There’s something about kids, babies, and pregnancy that leads to a lot of counting on the fingers. We find ourselves counting weeks down and weeks to go, marking special dates and anniversaries, planning out appointments, and anticipating milestones. Optimism and faith after my first miscarriage helped me get past my fears, and I bravely scribbled in the week count on every Monday, all the way up to my due date. When I miscarried again, I had to use white-out to cover up the weekly count, and even then, the discoloration on the page proved a painful reminder every time I opened my planner, which is constant in my profession. During my third pregnancy, I was wary and thought it wise to use a pencil instead. Sure enough, I ended up angrily rubbing the eraser over the ultrasound appointments and the weekly count as I miscarried yet again. Through six miscarriages, I learned never to write about my babies in ink. Ink held too much promise, too much hope.
When we adopted our infant daughter, we knew she would be born with a rare, serious heart condition. Her first three months of life were spent in the cardiac ICU following open heart surgery, much of which she was sedated and intubated. It was a grueling recovery. When she finally came home from the hospital, her appointments for cardiology, endocrinology, and GI, plus her therapists’ visits and social worker visits filled my calendar. Although we knew she could die, the idea that someday she actually would seem abstract and unbelievable. I guess that’s understandable… that naive, childish feeling that because we were obedient and stepped out and took the risk that she’d inherently be okay… That was never promised, and I feel foolish for having felt that. When she died at five months old, I canceled the medicine reminders on my phone, deleted my baby tracking apps, and yet again, armed with an eraser and a bottle of White-out, I scrubbed the what-should-have-beens out of my calendar. Dates on the calendar now mark how old she would be now, and how long she’s been gone. It’s pointless to circle them. They are highlighted in my brain, tattooed on my heart.
Now that our son is here, I am wary still of my calendar. He was born 9 days shy of a year after our daughter, and so he is the same size and age she was this time last year. It’s like living in the twilight zone in some ways. We’re going to the same fall festivals, doing the same traditions, still doing “normal life” (whatever that is), yet instead of carrying around a tube-fed little girl with half a heart and a ton of medical gear, I have a perfectly healthy boy resting in my arms. I live in the strangest dichotomy of grief and joy – the two co-existing together. I’d never had him if I hadn’t lost her. I look at his perfect face and feel the weight of her.
Yesterday, he went to the pediatrician for his 4-month check up in the little army green pants I bought for her but she never got to wear. After the visit, we scheduled his 6-month appointment… the one she never made. I got the text reminder from the healthcare alert number today, and I went to put it on my calendar. I flipped over a few pages and found the spot and started to write. I realized, with momentary horror, I did it in ink – a bright Papermate Flair pen with the big, swooping felt tip.
I know he’s perfectly healthy, but I live with the suffocating fear that I’ll lose him too. As the calendar turns to November, I catch my breath. I’ve been flummoxed that we’re so predictable – a trip to the pumpkin patch one weekend, a Sunday drive to the mountains the next- and I’ll open my photos or Facebook and see in Memories that we did the exact same thing on the exact same weekend a year ago. What if the weekend she got sick, he gets sick too?
I stared at the appointment I accidentally wrote down in ink today for way longer than I care to admit, wondering if I needed to find the White-out, wondering what if we don’t make it through November. I decided to leave it, clinging to big faith and big hope. I know the likelihood of anything happening to him is low, but it still exists and not one of us are promised tomorrow. If we let ourselves live in that fear, though, we’d never write anything in ink. We’d never make plans, set goals, or envision a future. My loss has left me beaten, broken, and hurt, and I live with my grief daily, but I refuse to let it steal my hope. I’m clinging to the faith it takes to write in ink.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13