I bought a baby outfit. Newborn size, covered in small rainbow hearts, tiny little footies, and a zipper up the middle. What may be a simple, and even joyous, act for some was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I stare at the outfit in awe that one tiny piece of clothing can hold so much.
I show my 5 year old son. “Look what I got for your baby sister.”
“Mommy, if this baby doesn’t die she can wear that.”
My heart sinks but I answer, “Yes, she can.”
This is our third baby, our Daughter.
We lost our second son, Orion, at 34 weeks pregnant. His heart stopped for no known reason. I’m not sure if there is anything I can say that will sum that up other than – It was hell. After losing him I would have done anything to make the pain more bearable, to fill the giant gaping holes left in me. One of the only things that got me through and kept me moving forward was the idea that we would have another baby. That one day I would hold a living baby again, and my soul could heal. I honestly believed another baby would be a “fix”. All of the sudden, my heart would be unbroken and we would live our life. In an instant, my pain would be gone.
I had spent months buying pregnancy tests. So much so that when I finally saw a second line, I continued to test just to make sure, for weeks. And after all that, I’m ashamed to say that there wasn’t any joy there, there wasn’t any excitement. There was no jumping up and down crying happy tears. There was more like a feeling of, “Ok. One step down.” And a not so hidden sense of impending doom and tragedy.
The nerves took over right away. The constant fear of cramps, blood, symptoms, lack of symptoms – each week stretching on and on. Panic attacks before and after each doctors appointment. The guilt for moving on from my son, the guilt for not celebrating my daughter. My daughter. That is still weird to say.
We wanted a boy. Now, in retrospect, I know that what we really wanted was OUR boy.
We wanted what we lost. Finding out we would now be having a girl was very bittersweet. I phrase it this way, with “bittersweet” because as is everything in this pregnancy after loss (PAL) journey, it is both sides of the coin. We are happy/sad, comforted/terrified. We are excited to have a healthy baby. But this is a different view of our family than we’ve had for a long time now. Another boy wouldn’t be in my arms. The boxes of boy baby clothes would go unused. The picture of my sons growing up together was gone.
But a girl cements that this is a different pregnancy. This can help my mind and my heart separate the two. A girl will find her own place in our heart. She will change our family, mold it differently. She will have two of the best big brothers watching out for her. My mind and heart raced. Feeling everything at once is emotionally exhausting, physically exhausting. With all of my conflicting emotions came an overall need to just ignore it all. The only way for me to move forward without a constant barrage of heaviness was to just let it all go. To act as though I wasn’t pregnant at all. I wouldn’t talk about it, I wouldn’t think about it. When asked about it, I would blow it off. I would hide under the covers from myself.
My best friend stepped in, a constant source of love, support, understanding, and strength.
She came in like the mirror I needed and said to me that this wasn’t like me. She told me that I had to find some joy, I had to find a way to connect, I had to be the mom I’ve always been. After all, she said, if there was a loss, not connecting wouldn’t make it any easier. All three of my children deserved me being everything I could. All three deserved my love and attention. Besides, she said, there are some really cute girl clothes.
That brings us to now and the tiny outfit that holds hope.
Sitting holding this tiny, rainbow heart, footie pj. I slide my finger down the zipper. I feel how soft it is. I even (GASP) rip off the tag. I let myself imagine a real, living, breathing, squirmy, chubby cheeked baby wearing it. I touch my belly and smile for the first time since my son inhabited it. I tell my belly that I picked this outfit for her to come home in.
I close my eyes and I can almost smell that baby scent on this outfit. I stare at its fragility in my hands and for once, instead of choosing fear, I step into bravery. I conquer the dragon for a glimmer of optimism. I have victory, and finally – joy. I have hope. Can you imagine that? Real hope. It may only last five minutes but it’s amazing. I fight off panic as I pick the tag back up and fold small rainbow hearts away. I take a deep breath. I did it. For five minutes I imagined taking my living baby home.
I will take this PAL journey one step at a time. One five-minute victory at a time. This is beyond hard, but I will show all three of my children that my love for them overcomes all.
An update: Several months later, this sweet rainbow baby was able to wear her heart footies outfit.
Oh, what an emotional update from our magazine contributor, Marissa Millerline! Her first article for PALS was about…
Editor’s note: This little outfit was purchased at Primary.com. We at PALS love Primary.com, because they have lots of gender-neutral rainbow outfit options, and they are so soft! You can find this rainbow heart outfit here. See all of Primary.com’s rainbow options here.
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