Four Years, Four Hearts


October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. This year marks my fourth honoring it, and this post is a special dedication to Share’s Walk of Remembrance and the Wave of Light—in support of infertility and pregnancy loss and shattering the stigma that often cloaks these struggles. Thanks to Share and Justine Froelker, who writes about her own journey, I have the great privilege to participate in this blog tour with 14 other amazing bloggers, mothers, warriors.

This year, I have two living daughters. As I type this, one is hiding, waiting for me to find her. The other is pushing up on all fours, mobility in her grasp. They fill my day and my day is full because of them.

Four years ago, all of this felt so very far away. My day wasn’t merely empty, but emptied, as I was. I’d delivered my son still at 24 weeks, after feeling kicks and keeping a journal and picking out an under-the-sea fabric to make a tapestry for his room. Not long after I’d needed a D&C for a missed miscarriage and partial molar pregnancy discovered at 10 weeks, after hearing another heartbeat. Inside of six months, I’d lost two children. One I knew so much about… his name, his blonde eyebrows, his long second toes, the slight openness of his perfect mouth, and his heart that “wasn’t designed for our world,” as my husband put it. I knew I’d never look at a heart the same way because mine never would be, because his never could be. The other I knew less about, but wanted with a desperate mix of hope and grief. After, I started finding hearts in twos. With my daughters here now, I look for four.

I turn over this time that has stretched from the moment I handed my son back to my nurse, and wish I could say exactly how I got here. I have tried. I’ve written it all down in a memoir that’s been deemed “a tough sell.” Tough because it’s sad. It’s about losing my babies. But it’s also about survival, mine. It’s a guide for the un-guidable. No one can really say how you will survive this kind of loss. No one can promise you that other children will follow. But I would have paid someone to tell me. I would have tried anything and I almost did: acupuncture, adopting a dog, travel, volunteering at an orphanage in Santiago, where we were living at the time, while I slogged through months of blood testing before we could try again. So I also drank good Chilean wine for a time. I watched every single episode of 24. I ate chocolate daily. I collected hearts and soon others did as well. Eventually, I found other loss moms and learned about their babies. I was kind to my husband and he was kind to me. I walked the blonde puppy. And I wrote, I wrote it all down.

I am four years away from those walks now, as the sidewalks turned from the wet leaves of a winter June to the dry dust of a second summer, when my first daughter was finally born. But I never want to lose the feeling of them. It’s part of what I remember. Is that surprising? Many in your world wait for you to “feel better,” for you to have a living child, to be “healed,” for you to be who you used to be. But she’s gone, at least she is for me. I sometimes think my most authentic self was the one who walked our dog those early days of loss. The one who had so recently met and said goodbye to her first child inside of the same hour. Because I always knew I wanted to be a mother. What I never imagined is how I would become one.

There was no distraction then. Priorities were clear, aligned. Time seeped, but boredom didn’t exist, as one friend said of grief. Make no mistake; it was wretched and it was agony. But it was the ground floor. And now it’s my foundation for everything that has come since. My daughters. His sisters. One determined of mind and and fierce in love and the healer of hearts, the other so sweet and peaceful and the bearer of Lorenzo’s long second toes. I am caught up in them. I get to be their mother, just as I got to be my son’s.

When I remember, when I light my candle for him, I go back farther than these four years. I go back to mid-May, home in California, when I was still pregnant and before we’d seen his heart. I was at a girlfriend’s house, waiting for the solar eclipse, the first the Northern Hemisphere had seen in 18 years. We’d worked at a small regional magazine together, meeting before we married or started families or got different jobs or moved to other countries. We’d made a picnic on the back lawn, where her older daughter played on the swing set and her youngest, just a baby then, lay on a blanket between us, her feet peddling the early evening air.

At one point, she headed back into the house with the children and it was just Lorenzo and me out on the patio. In the carrying of him, I was never alone. I reclined on the lounge chair, my feet out ahead of us, my hands linked over his growing home, and the moon arching its way between the earth and the sun, shape shifting that great globe of fire into a temporary ring in the sky. Anything was possible of change.

I closed my eyes, so mindful of Lorenzo growing there on earth, there in my belly, there in my heart.

Yesterday, Nora LaFata shared her most recent letter to her daughter, Josie, and next Tuesday Chelsea Ritchie will share her amazing story. In the interest of continuing to shatter the stigma, I urge others to post their own Walk of Remembrance photos on social media using #ShareWalk2016 and also their Wave of Light candles at 7 p.m. that evening using #WaveofLight #pregnancyandinfantlossawareness. Thank you <3


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