All About Charlie

(topic: grief, memories, babies)

Hi friends,

It has lately become more and more noticeable to me that when I talk about Charlie, it’s usually in certain repetitive scenarios and often the same few facts and stories.

The most common scenario is that I end up chatting with a stranger, or new acquaintance of some sort, and they ask if I have kids or my former pregnancy otherwise comes up in some way, and they ask about it.
The conversation that results usually ends up covering the same points:
– my son died
– it was a stillbirth
– yes it was full term
– yes it is sad

Sometimes it goes on, usually into nosy questions that strangers and new acquaintances really have no right to ask:
– can you have more?
– will you have more?
– how exactly did it happen? (sometimes followed by questions that start to go in the direction of trying to see if it was my fault)

I almost never get asked his name. I often say it and start calling him by name (he deserves recognition and acknowledgement of his person-hood), but it’s almost always started by me. And that’s why I’ll usually ask other loss moms about their child’s name.

I never, ever get asked questions about missing him. I never get asked questions about what he was like. People forget – or maybe haven’t realized – that he lived (actively!!!) inside of me for many months before he died. Many people seem to subconsciously assume that because he never breathed, he never lived (and that is the legal definition, but boy did he LIVE inside me! He was so bouncy!).

It is important to note that in some cultures, the moment of official “life” is conception, others it’s when the baby first moves (the “quickening”), others it’s when the first breath is taken. One could even argue for various stages of development, such as the heart beating, or levels of brain development. The thing is, to a pregnant mother, regardless of the “official” moment of life, the baby is present in their lives before birth. They feel the baby moving and hiccupping, and the baby’s reactions to outside stimuli (startlement, moving when there is noise or sound, or kicking when the mom sits in a position that gives the baby space or conversely restricts space).

So I want to tell you some of the stories I never get to talk about. The memories I have of the time when Charlie lived. The months in which I began to get to know him, and build hopes and dreams for him. I want to tell you about CHARLIE, not Charlie’s DEATH.

I found out I was pregnant with Charlie on the day before my birthday, on the day we were having a small party with my family and best friend. We decided not to tell anyone yet, and we kept just looking at each other… we were fairly bursting! Afterward, my family and my friend told me they all had suspicions that something was up, and several of them had an idea of what it might be!

When Charlie started kicking, he quickly got really active and vigorous! He bounced and trounced and was so much fun, that we quickly started calling the baby “tigger” (we didn’t know whether it was a boy or girl – we’d decided to keep it a surprise till his was born!). We kept calling the baby tigger through the whole pregnancy!

Did you know Charlie loved music?? That was probably one of the most remarkable things about him that we got to know. And he had impeccable taste! We didn’t really know he liked music until we went to a concert of the Akron, Ohio symphony, at which Joshua Bell (famous amazing violinist) was soloing. Hubby and I were super excited, but I expected the baby to react to the timpani or maybe the full orchestra sections, since those are the parts that resonate through the body more. Instead, I found that during the solos of the famous violinist, I ended up very distracted, because the baby started dancing like crazy! He settled down during all other parts. He only liked solo world class violin!

A while later, on Mother’s Day, my youngest sister (a violinist) was going to play a duet with a church handbell choir. I thought, based on our prior experience, that the baby would only react when my sister was playing alone. Wrong again! Apparently he loved violin AND bells. (It literally just occurred to me as I’m writing this, that at the concert he liked a violinist named Bell, and this time around it was a violinist and bells! HA!)

Because of these experiences, I was already imagining the baby becoming a musical toddler, and borrowing my sister’s – his aunt’s – 1/16th size violin from when she’d been young and begun playing. It is a future that I miss.

A particularly fun day was when the baby first visibly reacted to Daddy. We were at a civil war ball, and between things we were hanging out in the room. At one point the baby started moving, and I told hubby to come feel. Hubby started pressing a little bit harder, and baby kicked back! He played push-and-kick several times before the baby quieted down again!

After Charlie was born, we got to hold him for a day, and get to know the parts we couldn’t before: his face, his body, his physical self.

But some of these I actually already knew! For instance, I didn’t know how long his feet and toes were, but I knew they were strong – early on, he boxed with my ovaries, and later in pregnancy he would dig his feet in under my ribs into my liver and puuush!!

His feet were 3-1/2″ long, and he had long fingers too.

I got to know his little nose, that was button shaped like mine, but had a strong straight bridge like Daddy’s, so who knows who he would have grown up to look like? He had my small ears, not big ones like Daddy, and had some curl in his dark hair.

I don’t have a ton of stories, but these are CHARLIE’S stories, like the ones everyone else tells about their children. I just don’t ever get any new ones.
Please ask me about Charlie. I might tell the same stories over again, but to me, that is one of the few things I can do as his mom.
Thank you for listening.

Yours,

Sarah

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