As you can see on my instagram, my best friend’s firstborn arrived this evening, after a long day of laboring.
I was determined to see this child into the world and be by my friend’s side no matter what. Knowing that the hospital and birthing experience would be a trigger, knowing that I might need to cry or even leave, I still walked in with my chin up at 5am, ready to stick it out. Because we’re family. And because she was there every time I was in the hospital, almost losing and then losing a baby. It wasn’t easy for anyone who came, because they didn’t know what to say or how to say it. And yet, they came anyway.
Early in the day I felt very envious. Not of my best friend and her positive experience, but of Jo Jo’s mother. She got to have this life-altering, momentous experience that only a mother and child can share with my Jo Jo. I so badly wanted to have been the one who carried and gave birth to my little girl, and I have been so jealous that someone else experienced that with her I could scream.
It wasn’t until after the baby had finally arrived safely, and we crowded around his father’s phone, and then his bassinet, to marvel at his perfectness, compare his looks with that of his parents’, and examine his every detail, that I felt the punch. I had a baby, and had none of this. No one paced the halls excitedly to hear her weight and length. No one downloaded photos to proudly display on social media, no one ooohed and aahhhed over her large feet, or angelic mouth. No one compared her chin to mine, or remarked that she had the family forehead. No one said congratulations. I did not get to beam with pride, or hear her bird-like squawks, or dig through a carefully packed bag for her very first outfit.
Every dream that was mine was smashed to pieces, turned into a funhouse mirror of horror. People standing awkwardly, helpless to stop my tears. Breasts filled with milk that would never come out. Leaving the hospital not pregnant, without a baby, the back way, where no living babies could taunt the babyless mother.
I cried on the way home, but that’s ok. I welcomed and relished the opportunity to feel close to my other daughter. It is through pain I know her, through memories of fear and grief that I connect to our time together. I accept the tears and cries with open arms. I juggle the guilt and confusion that comes with having a rainbow baby I can no longer imagine wanting a life without, even though it means a cancelling out of that “other” existence…
…The one in which she grew, she was born, she breathed, and cried, and fed, and grew some more. Grew all the way into a 10 month old, who has my chin and my forehead, who is crawling and maybe walking or maybe not, who shares a birthday with her cousin, a birth day that I recount in hours of labor and pushing and pain and excitement.
The existence in which she lived.