Saturday, September 1, 2018

Holes

Two years ago I was driving to the ball fields, pregnant and swollen. My children were in the backseat, and the song "Hey Jude" played from the stereo. I listened to that song many times in my pregnancy, as we planned to name our baby Jude; it only seemed right that he should become familiar with his eponym. The kids bounced along with the song as I cried in the driver's seat. Behind the wheel, I have found, is my favorite place to cry. My emotional response in that moment was complicated; I was joyful to be pregnant with a healthy baby, excited to meet Jude, and worried about a freak late-term pregnancy loss. There was nothing to indicate that anything was going to go wrong, but I'd learned with the last baby that it hurts to love and lose.

Flash forward two years, and you'll see an ornery, beautiful, 23-month-old blue-eyed boy named Jude. He is an instigator and a clown, a verbal champion, a hugger, a nudist. He completes our family and is adored by his three older brothers. I wish that present-day Jenny could reach back in time to the ball-field Jenny and tell her, "Relax. Take a few deep breaths and enjoy. He's fine." He's fine. Jude is here now, and worry was never necessary.

As I look back, it seems obvious: what 'Ball-Field Jenny' was crying about was the ache of a hole deep down inside her bones, a Jude-sized hole that only Jude could fill. It was a hole that was created the moment I learned I was pregnant with his little life.  The first shovelful was dug when I closed my eyes and smiled with relief at his positive pregnancy test. The more I learned about him as time passed, the deeper the hole got.

Due date: October 23rd. Deeper.

He's a boy. Deeper.

His image on the ultrasound screen. Deeper.

He has all of his vertebrae and fingers and toes. Deeper still.

We gave him a name. Deeper.

"He's going to make it," the doctor said. "He's going to be fine." Deeper.

Fine. Fine. He's going to be fine.

Deeper. Deeper. Deeper.

By the time I was singing "Hey Jude" on my way to the ball fields, I had myself a very deep Jude-sized hole going on inside me, and I was positively aching with it. Don't most moms feel this when longing for their babies? And the instant that he was born and placed onto my chest for my very first Jude hug, every inch of that deep hole was filled. It was utter, instantaneous relief. He has been filling it every day since then. Isn't this what life is for most of us? We create child-sized holes, and then we spend the rest of our days loving the children who perfectly fill those holes.

The pregnancy before Jude's was a different story. My son Hjarta was my complicated little wonder.

Beginning with that September afternoon when I saw the word "Pregnant" on the Clearblue stick, Hjarta's hole was there. The only one in the house, I jumped up and down in my bedroom, literally whooping aloud with joy. Deeper.

I knew it just had to be a boy.  I only make boys. Deeper.

Due date: May 26th. Deeper.

We shared our joy with our family and friends. Deeper.

Morning sickness and fatigue. Deeper.

We chose a name for him. Deeper.

I loved him harder every week, and that hole got deeper every week.

And then the bleeding began, and the ultrasound revealed that two heartbeats had become only one. There was my heartbeat, one extinguished life, and one invisible, deep hole. When Hjarta flew away, he left a hole that he was never allowed to fill.

And that is what miscarriage feels like. Miscarriage is a hole that you created to be filled, a hole that splits you down to your bones and makes them ache. It's a hole that's shaped exactly like your baby, and it lays waiting until the end of your days for your baby to come fill it. When that baby doesn't come, that hole does not go away.

After I had my miscarriage, it became immediately apparent to me that my loss was nothing more than conceptual to most people. In fact, the loss was really only real to me. It wasn't other people's fault; they never saw the baby, and they never felt him like I did, so they never understood the gravity of what had been taken from me. I quickly realized that if you've never been the mother of a miscarried angel, you can never comprehend how real the grief and loss actually are. The hole, my friends, is what every sister-in-grief carries. Some days we feel it more than others. Some days we hardly feel it at all, and some days we can hardly get out of bed because of its oppression.

The hole that was meant for Hjarta to fill has done a lot of things to me over the last three years, but the one constant thing it has always done is make me yearn for him. Jude's life brings me inconceivable joy; he has done everything he can possibly do and been every wonder to me that he can possibly be in his two years. He cannot, however, fill Hjarta's hole. How could I expect him to? Plenty of people do expect this, which explains why I've heard hundreds of times, "Hey, at least you have Jude." The people who expect Jude to be two babies are the ones who least understand my grief, and that's okay. Maybe they aren't meant to understand it. Of course, at least I have Jude. Thank goodness I have Jude.

But I also have an invisible hole that's shaped exactly like Hjarta. And that ache, I know, will be one that won't be filled.

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