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#MicroblogMondays: Yesterday

Yesterday was a day like any other.

Except it wasn’t.

My girls awoke and got dressed and had breakfast, but they also had a special ornament and treat waiting in their shoes for St. Nicholas Day.

We went to church, but instead of sitting in the sanctuary, we went to the Great Room for the children’s Christmas program.

And though I got up and fed my baby and put on lip gloss and my black boots like I so often do, there was a sadness that hung over me like a winter fog, a sadness that ran deep and couldn’t be defined or explained.

Until I walked into our bathroom and saw this necklace, waiting to be worn:

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and I remembered. That second birthstone…the blue, December one…was a baby, a baby who never got to be born and was due — due to be held, due to be loved — three years ago yesterday.

I was sad and while my head briefly had forgotten why, my heart did not.

December 6th.

It will never be just an ordinary day again.

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To the One Who Isn’t Here

Dear Baby-of-Long-Ago,

Sometimes I feel you. Not so much in the ethereal, mystical, magical way of smelling the random scent of lavender or feeling a gentle breeze blow through a room with closed windows and knowing it’s you. That’s only happened once or twice, when seeing a rainbow or a butterfly in the most unexpected places, and even then I don’t know if it was you or my hoping it was you. I’m not sure the dead come back to us like that, or if they leave us whom they love alone so that we can move on in peace.

So it’s not you I feel precisely, but the absence of you. The ever-constant, gentle (and sometimes less-gentle, more raw, stinging, pinching, punching, painful) knowing you are not here. You are not, and never will be again, here. In this very place. With me. With us. Your family.

I go about my day just as I did before your short stay here on earth, except now I have two living little ones to look after, and I am more tired, busy, and cranky and happy all at once. I don’t light your candle every night anymore or cry for you every day. And yet, your not-here-ness is here, drifting silently and invisibly around me, humming in my ear like a mosquito at times, fluttering through my thoughts like a hummingbird at others, and rattling me like an earthquake when things go really badly. These days I feel free, mostly, and yet I am still somehow never quite free of you. Which is okay, because your memory doesn’t hurt me all the time now, and on most days there is a sweet nostalgia in thinking of you, the baby who has stayed a baby to me, the baby who never got to grow up and forever remains as small and precious as a tadpole.

There is something unique and uniquely painful about losing a barely-there baby. It does not take long for people to feel justified in forgetting. And they start to expect you to forget, too. And with time, you do. Not entirely and not forever, but there are minutes and then hours and then maybe even days when you don’t think of your loss and what was and what could have been, and you start feeling guilty for that. I feel guilty for that and find myself grasping at moments, trying to prove I haven’t moved on, haven’t betrayed you, because that somehow means I’m the mom I want to be. The one you deserve.

But the truth is, no matter how often or how little you cross my thoughts, I will never move on, not fully. There is a part of me, the old, pre-miscarriage me, who lives with you in the past. And unlike everyone around me who doesn’t remember anything about you and your time here unless I forcefully bring it to their attention, you are always on my mind during the “remembering days” — the anniversaries of the day when I learned of your conception, and of your goneness, and of course I couldn’t forget your due date if I tried.  But your memory comes to me at other times, too. I am reminded of your absence most when I watch your sisters for too long. They bring me such joy. Across years, I have seen their personalities evolve and unfold. I held them in their immediate, wet, oh-so-real newness and, with awe and some heartache, watched as they have each grown into a bigger, more independent, strikingly beautiful version of those babies they once were. And now there is another baby on the way and, God willing, I will get to experience that with him too. But for you, I have none of that. I did not just lose a baby, but years and years of feeling your soft weight enfolded in my arms in a hug, and watching your eyes widen under the same long lashes as you discover the world around you, and seeing all the ways you change and stay the same as decades tick by. You never got your chance to become anything and it makes me sad for you and sad for me because there is so much more than a kidney bean-sized embryo that I lost.

