Under the Olive Tree (A letter to my baby)
Your name is Oliver David Booker and you were born far too soon.
I want you to know how we longed for you and waited for you and hoped for you. Months and months before you finally came, you were a dream in our hearts. And when that day finally crossed over from dream to reality, Daddy and I were on top of the world. We knew you belonged to us – an extension of this family we love so fiercely.
Your sister left us too soon, and the pain of that still surfaces now and then. I had been afraid I’d be racked with fear and anxiety when I became pregnant after losing her. But with you, I wasn’t.
I had some nerves that I worked through, of course, but mostly I just felt a peace. You were ours – a gift from heaven – and I didn’t want to waste a precious, desired, prayed-for pregnancy worrying the days away over what ifs.
You made me tired though. Oh Lord, was I a basket case! I’m so thankful that Daddy was home to care for your brothers because I was napping twice a day as my body worked hard to make a space for you, help you grow, and give you everything you needed.
I’m not sure what went wrong, but I first discovered you were gone before you’d been with us eleven weeks.
How can such a big life last for such a short time? It’s so wrong, so unfair.
I’ve dealt with far more guilt since losing you than I did when losing your sister. Not guilt because I feel it was my fault (though it might have been?), but guilt over my reaction to losing you. Instead of being overwhelmed with sadness I was mostly just angry. Furious, in fact.
How could this happen? How could this happen? How could this happen?
Sometimes my anger (and lack of sadness) has made me feel guilty. I felt like you deserved my sadness. Intellectually I understand that all of those jumbled emotions are part of the grieving process, and yet nearly two-and-a-half months later I still deal with waves of guilt. If only I was sadder instead of angry, maybe I’d feel ‘better’ about you being gone.
(Can you see the irony of me wishing I would feel sad so that I would feel better? Amazing how the grieving heart works – a mystery to be sure.)
I loved you from the second I suspected your existence was real. . . and my love multiplied the second your existence was confirmed. It was the kind of excitement that left no room for pre-meditating a fancy announcement to Daddy. I ran to the store to buy a test and ran home and then just ran right out of the bathroom to show him my pregnancy test.
We had felt like that day would never come. A year is a long time to wait, love.
But when it came it was as if we’d been kissed by heaven herself. There was so much divinity wrapped up in your conception and existence, we were sure of it.
And then, when I first suspected I was losing you I was in Tuscany – a sort of dreamland of it’s own. What a strange time that was for me – so much of so much. (How can I ever process what Tuscany was all about? Layers, so many layers.)
I wailed there in the tiny bathroom under the abbey stairs, and then all the way home I was silent. My rationale told me not to rush to a definitive conclusion of your death, yet my spirit knew you were gone. Things had been different that week. I credited my circumstances for that but subconsciously I knew.
Two days later I was resting on a lounge chair under the olive tree outside our villa and I was sure – Oliver. Your name was Oliver. It was a name Daddy and I have liked since before your biggest brother was born, but I knew right there under the olive tree at Le Casine di Castello that it belonged to you. The scent of jasmine was thick but not overwhelming. The sun warm but not harsh. The grass was lush but manicured.
I was sad but not crushed.
My heart felt such a peace even as my emotions reeled otherwise and I imagined us—you and I—under that tree with a branch of peace extended towards us. Would I take it? Would I be at peace despite my sadness, my wild anger, and all of the unknowns?
The name Oliver originates from the olive tree – symbolizing beauty, fruitfulness, and dignity. Your branch extended means peace and that’s how we see you, little one – an invitation to choose peace while at war.
David means beloved and you are – our beloved son. Although we don’t know for sure that you were a boy we always sensed it to be so, right from the beginning. Daddy and I were agreed on that one (and also agreed that we could be wrong!). I had such joy thinking about you three – a band of brothers – and the privilege it is to be a mother of sons. It makes me cry now to know that a part of our family is missing and how much you and your brothers are missing out on each others’ lives.
I don’t understand why you died, other than knowing we’re caught in this big cosmic war where evil still exists and sometimes takes the form of physical defects passed through our genes or accidents or illnesses or even, perhaps, more sinister and demonic ways at times. I just don’t know what’s on the other side of the veil and I know I see dimly all that the world really encompasses.
But I’m at peace with not knowing the details of the why and I cling to the fact that I will hold you one day when Jesus makes all things new. I imagine what that day might look like, but the truth is. . . I don’t really know.
All I do know is that my tears will be gone then. I’ll hold you and your sister on that day, and your brothers and your daddy. At least that’s what I like to imagine I ‘know.’
Even in the not knowing, I trust Jesus with my future. And yours.
I miss you little one. Always will.
Please know how loved you were and are and that you’ll never, ever be small to me.
Daddy and I choose peace, Oliver, even while the war still rages.
Written: September 13, 2014
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Dear friends, October 15th is pregnancy and infant loss awareness day. (It’s also the due date of the first child we lost; Scarlett would have been turning one.) I’ve been so busy with renovations today (and for the past several weeks), and have had no time to be online or “helping” raise awareness even though this issue is immensely important to me. But I’ve constantly been thinking about the babies I’ve lost and so many dear friends and others who know this same awful grief.
I’m still sad, you know. Sometimes really sad.
Mothers around the world grieve silently or loudly, privately or publicly, not just today… but every day. Sometimes I find it relatively ‘easy’ to talk about the losses of our children; other times I find my grief feels intensely private. Even though I wrote this more than a month ago, I’m publishing this letter to our son today because I really do want others to know that our babies are not just “lost pregnancies.” They are lost children and we are hurting parents. Somehow, sharing helps validate the pain a little, if only for it opening up an opportunity for others to say me too or I love you.
The thing is, mothers (and fathers) are grieving the death of our babies collectively today, but we grieve their losses privately far more than anyone will ever know.
And yet even in my own heartache I would be amiss to say there is no hope. There is hope — the hope of all things being made new one day. One day — when heaven comes (fully and completely) to earth and all things are renewed by Jesus himself. I believe that with all my heart. But even that potent hope doesn’t completely erase the sadness. I’m hopeful and also sad. (There’s room for both.)
Because I’m a mother of four, but I only tucked two into bed tonight.
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My miscarriage stories: The Day I Lost My Baby (Scarlett Grace) and Among the Fields of Gold: Losing My Baby in Italy (Oliver David). You can also read/search all of my posts about miscarriage and baby loss here.