nostalgia and newborns

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.


  1. illya

    I feel this way many times, even now so many years after my kids have grown. Once in a time of deep sadness over the fact that they were grown now and all I have left of their babyhood and childhood were photos and a whole bunch of delightful memories, my husband said, “But if they remained small, they would not have the delight you felt at being a parent. That joy must be passed on”. And so I became content with my own grief at the loss of my children’s childhood because I know that they are experiencing their own wonder that the miracle of growth.

  2. pamcee

    Cuuuuute picture! I just wanna squeeze them both!

    I love the little baby noises, the squeaking. My baby is almost 8, but I can remember it well.

  3. philangelus

    Oh, yeah, when everything sounds like a little sigh… :#)

    Illya, it’s nice to think of the joy being passed down, but there’s still that sense that the personal joy won’t ever happen again.

  4. cathrl

    I miss breastfeeding. It was the best feeling in the world first time round…and then second time it was a disaster and, while I did breastfeed #2 for several months, it was never enjoyable. I don’t think I’ll ever get over feeling cheated.

  5. philangelus

    I’m sorry, Catherine. That’s got to sting. 🙁

  6. Cricket

    I hear you. And then there’s the guilt over the good times you’re just not able to enjoy at the moment.

  7. suebee

    I’m thinking that we aren’t going to have that wistful nostalgia in heaven. There is no way that sad feeling can be part of such a joyful place. Heaven is the place where every tear is wiped away. Somehow or way those desires will be satisfied in a way unimaginable right now.

    Perhaps when you look at a person there, you’d be able to see through the years like cellophane. Who knows.

  8. philangelus

    Suebee, in part I agree with you, that overall there won’t be pain in heaven.

    But by the same token, in Revelation we see the martyrs crying out for vengeance in Heaven, and we see angels angry, and yes it does say every tear will be wiped away, but that’s *after* all the cataclysmic stuff has come to pass, in the New Heaven and New Earth. Until then, I think anything is fair game. You can be happy because you’re with God and yet at the same time wistful or even sad because souls you love look like they’re about to head into Hell.

    Some visionaries see Jesus sad. Others have reported Mary as sad. Visionaries who have seen angels see them as sad sometimes (when their charge sins, for example) and those are people who are undoubtedly in Heaven. If you say those visions might not have been real, I can go with that, but if you accept Fatima, or the Divine Mercy revelations, Jesus and Mary both appear wistful or actually sad at various times.

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