Baby Dedications and Bathroom Stalls

Her son looked so cute.  She had found him a little tux.

He was the first baby I held after Aidan.  How could I tell her how hard this day was going to be for me?

My husband and I sat in the pew at our friends’ church.  Friends on one side.  Strangers on the other. We knew the custom in our faith of child dedication. We knew the order of the service even before we walked into the church.

I started to tear up even before they were called up to the altar.  Actually I started to tear up walking into the church.  I knew the time would be painful.

It was time to shake hands – greet your neighbor – shake their hand – give them a hug.  I knew the church ritual.  Put on the smiling face. Greet a stranger as if they were a friend.

I was in tears. I wanted to run.  The lady next to me extended her hand.  The stranger asked me about why we were there.  I blubbered something.  I added some quick statement about sorry this is hard for me my son died a little over a year ago. I remember thinking who throws that into a conversation during the “greet the person next to you” time at church.

We were sitting in a pew toward the back.  My friend, her husband and their son were called forward.  Everyone coo’ed at the adorable little baby. My friend was all smiles.  Her husband was so proud of his little family.

My heart pounded. My pulse quickened. I wanted to run. I wanted to hide. I wanted to sob.

The baby dedication started.  I stood up discreetly and bolted out the door. I didn’t have to say anything to my husband.  He understood my pain.  He didn’t try to stop me.  He didn’t come after me.  He knew I’d return when I was ready.

The bathroom. The bathroom would be a safe place.  I could cry and be alone.  I would compose myself and then go back in to sit next to my husband. Just a few minutes was all I needed.  No one would even know what happened.

I closed the bathroom door in hopes of closing out the ceremonial words, the doting, the cooing, the praying over a young family, the dreams, the hopes.

Instead the words only seemed clearer.  The bathroom was not a safe place.  The bathroom had a speaker.  I listened to the entire ceremony as if I was the only one in the audience. The words were clear and crisp. My sobs were uncontrollable.  I prayed no one would enter in.

I spent her baby’s dedication in a bathroom sobbing as I mourned for my son who was dedicated before God minutes after he was born and hours before he died.  I mourned my son who was dedicated to God surrounded by family members who stood in a somewhat circle in the delivery room around my hospital bed as I was hooked up to machines and iv’s.  I mourned my son who was dedicated in a hospital-issued diaper and blanket.   I simply mourned my son.

I can’t remember how long I stayed in that bathroom. I don’t remember if I stayed in there during the entire dedication. I can’t remember if I dried my tears and got back to my seat before my friend and her young family sat down. I never asked her if she knew I had left the room during the ceremony.  I don’t think I’ve ever told her how that one day was part of my healing process.

All three of my boys have been dedicated as the practice in our faith. One in a hospital room wearing a diaper and blanket.  One in a church wearing a shirt and vest and dress pants.  One who actually was dedicated separately with each side of our family – once in a home wearing shorts and a t-shirt and once in a cabin wearing swimming trunks.  All were surrounded by loving family who prayed beautiful prayers over our family and boys. All trusting and surrendering my boys – and our parenting – to God.  None of those services required an escape to a bathroom stall.