Sweet Sixteen

Yesterday was my younger son’s birthday, the sweetest of sweet sixteen-year-olds, that one. My delight in celebrating my kids’ birthdays far surpasses any excitement I could possibly muster for my own anymore. I can recall as if it were yesterday the overwhelming joy I barely contained when my big kid completed his inaugural orbit around the sun. Like the sun, I radiated, there is no other way to say it. I could not stop smiling, and it’s quite possible I glowed. I wanted everyone I encountered to know that my baby had turned one, like I had been part of this magical, unique experience no one else could possibly appreciate or understand, which I guess I was. It wasn’t as if I had accomplished anything really, though I guess keeping a tiny human alive for a year is something worth celebrating. High five, me! Nice job!

Anyway. . . my little one–I’ve said it with frequency and intensity: the world is a better place because he is in it. I mean that with all my heart.

For whatever reason yesterday, I found myself remembering two events I don’t much think about anymore. Between the births of my two sons, I was pregnant twice more. Neither pregnancy lasted terribly long. I miscarried early, twice. Women don’t talk about miscarriage often, but in fact, I was surprised to learn that 10-15 in 100 pregnancies are lost during a woman’s first trimester (statistic from marchofdimes.org). You’ll forgive me for not citing per the APA style guide, I mean no one’s grading me here on my own silly blog, which, sure, is not the same as saying no one’s judging me here on my own silly blog, but whatever, it’s OK.

Do women not speak about miscarriage because it occurs with the frequency with which it does?  Is it such a commonplace occurrence that it barely warrants mention?  I think not.  I can speak only for myself, but I can remember feeling much like I did on my big kid’s first birthday only in the saddest 180-degree possible way—my experience was so unique and special, I must be the only one who’d ever lost a pregnancy.  I must have been the only one because I never heard anyone in my circle of friends or coworkers discuss it.

No. It’s just so devastating that you can’t imagine finding the words or strength to talk about this profound loss in polite company. You love this baby so immediately and completely, even though this baby feels kind of theoretical so early on, I assure you it’s not. Your hopes and dreams for this baby begin to take shape the moment you learn you’re expecting. And then all of the sudden you’re not. You lose not only a baby, but that hope, that “I wonder if her eyes will be blue or brown, I wonder where she’ll go to college, I wonder if she’ll be funny.” The loss of a pregnancy is real and as painful as any, but women don’t talk much about them. Until much later, say, like 16-17 years later.

I don’t remember a great deal from this period in my life, mainly because I was busy chasing my toddler around, I rarely slept well or at all, and my hormones were hijacked. I wasn’t at my critical thinking best, it’s fair to say. But I do remember speaking to my body, willing it to hang on to those babies. Come on body, I’d say (not out loud, probably not, maybe not out loud), please hang in there. I want you to be here with me so badly, and I can’t wait to see you! I’d hold my abdomen, physically hugging my belly in a futile effort to coax her into picking me. When those maybe-baby girls didn’t pick me, I cried. A lot and hard. There were a couple days I didn’t want to get out of bed. It hurt physically a little and emotionally a lot. Sadness. Misery. Grief. Anguish. All of it.

I say “her” because I’m certain that each of those pregnancies, had they been viable, would have been baby girls.  I remember my doctor saying that when pregnancies end themselves this early on it’s likely due to the baby’s significant health problem or genetic abnormality.  After my older boy’s muscular dystrophy diagnosis, I became convinced that those two baby girls would have been affected by MD so profoundly that they knew how tough things would be on the outside, that by not choosing me they chose better.  I’m not saying there’s science here.  Obviously there is no way to know this.  I just know, you know?

My doc prescribed some heavy duty hormones while I continued to try to get and stay pregnant.  I wanted to barf pretty much 24/7 on an average day, so I knew immediately when I was pregnant again because then I REALLY wanted to barf.  Good times.  I sincerely didn’t think I was going to make it with #2.  Between the hormones and toddler chasing. . .  I was a mess. 

I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.  Unquestionably.  When #2 was visualized via ultrasound, and all his pieces and parts had been counted and measured and I hit the halfway point in my pregnancy, my doc said I could stop with the additional keep-him-in-there hormones.  I’d like to tell you that I felt immediate relief once I stopped the dosing.  I didn’t.  Honestly, I felt like puking up to and including the day he made his entrance into the world.  But I would do it all again, endure worse, way worse, whatever is the worst of the worst, just to make sure this baby could be born.

As flip as it may sound now, and I sincerely hope I don’t sound flip, I knew I was meant to be a boy mom. I’d convinced myself the universe, wrongly, had given me girls. I no longer felt that crushing, paralyzing sadness over those lost pregnancies.  I was fortunate to have been able to carry this baby full-term, so I didn’t have to suffer an empty crib, that unknowable, unfulfilled wish.  Unlike too, too many women who suffer the despair and/or depression miscarriage and loss usher in, I got the prize in the end.

And so did you. 

No one holds the future in their hands or can know what their child will ultimately be capable of and bring to the world, but I know with assured certainty that my child is meant for greatness. He may never be famous, so maybe he doesn’t play in the NFL or win elected office, so what? My son’s circle is small. He’s quiet and doesn’t let people in without careful consideration, but once you’re in, you’re in for life. His sphere of influence in this world may not be one on a global stage, but those lucky enough to be in his inner circle get a most remarkable gift.

My son got the most remarkable gift himself for his birthday. His best friend, his friend from the first day of four-year-old kindergarten, drew and had framed this picture of and for my son as a Pokémon trainer.

His BFF, artistically talented obviously, is also the brightest, most academically talented kid I know. But read these comments between them on his Instagram–that’s the stuff that tells me what really matters about their character. Take that, toxic masculinity! These two are both going to do great things in this world, one great and big and the other great and small, and I get a ticket to the show.

I knew I was meant to be a boy mom. I was meant to be my second baby’s mom–we need his kindness, his pure heart, his “he’s probably my favorite student” approach to school, his lean in to hug his mama. . . His “Love you too” to his best friend. I almost never think about the what might-have-beens anymore. Had either of those pregnancies come to term, we’d never have known this special boy, and the world needed this one. Happy birth day to me. Happy birthday to him.

5 thoughts on “Sweet Sixteen

  1. Happy belated birthday to your boy! I also lost a pregnancy (ectopic) before I had Kate–we’d been trying for almost two years and it was so awful. I was out of the country and had to have surgery in a hospital in Italy. But then I had her:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My wife and I also lost a pregnancy — early on, like you. It’s a sh!tty feeling. We should talk about it more, so when it happens, we don’t feel like such singular failures.

    You know, I think boys thrive when they have a mother as loving and understanding as you, Wendy. Rest assured, yours will be good men.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m always cheered by your optimism, and always late in thanking you for it. We should talk about it more, I agree, and I am sorry to know you experienced this loss. We should talk about lots of things more for that matter, but this type of loss feels so singular, so isolating–I believe it would have helped me to know it wasn’t so singular at that time, but this was before social media, so the world felt a little wider. I have some type of faith that the universe knew better, but I can’t claim I can understand how or why.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Happy birthday to your son. We had two miscarriages and a full-term stillborn. He would have turned 26 tomorrow. We don’t forget, and it’s amazing how many people come out of the woodwork with similar stories when they know yours. But how beautiful it is to have the live ones to celebrate.

    Liked by 1 person

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