We were not all that different from so many other first time parents who had hoped and dreamed of having a baby to fill their home with love and joy. We had hopes and dreams and plans. We could picture what holidays were going to be like and had already talked about the traditions that would become ours. A baby shower had been thrown and others were in the planning stages, the nursery although not put together yet was designed when suddenly everything took an unexpected turn. Our son Anderson Maxwell Graham was born via emergency C-section in the middle of the night on March 12, 2013. After I woke up from the anesthesia I was told I had a baby boy, I looked at my husband and asked how he was and from the look on his face I knew. “He didn’t make it,” I asked? He shook his head, “No.” And, just like that our lives changed forever.
I had never known the depth of such love. I also had never known such darkness and pain. I was so full and yet I was so broken. I did not know how to go on, I did not know if I could.
Eventually I made a promise to Max. I stood at his grave sobbing and promised him that I would try to live for both of us. I didn’t want to. I didn’t know how. But, I promised I would try. He deserved that and I knew in my heart of hearts that even though the world could not see my son in my arms or holding my hand or calling my name, I was still his mother and he would always be my boy.
We were surrounded with an incredible support system, but I needed so badly to connect with others who had found themselves walking this journey. Through friends of friends, complete strangers reached out to me, allowed me to email them at all hours of the day and night, met me at Starbucks and shared their precious children and stories with me. It was incredibly healing to know I was not alone and that I what I was feeling and thinking was not unusual or crazy. They helped me to survive. One new friend pointed me in the direction of Faith’s Lodge, a wonderful retreat center in Wisconsin. Aaron and I traveled there and it was in that place that I discovered that I could continue to live and that there were parts of me deep inside that I still recognized. We met other couples who were on a similar journey and we laughed and cried together as if we had known one another forever.
I do not believe there are too many other bonds that are more deep than the bond shared between two people who have had to say goodbye to their child or children way too soon. The connection is nearly instantaneous and in the midst of sadness it is also life giving.
One thing that well-meaning people said to me after Max’s death was that I should not look back, I had to move forward. At the time I did not have the words to help them understand that I had to look back because all of the memories that I would ever have with my son took place in my past, we did not have a future to build a lifetime of memories upon. And so, with that, I hope that in your heart and on your journey you will hold tight to those sacred memories that you have shared with your child. Whether it was simply a positive pregnancy test, the flicker of a heartbeat on a sonogram monitor, feeling the kicks and flips of one within, holding them within your arms, sharing giggles and adventures for a short time or even years of holidays, birthdays and the everyday things that make life so special, know that whatever memory you have it can grow into something beautiful. Your child’s life mattered, still matters and will always matter. My Max continues to teach me and inspire me. All he ever knew was love. I miss him every moment of every day, yet I am so grateful that he is my son. I am sorry that our paths are crossing in this way, but please know you are not alone. Our children’s love carries on in the ways that we continue to live and honor their life and legacy.