A story for the unseen or unspoken losses we have all had but can never share or can never be understood fully by others.  A woman I once met told me that she had a still born baby.  At the hospital she was crying when the doctor said to her, “you have so many healthy children at home, what are you crying about?”  This story is for her and anyone else who has had a loss that was made small by a world that cannot understand the value of little things.

There was this woman who had a special brass button. She carried the button with her everywhere. She kept it in her pocket and when she changed clothes she would carefully and thoughtfully transfer the button into another pocket; or into her handbag if she happened to be wearing clothes that didn’t have a pocket.

She cherished this button because she had plans for it, big plans. She had a coat that she hoped to sew it onto for next winter.  Then when she grew old and plump she had in her mind a larger coat that the button would also be perfect for. She could see her life stretch in front of her and imagined all the outfits and all the coats that the button would be part of and it made her very happy. So while she waited for the outfits and the coats she minded the button, held it close and polished it every day. The button was always near to hand and always, always in her dreams of the future.

Many years passed and the woman had lived a long and eventful life. She had children and grandchildren and many friends and neighbours. One day she spoke to a man about the sadness of losing one of her children through miscarriage. The man, having never lost a child, could not really empathise with her story and could not understand why the loss of an unborn, barely formed child could mean so much to her. After all she had six healthy children. What more could she possibly want from life? The man felt himself getting angry at her grief and thought to himself that this woman was ungrateful – grieving a lost foetus when she had been gifted with so many perfect children. He challenged the woman, reminding her that she should be grateful for the children she has.  He told her that he could not understand her grief.

The woman turned to him and stood upright. She was wearing a long red velvet coat that touched the floor. It was fitted beautifully and buttoned up with six chunky brass buttons. The coat was flawless except one button appeared to be missing and the coat opened awkwardly in the mid section near the woman’s breast.  She said to the man “one might say that children are like buttons on a coat, one is no different from the other so long as they are all there and working as they should. But you see if one button is missing it can leave a wide ugly hole”.  As she said these words she touched her hand to her heart showing him the gaping hole where her own coat parted open because of the missing button.

Facebook page for people with unspoken grief

Sculptor by Martin Hudáček – memorial to unborn children

2 thoughts on “Button babies

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