A year ago today I sat in the ultrasound room holding my breath. I’m not sure why, other than it was one of those moments that—for me—time stopped.
The ultrasound showed an image of a brand new pregnancy—a rice-sized blob with a little flashing dot that showed that there were two hearts beating inside my body. The heart rate was 110—slow for those beginning days—and the doctor looked concerned as he suggested that perhaps our dates were wrong and this was simply a heart just starting to beat.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said.
Nearly two weeks later, my son Benjamin was born—an early miscarriage. He joined his sister Avelyn, born months before after an 11-week gestation period.
I was the mom of two children that I never heard cry.
Tomorrow I will be 21 weeks pregnant with our second son, a yet unnamed squirmy boy nicknamed “Mops” by a friends 4-year-old son. He keeps growing and thriving, and we can’t wait to meet him and welcome him to his new home.
But this pregnancy has not healed me.
The birth of my son will not replace the children not with me.
Each milestone I hit in this pregnancy, I think about the milestones that Avelyn and Benjamin should have reached.
With each new twinge (or lack thereof), I wonder when I’ll hear bad news about Mops. Bad news I can’t help but anticipate every time we see the doctor or midwife.
The world considers me a first-time mom. Each time someone comments on my firstborn or references the first grandchild on my side of the family, I ache.
This is not my first. I have held two others within me, had my water break, felt their birthing time come as my uterus contracted and urged me to push.
I have held them—small as they were—in my hands. I sang them lullabies and journaled throughout their short lives.
Avelyn and Benjamin were—and are—loved deeply, and their lives mattered to their parents.
And yet, there are no words for the birth position Mops holds. Psychology will name him an only child—or the oldest if we have other kids. He will experience life in a way his brother and sister did not.
If all goes well, I will get to hear his cries, see his smiles, lose my sanity to the sleeplessness of the baby stage, feel my heart grow with love.
But our family photos will always be missing two, the invisible playmates our son should have had.
Jennifer Harris Dault is the Associate Pastor at St. Louis Mennonite Fellowship and an advocate for those dealing with infertility and pregnancy and infant loss. She is the editor of “The Modern Magnificat: Women Responding to the Call of God” and blogs infrequently at jenniferharrisdault.com