I drop my daughter off at her hourly care class, a few hours so I can work and she can have some fun with friends. I hug her and wave all the way out the door as she does the same, peeking through the window panes at me as I leave.
On my out there’s a mom in the waiting room with two little ones to drop off. She struggling with the littlest one crying and the older one ready to head down the hall, and I glance away with a sharp pang of, “That should have been me.”
My son Kaden should be nearly 16 months old now. But he only lived 3 short weeks.
My twins should be 2. But they only lived a few minutes and hours.
I climb into the car and let myself slide down a pretend memory lane. One that’s only ever come to life in my mind. Kaden is on my hip. I’m dropping Bella off at class as she kisses his head.
Oh, if Kaden was here, we wouldn’t be in Texas. We should have been in North Carolina. That was all canceled when he died.
I think of my twins, Preston and Julian, wondering about the life I’d have if they’d lived. Dropping Bella off with 2 year olds in tow, probably little brown curls like she had for a while. A double stroller I can barely fit into the doors.
If our Korean adoption had gone through, we might have just signed the official paperwork and have a nearly 3 year old boy here.
If the adoption this summer had gone through, we’d have a one month old baby boy home with us.
There’s a song my husband loves that has the line of, “It could have been worse, but it should have been better.”
My life seems filled with the should have been thoughts all the time. Ghosts and fleeting glimpses of lives we waited eagerly for pass in front of me all the time. Nothing ever takes the place of a lost child, lost dreams, lost memories that we never made.
I struggle with the guilt of feeling this way while having a little girl, and knowing that it’s ok to still be coping with all I’ve been handed. I’m trying. I’m present in her moments and a piece of my heart is always a little bit in heaven too.
So yes. I have a lot to be thankful for this year. We are here. We are healthy. We have a daughter. We have a home and jobs. It could be much, much worse.
I don’t think that changes the feeling of knowing that it should have been better.
Diana is owner and editor-in-chief of Still Standing Magazine and blogs her own life story at Diana Wrote. She and her military retired husband have two girls and three sons who passed away after birth; Preston and Julian, identical twin boys who were born at 20 weeks, and Kaden, who unexpectedly had cardiomyopathy due to a rare virus called ciHHV-6. He died in her arms at 3 weeks old.
In 2014 she traveled with World Vision to learn about maternal health and infant mortality in Zimbabwe, and later with them to Ecuador. She is working on a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. You can also find her work on Babble, Liberating Working Moms, She Reads Truth, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post.