One month ago today, a baby named Fox Elijah King was born to an awesome & radical couple, my friends April & Morgan. April had a normal, healthy pregnancy, prioritizing an already-stretched budget to eat whole foods; she labored & delivered Fox naturally even though her birth was hard & fast. He was lovingly welcomed, breastfed & kept intact. He had a safe sleeping spot near his mama & was held constantly; embraced with an allegiance that can only come from a mother who was totally thrilled with his existence, a woman who studied motherhood to learn the absolute best way to bring a human into the world. (View photos here.)
April found information about freebirthing & motherhood while studying cultural anthropology & women’s studies, & as her friend, I was SO happy to be able to send articles about breastfeeding & keeping babies whole to someone who was really interested, someone who I knew would make excellent choices, an activist-friend turned activist-mother. Someone who would take my son’s old cloth diapers & use them; someone who researched the best carrier to buy. Someone who was going to be an amazing mother.
I’m always excited whenever anyone is pregnant, but I was so affected by April’s situation because it was similar to mine. We are both youngish, low-income, unmarried mothers. We are both also feminists & activists, believers of equality & social justice, people who get thrilled by attending protests. For people in our realm of folks, in our world, unexpected pregnancies can be alienating. It can be alienating from our friends, because having a child is an enormous responsibility that many of them likely can’t imagine being ready for at this juncture, & it can be alienating from our families as they can fail to know how to be supportive of a pregnancy that they aren’t supposed to be happy for. April wrote about that lack of real, genuine, enthusiastic support here.
I felt so proud of April because I know how challenging it is to not have the emotional guidance to help make the best decisions or financial assistance to help afford the highest-quality gear, & I know what it’s like to find all of these answers on your own, without wisdom from family or a close unit of friends. Single, low-income mothers are some of the least likely to breastfeed but April chose to & did it with complete commitment. Coming from this position, the statistics do not favor you to make consistently solid choices, but April did & her motherhood shined throughout her pregnancy & after Fox’s birth.
Yet one week after Fox was born, he simply, devastatingly, didn’t wake up from his sleep. They were all asleep & when they woke up, he was gone. I found out online through a statement from April, in the evening 7 days after I had been celebrating his birth, & I immediately shut down my computer, in complete denial, unable to grasp what I had just read. I kept hoping it wasn’t real, that I had misread it, but I was too scared to check. How could this be real? How could a healthy baby, born 8lbs 4oz on his due date, just not wake up from his sleep? How could this be happening to April & Morgan, my friends who had worked so hard to do this right?
I also had no words. Language was suddenly failing me now, so completely. There was nothing I could say that would properly express how totally horrified I was to read this news, how deeply saddened I was for their loss, & how utterly confused I was that this was happening to them. I just couldn’t understand how this was now their reality. As a mother, I honestly cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a child; my mind just hits a wall, like the heartache would be too much & it won’t let me imagine any further. Since April & I live about 4 hours apart, I felt helpless & desperate to try & fix this situation, which is so far from fixable. There was no conclusion from the medical examiner; there was no reason for this.
I never met Fox. I was going to visit them before Christmas to see him & deliver more baby things, but instead I was going to his funeral. I am thankful I was able to be there; it was an excruciating, heartbreaking, soul-shattering, but absolutely beautiful tribute to him, as well as a testament to April & Morgan’s parenting. Their grief was palpable. He was a lucky baby, for that week. He got more love & comfort & care than some babies get their entire childhood.
I was really struck by the crowd that came to remember baby Fox. My heart was worried because my impression was that there was a lack of support & I can imagine how I would feel if people who had not embraced my pregnancy also failed to turn out in solidarity during such devestation. But they were there, an onslaught of tattooed, bike-riding, dreadlocked love. The men cried, the women cried. One friend wrote a song that he sang in memory of Fox. Morgan’s mom wrote a poem that easily moved everyone to tears, & Morgan sang this song by Elliott Smith, a song that April had sung to Fox after his birth.
The moment I saw the tiny casket, it occurred to me that a tiny casket is the most wrong thing in the world. It doesn’t make any sense; it seems totally unjust. I had never had anyone in my life experience a loss like this, so I didn’t know how intensely it would strike me. But that was easily the saddest thing I have ever seen. We all helped bury Fox. After his casket was placed in the ground, Morgan shoveled in some earth, April was on her knees pouring the dirt in, & friends & family took turns adding handfuls. It felt good to be a part of it, but it also felt too final, too complete, & so wrong that it was ending like this. I just kept thinking “This is so dumb. This is so dumb. This wasn’t supposed to happen.” It felt like such a glitch in the system, something that time should reverse for, to make it right again.
So many of the decisions we make in the natural parenting community are made because we know they have been proven to be better & safer for children. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDs, as does safe cosleeping (either sleeping near or bedsharing), not smoking, & keeping babies whole. These decisions are made with the health of our children in mind, & April made those same decisions. When I researched baby loss, I read that one of a few things not to say is “At least you can have more children,” because no child will ever replace the child who died. Fox is real, his passing is real, his existance is real. But I do hope that April decides to have more children someday because she was an amazing mother, she is an amazing mother, & she will be an amazing mother.
The brilliant, compassionate, generous people over at drmomma.org wrote a loving piece in memory of Fox; it includes an opportunity to donate to help cover the cost of the funeral. There is a link & an address at the end of the article, along with statistics explaining the average cost of funerals. It takes some families years to be able to afford even the simplest grave marker for their child. Why funeral homes don’t automatically donate these things is beyond me, but if you are in a position to donate even one dollar, we could be helping April & Morgan so much. They do not need this weight on their already-heavy shoulders; we need to lift it. Donate here.
I found Earth Mama Angel Baby to be a great resource as the friend of someone who has lost a baby. They have a portion of products & wisdom that is specifically for baby loss, which is such a considerate thing to do as a company that caters to mothers.
Have you experienced the loss of a child, or have you known someone whose child died? How did you cope, what did you do? What resources did you find valuable? I encourage you to leave your story here. In the meantime, I am remembering baby Fox & honoring everything April & Morgan did for him. One friend at Fox’s funeral suggested that we take a moment in silence to surround them with love & light & support; that is what I aim to do now. April will be updating her blog, when the time is right, to include her experience with Fox & losing him, as well as her potential future pregnancy. Book mark it, leave comments, show your love. She is a unique person with a valuable perspective that should be supported & remembered. Peace & love.
About Kristen Tea
I am a 27-year-old single, attached, informed, lactivist, intactivist, peaceful Minnesotan mother of almost 4-year-old Sun Ronin a.k.a Sunny Boy. I am an artist & lover of expression. I'm also a student with many things to learn, including nutritional therapy, lactation consulting, doulahood, yoga instructing, & more. I believe that unplanned pregnancies do not have to equal uninformed motherhood, & women have the power to restore humanity to everything we touch.