As PAL moms, we save certain things for after the baby—hopefully—is here. Some of these things may overlap for us—decorating a nursery, buying newborn clothes, saying his or her name aloud. Others of us, despite the fear, prepare for what the baby we are hoping for will need. But maybe we don’t take maternity photos. Maybe we don’t circle our due date on the calendar or order that first box of diapers. In one way or another, we protect our broken hearts and taxed bodies as we pursue life after loss. I think this preservation is an extension of our grief, similar in its trauma and depth, yet unique—its own shade of the color we all see now.
For my most recent pregnancy, which resulted in the birth of my second daughter after two losses, I did prepare her nursery. I washed and folded her big sister’s clothes, and a few things meant for her brother. I allowed myself to buy a “little sister” onesie. On the days I was feeling brave as my belly grew for the last time, I had my husband take our picture in the backyard. While I wrote about our journey candidly, I didn’t post those pictures here, alongside the many courageous Bump Day Bloggers to whom this site gives safe space. Maybe because the last thing I ever posted to Facebook were photos from my baby shower when I was pregnant with my son. Three weeks after I no longer was, I deleted my account.
But here my baby daughter is. And I want to honor the journey we traveled together, its hope, its anxiety, and its outcome. Today I share a photo from around 33 weeks. I’d recently had a dream that I would see her sweet face and bring her warm, curl of a body to my chest. In the picture, I noticed four circles of light floating up behind us and had to wonder about my four babies…
I recently found a jar of “belly butter” a cousin had given me when we were both pregnant with our first children: her son, now four years old and mine now four years gone. I didn’t use it when I was pregnant this last time, not out of conscious hesitation, but because it was another one of his things I had put away. I’ve decided to use that jar of belly butter now, on the residual bump that still protrudes, over the skin loose from the children it has stretched to hold over a total of 28.5 months. I put it on at night and say thank you, giving myself a tenderness I couldn’t fully when I carried her, when I often pressed a fetal heart Doppler to my belly instead, my heartbeat suspended in my chest until I heard hers loud and clear. I don’t think it’s ever too late to honor all we have been through.
That is what I want to say right now: thank you. To give appreciation to my body and to all of you brave enough to share in real time the journeys and transformations yours endure to bear children. In reverence of you, I will also share pictures of my previous three pregnancies. In them, I see my innocence, my heartbreak, and my hope, in that order.