There is this little knit bear hat that I bought when I was about 12 weeks pregnant with my first baby. For months, I thought about the day when I would get to see the sweet little girl growing inside me wearing it on her sweet little head. I dreamed about all the pictures I would take, and how her birth announcement would say, “welcome to our little bear cub.”
Never in a million years did I think that when she wore that bear hat for the first time, she wouldn’t be alive. That the pictures wouldn’t be taken by me, but instead by Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, and that those would be the only pictures we would ever get.
I lost my daughter , Stevie, when I was 26 weeks pregnant. One day she was alive and kicking inside me, the next, she no longer had a heartbeat. A day later she silently came into the world. I’ve spent the last almost two years wondering what things, no, what she would have been like had she lived. What would it be like to see her with that little bear hat on, alive? It was almost impossible to imagine.
Four weeks ago, I gave birth to my second baby, a little boy named Elliot, who was born screaming his head off. When we left the hospital, he wore that same hat home. I finally got to see how cute it looked on a fullterm, healthy, living baby.
It was a bittersweet feeling.
As I’m been getting to know my new son these last four weeks, I’ve felt mostly pure happiness. Complete joy. But every now and then, out of nowhere, I feel these tinges of sadness when I think of my first baby, the one I will never know.
As Elliot gazes into my eyes as he’s nursing, “Stevie never opened her eyes.”
As Elliot smiles at me for the first time, “I never saw Stevie smile.”
As Elliot falls asleep on my chest, “I will never get to take a nap with Stevie.”
I have been so overjoyed and filled with gratitude that I finally have a baby to mother. But I have also been incredibly sad that I never got to mother my firstborn. I was almost starting to think of Elliot as a sort of painful reminder of everything I had missed out on experiencing with Stevie.
But then it hit me. This beautiful baby boy is the closest I’ll ever get to knowing her this side of Heaven. Through him, I get glimpses of her. They are brother and sister after all. It’s no longer so difficult to imagine what she would have been like.
As Elliot gazes into my eyes as he’s nursing, “I bet Stevie’s eyes were wide and bright like his.”
As Elliot smiles at me for the first time, “I’m sure Stevie’s grin would have been lit up her whole face like his.”
As Elliot falls asleep on my chest, “now I know what it would have felt like to feel Stevie’s warm chest rise and fall against my own.”
When I put that bear hat on my son these days, my heart swells with love and pride. Love and pride for both the adorable little boy that I can hold and kiss and cuddle, and the precious little girl that I carry in my heart.
Today it’s so easy to picture how cute she would have been smiling in her little bear hat. And I have her little brother to thank for that beautiful image.