As April rapidly approaches I find myself thinking more and more about my middle child. Some years I don’t realize why I’m thinking about it so much until I realize that it’s the date conjuring up the negative memories. While most associate the coming of spring with exuberance, rejuvenation, and new life, I associate it with loss. The feeling always gets worse as April draws nearer.
My friend attempted to diminish my anguish all those years ago by reminding me that it was only a miscarriage and that since I had never met my baby I shouldn’t feel so horrible about losing her.
Please don’t judge my friend; she had never suffered my loss so she just didn’t understand. She really was trying to help. That she was pregnant with her fourth child didn’t help matters any.
My oldest daughter, not quite four years old at the time, saw the test stick lying on the bathroom sink. Always paying close attention to every commercial that came on television, she propped her little elbows up on the sink’s edge, looked at the stick, and repeated happily what she’d heard. “Pink pregnant, white not pregnant!” she’d said with the same chirpiness that had been conveyed in the original commercial. She didn’t know what it meant; she was just happy to relate to something that the grownups were doing. The test area was most definitely pink.
My husband was scared about the pregnancy; I was delighted. Being married at the time to a man 13 years older than I was had its drawbacks. While I was fantasizing about a new addition to our family, our future with diapers, bottles, pink cheeks, giggles, and tons of love, he was counting his age at differing milestones. At 36 for the birth he knew he’d be 41 at kindergarten, 51 before high school, and, he agonized, way too old to enjoy grandchildren if he lived long enough to see them. When I got pregnant again four years later, with our youngest child, these feelings for him only intensified.
Parenthetically, and perhaps prophetically, he passed away only a month before our first grandchild was born to our oldest daughter.
The coming of spring, though, had never affected him the way it did me. He tried to be supportive after the miscarriage but he just didn’t get it. He didn’t understand the loss. It wasn’t a baby to him. And my behavior during subsequent springs had only served to confuse him. I think it’s because he’d never met her. I’m convinced that men fall in love with their children only after they see them. For women, I’m certain it comes with first knowledge of their existence that has us falling head over heels.
I carried my baby nearly five months before tests revealed something was wrong. Further tests showed that she had died some weeks earlier. Devastation came only after denial, belligerence, and blaming. Acceptance came last. Yet periodic sadness still exists.
For four and a half months I knew about my baby and I loved her every bit as much as the child I could see. That she was taken from me before I held her made no difference in the amount of love I continue to have for her.
My grandmother understood, though. It happened to her during what would be her final pregnancy. She never forgot that baby and always believed it to have been a girl, following in the existing pattern of ‘boy, girl, boy, girl, boy’. Whenever someone inquired as to how many children she had, the answer was always six, but she only got to raise five of them. She said once that while the months following her own loss were the hardest for her, random thoughts haunted her the rest of her life.
We hadn’t yet picked out any names before we lost her. Neither did we know for certain the gender of my baby, but in my mind I always think of her as a middle sister to my two living daughters. During those nights when I have dreams about her, her name is Sara. And while she didn’t exist in this world outside my womb, she still exists in my heart and soul, and I love her.
Had she survived the pregnancy, she would have been born in early autumn. And so the coming of spring isn’t the only time, though, that I remember her. Usually those thoughts at other times are filled, as an alternative, with curiosity about how she would look, what her interests would be, and where her talents would lie. I catch myself smiling when I think of her sharing her older sister’s talent for the arts, singing, and drawing. I smile again when I imagine she shares instead her younger sister’s talent for empathy, compassion, and insight.
There have been 22 of those years in which my mind’s eye has watched my middle child grow from infancy into adulthood. I’ve spent those years reconciling two opposing facts: My child exists, yet she does not.
And spring still remains the most difficult hurdle to surpass.