I laid on our bed tonight with my hand on Joy's belly and a huge grin on my face, taking in every kick my son would share. Once my surgically-repaired shoulder tired I knelt by the bed, staring at that belly as I watched the kicks continue.
After a few minutes the thought hit me. Joy's belly has been through a lot in the last three years. It's held the precious lives of our beautiful Maggie, another daughter we never met, our fiery red-headed June, and now our son (22 weeks). I've spent time on my knees at the side of this bed showing love to each of these people by feeling, kissing, and singing to this belly.
April 29th marks Maggie's third birthday. She was our first pregnancy and our first child. We miss her terribly. Joy and June will meet me in the cemetery over my lunch break for some cake and a few quiet moments with our baby girl.
We know she's not really there. Yes, I laid her tiny casket in a hole in the ground at that very place, but she's not there. We still go there because that headstone mashed into a small yard with forty-plus other babies who died too soon is all we have. So when grief takes hold and fights to carry you away from life, you bring a pink cake to the cemetery and attempt to celebrate.
The next 26 days will be a long and hard season for the Colwells and Coehoorns. Yes, we celebrate the day she was born with many tears. But each day after only leads us to the day she died. It's a season of mourning. The days are long and tiresome and the nights are short and weary. We've done it twice so far, and I sure didn't look forward to this time of year coming again.
A friend asked me today if it's any easier this time around. (He said it in a much more tactful way, but that was the question.) I really didn't know how to answer. The day-to-day of the last year has been a little more easy to bare. I attribute this mostly to the constant exhaustion and exuberance with which our crazy June fills each day. But there have also been far fewer late night and early morning cries. My mid-day random remembrances still happen, they just don't end up with me in a heap on my desk. The old adage that "it doesn't get easier, it just gets different," stands true.
I'm not writing this post tonight to solicit sympathy. It's more out of obligation to my baby girl who would have been three years old today. She won't be in that grave tomorrow, so I need a way to tell her how greatly I love and miss her; how my stomach hurts from crying; how I want to hold her and rock her in the chair we bought for her nursery; how I miss holding her hand; how her little sister sleeps with a blanket embroidered Maggie Mabee, and how her little brother will wear the tiny baseball shoes we bought for her but she never got to wear. And how glad I am that she hasn't felt pain in nearly three years; how grateful I am to know she is in heaven with God; how blessed I feel as a parent to know my firstborn will never be hurt by human hands; how relieved I am to know she isn't battling and struggling for every breath anymore, and how I will never forget to thank God for the way she changed my life. These are all things I want to tell her, and this is the only way I know how.
Say a prayer for us tomorrow as we remember the birth of our first child. The struggle won't just be mid-day heat with a two-year-old who is ready to nap. We'll be trying to tell our baby girl all of these things, even though she's not there.