To my littlest daughter,
As I compose this letter to you, you are kicking wildly within my womb. You have been a very active baby throughout this pregnancy after loss, a fact for which I am grateful. Each movement I feel is a reminder that you are still with us, still safe and sound, and one step closer to coming home. We have officially reached full term status, and you should be arriving any day now.
I have been writing to you since the day I found out you existed, just as I did for your two sisters before you.
I keep these journals with the intent of passing them along to my children someday, and I do my best to keep my passages real. In our family, we value openness and honesty, even when—perhaps especially when—it comes to the hard stuff. Someday I hope you read my words and find that you were so deeply wanted from the very beginning, so much that your parents were willing to navigate the fears and anxiety of a pregnancy after loss.
Upon waking each morning, I place my hands on my belly and wait.
Is this the day—the day that we lose you? What will it be like to never see you alive? How will we explain this to your oldest sister, who will be absolutely devastated? The longer it takes, the deeper my panic seeps and the darker my thoughts spiral. Eventually, I feel your precious body moving within mine, and I let go of the breath I didn’t realize I had been holding. We perform this dance every single morning, my anxiety and me.
There is nothing quite like a pregnancy after loss.
I expected that there would be fear, anxiety, and stress. But I did not anticipate the level to which we would feel these things. I thought that my fears would be quelled after learning that you are presumably healthy, that your body does not claim the condition that stole your sister’s life. I counted down the weeks until I could expect to feel your movements, as I believed this would tame my anxiety. I celebrated when we reached 24 weeks gestation, often regarded as the viability milestone. While these things have certainly brought some comfort, I know far too much to fully placate my fears.
Becoming a loss parent has opened my eyes to the myriad of ways in which tragedy can strike, and I am terrified of each and every one of them.
I wasn’t always an anxious mom. Oh, how I wish you could have known me before loss became our storyline. I was bright and shiny, full of light and optimism. Now your mama has very hard days sometimes, days when the sadness and the yearning overpower all else. I don’t hide my pain from your oldest sister, and I won’t hide it from you.
You will learn very quickly that our family story will always include grief.
We will never stop missing your middle sister. We will never cease to tell her story and include her in our everyday lives however we can. She is a part of us, just as you and your oldest sister are. Someday I know you will feel proud of the beautiful ways in which she has touched people’s lives. As we find our way in this life, we will figure out how to exist with one of us missing, the middle sister whom the world cannot see.
As your arrival draws near, there is still so much fear in my heart.
I continue to worry about the billions of things that are likely beyond my control. But hope is beginning to find its way in, to take hold. I imagine holding you to my chest, healthy and breathing, and tears immediately fill my eyes. It would be the greatest gift. Sweet girl, in a few short days, I will finally be able to set my eyes upon your beautiful face, to press my lips against your soft skin, to feel the weight of you in my arms.
While our family will always have a missing piece, we are so thrilled to expand our hearts for you, our newest member. You are so loved, our precious rainbow baby. I hope you always know how very special you are.
All my love,
Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash
Sarah Burg is a wife, writer, and mother of three beautiful children. Following a heroic battle with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), Sarah’s second daughter, Willow Grace, died in her arms shortly after birth in June 2016. Willow’s death has transformed Sarah into a writer with a reason, and she hopes to offer healing and kinship to the child loss community through her words. Sarah also blogs at The Rising (www.sarahjburg.com), where she explores life after loss.