There is a popular philosophy that our happiness in life comes down to the choices we make. According to this philosophy, your mood and your circumstances are a reflection of the choices you have made. It suggests that if you are unhappy with your life, all you need to do is make a different choice.
Well, I disagree with this philosophy.
What about those moments that just happen?
What about those moments that are completely out of our control?
I am a bereaved parent. My daughter was stillborn at 30 weeks. I did not choose this and I don’t think anyone would dare suggest that I had.
So why do we tout the toxic idea that your life’s happiness is simply a matter of the choices we make?
If you are a believer of the aforementioned philosophy, this is usually the point where you like to share with me that even though I didn’t choose this tragedy, I still have choices I can make.
You’re right. When you lose a child, there are choices to make.
These are some of those choices.
I chose who to call first after my child died.
After I found out that Dorothy’s heart was no longer beating, I chose to call my parents. It was 2:00 in the morning and I woke them up to let them know that their granddaughter was gone. When my dad answered, I couldn’t find the words to tell him what had happened. I just cried. Finally, I managed to choke out the words “she’s gone.”
I chose the last moment I saw my daughter.
I delivered Dorothy with my husband by my side. After the nurse placed her still body in my arms, we were given some time to be alone with her. The entire time we spent with her, passing her back and forth, we both knew there was nurse waiting outside the door to take her away. I never wanted that door to open.
I chose to suppress my breast milk.
Two days after Dorothy was born, my milk came in. Even if I had wanted to, I was really too sick to donate my milk, so I chose to suppress. I spent the next week shoving ice packs into sports bras there were too tight and weeping at the burden that could get no relief. It was agony.
I chose what to do with my daughter’s remains.
The hospital social worker came by with what my husband and I would later refer to as “the folder of sadness.” Inside were pamphlets about losing your baby and the paperwork for what to do with your child’s body. The social worker shared our options and looked on as we checked the boxes for cremation. It’s the only time I’ve written my daughter’s name on an official form.
I chose to get out of bed. I chose to feed myself. I chose to tend to my well-being.
And sometimes, I didn’t. It’s not until you lose a child, that you realize how much willpower these tasks take. For those first few weeks, every footstep felt like a monumental decision.
So, yes, there are choices to be made after you lose your baby — but they are not decisions anyone would CHOOSE to make. I have gone on to make countless choices after Dorothy’s death. Every one of those choices stemmed from an event that was never my choice.
When people state that your life can be made better by your choices, it hurts. It hurts because it suggests that life can be simple and my life will never be simple. My life is a complicated, beautiful, and heartbreaking mess that I am learning to accept. Accepting my life for what it has become IS a choice I get to make.
Ask any bereaved parent; we would never choose to lose our babies. But, if we had to do it all over again, even if it meant losing them, we would choose them every single time.