Dear Ethan V

Dear Ethan,

 

Sunday is the two-year anniversary of losing you. Two weeks later is the two-year anniversary of finding out we’d lost you.

 

The last couple weeks have been full of celebration around our house—first Henry’s birthday and aunts and uncles coming home, then Christmas, and last night, New Year’s Eve. Sometimes the celebration felt overwhelming; there have been a lot of people in our smallish house.  But as time went on, I realized that my growing anxiety was not totally about what was happening in the moment, but more about what I knew was on the horizon.

 

I’ve heard about too many babies lost in miscarriage this year, and every time, I think of you. These last few weeks, especially after learning a friend had lost three babies this year, different moments of my experience with you have been coming back to me. The ultrasound at the hospital, coming home and accidentally waking Jacob from a nap, the D&C, all the mornings I struggled to get out of bed, the weekends when your daddy let me sleep as long as possible, crying when I went to pray a rosary or even to say grace. Tears keep springing to my eyes, like when I think about going to Mass next Sunday, but life has been so busy, I haven’t had a chance to really let the emotions be what they are, to let myself cry.

 

Last night, after we’d rung in the new year, there was quiet in the house. I’ve been staying up later and later recently, reading before bed, sometimes to escape the sadness that would rush over me if I let it. Last night, I did. And I finally found the words to tell your daddy what I was feeling: I missed you.

 

Having January approach is harder than July, when your due date was, because January was the real experience of you. I’ve accepted that you were never going to be born, so that month isn’t so bad. I know other babies that were born in July that year and celebrating their lives is a good thing.

 

But losing you still hurts. I see families with three living children, and even though I know they might have lost other children as well, I feel like something’s missing from mine. I always will. You are missing. You were here, and now you’re not. Without this happening, we wouldn’t have Henry, and he is an angel, truly. And I’ve been focusing on that. But at the same time, we don’t have you, and that matters, too.

 

I miss you, Ethan. You were with us for a short time, but you did so, so much. You brought me closer to God. You taught me the power of prayer—not my own, but that of others for me. You gave me the strength and hope to talk about miscarriage and grieving on this blog, and touched so many people, helped give so many other women the knowledge that they are not alone, and helped those who have not had this experience understand it better. You made me realize what a gift our other children are, what a gift my own life is, what a gift all life is.

 

I am grateful for every moment I had with you, and for every moment the memory of you brings me closer to eternal life. All the same, I miss you. I love you, and I miss you.

 

Love,
Mom

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Gratitude for the Season

The second half of this year was a big transition for our family, and it’s been both wonderful and challenging. I’ve only recently come to realize that it’s okay that we’re not totally settled yet. With two little kids, and hopefully more to come, we’re going to be in a state of flux for the next eighteen years, at least.

 

And so, with the wisdom of our parish priest and the insight of a brilliant man named Henri Nouwen, I’m trying to live each day for what it is, rather than trying to get through it until the next thing comes. This requires patience (which I’m still working on) and gratitude.

 

I’m grateful for the joy that multiplies when our family gets together for the holidays . . . for my boys—John, Jacob, Ethan, and Henry, and all they have brought to my life, all they have taught me, and every way they’ve challenged me to be a better version of myself . . . for my home—a warm, (mostly) dry, and safe place to build my family, where my kids get to see their grandparents and at least one aunt every day . . . for my work—the more I do it, the more I understand how much writing and editing is a part of who I am, and how I see and make sense of the world.

 

And there are little things, too. . . . Jacob and Henry wrestling together, and then giving each other hugs and kisses when they say good night . . . Henry’s smile after he’d been sick a few weeks ago, even if he did throw up again a minute later . . . the fact that babies dance before they walk . . . Jacob becoming obsessed with A Charlie Brown Christmas and reenacting scenes on a daily basis . . . his understanding of the nativity . . . his offering to lead me in a rosary in the car recently . . . for every moment I get to spend with my children, watching them become—watching them be—the people God made them.

