I was at Trader Joe's the other day and two women caught my eye. The first was very pregnant, gingerly bending over the frozen food aisle as best she could. And the other was a mom in the parking lot with a toddler on her hip.
In both instances, happening within minutes of each other, I thought to myself, "I'm glad I'm past those days."
Autumn, my rainbow baby, turns six years old today. She has missing front teeth and is obsessed with how big she's getting. She constantly stands next to me, puts her hand on the top of her head, and "measures herself" against my body. "Look at how tall I am!" she'll exclaim in delight (even if it's mere days after the previous measurement).
When I saw the woman with the toddler, I thought back to the years before Autumn was born. First I lost Nelle, then I lost Iris, then (on the advice of a doctor), we took a break before trying to get pregnant again. All total, two and a half years from the first pregnancy test until I held my baby girl in my arms.
And during that time, I was still a parent to living children. My older two kids were still really young. But I look back and it was so much a blur. Days spent with kids that age are incredibly difficult, and I was grieving and stressed. I look at photos of myself from that time and can see the pain all over my face. It's hard to separate how hard it would have been if I were only managing small children and not small children and grief.
Pregnant women are always reminders. It was torturous. Every single day that I was pregnant with Autumn felt like an eternity.
So I'm happy to be in a better place now. September will mark eight years since Nelle died. I never stop thinking about her, but it isn't as hard as it was. My kids are older and while parenting is still hard, it's not as hard as parenting toddlers and children who are dependent on me for everything.
Yesterday, I listened to a podcast about grief. Psychotherapist Esther Perel said:
There is nothing more significant to relationships than the addition and subtraction of new members. So meetings and losses, connections and disconnections are the bookends of all relationships.
Grief also is the consequence of choice. When you make a choice, you deal with what you didn't choose. You deal with the loss, and you deal with the grief that you have over that loss.
Every pregnancy involves choice. Whether planned or unplanned, they're the choice to continue or not continue. And if they continue, there is the potential for grief. Sometimes the choice not to continue also results in grief.
My choices around pregnancy ended in grief. But if I hadn't tried again, I would have always wondered and that would have been a different type of grief.
It's early in the morning as I'm writing this. I'm waiting for Autumn to appear at my side, with her big, toothless grin as she proclaims, "I'm six years old!"