I’ve been thinking of what I wanted to say for months but now, as I finally sit to put words down, I can’t remember any of it. So I’ll start at the beginning.
When we found out we were expecting you last July, we were thrilled!! Our fourth child! What fun! We started thinking about what to name you, wondering if you would be our third son or our second daughter. We shared the news with relatives and friends and received many congratulations and well wishes.
Wen we told your siblings, they were pretty excited too. Your big sister just stared; practically a baby herself, she just didn’t understand what we were saying. Your big brother clapped his hands and jumped up and down! Your biggest brother stared for a few moments and then asked, “Does that mean you have a baby in your tummy?” and when we said Yes, a huge smile spread across his face. And then, everywhere we went, they told people about you. The lady in line behind us at the grocery store. A stranger at the library. The hygienist who was cleaning their teeth.
I found myself pretty miserable during the early days of your pregnancy. Exhaustion and nausea are normal for me, but it seemed that they were worse this time. Many times I’d make a simple dinner for the family and not be able to eat it because the smells of the various ingredients had turned my stomach. So I became friends with Marie Callendar and her frozen food buddies and worried about blowing our food budget! But still, I needed to be able to eat. I wanted to take good care of you, after all.
I am sad to say that I complained an awful lot about feeling yucky those early days. I hung a poster on the wall for the children’s benefit, the poster that showed you at every month prenatally. I read to your siblings from the poster: how big you were this month, how you were developing; vitally important to help them connect to someone they loved but could not see. But that was as far as I went with this. I wish I had thought to take the time to praise the LORD for the wonder of you, growing inside of me, from a teeny tiny cell to a little cashew-like shape to your growing arms and legs.
I was just beginning to get over the early nausea in September. We took a week for a hunting trip and The Bull and I planned out ways to accommodate for me growing you. I was very nervous going into this week, but I look back on it now and I’m so glad we did that! What great memories we have from that trip! And you were a part of it, too.
Back home, I was cleaning up from the trip and settling into the second trimester. Preparing to resume your brothers’ school work. We met with our midwife at 13 weeks gestation and I was surprised that she was unable to find your heartbeat with her doppler. Still, it was early enough that you were able to hide still (as your older siblings had!) so we weren’t too concerned. But this was something that nagged my mind, and months later I still wondered about this.
Early on the morning of October 4, I woke with gas pains. I tried a few things to relieve the pain but it wouldn’t go away. I regretted having the chili for dinner Saturday night! The thought crossed my mind that something was wrong with you, but I quickly dismissed this. I’d never had a problem before, never had any reason to think that something was wrong with any other pregnancy. But within a few minutes it was apparent that this was not my body’s reaction to beans. And then, there you were.
Your daddy came in, and he called our midwife and she arrived soon after that. I held you and stared at you for the longest time. I was hoping that this was all a bad dream, but it was reality. I could not stop looking at you and was amazed at how perfectly formed you looked. You looked just like your big brothers except much smaller. You fit completely on the palm of my hand, all snuggled up in the classic fetal position with your hand under your head. I was too surprised to cry then, but later that day (after we’d had a few hours sleep and began to share the sad news with people) it seemed that I couldn’t stop crying.
Your daddy and your brothers and sister went to the greenhouse and bought a tree for you, an evergreen tree, and we planted it and prayed. And cried some more.
I’ve had lots more time to cry since then: when a friend had her baby, when I went to the grocery store and saw (it seemed) every pregnant woman and newborn baby in town, when I saw on the calendar that you would have been 20 weeks or 24 weeks (thankfully I didn’t write any farther than that), when I washed your big sister’s ribs and remember how tiny yours were, or when your big sister asks “Where’s Shelomith?”, or when I see a baby that would be about your age now. When I had to put away the baby clothes that I had pulled out of the crawl space for you. When we had family pictures taken. . . and you were not in the picture with us. When I tuck in your siblings at night and thank God for them and the joy and all the fun they add to our lives. . . and wonder what it would have been like to have you and what you would have added to our family. When I see the kids playing with a baby or talking to a baby and realize they would have been excellent with you, even your sister who was so young that I feared she wasn’t yet ready to not be the “baby” of the family any more. When I clean up the high chair after dinner and realize you will never get to sit in it. There are so, so many reminders, almost everywhere I look, that you are not joining our family as we hoped and planned.
This Bible study has been painful; it has brought up some comforting verses and some painful ideas. It gave me something to do, something to focus on, when I would have been focused on getting our house and schedule ready for you to join us.
The month that could have been your birth month passed very painfully for us. The days I would have expected you, you weren’t there of course.
I find that I wish I’d had an ultrasound, which would have given us a picture of you. Wish we’d stopped in for another visit with our midwife at 14 or 15 weeks when we’d surely have been able to hear your heartbeat. Wish I hadn’t complained about feeling lousy. Wish we’d have gotten farther than 16 weeks with you and could have felt you moving. Wish we’d have been able to hold you for longer than just a few minutes or hours. I wish we’d gotten to see what color your eyes were: brown, like mine? blue, like your daddy’s? Would your hair have been thick and dark, and lighten over time like your siblings’? Would you have had my nose or your daddy’s?
And yet, after all this, I am glad for the time we had with you. I want to hold on to every moment knowing that it was all for you. Weight gain? That was you growing. Nausea? That was from the hormones that helped you grow too. Exhaustion? That was you too; it’s hard work to grow a baby. I gave you all I had and I wish I could have given more, if it would have made a difference in keeping you growing.
I love it when people click on the link to see your name. Sometimes I even go there myself, and click on the play button, just so I can hear your name (although we pronounce it differently.) It is a reminder that you really were here with us, even though so few people got to meet you.
And now we move on with life, knowing that you are not with us and won’t be with us. It’s like there is a big hole here that will never be filled. But life keeps on marching. Autumn turned to winter, and it was winter for a very long time. And then, suddenly, it was spring. Now it’s summer again and before long we’ll be back to autumn. Now we are starting to have reminders of my pregnancy with you. . . that was just last year.
I want to share some happy news with you now too. You are a big brother now! Notice that I did not say (as I might have a few years ago) that you will be a big brother. This child that is now growing inside of me is as much a person as you were. That is something good that has come from losing you, I guess, this knowing that you really were even before you were born. Not that I doubted that before. . . but now I am even more convinced.
Now I look at your big siblings differently now too, try to have patience with their little irritations and frustrations. Realize (or try to realize) that it’s not a big deal when cereal gets spilled all over the floor or when the dirty clothes don’t make it to the laundry basket. (Don’t succeed at this very well, sadly.)
Now I have been better able to cry with other hurting people now. . .so many are hurting with serious, deep, painful hurts . . . it astounds me. It is like losing you has ripped the cover off of the façade of life. There is more to it than I thought there was. And often, it’s not pretty.
Now I find that I need to keep track of the little joys in my gratitude journal journal. There are some deep and painful times in life and yet there are sweet, wonderful times also.
I miss you, dear boy. I love you. We all do. ♥