I often think of you as the Baby-Who-Almost-Was, but even when I do, I know there is no truth in that name. Because there is no “almost” about the place you had here. You were. You existed. And in my past, and my memories, and the empty space in my heart that no amount of babies or love can fill, you still do. You were. You are. In some ways, even if it’s only in the hole that you left behind, you still live amongst us.

So you’re not forgotten. I don’t always remember, but I can’t forget. I won’t and I don’t want to. There’s not much I can give you now with me here and you in some not-here place, with me solid and alive and you a wisp-of-smoke ghost in my life, but I can promise you that I love you still and I won’t forget you and I won’t try to. You are still, and forever, mine.

And maybe that’s the best way to be.

With big love,

Your Mama

December 6th

Today is December 6th. St. Nicholas Day. The day we fill our children’s shoes with an ornament to hang on the tree and a special treat, as is tradition in our home.

It is also the one-year anniversary of my unfulfilled due date.

Today, or yesterday or tomorrow or some day nearby, Teddy Graham could have been one year old.

Unfathomable.

Enough time has passed, with plenty of unexpected events in between, that I can no longer imagine the alternative to what I have right now. I cannot imagine living a life with a one-year-old and three-year-old. I cannot imagine what might have been, what Teddy might have looked like, or how he might have been similar to or very different from his big sister. I cannot imagine living a life without the grief from a miscarriage, the pain from enduring another year of the uncertainty of infertility, and the utter relief and gratitude that came from bringing Skittle safely into this world.

Life is so different from what it could have been, and I am glad for that, and sad for it.

Certainly, this year’s December 6th is easier than last year‘s. In 2012, I greeted this day with what I thought was peace and healing, and ended it in tears. It was a hard day. But I have Skittle now and we are not actively TTC and I really do feel peace. And I really do feel the wounds healing.

I have my rainbow baby finally. The baby who came after. After so many tears. After so much sorrow. After Teddy Graham. But the heart is an amazing thing. It’s capacity to love is incredible. And there will always be a corner of it reserved for Teddy.

So this morning, I shed a few tears. Today, I will remember. Tonight, I will light his candle. And then I will move forward again. Never forgetting the baby who never made it into my arms, but continuing to heal and to celebrate the babies I do get to hold.

Reflections at 1 Month

Today, my Skittle is one month old. It was one month ago that I screamed for an epidural that came too late. One month ago that I pushed a beautiful, 8-pound squishy ball of baby from my womb and into this world. One month ago that another dream came true. How is that even possible? As a mother, I am always reminded how quickly time does indeed pass. How fleeting every moment is.

I have spent much of the last month reflecting upon our journey to get here. I have not taken any of what I have for granted, have not wished for anything else but exactly what I have. I have cherished and treasured every gassy smile, every midnight cuddle, every dreamy giggle, every tiny baby sneeze, every time Skittle rests her soft head of hair against my chest and drifts off into a sleep full of whimpers and sighs.

And yet, it can be so bittersweet.

I’m lucky in that pregnancy usually doesn’t take much of a physical toll on me. But emotionally? It’s hard. I know you all understand when I say that I live in constant fear for nine-plus months.  Every day of every month of my pregnancy is spent white-knuckling it, gritting my teeth, just trying to make it safely to the end. And yet, in many ways, I love it. The excitement, the wonder, the joy, the preparations. The baby kicks, the ultrasounds, the growth of my belly. The new ways I find to love and respect my body. The hopes, the dreams, all the photographs of our future that unfold in my head and heart. I love that. All of it. And now, I miss it.

There is a saying I stumbled upon not long ago:

“If I had my life to live over, instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside of me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.” (Erma Bombeck)

And while I did not spend one moment of my pregnancy wishing it away, I do understand what is being said here. Pregnancy, and every little baby, is a miracle. I feel something magical happening inside of me when I’m expecting. Every moment of those nine months feels miraculous.

And of course, every day with Skittle alive and well and smiling at me in my arms is a miracle of its own…but it’s a different kind of miracle. And I become very melancholy when I realize that, every morning, Skittle and Cupcake wake up one day older. They are getting bigger and, with each second that passes, I am drifting farther and farther away from the tiny, miraculous way their lives began.

There is still pregnancy paraphernalia dotted around our house: Two boxes of maternity clothes awaiting their transfer to storage. A body pillow in the corner of our bedroom. My pregnancy scrapbook, four pages away from completion. Maternity photos that I’ve displayed like artwork around our house. The protein bars and shakes that I stocked up on to combat preeclampsia. As I look at it all, I feel pensive. I let out a little sigh. I try to shake the sadness. Sad because those pregnancy days are hard, but they’re beautiful too. And now they’re over. And as an infertile, there is no guarantee that I will ever experience them again. With each pregnancy, I have to wonder if it’s the last. I’m not ready to be done. There are more siblings I want for my daughters. More babies I want to birth. We will try again, in a year or so. But a part of me always has to be prepared to accept that I am allowed only a limited number of miracles and perhaps this pregnancy was my last one. It makes the end harder.

And there’s something else.

I have learned that grief is a windy road with lots of pit stops, u-turns, and dead ends and, unexpectedly, our Teddy Graham has been on my mind more over these last four weeks than he has since the early days of my pregnancy. I have cried for him a handful of times. I can’t say for sure why that is. Maybe it’s the hormones. But having Skittle here in flesh and blood has reminded me of all that I missed out on with Teddy. I get to hold Skittle and watch her grow and change and learn and explore. But Teddy never got that chance. A whole life of possibilities was lost in my miscarriage. This is not something new I’ve learned just recently, but the thought has become vividly raw since Skittle’s birth.

Of course, I would never wish for things to have happened differently now that I have my precious Skittle. As I conceived Skittle just one month (almost to the day) after my unfulfilled Teddy Graham due date, it technically would have been possible for Teddy and Skittle to coexist…but the likelihood of it is next to none. Not only because of irregular (i.e. nonexistent) menstrual cycles being my norm, but because the chances of my letting Honey put his dingdong into my hoo ha only a month after the theoretical delivery of TG would be less than zero. Less. Than. Zero. And yet, if things could be different — if, somehow, I could be holding both Teddy and Skittle today — that’s what I would choose.

I miss Teddy now more than (almost) ever.

But I am not sorry that I ever conceived him, or carried him, or loved him. In fact, it is because of him that I am able to love Skittle so thoroughly. Surely, I would have loved her with all that I had regardless of who or what came before her. But I know and understand and have more now than I would have without infertility and loss. The depths of my love, the intensity of my relief, the strength of my gratitude and joy, is all because of the journey I took to get here, and more specifically, all because of what I lost along the way.

Maybe I’m romanticizing my experience. And again, I could blame it on the hormones. But truly, I think it’s my way of coping. I need there to be a reason for all of the pain I endured. I need to believe that our Teddy was only ever meant to be with us a short time and that, in the end, everything worked out in the most beautiful, perfect way for all of us. Because to think that there woulda/coulda/shoulda been another beautiful, whole, perfect little soul here with us… To think that someone is missing from our lives and forever will be… To think that my child died… That, if things had gone a different way, Skittle would never have come to be… It is almost too much to bear. So I hate that Teddy Graham had to be a sacrificial lamb. I wish there could have been a different, and yet similar, ending. But I am thankful for the sacrifice nevertheless. I have to be…for how else do I make sense of it all?

So yeah…I’ve done a lot of thinking these last few weeks. Thinking and reflecting and crying and sighing. And I’m not sorry for what I’ve gone through. I can say that now that I’ve made it to the other side (a year ago, I would have sung a different tune). In fact, there’s been beauty in the sadness of it. And there’s a certain sense of loss and grief in knowing it has come to an end. I have finished one journey. I am starting another.

So I am now able to appreciate all of the ups and downs of trying to build a family. I have perspective. I can see that the greatness of my struggle has made me a better mother and, hopefully, a better person. And yet, as I look ahead, I am so afraid of going through all of this again. I think I’ve made it very clear to all of you: I am ever so grateful for my two healthy, beautiful girls. But I know our family is not complete. We are not done trying. It’s not over yet. And who knows what we will encounter on the next journey? This one was harder than the last. Will the next one only be harder than this? It is frightening to think of all the horrible possibilities that could lie in wait for us. I am thankful for what my infertility and miscarriage has given me, but good God, I’d rather not go through it a third time.

