My son died in-utero when my body kick-started an early labor process about halfway through my pregnancy. After learning that my cervix inexplicably began to dilate overnight, my doctor told me he could no longer find a heartbeat for the baby he tended to just 36 hours before.
My fully-developed son has a name, a birthday and hand and footprints. He also has a grave that bears the last names of both my ex and I, giving an identity to our son, and on some level, our nearly five-year relationship. People wish me "Happy Mother’s Day!" in May even though I have no living children. That’s a hard truth to explain to someone; it’s also difficult to forget or fail to mention. My son's death is like a soundtrack that plays in the background of my brain every day, on repeat, a defining moment in time that transformed and shaped me completely. The only upside to my loss are the many truths I discovered following it. Some were difficult; others liberating, but most importantly, these lessons turned me into the resilient woman I am today and for that, I have my son to thank.
Nothing scares me anymore. I labored a baby I already knew was dead and I did it alone. My family scrambled to book flights to get to me. My son's father, a man I'd been with for nearly five years, was in shock and denial, afraid and unwilling to change his flight that was already scheduled for a baby-shopping trip a few days later. I labored without an epidural by myself. I prayed and gave directions by myself. I crossed physical, mental and emotional barriers that I had no idea I’d need to prepare for by myself. I now know that I’m as strong as they come; nothing scares me anymore. The man who makes me his wife will have a partner who can stand with him through the toughest of times and won't lose her head.
My bullsh*t detector is off the hook. Call it crazy, but as a religious person, I felt an increased sense of intrinsic wisdom after my son's death. (I’ve seen the same thing happen to other religious, bereaved parents, too.) I can discern if a man has the same type of heart, values and morals as myself in a matter of minutes; my intuition is like a police dog, I can sniff out the bad guys. I would liken it to the same type of feeling your mother gets about the boy who 'just wasn't right for you.'
Most men aren't comfortable with my past. Since my only child is not on earth, I cherish many things from my pregnancy. When a guy I’d been dating discussed a future with me and possibly children, I showed him one of my old bump pictures for fun. “I don’t want to see you pregnant with another man’s baby!” he snapped, revealing to me that this was man was all about his circus, his monkeys - a circus that didn't have room for my feelings. Same goes for men who instantly back away when they find out about my past. “I wasn’t looking for anything serious,” one date said when finally admitted what my ‘spidey-sense’ had been telling me. “I just don’t understand how you’re normal and can smile after things like that. I can’t deal with it.”
The only "games" I'm interested in playing are on my iPhone. I tend to end things right after the first date if I know a guy isn’t a fit. If I go on date two, it’s usually just to make sure I'm confident in saying ‘he’s not it.’ Why? Because if you’re not the one, I don’t have time for you and your maybe-you-will-call, got-tied-up, can’t-see-you-this-weekend b*llshit. I’m an adult and I’m a mother. I was chosen to fight a very tough battle by losing my son, and there is honor in that. I won't waste my time with men who have commitment issues, are married or are simply not the one. Let me repeat: I do not do games.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to ME. I once told a guy who knew my history that I didn’t mind dating men with kids, because I could relate to the very deep, immeasurable type of love a parent has for their child. “But that’s more for if you have living children,” he responded. “Besides, you can have more children, but I lost my mother and you only get one of those.” Some guys you date won’t understand where you're coming from, but at the minimum, it should be in their heart to respect you and not blatantly say ignorant things.
I am not my accomplishments. Yes, I can be a little flashy, and when I feel down, I indulge in a bit of retail therapy. (What girl doesn't?) Most people want to define me by expensive labels and corporate titles, but they don’t really know me. My son taught me that it’s not the earthly things that make me special and deserving of love, but rather who I am at my core: the compassionate person who cries for other people when they’re in pain, buys food for homeless people, and is genuinely happy when other people announce their engagement or pregnancy, even if my personal experience ended tragically.
Even in deep tragedy, I must laugh. When I was in labor, I angrily called the on-call doctor 'the b*itch with the heavy hands' right in front of her while speaking to the nurse. Oops. I felt bad saying that when I should have still been praying for my strength and breathing, but every time I think about that moment, I grin. It was a hilarious moment in an otherwise really awful situation, and it's part of my son's birth story. After slipping up like that, it's fairly easy to laugh off a bad date or a guy who's obviously clueless. There are worse things in life.