Nearly every night, my husband and I snuggle with our two boys as they drift off to sleep. Our nightly rituals include each of us saying ‘no bad dreams’ a certain number of times of our choosing and listing things we have gratitude for that day. Simple things that happened, we saw or experienced that gave us a little smile or a moments pause and remind us that there is a little good every day everywhere, even on the really crappy days.
As I am listening to the breaths of my youngest son stretch out as he succumbs to sleep, I have my arm across his small chest. In that position, I feel his heartbeat steadily thumping through his Batman pajama top. Sometimes, while we cuddle I think of the things I need to get done (dishes, work, laundry) and then I bring myself back and focus on that heartbeat. I am reminded of the time when we first heard our first living child’s heartbeat.
Over the course of a couple of years, we had experienced three miscarriages and in our awareness of this new pregnancy we were so worried that this pregnancy would be another that didn’t ‘progress’. Such a perfunctory word to hope for while experiencing our anguish and trepidation. I remember the mix of joy, worry, excitement, terror, love, fear, and hope pinged around in me like a quad shot latte. I was truly scared. Almost every moment of the day that I remembered that I was pregnant and had a growing baby inside me I would then plunge into worry in the pit of my stomach.
Then, that day, 10 weeks in, we heard the heartbeat. Thump, thump, thump, thump…rapid like a rabbit hopping. We had gotten to the stage of heartbeats before but, something about this heartbeat struck me and held me in such an odd moment of time. The thought of this heart beating for a long time stretched out in front of my mind. I imagined that this heart would beat for over a 100 years. The thought wasn’t just hope, that was there too but, it felt like it was fact, a truism, the future. Almost like pictures on a screen.
That baby did grow and was born nearly nine years ago. As I scurry around in my everyday busy-ness I to try to slow myself to appreciate the moments of snuggling with the growing babes, now really young boys, and listen to their breaths and heartbeats. It gives me hope and it helps ground me, reminding me that no matter how far behind I get on my to-do list, these breaths and heartbeats are still going. Those moments that I take the time pause in that mindfulness is so peaceful for me.
I still count out the years of the babes whose hearts stopped beating, wondering what they would be like at this age or what pajamas they would be wearing tonight. I send a silent kiss to wherever they are and hold a tiny piece of their souls in my heart.
This experience touched me today as I think about my own expectations of motherhood that are constantly shifting and being redefined. The gift of reflection, acknowledgment of loss, change and growth help me adjust my bigger, unwieldy expectations back into bite size pieces. And, hopefully, that continues to ground me.
Resources for Pregnancy Loss include: