I Must Have Changed
`Who are YOU?’ said the Caterpillar.
…Alice replied, rather shyly, `I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’ -from Alice in Wonderland
I was sitting in the sunroom this morning, surrounded by both kids. They were coloring and I was reading an article that had been sent to me, about a woman who had a stillborn baby at nearly full term. Her morning had been average, but she noticed the baby wasn’t moving. After eating a slice of pie and drinking her coffee, she lay down to do kick counts. Nothing. She called her midwife and went to the hospital, where she was told that her son had no heartbeat.
Every day, that is my biggest fear. That Baby Three’s heartbeat will just stop, like my two babies before. After reading this article, I was immediately shaky. Even though I had felt movement all morning, I went upstairs to do kick counts. A few minutes crept by. Nothing. I pressed firmly on my side. Nothing. I was trembling at this point and considered dragging out my heart rate monitor but then felt the firm kick back against my hand. It didn’t take long for me to get to ten. By the time I sat up, I was nauseous from the idea that something had happened. I drove the kids to camp, came home and had a meeting, and did another round of kick counts, just to be sure.
Tonight was the Angel Garden Annual Blessing and Butterfly Release at the hospital, to honor all babies that have been lost. This morning, someone gave me some homemade potpourri and as she listed off the components, the first one she said was “Iris.” Then I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and the first photo that popped up was a butterfly. Rather than be saddened by these signs, I found them comforting.
We walked into the Wings of Hope Angel Garden and I found myself immediately choked up. Even now, still, all of these months later. I wrote down their names on a slip of paper to be read aloud and the four of us sat on a bench. Familiar faces started to trickle in, the other parents that I have met through SHARE. Theo rested his head on my shoulder and told me that he felt very sad. It was hard for me to reply, not wanting to completely break down before the ceremony even started, but I said that it was ok to be sad, and that everyone here was sad. I wanted to say “Other kids get birthday parties or school plays or soccer games. This is what we do for the babies we lost.” I wanted to say that to him, but I didn’t manage to get the words out. A few times he buried his face in his hands.
The names were read and the butterflies were released. All of the kids present ran forward and squealed as the butterflies flew upward. Many of the butterflies landed on the kids and I was able to get a photo of Theo and Quentin each with a butterfly in hand. It felt like my two boys holding my two girls.
A woman I know asked me “How are you doing, today?” I greatly appreciated “today” because it varies day by day. Today has been the entire gamut between the kick counts this morning, so much anticipation around the upcoming delivery, and then the blessing tonight. But at that exact moment she asked me, I was fine and responded as such. Theo proceeded to inform her of every fact he knew about butterflies, including that butterflies are like a “sped up form of evolution.” Last year, I couldn’t bring myself to attend this event, or almost anything associated with SHARE. Tonight, I was able to stand there. My own evolution.
When we arrived home, Quentin proclaimed that he wanted to say what he was thankful for. This has become our evening dinnertime ritual, but was skipped tonight when we grabbed sandwiches before the event. Quentin was thankful for Magic Tree House books. Theo said he was thankful for our babies. He then looked at me and said “Do you think that all of the babies are together in heaven?” I was a bit caught off guard, since heaven is not something that we discuss much, but I said “Yes, Theo, we believe that all of the babies are playing together.” As I tucked them in, Theo asked if we could read a book to honor our babies. I have several related to loss, and chose Cry, Heart but Never Break. In it, Death tells a story that Sorrow cannot exist without Delight, and Joy cannot exist without Grief. I explained to Theo that if it was sunny every day, it would be ordinary. But if it rains first and then the sun comes out, then he would appreciate the sun much more. He said “I get it now, Mommy.”