Would the jump be fatal, Susan Lowe wondered.
She was mesmerized by the rushing water crashing on the shards of rock 100-feet below. No one else was at the nature preserve. No one to interrupt her debate with herself.
That debate, on the one-year anniversary of the death of her premature son, centered on this question--If she committed suicide would she go to heaven and see David again. Or, would she find herself elsewhere, still separated, still feeling the agonizing pain she had borne for a year?
"It was a risk I was not willing to take," she concluded. As she stepped back from the precipice, the softest, sweetest breeze blew through her. It was then, after a year of torment, Susan chose to live. She had come to realize her unbearable pain wouldn't always dominate her life.
Up to that point, however, Susan had done what many women who miscarry or lose a premature baby do--she blamed herself. Guilt and sorrow led her to the edge of that 100-foot drop and her faith pulled her back at her most desperate moment. That belief that she could lose her soul also drove her to write a book to help other mothers survive the grieving process.
The book, In Search of Hope: One Woman's Journey Through Despair in the Wake of Neonatal Infertility and Miscarriage was recently published by America House Book Publishers of Baltimore.
Susan's story starts long before she started her family. As a child growing up in Oak Harbor, she dreamed of being a mother. She chose the names of her children by eighth grade. She married Ray Lowe when she was 20. Four years later, she was teaching and ready for motherhood. Six months into her pregnancy, however, she mistook labor for Braxton-Hicks contractions. Had she known, she would have sought medical care earlier and David might not have undergone the operation that led to the infection that took his life on his 23rd day.
The constant stress and the decisions Susan had to make about David were devastating. She writes, "I had failed him completely and I was so tremendously sorry. I had never before failed so miserably as I had in being a mother and it was the guilt that almost killed me...If only I had realized I was in labor sooner."
The holidays were especially painful. And, with the exception of an aunt, Susan found it too difficult to talk to her family. In turn, she thinks, they found it difficult to approach her. "I'm guessing they didn't realize I needed to talk about it. I think they didn't want to remind me. But, every time you have a family gathering you can't help thinking there's one missing."
Susan fought depression for six months. Then, she started writing letters to David to express her feelings. In one, she wrote, "No one understands what it's like to be a mommy without her baby. I wonder when I'll get used to the emptiness."
The letters were a turning point in her recovery. "When you stop feeling so empty and alone, you start realizing they're still around. You can still talk to them. They're not gone forever," she said.
Susan wrote the letters over a two-month period and stopped when she learned she was pregnant again. Tragically, that pregnancy ended in miscarriage. Susan wondered if she would ever have the family she dreamed of.
David died five years ago. Thanks to fertility drugs, Susan and Ray now have three children ages 3 to 3 months and Susan is a stay-at-home mom and she couldn't be happier.
"Anyone who's been a stay-at-home mom knows not every day is a walk in the park. Someone's got to deal with the two and three year olds who fight over their toys and," she says with joy in her voice, "that person is me. I can't imagine anyone else helping them with the arguments or teaching them their ABC's."
Susan's advice to those who have or will lose a child--Find someone to talk to. She knows that sounds simple, but looking back now, had she been able to express her feelings earlier she may have shortened the grieving process. Having said that, she also says, "It's not over with until you cry your 10 millionth tear. It's not something you learn to cope with or live with. It's something you learn to survive with. You can't rush grieving. If it takes a year, it takes a year. If it takes three years, it takes three. That's what it takes. Don't keep trying to push it away. When it's time to move on, you will know."