Friday, July 15, 2011

For those not in the 'Secret Society'

I sometimes feel like I don't know how to fit Andrew and E in~ When to share them, or when not. In early years, I would NEVER had said that I would not share them~ but it was also in those earlier years that I got quite burned (even when I was being quite respectful... which admittedly I wasn't always...).

I am a teacher and when I returned from my maternity leave with the boys everyone knew about Andrew and for that I was grateful. I didn't need to share my story with everyone- but coworkers, parents and even students shared their condolences. The following year was not so easy on me...

That first day of school I was introducing myself to my second grade students. I remember choosing my words carefully and said (as I still do today), "I have a husband, two dogs and one son 'at home'." I then went on to share little tidbits about myself when a hand raised and said, "Yes. And you had another son that died."
(Gulp) "Yes, I did."
"What was his name?
"Do you miss him?"
"What are your dogs' names?"
(Exhale) And that was it.

I was so thankful for the whole exchange really. I loved that the student remembered Andrew and equally I loved that we moved on so easily to the next topic without missing a beat. One of the things I love about working with children~ their honesty~ their curiosity.

The year went on without a hitch (or so I thought) until a group of parents took issue with me talking about my 'dead son' (from the exchange above that I spoke of). And so began a very tough year of me writing letters asking parents not to address me (as they had planned) at a parent meeting regarding my 'dead son'. To explain what was said (which was so minimal) in class. To beg that they respect my wishes and let me grieve quietly. I was afraid someone would say something to me. I was so fragile in those early years and I didn't know what would set me off. Being confronted (and I felt attacked) about this was not another thing I wanted to add to my load.

It was then that I knew that sharing Andrew would need to be limited to family and friends. I would tread lightly and choose my words carefully and hope that questions wouldn't arise in future years. So far they have not.

When pregnant with my daughter, a student's mom asked how I was feeling. When I replied that I felt good but tired she said, "You should see what it's like carrying twins."

I fought back tears and the extreme urge to tell her every detail of my "perfect" twin pregnancy. I wanted to say... "Oh ya! How big were YOURS? How long did YOU go?? I went 39 weeks and they were 6 pounds 11 ounces and 6 pounds even... separate sacs, separate placentae! I KNOW what tired feels like sister!"

But I simply nodded and wondered how on earth I could find the strength to stand without crumbling to the floor which is what I so desperately wanted to do- for at that time the anger and sadness was gone and I felt just a shell- ready to shatter.

But somehow God gave me the strength to stand.
The grace to bite my tongue when I needed to.
The courage to hold back tears until I was alone.
The ability to nod when I had nothing else to say.

And so years have gone by and the community that once knew about Andrew is mostly gone and if there is chatter among the neighbors, I was certainly unaware. When I lost E a few years back (on the night I was to have a meeting with parents) a student came back and told me their mom thought I had my appendix out. I simply nodded... (Oh.)

I have survived though- gone on and even started having twins in my classroom (though none have been boy/boy twins thus far which seems to make it a bit easier). But still when I hear wonderful stories about a 'twin', my mind always drifts and wonders... what if? What kind of stories could Jonasen have shared about his twin...

But time has given me patience and pause and has made me realize that my being Andrew's mom is not visible to the world and that is that. I wear him on my heart though (and in certain circles on my sleeve) and that is enough.

So when I opened my school email the other day and got the following message, I was taken aback. It read (and I did ask permission to share it):

