In some ways I have reached another "end" so to speak in this journey. On Wednesday, I met and held my baby nephew for the first time. He is 11 days old and a tiny little boy with an overwhelming sweetness about him that catches you and won't let you go.
When we walked into my brother's house, I heard what sounded like a kitten's mew. I knew that sound. It was the sound of a newborn crying--to me it sounds like a kitten meowing. My sister-in-law brought him down the stairs, freshly changed, and swaddled tightly in a light blue blanket. He looked like a little doll in her arms. She stopped to show him to my grandma who got emotional as she commented about his size thinking that he would have grown in the past week since she and my family got to see him on the day he was born in the hospital. I was sitting on the couch watching. After a few minutes, she came to me to hand him to me and I asked if I could hold him. She said, "Of course! You came all this way to see him!" And then she placed him in my arms.
I knew this was a moment that I had been thinking about for months...ever since Jacob died. My sister-in-law and I started this journey of pregnancy together last summer. I still laugh at how news of our pregnancies was quietly slipped to different family members and at different times. It was one of those tangled webs of news travelling to this person and then that person, and so on...kind of like something you'd seen on an old episode of "Three's Company."
I had, of course, let my mom know I was pregnant right away. I then told my grandma and step dad. It was a short while later when I called my dad and let him know. I remember asking something like, "How do you feel about being a grandpa again?" He had started to answer and then stopped. "Who?" He said. "You?" I said, "Of course, me, who else would I be talking about?" He had a funny sound in his voice and laughed while he told my step mom. I heard a big pause but figured they were just surprised at my news.
I think it was the next day when I called my brother and told him. Then, one day later I opened a card from my brother with various pictures they had sent us of their dogs. Smack in the middle of the stack was a photo of a positive pregnancy test. I knew right away what it was and couldn't stop laughing as I rushed to call my brother. He & I shared a wonderful laugh that night as I chided him for not telling me the night prior when I had given him my news. He had said that he didn't want to burst my bubble when I was revealing my happy little secret. I also learned that he had told my dad the very night I called him. That's why my dad had been so shocked to hear me revealing the same news that day! My brother had just told him that they were expecting!
So that amusing revealing of our pregnancies kicked off what I had thought would be a fun journey of shared pregnancy woes--swollen ankles and frequent urination--and joys--first kicks, ultrasound photos and then that first moment holding our precious sweet babies. I truly had envisioned so much of this journey with my brother and sister-in-law. I had never had another woman that I was close to to share pregnancy with and couldn't wait to go through this pregnancy with my sister-in-law. I was due May 2. She was due May 18.
And then we had a new member join our little trip! My brother and sister-in-law were expecting twins! Three little babies!!! I looked forward to bringing all of our little babies together for the first time and at each milestone--crawling, giggling, sitting up. I fast forwarded to next Christmas and knew our babies would be around 7 months old. What a fun age for Christmas! I imagined of our babies side by side--Santa Hats, wrapping paper, cute little Christmas outfits on everyone.
I also had another secret wish--that through our shared pregnancies and birth of our babies so close in age--that I would regain some of the closeness I had with my brother. I truly looked forward to the months that were to come as something to share with my brother and sister-in-law...that is, until I went in for my 12 week in-depth ultrasound at 12.5 weeks. Even after my sweet Jacob left right at 13 weeks, again tragedy hit our family--my brother and sister-in-law lost one of their twins about 2 weeks after that. Out of the three babies that we were all expecting, now we were down to just one.
It's hard to explain sometimes how this felt. In addition to all of the grief, questions and hopes for the future, there was the occasional feeling that I was "out of the race". I felt like my sister-in-law and I were both on a ride...a race...a journey of some wonderful kind and then suddenly I was no longer in it. I was out of the game. Only she continued through the many milestones in pregnancy--I watched all of her belly pictures as they expanded. I followed my sweet little nephew's growth and good news through ultrasounds and doctor reports. But why did I have to step out of the game? Why wasn't I allowed to continue on this journey? At times it just felt...incomplete. Like everything was just ripped out and away.
Well, the months counted down to my due date and then finally my sister-in-law's due date. And wouldn't you know, the little bugger decided he was pretty darn comfy in her womb so came late! Almost 2 weeks late! I remember feeling anxious that Memorial Day weekend when he was born. Since losing Jacob, I've met so many women on a similar journey as me. When I've read the additional stories of stillbirths, I've felt their pain and thought about how that compared to my miscarriage. As my sister-in-law's due date came and went, I found myself hoping that something this awful wouldn't happen to them. I kept praying that their son would be okay and that the late delivery was just a normal thing.
I even stayed up throughout the night that my sister-in-law went in to be induced. I kept checking my phone and texted or called my brother every few hours to check on things. Would you believe I had a clogging dance workshop that Saturday and then a competition that Sunday? I should have gotten a lot more rest but I did manage to sleep for about 2 hours and was so relieved when I learned on our way to dance that I was finally an aunt!! A first-time Aunt! My little nephew, Cameron, was born via c-section (due to some complications with the delivery) that morning. He and mom were doing great. I was so relieved, thankful and above all, so happy for my baby brother who was now a daddy.
Well, the day went on and despite my lack of sleep I danced my butt off. Well, maybe my feet were danced off. Whatever! I was at a clogging workshop and every hour was full of highly energetic jumping, jolting and moving all over the floor. I loved it, never even felt tired.
At one point we had a quickie break in the day and my husband showed me photos that my brother had just posted. All it took was one look at that sweet little face and I was in tears. Happy tears yes, but also sad tears for my baby lost. It wasn't something I can say I was prepared for. I guess I should have remembered the nurse's 'warnings' to me back last October. She had told me when I may feel more down or sad--as Jacob's due date approached, around other pregnant women, when my sister-in-law delivered, at Jacob's angelversary, etc. Funny how I hadn't even been thinking about it. All I had been thinking of was that Cameron arrive safely. I was so excited for my brother and sister-in-law and remembered every moment of what was like when you are getting ready for the big day.
But as I remembered those beautiful moments, I also found myself remembering the things that I missed so much and that I had looked forward to with Jacob. For example, at some point that day, when my mom told me that my brother told her that my sister-in-law was nursing the baby right then, I felt instantly depressed. It was as if I could see and feel myself in my sister-in-law's shoes--or hospital gown. I'd be sitting propped up in the bed aching from the c-section. Someone would hand me my baby for the first time and I'd hold him to my breast...looking at his little toes, fingers...I'd stroke his soft little head. I don't know why but this was a memory/image that I held on to. I knew it had been a treasured part of new motherhood for me and I could imagine that it was also so for my brother & sister-in-law. And, unfortunately, the memory of it--the loss that I felt at not having my little Jacob to nurse--hit me kind harder than I thought.
Luckily, again, I was so busy that Saturday with workshops. I put everything I could into my dance. It's almost like the extreme physical activity helped me to deal with the emotional pain that I was feeling inside. Every step, every ache, every sweaty drip that slid down my arms felt good. Yes, it felt good. I just kept dancing through the aching muscles. I forced thoughts of nursing a beautiful newborn out of my head. Worries over not getting pregnant again? Shoved to the back files of my mind. It was all there but hidden away so I could focus on the present and my dancing.
After almost 25,000 steps on my pedometer that day, we finally went home that night. I knew that everyone had gone to the hospital to visit my brother, sister-in-law and precious little nephew that very day that I spent burning calories and having fun dancing. But, I just didn't want to hear about the visits any more than necessary. When I talked with my mom that night, I quickly asked her if we could not talk about her "visit". I think it was just too painful that day to hear anything more about it.
Sunday was a little more of the same but not as bad, thankfully. I had my dance competition so even though I was feeling more tired from the lack of sleep Friday night and the extreme physical activity Saturday, I managed to make it through our two different performances with a pretty good bounce in my step. My brother had posted a 24-hours old photo of his son and again, I felt the pain had already lessened.
As the days in that week passed, I felt the pain continue to disappear. I really think I handled it the way I needed to. I wasn't prepared for the sadness that hit me when it did. All of the worry and excitement I felt for my little nephew coming into this world had quickly transformed into a weighty pull of sadness. But, by having a lot of other things to keep me busy, by transferring my emotions to physical energy needed for dance and by avoiding the "new baby" talk with my mom at first, I think I was able to process my joy and my grief in a way that worked for me--a woman who had a miscarriage and who's baby, had he lived, would be almost 3 weeks older than his newly born cousin. I didn't force myself to feel a certain way. I hadn't prepared for this day, in fact it was just the opposite as I had forgotten that it my affect me like this. I just allowed myself to feel how I needed to...when I needed to.
