When you lose a baby, there are always spaces in life that remain blank, empty.
Your arms and lap. A bed, a crib. A seat at the dinner table, a place on the couch. A spot in the annual family picture. Photo albums, scrapbooks. Boxes on the calendar where birthdays, first days of school, and extracurricular activities should be noted.
There are vacant spaces in your home where crying and laughter should be housed, but instead, they remain deafly silent. And the part of your brain that stores memories never fills to capacity because there are some memories that never had the chance to be made.
Sometimes you almost forget the emptiness, until you are reminded of it in the most simple of ways.
As I filled out the paperwork to register my daughter for school, I couldn’t help but notice the blank spaces. The spaces that would remain empty, nameless. The spaces that reminded me of all that is missing.
“Please list student’s brothers and sisters,” the form states, with enough blank spaces to list a number of siblings.
As I stared at these spaces, unsure how to proceed, I realized that this request, these spaces, present somewhat of a conundrum for parents like me. Parents who are fully aware of their child’s invisible siblings, some with names, some without. Parents who know that some of their children’s lives are being lived out and lived up in heaven instead of on earth. Parents who know how much their living children are missing, even if the children don’t understand it themselves.
To leave these spaces blank, when there is in fact something to fill in, feels a bit disloyal. To the babies who no longer live and to the hearts that carry the imprint of their lives. It feels like a denial of their existence, denial of the truth.
But to fill them in makes the whole scenario a bit more complicated. It causes confusion and misunderstanding. It opens up space for questions that cannot be answered. It attempts to bring life to babies who no longer have one. At least not here, not now.
It’s like that seemingly simple question of “how many children do you have?” A question, that for loss parents, cannot be answered in one syllable. A question that we wish to provide a complete answer to, but our answers, if stated truthfully, generally take up too much time. Too much of someone else’s space.
Similarly, these blank spaces cannot be filled with one quick stroke of the pen. There is too much to say, too much to write. And even though there is plenty of space to be filled in, there still isn’t enough room for the whole story. The lives of the siblings who should be listed were short, yet complicated. Too complicated for those who review this form to comprehend.
So, like many other parts of life, these spaces will remain blank. The emptiness, a story in itself. The blank space, sacred, too significant to be tainted with misunderstanding, disregard, judgment. For we are the only ones who can fully grasp all that is missing. And sometimes it’s the blank spaces that provide the most accurate description of what it means to lose a baby.