Monday, April 21, 2008

casting long shadows

Tash, Pamela Jeanne and Angel Mom have all written about them. The shadow babies, the mirror children, the ones born alive and healthy at almost exactly the same time ours
were . . . not. The ones whose existence and whose families' wholeness seem to mock us. "This is what you wanted," the whispering voices say, "This is what we stole from you. This is what you will never have".

Almost a year ago, I wrote a a post about my own shadow baby -- my step-brother's little girl who was born within a week or so of what would have been the twins' due date.
I've never seen her and, since the twins' died, although he was the only sibling who sent me a sympathy card, I've cut off all contact with that step-brother. Though I'm fond of him, I was never especially close to him or his wife. What we mostly had in common were our pregnancies. What we mostly talked about were nurseries and weight gain and strollers. The last time I saw them was the night before that disasterous ultrasound. It was a warm evening and we sat out on the back porch, grilling vegetables and drinking fizzy water. They had just found out that they were going to have a little girl and they were hoping that the next day's ultrasound would show that at least one of the twins was a girl too. "Call us as soon as you find out," they said.

As I try to steel myself against the disappointment this cycle could bring, I've been thinking about them a lot. I imagine calling them up, inviting them over. But what we would possibly talk about? How could I bear to see their daughter walking, perhaps still a little clumsily, and making sounds that her parents would insist were words? How could I listen to them tell me that she was or wasn't sleeping through the night? We could, I suppose, make a silent or even an express agreement to avoid talking about babies or anything that might remind me of babies, but even then how long would it be before I ran upstairs and sat in the bedroom, the lights off, waiting for them to leave?

How would you deal with this situation? Or, if you were my step-brother or sister-in-law, what would you want me to do?


Manda said...

If I were them, I'd want you to stop being blamed for your loss.

Saying "This is what we stole from you" is so unfair, whether you honestly feel that way or not.

Its not like there are a finite number of babies to go around, and that you losing was somehow a result of them "winning".

I'd want you to be happy for us, in an honest and non judgmental way. I'd want you to ask about our daughter, care about our experience as parents because you actually already are one, remember? Or maybe that kid doesn't count because he's not small and cute anymore, doesn't bring you the attention you seem to seek so desperately...?

Its like you won the lottery umpteen years ago, but now someone else won the jackpot in the same draw you had a ticket in, but instead of being happy for them and accepting that they felt bad for your loss, you are having a tantrum because you wanted to win this one too.

Reading this blog gets me so emotional. Its a love/hate thing. Sorry, I guess I'm not feeling the love today.

susan said...

Hmmm....if it were me, I guess I'd want to know why you cut off contact (although I guess, if it were me, I'd have guessed.)

Grief so big and so powerful can certainly seem like the only emotion in a relationship. I don't know that I know how to imagine actions in this situation. But I hope my willingness to sit here in the comment boxes and the feedreader as you do some thinking about it is useful.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful and honest blog entry (I found you through a friend's blog). I cring at a time, a few years ago, when I was unaware of the painful experience of losing a child. I had a friend go through a number of loses, and I'm sure I came off as completely insensitive and I regret not being there for her. If I were you, I'd write them a short note, just letting them know that it is just too painful to maintain contact at this time. I think that would help them to understand why someone who once shared in their joy cannot keep in touch anymore. However, I do think you are justified to feel that way and you should never feel guilty for that. Maybe you should invite them to read your are a beautiful writer!

Tash said...

I for one am tired of playing this game where I guess what other people are thinking about what I'm thinking, because I'm tired and have too much on my own plate as it is. I have enough to work through without worrying about what angst other people are going through as a result of my situation. Not my problem. And it's not up to you to defend your actions. You're grieving (regardless of what you might say or how you express it -- this post shows that), you're entitled to self-defensive measures to get through life, and you doesn't need to explain that to anyone, least of all someone with a kid the same age as the twins would be.

I've got the bellwether mom, plus two family members with kids who are a few months off, but who we planned would run in the same circles. Of the three, there is one set of parents that we decided "got it" to the point that we needed them (other people were leaving us in droves), and that trumped the baby. It's hard to meet up with them -- I miss them so much and like them, and when I'm with them I'm counting seconds until I can flee. The other two sets of parents clearly haven't shown themselves to be interested or caring enough, and I haven't had the emotional stamina to deal with their children, and if I get there, I'll get there on my own time.

