On Christmas Eve my youngest daughter Hannah surprised and delighted us with the news that she would be having a baby in August. The timing wasn’t practical, but as I told her “Babies are ALWAYS a good thing.”
Her nearly apologetic news of the pregnancy reminded me of my own firstborn (who grew up to become the deep thinking and introspective, witty and handsome guy, Brad). With the same awkwardness my ex-husband John and I approached my future mother-in-law trembling as I said: “I’m pregnant.” Like Hannah, John and I thought we would be seriously grounded – pretty hilarious when you think about it.
But rather than the scolding we expected, Peggy (aka ‘Mom’) immediately grabbed me, gave me one of her tight hugs and said, “Babies are always a good thing”, as she squeezed tighter with each word. In that sentence she gave me joy and hope. This was only the first of many things she said I would borrow and learn from her, and because of that beginning I had happy pregnancies. Nearly 28 years to the day that I said these words, Hannah said them to me. So Peg/Mom’s lesson came full circle, and I was in complete joy.
We all were in love with the baby, now the size of a Jelly Bean.
When Kevin’s cancer news hit, my happy place was the baby. I thought about the joy this new little person would bring, and how Kevin would cry holding him/her. I thought of lazy Sundays on the couch with the baby sleeping on my chest. I planned to selfishly hog as much time as possible! I shut my eyes to try to remember how sweet little babies smell, and did my best to recall the little movements and sounds as they sleep in your arms. Babies are heavenly. And we needed some heaven.
Christmas came and went, and at 11 weeks in her pregnancy I bought Hannah the same book I read in 1985: “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”. She devoured it as I did. Children made me read. It is they who made me a reader and researcher, and I was glad to see Hannah doing this. I watched her as she shipped a smoothie at Barnes & Noble, her face becoming full and round like a healthy preggers mom – and thought ‘what a great mother she’ll make’.
Yet tragically, only a few days later, last night she began spotting. An ultrasound that night in the ER revealed there was no baby – only an expanding amniotic sac. Her body mysteriously still thought she was pregnant, yet our Jelly Bean was gone. She miscarried, and by the looks of the ultra sound, Jelly Bean simply and quietly moved out. As I later explained to her, the ultrasound simply looked like there was nothing but an empty apartment.
I spoke with Hannah on the phone tonight as she sobbed. Why did we love this little Jelly Bean so much? I thought of the many times I didn’t even know I was pregnant, only to find the first trimester had passed. But this little one was already in the family. Everyone wanted to meet this wee, happy prince.
But Jelly Bean saw the kit that turned into a become a human being wasn’t right. Something in the blueprints, something in the progress of building the little body was going awry. I told her he will be back, and that what we fell in love with was his spirit. I said, “You could feel his spirit, right?” You could. It was palpable, happy – like joy. In fact, this baby was joy. Like happy brooks or tulips proudly bursting with color, defiantly proclaiming spring even in the cold. This spirit was a happy champion – as sunlight pierces through fog.
We all felt this happy spirit who will, in time, become her baby. I felt this spirit’s plan was not to overcome birth defects, but to become a giver. I told her I’m glad Jelly Bean has a spirit who advocates for himself – this will be a strong child. I asked her to invite the baby back when the time is right, to speak to him, and for her to take good care that she readies for him. This baby had two parents who loved him very much. His dad, Melvin, cried with Hannah and did not want to tell his family the bad news for fear of upsetting them. This is the mark of a great couple and great parents, and a great child. They are devastated now, but they will see in time how wonderful things can happen.