Life: so cruel, so heartbreaking, yet so beautiful. We spend so much of it looking for meaning; searching for answers. But something happened to my family yesterday that had no meaning. It was tragic, ruthless, and stole a piece of my family’s soul. And that piece of our meaning, that part of our life…we’ve lost it forever. We, as a family, lost a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, and a big piece of our hearts were lost, too, as we parted with her on a day that I had thought was reserved only for those living in hell. We lost her just weeks before she would have had a shot of making it on the outside. I had been counting down the days: yearning for the hour that I knew she would likely be just as safe in my arms as in my womb.
Our three year-old is struggling to accept that her baby sister is no longer in mommy’s belly. After learning of our heartbreak earlier this week, our little Eva handed me two bracelets she had made at school. “One for me, and one for my baby sister, mommy,” she said as she handed them over to me with pride, love, and a gleeful anticipation, the kind known only by the innocence of youth. She didn’t know why the bracelets made mommy cry. She was heartbroken as she watched her hard work and loving creation bring her mother to her knees.
This morning I woke up from what I had hoped was a nightmare and she asked, “Why did my baby sister die, mommy? Will she come back like the flowers do?”
“I hope she will, baby,” I answered, as I tried to do the impossible, and stay so strong when I felt so weak.
I didn’t tell her that she’ll be asking that question for the rest of her life. I didn’t tell her that another baby sister may not come by way of my belly. I didn’t tell her that, no matter how deeply she needs answers to those questions, that she will never get them.
I didn’t do those things because she is my everything. My miracle. She holds every bit of my meaning in every last cell of her body. And in her innocence lies strength, hope and resilience. In my weakest moment, I am looking to her to help restore those things in me. She need not know the weight of her task, because she will accomplish it without even knowing.
Those close to us have asked if we will try again. They wonder if, physically, my body can handle the battle. And they worry that, emotionally, it might break me. And there are so many things that I struggle to come to terms with, but this isn’t one of them.
I never got to meet our baby girl. I was able to see the wave of her hand on the ultrasound screen, but I was never able to hold it in mine. I melted over the bridge of her tiny nose, and began to feel the joys of her movements in her last days, but I will never see her first steps or hear her first giggles. But whether she was sick or healthy, whether she was with me for weeks or a lifetime, there is something that I already knew about her. I knew that she would take my heart and make it her own. I knew that she would show me the type of joy I had been searching for my entire life, the kind her sister shows me every moment of every day. And I knew that she would be loved, the kind of love that comes with the abandon and earnestness that only the most insane among us would be willing to feel. I know these things because I am a mother. I know these things because as I said goodbye to her yesterday, I buried all these little pieces of myself with her.
And I know that these feelings are so tremendous, so powerful, and so worth feeling that I would be willing to lose these parts of myself all over again to have a chance, however small, of creating them for myself, my husband and my daughter.
“Isn’t Eva enough?” they question.
Enough? She’s everything. She is my pride. My happiness. My heart, soul…..my reason.
“When I have a new baby sister, can we name her Eva, like me, mommy?” she asked this morning.
Whether I welcome that baby into this world through my womb or my arms, that won’t matter. “Eva,” I answered, “you’ve made my heart so big. Another Eva is exactly what we will bring home one day.”
I didn’t tell her that, for today, another Eva is what I left in the hands of the surgeon in the OR yesterday. I didn’t tell her that she had made my heart so big that it had actually burst. I didn’t tell her, because only she has the power to repair it. It’s such a big job for someone so little. But I see pieces of me in her. The warrior, the fighter..the lover.
And that’s how I just know that she’s up for the task.