I guess what I'm saying is: it depends. And only you can know. It's not rude, and you don't owe them anything. When and if you're ever ready, you'll do something about it, and probably know what it is you have to do, whether it be picking up the phone or showing up at their door.

Anonymous said...

My favorite tactic is always to go with honesty. Just tell them it is too hard right now, and if they care about you then they will at least try to understand it. Hopefully, you will be surprised by how well they respond.

Tash said...

Apologies for the glaring typo. I had an argumentative first para in the third person that I decided to move around to the second, and clearly forget to take some verbs with me. My bad.

Which Box said...

I think I'm sort of in the minority on this, but I think you might understand. It's hard, hard as hell, but I try the mantra - what happened to me has nothing to do with what happened to you. And what happens to you has nothing to do with what happens to me.

It sort of helps me to think I'm the flawed one, I'm the loser with the loss, I'm the one who couldn't get it right. Self punishment, right? So more of my punishment is just powering through.

I remember when one of my friends told me - and a whole other group of people - she was pregnant just after my loss. I burst into tears in front of everyone. And just blubbered, oh my gosh, I can't believe I'm crying, I'm just so happy for you. And then excused myself as soon as possible to go to the rest room and bawl my eyes out.

With others- with my bellwether - I just totally divorce myself from the situation - the comparison situation, not the friendship situation. What happened to me has nothing to do with what happened to her.

I am no saint. I am not a martyr, either. I just mentally decided I needed to put it out of my mind, at least when with people. It's not easy, but denial is a long standing coping mechanism for me. And I also figure, if I can sit here for 15 minutes, I can sit here another 15 minutes. And another. Until by sheer repetition, it isn't as hard any more.

You know what else helps? Parenthood isn't easy, and kids aren't always sweetness and light. I also remind myself of how hard it is and how while I'm missing the good, I'm also missing the bad. I feel like I'm admitting a deep dark guilty secret.

Jillian said...

My 'shadow baby' was born two days before my due date. I met him on my due date and he is now my godson.

The decision I had to make at the time of my loss was whether the pain of seeing the shadow baby grow would be worth giving in to if it meant losing the relationship I had with his mother. To me it wasn't. So I forced myself to face it, forced myself keep the two babies seperate, made myself value that child as an individual and never look at it as though he survived because mine didn't.

And he's like his parents. He could never be mine. My baby would have been so different.

If you can get past the grief and the relationship you have with your step brother could be worth it, then face it. It will get easier. Even if it's not worth it, it will be a step towards healing. If your aren't far enough along in the grieving process then give yourself more time. There are no rules and you're a smart person. You will know what a good move is.

Good luck with putting it all back together in a way you can live with.

luna said...

what tash said, sans typo. I don't have the emotional energy to deal with other people's angst about me. I do believe in protecting yourself from further harm.

though I will add that if I were them, I wouldn't want to be blamed either. I try to separate my feelings and recognize that it's usually me -- it's not their fault. of course if they've been asses about my situation then it's easier to cast that stone and cut them off.

where I've felt badly about cutting off a friend with a new baby or multiple children and hoped that one day maybe they'd understand, I've made a simple statement (email or voicemail) that it's just too difficult right now. not to explain my behavior as much as an effort to leave a door open if the friendship were to re-connect some day on my own terms. (or IS it an explanation? hmmm...)

I imagine I'd do the same with family if I thought we'd have to deal with them in the future too. ~luna

Bon said...

there are two little girls in our lives who are these shadow children for us, both children of Dave's lifelong group of friends. one mom was due at the exact same time i was, and her daughter was born healthy on August 1st. the other was due in November, and her daughter was born at 26w, 1 day - Finn's exact gestation - on August 3rd. his due date was August 4th, and was the morning we got both emails announcing the births. the second little girl, the preemie, lived and thrived, as did the full-term baby.

we'd been told Finn was a girl, and for a long time it really did feel as though, somehow, irrationally, they had gotten my girl, my luck, my child. i felt not only bereft, but utterly isolated, unable - as you say - to find a way to talk to them without feeling my own emptiness a hundred-fold, without feeling robbed. i did not blame them, as your first commenter seems to misunderstand, but it is actually a natural and normal response for the wounded to resent those who are not wounded. usually, grownups show a little more empathy for the wounded rather than resenting them in return.

