Before I learned about the complication in my pregnancy with Zachary, I had been amassing a small collection of baby boy clothes. My first child was a girl, Hannah, and so I was starting from scratch. I picked up cute onesies form Costco and was given newborn to twelve-month-old clothes from friends and family. Some even gave hand-me-downs from their children. Then I found out that Zachary would not live beyond the womb. The doctors told me he had a genetic abnormality that allowed tumors to grow in his body. The only outfit Zachary wore was a white sleeper my husband and I dressed him in after his birth, after he died in my arms.
I very quickly put away all the baby clothes that had been intended for Zach. I packed them up and stored them out of mind. For a long time, I didn’t know if I could dress my next child, my rainbow baby, in the clothes meant for Zachary. It felt wrong somehow, even though Zach had never worn them. They were eerie clothes, intended for a life lived not for a ghost. This makes me think of the extremely short story by Earnest Hemingway:
This breaks my heart. Even typing it just now gives me a visceral flashback. I was sitting in university in Cambridge. It was a class in my Masters of Fine Arts program. We were discussing a story like Hemingway’s – but longer – when one of my classmates piped up and spouted some dismissive comment about losing a baby. It set me off. I broke out crying. I rebutted the classmate and then barged out of the room. Yes, this was immensely embarrassing. At the same time, certain things hit a nerve and they may always do so.
In the end, I did decide that I was okay to pass on Zachary’s unworn clothing to my rainbow baby, Eden, and my second rainbow, Luca. Part of it was economics. Why put good clothing to waste, right? Also, it’s a family thing. Handing clothes down from one sibling to another. Even though Zachary is not alive, all these acts – remembering him even through hand-me-downs – connects us to him. The visuals prompt my memory.
Speaking of memories… Oh Facebook. Sometimes I love the Facebook memories that pop up and remind me of good times. BUT, every so often, Facebook will alert me to part of my past that is flat out hard to handle. I was very open about my loss on social media and, therefore, many of my Facebook “memories” that show up in my feed include aspects of my loss. Just yesterday the memory that filled my screen and caused my eyes to fill with tears was of the bedding I had bought for Zach. It was creamy colored and covered with blue and green rocket ships. Oh boy, this got me choked up! My husband and I were about to watch Netflix and put our feet up. I asked Aaron to pause the show just a minute in. I needed to talk about it. The tears needed to come. Aaron confessed to me as well, as we sat there cuddled on the coach, that he too had reminders invade his normal routine.
These things are a part of life. Our brains are wired to remember, to connect the dots, to link stories and people and even objects, like baby clothing. While it was hard to see Zachary’s bedding, I am thankful for that little spark of memory. Yes, these instances are hard – like seeing my rainbows wearing Zach’s baby outfits – but, in the end, they are another opportunity to celebrate.