05 October 2017

One Year After Baby Em

It's been a year since she left.

My family has a birthday tradition of asking what you learned over the course of the year that just passed. I dreaded being asked this on my 26th birthday. During the year I was 25, I got pregnant twice--once right after my birthday and the next time, right before my birthday. That alone is something I hold as very precious. It was a year that contained both the happiest and the saddest times of my life thus far. What I said about what I learned from year 25 was, "I learned that you can survive even something you're convinced you cannot survive. But you probably shouldn't expect to survive without scars."

I no longer feel like I'm seeing life through a haze of blackness, the way I did a year ago. I'm so grateful for the second tiny baby that's made it nearly 19 weeks so far, for the ultrasound pictures to comfort the heart of a mama whose arms feel unfairly empty. I'm grateful for the emerald ring I get to wear in memory of the baby we wanted for so long who stayed such a short time. I am not the sort of person who can calmly accept death as a fact of life. I don't believe we were made for death and that the intense love of life and vicious hatred of death that springs up within me is just a reminder that I was not made for a world where death still believes it has won. My hope remains that this world is not the goal. And I'm glad I'm no longer living in the shadow of grief the way I was a year ago.

But the scars are still there. I can still feel them, they still flare up in the most unexpected times. They still make me a little bit of a different person than I was before last October:

--Like when I was innocently watching Wonder Woman, and that guy, I don't even remember his name, blew up inside an airplane, and she screamed this agonizing, primal scream of grief and instantly I was shaking with sobs. Not because I cared about the guy...but because that scream was so startlingly familiar from a day I was all alone in my home and had to say a goodbye I never wanted to say. You think you'd be safe while watching a superhero movie, wouldn't you? But one scream, a scream you've heard before, and you're thrown back in time.

--I feel those scars aching whenever I run into random comments, either from people online or people in real life either along the lines of "literally anyone can have a baby, why should we celebrate like it's a special 'accomplishment'?" or referring to "choosing" to have a baby. It's like they don't even realize that many people choose again and again and again so many times they can't count it to have a baby. They choose for the baby that they do have to grow. And that choice is denied to them.

--The scars burn when people refer to this baby as our "first." And I push those feelings down because everyone means well and many people don't know that my precious baby boy isn't quite the first, and there truly are so many "firsts" about him. I accept that Baby Em will pretty much only exist for Angel and I, that it's different, and I appreciate how when we talk together we can say things like how much she would have loved her baby brother. When it's just us, we can daydream about what our Irish twins might have been like, but with others we just smile and accept all the congratulations on our "first."

--I feel the effect of the scars when I'm hesitant to accept the baby stuff and maternity stuff people offer to lend us. I'm grateful, and the items are needed, but it's hard to quiet the voice in the back of my mind, "But will you really need to use any of this?" I've looked up the statistics and I know that at this point, odds for the second tiny baby are good, but statistics don't comfort a mind that whispers that there's always a chance for the worst. You know that Bible verse that says something like: "Some may trust in horses and some may trust in chariots, but I will trust in the name of the Lord my God?" That's not quite word for word, but it's something to that effect. I've changed it for my situation, the one where I realize that these medical reports don't really offer the complete assurance I desire: "Some may trust in statistics, and some may trust in doctors, but I will trust in the name of the Lord my God." All the bright statistics in the world may fail to offer true comfort for this heart, but whatever may happen, the Lord, He is God. I long for baby boy to come home with us and to grow to be a man, but as I've learned, I don't have a complete "choice" in the matter. So I'll be thankful for every day that I'm given and fight as hard as I can to not worry about the days that haven't arrived yet.

--When people ask "How's the morning sickness going?" and I say something like, "It's still going!" with a grin and they say, "Oh, I'm so sorry!"...and I don't know what to say. Usually I come up with something like, "Hey, as long as the baby's growing, I can take anything morning sickness can throw at me. No problem!" Because I already know there's something far worse that vomiting a couple times a week (or a couple times a day in the first trimester). Maybe a good effect of these scars is that I'm probably the happiest person you've ever met about dealing with pregnancy symptoms. You don't have to be sorry for me that I can't keep the food inside my stomach--I'm honestly just as happy as can be about it.

--One more strange-but-good result is that I celebrate pregnancy milestones that don't actually exist. 10 days of knowing about the baby! 30 days of knowing about the baby! 50...70...80...100 days of knowing about the baby! Baby gets to meet July! And August! And September! And October! Isn't that incredible?


