We talk about becoming a parent when a baby is born. We say things like, "You will be a great dad!" Or "Are you ready to be parents in a few months?" It's not true though. We become parents the moment we know there is a baby. The second that stick shows two pink lines, we are parents. Our brains switch into a new mode. For my friends who have adopted, I would imagine they share a similar experience related to the first time they saw a picture of their sweet child - or maybe even just knowing he or she was out there waiting to be found by them. For me, this has come with the knowledge of a pregnancy. We pray for that baby. Worry about its health. Dream over its future. Imagine the new personality and life it will bring into our world. We begin to sacrifice immediately, cutting expenses, giving up habits, changing our diets, rearranging our lives to make room for this new person that we already love just because they exist.
Yes, I am quite sure that we become parents the moment we are aware of our child's being.
This happened for me on May 25, 2010 when I learned I was pregnant with the oldest one. On September 6, 2012, my mind shifted into a mother-of-two role when those little lines told me the youngest was coming. And then it happened again, on February 15, 2014, when we learned that we were expecting a wonderful, welcomed surprise - baby Joyner #3.
We laughed a lot. I freaked out and cried a little. We rearranged our plans. I knew I was a mother of three - two on the outside, one on the inside. For the last month, we told our family and friends the news as we saw them around. We adjusted plans for finances and looked for more space. And we tossed around a few different ways to tell everyone publicly using the first ultrasound, an appointment we were scheduled for yesterday, just under 10 weeks along in the pregnancy. We imagined we would be telling everyone last night.
Instead, my midwife told me in a gentle, compassionate voice, "I can't find a heartbeat." She said it looked like I was a little further along than we had suspected. And this probably happened in the last day or two. I could see my baby on that screen...a faint outline of arms, a precious round head, and a perfect little torso. I stared at the picture and knew this was as close as I was going to get to seeing his or her face and I cried. I could imagine a nose and eyes that might be similar to our boys. I wondered about the features that would be different. All I wanted to do was hold that baby and tell him or her it was okay. And I would miss them.
Tomorrow, we'll go into the hospital and when we leave, our baby will not be with us. Friends, I don't know how to do this next part. I don't know how to be pregnant, to feel sick everyday, to make plans and dreams, to no longer fit comfortably in my jeans, to share excitement with our three-year-old, and then to just not be pregnant anymore. I understand postpartum. I don't understand adjusting back to normal without a baby in my arms.
I've debated a lot about if I would write at all, and when to speak or what to say if I did. Here's what I've come to. Each of my children has been celebrated. We have proudly displayed their pictures and announced their being to the world. As a proud mama of three, I want my friends and family to know about this sweet little one. I want to celebrate this life and the love we have for this child of ours. I know the process looks different for everyone. This is just what's most natural for me.
We grieve because this baby, this unique and beautiful person, was already so dearly loved and adored. To those that have poured out prayers, tears, letters, and phone calls - we are deeply grateful and encouraged by each of you. Thank you. The closer we get to tomorrow, the heavier this sadness becomes. We covet your prayers in the morning and in the days ahead. Thank you for circling around us and loving us so well.
As friends have heard about our loss, many have shared with us their experiences with the children they never held, or for some, those they held only a short while. Their words remind us that we are not alone, that this sadness will ease, and that its okay to always see ourselves as the parents of one who is not with us on this side of heaven.
BJ and I have dreams of a big family and I believe more little faces will fill our home in the years to come. But we will also remember this precious baby and stay forever grateful for the life that they lived. We are the parents of three now. Two here with us and one in the arms of the Creator. Perhaps the most surprising emotion I'm experiencing is gratitude. Even though it ended with a loss, I wouldn't change being pregnant for those weeks. Had I known this would be the end, I wouldn't go back and take it away. I'm grateful to have been this one's mama, a title I will proudly carry for the rest of my life.
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you." Psalm 139:13-18