both girls were over a year old before i actually was able to see them without tearing up, or turning away a little. now, every now and then, i still feel the pang.

but i know that i too am now that shadow-mother for some...and i hold no one's pain against them. i hope your stepbrother and family are able to welcome you back gently into their lives if and when you find yourself ready to be there. but Tash is right, you have no obligation. and she's also right, this is grief - very much so. it is one of the aspects of grief i actually found MOST painful...perhaps you say you are not grieving simply because it has been easier to excise that pain by excising the people causing it, by not focusing on it. but if it hurts, that's grief.

niobe said...

Just to be clear, I in no way blame them for my loss.

In the phrase "This is what we stole from you," the "we" refers to the imaginary malevolent spirits who sometimes seem to be running my life, not to my stepbrother and SIL.

In fact, of all my family members, they were the only ones who actually sent me a sympathy card. Later, they sent me a card saying that they'd like to see us, but they understood it might take a while.

They've been the kindest and most understanding of all my relatives and I really don't hold anything against them. On the other hand, I never had much of a relationship with them and we only became close when we learned we were both pregnant.

Finally, and quite irrationally, I feel as if they're the harbingers of doom. As I said in the post, it was the very next day after I last saw them that I learned the terrible news about the twins.

k@lakly said...

My s-i-l was pregnant at the exact same time as I, we were due days apart. Her (s-i-l) first words after hearing what had happened to me, beyond the horror of the loss, were,"She'll never want to see me again." I heard this from my mom and it reminded me that the loss although mine in the deepest sense, could, if I chose, destroy just about every relationship in my life.
For me tho, it was seing or being around pregnant women, s-i-l included that was hard. I didn't want to hear or see if possible, them or anything about them. Once the babies were born, it got easier, not easy, but easier. I guess because I knew or had come to terms with the fact that Caleb was gone. I didn't resent the other babies,as I thought I might, but I did feel a certain level of detachment from them too.
What is interesting to me is that often you write about how the twins loss didn't affct you in the same painful way as many of the other moms here write about and how you recovered and continued on with your life relatively soon afterwards. And yet you also write about how you have pretty much disconnected from everyone in your life that might possibly want to talk about or share the loss with you in a sympathetic and kind way(glaring exception to this being the 'father figure' you wrote about recently who should be put far, far, out to sea).
Maybe the self imposed isolation is more of a preemptive strike, "I'll kick you out before you have the chance to do or say something that would earn you the boot". (i.e. the 'father figure', big boot) and a way for you to not have to talk about the loss of the twins at all or share your grief.
What would I do? I wrote my s-i-l an email telling her exactly how hard it was for me, how awful I felt, how sad I was, and I also told her how much I wanted her baby to be born healthy and that I loved her, cuz I do. It was hard to see her again and she cried and I cried but it gets easier every time. If you can't cry about the loss of your child, or in your case children, what can you cry about?
I imagine if I were your s-i-l/b-i-l, I would be waiting for you to tell them it's okay to come back. That it will be hard for you and they should understand that, but that you don't choose to let the twins loss take any more from you than it already has.
But that's just me and my arm chair psychology...

christina(apronstrings) said...

to be honest-i just don't feel qualified to say what i would do in your situation. b/c i am not. in the least.
but- in the last three years i quit talking to people-family or not-who didn't add anything to my life.
i hope you find the right answer.

STE said...

Niobe, I kind of feel like I've been on both sides of this, as I was pregnant when my sister had been trying for 5 years. My pregnancy was extremely hard on her, and thankfully we had long distance and 3 times zones to buffer things. I let her take the lead, trying to keep her updated, but gently.

Now that she's pregnant and I am no longer, I can see she's trying to do the same thing. And I am feeling the pain of the shadow more and more. Her twins will always be 20 weeks (almost to the day) ahead of where my boys should have been. She is almost at the point where I lost the boys.

I don't know how I will ever attend another family function -- not because my family is terribly insensitive, but because it's just too hard to see the bellwether(s). I no longer have anything to talk to my sister about, now that she's well into the pregnancy, and I am well out of mine.

