“Can a mother forget her child?”
My wife and I would have had a three month old child right now had we not lost this child in the tenth week of pregnancy last summer.
But of course we do have that child right now. It just happens that he is not ‘three months old,’ as we would have reckoned his age; and he does not live with us.
Just yesterday a friend of mine from Europe, with whom I am only occasionally in touch, wrote to me and caught me by surprise when he wondered whether our baby had been born? Being overseas and having not heard, he is perhaps the last person who will inquire about this baby. When I wrote back and told him what had happened, he felt very bad and even apologized for asking. His response was very kind and sensitive. He recognized that this is a real trauma for parents, who will respond to it in different ways.
But I want him to know that I do not at all regret having this child referred to and brought to my mind again. I was actually quite happy that someone, not knowing we had lost him, would inquire after him.
In addition to our six living children, Sofia and I have had five miscarried children in our marriage. When someone asks how many children we have I do not say eleven. Such, it seems to me, is simply not the thing to do. Yet a father of eleven I am and will be. Sofia and I have chosen to name these five children; most of them we were blessed to be able to bury in the earth, near other family members.
For some time I have wondered just how to relate to these children that I never knew or held in my arms—while they were alive. It is hard to relate to someone you don’t really know.
One morning a couple of years ago when I was remembering each of my six children in prayer, something struck me. Why do I not remember my other children along with them? Perhaps indeed they are beyond needing prayer. Yet nonetheless there seemed something incomplete about bringing just some of my children before God. The thought came to me: I am these children’s father. If I do not hold them in my heart, who among men will do so? They deserve to be remembered by their parents.
So since that time, when I am alone with God, or with my wife, or both, when I list my children, I list them all. And if I just sit in my room, as at times I do, and send my love to each of my children, one at a time, I also send my love to each of those five, by name. I know not for sure precisely where they are. I trust that God, their Heavenly Father, holds them in his hands, in some special way.
It is very hard not to have a face to picture. But as surely as the face of each of my six is a precious and unrepeatable sign of my wife’s and my love, and of God’s smiling and unbounded generosity, so too is the yet unseen face of each of those five.
I cannot today hold them in my arms, but hold them in my memory and in my heart is one thing I can do today. For this way of being together with them, and being a father to them, I am deeply grateful.
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Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. LifeCraft springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.