We will fill in the blank with his awesome name when he finally gets here! I cannot wait to introduce you to our little bundle of joy.
I am 37 weeks pregnant now, which means I have officially reached full-term. I looked down at my belly yesterday, and said, “OK, get out.” And he kicked really hard as if to say, “I will get out when I darn well feel like getting out.” So he’s still in. Truthfully, he can stay in and bake as long as he needs to. I am enjoying every minute I have with him, mothering him in this way.
I am mostly ecstatic as Baby’s birthday gets closer. But I also wrestle with heavier and darker feelings associated with my grief. Now, before any of you shoot off an email or comment detailing why I shouldn’t feel this way (happens almost every time I’m transparent about my uglier feelings), please remember that I am writing this down for other mothers who have experienced loss and are carrying their little rainbow baby. Sometimes, even if the feelings are ugly, it’s comforting to know that you’re not the only one who has felt that way, and that there is victory to be had despite it all. The following is not up for critique.
I am sometimes troubled with feeling jealous of this baby for Sam, for the health and life I had so hoped for for my first son. I eventually have to embrace the unique path for both of my boys’ lives. One lived a very short but important life, and it is my job as his mother to grieve him well, to keep him in a safe place in my heart, to talk about him when appropriate, and let him be who he is, even if that means that he is absent during times I wish he were present. My second son is a different personality. He looks different (from the detailed ultrasounds we’ve enjoyed so far). He seems to have quite a few years ahead of him, God willing, and I look forward to getting to know him very, very soon. Sam was not and this one will not be born solely for my fulfillment, but rather to live their own lives and, in turn, teach me to die to myself. In this, my sons have given me and are giving me great reward. These are my boys.
It is a hard thing to unlearn something my heart has memorized. When I was pregnant with Sam, my heart was pierced so deeply with the uniqueness of that walk. The goal was to stay pregnant for as long as I could. Outside of my body, Sam could not survive. The day I made it to the third trimester was a big triumph, but it was also terrifying because it was one day closer to goodbye. I felt his kicks. We read to him and prayed over him. God gave me a knowledge about him that I believe was a miracle–I was allowed to get to know my son in utero in a way that most mothers do after birth. His birthday was more joyful than I could have imagined, given the loss, but it was also goodbye. Sometimes it is too much to fathom that this little one’s birthday will mean hello, not goodbye. But I remind myself of this constantly, that June 23 is not a date to dread. It is the goal, not the enemy. It’s an effort to erase the battle tactics from Sam’s pregnancy that were tattooed on my heart, and that tattoo will never really go away. I will never be a giddy and naive pregnant mama again, and that’s OK. I grieved that at first, but I am glad to be battle scarred now. The part of the tattoo that is left behind is precious, and it is this: the joy of knowing how precious life is, how our souls need the wholeness of heaven even from birth, and knowing this in a way that I never could have known had Sam not entered my life in the way that he did.
I often get the inevitable question, “Is this your first?” For all anyone can see, it is. We have no other children with us. But Sam was my first. So when Steven or I get the question, we have become comfortable with answering, “This is our second.” Sometimes people leave it at that, and sometimes they ask questions. For me, not acknowledging the existence of my first son fuels the evil that revels in skyrocketing abortion statistics. Babies are important enough to fight for in the political arena. They are important enough to picket in front of Planned Parenthood. Why would I not find him important enough to acknowledge in a conversation? I live a life of faith, of hope in things unseen. Why would I dismiss my firstborn simply because I cannot see him anymore? So, this is how I answer that inevitable question, and this is the conviction behind it. Acknowledging my late son does, indeed, makes others feel uncomfortable sometimes, but on this point, I refer to the wise of words of John Eldredge, “Let them feel the weight of who you are.” It’s not my job to maintain the comfort of others, only to serve God with all of my being. And this is the cross I joyfully bear. I am the mother of a son in heaven, and the mother of a son yet to be born, both of whom are equally my sons. Feel that weight.
Fear and doubt plague me often. I’ve found myself wondering how we would have another funeral. I’ve caught my thoughts straying toward bloody and traumatic catastrophe. I’ve felt my heart bracing itself, when there is joy to be had instead of safety. It’s not fair to Sam, and it’s not fair to this baby. I have found that the best way to fight is to take steps of faith and hope, even if I don’t feel faithful or hopeful. Steven put together the crib, though we both fear it may never be filled. I registered for baby things and had a baby shower, though I sometimes wonder if I am foolishly celebrating something I may never actually get to have. When we learned that it’s a boy, and we began to use his name, it felt like jumping off a cliff and hoping we’d never hit bottom. Like his name flew out of our mouths and sealed a fate I feared. Even announcing the pregnancy was a big step of faith. Declarations that he is real… that he is a person with a name… that he is, indeed our second son…. these things were terrifying, but they are how to win the battle. I owe this little boy my hope, just as I owed it to Sam while he was alive. Making these declarations, moving forward in these seemingly trivial ways, were how I said, “Sam’s life was not a tragedy, though I do not understand his death. I will not maim his memory and withhold my hope for my second son by succumbing to fear. Death, where is your sting?”
When I fight like this, when I win the battle, I am left with an excitement for the unique path that is laid before my second son. I don’t know what God has in store for him, and it may even bring me more sorrow for me, but I am so proud of Samuel and everything he was and is. I just know I will be equally proud of this little boy. All of our children, no matter how perfect or flawed their genetics, will know suffering in their lives. Jesus tells us, “In this world, you will have trouble.” You will know suffering. “But take heart,” He says. “I have overcome the world.” How could I not embrace the triumph, the glory, the hard-won battle my second son can know in this life, though he is born into a broken world?
I am so looking forward to introducing this little man to you.