Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Grandparents grieve too

In the spare bedroom at my parents' house, where dh & I sleep when we visit, there is a small wooden chest that my dad won in a raffle at a Ducks Unlimited banquet. It appeared there a few years ago, and I had a suspicion about what it was for and what it was doing in "my" bedroom. I peeked inside & saw something fuzzy & white.

When I was pregnant, my mom told me she saw the cutest little bunting bag/snowsuit on sale at a great price & bought it for my baby. I knew she had bought other stuff for the baby, and that some of her friends & neighbours had given her baby gifts to pass along, too. I had never seen any of these things, but I knew right away when I peeked inside that the "something fuzzy & white" was the bunting bag. I poked around a little & there are other baby things inside. Some outfits, some knitted items, a "Bunnykins" bowl and cup.

My first inclination was, "Hey, this is MINE!"

But on second thought, I realized that I have a box of Katie's things at home already. Why shouldn't my mother have a few mementos of her only grandchild too? They will all come to me, eventually.

I've never gone through the chest thoroughly, or really talked about it with Mom. Right after Katie was stillborn, I can remember sitting at my kitchen table with her, & how she wiped her eyes & said sadly, "Someday, I'll show you all the little things I bought."

I suppose she was hoping those things would be used by another grandchild someday. Sorry, Mom. :(

I'm still hoping she will sit down with me someday & show me those things, & tell me what came from whom. I know she said that her neighbour (who hosted a bridal shower for me) had knit something. She's gone now, & I would love to see her handiwork.


*** *** ***

Mom went to her 50th class reunion just before dh & I got there, in the same little Minnesota town where she (and nearly all of her classmates) was born, grew up & graduated. They've been having reunions every five years since then (my observation as a Canadian is that Americans are much more enthusiastic about these sorts of things) -- but 50, of course, is a big one, and Mom & several of her friends have spent months coordinating all the details. About 28 of her 41 classmates were on hand (a half dozen have already died).

The organizers put together a booklet with contact info & updates on what everyone has been doing since 1959. There was a place to list family members, and I winced as I noticed how many of Mom's friends had grandchildren (& even great-grandchildren!) listed, and raved in their writeups about how much they were enjoying spending time with them.

Sorry, Mom (again). :(

*** *** ***

While I was home, my mom was on the phone with my uncle (her brother) & his wife. She was talking about how busy they'd been, and will be -- they're heading west to one of my cousins' weddings in a couple of weeks, and from there to the west coast to visit my mother's own ailing cousin.

My uncle & aunt are very involved with their grandchildren & great-grandchildren -- and my mom said later that my aunt made a comment to the effect of, "Well, it must be nice, you can just pick up & go." Mom replied that well, it's kind of hard to do that in the summer, because there's always so much yardwork & gardening to take care of (they have a big yard & they are very meticulous about mowing & weeding, etc.).

When she hung up, and began recapping the conversation to the rest of us, she mentioned this & then added in annoyance, "Just because we don't have grandchildren to babysit and chauffeur to soccer games... it doesn't mean we're not busy & don't have responsibilities and things to do!"

My first (private) reaction: "OUCH. Gee, thanks, Mom." :(

My second reaction: "Hey, welcome to the club, Mom!" How many times have people said or hinted to me &/or dh about how much free time, money, flexibility, etc., we must have (because we don't have kids)??

It may be true, of course. But what wouldn't we have given for a few more kids and a little less free time & money in our lives?


  1. homecoming is tough

    and yes, it is odd how people are jealous of our dead babies. stop and think for one second, people.

  2. Grandparents do greive. Mine have often said that not only do they greive the grandson they never got to meet but seeing their own child in so much pain is unbearable. Thinking of you & Katie as the day approaches.

  3. That was a great post. Your mom sounds like a sweetheart.

  4. I've reached a state of resolution on other things related to being childless after IF, but not having given my parents grandchildren is one of the hardest things,and I can't resolve it. Just a poignant reminder of how IF and loss touch a whole family, not just the couple involved.

    Welcome back, BTW, and hope the rest of your time off is good.

  5. I felt shivers while reading about the chest in your parents' spare bedroom. Beautiful post.

  6. This post just breaks my heart. It's interesting to consider all the other people who are impacted by and experience pain over infertility, though they aren't themselves infertile. And very interesting that your mom has to deal with the same kind of insensitive comments that you do.

  7. I'd never thought about it, but of COURSE there is a loss of dreams for those surrounding a couple experiencing IF.

    Abiding with you, Loribeth, during this sacred of weeks.

  8. Yes, thank you for expressing this.

    I've never thought of this from my parents's point of view; we are not close & they have grandchildren.

    But not long after i lost our only confirmed pregnancy my MIL took me to lunch. And i asked her if she felt like a grandmother already (she remarried after her husband died & has step-grandchildren). Her response was, "I was waiting for yours.

    We've talked about this some since, but i've not told her i've given up on having a family. She has double losses, for her daughter was killed in a car accident before she had children, & now, of course, we won't be having them either. I think it is tragic all the way around.

    Funny, my non-word to post is "tragi."

    Thank you for sharing your heart. You expressed this so well. It does touch a number of people.

  9. Even though my parents have grandchildren via my siblings, my mom can't talk about our loss without crying.

    I hate the "it must be nice ..." comments, no matter anyone's situation, you never know the hardships of others' unless you've walked the same path. I've even tried to stop myself from thinking this about those who reproduce easily, because let's face it, I have no idea of the challenges that accompany their lives!

    A little empathy goes a long way, people :-) That's my belief.