It’s not only my cats that grieve. I’m also grieving for Kiddo#4.
Between Kiddo#1 and Kiddo#2, we had a baby who died. Emily Rose had anencephaly; she was diagnosed prenatally at 23 weeks. I carried her to 42 weeks and then she lived for two hours after her birth. You can read her whole story if you want to. I’m mentioning her here because I don’t want anyone to think I don’t know what it’s like to lose a baby. I’ve been there, done that, and worn out the t-shirt. I moderate an infant loss support group and run a website for parents carrying to term after a fatal diagnosis.
But nonetheless, there’s a different sort of grief surrounding babies who survive. They keep growing. You don’t get to keep them.
Where’s my wrinkled Kiddo#4, soft and curled up and sleepy? Where’s the baby who opened his eyes in the middle of the first night and lazily mouthed the cuff of his sleeve, curious in the darkness and content just to look me in the eyes? Instead I have this tremendous five-month-old who’s learning to sit up, experimenting with food, and practicing his hand-magic.
Kiddo#4 has been delighted lately to realize that he can put his feet in the air and see them. Before, he needed me to position him so he could see his feet. Now, he can see them by himself. There are some mishaps, like the times he gets so excited about seeing his feet that he begins to kick and no longer can see his feet. But for the most part, he’s fascinated. Sometimes I speak for him: Momma, this is where I stop. I used to think I went on forever, but now I know this is the end of me.
When Kiddo#1 was three and Emily Rose had recently died, my mother pulled out her audio tapes of me as an infant. As we listened, I realized, that baby is gone too. It was me, but it wasn’t me. That baby is gone and won’t ever be here again.
We have newborns for so little time. Only a few months, but every day they learn a little and grow a little, and the wrinkles smooth out, and the clenched fists open, and the curled limbs relax, and soon you have the Gerber Baby. It’s wonderful to watch them grow, but at the same time, you miss that same baby you used to have.
And I look now at Kiddo#4, at 22 pounds and bursting out of nine month size clothing, and I miss that newborn.
It makes me wonder about Heaven, how maybe sadness can linger in Heaven if we feel nostalgia. Because it’s possible to have a good thing and yet miss another good thing. And although I’ve envisioned Emily as an adult in Heaven right from the day she died, I wondered for a moment if maybe there aren’t newborns in Heaven so that sometimes when we’re there, we can hold one and remember for a moment those tiny newborn days.