I'm thankful for all those who've been with me in this last, challenging year. For my family who's helped cover jobs for me when I've been too sick or too distraught to do them. Sisters who have helped with my housework or brought me food. Friends who brought flowers. For far-away family who sent care packages in the months of mourning. For Angel who still talks to me about Em. For blog friends who emailed me in the month Em was due to let me know they were still thinking about me. For my in-laws who gave me presents on Mother's Day and who let me skip church and spend the morning with Angel that day.

However, the best part is that, though I do grieve, I don't have to grieve as if I had no hope. (from 1 Thessalonians 4:13)


  1. This is so beautiful, and I really appreciate how open you are about your journey!

  2. Thankful you can celebrate this life inside you. Both your babies are so loved. It is scary to think about all the things that could happen, but what a blessing that we have hope that this isn't all there is.

  3. Another lovely heartfelt well written post of your journey. TFS


  4. Oh this is just perfect. I started crying at the 'primal scream' part because you described it so it awakens our own grief.

    I related to so many of these with the pregnancy of my second child (but first living baby). Even now as I'm pregnant with our "second", I know he or she is actually our third. I've started saying for introductions that we have one baby in heaven, a 14mo old, and one on the way. It helps me to honor that child.

  5. This is so beautifully written. I can relate to so many of these things.

    I also cringed when people congratulated me on my "first" baby but later kicked myself for not having the strength to say that Jackson wasn't actually my first.

    It might seem silly to others to celebrate things like morning sickness, achy hips, and sleepless nights but I found all of those things SO comforting and would take them every single day if it meant a healthy baby.

  6. So beautiful, Rachel. I'm so thankful God has given you a second baby.

  7. This is so beautiful. You put to words something that so many other women- or at the very least, me, have felt over loss and life and death and pregnancy and statistics and hope. Completely understand.

  8. Oh these words are so heartfelt and beautiful and painful all at the same time. Thoughts with you and so happy for you that you have your rainbow babe.

  9. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. I admire your courage to do so. I always grieve things so privately.

    Life does leave scars but I will also remind you that God said he can redeem the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25). I honestly don't know how He does that but I can tell you He has done that in mine. I don't forget my past and there are definitely some extremely difficult things but somehow God took those things and has written a beautiful story in my life. I see Him doing that in you too and I thank Him for that.

    Also, I don't say that to dismiss your pain or your scars. Those are real and I think God walks with us in our hurts but He can also heal and redeem.

  10. I'm so sorry you have had such a tough year. I look forward to that moment in heaven where we get everything explained to us and we see why the bad things have happened. It's bittersweet being pregnant after a loss.

    My cousin went through a lot of loss. She always says she has 3 living children and 3 angel babies. I don't think it gets any easier, but you do feel better prepared for answering questions as time goes on.

  11. Dear Rachel, it has been a very long time since I followed your blog. I come back to find that many things have changed in your life. You are still as lovely, creative and a brilliant writer. Your faith is beautiful and it will sustain you through all your tears. Much love.

  12. Thank you for sharing this. As someone who hasn't experienced this type of loss; I'm very aware it's a unique type of loss and I can't imagine what it's like. So it's always useful to know what to say (and more importantly what NOT to say) to those who have been through it.

    All I do know is bereavement is a tricky beast and affects everyone differently. Also, it ebbs and flows and can creep up on you when you least expect it and leave you completely overwhelmed just when you thought you were fine. At the weekend we walked past a man in a shopping mall playing a piano piece that my Dad used to play all the time and I had a hard time keeping it together. And this is 2+ years on!

  13. The battles we fight in private are sometimes the hardest ones. I have no experience with what you've gone through and don't know what it could possibly feel like. Do we attribute the lowest of the lows to human condition and one of those things that make us who we are? I am thinking of you and Angel and all of those still imbued with a sense of hope through it all

  14. I have those same exact feelings as I'm growing my baby as well, after a loss. I will continue to think of you often, Rachel! Grief is a wicked beast that sometimes you just have to realize you'll most likely live with it for the rest of your life, no matter how happy your life becomes.

  15. Sending prayers and blessings your way, Rachel! "Some may trust in statistics, and some may trust in doctors, but I will trust in the name of the Lord my God" is a beautiful statement of faith.

  16. Sending you love. Grief is a lifelong journey. <3

  17. Rachel, this is absolutely beautiful. I am crying reading this. The tears started when you mentioned Diana's scream in Wonder Woman. I remember that scream vividly. There was so much pain and emotion. I haven't experienced anything like it but I am so so sorry for your pain. I can't imagine it. I'm glad you're not seeing life through blackness anymore. I'm praying for your continued grief journey!