In some ways, I'm preaching to the choir, but today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Orphaned parents around the world light candles at 7pm their local time, in the hopes that a candle burning for an hour can create a wave of light that conquers the darkness that the absence of our babies has left behind in our hearts.
It cant, of course, but it can give a bit of brightness and let us know that we aren't alone in our grief. I ask you, tonight, orphaned parent or not, to light a candle and let it burn. Let it burn for my babies, for yours, or for the ones of the people who live in your neighborhood that you dont know about, for the babies aborted, for the babies who were lost but loved so very much, for the ones wanted and unwanted, named and unnamed.
Having a living child (or two) doesnt diminish the grief that haunts your every waking moment. It doesnt take away the broken heart you carry with you. It doesnt remove the scars you carry in your eyes. Having a living child does give you back some of the hope that you've lost; it replaces some of the light that was dimmed. They bring a balm to the open wound that your heart became the moment you heard those words... Those horrible words that your child was gone, that they had died. That you- their mother or father- even though you tried to move heaven and earth and hell and everything in between, couldnt save them. That you- who would have given your very life, your very soul- couldnt stop them from transcending time and space.
In the beginning, I couldnt imagine surviving. I couldnt imagine going through another pregnancy and risking the ultimate loss, be it in the form of a first trimester miscarriage, a second trimester pre-viability birth, or a third trimester stillbirth. I couldnt imagine another child possibly healing the pain left behind. I couldnt imagine my life today, or back then, my life at that moment.
Nine. I could have a nine year old child.
Two and a half. I could have two and half year old twins.
Two. I could have three almost two year olds.
Thirteen. I am blessed with two healthy, thirteen month olds. And really, I cant say that I should have a nine year old or nearly three year old twins, or Alexander and his two miscarried siblings that could be almost two had one of them lived. I cant wish for one and wish another away. I have eight children, five of whom I had the privilege of carrying outside of the embryonic stage and whom I had the absolute joy of holding in my arms. Six of whom were never meant to walk this earth, except as the breeze through the trees, the rain falling gently outside the window, the moonlight that dances in the street or the sunlight that streams through my bedroom window each morning. And two blessings that do. That teeter totter as they learn to walk without me holding their hands. Who give me kisses and rub noses with me. Who laugh and snuggle and cling to me when they are sad. Who hold my hand and look to me for the safety to take another step.
I couldnt see this a few years ago. I cant imagine a different life now.
And, in some ways, that realization hurts. It hurts so very much. In some ways, it sounds as though I would pick Bobby and Maya over their siblings. That I would choose my miscarriages and my preterm deliveries because it brought me here... to this moment... to Bobby and Maya. While I can't imagine choosing that, I know that I can't choose to not have them. Any of them. And, knowing the outcome, knowing what that means, hurts.
But it also gives me pause to breathe. To truly breathe.
I've had 30 years of living, and if I died tomorrow, I know my mother would tell you that it wasn't enough. She's had more years than that (don't worry, Mom, I wont tell your age. :) ), but if she died tomorrow, the thirty years she's spent with me and the X years she's had with my grandmother, would be a drop in the bucket. Because it, too, wouldnt be enough. It never could be. It never is for the ones we love. A minute, an hour, a hundred years. Whether they die first or we do, time goes on and a whole is forever there, a person forever missed.
I love my children. I love that they came from that special summerland where the souls lie in wait to be born and chose me to carry them, be it for a minute or for months. I love that I have memories of each, even if they are bittersweet and short. I love everything about them. And about the footprints they left behind on my soul. They were beautiful and innocent- the measure of all that is perfect in this world. And, for a few moments for some and for the present lifetime for others, I've been able to be a part of that perfection. And, for that, I am ever changed, and ever blessed.
There is no Facebook status for us, is there? For those of us who have been forever changed by the brief lives of people so small that many choose to ignore them completely? For those of us who have been touched by the whisper of hope and love- true, unconditional love- and have lived to tell the tale long after they have ascended to the Great Spirit?
How do you tell the world that your children have died, but that you are thankful they were- they are- your children? How do you tell them that the dont need to lower their eyes or tell you how sorry they are, because you are not sorry.
Will lighting a candle on October 15th ever replace lighting a new amount of birthday candles on February 1st... February 16th... November 23rd... and all the days in between that we wont have because those babies didnt have actual "birth" days.
Oh, how I miss them. How my heart aches for them. How I wish I could have just one more sweet moment on earth with them. There will come a day. I believe that in the depths of my being that I will, one day, hold them in my arms again.
Until then, I will watch Bobby and Maya laugh or speak to their pictures, and know that they know their siblings in a way that I dont. I will dance in the rain and embrace their kisses. I will smell them in the fall breeze. I will feel their warmth in the first winter snowfall.
And, today, I will remember more deeply. And know that they are always... always... with me.