The “comparison game” is one that most of us are familiar with playing and the key to beating, even the hardest of levels, is different for everyone. For me, the answer to my longing heart came during one of the hardest seasons of my life. For most of my life, I could never be fully present but two steps ahead thinking of all the things I was longing to have and the person I was waiting to become. Life is funny like that, as the expectations of the future are often brighter than the future itself and the present moment is lost in the redundancy of “normal” life. I felt this pressure to buy, to dazzle and woo people to love me.
I met my husband and we had our dream wedding, although when I compared it to my friends’ weddings, I could always find an aspect in which my day had fallen short. Our first year of marriage was filled with working out the kinks and unpacking the baggage we brought into our relationship. Why doesn’t anyone else’s marriage seem to be so much work? I would wonder to myself. As we approached our first year anniversary, it finally felt like we were on some solid ground and in a good rhythm as husband and wife. We were so surprised when we found out we were expecting our first baby. My obsession with comparison came to a peak as I started planning our future life. I felt discontent and obsessive over the details of our living situation and the amount of money in our bank account. I was spinning my wheels before my baby was even born trying to be the “perfect” mom that I already measured myself against.
And then we received the news that would change everything: our son had a fatal birth defect that would prevent him from living past birth. Hold up, what? The news was like a semi-truck hitting my heart at 100 mph and I was frozen in time. For the first time in my life, I did not want to look ahead because all the future held was goodbye. I was forced to be in my current moment, but the present was agonizing and bittersweet.
Even in the unique situation I found myself in, I would feel the mom-guilt creeping in. I would read books about moms whose babies had miraculous healing and I would think, Maybe if I prayed harder or had more faith my baby would be healed. I would feel guilty about TV binge-watching and I would hear that voice of criticism saying, If you were really a good mother you would read to your baby and spend more time talking to him. I had one counselor encourage me and remind me that grief is crushing when your facing it head-on. Sometimes you need to “tune-out” to mourn in smaller doses. I had to stop comparing myself and my unique journey as a woman, mother and wife. I purposefully stopped reading about other mothers’ journeys and would stop people from telling me about “so and so whose baby died.” I just could not cope with comparing myself, as it was adding to the stress that was already overwhelming.
After months of hoping and waiting for a miracle, our son was born and I felt his heartbeat against my chest for 18 beautiful minutes. In those precious moments before he went to heaven, nothing else mattered. I was met with the purest love I had ever felt and I just felt so thankful for my son. I was free of worry, of self-awareness or expectations and I was so full of joy. It was the peak of my sorrow and yet I felt completely content to have him in my arms. As we gave his body away, I knew that a piece of me went with him. It was not a piece of myself that is lost forever, but it is a piece of my heart that dwells in heavenly places. It soars above the cares and expectations of this world and reminds me to be present. After all, the only thing that truly matters is love.
Angel Cachero lives in San Diego, California with her husband and two children. She works as a registered nurse and enjoys spending quality time with her friends and family at the beach.