And we each know the pain of the other. If it's possible for you or your husband to write to them, to let them know, somehow, as others have said that this is your pain. Nothing they have done. And that while you love them, it's just too hard right now. That you hope they can understand somehow, and be patient until you can resolve this some how.

And for what it's worth, I, too would be holding on as long as possible, then running off to hide until they left. I'm sorry this is so hard.

LawMommy said...

If I were them, what I would want to hear is, "I'm sorry, but it hurts too much for me to see you. It hurts too much because seeing reminds me of what I have lost, because the last time we were together we both had hope, and then I had nothing, less than nothing, worse than nothing. I love you, but, it just hurts too much right now, and I hope someday that won't be the case."


Amanda said...

I keep going back to the part where you said you weren't even really close to them in the first place. If you removed from the equation the pregnancies and the bonding that happened there, are you that far removed from where you were before relationally?

If you weren't just the very best of friends before, I don't know why you need to subject yourself to the torment of being reminded of what you don't have.

And obviously, they've not been falling all over themselves to get to you, make sure you're alright, bring you meals, honor your dates, etc. Why, then, should you go all out to bring them into a circle that wasn't there before?

As a grieving mother myself, I say unless you just want them to be different, leave things as they are. Have mercy on yourself. The day may come that you want to be around them, and you'll be ok with the shadow in plain sight.

Eva said...

Given that they were the only people in your family decent to you about your loss, I'd say that, when you are ready--maybe when you have your take-home baby, or before, or later--that would be a good time to rekindle things with them, and tell them how it's all been for you, and let yourself be comforted. You need someone in your family who has that empathy.

Becky said...

I would stop feeling guilty for my feelings, first and foremost. It's not your fault that you can't be close to them right now. It's not.

I'd probably send a little note explaining what you are going through, because they don't sound like monsters or anything, and just take it from there.

It's not your fault that you can't handle the shadow baby, Niobe. It's just not.

daisies said...

i have no answers here ... i lost friends who weren't even pregnant when i lost my twins died and so i can't even imagine really how i would feel about a shadow baby. the thought of it steals my breath because the pain would be so much. i suppose i would have to carry on if their friendship meant that much to me but i say that knowing full well that i only kept a few people with me after my loss ... something people don't really understand who haven't been there is that a loss of that magnitude changes you in a way that can't be undone and not everyone fits into that change. be gentle with yourself and remember it is not just up to you to bridge gaps, in my opinion ...

daisies said...

do what feels right in your heart ...

sweetsalty kate said...

I feel somewhat unqualified to comment - I exist neither in the oblivious world nor the empty-handed one. My shadow baby lives with me.

It sounds like your heart misses these people, that you'd like to reconnect but you're not sure how. If this is the case, then you're going to be thrust into unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory - but that's the price of admission. If you appreciated their kindness and feel like they could be family again on some level, what is there to lose?

I might even just call them out of the blue, make plans to get together with them in the evening, adults-only. Somewhere not in public but comfortable, with food and drink.

This might be more my nature than yours, but I'd give myself permission to be emotional, and I'd see that evening as a hurdle that needs to be jumped for the sake of salvaging. (again, assuming that's what you're considering).

I'd just talk and talk and talk. I would be completely transparent and open, mouth and ears. I'd consider it a chance to grow a little, to do something worthwhile. No matter what came of it I'd feel like I would have learned something, done a good thing.

If the shadow baby came up in conversation I'd voice whatever was in my head, risk tears - diffuse it by speaking out loud. Taking the power away from the demons by calling to them out loud. No running away upstairs, no dark room. I'd talk until I felt the friction go away, and I wouldn't leave the room until that point.

If it gets hard? Say so. If you feel like you might start to cry? Do it, and reach out to them so that they understand. If you feel like you're screwing up any chance of this relationship ever feeling normal? Explain why, and let them know you hope it doesn't, that you're trying because you want them in your life.

Sometimes what a house needs is to have all the windows open for a while, the air changed completely - even if it's twenty below zero outside. It a healthy thing to do. In the long run, it helps you to breathe.

Lori said...

Well, I don't know that I can say anything worthwhile after following Kate's comment. Hers is simply too lovely. Although, I suspect, sounds very difficult for you.

