I’m starting to forget some of my babies. I promised myself I never would, but as the years go by, their memories fade away. But I will always remember each time I had to say goodbye.
I remember a friend telling me to “talk to your baby” as we were waiting to know if we’d have to say goodbye. I had given our first fetus a gender-neutral name: Pickles. I had bought too many “Mommy Loves Me” outfits at Target on a whim. I had picked out baby registry items on Amazon.
I remember a night spent on the bathroom floor, certain this wasn’t happening again. My belly had already started to grow, and I had given myself permission to eat as many cookies as I wanted. I sobbed “I love you” as I tried to say goodbye to my baby between each agonizing contraction.
I remember the “inhospitable environment for the developing fetus” that came with a terrible flu and fever. One of my students was also pregnant, and she was gone by the time I got back. She brought her baby back for a visit, both of them crying. I cuddled and comforted the month-old baby as she asked, “Why don’t you have a baby, Mrs. Scherer? You’re so good at this.”
I remember waking up suddenly in an operating room, startling the surgeon and nurses who had just removed my baby. “I need to say goodbye to her,” I said. They held up a jar as I collapsed back onto the table.
I remember the tears of joy I cried when I saw the little 8-week-old heartbeat in the ultrasound room, then crying again when it was time to say goodbye once more. And I remember the sign that hung in the hospital hallway that day. The sign that both my husband and I took a photo of, without realizing the other had done so. “Accept what is, let go of what was and have faith in what will be. ~Sonia Ricotta”
Today I struggle to remember all the babies that might have been, as I embrace life with the two beautiful souls who have since joined our family. I remember laughing through each bout of morning sickness and hugging my belly every time I couldn’t get comfortable. Sickness meant I was still pregnant. Discomfort meant that a healthy baby was growing larger. The glorious agony of labor and birth meant that each pregnancy was going to end in personal triumph, not in another goodbye.
As time creates increasing distance from those years of goodbyes, I remember the outpouring of support from the women in my life each time we mourned the loss of a person we hadn’t really known. After our first loss, I became part of a very secret—yet extremely vast—sorority. I was part of a club that no one wants to be a member of, but that no woman who joins can ever leave. When confronted with a new member of our sorority, I remember never to say “This happened for a reason” or “At least you know you can get pregnant.” Instead, I remember to get angry along with her. And to cry with her. And to share in this very real grief for a person she barely knew.
Some days I feel as if there’s still another baby on the other side who wants to join our family. But then I remember the agonizing worry of my pregnancies and the possibility of saying goodbye a sixth time. So I let that baby stay on the other side and turn my attention to the women in my sorority. I survived when I swore I wouldn’t. And you will, too.