I’m not sure there is a question that causes more anguish for a loss parent than “why?” Why my child? Why me? Those are questions with answers that don’t come easy and ones that heavily affect what you believe in.
First, there’s the physical “why?” Why did this happen? I’ve met several parents who don’t get an answer to this question—there is no physical reason why their baby’s heart stopped beating or why labor started so early. Many get a reason, but with no medical guidance on how to prevent it next time—it’s a rare occurrence, and you just take your chances. We were lucky—at least we got answers on the physical “why?”
We had an autopsy done on Vivienne (doesn’t that sound like a fun decision for a parent to make?), which showed she was perfectly healthy—well developed for her gestational age, with no signs of any genetic or physical abnormalities. She had a collapsed lung and a blood clot on her liver, but the doctors felt that was due to the trauma of the delivery (she wasn’t ready to be born yet). Days after her death, we would learn that my placenta showed an infection (chorioamnionitis), which is what caused labor to start. The doctors would eventually tell me that I have an incompetent cervix (oh how the medical community loves women with terms like that), which means that my cervix opens easily, and as Vivienne grew, it opened and allowed an infection to get in. The solution to this in future pregnancies is to get a cerclage, which basically means they will stitch my cervix shut and likely put me on bedrest for part of the pregnancy. As I’ve told my husband several times, if they tell me that I need to stand on my head for 40 weeks to insure a healthy baby, I’ll do it.
So that’s the physical “why?” Now there’s the spiritual why, which is the impossible question to answer. I’ve heard all of the clichés: it’s your body’s way of taking care of something that would have been a problem (not true—Vivienne was perfectly healthy, my body pushed her out before she was ready); God needed another angel (obviously, we didn’t need her enough, so God had to take her); God is testing you (let me tell you that nothing can push you into depression quite like being given the worst test imaginable, then feeling like you are failing it); God never gives you more than you can handle, so you must be really strong (if only I were weaker, then I could still have my child). I know that they are all said in an attempt to help, but when you’ve lost a child, you see how it’s your fault in everything.
I should probably point out that I do believe in God. I was raised Lutheran by a minister father. God is part of who I am, and I’ve really never thought that He doesn’t exist. I know there a lot of people who believe differently, which I understand. I think no matter your belief system, every parent I’ve met has still struggled with the spiritual and universal why of what’s happened. Mine just happens to be grounded in God.
I started doing some reading on this topic, because it’s something I’m really struggling with and will for some time. My first book is “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Rabbi Harold Kushner. His basic premise is that you have to let go of one of 3 things: that God is all powerful, that God is loving and just, or that I’m a good person who deserves good things. Either God isn’t in complete control, He doesn’t deal a fair hand, or I had it coming. What a choice to make.
Rabbi Kushner believes you let go of the first one—that God is not causing bad things to happen, it is the randomness in the universe. Rather than asking God why He’s done this to me, I should ask God to help me through it. I’ve been thinking about this one a lot. I think my fundamental problem with this is that I’m supposed to thank God for all of my blessings and give Him credit for all of the good things, but the bad things don’t fall on Him—those are just random and there’s no one to blame. Trust me—this is the one of the 3 options that I want to let go. I just haven’t figured out how yet.
The second option is still hard to take. But somehow, it feels the most right. You hear all of the time that life isn’t fair, right? You see people abuse their children, kill them, and abandon them, but here we are waiting with open and loving arms for a child we can’t have. Teenagers get pregnant so often that MTV has multiple shows about it. They don’t know how to care for themselves during pregnancy, let alone for a baby when they have one, but they get problem free pregnancies and healthy babies. It’s certainly the easiest explanation that God isn’t fair and just, but I have a hard time believing that God just rolls the dice on our lives every day, and we get what we get. How do I get up everyday and go about my day thinking it’s controlled by a God who doesn’t believe in fairness and justice?
After losing Vivienne, I spent a good bit of time angry with God. Angry at Him for taking away the person I’d give my life for, angry for having to experience this profound sadness, angry for having to carry this for the rest of my life. My pastor tells me it’s OK to be angry with God, that He can take it. But, the anger leads to fear. The other emotion I’ve felt most strongly with God is the feeling that I’m being punished. I’ve done something terrible and brought on Vivienne’s death. I’m not learning the lesson I’m supposed to see in this, and so the punishments of additional complications layer on. If I can’t blame God, then it must be me. And while I can’t think of anything I could have done that warranted the death of my daughter, it’s a hard one to get around.
So after all of that, I’m still searching for my answer to why. I don’t want to believe in a random universe, I don’t want to blame God, and I don’t want to blame myself. I can only hope that with time, the answers become more clear, or I learn to let go of the question.