The Path I Did Not Choose

By |2018-10-11T21:09:55+00:00October 11th, 2018|Parenting After Loss|1 Comment

When my baby died, everything changed. Suddenly, the path I had planned to walk was blocked. I couldn’t continue down that path, no matter how much I longed to.

I was jarringly set on a new path.

It was bare, empty, and callous. Each rock dug into my aching feet. Over my shoulder, I could see the path I was supposed to be on. My path. The one where my child was still here with me, with trees providing beauty and protection. Right over there. So close that I can see it, smell it, dream it.

But not walk on it.

The only place my feet could go was the new path. One foot in front of the other, aching to be somewhere else. In my despair, my loneliness, my fear, my anxiety, my anger, I kept walking. Haunted by the path just out of reach.

My new path felt hostile and cruel for a long time. Everything felt wrong. A single colorful flower on the side of the path brought more confusion than admiration. How could anything good be here? I couldn’t reconcile it.

Over time, the old path drifted further away.

I can still see it if I squint, but it’s fuzzy and the details are hard to make out. I roughly know where it was headed, but I can’t conjure the full picture. I can’t reach it.

At the same time, the path I’m on now has softened. New memories, new experiences, and precious new life have grown. The rocks are fewer and farther between, replaced with soft dirt cushioning me. The edges of the path, once empty, are filling in with lush grass, flowers, and trees. There are all sorts of colors and smells filling my senses, and the occasional dangling branch to avoid. So many things vying for my attention has pulled my focus closer – to the here and now.

But I still look out, searching for that other path.

The should have been my path. It’s harder to see, but still out there. It calls to me in moments of weakness when I feel overwhelmed, in moments of sadness when I miss my son, in moments of reflection when I wonder what if. On anniversaries, birthdays, and regular days.

No path after loss is easy, but after walking close to four years, I do have moments of ease. It helps when I don’t try to compare, when I acknowledge my path now was the only place I could put my feet. It doesn’t feel right all the time, there are tree roots and branches that knock me flat, and I am painfully aware this isn’t how it was supposed to be.

But this path I’m on now, I have to admit it is beautiful.

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About the Author:

Elizabeth Thoma
Elizabeth Thoma lives in the Bay Area, California, with her husband, Chris, and two cats, JJ and Pepper. She found out she was expecting their first child Mother’s Day weekend, 2014. With mild symptoms and no significant early warning signs, they adjusted to pregnancy and eagerly planned for their growing family. At the second trimester anatomy scan, they found out they were having a son and that he had an abdominal wall defect, an omphalocele. Ever the planners, Elizabeth and Chris prepared themselves and their families for what the omphalocele meant in a best-case scenario, and some of the possibilities that couldn’t be diagnosed in utero. Their son, Oberon, was born six weeks early and had his omphalocele surgery within his first twelve hours of life. The surgery went well, but Obie was having trouble breathing. At first, the doctors thought it was related to his large tongue, one of the many indicators that he had Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome. When Obie was one week old, the doctors told Chris and Elizabeth that somewhere along the line, Obie’s brain stopped developing. While they could control his seizures somewhat with heavy medication, Obie’s brain would never develop and he would not be able to walk, talk, or even communicate. At this point, they decided to switch Obie to comfort care and try to take him home from the NICU. They successfully broke out of the NICU and Obie rode home in an ambulance. Bringing their son home brought much comfort to their family. Obie passed away at home in his daddy’s arms at 33 days old. Elizabeth found out she was pregnant with their second child a week after Mother’s Day, 2015. Her second son, Everett, was born January 7, 2016. Elizabeth and Chris blog at about their family at Our Little Beastie.

One Comment

  1. Ingrid Santana October 15, 2018 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    So beautifully said.

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