I tried very hard not to be around babies for a long time.

This seemed a bit of a confusing aspect I think to many people. Here I was, with a toddler. Surely I could greet these new moms, or second-time, third-time moms, with empathy and understanding?

I could, but it stung when they did not share the same empathy with me as I sat there with a toddler and eight lost pregnancies (nine total babies) only memories in my genetic code.

Amongst these losses, some were harder to let go than others. The baby due on my birthdate, who was a surprise after two other losses, we discovered right before the first birthday of our only living child. The baby that surprised us by making it further than expected. The baby that I then held in my hands, weeping, as I asked my husband after a morning’s worth of contractions about what we should do with him.

I would go on to have five more losses after this. Some I’d have to think really hard to remember exactly when they were due. Others, I remembered every detail (like our twins, that surprised us first by existing, then surprised us further by both being lost and resulting in a hemorrhage that almost sent me to the hospital).

But my birthday baby – that one hit hard. Of all of our losses, he was the one I thought was “different.” Would make it. And showed me I couldn’t trust myself or trust my intuition after all.

The pregnancy announcements that eventually followed – ‘Due March 2018!’; ‘I’m having a baby in August’; ‘So-and-so becomes a big sister this May!’ – were hard. But those babies actually arriving was harder than I expected, too.

I can remember when the first baby – the almost April birth of a “nibling” – made its appearance. I sat quietly next to my husband and just realized, “We’ve had nothing but losses in that entire pregnancy.” Little did I know that I was pregnant with our hopeful rainbow as I said these words, but it still hit me that the passage of time to grow this precious niece had left nothing but grief for us during those 40 weeks.

And I didn’t meet her for almost six months.

I couldn’t do it. Even when my current pregnancy surpassed milestones and markers others hadn’t, I still sat quietly away from family and friends, not daring to tell anyone, even as the first trimester came and went.

And finally, we had no choice but to start telling people as I grew out of my clothes and our living child spoke of babies to anyone who listened.

And so I met our niece. I then went to meet our friend’s baby. I started to hold babies, meet babies.

And my heart didn’t hurt. Did it not hurt because I had my own baby finally expanding my belly again? Gentle flutters letting me know that there was, in fact, something breathing inside of me? And hopefully, it wasn’t a tapeworm. (My expanding belly letting me know that no, probably not a tapeworm).

Or did it not hurt because I realized I had been harboring this jealousy and resentment first to their mothers, and then to these babies? Neither of whom had any fault in my grief. But I just hadn’t been ready yet. Not yet ready to see these women with their bellies reminding me of what my own should look like (sometimes when I was even still bleeding out yet another loss).

Maybe the pain was gone, I thought because I was seeing my own babies in these babies. Seeing the universal “O” shape of the mouth, the shared wrinkly fingers, the same gurgles indistinguishable amongst race, sex and condition. A bit silly, but a thought of “past lives” and other such nonsense flicked into my mind. Was he in these babies? Were those twins here? Were the other unknown embryos and fetuses that had briefly made themselves home in me now making their homes in the children of my loved ones?

It’s silly. But the hurt is gone.

So as I grow this baby, this baby we hope makes it to breathing, then past SIDS risks, then survives infancy, and so on… this baby will be younger than these living, breathing newborns around me. They just will always still seem like the “younger babies” to me as I continue to hold the memory of their cousin, second cousin, family friend they never met, in my heart.

Photo by Unsplash


About the Author: Shelby Petkus is a teacher and freelance writer who currently lives in Michigan with her one kid, one dog, and one husband. She has written about her experience with recurrent pregnancy loss on both Pregnant Chicken and Raging Banshee.
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