Full of pride and sporting a smile, my oldest son presented me with his latest drawing. I had hoped one day we’d have a third and last baby—when the weight of being in the trenches with two young boys began to lift. This little family portrait was a sweet sign of that possible future, for he had sketched five of us instead of four.
He drew me lying down on a table with a new baby on my belly, he and his brother beside us, and their father behind them. It was one of those that made an impression above the rest, so it stayed in a box with other special creations for safekeeping.
I pulled out this drawing not long ago, years after our third and last came to be, and subsequently die. I studied the faces I had been so oblivious to before. Suddenly, what was once was a charming picture of our future family now represented my son’s intuition of what was to come, for our faces were anything but happy.
He drew the baby and I with matching straight lines for mouths. And looking back, I suppose were were numb, or indifferent. For the time being, I was relieved to have physically and emotionally survived the months of preparing for the delivery and imminent death of my sick daughter. My boys were near, and my daughter was still in my arms in the little hospital room. But she was gone, and I'd never be the same, and how that gratefulness and devastation evened out to be numbness I do not know, but in those hospital days, it did. Perhaps it was the drugs.
He drew circular scribbles for where my husband's mouth should be. He was tall and stoic and looked as though he was trying to say something, but couldn’t. He kept every last emotion in because this is how he is programmed to be. It is as if his mouth will not let him speak, but the inner turmoil is written all over his face.
Thankfully, he drew he and his brother smiling, and they had. They were naïve, and could not comprehend the weight of the situation. After a picture holding their dead sister, they went to the gift shop for candy. I know it wasn't that simple, and how this affected them in their understanding of the world, I will never know. Nobody wants their children to learn about death this way.
There were other things, too. The peculiar sting of a yellow jacket on my growing belly one summer evening, my inability to buy any baby items, the spilled paint in her room, the movement I didn’t feel, the strange spotting, the anatomy ultrasound I pushed back a week.
I did not feel the reality of this baby coming. I did not plan and prepare and allow myself to get excited, but this was all unbeknownst to me. I can only piece this together looking backwards, as compared to the assurance and excitability I exhibited with my two sons.
There were signs I did not know I saw, premonitions I did not know I felt.
But they were there, and I did not know that I knew she was never mine to keep.
Did you have any particular sense of your baby during or before your pregnancy? How has that sense changed in the context of loss?