Am I awful if I just say, "I don't know." I agree that it sounds like you would like to re-connect with them- and if so, then perhaps biting the bullet and diving in headfirst is the only way to go? I do know that most situations I have feared have been far worse in my imagination than they played out in reality.

Maggie said...

What they want from you almost doesn't matter, because you can only give what you have.

If they have been on your mind, I think that it's time for you to make contact with them. And, much like ripping off a band aid, it will hurt. But you can do it, when you're ready.

I would start slow - emails or phone calls - and I would be clear that I needed it to go slow. In the end, you'll come out ahead...even if it takes you a while to get there.

Elizabeth said...

I wonder to what extent your ambivalence reflects the dual-edged sword that the relationship wtih them represents? It seems like what these people signify to you is both the joy of expecting, and the terrible grief of loss. So as you approach the possibility of expecting again, your mind turns to the last time - and the happy bond you experienced with them at that time. But there's also the fear of re-creating in some way the scenario that preceded your last loss. It makes sense to me.

What do I think they'd want you to do? Whatever you need to do, for your own grieving and healing.

thirtysomething said...

I cannot say much here, I do not have the right because I haven't been there ~ in your place. I think you have every right to your feelings, no matter what they are.

But it does seem as though these people are on your mind, so maybe that means something on a deeper level. I agree with commenter Maggie above, the first step is the hardest for sure.
Thoughts of peace coming your way Niobe.

Amelie said...

I'd suggest an adult-only meeting first, going out for drinks or such. I don't know if you didn't have a close relationship because of lack of common interests, or rather because it just happened. Depending on any common grounds besides babies, it will be easier or harder to reconnenct, I suppose.
Since they wrote that they'd understand if it takes some time to see you again, I think they do understand. However, if it makes you feel better, write them, contact them in some way to let them know that it is still hard on you, but that you'd like to reconnect. If I were them, I'd like to know what kind of relationship will hurt you the least. I guess that's a difficult question, though.

Ms. Planner said...

I like the concept of forgiveness. These family members sound like the care for you. And, you, for them. Forgive yourself for not contacting them out of self-preservation; forgive them their benign involvement in the sad unfolding of events. In turn, I am sure they understand and forgive you the lost closeness. I hope you can begin your relationship anew when the time is right for you to do so.

Rosepetal said...

I cut off contact with the shadow babies too, except for one person who was really there for me and I have only seen her son, born one week before V in the same hospital, once, by accident, when I bumped into her in a local shopping centre. Otherwise I've always seen her on her own.

My nephew is not a total shadow baby but he was born 5 months after V and it took me a year, and a special effort as he is my nephew and I only have one brother, to be able to even hear about him without getting upset. It took the safe birth of Beanie to be able to ask after him. I met him for the first time when my Dad died and we all came home for his funeral and my SIL and nephew (then six months) had to stay in at a neighbours house across the street on my account.

I don't think any explanation is needed. I don't blame anyone with the shadow baby, but I do exercise a needed measure of self-protection.

LAS said...

I think you need to protect yourself and take care of yourself. You should not feel bad about how you feel and you don't owe them anything. It's not about them. I don't have a similar experience to relate, but your post made me think of the birth of my nephew. He was born on the day that I started taking chemo drugs - drugs that I was told would leave me infertile when I so desperately wanted my own children. And there was my nephew - everything that I wanted and that was being taken from me without any choice. Well, as you know, I may be fertile still, but I don't know for sure and I don't know for how long, I just know that it isn't for as long as I would have been. My nephew - he lights up my whole world and it breaks my heart into a million tiny little pieces at the same time. Just take care of yourself. I think they should understand the way you feel and the way you've handled the situation. And if they don't understand, well, that's not your problem.

Aurelia said...

Well, in my case, I knew I would see one these shadow babies because they were nice neighbours, so I bit the bullet and went over and forced myself to see her, and it hurt like hell and I cried, but after that, it didn't hurt as much. Like ripping off the bandaid, it was okay.

But it also depends on the parents of the shadow baby. There was another shadow baby at the same time whose mother was a total bitch to me, very very unkind, and to this day, I've always had trouble seeing her kid whenever I've run into her.

