a stop as I looked upon a frightening scene. Big brother, who could barely climb up on our high bed by himself, sat precariously on the edge. With one chubby hand, he dangled baby brother by one foot HEAD FIRST over the edge of the bed, and with the other chubby hand, he was patting him on the bottom. How could my toddler, who was barely out of babyhood himself, get our newborn in that position? Now was the time for action, not questions. With a thankful prayer, I quickly scooped up my baby before his head hit the floor! Calling a cheery, “Let’s go eat breakfast,” I led the way to the kitchen again. Oh, the innocent actions of the young and the curious! And life with two was just beginning.
Whew! That was a close call. Unfortunately, babies don’t come with owners’ manuals. We can read and prepare as much as possible, but when those little ones enter the world, it’s both a reality check and a rude awakening. I would have to use the eyes God created for me, and the extra pair He planted on the back of my head especially for mothering. (Of course I didn’t really have them there, but the kids didn’t know that!)
Some memories are more amusing than others. This one is definitely not on the funny list, but fortunately, it had a good outcome. It was a quick first lesson on how to juggle two babies. This mother became quickly aware that until little brother got big enough to squawk loudly enough to be heard, or be able to fend off his bro, her eyes would ever be watching. Thankfully, God’s eyes would be watching, too (Job 34:21).
I replay scenes that were exasperating then, but now I can laugh when they come to mind. I wish I would have worried less back then about my children being squeaky clean . . . opting instead to be more relaxed, enjoying what each new day brought us. But that was then. If I had a do-over, I would likely savor the moments as if they were our last. But one never plans on dreading the future, do we? We are more likely to dream about all the things we will do together on vacations, where our children will go to school, or what they might likely be when they grow up. Why would it be any other way?
From older brother holding baby brother by the foot, to younger brother holding a velvet box, both memories are to be cherished: the first because it was the beginning of our family being complete, and the second because it was the tearful beginning of our family being incomplete . . . and a lifetime of knowing the lasting pain of burying a child. We would miss our son. Younger brother would miss his older brother. Precious, earthly bonds forever broken.
I don’t want to end this piece with sadness but with hope. I’ve come almost full circle. In breathless anticipation I wait and hope for Jesus’ soon return, when the mortal, dusty rags of earth will be traded in for the immortal robes of heaven. My family will be joined together once again . . . complete. We will never, ever be separated again. I can hardly wait!
We’ll step out of our mortal clothes and slide into immortal bodies, replacing everything that is subject to death with eternal life. 1 Corinthians 15:53
Scripture shared from The Voice Bible (VOICE)