I knew who you were before you were Isabelle's teacher. I had heard your story from a few parents I know in our neighborhood. I then found out that you were also a story I was told about by friends just after Isaac and Isabelle were born. My heart ached for you each time I heard your story. I sat in the library and was told you were ill the night you could not attend curriculum night when my oldest entered 3rd grade. I didn't find out why until later, a friend of ours had you as a teacher that year. I have thought of you and prayed for you even before you knew who I was. I don't know why I didn't tell you any of this this year as our lives actually intertwined. Isabelle was thrilled when she found out you had 4 kids and your name was Laura! "and she is really nice too, just like you!"
I apologize for not having courage enough to talk to you about the other thing we have in common, we are both Mom's of twins. Thank you for your beautiful blog about Andrew and Baby E. It is a wonderful story of love that I am glad you share. I wasn't sure I should read any of it at first, afraid it wasn't meant for me because I am not a part of your secret society. Once I started reading it though, I realized that it was OK for me to know about him, maybe even important in some way. I learned a lot reading your story, things maybe I can look at with more perspective and appreciate in a way I didn't before. Maybe it can help me be more sensitive to others, be a better friend, mother, sister.
Isabelle and I have started journaling together this summer. I was going to write you and tell you that on facebook when I saw your post about Andrew. I am thankful for the chance to have read it and so glad Isabelle got to have you for a teacher this past year. You have a such a beautiful family. Thank you for sharing all of them with us.

I sat and looked and stared at my computer screen for a long time not knowing quite how to respond or what to say. After years of thinking that Andrew was hidden, perhaps he wasn't. Perhaps people still know. Perhaps they do see him and don't quite know what to say~ but for me, she said the perfect thing.

She said his name.
She said their names.
And she called me a mom of twins.

I sometimes wonder who reads this blog. I know how often it is read but there is a small percentage that actually let me know their thoughts after reading. I think that perhaps the majority of the readers here are those (like me) who are suffering the horrible loss of a child and looking for others in their community- someone else who feels like they do- or someone who is a little beyond the fog that they are stuck in... Trying to find some 'light' in all the darkness that can swallow you whole while the world just keeps spinning.

I never really thought of those who may be reading who aren't part of my secret society and haven't suffered the loss of a child~ but perhaps they benefit too. I can think of many times someone has said something to me... well meaning- but still hurt to no end. Words that stuck with me for days- weeks and yes even years. Perhaps because I just nodded. Because I didn't have a rewind button so I could do things over- tell them how it hurt me- so they wouldn't do it again... to someone else.

But maybe this is my rewind button. Maybe (sometimes) my words can be a way to say all that I ever wanted to say to those who are really wondering... "How is she doing?" but so afraid to ask.

So how am I doing? I am doing well. A mother of twins that everyone sees recognized me. Acknowledged me. Remembered. Had the courage to share. And I will take those words that have stuck with me for days (and I am sure for weeks and years to come) as a tremendous comfort.

And today I will write for those not in the Secret Society so that perhaps you WILL do this for someone else. Say their name~ acknowledge their motherhood. It would mean the world~ at least it did for me.

Thank you so very much- on behalf of all of us from the "Secret Society".



  1. Your posts on this blog are always so moving and I know they are inspirational for those who are members of the Secret Society. They are also inspiratinal to those who are not members. It saddens me when I hear that you cannot share your loss and often nod when a story is told yet your unable to tell your truth.The email you received was beautiful. I know that I was very naive and clueless to the number of infants who pass away each year. When God placed your Secret Society on my heart I knew that the world needed to know these facts and people needed to know how to talk to you about Andrew along with the others who have lost their precious babies. How do we get the world to feel and not to be afraid to talk about this. I can't imagine having a baby who passed and having to be careful about who you share him with.
    My heart aches for all of you. ((HUGS))

  2. Oh Laura. My heart broke for you when your student's mom told you that you should feel what it was like to carry twins. You have so much grace in dealing with these situations when I know that my instinct would be to lash out, you manage to hold back.

    What a lovely, lovely message to have received. Those three things do mean so much to hear and it is particularly precious coming from somebody who is, thankfully, not a member of this Secret Society. ox

  3. Laura you and Andrew have helped so many people along the way and will continue to help those in the future. I think we could all learn from what you wrote about the mom who said "you don't know what it feels like..." because how many times do we say something to someone without knowing the other persons real story?
    I think it is wonderful that you can put your feelings into words like this and share with many!
    Thank you

  4. God bless this mom. From ALL of us in the 'Secret Society'. I don't know that she will ever understand how immensely comforting that letter was to all of us and especially you Laura.

  5. Very well written. You have used a difficult experience and turned it positive by helping others through losing children. Through your blogs you have increased sensitivity and understanding for people who have had miscarriages or have lost children. You have helped others like myself who haven't experienced that kind of loss to know what to say or not say.

