So here's the thing.
If Eliza were here, chances are that I would have already had my last baby.
Plan A (you'll remember, my most favorite plan EV-AH) was to have two babies, approximately three years apart. The first in January 2011. The second in the spring of 2014.
Well... things have not gone according to plan.
Eliza's not here. Family planning and baby making has not gone the way I imagined at all. None of this has been under my control, timing of pregnancies included.
Some of the mixed emotions about this surprise pregnancy had to do with the fact that it felt like it came out of nowhere. After very consciously trying to get pregnant with Eliza, and then REALLY TRYING to get pregnant after her loss, I never dreamed that it would happen when I wasn't expecting it. Another baby was still a "Yeah, sometime in the future, we'll start trying after Zuzu turns two..." As excited as we are NOW, back when those two lines showed up, I was just shocked. It wasn't something we had deliberately planned and honestly it caught us completely off guard.
I know that some of my mixed emotions about this surprise pregnancy had to do with the timing of this baby's due date: just a month after Zuzu turns two, at the start of a new semester, which means taking months off of work with significantly reduced pay, and then there's the strain of paying double daycare tuition for three years instead of one or two...
And there was also the timing of the positive test itself coming two days before Eliza's birthday, two short months after Zuzu stopped breastfeeding, a week before finals, two weeks before we got another offer on the old house, and three weeks before Christmas. It was an emotionally loaded and stressful time, pregnant or not.
But I also think that some of my mixed emotions had to do with the fact that not only did I not think I was ready to cope with the anxiety of another pregnancy or the financial and mental stress of two kids two years apart, I also didn't think I was ready to be pregnant for the LAST time.
Now don't get me wrong--I don't love being pregnant. Even before everything fall apart with Eliza, I just wasn't one of those women who loves pregnancy. I don't like feeling so big and cumbersome. I don't like having to grunt when I get up or sit down. Sure, I like the miracle of feeling the baby squirm in my belly, and I like having thick, shiny hair for a few months. But that's about it.
So it's not really that I wanted to postpone and savor pregnancy, which is mostly associated with anxiety for me these days. I think I just wanted to postpone the finality of having my last baby.
Some of my friends who've experienced baby loss had the opposite reaction. Many of them wanted to have Rainbow Baby #2 as quickly as possible after Rainbow Baby #1. Be finished and done with the fear and the trauma of pregnancy. Others aren't sure they ever want to go through another pregnancy for mental or physical health reasons.
My situation is a little different, because while we don't know what went wrong for Eliza, until the moment I found out she was dead, my pregnancy was not traumatic. I was not ill, things were not unusual, everything seemed fine. I look back now at things that maybe could have been signs--I had terrible carpal tunnel during her pregnancy and my feet and hands swelled with her, though they never did with Zuzu--but carpal tunnel and swelling can be symptoms of totally normal, healthy pregnancies that result in healthy babies. While pregnancy has lots of emotional and mental obstacles for me, it doesn't threaten my physical health in the way it does for women who have experienced hyperemesis gravidarum, preeclampsia, HELLP, or other issues that can endanger the mother as well as the baby.
Realistically speaking, the risks of pregnancy for me are not likely to be physical risks. They are mostly emotional ones for me, centered on the health of the baby rather than my own health. My desire to delay pregnancy was mostly for emotional and also practical reasons--I didn't feel "ready," I wanted to really get back in shape first, I wanted more time to save money, I wanted a little more breathing room between breastfeeding Zuzu and gestating her sibling, I didn't want to pay double daycare tuition or double college tuition for more than a year or so.
I also wanted Zuzu to be "the baby" as long as possible. I want to be able to give her my undivided attention. (Or, if I'm being honest, to not further divide my attention from her, since I do work full-time 9 months out of the year). I'm not ready to put her in a big girl bed. I'm not ready to redecorate her nursery for another baby. I'm not sure I'm ready for her to be the big sister! Just last night I looked at her sleeping in her crib, so big and so tiny all at once, and got choked up thinking of some other baby coming in and being the new baby (I mean, I know it will be great once Rerun is here... it's just that such a big change will shift everything around in our family and that makes me emotional).
Zuzu has outgrown all but one dress that was purchased for Eliza. It won't be long before I can no longer accept a compliment on her outfit by saying, "Thanks. I (or my mom) bought that for Eliza."
That seems like a small thing--we're only talking about clothes after all--but it brings tears to my eyes just to type that.
I know we don't ever leave our babies behind, I know we carry them in our hearts (and even, according to this scientific article, in our bloodstreams). I know that Eliza is forever a part of me and an influence on me, and it fills up my heart everytime I hear that someone else is thinking of her, too (pictures of pink saucer magnolia trees on instagram are like a balm to my soul). But my physical connection to her is really limited and beyond those heartbreaking, traumatizing hours in the hospital, holding her tiny body, the material reality of her is in the things we bought for her and the things we were given for her--items purchased especially for a baby who never got to use them.
Being finished with babies will eventually mean packing away the crib and its carefully-researched organic mattress (we bought the crib and the mattress for Eliza) and getting rid of cloth diapers (we bought those diapers for Eliza) and giving away our stroller (we picked that out for Eliza).
These are just things, but after Eliza died, the only real evidence that she had existed became the material possessions we had gathered for her. For months these things were painful to look at, but they later became a comfort. Zuzu can use the blankets we bought for Eliza. Zuzu can wear the clothes we bought for Eliza. Zuzu can sleep in the crib we bought for Eliza. Zuzu can poop in the diapers we bought for Eliza. It was a way of remembering our first baby and all the ways she mattered at the same time we were overwhelmed with gratitude for the health and existence of our second baby.
We who have lost babies talk a lot about how our families will never feel complete. How it will always feel like someone is missing, no matter how many babies we might have. How "two" will always be "but really there should be three" or "three" is actually "but I wish you could see there were four" or "one" is often "I never thought she'd be an only child. I never expected my life to be like this."
Hopefully, come August, we will be a family of four-but-really-five. And while having four of us here will be freaking awesome, it's also deceptive because it doesn't look like anyone is missing, you know? From the outside looking in, a family of four appears to be "complete." In a way, it seems to render Eliza even more invisible. It's nobody's fault--certainly not Rerun's. But it simply feels like having my last baby moves me further away from any physical link to my lost baby.
As much as the question, "Is she your first?" freaking stung, as much as it will be a relief not to have to navigate that minefield (I hear that people stop asking that once you're carting around two kids), it also means fewer opportunities to talk about Eliza (whether I feel up to doing it or not).
I'll have three charms on my mama necklace. I'll still wear my Eliza bracelet daily. Her portrait will still hang in our home. I'll still whisper sometimes to David that I miss her and he'll still hug me and say, "Me too." My dear friends and family will still commemorate her birth and let me know they are thinking of her. She will always be my first baby.
But sometimes I'm afraid that with the excitement of a new baby, everyone might forget that no matter how many babies I might have, the ache for Eliza never stops. We are incomplete without her here. I miss her still.