About three years ago, our dear friends had their first baby. A group of our friends, most with children already, had gathered together, and were laughing about the adjustment that the new baby brings. The new father was visibly uncomfortable as we revealed things he would encounter down the road with their new bundle of joy. Cutting through a room full of uproarious laughter, my good friend said of our uncomfortable new dad friend, "Oh, let's stop teasing him, he's just trying to keep the baby alive." (Cue record scratch sound effect.) Suddenly all the eyes in the room were on Mr. Lindstrom and me.

When something painful and unexpected like this happens in my life, my emotions are almost exactly like a dyke breaking. All the pain I've been dealing with, slowly but surely, and in manageable chunks comes bursting through in unmanageable ways. I know my friend meant no harm to me. I know that the moment those words parted from his lips, he wished he could grab them back. That moment is in the top five defining moments of my life. It was the very first time, two years after the death of my firstborn, that I felt guilt and failure. It truly was the first time I realized that the world's first expectation of a parent is that they will keep their children alive. I failed.

I frequently hear other people laughing about this Rosanne Barr quote, "If they’re all alive at the end of the day, then I’ve done my job." It's been touted as one of the best takes on motherhood. Ouch. That's my only response. Because I have had to go to bed at night with the knowing that they weren't all alive. I have failed.  I have not done my job.  

I feel like the world sees it as my personal failure that I dropped my first child off at daycare, and picked up a dead body. It is my personal failure that I had a pregnancy that was so full of complications that my child was literally incompatible with life. I miss my girls, and I miss my life (in some ways) before I knew this brand of pain. Sure, there have been abundant gifts. Among many things, I would not have the children I have had my first two girls lived.  These children I have here today are here because my girls aren't.  There is never a moment that I am not trying to reconcile that in my heart.  But I feel guilty. I feel like the ink is all over my mom hands. I didn't keep my children alive.  I failed at the very most basic requirement of parenting. Then, knowing that, I went on to procreate again and again without insurance that I wouldn't fail again... that is guilt.

Here's what I want you to know: It probably seems like losing a child is the most horrible thing that could possibly happen. It is... almost. Here is what would actually be worse; if that child left this world without feeling fully loved beyond what the heart can possibly hold. 

So, my babies died.  I could not keep them alive.  I failed.

But, they left this world having never known anything but pure love and joy. 

I am going to go ahead and chalk that up as a success.  


  1. I have been feeling the same thing these past few month. Three years later, and I thought I would be further in this "process". But guilt has managed to come full cycle, and it's harder this time around.

    All of the same things go through my mind as before. " I shouldn't have brought him to daycare that day. If I hadn't, he woul still be here". And " I should have stopped to say hi to the boys in between class. That would have woke him up, and this nightmare neevr would have happened".

    I don't think people fully understand the level of guilt that we parents carry folling tohe loss of a child. We are supposed to protect them, so when they die it means we fail. I failed.

    But I agree with you, my son never knew anything but love and happiness the two months he was here. And I had the great joy and honor of getting to meet him. And for that, I am so blessed.

  2. I can relate to that failure feeling. With my 3 miscarriages including a 2nd trimester loss, I felt like a failure. That I couldn't do what we were created to do. But I love your definition at the end of success! And you are so right, just as your girls were never without love, and either were my 3 babes, made with love. You are such a lovely mom and all of your children are so blessed to have you as their mom!

  3. Nearly 26 years later and it still hurts!

  4. Oh Colleen. If it helps at all (and I know it probably doesn't) I don't see you as a failure at all. If anything, I see you as incredibly strong, heroic, and competent. You get up every day and live life to the fullest. You had more children. You teach others about grief and pain and what's "normal" and what helps and what doesn't. You are amazing.

    I too struggle with feelings of failure. After all, I've never even been able to conceive. I will never be a mother. I can't do the one thing my body was made to do. Even though I have menstruated every month since the age of 12, I've been unable to house a baby in my womb, let alone conceive a baby at all. I mean how hard can it be? Apparently, harder than I thought.

    Anyway, I just wanted you to know you aren't alone in your feelings of failure but you may be the only one who sees YOU as a failure.

    I love you!

  5. Oh, sheesh. My heart is breaking as I read this. You are so far from a failure, it's not even funny. Losing your girls was horrible - and you had NOTHING to do with it. You know this. There were other plans. Sucky, stupid plans you could not control. And look at how you've handled it all - with grace, strength, amazing honesty. You would never look another bereaved parent in the eye and tell them they failed. So please, dear heart, stop doing it yourself {easier said than done, I know}. Love you.

  6. In all the time I've known you and all the stories you've told me about Brady and Parker I have never ONCE thought of you as a failure. Instead I see you as a great blessing to your children that you keep the girls alive in the minds, hearts and lips of the rest of your family.

    Grace and Peace to you friend, not because you are a failure but because you are a child of God.

  7. I am sad that you decided to name this post Failure.

    I feel your love in every word and your love is what has been given to every soul that has met you.(including me)And I Love you too.

  8. We always blame ourselves, don't we? With Sarah 6 years ago, I somehow felt it was my fault that I didn't make her the way she was supposed to be. The way that would let her live with me forever. And now, with Liam, I've at times driven myself crazy thinking of something I could have done differently to have prevented his encephalocele.

    But it's not our fault, and that's what you'd tell anyone in your position. It's certainly not your fault that you still miss your babies, that you still wish they were here, that you would have liked to keep them alive.

    Even your friend knew you had a right to be sad at those words. You can't fault yourself for that. Loss is not a failing, even though we may feel that way.


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