I’m pleased to have this piece featured on For Every Mom
Conceiving your brother was far from effortless, so I never imagined that I could be surprised by a second pregnancy, especially in my mid-thirties. But that’s exactly what happened nine months ago.
When I discovered that you were on board, my first reaction was panic. Wait! We’re not even sure about another baby, let alone having one right now! But Daddy’s face lit up and the reality of you quickly settled into a heartwarming glow.
The newborn stage is so raw, I was nervous about managing it again — with a toddler this time. But our plot twist became a special part of the experience; we joked about how mischievous you would be, having snuck up on us like that. Such a troublemaker, you.
About a month later, we went for our first prenatal appointment. Andrew was too young to understand, but it was fun to include him in the excitement. The mood was lighthearted; we stifled laughter at the doctor, who looked like Vizzini from The Princess Bride. Imagining an Obstetrician declaring everything to be ‘inconceivable’ was especially funny. Daddy held Andrew up to see the screen, and we eagerly watched the image come into view. The second I laid eyes on you — perfect stillness — I knew. For a moment, my own heart fell silent with yours.
I closed my eyes and felt the air drawn from my lungs. The doctor’s voice became background noise, as he explained that you stopped developing around eight weeks. Listening to tears drip onto the crinkly paper under my head, my grief was twinged with guilt.
No! I promise we want you… I was startled by loving someone I didn’t expect, but I promise we want you. Please, PLEASE don’t go.
Back at home, it was hard to grieve while parenting a toddler — we couldn’t maintain the usual level of silliness. Cuddled up watching Dumbo that night, I turned the movie off just before he visits his imprisoned mother. But when Daddy took Andrew to the park the next morning, I watched the scene and completely fell apart.
Mrs. Jumbo pulls against the chains to lower her trunk from between the bars of the carriage window. She can’t see her baby; all she can do is cradle him for a few moments before their embrace slips away. At the end of her song, she has to let him go.
You’re not much, goodness knows
But you’re so precious to me
Sweet as can be, Baby of mine
We took some time to rest in our sadness, then planted a peony bush in your honor and reluctantly moved on with daily life. My sorrow fell dormant, where it has remained until last Thursday… when you were due to be born.
Suddenly, the miscarriage is no longer a pregnancy loss; it’s an absent person. This isn’t even about motherhood or a baby — it’s your entire lifetime, lost. You’ll never be a wise old man or woman. You’ll never breathe, sing, love, cry, laugh, dance, or create. You will never be joyfully surprised by a pregnancy… or shocked by the heartache of losing one. This is about the unimaginable rarity of the human experience, and how tragically close you came to having it.
Your conception was made possible by a practically infinite number of factors unfolding precisely as they did, since the beginning of time. For relatively recent example, if your Great-great-great-great-Grandfather had died in the siege of Vicksburg, the potential for your existence would have ended in 1863. But he survived to preserve the genetic trajectory toward an egg cell with the exact DNA required to merge with the only sperm cell in the history of time, that could complete your unique human genome. The odds of it are… basically impossible.
The fleeting nature of life is what makes it such a remarkable gift — so unimaginably fragile and rare. The fact that you lived — however briefly and unconsciously — matters. You’ve inspired me to marvel at every birth and, as Richard Dawkins described, to refuse the “sedative of ordinariness which dulls the senses and hides the wonder of existence.”
You’ll never be my son or daughter, but for eight weeks I was your mother. With your brother in my arms and you in my heart, I will strive to live the kind of life I wanted for you, Baby of Mine.
“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We [are a] privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds…” -Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow