Love the One You’re With

It was early November, I think. Starting to get chilly and gray. I was tired. It was mid-morning, and I was lying on the couch. I lay there, half asleep, half aware of my daughter playing with her stuffed animals a few feet away. She beckoned me to get up. I moaned something about being tired, but she persisted. And then she said something that made me sit up straight:

“I see my baby sister.”

Her baby sister, eh? Whatever fatigue I was feeling was quickly forgotten as I became very curious about this baby sister. Did she know? How could she? It was too early. We hadn’t said anything. But maybe she could tell? How could she tell? Did she know that being tired at 9:30 in the morning was a symptom of pregnancy, a sign that Mom is going to have a baby?

She was only 2 years old, she’d had no experience with this kind of thing before. It must be . . . it couldn’t be . . . I wanted it to be . . . I wanted it to be prophetic. I hoped she was “right,” whatever that meant. I knew she didn’t really know that right then, I was 8 weeks pregnant, that I was hoping that in June she would indeed have a baby sister to see and stroke and poke and play with.

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I didn’t say anything to her then, but over the next few weeks I thought a lot about her innocent remark, how sure she had seemed. How it had come out of the blue, completely unprompted. We had said nothing to the kids about even wanting to have another baby. Certainly there must be some divine truth to it.

So a couple of weeks later when I started bleeding, just lightly, I maintained a hopeful outlook. Things were going to be fine. We were going to have a girl. My daughter had seen her. I maintained that hope a few days later when, for an hour, I cramped and bled and passed a lot of tissue. It could still be okay, I thought. Because she saw her sister.

But the ultrasound tech disagreed. There was no sister. There was no anything. There was no evidence that I had even been pregnant. And so I went home empty, and became emptier and emptier as the weeks went by.

Around Christmas time, I thought I was emptiest of all. The bleeding had finally stopped. There was nothing else to lose. Things could only go up from there, right? Until, once again, unbidden and unprompted, she said she didn’t see her sister anymore. Her sister was gone. And I just about folded in on myself as the air was sucked out of my emptiness.

It was silly of me, I know, but I asked anyway: “Is she coming back? When is she coming back? Where did you see her?” The more I pressed my 2-year-old for information, the more convinced I was that there must be some truth to her words. But of course she couldn’t tell me anything, and over the course of the next few months as my emptiness refused to be filled, the two of us were left, several times, bemoaning our lack of baby and nibbling chocolate together.

June came and went with no baby, and no baby in sight. But by July there was, once again, hope on the horizon. If all went well, we’d have a baby by spring. Would it be the baby sister? We hoped so. It seemed so. I was sick like I had been with my daughter—the long, drawn out sickness. And more tired than I had been with my two sons. Surely it was a girl.

Again, the ultrasound tech disagreed. As she casually and quietly said it was a boy I felt, in my head, as though someone had just dropped a cymbal and it was spinning around on the ground making too much noise. I saw my daughter flinch, stunned. And saw the same thing in my sons when I told them the news after school that day. We’d all been so sure the baby sister was coming.

I had let them all down. I felt that I had let them all down. And I tried, over the next several months, to remind them (and myself) that we really love little boys. We have such great little boys. Little boys are really amazing creatures.

Which is true, but it didn’t stop me from feeling like a failure.

We all kept a small amount of doubt in our minds right up until the very end. Maybe the tech was wrong. Maybe it really was a girl.

But he wasn’t a girl, of course. He is a perfect little boy. And we are smitten with him. I have a hard time putting him down. I have a hard time not kissing him. I can’t help but want to keep him close and watch his every move. Even in the hot summer weather I would rather wear him, wrapped to my body, than put him in the stroller. I need to see him and feel him. I do not wish he was a girl. But I do mourn not having another daughter, a sister for my girl, the baby she saw—or seemed to see—so clearly.

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I have so many questions now, and an empty place that I know may never be filled. The heart is so much quicker to make room for someone than the body. So now, although I am filled to brimming with love for my little boy, I still wonder: The pregnancy that I lost, would the baby have been a girl? Does it matter? Is there another daughter for our family? And how can I forget, or move forward, or maintain faith?

We haven’t decided yet if we will try to have another baby. I feel like if we knew we would have another girl, the decision would be easy. But we know there are no guarantees. We could say that we feel that there is another daughter for us, but even if we did have another full-term pregnancy, the baby could be a boy. I know that.

I would, eventually, move on from wondering if there is another daughter for us to wondering what it would have been like to have another girl, a sister for my daughter. And then, after many years, the rest of my life will be so full that I can’t feel that emptiness quite so much—like the scar on my leg from when I slipped and fell while hiking in Hawaii. I see it. I notice it. I wish it wasn’t there. I look back and I wonder if I could have done something differently so the gash was smaller, less visible. I remember how when it was fresh, I rubbed vitamin E on it to try to minimize it. But now, it just is. It just is a part of me. Imperfect. Maybe a bit unsightly. But part of my being. Part of what made me who I am, part of my history, part of my story.

And 20, 30, 40 years from now, that pregnancy, that morning in November and the weeks and months that followed, will just be part of my story. I wanted another daughter. I thought we would have one. But we didn’t. It may seem silly then, when I see what my life has become and what it has been filled with, how my kids interact with each other and how my daughter and I relate, to think that it ever could have been something different. To think that I ever wanted it to be.

But right now it is still fresh. Right now there is still regret and confusion and hope and resignation. We don’t know how it is going to turn out—if the scar will heal, if it will leave a mark. I think about it nearly every day. My daughter sometimes mentions that she hopes the next baby will be a girl, and I say I hope so too. If there is a next baby of course. But we know there are no guarantees.