I screamed with shocked excitement when you came to town and announced you were pregnant. You secretly recorded us under the guise of a group photo to save our reactions for years to come. In the clip, I said, “No you’re not!” Words that would haunt me.
I spent your first trimester commiserating with you over morning (and afternoon and night) sickness, and in your second trimester, you announced you were going to have a girl. The first in our family for over 20 years! I was stunned! You called a few weeks later after a second sonogram. “Gotcha, he’s a boy!” Once again, I was surprised at your news.
We realized that your boys would have the same age gap as my younger two. You asked me how hard it was and I said, “Impossibly hard some days and amazing the next. Mom says it gets better as they get older.” I would send you videos of the boys crying in succession. Wild-eyed, I’d smile, “see what you have to look forward to?”
I saw you at the beginning of your third trimester. I felt him kick a bit and said “hello” to your belly. We were driving in the car together when you asked me about vaccines. I gave you my opinion as an autism mama. You said something that shakes me to my core to this day, “I would rather have a child with autism than a dead one.” You were not being callous, just matter of fact, the way you always have been with your opinions.
A month before you were due, I cleaned out the boys’ closet. I had a huge box of clothes for the baby that you were going to pick up when I saw you at Christmas. You told me his name. His initials were GLO, so I declared I would call him Glow Worm, like the toy from our childhood. I started shopping for the perfect one.
A week before you were to be induced, you were miserable pregnant. We were on the phone and I told you to have your husband “go noodlin’ and just get him outta there!” Cackling, you hollered for him and relayed the message.
On the Saturday before your induction, you called me. I didn’t pick up because I was at a birthday party. What if you had mentioned you weren’t feeling him move as much? What if I had asked? What if I gave you the tip my mother in law gave me, to put ice on your belly to see if he would shift. So many what-ifs. Forever what-ifs.
The next day, we had a family birthday party at our house for my father in law. I gushed and cooed about how excited I was for you, for us, for the family. I hadn’t called you back yet, though. Between four kids and two parties, I was exhausted and I simply forgot.
On Tuesday night, I received a call in the middle of the night. It was Mom. I smiled. You must’ve gone into labor hours before your induction time, just as you did in your last pregnancy. The phone was cutting out, but I thought I heard crying. I caught glimpses of what she was saying, but my brain was sure that I was mishearing. Maybe she just means you had him in the car or at the house when she says, “he didn’t make it”. I am not hearing this. This must be another “gotcha”. It wasn’t.
I drove five hours to the hospital. Death has forever been my greatest phobia, and I was driving straight towards it without thinking twice. You were in the last room of the hallway. I walked past happy rooms, the rooms we all expect. I tried to steady myself and stay strong. I walked in and saw you. I don’t know that I have ever cried that hard before or after that single moment.
I held him. I gave him a kiss and got to talk to him one more time. It wasn’t enough, but it had to be.
Mom and I went to Academy at the advice of a nurse. We needed a very snug sports bra to help bind your breasts. I sobbed against the clothing rack, and then again as we dressed you and wrapped you in an ace bandage. I filled out paperwork and talked with the funeral home for you. I went on auto-pilot, trying to soak up as much of the pain for you that I possibly could.
I drove back home and lived in a fog for weeks. I came across the box of clothes and slumped down in my closet. I had Hubs hide it away in the garage while I sat and cried. I didn’t know how to call you, but I wanted to every minute of every day. How do you start that conversation? I checked on you through Mom. I mailed you a care package full of trashy magazines, snacks, and a gift card for coffee. Nothing felt like enough, because it wasn’t. Nothing could fix this.
I sent messages that simply said, “love you”, never expecting to hear anything back, but after a few weeks, I finally did. I started feeling brave and sending silly things to make you smile. We got boozy on the phone together for my birthday, and I heard you laugh for the first time. It was the best present ever.
I saw you at Christmas. You smiled and talked, but there was loss behind your eyes. I felt pangs of guilt every time the boys would play together. I winced when someone asked me if I was still breastfeeding. I couldn’t make eye contact with you when I said yes.
Through that first year, I silently counted the milestones passing by right alongside you. I read that parents want to hear their child’s name, but I was scared to mention him, fearful that your Good Day would come to a screeching halt. Instead, I went to Facebook and proudly declared our niece Queen of the boy cousins, all eight of them.
A year passed and you sent us each a bracelet with his date on it. Attached was a letter you wrote that asked us to embrace life and face it head on in his name. I wear the bracelet every day and I think of your letter every time I feel scared or defeated or self-doubt. I power through the scary or the overwhelming. I try more things and boldly face my fears because I have already lived through my greatest nightmare.
I didn’t lose the baby, but I lost alongside you. It doesn’t begin to compare, but I want you to know that even on your darkest days, you are not alone. On anniversaries, you are not the only one thinking of him. During celebrations, you are not the only one smiling up at the sky with him in your heart and his name on your lips.