Submitted by Ethan
It’s been five months since my baby was born. It’s been five months since my baby died. My daughter entered and exited this world silent, still, and voiceless.
It still feels like everything just happened yesterday, but it also feels like it was all years ago. My wife and I are solidly in the “long-term” aftermath now. We’ve accepted the sheer objective reality of Cana’s death: we’ve held the funeral; we’ve met with friends and family to reassure them that we’re “doing ok” (whatever that means); we’ve both gone back to work, forcing a feigned sense of normalcy just to make it to the end of every workday. The world around us keeps on spinning, while the festering pain of our baby’s death lingers on in the background, 24/7.
The initial sharpness of that pain has dulled over time, but it’s clear that it will never fully go away. There’s no concrete explanation as to how she really died, no real reason why this all happened; just the constant, numbing reality that “it is what it is” now, and “it” is forever.
The quiet is still the worst part, as it always has been. The silence of the hospital room after she was born, the silent car ride back home after we left her body in the hospital morgue; the cacophonous nothingness echoing throughout the house during that first night at home without her (and every night since).
Overhearing strangers complain about their newborns out in public is like a knife to the gut every time, even on relatively “good” days that had been going well otherwise. The same cycle of infuriating thoughts stirs up every time: I would do anything to have my baby’s cries wake me up at 3AM; I would do anything to get the chance to console her, even if it took until sunrise; I would do anything just to hold her, to have even just a single chance to keep her warm and safe and loved.
I know that these strangers don’t know my situation, and to be fair to them, I don’t know theirs either. But that gut-wrenching twinge of pain every time I overhear the complaints of sleepless nights and crying children: I would do anything to carry that joyful burden instead of this unbearable, abject nothingness that came in the wake of my baby’s death.
In those dreaded moments of silence, where I should be hearing my baby’s soft murmurs, I know that she is somehow still present. But I wish that I could audibly hear the soft coo of her small voice: that voice that I never got to hear. Even the shrillest, most grating cries would be a soothing lullaby to me compared to the ear-splitting silence that will forever bellow from her cold, empty crib.
Five months after Cana’s death, what stings the most is that fact that I never got to know what her voice sounded like. Her life was short and silent, but the impact of that small life lasts forever in her story. In the months since her death, that sweet voice has slowly spoken life back into me through the deafening silence. Her voice has helped me to recognize just how fragile, precious, and beautiful life really is (even when it’s incredibly painful).
I’ve realized that the very best way to hear my baby’s voice is to thoughtfully listen to the stories of other loss parents. In a mysterious way, our babies have found their voices through us, and the stories that we tell about them. I truly believe that telling Cana’s story and listening to the stories of other lost children is the best way that I can honor her; in those stories, I’ve finally been able to hear my baby’s voice.