I think you need to talk to your family somehow or have someone do it on your behalf, to explain the issue your father was confused by. And these people seem like very good ones to do it, so it might be worth talking to them.

Missing said...

I would go with your gut. If you feel you'd like to make a connection again then do.
It seems like some who we've written off during the storm are not gone, but waiting in the wings for us to tell them we'd like them to come back...and it's been my experience that they welcome this. they've missed us.

Karen said...

If I were them, I'd want you to do whatever was best for you. If I were them, I'd be taking my cues from you and hoping all the best for you. If I were them, I'd know my happiness caused you pain and would want to somehow make that okay for all of us, but I wouldn't know how to do it. I'd be so afraid of making anything worse.
We had two friends expecting at the same time as we were. Friends whose baby was due quite soon after our loss and friends whose baby was due and born on our baby's due date. These were friends, close friends and I had to do a rip off the band-aid or risk losing some of the only friends who I thought might stick around through the grief. They let me call the shots and I am grateful to them for that. It's been many years since that first year. The little boy, not a typical shadow baby b/c he was born full term right when he should be, just 6 weeks after our loss, when I was really just back on my feet - he's my son's dear friend and I can hardly remember my confused and grieving feelings now (look, I made it to acceptance in this one small area, hurray for me!) They live nearby so time and proximity, newer, cleaner memories filled in some gaps. The child, the girl, who was born on our little girl's due date lives far away. This has been more difficult, even 5 years out, b/c I never did have a girl and now I probably won't. I lost two girls and have three incredibly lovely girls. But there was like a 4 year span when everyone I knew was having girls and mine were gone. Shadow pink onesies every which way. I have to remember, these girls i know could never have been mine.

Grad3 said...

I would probably write them a simple note explaining that you were thinking of them and wishing them well but also let them know you aren't ready to open the door yet for visits. You will find the words if you are ready too...

CLC said...

I bet you would be surprised at how eager they may be to hear from you. And maybe they are compassionate people and understand why they haven't. I find it easiest to just say what I am thinking and tell them that it's hard to be around their baby. And that's no reflection on their child obviously, it's just a painful reminder of your twins. You might be surprised and find that they get it and are ok with that, and willing to have a relationship on your terms. And if they don't get that, then so be it.

a- said...

Niobe, I looked at my shadow baby (with the very same name as my own son) and told him how hard it was for me to meet him face to face. I faced my biggest fear since my loss by doing so. I cried miserably (for days) afterwards always for what could've been-always comparing. It isn't such a terrible thing to avoid harbingers of doom or despair-perceived or otherwise.

Awake said...

Honestly, I don't have a clue in hell how I would handle this situation. But, I think the fact that its there, in your mind and through your keyboard, is your heart's way of saying, "hey, let's revisit this." Go slowly and honestly. Or fast and honestly. Whichever feels right. But just stay honest to your heart and don't blame yourself or let the guilt invade.

Your step-brother and SIL? The card, the respect for your distance. I think it means they have your best interests at heart and would want you to do what you wanted.

Pamela Jeanne said...

I often wonder how much energy and thought people with these shadow children actually devote to us. Do they look at their children and cherish them more know their peers weren't as fortunate? Do they have any idea how hard it really is for us to be in their presence. I never forget...and even think about them when their shadows aren't around to prompt the memory.

Wabi said...

I guess I'm in the minority, but I think interacting with the shadow babies is the best way to go. As long as you avoid them they remain the blank everybaby, a perfect metaphor on which to project thoughts of your lost child and thoughts of what the loss did to you. As long as you avoid them, quite frankly they remain ALL about you.

But get to know one of these kids and he or she quickly becomes an individual you either like or find annoying based on his or her own quirks and merits. I'm not saying that you ever forget what a shadow baby's age signifies to you. But I am saying that it doesn't have to be something you think about very much of the time, if you fill your interactions with something else. It just takes time and practice.

The thing is, you have to be willing to let your phantom baby's face flicker off the shadow baby in order for this to work. You have to let go of one thing in order to grab the next. And I am not sure that you are ready to do that, Niobe. Until you are, the idea of what you would talk about or do with your step brother will probably continue to remain just beyond imagination.

AJW5403 said...