  6. couldn't have said it better myself....although i think i have said something similar many times!!!! ;~) ♥ to one of my all time favorite people!!!

  7. Laura you amaze and impress me always with you true gift of expression. The secret society has forever changed me. And you for one continue to inspire me. Gods grace and love shine thru you and your words and actions. I am blessed to know you a teacher, a friend and a mom of twins!

  8. Thanks for sharing the link to your blog.

    I became a fellow member of the secret society 14 years ago this month. I work in early intervention and have all of the same experiences with families of intact twins that you describe, some horribly painful and others truly wonderful. And in my work, I also meet families who are also society members and feel lucky to be able to give them the "secret handshake" and let them know they are not alone.

    I never thought it possible, but for the last 9 years have been best friends with the mother of a twin boy that was in Naomi's kindergarten class... And she has two sets of living twins. The world works in mysterious ways....

  9. As a non-Secret Society member, I can't really tell you why I read your blog. I can assure you it's not because I WANT to sit at work with tears flowing down my face, as I did just moments ago when I read your Heaven is For Real post (I can only imagine what my coworkers think...). I guess I follow this blog because I know too many parents who have lost children, many of whom don't express their emotions. Your words help me understand, to the extent that a mother with no lost children can, the pain that exists for them. I also read because I very nearly became a Secret Society member when my son was born. I don't mean to imply that nearly losing a son is even remotely like actually losing a child, but your blog is a reminder to me to never take one single day with my baby for granted. Thank you for allowing those of us not in your society a peek into your world.

  10. Thanks for sharing the link to your blog.

    I became a fellow member of the secret society 14 years ago this month. I work in early intervention and have all of the same experiences with families of intact twins that you describe, some horribly painful and others truly wonderful. And in my work, I also meet families who are also society members and feel lucky to be able to give them the "secret handshake" and let them know they are not alone.

    I never thought it possible, but for the last 9 years have been best friends with the mother of a twin boy that was in Naomi's kindergarten class... And she has two sets of living twins. The world works in mysterious ways....

  11. I just found your blog and after losing my Liam at 36 weeks a year ago this month, I must say tears are streaming down my face. In sadness and hope and the crazy mix of emotions which I am sure you know all too well about. I had hoped to blog eventually mainly for members not in our secret society, because the secret part of it seems to hurt the worst some days. As of now I still can't push myself to blog, but I am so thankful you are sharing your stories. I will be a return reader from this day on, a million thanks to a wonderful mother.

  12. Just stumbled upon this and have been reading and crying. I am part of the Secret Society as well. My "Baby Angel" was lost as just 13 weeks. And I feel all too often that everyone has forgotten her except for me. I have a remembrance bracelet that says "Mommy of an Angel" and a few people have asked me about it. It's so hard not to just break down into tears because I just want to tell them everything right then and there because I never get to talk about it. But instead I bite my tongue and just say "I had a miscarriage in '09" And the nerve of some people. I actually had someone tell me i was 'ridiculous' for grieving for something that wasnt even real yet. EXCUSE ME? NOT REAL? My baby was real! My baby had a heart beat, facial features (distorted and alienized but still!), apendages and fingernails. Don't tell me my baby wasn't real! They just don't understand how I can grieve over someone I never met, I never got to hold in my arms. And I pray they never have to understand! Whew, that felt good to let some of that out... Oh, on a positive note, my mom made me feel special last week. She saw my bracelet and asked me "Why didn't you get me one that says 'Nana of an angel'?" I was astounded and just stared at her. I didn't know she wanted one. She has two grandkids from my brother, I didn't know she considered herself a Nana to THREE children. It really made me feel special, like my angel means something to someone else too, not just me.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing. I too have a child in heaven. Thankfully I also have one here with me. Not twins though. I lost my daughter then found out I was pregnant again six months later with my son. I'm blessed with a happy little boy, but I still long for my daughter. I should be chasing around two toddlers instead of one. Thank you again. I hope those not in the "secret" society will benefit from this blog entry.


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