Thursday, October 15, 2009

Remembering Eli

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. That's a mouthful, huh? Before my perfectly healthy son died during labor at 35 weeks, I never knew it existed. I knew that miscarriages happened, that babies died, but it was so abstract I couldn't wrap my head around it. It wouldn't happen to me, to my was one of those things that just happened to everyone else.

Until it actually does happen to you, then you feel pretty silly.You realize that it happens to an awful lot of people, that no one is exempt. A few years ago, I had just found out I was pregnant with Eli and I was devastated because my best friend had been trying to get pregnant for a few months and I didn't want to tell her about my pregnancy until she was pregnant so that I wouldn't make her sad. We had spent months talking about charting, name it, we picked it apart. Finally, she called me one morning telling me that she saw a line, and I felt like I could finally, finally get excited about my own pregnancy, which we hadn't told anyone about. We met for breakfast and I broke the news to her and we were both so excited about getting to go through pregnancy together. We were both so hopeful and excited...we were both pregnant with our third children.

One week later, she miscarried. I remember sitting in the bathroom, crying and asking God to let her baby be ok, that I hadn't been trying as long or hard to get pregnant as she had, and that she'd done everything right...waited until they could afford another pregnancy, been responsible. I was devastated for her.

Just a month later she got pregnant with one of my favorite little boys in the world, and she sat in my hospital room when I was on bedrest keeping me company, joking about putting herself on the monitor for a while so that she could hear her babies heart rate, entertaining me with stories about our obstetrician. I dropped Ava off at her house the morning my water broke, and she stood outside our new van, holding Ava and waving, shouting "See you when you're a family of 5!"

An hour later I called to tell her that Eli had died. Four months later, her son was born, and he was the first baby I held after my son passed away. No matter where we were or what we were doing, I could get him to go to sleep. I wore him in a sling. I held him all the time. She never minded, and he was and is literally the only baby close to Eli's age I can enjoy being around. When I finally got pregnant with Seth, she was with me the day we found out he was a boy. The ultrasound tech thought we were partners. It was hilarious.

Since then, she's had three more miscarriages, bringing her grand, sucky total to four. Every time, I feel almost as if it's happening to me, just like I know she felt almost as if Eli's death was happening to her. This is a different bond, one built not just on kids of the same ages and playdates and hanging out, but on walking devastating paths with one another, over and over.

The cool thing about this day is not just that people walk to remember babies, or tie a ribbon to a tree, or release a balloon in honor of a life lost. The cool thing about this day is that it's one day when it's okay to be sad, to talk about them, to admit that they're in our lives. Every other day, as time goes by, it gets harder and harder to bring them up without getting strange looks, and people expect you to move on. On this day, it's okay to stop and think, to wallow if it helps, to do something special just for that baby that isn't here with you, pulling on your pant leg, screaming to get your attention, cuddling with you on the couch.

Yesterday, I was at our home school co-op and I was watching the babies. That's a loose term...all three of them are two, and then there is Seth. I was pregnant with Eli when all of their mothers were pregnant with them. They would have been his friends. Today, one of them kept coming up to me and laying game pieces on my leg, telling me colors and letters. Another was dancing like crazy and laughing. The third kept running up to me and saying "Ellyn! Ellyn!"

Time has gone on, and I forget that Eli would be doing these things...talking, and dancing, and naming his friends. These children would be his friends, these sweet, silly toddlers that have no idea that one of their friends never got a chance to meet them. While I think about him every day, today he is especially close to me, and I wish I could see him as a 2 1/2 year old boy, wonder whether he would be sturdy and tall like Jace or whether he would have kept the black curls he was born with. I wonder what his favorite color would have been or if he would have been obsessed with puppies like Fisher or books like Seth. I wonder what kind of boy he would be, what his laugh would sound like. Today I can talk about him without worrying about making someone else feel uncomfortable or sad.

On the first Mother's Day after Eli died, my husband got me a ring. Not just any ring, but a mother's ring, with all three of my children's names on it, even Eli's. It's a special ring, with three interconnected bands that slid up and over each other, with one of their names on each band. It's simple, and unobtrusive, and perfect. Of course, now that Seth is here and there is a new baby on the way, it's also woefully outdated and not very well polished these days, but that's a whole 'nother story! It is one of my most treasured possessions, and I never take it off. My kids love to find their names on my ring and talk about our family.


Today, on a day set aside to remember all of our lost babies, and to celebrate this month being the one year anniversary of Profoundly Seth, where I have received immeasurable support, I can tell you first hand that hearing these stories of how our children have made a difference somehow means the world to a strange way it makes it all okay, makes it all worth it. The day I learned that a blog reader had become a Christian because of Eli's story, I began to heal in a way I never thought I would. My son, who never took a breath outside my body, had brought someone to Christ. What a legacy!

Thank you to all of you for reading, for gracefully letting me remember Eli every day that I need to, and being there for our family every step of the way for the past year. I'm reasonably sure I have the best blog readers ever! Now let me give something back to you and enter!

If you'd like something tangible to do for someone on this day, think about calling or writing someone who has gone through a pregnancy or infant loss and letting them know that you remember their baby. I can't tell you how much it will mean to them. One of my biggest fears is that everyone will forget about Eli, and it will be as if he was never here, and I know that it's the same for lots of other people. In the months and years after a loss, after the initial rush of sympathy, those simple calls or letters or emails to tell me that someone remembers and is thinking about Eli mean more than anything. I know it's the same for other parents, too.
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