Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Today we would have met you and announced your presence to anyone who would listen. Not all moms could say so with such certainty, but I’m a c-section mama, so I really do know for sure. June 5th was your due date and sounded like a wonderful day for a birthday.
We would have had an appointment. We would have woken before the 5:30 alarm clock, too excited to wait any longer, packed any remaining items in the hospital bag, kissed your sisters with smiles and left for the hospital with nervous excitement because we would know what was waiting for us.
Sadly, we “met” you on January 5th instead. I’m sure that met isn’t the proper word, because we will never really have met you and never have the privilege of getting to know you as we watch you grow. Life stole you from us and we were never even able to look into your little eyes.
Some won’t understand the connection we will always feel and that you will always be our third baby. People call it a loss, some even called it a “mishap”, but it is so more than that and we have endured so much. Letting go of all of the hopes and dreams we had of our family of five, with you as our littlest.
I’ll admit, I panicked a bit (okay, a LOT) when we found we were expecting you the day before Evelyn’s birthday. How would we manage with three children three years and under – that’s insane! Now, it’s hard to imagine we ever worried, because were you to have arrived today, it would have all worked just perfectly.
We had an appointment. We packed the remaining items in the hospital bag. We kissed your sisters good-bye while holding back tears and left for the hospital with dread and sadness, because we knew what was waiting for us.
I knew for two weeks. I had a horrible feeling of dread, as so many pregnant women do before feeling that first kick and I did my best to chalk it up to mommy paranoia, after all, there were no physical signs pointing to anything but a normal pregnancy and I had heard your strong heartbeat just two weeks earlier. Besides, after making it to the half-way point, what really could go wrong?
I convinced myself to be excited for my next appointment, hoping I would look forward to the relief of hearing your heartbeat, but I knew. I held back tears the entire drive to that last appointment because somehow I knew the relief I so longed for was not to be found that day. When she asked if I had any concerns, I didn’t know how to tell her what we were about to find out. When there was no audio heartbeat, I knew. The in-room ultrasound showed a still, sleeping baby, arms crossed over chest, and the in-depth ultrasound confirmed.
I learned what it means to mourn in a biblical sense, grabbing at my hair, my body wrenched with pain crying out loud to God to let it be some horrible, mortifying mistake make by multiple people, that you were really okay, still tucked warmly inside my belly, heart beating strongly. This kind of thing is just a risk they have to warn you about, but it couldn’t possible really happen to you, not our baby, could it?
So, two days later, we went to our appointment.
Medication meant to put you into labor is supposed to bring a multitude of emotions, but despair and grief are not among those you’re meant to feel.
You shouldn’t have to hold your baby longing for signs of life and finding none.
No one should have to sign “Mother” on the form at the funeral home when you pick up the remains of the child you still long for. That was a few days after – when we should have been heading home with you in the backseat, sisters waiting for your arrival.
As it turns out, whether your child gets to grow up or not, you long to scream to the world of their existence. I’ve walked into Target with your sisters for the first time, proud and beaming with my new perfect little ones, longing to proclaim to any stranger who would ask that yes, this is my baby, yes, she is new, and, yes, of course, she is adorable.
I went to Target not long after I delivered you and even though you were gone, I found I was proud to be your mother, even for such a short time and I longed to scream to the world that I was your mother, that I had had a baby just a few short days ago. But people don’t ask you about the baby who isn’t in your cart.
So here I am. Screaming to the world that you were Hattie Elizabeth and you were my daughter, my child. You would have had that cute nose that we’ve come to know so well on your sisters. You would have been an exhausting toddler, and likely an even more exhausting little girl. If you were like your sisters, you would have had a stubborn streak, and a sensitive heart. Your smile would have lit our faces and brightened our hearts.
I now understand what a miracle each child born really is.
We took for granted the way your sisters grew so healthy and safe before they were born. Oh, we cherished them, and we worried a bit along the way, but we always knew they would be fine. And they were, but now we truly understand what an amazing gift it is to have a brand new life entrusted to us.
Sophia asks about you, can’t wait to see you in heaven. She was upset for a while because she “wanted to take care of that baby.” As a true big sister, she would love you to pieces and have tortured you endlessly, and you would have loved her right back. Evelyn would have adored you as you were to arrive in the peak of her new baby phase. You would have been her favorite doll.
We will never know what happened to you. Extensive testing came up with an educated guess of infection. What I do know is that you were a real person, not a fetus. You were my child. I carried you, I heard your heartbeat, I saw you, I held you and you were perfectly a person. Ten fingers, ten toes, like every parent expects to see.
I’d have taken less toes if we could watch you grow.
I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. I think that’s what people tell themselves when they want and need comfort. There are some things, like this, a death too soon, cancer – things that simply happen and there just isn’t a reason. There are lessons to be learned and growth to go through, but I don’t believe there are always reasons.
I do believe that hard things happen to everyone and I know that only the grace of God got me through this, that and the support of our wonderful friends who prayed for us.
People who don’t believe as we do will say that this is my crutch – that this is how I’m dealing with things that are simply a reality for us. But I know that grace is something that is given whether you want it or not, and I was not looking for God’s grace in this. I was looking for a rewind, a fix, somehow to erase it and have it all go away. Those times I woke up in the middle of the night, when I wanted wished to be uncomfortably pregnant – I looked for hope, but not grace. However, it was offered to me and waited until I was ready to receive it.
It’s the only reason we’re all okay – that our marriage didn’t suffer in this one bit, that we haven’t become overprotective, hovering parents worried about what’s next, that we have very happy moments, too many to number. His grace is the only reason that I am still standing on the days when it still hurts so much I can’t breathe, when I still don’t understand, when I still long for the baby that should be in my arms today. It’s the only reason this I don’t worry anymore about what might happen in the future, for our next child.
Instead, we will move forward, because standing still in sadness won’t bring you back. We were determined from the beginning to teach your sisters, as we would have you, what it means to show strength when you feel you have none. We will teach them that when life knocks you over, and it absolutely will, how to get back up with courage and hope. We will show them that they can feel sorrow and grief on the deepest level and survive, learning along the way.
We make a big deal of birthdays, and rather than remember you on that awful, sad, dark day in January, I prefer to remember who you might have been on a sunny day in June, though the weather is not cooperating with my plan. It was meant to be a happy day, and we will make it so.
We celebrate birthdays with cupcakes, Maybe we will go to the park to have our simple cupcakes, each marked with a thin, pink H. Because we loved you, and we will remember you, every year on June 5th. I promise you that.