I'm setting up a newly-purchased bassinet and it feels like a dream. I'm carefully putting newborn diapers away, one by one, and every movement feels surreal. I'm folding a newborn onesie, a newborn sweater, and a seemingly endless supply of mismatch newborn socks, fighting back tears and attempting to swallow the lump in my throat. In this moment, and moments like it, I am enjoying a milestone I never thought I'd experience: the opportunity to pass my son's infant clothes onto his brother.
Even now, at 33 weeks pregnant, I am afraid to definitively say that my son is going to have a baby brother in a few short weeks. After experiencing a fetal loss at 19 weeks, and three separate but equally painful miscarriages in the span of two years, I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am holding my breath for the moment the "worst case scenario" becomes my inescapable future, because I have experienced such an outcome before. I am checking the inside of my underwear every single time I go to the bathroom, afraid I'll see spotting or some other nefarious sign of a complication I'm powerless to dodge.
I'm afraid that even now, this close to the finish line, my body will fail me and the future I have been envisioning for years will fade; an illusion I've worked so hard to hold onto; a mirage created from an intense desire to meet the person I know is missing from my family.
There are moments, though, when my fear subsides and I'm able to embrace my present for exactly what it is: hopeful. When I feel my future son kick as soon as I wake up in the morning, I am reminded that even in the quietest of moments — when my son sleeping in the next room and my partner is snoring next to me — I am not alone. When my son kisses my incredibly large belly and tells "his baby" to hurry up and meet him, I remember why another pregnancy, and the possibility of another loss, was worth it.
And when I'm folding my son's 4-year-old newborn clothes, preparing to use them again, I am reminded that there was a moment when this reality seemed like nothing more than a distant dream. Yet here I am, this far along in a journey that has been painful and stressful and frustrating and joyous and incredible and taxing and empowering. I am OK.
You know the kind of love and bond a sibling could provide them, and how it will differ from what you, alone, can provide.
I can finally say, after so much loss and so many promises broken and so many doctors speaking in hushed, sympathetic tones, that I am OK.
Feeling even OK seemed like an impossibility during those painful years of trying, and failing, to conceive. Or trying, conceiving, and failing to carry that pregnancy to term. Even after the initial pain passed, and the self-guilt weaned, and I went back to my "normal life" as a mom of one who was told I should be grateful for the child I have, I always felt a disconnect. Something was missing. Something was out of place. Something was lost. And that void left me always feeling short of OK.
It's difficult to articulate pregnancy loss to someone who hasn't experience it. It's challenging to discuss something that is both common and uniquely painful. And when you already have a child, you feel like there's no room for you to discuss just how devastating one loss, or two losses, or three losses can be. We're encouraged to focus on the positive: our child. We're reminded that so many women don't even have one child, so we should be grateful. We're vilified as selfish for even wanting to expand our family in the first place, when so many can't have a child at all.
I won't mull over the statistics that I've already lived. Instead, I will focus on the orange foxes and the soft fabric and the day when they'll finally be used again.
But there's a unique sense of longing one experiences when they want to give their child a sibling... and can't. Because it's not just about you anymore, and while your child likely doesn't have a clue what is going on or what a sibling would mean to them and their young lives, you do. You know what they could experience, and what they're missing out on. You know the kind of love and bond a sibling could provide them, and how it will differ from what you, alone, can provide.
You know, and perhaps it's the knowing that makes it all so excrutiating.
I know what a baby looks like in my son's infant onesie with the orange foxes and matching hat. I know what a baby looks like wrapped in my son's swaddling blankets, or bundled in my son's old newborn coats.
And soon, my body willing, I will know what my future son looks in his big brother's clothes, too. A dream I have envisioned for years. A dream I have held onto with every aching part of me. A dream I will finally be able to let go of when my son's baby brother is in my arms. A dream that is just a few weeks away from becoming a reality.
And when I fold my son's clothes in preparation for my son's arrival, it's a dream I am allowing myself to get lost in. I won't focus on the shoe I'm terrified will drop. I won't mull over the statistics that I've already lived. Instead, I will focus on the orange foxes and the soft fabric and the day when they'll finally be used again.
A day I'm patiently awaiting with baited breath and drawers full of soft cotton promises.