A good Friend of mine was PG at the same time I was with Emma. She was due a month before Emma was. I went a whole year making sure I in no way seen this child. For me what made me come around was thinking of how bad i was hurting my friend. As much as it killed me to see this child I in turn was hurting my friend.

All though it is different with you since you are not that close to them. I was close to this person and felt I did not have the right to bring my hurt on her. I know not much help here. You just need to do what helps you get by.

And off the subject I tagged you on my blog.

Anonymous said...

Lots of comments that I didn't read, and I'm sure I'm not going to say anything unique anyway...

I think you should take it one step at a time. Just reestablishing contact is enough to start with.

Eighteen years ago I had an abortion. That unborn baby was due just a month before my brother and his wife had their second child. Although I am 99.9 % certain that I made the right choice, I sometimes go down "what-if" paths, as my niece achieves milestones. I know I would not be ready in your situation.

passingwindows said...

Oh Niobe, I can offer no advice, only read here to try and find some. One of my best friends' sons was born about a week after my son should have been born. The only time I saw him it was so difficult, just so many "What ifs" to fight the whole time we were at her house. I hope this next cycle goes well and is able to heal some of these friendships we abandon so completely.

Gwen said...

Niobe, you have received a lot of wonderful advice; in the end, you will have to choose what feels most right to you.

I was once on the other side of this, being the person who had the baby her sister wanted and it hurt me, honestly, because there was nothing I could do to make anything better, to make it different than it was. But that wasn't any body's fault; no one was to blame. It was just the nature of loss and the way it affects us all.

Anonymous said...

I guess I would try to pay very close attention to my grief - to learn how it rises, and how it subsides, how it keeps me close to love and how it estranges me from it, how it wraps me like a baby in a blanket, and how it strangles me too.

Lisa b said...

I deal with these situations the same way you do - through avoidance until I sure about what I want to do.
You say in your comment they have said they understand it may take you a while to be able to see them so I think you will take them up on that when you are ready, which is exactly what I think they want.

Lisa b said...

I deal with these situations the same way you do - through avoidance until I sure about what I want to do.
You say in your comment they have said they understand it may take you a while to be able to see them so I think you will take them up on that when you are ready, which is exactly what I think they want.

Kami said...

What would I want from me if I were your step-brother? Does it matter? Call me bitter and angry, but they have the child, not you. They can just cope with a distant relationship.

My sister has a child who was born about a year after our son. Not quite the same thing, but since he was conceived shortly after our loss, I see him as the kid we should have had. I suspect she wishes it was easier for me to be around her and her baby in the early days - but she always seemed to understand.

I still feel uncomfortable around her son - now 2.5 years. I somehow feel like I am being judged in my care taking of him. If I was a good mother, I would have a son now too, but the universe deemed me unworthy.

I guess I would just suggest one day at a time. If you want to call and chat, fine. If it never comes up, that is fine too.

Beruriah said...

I don't have a shadowbaby exactly. I felt weird about seeing my niece born two months before my son died, and I am still not as in love with her as I am with my older nephew and niece, but I can't help it.

I think that if you want a relationship with them, the adults-only outing someone mentioned above would be a good plan. If you need this relationship to re-enter your family and you want that, same thing. If you run upstairs and cry, so be it.

And I'm thinking that this step is on your mom's side, right? So maybe not the right person to talk to your dad - but I do like that idea in spirit.

Christine said...

oh, i really would have no idea what to do. i totally get how they feel like "harbingers of doom." I'm sort of superstitious.

Monica H said...

My shadow baby is my husband's cousins son- born 10 days before Sam and one year exactly before Jack's due date. They live only a couple miles from us, but I've only seen them a handful of times in the last year and a half. I see her son (whom she claims is truly the most beautiful child in the world) and see what I could have. And it makes me terribly sad. I don't know what to say to her, therefore I can't really offer you any advice either.

Casey said...

I understand why it's difficult to maintain contact with them, but I think that if you ever intend to rebuild that relationship, you need to let them know why you can't be part of their lives right now.

I had a friend who cut me off right after my first daughter was born. I don't know exactly what was going on with her. She never gave any explanation. I'm sure she had struggles of her own, but I was close to dying from postpartum psychosis while she was avoiding me. It took me a long time to forgive her for what I perceived as abandonment.

