This post has been the hardest to write.
But my story, and my healing, will not be complete until I visit this place of pain. It is the place where I have treasured the memories of my daughter, however brief and few they are. In this place, Baby O is still alive. She is bringing me hope, and deep joy.
Writing about loss in and of itself is easier for me. But this secret place in my heart is what gives meaning to the loss, pain and grief. Here, grief is no longer just a feeling to discuss, dissect and divulge . . .
Joy makes the grief
In the last 3 years of processing Madelyn’s birth and pregnancy . . . I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that we would probably never get pregnant again. I WANTED to get pregnant again . . . and I felt inklings of sadness when other people announced pregnancies. I wished I had a reason to wear my maternity clothes again. I wish I had showers. I thought about how wonderful it would be to share my body with a squirmy little girl or boy. I wanted to breastfeed again. I daydreamed of the ways we would tell people we were pregnant again. Of how I would announce it on FB. I longed for a baby.
But I couldn’t give myself permission to do it. How would I handle 9 long months of nausea? How could I care for my family? What if I have to go on bedrest again? If those were the only considerations — I would’ve gotten pregnant in a heartbeat.
But then — there’s the whole “I could lose my life” thing. Or I could go 20 weeks, get preeclampsia and HELLP and lose the baby. Could I live with losing a baby? Could I willingly put myself at risk? Put Maddy at risk for growing up without a mother? Put Ryan at risk of losing his wife at a young age?
I was at a stalemate — and so we chose the adoption route.
Perhaps because I never thought I would see 2 lines on a pregnancy test again, that they brought me so much surprise, hope and JOY the Saturday morning that they appeared and changed my life forever.
I knew it was possible that I could have gotten pregnant when we did, but I didn’t think it was likely based on my cycle. I casually told my mom (and only my mom) that we were in the 2-week wait, and that I could potentially be pregnant. She was excited, and I guess, I was a little. But I didn’t feel pregnant at all, and like I said, I had given up any hope that I would see those 2 little lines again.
After a week went by without any sign of a period, I got suspicious. I took a test, and it was negative. I called my mom who was disappointed, and I moved on. Everytime I thought I might be pregnant, I felt dumb because I had no symptoms — minus a late period.
At work one day, I just was fed up with the wait. It felt like a cruel joke to be 1.5 weeks late but not be pregnant. I told a coworker friend that I was late and that I thought I might be pregnant, but that I had a negative a few days before. She got excited and told me to try again this weekend, and to text her when I found out.
I pretty much forgot about our conversation that day, and thought I’d give it 2 full weeks before testing again. But that night I had the most precious, beautiful dream in the world. I dreamt that I was pregnant, and there was the sweetest little baby in me, all squirmy and everything. I was blissfully happy, with my hand on my swollen stomach feeling my child move and kick with life.
I woke up, and just knew I had to take a pregnancy test right then. I peed on the stick — and to my shock, 2 lines showed up right away!! Any idea of a creative way to tell my hubby (or anyone else for that matter) flew out the window. I got my pants up as fast as I could, ran to the office, and said breathlessly . . . “I think you need to see something!” . . . proudly holding out the positive test.
Ryan was much less surprised than I was, but still super happy. We had to get ready to travel for an Arbonne party together, and I was so happy he was going with me cause we had time to talk in the car. He would tell you I pretty much didn’t lose the smile on my face the whole 4 hours there.
I called my mom as soon as we got in the car to leave. “Mom, I’m pregnant!!!” At first, I thought I had lost connection, because she was shocked and didn’t say anything for what felt like a few minutes. Then she said, “Are you sure? Because you just called the other day to say you weren’t pregnant.” I said yes, I was sure . . . and she started crying because she was so happy! I cried, too, and I was just so happy inside.
Then I called Sarah. She didn’t answer. I called 15 minutes later. She didn’t answer. I called 15 minutes later, and she finally answered. “Sorry for calling so much,” I gushed. “But I just couldn’t wait to tell you . . . you are going to have a new niece or nephew August 4th!” She was excited, and asked when we found out. I explained about my period being late, and she said . . . “What do you mean, your period was late?” I was like, “My period was late. I’m pregnant!” Again — silence. I asked if she was still there. She was crying and I could just make out that she thought I had been telling her we were going to have a foster child in August. . . not that we were going to have our very own baby! I made her cry in the middle of Walmart. That was the best.
Telling other family members didn’t go quite as expected or as hoped — many of them assumed that the pregnancy wasn’t viable due to my lack of symptoms and didn’t seem to be as excited. Others were simply afraid. When they heard, “I’m pregnant . . . ” they heard, “Me and my baby might die.” In the midst of my happiness and joy, it was hard to see others who were unable to celebrate with us. But I do understand where they were coming from.
Ryan and I agreed that I could tell close friends and family — but I don’t think he knows how many “close” friends I have. 🙂 I told all my friends at work, and that was so much fun! I dreamed of how fun it would be for them to see me grow a big belly. I thought about how fun it would be to bring my baby in to show off.
I had just promoted with Arbonne, and everything felt perfect. I was leaving work to stay home with Maddy, and now we had this new little one on the way!
Several times a day, I found myself with my hand on my belly . . . praising God for this most amazing blessing, and thanking Him for this new life growing in me. I already loved that little baby so much. I imagined how she would be with Madelyn, and how they would be best friends. I just knew this pregnancy would be different.
One of the things that surprised me was the instant peace I had about this pregnancy. I used to imagine that if I were pregnant again, I would be consumed by fear and anxiety. Instead, with Baby O, I was full of the most amazing peace I had ever felt.
Maddy was convinced it was a girl. One day, she lifted up my shirt to see my belly (that was still pretty flat) and said, “Mommy. The baby is so cute! She’s so cute, mommy!”
She was so cute. I knew she was. I loved how my daughter already loved her sibling . . . even when all she saw was a belly at the time.
Someone close recently wondered if I had regretted telling people our news. Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, I wished I would have told everybody. If I hadn’t told anyone, I would hardly have ANY memories of my daughter’s life. I cling to the memories of celebrating her unexpected yet precious life with friends and family. Besides the picture of the positive test, those memories are all I have of her.
After losing the baby, we chose to name her. It only took a few minutes for me to come up with her name . . .
Olivia Joy Lewis.
Olivia stems from “Olive”. The olive branch is a universal symbol of peace. After the great flood, when God wiped out the world (except those on Noah’s ark, of course), hope for a new life came in the form of an olive branch.
Her middle name is Joy because her life brought me more joy inside than I thought I could ever contain.
Olivia was my olive branch. She was the hope that came after a storm. I had despaired that there would never be any other life in me. She gave me that hope. She was (and is) God’s gift to me. Peace and Joy are exactly the way I want to remember my daughter.
Perhaps Olivia’s legacy won’t be her own . . . perhaps her legacy will be that she has given me the courage to have her sisters or brothers. She has made me stronger. She has made me more compassionate. She has brought me closer to God. She makes me cherish each day with Maddy more. Her little life has already reached hundreds of other women — and I hope — has brought them some measure of healing and comfort in Christ.
I miss you more than words could ever express. Thank you for being a fighter. For holding on for as long as you could. I am so sorry that I could not provide a safe place for you to grow. I am so sorry, sweet girl. Thank you for opening my eyes to death, and in that, to the beauty and miracle of life. Thank you for drawing my eyes to Jesus. Thank you for helping me see the beauty and joy to be found in heaven. Thank you for giving me courage.
I love you so much,