I never expected this place to be filled with so much emotion, so much memory, so soon. It’s only been six years since I first stepped foot on Martha’s Vineyard to meet the family of the guy I’d been dating barely two months. As he walked me hand-in-hand around the town, I told him I could see us bringing our children there. By the end of the week, I knew that’s where we’d be married, and the next year, we were, on the lawn of the house we were renting, surrounded by our nearest and dearest.
When we returned the next summer, I was 6 months pregnant with Layla, and my sister-in-law was pregnant with my niece, both girls due the same day. We took photos of our matching bellies, bought the girls hats and dresses to wear the following year and sat on the beach watching my four nephews play, talking about how wonderful it would be to have our two girls there the next year.
Except only my niece was there to play. I sat on that same beach we dreamed of our daughters, 6 months pregnant with my rainbow boy, and cried onto my belly, tired of being pregnant, wrecked with the anxiety of my first PAL, counting kicks and urging my body not to give out on me after 2 longs years of pregnant. I missed my daughter. We tied tiny satchels of her ashes onto wish lanterns, wrote messages to her and sent them soaring across the Nantucket Sound. We deemed the beach ‘Layla’s Beach’.
The next summer, we took early morning walks with our chubby rainbow down to visit his sister, to see the light reflecting off the water and share the same air that I once breathed with her in my belly, to visit the only place we have been able to part with a tiny bit of our daughter. I’ve spent the last two summers watching my boy grow into his place amongst his cousins, my heart jumping between feeling he was always supposed to be here and longing for my daughter. Such is the journey of parenting after loss.
This year’s walk was different, as now we get to sit on Layla’s Bench. My wonderful in-laws had one of the benches looking out onto Layla’s Beach dedicated to Layla. I can now sit there, next to my daughter’s name, and look out at that twinkling water with my family. Sadness, happiness, longing, peace, warmth – it all lives there.
I had another of my “it’s not ok, but it’s alright” moments yesterday. One of the hardest parts about being with my family since losing Layla is seeing my niece, exactly as old as Layla would be, wondering what it would be like to have her here. But then seeing Diego obsessed with his cousin, holding hands, reading stories, doing everything together – he’s doing what she would have done, and my heart swells with emotion yet again.
So for now, I’ll spend one more summer rubbing my belly in this special place, feeling my little one move when the sun shines on him or I eat an ice cream, letting grandparents get a feel at a kick, and I’ll remember my moments here with Layla, with Diego, and I’ll soak it all up.
Nothing is a given in pregnancy. Nothing is guaranteed. But what is a given is that no matter how things turn out, I’ll always have the memories I’m making today, and those will carry me through my life.