This week we have a guest post from Rebecca Menning. Rebecca is a wife, stay at home mom, natural family planning instructor, and owner of Wellspring Fertility Education (www.wellspringfertility.com). She is enchanted by the beautiful design of human fertility, and loves to share her knowledge with others. Her driving passion, however, is her unwavering belief in the inherent and immeasurable value of every human life. A homeschool graduate, Rebecca has a love of learning and non-traditional education. Her other interests include coffee, tea, classical music, science fiction, natural childbirth, the outdoors, and getting lost in a good book. When she is not spending time with her wonderful family, you can find her working and volunteering at the local domestic violence shelter and crisis pregnancy medical clinic.
The other day while traveling out of state with my family, I found myself in a new city standing in the checkout line of a grocery store. The customer in front of me in line was having difficulties with her order, making the wait quite long – I smiled at the flustered cashier to let her know I wasn’t in a hurry or irritated. She looked slightly relieved, as my nine-month pregnant belly probably indicated to her that I was likely to be impatient. When it was finally my turn, we began to make small talk.
“Is this your first?” said the young lady, pointing to my belly.
“My second actually,” I said smiling. The cashier looked quite young, not much more than twenty, with beautiful long braids and a pretty, well made-up face. She said something pleasant about me having my hands full soon as she continued to check out my groceries. I asked her if she had any children.
“I did, but I lost my daughter last year,” she said simply. My heart sank.
“Oh, how terrible. I am so sorry. I can’t imagine!” I said with genuine, deep sympathy. I watched her face, and paused to consider. Despite the tragedy this stranger had just disclosed, it didn’t do much to change the tenor of the conversation. The effortless (though pained) way in which she brought up her daughter struck me. She hadn’t volunteered the information for sympathy, but she hadn’t hidden it either. We were just two moms making small talk about our children. I had a daughter; she had one too. There was no awkwardness in the disclosure, only love and longing.
“What was her name?” I asked after a moment.
“Heaven,” replied my new friend, smiling sadly.
“Oh, how beautiful. How perfect.” I said. She’d finished with my groceries and printed my receipt. We exchanged a few more words, wished each other well, and parted. It was a brief exchange, but it made a deep impression on me. I don’t know if this woman had lost her daughter through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death, or something else. I don’t know how far along she was in her pregnancy, or how old the child was when she passed away. It doesn’t matter. What matters is this beautiful, courageous mother, honoring the life of her child, and allowing that life to be part of her daily existence. She gave her a name, brought that name to remembrance, and shared it with others, even a stranger. I felt honored that day, as if I’d been given a special gift.
The loss of a child is devastating. And if that loss occurs during pregnancy, it can be especially isolating and confusing. Women and families often don’t know how to grieve, and may feel pressured to ‘get over it’ or brush it aside, as if it wasn’t a real life that was lost. This woman gave a beautiful example of both honoring her child and honoring herself as a mother, for a mother she will always be. She taught me a poignant lesson about the value of life and the beauty that can exist in grief, and I will never forget her.
This post was originally published at the Guiding Star Project and has been reprinted with permission.