Today’s post is the second installment of our story. If you’re just joining us, start here.
On December 5, 2007 I found out I was going to be a mom for the first time.
And it rocked our world.
We always knew we wanted a family but it was in a someday-far-away-kind-of-way that had never intersected our reality, until that very moment standing next to the sink in the master bath holding a pee stick with two pink lines. Here I was not even two years married, pregnant and wildly unprepared.
I don’t even remember how I told Mike.
We kept the news to ourselves, mostly because we were too stunned to know what to say. We weren’t ready to face the excited probing questions we were sure would come from family and friends with the happy candor we thought we should. When we finally started warming up to the idea that this was actually happening to us, that there was a tiny person growing inside of me that was going to have a place in our lives, for the rest of our lives, we got just a little excited.
Then I miscarried, and just like that it was over.
I called my mom at work the day before we were supposed to drive to Chicago for Christmas and told her through horrible sobs that we had planned to surprise them with the news that we were expecting, but that I lost the baby. She said kind, loving things to me on the phone that day, but mostly I remember that she prayed with me and cried with me, and even though it didn’t make anything better, it did. I asked her to tell my dad and my brother and sister because I knew I wouldn’t be able to talk about it when we got home.
“But please, Mom. Don’t tell Grandma and Grandpa. I don’t want them to know.”
Grandma had been sick for a long time but she was home from the hospital for Christmas. My grandparents had been through so much in recent years I just could not bear to add sorrow to their grief. If they knew, it would only remind them of the baby they lost and I couldn’t make them relive that pain in a moment that was supposed to be happy. So I put on a brave face when I saw them at Christmas, but mostly I just cried.
We came home to a busy month of travel. Mike was gone most of January for work and I was left alone in our big empty house. So I stayed late at the office, and painted the living room, and watched American Idol and everything else that was on regular television just to keep myself from feeling. Everything about me was raw, and facing reality felt like flogging a bruise.
During the months that followed Grandma took a turn for the worse and we went back to Chicago for Easter. Mom planned a birthday celebration for her at the nursing home with all our family and her closest friends, but we ended up taking turns keeping vigil at her bedside while she kept her eyes shut and moaned. In my last memory of that day, Grandma sat clutching the sides of her bed while someone read her a Psalm. Grandpa leaned back teary-eyed and distressed in the chair at her bedside, while we all watched her brave her own mortality. After Easter dinner on the way home our car broke down on I-55 and while we called Dad stranded on the side of the road for help, Grandma passed away.
The tow truck brought us back to my parents house and we stayed the week of her funeral. I committed myself to helping my mom and Grandpa wherever possible so I took lots of rides to the funeral home and the cemetery and helped construct her Eulogy. Grandma always wanted a memorial for the son she lost at her graveside service. She never held him and was never even allowed to see him. The only tangible connection she ever had with her son was a grave, and I realized why she never got over the pain of losing him. A mother never, ever forgets. Even when there is no visible or tangible memory to hold on to.
In May we found out we were pregnant again and I felt with certainty this would heal the hurt of losing my first, and ease us all into a life without my grandmother. Grandpa especially was over the moon. I told him in person the day before Mother’s Day at our home in Carlinville where he heaved heavy sobs of joy and delight I am sure, but also because losing Grandma was still so fresh, and life moving forward meant life moving away from her. I still have the card he wrote me after he got home thanking me for good food and good company, telling me how excited he was to be a great-grandfather and how he was going to spoil my child rotten.
But he never got the chance.
In July, Grandpa had a stroke that he never recovered from. I was able to visit him while pregnant and I know that he thought of the baby and I often. He held on just long enough to know that Elijah was born, healthy and strong, and to hold a picture of him in his hands, and then he went home to be with Jesus, and Grandma, and their baby, and mine.