October 13, 2008

Saturday morning, I was going over photos taken before Teddy’s birth on my computer – we had visited the International Rose Test Garden in Portland, and I had some really lovely shots of roses. One, of a rose with an icy white center and ruby-edged petals caught N’s eye and I started showing him some of the other rose shots, hitting the “next” arrow on the photo viewing window. Not thinking, I hit the arrow one too many times, pulling up the first photo that N had taken of Teddy, the photo that always makes me cry. We stared at the image of our lost son together for a few seconds, partly in shock, before I closed the viewing program and N said “Please don’t spring those on me,” and I said “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

I look at the few photos we have of Teddy often, every day. I’m afraid I’ll forget what he looked like, afraid I will lose even more of him as time goes by. And I marvel at him, I do, so beautiful, so very much ours, and I’m proud of him, proud of N and me for helping to bring such a wonderful child into the world. I’m also deeply, painfully sad that we didn’t get to keep him, and the sadness, well, it often overwhelms the pride.

I know that several of the people around me aren’t even aware that I’m proud of my boy, that I look on his pictures with something other than heartbreak and grief. There are times when I want to show everyone these photographs, to say, “Look, isn’t he beautiful?” But while I could bring photographs of a living child into the office, carry them around with me to show to unsuspecting sales clerks, I don’t do this with pictures of our son. I want to share him, and worry about making friends and coworkers uncomfortable if I do. I also want to hoard him, to hold every image of him close and hide away with the bits of him that were left to us. Mine. Mine, mine, mine.

But never mine to keep.

Then I see things like this – DESK PHOTO OF STILLBORN BABY CREATES AWKWARD OFFICE ISSUE – and besides thinking that Dear Abby needs to be smacked upside the head and the mean-spirited-but-trying-to-seem-kind-and-concerned “Appalled” person writing in for advice is one of the worst epitomizations of “get over it”-ness that I’ve ever seen, I think, I’m so glad I didn’t show his photographs to anyone in the office. (I tortured the hell out of that sentence, didn’t I?) I’m so angry for the “Madge” mentioned in the advice column, who may be someone like me, who may need to hold on to the image of her child, who may want to hear the things her uncomfortable office mates are too blind and self-absorbed to say, things like “He is so beautiful.”

I don’t know what N thinks of our photos, besides that he is glad we have them. He says he looks at them now and then, but that sometimes it seems like they’re all he can see.

Theodore is our firstborn. We don’t have photos of other children up in the house, and I wonder if we will ever frame any of our precious Teddy pictures, or if they’ll stay hidden away from everyone but us. Maybe it will be easier for N to look at the photos if we have another child some day, a child we get to keep (as much as you can keep a child – you know what I mean). Maybe it will get easier for me to share what we have of Teddy with others some day in the future when I’m less afraid of losing even more of him.

That day isn’t today, but I’ll leave you with the photograph of the rose mentioned earlier.


  1. Thank you for your comment on Glow in the Woods. As beautiful as that scene was that I described, I do want you to know it was a rarity in those days. Grief is so hard, and it is natural for sorrow to trump all else during that time. Your loss is so recent it hurts my heart to think about it. I’m so sorry that your little Teddy didn’t get to stay with you.

    I have rarely shown the photos I have of our twins to anyone. Mostly it is my own self protection, as you describe. I don’t want my feelings about them tainted by anyone else’s perspective or thoughts, no matter how well intentioned. And yes, I too feel pride when I look at them. I don’t know if there are many people who would understand that.

    The photo of the rose is beautiful. Maybe you should frame and display that photo? I have several items in our home that are significant to me and make me think of our twins without it being directly obvious to anyone else.

    You are in my heart and prayers.

  2. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could be present enough with each other’s pains and joys that we could embrace seeing photos of each other’s living and angel children on desks at work? Wouldn’t it be amazing… Maybe we can be the ones to start?

  3. […] been conflicted for a while about sharing pictures of Teddy.  For the last several days, however, I’ve been wanting to put this out there.  […]

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