Trigger Alert: This post contains the story of an early-term miscarriage, which I did not experience as devastatingly as most women do. Though, I certainly would now. If you are suffering an early loss or have trauma from an early pregnancy loss, perhaps skip this post.
Today is your due date. Or rather, the anniversary of.
I don’t even believe in due dates. In my home birth/hypnobirthing world we call them “guess dates” because that’s what they are. They are the guess of what day is 40 weeks, which, in and of itself, is a guess of how long it takes for a human to gestate. So babies come “early” and babies come “late” and the rare baby comes “on time”, the coincidence of arriving on the “due” date. All sorts of crazy shit happens on and around due dates: scheduled c-sections, inductions, psychological distress, near unbearable impatience and discomfort. The due date is calculated based on the mother’s last period, which is not when she conceived. It is even more rare that a woman would conceive right after her menses. Since there is weird cultural pressure that begins on or around the due date, I didn’t share your guess date with many people. Your sister was born two weeks after her’s so, though second births often come earlier than firsts, we just said you’d arrive “at the end of April”.
“When’s your baby due?”
“At the end of April.”
We guessed right.
We’d never have guessed that you would die, though. Since your sister was born via c-section after an extended attempt at home (I used to say she was my “accidental hospital birth”), I was more cautious in my imaginings of your birth being successful at home. I would say “We’re going to try at home but if I have to go to the hospital, if I have to have a c-section, I’m totally open to all the possibilities. Healthy mother, healthy baby is all we want.” Nobody is going to die, I thought, I believed, I comforted myself. Babies die, I’d say. But not my baby, of course. I’d known and heard of people’s babies dying or older child or pregnancy ending but not mine.
I’d lost a pregnancy but that’s most likely because there was something wrong with the fetus and the wise, knowing body letting it go, I rationalized and I believed. It was awful. The hormones of pregnancy loss are reminisecnt to the waves of grief of this past year. Up and down, growing closer and closer together and then further and further apart. For me, however, they never returned. Your dad kept his travel plans for opening day in San Francisco and my friends here rallied around me. N came from Seattle and went shopping for supplies with me and laid on my bed with me for hours. L and M took Vesta for most of 2 days. R called me on the phone and talked to me and helped me through the emotional/spiritual side of it. Everyone silently disapproved of your dad leaving, but he and I didn’t get it, we were in what I now understand to be a level of shock. The reality of it didn’t hit me until the afternoon after he left and I desperately wanted him to return. Back then, not insisting your dad stay with me, not knocking some sense into both of us before he boarded the plane was my biggest regret. Eleven weeks pregnant and 6 weeks gestational age, I couldn’t even see the baby on the ultrasound screen. Now, of course, I don’t know why this wasn’t more devastating. I hardly even told anyone. We were pregnant with you three months later and you were due 5 days after the first anniversary of when we lost our middle child. A good omen, I thought. I took comfort that one year later, we’d be together holding our newborn. Now, part of the baby loss community, I know you were our Rainbow Baby, a child born after a loss. But you died and I am infertile so there is no rainbow, let alone a pot of gold. What do you call a Rainbow Baby who dies, too? What do you call a mother of three who parents just one living child? Some call her blessed, those without my good fortune of being able to conceive, carry and birth even one child. I can’t get there yet. I mean, the highest part of me knows it without doubt but I don’t live there much anymore. I live here, now, in the smaller parts, in the jealousy and hatefulness and anger and sorrow of life without you.
I don’t even believe in due dates but it’s something I have for you. I used to think that all of these milestones, anniversaries, trigger days were things I made up that made my grief worse, that allowed me to wallow. But it’s not true. They are my connection to you. If you were here you’d have an Easter basket tomorrow but instead your absence weighs on me, the relative ease of parenting one living child instead of two just as much of a burden as hear other mom’s complain about what I want more than anything in the world. The juggle, the compromise, the guilt. If you were here, I’d say “Today was your due date, Harvey” just like not one September 25th passes that I don’t think about Vesta’s due date. Just like how I spend the 2 weeks leading up to her birthday reflecting on that sacred time I had with her at the end of my pregnancy. You are no different. I celebrate milestones and birthdays and special days with her and I am not making them up to increase my joy. I’m just being human and making meaning and marking time and celebrating growth and being alive. Just like everything else with having a living child and a dead child, you both get my love and my attention. Yours just has the added depth of grief. You are just not here. So, I mark them and I mourn you more deeply on these days and I try and I try and I try to connect with you. On this day: the day you were supposed to be here. This day among days that you were supposed to be here.