I was 19 when I found out I was pregnant, still a child myself- not that you could have told me that then.

The pregnancy was unexpected, though how could it be if I was having unprotected sex? I was foolish.

Even so, I wasn’t unhappy about the baby. I love children. I spent many years as a young adult taking care of them babysitting, after spending my childhood practicing on dolls. Becoming a mother was a dream of mine, one I couldn’t wait to fulfill.

The pregnancy wasn’t kind to me. I spent every waking moment sick, unable to keep down any genera of food. I was young and had no idea how to care for my pregnant body; it was challenging to continue my healthy, active lifestyle. Regardless, I was excited about the baby and planned for his/her arrival like any expectant mother would.

I was amazed at how my body changed to accommodate the growing baby.

I can clearly remember the feeling of the first flutter of life inside my belly- how the baby would respond to certain foods, sounds (songs- my baby liked heavy metal), and my own emotions. I remember the fat ankles too, don’t get me wrong, but there is a sacredness to pregnancy- joy.

We can create life, breath- carry it in our bodies, care for it, nurture it so that we can bring it into this world.

What a gift.

It was a special time; my brother’s wife had announced that they were also expecting their first child- our children would be born two months apart.  We couldn’t wait. My family was overjoyed.

Today is my son’s 16th birthday. It’s hard to think that it’s been 16 years already; time has a funny way of making things appear to happen in the blink of an eye. My brother also had a son, and they were indeed born two months apart- almost to the day. My nephew has grown into a fine young man, 16 this year as his cousin would have been.

My son, you see, my son died the day he was born.

There are reasons, explanations, medical terms that describe what happened to my son- they’re just words. None of them will change what happened; nothing can. Jonathon, my son, was full term and was born several days before my due date and two days after his father’s birthday. Circumstances meant that I was forced to have a natural birth, knowing that my son was already gone.

I didn’t know then and still struggle with now, how to cope with the loss of my first (and only) child. My son was baptized the day he was born, with my family surrounding me. We took turns holding him, trying to absorb a lifetime of love from a child we’d never get to know. We took pictures; we held his tiny hands in ours- amazed at the small fingers and toes.

But it couldn’t last, and I knew that I would have to call the nurse to come and get my son eventually. I would have to call her, and once I did, I would never hold my son again.

I don’t know if I’ve ever made a more difficult call when I pushed the button for the nurse. The time I spent with my son seemed to go by in a split second, it wasn’t enough- but my time was up. When the nurse came, I had a hard time letting go.  And when I finally let go, I collapsed.

My heart simply broke.

I mourn the loss of my child every day. There is nothing, nothing that I wouldn’t give to be able to have him here with me. I will never forget the life that I created and brought into this world. I never had the opportunity to mother my child, but I am a mother.

I imagine that cows, chickens, pigs, horses, birds, deer, raccoons, squirrels, and any animal that creates life, bring it into this world, would feel the same if they lost a child. I imagine that their grief is as painful as mine.  And like me, I doubt that these mothers ever forget their children no matter how many years pass.

We must stop taking babies from their parents, never to be seen again. Canine, feline, farm animal, exotic or otherwise- these animals create life, families.

There have been studies on the sentience of animals; do they feel, do they grieve, do they care if the family stays together?

For myself, I don’t need to read a single one of them to know that losing a child hurts. Human or non-human, children are simply children to their parents.