I’m not the only one. Most of us have those days: anniversaries, remembrances, that even when we aren’t consciously marking them, our bodies remind us, our emotions cause us to burst into tears for no apparent reason.
The year before my daughter became a foster mom was full of hard things: my mom’s declining health and move to a nursing home, following advice to sell her house as quickly as possible that almost earned me a nervous breakdown, Mom’s decline and death, and my own situational depression for the months that followed. And throughout that time our daughter was in classes to be certified to foster and adopt.
A welcome distraction from both the heaviness of life and a looming anniversary came when we threw a shower for her on December 4. Later that week she got the call for her first placement, and Baby A entered our lives on December 10, 2016.
But on the day before, my thoughts were with a different baby.
Our first two children were born almost two years apart, and we were completely open to having more, so we assumed we’d just keep having babies every couple of years and end up with eight or so. But it didn’t go that way. And seven years after our second child was born (that would be the one who grew up to be a foster mom), we were in a place where I felt God was promising us another baby. My husband had given up hope.
We both wanted the same thing – more children – but our outlooks were at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Tentative conversations about possibly someday fostering came up, but could we maybe give it a little more time? Or what about adopting an infant? Maybe we could look into it later, if we aren’t blessed with more of our own in the next couple of years.
And there came a day when I knew before it was possible to know: I was pregnant again.
We had a whirlwind couple of weeks in which the pregnancy test was positive, the kids were ecstatic about having a new sibling, our midwife was on board to start prenatal visits. Our son drew funny pictures of “Fred” as we were calling the baby, after my dad, with captions about his arrival on post-it notes. Our daughter picked out new diaper pins (we were cloth only back then), and we washed up our diapers and receiving blankets.
Four weeks in, I started having pains. Just four weeks. But the three days of labor I went through were as real and strong as with my first two births. With a much different result.
December 9, 1997 I lost our baby. Exactly one month after he or she was conceived.
So many women have had this experience. Clinical words describe a harsh reality, but cannot name the full impact of what happens not only to the body but to the heart of a mother. And a father. And a brother and sister.
It is a separate grief.
I can mark the date, say what it is out loud to those who love me, but it is still so deeply mine. Alone. I was the one who lost him.
Some years I have cried quietly for days, keeping to myself, finding I’m impatient with the kids for no reason, but not wanting to make them feel sad by explaining my mood.
Other years I forget until a day or two later, and feel guilty for not marking the day, for not remembering the gift that Isaac Fred, as we formally named the baby, was to our family, even for the short time we were full of expectation.
Several years after our loss, my husband got me a mother’s ring, and of course there is a stone, icy blue, for December. And all the kids know the story I tell, how each stone stands for a unique person. All our children are always with me, named, and known-five by me, one only by God.
Psalm 37:4-5 (AMPC)
4 Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass.
That year my daughter got her first foster placement marked nineteen years of longing to hold my own little one in my arms. So the surprise of holding a newborn the day after that sad anniversary was a healing touch. I remember letting everyone else go first, it almost felt like a betrayal to want to hold a different baby when my heart’s desire was to hold my own long-wanted, much-loved child.
I was blessed with three more babies after we lost Isaac Fred, none of which I ever felt were a replacement for him (or her). I had held other people’s babies over the years, but this felt different. This connection, so strong.
Baby A snuggled right into me from the beginning. Did it have anything to do with the timing, with my fragile state on that day? I don’t know. And I guess it didn’t matter.
Whatever the reasons – the deep sorrows, the pain of life – they were things God had worked through to bring about this great good, this love that overwhelmed me, when this child who was not related to my body became a permanent part of my heart.