In the Raw – The What Ifs

This post is part of a weekly series I’m sharing called “In the Raw.” These are things that I wrote in the early stages of my grief from the loss of our twin daughters in 2011 – one to stillbirth and the other to an infection she contracted in the NICU.

My hope is that by sharing these, grieving parents will feel understood. Grief is a long, painful process.

This was originally written in August of 2013.


I’ve had a bad case of the “what ifs” lately regarding Brigid’s death.

What if I had insisted on seeing a perinatologist sooner?

What if I hadn’t had a stomach virus at the beginning of the pregnancy?

What if I hadn’t gotten up to use the bathroom so much during my bed rest?

What if I’d insisted that they give her antibiotics sooner like I’d wanted them to?

What if that nurse hadn’t held her mouth closed with a dirty Bic pen during her breathing trial and had used her sanitized hand instead?

There were several times that I was afraid to speak up or to sound pushy.  I let the medical staff do what it felt was best, but I was Brigid’s only voice.  I could have advocated for her better.  There are so many things that I can think of that, if they’d been handled differently, might have resulted in her still being here.

Or they might not have.

I will never know.

But that doesn’t stop me from dwelling on them.  From thinking about them and wondering if I could have changed things if I’d been more persistent or careful.  I want to blame it on myself.  Or on someone else.  Or on something.

It was easy, right after her death, to say, God has a plan.  Everything happens for a reason.  It was in His control.  I was still a little numb.  And I felt really close to Him then.  My faith felt strong.  But now, I feel like I’m alone in this.  I’m floating on a boat in the middle of the ocean.  I’m wandering around in the desert.  Surely, this must be how the Israelites felt a couple years into their journey.  At first, it seemed like it was all going to be okay, but a few years of wandering around and they must have thought, this is much harder than I imagined it would be.  Even with the manna and the quail and the parting of the Red Sea.  I keep looking for my own signs and wonders.  A shooting star, a pair of butterflies.  Something to let me know that my faith is not in vain.  That they are okay and I really will be with them again.

I think I’ll probably keep doing it until I die, as I try to make sense of what happened.  I know it’s just part of the grieving process.  To try to give it a reason.  I live that day that she died over and over again, and try to imagine how things could have been different.  It’s debilitating.  It leaves me sobbing.  I’m crying as I write this.  It gives me a sick feeling in my stomach.

I’m thankful that it doesn’t happen every day; I can’t live like that.  I have four living children to take care of, and my beautiful rainbow baby might not even be here if Brigid were.  That doesn’t mean I wish I could have one instead of the other.  I means that I keep trying to figure out why I can’t have both.  Or all three.  There are just some days that those what ifs are louder in my thoughts than others.

I can’t help it.

I do know, though, that saying them out loud – and writing them here – lessens their hold on me a little.  In my head, they are huge monsters.  They sneak up on me out of the blue.  They taunt me and make me think that if I had only done xyz, then she would be here today.  Maybe they both would.  Why didn’t I do it?  I should have known!

But when I see them written, I can be a little more gentle with myself.  I couldn’t have known.  I did the best that I could.  I did absolutely everything I knew how to do.  When I tell my husband about them, he can remind me that we both worked so hard to have her home with us.  That it wasn’t our fault.

This week, I find I’m using a lot of my emotional energy to keep those What If monsters away.

Do you have what ifs that taunt you?

Published by Eileen

Mother to six children and four saints, I love to talk with others about trusting God in times of suffering, especially after child loss.

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