CW: This essay discusses miscarriage.
By Anna Burgess Yang
This is it. The day before you will be born.
I sometimes feel guilty for my feelings toward you over the past nine months. Detachment, fear, anxiety… that these will hurt you in some unforeseen way in the future.
How could I avoid these feelings? When we lost your sister, Nelle, at 21 weeks of pregnancy, I thought that I would split open with grief. We had no answers as to what happened – why I inexplicably lost a baby after two previous uneventful pregnancies with your older brothers. Without any reason, we were told that we could try again right away. Then we lost your sister, Iris, not even six months later. Going through labor and delivery, twice, to give birth to your sisters when they had already left the world were the worst experiences of my life. It traumatized me.
I hated myself and my body for failing to keep my babies safe. I wasn’t sure I could handle another pregnancy. We took a chance, leaping into the great unknown and unable to see where we would land, because we wanted you so much. With two living children and two dead children, a third attempt at a third child seemed to be an impossible choice, Russian roulette, an outcome we could not predict. But we made that choice, to try one last time. Every fear, every sleepless night, every appointment was a testament to how much we want you.
Many times during this pregnancy, I never believed that we would reach the end. I raced into the doctor’s office at 16 weeks, convinced that something was wrong based on nothing more than a feeling. I landed in the emergency room at 32 weeks, thinking that I had noticed a change in your movements. I cried at nearly every appointment, ultrasound, and non-stress test. I had a hospital bag packed, not in anticipation that I would go into labor early, but in predicting that I would deliver another stillborn baby. Even with repeated assurances from doctors that everything was fine, I still could not bring myself to believe that we would be bringing you home. And now here we are.
You are the embodiment of hope, happily wriggling around in your safe cocoon for the past 38 weeks. It is different on the other side, and I will do my best to be different for you. I don’t want to be controlled by fear anymore. I want to find a way to heal, for you. Perhaps you, along with your brothers, can help me with that.
I ask for your forgiveness and understanding. Forgive my distance during this pregnancy and allow me to make it up to you with a lifetime of deep love. Understand that I will still have days that are hard. I cannot change the fact that you will always be “the one who came after” but that is just as sacred of a place as “the ones who came before.” It is part of the story, but everyone has a story. This is yours.
In the darkest moments during this pregnancy, I would lie on my side in bed just to feel you. It was easiest to feel you move when I was silent and still. Irregular, but persistent movements to remind me that you were growing. I do not think I will be able to sleep at all tonight, in these final hours before you are born. I will lie awake, feeling you.
This pregnancy has not been graceful. It has been messy. But I braved it for you, for the possibility that I would hold you. That’s what parents do: they sacrifice themselves for their children. I have loved you since the moment I found out that you existed.
I can’t wait to meet you.
Anna Burgess Yang writes to bring awareness to how pregnancy loss continues to permeate everyday life. Loss is part of her identity, but does not solely define her. She lives in a suburb of Chicago and writes at https://grievingoutloud.com.
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This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing.