Reid and I lay together every night for his bedtime routine. We watch a quick TigerKick video, read 1-3 books and then as he's falling asleep he will often ask me to tell him stories. I ask him what he wants to hear about and then go from there. The other night, he asked for stories of when he was in my belly, and of this baby in my belly and started asking about when Ruthie Lou was in my belly. He is very matter of fact that she died, so matter of fact that when we see pictures or videos of other people's babies he will often ask when or did that baby die. I realize that that is not normal, but in his world his baby died. It breaks my heart.
I know when Reid is really tired because he will tell me that he misses his old house and he misses his baby Ruthie. He will cry and ask me questions and I answer them as honestly as I know how, but some questions there are no answers in this life. I wish I could tell him, I wish I knew.
On this particular night, I think that it was finally beginning to become reality to him that he was not the first baby in my belly and that Ruthie Lou is not just his baby that we have in pictures on our wall, videos that we can watch or stories in our heart, that she was a real baby just like he was and just like this sweet one that we are waiting for is. He loves this new baby so much and he loves Ruthie and he often cries for the sister he never met.
When I was telling him about Ruthie, he asked me, "Why didn't you get to keep your baby?" and I answered him honestly like I always do, I said, "I don't know." because I don't pretend to know. This answer was not sufficient to him and louder he asked, "Why didn't you get to keep your baby?" and then finally with alligator tears streaming down his face and on to his pillow he yelled at me, "Why didn't you get to keep your baby?!"
"I don't know, son. I am so sorry."
I don't know, nor will I ever know why Ruthie Lou's journey was much shorter than ours and why I didn't get to keep my baby.
I can only be honest with Reid and say, "I miss her, too."
I am now Facebook officially pregnant. Well, kind of. I didn't post any pregnant photos but after a magnificent day celebrating our babies at the Sonoma County Human Race, pictures were flying all over social media. I would never think to ask someone not to post pictures from their day and by association, I was included in many of the pictures.
I am now 29 weeks pregnant. I am so so grateful. And hopeful. And scared, terrified really. And I had not yet posted a pregnancy photo or announcement on Facebook. I can't exactly pinpoint the reason, other than I am protecting my heart.
People say the most well intentioned and innocent remarks. They do not mean to hurt, nor even mean to pry, but even uttering about this pregnancy feels like chancing fate right now. I have the most intimate bond with this baby and I am not ready to share that with the world yet.
In Ruthie Lou's life we were so public. The world around us watched as our life, the one we had wanted for so long and so badly, fell apart into our greatest nightmare and heartbreak.
In Reid's pregnancy, I was hesitant to share of his impending arrival but when I did it helped to have our community rally around us with hope and baited breath that he would be born alive and healthy.
And now. Years have past, the fog of grief has lifted and we live in our present, everyday life just as most other families do, except that we don't. Pictures of our beautiful daughter line our living room wall, her urn gently rests on our mantle and we answer questions about death and dying from her 3 1/2 year old little brother. We are living the best life that we have created since Ruthie Lou's left us, but it isn't exactly normal.
In the Jewish tradition, baby showers are not customary and many times speaking the name of baby is taboo, as well. I resonate with this tradition so heavily since coming home to a full nursery, but no baby in my arms. Walking past that empty room day after day was merely a reminder of what should have been.
I love this baby so much. The relationship that has already formed is so special, while I am the only one really getting to know this special being growing inside me. I want all the well wishes and warm thoughts, the prayers and hope that once again we have a healthy and living baby come July. But, I cannot emotionally carry the well intentioned comments and questions regarding all things baby; gender? name? baby shower? nursery? how many kids? All those questions, sweet and small talk, carry so much weight as I navigate the daily responses that I am able to offer; gender is a surprise, yes we have names chosen, no baby shower, no nursery, this is baby #3. I say those responses with held breath that I don't make the other person uncomfortable by having to justify my reasons or mention the sad story that I live everyday: my first beloved baby died and I hope this baby comes home with us. Nobody can tell me with all certainty that that will happen and until then, I am protecting my heart and living safely within the four walls of my home where my husband and I can share our hopes and fears meanwhile living in the present moment as seen through our toddler's eyes, that come July he will be able to hold his baby sibling.
Protecting my heart is all I can do to face the world each day. And come July, I will be shouting from the rooftops that this baby is here, healthy and well!!!
It happens every year and every year the emotions are unexpected. But this year, I know what to expect because I am creating it. I have worked so hard to get settled, to accept me, to love me and this year I welcome today because today I alive.
Mother's Day is every day. Every day I wake up to my son living, my daughter dead, this baby growing. Every day I have a (step) mom who loves me and a mother who doesn't know me. And every day I am a mother, a daughter, a mother without her daughter and a daughter without her mother.
I no longer live in the what-it's or what could be. I am so happy for those that have great moms and all their babies, but that is not my life. We don't get to choose every path in our life, some are just thrown at us and the only and best thing to do is to allow these hard feeling losses to create the best life of what is left and I am doing just that.
Every day that I am alive, is a day that I am grateful to be me, it is not the life I would have chosen but living the life I have been given and making the best of me.
Today is a good day.
Today is marked as International Bereaved Mothers Day and I just don't identify with it. I am a mother. Period. The moment a woman decides they want to be a mom, the day she starts preparing her body to create another, she becomes a mom. When that baby is in her belly, she is a mom. When that baby is born, she is a mom. If that baby dies, she continues to be a mom. We are all different, special, unique mothers, some with our babies in our arms, some with our babies in our hearts and some with our babies in our hopes and dreams.
While I was pregnant with Ruthie Lou and even before either of my children were born, I wanted to be acknowledged on MOTHER'S Day, the day for moms. We are all already so diverse and unique in our journeys to become moms, what type of mothers we are and how we parent, that having an entire day to separate those who are bereaved the takes away from the inclusion that I want to feel on Mother's Day. I want to be acknowledged for all of my children on Mothers Day, I don't want to be made to feel different because one of my children died. It is already isolating enough to be a bereaved parent, I don't want to then also be highlighted for the fact that my child died when what I really want people to remember about Ruthie Lou is that she lived, that I am proud of her, the ultimately SHE made me a mom. She made my dreams come true, and although this is not what u ever would've wished for, I want her story to be one of love, not a sadness.
There was a time when the narrative in my head was that I was the mom whose baby died, I couldn't see beyond that pain. As time has progressed and I have worked and worked and worked my grief, that is no longer the story I live. I don't know anyone whose life has turned out exactly as they imagined it, without loss, without sadness, or grief. There will always be parts of our life that we wish were different, but I don't let that consume me, instead I let it create me. I am a mother, a wife, a teacher, an entrepreneur, a writer, an athlete, a lover of life and in all of those parts of me there are stories that I have lived, good and bad and I choose to learn from all of them.
I am a survivor. I live a full life. I am living the life I always wanted, even with this broken heart forever missing my child. I am living this life to the best of my ability because of my love for her, for my family, for myself.
As a mom whose child died, I already feel on the outside of those who can hug all their babies at night-I don't want a separate day acknowledging my child died, I want her celebrated each and every day because she lived. She is always included in our family every day, please remember include her in your well wishes to me next Sunday, on Mothers Day too.
I am a mama of three beautiful babes; two boys I have the honor of raising and my daughter who lived for 33 sacred days.