Sarah said...

if i were them, maybe i'd just want to know that you would make the contact when and if you were ready, and that it's okay to let you have whatever space and distance you need. presumably they are letting you have that, and that's enough. where ever you take it from there is totally okay.

am i the only person who is outraged that anyone would compare losing babies to not winning the lottery??!

Sarah said...

if i were them, maybe i'd just want to know that you would make the contact when and if you were ready, and that it's okay to let you have whatever space and distance you need. presumably they are letting you have that, and that's enough. where ever you take it from there is totally okay.

am i the only person who is outraged that anyone would compare losing babies to not winning the lottery??!

Sarah said...

if i were them, maybe i'd just want to know that you would make the contact when and if you were ready, and that it's okay to let you have whatever space and distance you need. presumably they are letting you have that, and that's enough. where ever you take it from there is totally okay.

am i the only person who is outraged that anyone would compare losing babies to not winning the lottery??!

Megan said...

No, you're not alone, Sarah,
Especially coming from someone whose big complaint is compulsive overeating.
Niobe, I can't offer any advice because I'm in the same boat. My SIL and I got pregnant with babies due within days of each other a few months after my first child was stillborn at term. Her healthy second son was just born. Mine died again – mercifully early this time.
I haven't seen her since the fall and I refuse to see her baby until I've held my own living child in my arms.
If all goes well, that will be in late July or early August. If it doesn't, it may be never.

Antigone said...

I just compartmentalize the h3ll out of it all.

Anonymous said...


I am a ghost baby...

My aunt lost a set of twins at the same time my mom was pg with me; I was a welcomed, but not a remarkably anticipated third child, and my aunt's babies were much more difficult to conceive, and awaited with much more longing......

I grew up knowing vaguely about the twins, but not that they were lost at the same time that I was coming. I am so grateful for my aunt for never treating me differently, never making me feel that my very existence was somehow tainted. Only over thirty years later, dealing with an almost identical situation, did I understand completely what that must have cost her. I know its hard, and it's just a friend you might have eventually drifted away from eventually, that's one thing, but family is another. Don't think about your step-bro and SIL as much as their daughter.

And it IS much easier as the child gets older, and develops a distinct personality, to separate the child from what you've lost.

Best to you.

Anonymous said...

My hope is that they understand why you have disappeared and will welcome you with open arms when you are ready.

Smiling said...

I too am beyond underqualified to comment...

If you still need space, I'd say take care of yourself. Communicate this to them only if you have the energy to do so

If you are actually longing to reconnect, I would write a note/email and see if I could meet up with one of the parents to go for a walk or grab some coffee. Something adult and with a finite time element to it. And just chat. See if there are other things to bond about. Some of my friends who are new parents relish having a non-baby related conversation with me (and because of my situation they understand that I also appreciate non-baby conversation sometimes too). That said, I suspect that the shadow baby has change them just as much as your loss has changed you, but in radically different ways... who knows if you have things in common now - or if both of are comfortable seeing these huge changes in each of your lives. If I felt a connection after meeting a few times without children, then I'd consider reconnecting with the entire, now larger, family.

I guess I like to take things in small steps sometimes.

Best of luck. Loved your photos from Europe by the way - stunning!

Kara said...

I am the mother of a shadow baby. My husband's brother and his wife lost their precious baby who was due within three weeks of my son (my third child). The baby they lost was their first. J and I had grown close as the only daughters-in-law but our relationship stopped. I was devastated for them. I sent them a long note and sat back to wait. I knew there was nothing I could do to speed their healing. I would only make it worst - I still had what they could only dream of. We ended up moving out of state. Christmas that year was brutal. J wouldn't even speak to me. I was holding a 15 week old.

My son is now 3.5, J's is 2. This Easter we hung out and really talked for the first time since they lost their first baby. We were invited to her son's second birthday and we drove 7 hours to be there.

I would have gladly traded my baby for their's if it had been an option. I already had 2 children. I spent many hours of many days crying for what had been taken from them. And when J conceived again I spent even more hours praying that they would be blessed with a healthy baby that would allow them to heal. I hope one day I am given the opportunity to tell her. I hope one day I will give birth to a surro baby that will be here in large part due to the fact that a dream grew in my heart when I wanted to help J grow her family. I hope one day she'll know I never left her I only gave her the space I believed she needed.