Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lost Baby and Last Baby

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.


  1. This post swallowed me whole. Yes. Yes. Yes.

    I am not ready to put away Ava's crib. I thought of this just yesterday pushing Lillian in the dream stroller. Looking through the window I could see how her feet are almost at the ledge. She will outgrow it. Then I am supposed to get rid of it. The thought made me taste metal! I nearly panicked. No stroller?! I am not ready for the end of my babies.

    I completely understand the helplessness you feel in this surprise. Hellp is like that for me. Something that forever changes and that I have no control over. I like having control and I do not like surprises. I like plans. I haven't quite figured out how to reconcile that yet.

    No matter how many babies you have, I will always remember Eliza. I will remember her for her button nose and her beautiful Mama that I am honored to call my friend.

  2. Not to compare Rerun to help but rather how a surprise can rail you.

  3. I felt so much of this when pregnant with Mary. It's hard to navigate and it's complicated. It's ironic how for so long I dreaded questions about pregnancy and children, and now that I go out with two kids, I almost miss that. Yet just this weekend when traveling alone with Mary, I was asked twice if she was my first and I simply said "no, she's not." And didn't elaborate. But in those moments, I have a moment with Cale and I appreciate that.

    I'll always love your lost baby, your first baby, your baby Duck. xo

  4. Oh, yes, I understand this so well, though Anja was my middle baby. Two kids definitely seems to erase her presence in the world - two kids, like you say, seems to everyone else to be COMPLETE - especially when you have one boy and one girl. Marco is about to turn 1 and there is a constant ache in my heart because he is not my tiny baby anymore and as long as I've had a baby, I've felt a link to Anja - not that I've confused him for her, but just that I could say to myself: this is what babies are like; this is what she would have been like. For me, she stays a baby and as he moves out of the baby stage - the tiny baby stage, anyway - she recedes further into the past, disappears even more. There is no chance I'd have another baby, for lots of reasons, but I think I will always look at other newborns with envy and an ache in my chest.

  5. Being pregnant with Claire and now having her here does make it feel like Andrew is more invisible. Not to me because I think of him still, but not as often because my brain is occupied with thinking of things I need to assist/create/etc. with my two living children.

    And in conversation with others, families with one present child seems incomplete and they have questions. But with two, they assume that is my family... complete and whole.

    I was walking out of Trader Joe's the other day fumbling with my two littles and this lady complimented me on a beautiful baby. I thanked her and she told me that I had the "million dollar family". I couldn't even say anything except, "Not quite". He's totally invisible and like he wouldn't even belong as opposed to when Benjamin was the only child in the shopping cart and they wondered either where the other kid was or if I'd be growing another... it's all still so complicated. And may forever it be so in a family with four-but-really-five.

  6. So many things to say to this post. First, it's beautiful. You draw me in and make me feel connected to your love for Eliza every time. "I miss her."..."Me too" made me tear up.

    I have no idea where I am with babies. I have different reasons to want to get pregnant again soon... and they have nothing to do with my personal family planning desires, but more so to feel "caught up" with life around me. I'll never catch up though, so I'd better stop trying.

    Theo will be 1 in 20 days (holy shit!) and I haven't yet had the constant bug to have another baby. My body, my heart, my hair.. nothing has recovered yet from 2 back to back pregnancies. Theo still doesn't sleep. He's just bad at it. So, maybe that's why I haven't had the flutter hit me to do this all again. Theo is still my baby, and I feel like I can understand what you felt when looking into Zuzu's crib knowing that soon there will be another baby in there soon. What?!?! don't take away my baby!! yeah, I feel that way when thinking of adding another family member who isn't a dog.

    Theodore has officially worn all but one piece of clothing bought for Alexander. There is one pj that I just couldn't put him in. But I wish I had talked MORE about Alexander when Theo was wearing his clothes. I don't know if I was just too coward to do it, or too tired, or too emotional.. but I will miss saying "this was bought by so and so while I was pregnant with Alexander..."

    I wont stop remembering her. My love wont stop for her. No matter how many babies you have, Eliza will always be known, remembered and loved as your first born by me.

    Love to you friend <3

  7. I'm certain this is why I will keep having babies until my OB tells me no more. Because I love being pregnant. I love it despite it making me vomit profusely, despite how uncomfortable and achey it makes my hips. Despite how fearful I am during pregnancy and how afraid I am that something will fall off the track at the last second.

    I cannot even fathom Piper being the last baby I deliver and that's how I know I'm not ready to be done. I hate the idea of no more.

    The connection between the first and those subsequent babies is so strong that it's hard not to want to keep having more.

  8. This post really resonated with me. We always planned to have two kids, and now we have our two healthy kids, plus one missing. And I also hate being pregnant, but I am so sad to think that it's done. I cannot bring myself to give away my maternity clothes or to part with the things that Henry is outgrowing.

    I know it's hard for everyone to have their last baby, but I can't help but think that having a permanently incomplete family makes it that much harder.