Today was my baby’s due date. The grief that felt unbearable in those first weeks after finding out we lost that baby is back, and I feel buried beneath it. I am tender today and am trying my best to care for myself well. I’ve brewed good coffee and served it in a cup I kept from my grandparents’ house. I want to feel my sweet Grandma’s love in a tangible way today. And I am burning the candle we passed around at my now two-year-old Caroline’s baby shower…the one my dear friends prayed over as I cried through the fears that came after her sister Eliza’s traumatic birth and NICU experience two years before that. I have my Bible and my journal and my most comfortable clothes. But it doesn’t change the fact that all I really want is to hold that baby in my arms right now.
I can feel her (or perhaps his) phantom weight on my chest, her sticky cheek under my chin and her tiny breaths on my skin. I can imagine the exhaustion and the joy and the wonder that would have filled these first days and weeks. It has been months, and yet it still seems impossible that it’s not going to happen…and even more impossible that perhaps it never will again for me. I am grieving for the baby we lost and also for the end of that chapter. The story hasn’t gone as I had planned. After my middle daughter Eliza’s birth experience and unexpected diagnosis of Prader-Willi Syndrome, what I had feared most in this pregnancy was another complication. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle two children with special needs. I stayed up at night wondering how I would manage if that happened and, if I’m being totally honest, what people would think. But as crazy as it sounds, I never feared losing the baby. And then I did.
It doesn’t matter that it happened in the first trimester or even that when I initially found out I was pregnant, I cried and panicked. The loss feels heavy and thick and tangible in its pain. And I can’t stop it. I can’t rewind time and will it to happen differently. So I am praying that I can find a way to sit with it and let myself feel it…to honor the pain and the life that passed too quickly and to collapse into the arms and compassion of the God of all creation. Unlike so many things that feel harder in the midst of grief, leaning into that love seems easier somehow, perhaps because I am so desperate for it...stripped of any illusion that I can control the ups and downs that inevitably come.
Loss can be so lonely. Very few people knew I was pregnant, so when we learned that there was no heartbeat, it seemed strange to call friends and family to share the news. But that’s hard. That’s still hard. It makes it seem less real or less valid somehow. Perhaps that’s why I’m writing about it now. Because it happened. And because from the moment I learned I was expecting, I was already that baby’s mother…a baby we named and worried about and couldn’t wait to meet.
I don’t know what the future will hold for our family. I know that I have very likely experienced my last positive pregnancy test, my last first kicks, and my last late-night nursing sessions in the rocking chair that still sits in the nursery down the fall. But I know that when all else fails, I can trust that the story is not over and can put my faith in a hope that prevails in the darkness and a God who not only understands loss, but who reaches out to carry me through it.