August 21, 2016. April 6, 2017. August 9, 2017.
Just dates on the calendar to most people. But those dates are so much more to me. They are the due dates of my babies in heaven.
For those of you who’ve not experienced pregnancy, this is how the first moments work (more or less). First, we women wonder if maybe we could be pregnant. For some of us, it’s a desperate hope that we are, after months or years of trying and hoping. For others, it’s a dreaded possibility, for we may not feel ready, or we may have experienced the pain of loss and don’t want to experience it again.
But then, we run into Walmart and awkwardly buy a few things we don’t need, while tossing that pregnancy test in the bottom of the cart as if it’s a box of raisins. We wonder if the lady checking out our groceries notices.
Then, we get home and pull the white stick out of the box. We read and re-read the directions, even if we’ve taken a pregnancy test before. We don’t want to do it wrong, because we have to know. We do our thing (pee on it) and cap it, set it on the counter and walk away. The directions said not to read the results for two minutes!
We check our watch. Two long minutes have passed. We return to the bathroom and stare at the test, letting our brain catch up with the evidence before us.
Two pink lines (or blue lines, or a plus sign). Two lines. Not one. Two. That means…that means…I’M PREGNANT! (Insert a wide variety of emotions here)
Then, do you know what most of us expectant mothers do? We pull out our electronic device and go on BabyCenter, or we Google “due date calculator”, trying desperately to remember the first day of our last period. Then we punch it in, and wait for the magic date to pop up.
Our baby’s due date.
Then, most of our minds involuntarily fly to that future date. We envision what season it will be, what ages our other children will be, what it will be like to celebrate a birthday that time of year. We picture the baby’s room and wonder how we will decorate it. We start to make mental plans about going back to work and if it’s time to get a minivan. Most importantly, we daydream about what those two lines really represent: a baby. In our mind’s eye, we see our baby.
I recognize that I am one of the blessed ones. The first two pregnancy tests I took that registered two lines represented my daughters, Sylvia and Valerie. Perfect, healthy pregnancies. Perfect, healthy babies born as close to their due dates as you can get. I lived in a blissful world where two lines always meant a baby who’d join our family near that special date.
And then life changed, as it has changed for the majority of women I know. I’ve realized that among my close friends and acquaintances, more women have experienced the loss of a baby than those who haven’t. More than half of the women I know carry due dates in their hearts that only they know, perhaps that only they remember and think about. Most of these women have lost their babies to the enemy called miscarriage, as I lost my first two babies. Others have walked the awful road of stillbirth. Still others have experienced the nightmare of neonatal death, as I have.
Among the women I know who’ve miscarried or lost babies to stillbirth or neonatal death, everyone grieves differently. Some women have more readily accepted their loss as part of the Lord’s plan than I have. Some women grieve deeply and silently, sharing their loss only with those closest to them. Some prefer not to think about it or talk about it. Some, like me, share their stories because it is a way to remember their babies and perhaps offer comfort to others experiencing a similar loss. We are all different in how we process the loss of a pregnancy, the loss of a baby.
The common thread among the painful loss of all these children is a date that comes and goes that reminds us of what should have been. What could have been. What would have been.
Avery would be almost a year old now, a chunky little toddler trying to stay balanced and getting into everything.
Or, Everett would be almost four months old now, that cute smiley stage when a baby really makes eye contact and responds to you.
Losing Elliot has put a whole new spin on the grief of a due date that will never be. He was born. He has a birthday. After we found out he would be born early, his due date wasn’t forefront in my mind. It became a sort of gauge for when I hoped he would be home from the NICU, as many preemie babies are able to go home somewhere near their due dates.
But now that Elliot is gone, the should’ves and could’ves and would’ves have crept back into my mind.
If my pregnancy had not had complications, if my water had never broken, I would be 37 weeks pregnant today. I would be huge and hot and uncomfortable and complaining about how I couldn’t sleep last night because I was up five times to use the bathroom. I would be on the edge of my seat, excited and nervous as I awaited the day I’d go into labor and bear another child.
I will let you in on another secret we women have. Despite our discomfort during pregnancy, our exhaustion, our shock at a body we don’t recognize, we love it. We love carrying a baby. We love the bond that only we can have with a son or daughter who is nourished by our very life. All we want in the world is for our pregnancy to bring forth a healthy child to hold in our arms. Only those of us who’ve experienced the loss of a baby can fully understand the sorrow at not having that child in our arms.
Today as I reflect on and mourn yet another due date that will never be, I remember the babies of my friends. As Avery and Everett were real to me, and as the loss of Elliot is still so fresh and painful, I think about the other children who were due. These dates that have come and gone, or are yet to come, represent a life, a baby, a child that a precious mother will not get to hold in this life.
Avery matters. Everett matters. Elliot matters.
August 21, 2016. April 6, 2017. August 9, 2017.
What is the date tucked away inside your heart? Your baby matters.
For you friends whose babies live in heaven with mine, I honor their precious lives. I honor the dates I don’t know but that you do, dates when you think of the could’ves and should’ves and would’ves.
If things had been different, if our babies were here with us rather than in heaven, we would have loved them well.