 

Gratitude inevitably leads to hope. While I was thinking about and reflecting on gratitude this Advent, I got an email from a man named Cameron Von St. James, offering to share his family’s story of hope, love, and joy.

 

Here’s what Cameron shared with me:

 

My name is Cameron Von St. James and my wife Heather is an 8-year survivor of mesothelioma – a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure. When she was diagnosed, she had just given birth to our little girl, Lily. Heather was told she only had 15 months left to live. I was quickly thrown into the role of caregiver, and together we decided we would do whatever it took to beat the cancer. Nearly 8 years later, Heather is cancer free and doing what she loves most; raising Lily. Because she beat the odds and is one of few long-term survivors of mesothelioma, it is our mission to spread awareness of mesothelioma by sharing our personal story.

 

This struck me for obvious reasons, but even more powerfully so because Lily, or a variation thereof, is a name I’d like to give to a little girl one day.

 

Because Heather was diagnosed in the holiday season, this time of year can be hard for her, as it is for many. So every day of this month, she’s choosing something other than sorrow: thankfulness, and she’s asking others to join her. My post today is part of their “30 Days of Thankfulness.”

 

What are you thankful for this Christmas?

 

Please join me in offering a prayer of thanksgiving for Heather’s life today!

 

For more about Heather’s story, click here: mesothelioma.com/heather

 

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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Dear Henry XV

Dear Henry,

 

Happy birthday! Today you are one year old, and my heart is bursting with joy. I recently made the annual photo book to share with our family, and just now I finished the slideshow of the (not quite) day-by-day photos I took of your first year. I set it to “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey (I think Jacob will appreciate the latter). As I sat watching it in these first moments of your birthday, I cried, seeing you unfold again before me.

photo 3

You started your life as a chunkster, and you remain that way today. These last twelve months, you’ve come so alive. You move all over now. You make jokes, like repeating us when we say, “Ah-choo!” and recently, climbing into Jacob’s bed, flopping on the pillow, and pretending to sleep. You giggle because you know it’s funny.

 

In so many of the photos, I can see the relationship between you and Jacob building. I don’t think he’s gotten really mad at you yet; he loves to take care of you and keep you safe. I do think he gets a little thrill out of taking things you shouldn’t have out of your hands, but he’s not mean about it. He adores you, and I can tell from the way you look at him that you feel the same way. I hope this is something you treasure throughout your life.

photo 2

You are starting to play with the big kids at play dates and the childcare here at home, and it is amazing to see you find your place with others so easily. You’re a little bit of a mama’s boy around adults you don’t recognize, but any kid is okay by you!

 

Yesterday we went to see the holiday trains at the New York Botanical Gardens, and Daddy and I were surprised to see how much you enjoyed it—so much so that I changed your birthday party theme from safari animals to trains on the spot! I asked Daddy to stop at the party store on the way home to buy new plates. Ha!

photo 1

I love celebrating your birthday—and Daddy’s and Jacob’s too—because it means I get to do something out of the ordinary to express how special I know you are. Henry, your smile, your giggle, the way you snuggle into my shoulder means the world to me. You brought me healing in a hard time, and in these past few weeks especially, as we approached both your birthday and Ethan’s anniversary, I was so, so grateful to have you in my arms every day.

 

I look at you and I see a gift from God, a blessing, hope, love, joy, an answer to prayers, and exactly what our family needed.

 

In this next year, I imagine you will start to get into some trouble. You’re well on your way to walking and talking, and this time next year, you might very well be telling me, “No!” That’s okay. (I mean you’ll still get a time out, but in the long run, it’s okay.) It is such a joy to watch you grow up. I can’t wait to get to know you more this year.

 

Having a birthday around Christmas is going to be tough for you sometimes. To be honest, Daddy and I almost finished our Christmas shopping before I remembered you needed a birthday present, too! (Don’t worry; it’s awesome, and your party is going to be fabulous.) From my perspective though, it’s wonderful to have a Christmas time baby. It truly is a gift to be your mother.

 

I love you forever and ever with all my heart. Happy birthday!

 

Love,
Mom

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