So let's fast forward to happier days....yes, the sadness and memories of what it might have been like with Jacob only lasted about a day or so. We came up to my mom's house for a short visit and I was so excited to find out we could squeeze in a quick trip to my brother's to meet my baby nephew. I didn't want to wait even another month to see him.
The moment I had been waiting for was finally here. My sister-in-law handed me a tiny little bundle swaddled tightly in blue. All I felt at that moment was joy. It was again, like I had reached some sort of milestone in this journey...an end point, so to speak, as it was the final part of the shared journey that we had all began last August. I just couldn't stop smiling at Cameron as I told him how happy I was to meet him. A few happy tears snuck out as I also told him that he had a very special angel baby cousin watching over him--always. Oh, I just can't say enough how happy I was to finally hold him.
At one point I knew I had to share :) so handed him to my mom to cuddle for a bit. But then she handed him back to me and I enjoyed holding him until we left. We were probably only there for an hour but it was such a special hour. It just felt "right" to hold a baby...I know and still believe in my heart that I am not ready to give up on my dream. You know how at different points in your life you feel ready to move on? Think back to high school graduation...college graduation...moving out of your parent's house...moving away from home...getting married...etc. So often the timing just feels right and we know we are doing the right thing. We are making the right decision and it's the right timing for us. That's how I still feel about getting pregnant again. I am not ready to move on. I am not ready to NOT have another baby in the house--the diapers, the late nights, the lack of sleep, the aches, the baby food mess...oh, I still love it all! It just feels right to still be in that place and time.
Now, obviously I understand that as much as I may not be ready to leave this place in my life...it's not up to me. I know God is in control. I read another baby loss mom's great blog recently and she wrote about a sermon that shared about how "God doesn't get distracted with us". He doesn't need to be reminded of our pains, our sorrows or fears...He knows. He has everything already figured out. He doesn't leave us. As much as He has to keep track of, I'm still on His mind. I love this idea, don't you? I may not know what His plans are right now. But I do know that I will just keep moving forward and listening for His words. I know He knew how I felt when my nephew was born. He knew I'd feel joy and sorrow at the same time. He knows I still long for one more baby of my own. He will reveal to me at some point what His plans are. I trust Him and continue to pray for strength to face whatever that decision is.
In addition to knowing that God hasn't forgotten about me, I'm happy to say that I know how I feel. I dream of the baby I will hold again...hopefully soon. I know that Cameron will always be a very special nephew for me because he represents hope. He lost a twin sibling and I lost a baby...all on the same journey as him. But Cameron made it. Maybe he didn't come the way my brother & sister-in-law had envisioned but he finally came and we are all so blessed to have him in our family.
My sweet little baby Jacob...please know that Momma hasn't forgotten about you. It felt so good to hold your cousin. I know you were smiling at us up in Heaven. I look forward for the day when I will be able to hold you, my sweet baby. I will cuddle you and stroke your head and hold your little hands in mine. I will kiss you until my lips ache! Jacob, you continue to bring me joy as I think of you each day. You are my son up in Heaven. You are mommy's baby. Had you been born here, you would soon be three months old...I know we'd be nursing, you would keep me up at night and I'd be so tired. Oh, but I would be so happy to have you in my life! Do you know that your big brothers thought of you too when they met their cousin for the first time? Sammy, especially, asked if you would have looked like that. He just couldn't get enough of "the sweet little baby". We all love you, Jacob! Momma loves you so very much!!!
I can only continue to wonder about this journey I'm on. The crummy parts stink, for sure, but the good parts? Oh, they are so beautiful and wonderful. Losing Jacob? Awful. Heartbreaking. Remembering Jacob on a regular basis? Joyous. Loving. Holding my new nephew? Thankful. Full of happiness for his parents who get to experience such a blessing from our Lord!
As always, celebrate your journeys my friends! With special thoughts going out to all baby loss mom's who find themselves in positions similar to me...a new baby comes to a friend or relative. There is pain, yes, but there is also so much joy! Treasure the whole journey!