After my newborn son died, I grieved more than his passing. Of course, the grief I felt over losing Ethan was the loudest, the most painful, and demanded the most attention, but there were other losses I experienced in the wake of his death. I grieved the girl I was before being forced to say goodbye.
I missed the optimist who assumed that a positive pregnancy test promised a healthy baby in nine months. I missed the joy I once felt attending baby showers. I missed being able to walk past the baby section at Target without my eyes filling with tears.
I grieved for the extrovert who enjoyed smalltalk and crowded social gatherings. I grieved for the girl who didn’t struggle with anxiety and didn’t feel everything so deeply.
I missed the girl who had incredible focus and could keep track of deadlines, assignments, birthdays, and daily tasks with ease. I missed the girl who didn’t feel so foggy headed and forgetful.
I grieved for the girl who smiled far more than she cried. I grieved for the girl who was once so innocent.
Part of me died along with my son and I yearned for all I had lost. Though most of my tears were shed over the loss of my son, I cried over the loss of the pieces of myself. Pre-loss Kristin was gone and I missed her.
It took some time for me to become acquainted with my post-loss self. As time passed, I began to see that I was still the same girl at the core. Yes, parts of me had changed–some for the worse and some for the better. Despite the intense pain that had come with this transformation, I slowly began to embrace the stronger, better version of myself.
I liked the realist who understood that life is full of both joy and grief. I liked the girl who could truly empathize with fellow broken hearts and who truly treasured each day. I liked the girl who felt everything so deeply.
I celebrated the girl who craved deep, meaningful connection with others. I celebrated her ability to establish genuine connections with like-minded people, despite the many awkward social interactions along the way.
I liked the girl who didn’t simply check things off a list, but was propelled by passion and emotion. I liked the girl who wasn’t afraid to cry, laugh, or embrace a combination of both. I welcomed my newfound ability to embrace my emotions without shame and to celebrate the ways these feelings had made me more compassionate, more patient, and more wise than I had been before.
The more I embraced this new broken yet beautiful version of myself, the more I grew to like her. I choose to embrace this girl. The one whose broken heart has expanded to make way for more love. The one who doesn’t sweat the small stuff as much, who isn’t afraid to question and seek answers, and who is comfortable in her own skin. This girl has been given the incredible gift of experiencing a love for a child that is stronger than death, and though I had hoped a thousand times that my circumstances had been different, I am grateful for the new me that has come with being Ethan’s mom.
Kristin Hernandez lives in Southern California with her husband Chris and their Queensland Heeler mix, Dakota. After struggling with unexplained infertility for several years, Kristin was thrilled when she became pregnant with Ethan. The celebration quickly turned to concern when doctors discovered Ethan had a serious heart defect and was missing a piece of his brain–likely indicative of a chromosome abnormality. Ethan was born on August 16, 2015 and spent his 93-minute life in his parents’ arms. Kristin is now a mother to five babies in heaven, including four of Ethan’s younger siblings who she has never met. Despite these struggles, Kristin has resolved to embrace the life she has been given and to leave a legacy for her family. Kristin works in communications by day, but can also be found running, camping, writing or having a conversation over a cup of coffee. She writes at www.sunlightindecember.com and is the cohost of the Through the Lens Podcast.