But I guess that’s another post for another day for another blog for another year.

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October 15th

I will keep this brief, but I could not let Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day go unacknowledged. I may have my rainbow baby suckling at my breast as I type this, but I have not forgotten. I have not forgotten my Teddy Graham and I have not forgotten each of you and your babies who have come and gone. In fact, since giving birth to Skittle, I have felt the weight of my previous loss heavier than I have in some time. Things change, we move forward, we find new hope and joy in the days that follow, but still…our lost babies live on in our hearts. The lessons they teach us in their absence and the role they have in our lives forevermore may be their only legacy, but it is a valuable one at that. Your babies matter, friends, and I hope today has been kind to all of you and gentle on your hearts. Hugs today and always. xo

Remembering…

Today, I remember.

I remember April 19, 2012 when I started to bleed at just 7 weeks 1 day pregnant.

I remember the sight of the dark red blood on my fingers, an image I see in my nightmares to this day.

I remember my sweet Teddy Graham, whom I knew was gone before an ultrasound ever confirmed it.

Today, I remember the ultrasound, the black space, the firm line the sonographer’s mouth made as she stared at the screen.

I remember the simple text I sent to my sister, a friend, and my mother: “No heartbeat” and the ding, ding, ding as my cell was flooded with texts in response.

I remember the tears that went on and on, that came and kept coming long after I lost all the energy to wipe them away.

I remember the days that followed, how they zipped by and dragged by at once, all a blur of grief and unbelief.

I remember the dissolution of my new relationship with my sister, how it unraveled like a poorly-made sweater, coming further undone with each insensitive or critical comment she made as I mourned my way through the summer.

Today, I remember those who were there for me when I needed them the most, and those who were not there when I was at my most vulnerable.

I remember the fear and the despair and the rage that engulfed me when I let it.

I remember how I was broken and how this blog — and all of you — picked me up and put me back together again, just like Humpty.

I remember that today is not about the baby growing inside of me right now, but about the Baby Who Almost Was, the baby who was but now isn’t and never will be again, and yet will somehow live in my heart forever.

Meeting my Niece

I am one of those crazy people who dig road trips, but I was unsure whether I was going to love the one we went on yesterday to see my sister and her new baby. For one, it was a long way to drive (over two hours) for a short time to visit. We planned to stay only an hour or two, so as not to overwhelm Sis with too much company while also trying to adjust to being a new mommy. In addition, my daughter was in some sort of mood yesterday and an extended time in a car with a crabby two-year-old is not exactly a party. And also, most importantly really, I have purposely spent very little time around newborns since my miscarriage last year. I did not know if my heart would fare well in seeing my tiny niece and knowing that, right now, Teddy Graham would be about three months old.

But all in all, it went well. Cupcake wanted little to do with her new cousin and was only worried that the baby might steal her cup of orange juice. She spent most of the time chasing the cat around the house, with my husband following close behind. Poor kitty. Poor Honey. And me? I was okay. My niece is small and beautiful. I held her from the moment I arrived to almost the moment we left. She stared into my eyes, wide awake, for a good while and eventually fell asleep as I rocked her gently. She didn’t say a peep the whole time we were there. And I am ashamed to admit that it wasn’t until the drive home that I even thought about Teddy. I don’t know if this makes me a horrible mom, or if it just means I am finally on my way to some sort of healing.

And one other thing…as I held my niece, I was surprised by how natural it felt. How right. There have been times recently when I have wondered if I would even know how to take care of a newborn again. If I would know what to do, or how to hold one, or rock one, or love one. It seems so long ago that Cupcake was that small. But I was reminded that, somehow, mothering a baby is like riding a bike. You just never forget how to do it.

And I am so glad that, finally, I have something to be confident in.

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