By: Keisha Wells
There are many keepsakes I have for my twin sons. Delicate and treasured items made and purchased for and in honor of them—blankets, bracelets, and the crocheted hats that framed their angelic faces in our final earthly moments together. I keep them stored safely and take them out from time to time, thinking back lovingly on our precious time together.
Aside from these keepsakes are other articles associated with our loss such as the medical records that list diagnoses, terms, and codes to chronicle my five months of pregnancy and the day of my sons’ first and last breaths. I have a copy of these records, stored in a bright red folder. It’s not easily approachable. It’s a folder I see and instantly feel a mix of uncomfortable emotions. It’s not one I take head on—not because of the reality of loss, but the medical terms assigned to it.
Unlike my sons’ keepsakes preserved in a dedicated space, this folder has moved from room to room in my home, from filing cabinet to tucked away in a deep drawer. In reorganizing, I recently came across this folder and was met with the usual heaviness. I reached out to a friend and fellow angel mom to discuss this trigger and mix of emotions associated with this aspect of our grief journeys. Our losses vary, yet we share many universal emotions as grieving mothers. Our exchange comforted me, in which we freely voiced our frustration about these taunting clinical labels.
I know we are not the only ones disheartened by these words. Unfortunately, there are many of these hard to get by and hard to process terms, so casually said and listed in medical records that contribute to the shame, guilt, and stigma of pregnancy and infant loss. They are not accurate words to describe or provide an explanation of our children’s lifetimes and our motherhood.
We did not fail our babies. We did not carry them in error. In my view, no mother does.
There is nothing false about my bond with my sons. I nurtured my sons to live—for a brief yet powerful lifetime. I cared for them. I loved them. I wanted them. I prayed for them. I nourished them. I was careful with them. I did not reject them. I carried them tenderly yet fiercely, as if our lives depended on it. And I still carry them in my DNA, in every breath I take, and with each beat of my heart.
The sterile medical terms—used to define the basis of our hurt or summarize our experiences and induction in this community of parents who have survived perinatal loss—are derogatory. We are cast aside and rejected, as if we did not prepare for joyful and abundant lives with our children. Lives full of milestones, struggles, hopes, and intentions. These terms scream guilt, judgment, error, shame, and ignorance. That we got it wrong. That we did wrong. That we are inherently wrong and void. That love was rejected. These terms do not articulate a mother’s love for her child or how deeply we miss our children and how our love for them continues to grow.
There are so many factors beyond our control in grief and loss. And these words are an example of that, but I also recognize my power today in silencing and not using these hurtful, false words in my narrative. Words that seek to invalidate a grieving mother’s truth. Words that seek to diminish the value and meaning of our children’s lives and the power of their legacies.
Our babies are not a statistic, a medical case gone wrong, or a study.
My sons, my dear children, are bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. Their lifetimes are forever valued. They are forever loved, missed, and carried daily.
About Keisha Wells
Keisha Wells is a mom to twin angels, Kyle and Kendrick, and author of From Three Heartbeats to One: A Gentle Companion Offering Hope in Grieving Pregnancy and Infant Loss. Keisha is also a licensed professional counselor and owner of Transformation Counseling Services in Georgia. Her practice focuses on grief counseling and perinatal mental health services for women and moms. Keisha is an avid reader and writer, contributing to articles in ESSENCE Magazine, The New York Times, Bustle, Parents Magazine, and HuffPost. Connect with Keisha at www.keishawells.com and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/kwellslpc.