Something crazy happened on Saturday, September 25.
I forgot to cry.
I forgot to look at that date on the calendar and mope around for a few hours, remembering in detail a small, painful moment of tragedy.
I forgot all day.
It wasn’t until late in the day when I said to my husband, “For the first time in 7 years, I forgot to remember.” He smiled. “Me too…although, I’m thinking about it now.” I shrugged. “Yeah, me too.”
But I didn’t cry.
The Storks and the Appleseeds
Seven years ago, after a bout with my own toxicity as a potential parent, I became pregnant for the first time.
At my second ultrasound, it was discovered that there was not just one little gummy bear, but a second one, too. I remember the doctor saying, “Un train peut en cacher un autre!” (It’s phrase written on signage at train crossings: one train can hide another!) This was his reasoning as for why we hadn’t seen the second baby in the first ultrasound. I laughed, my husband laughed.
What was funny about this was that neither my husband nor I were surprised. Storks are a familiar sight in Alsace, and on numerous occasions since I had learned I was pregnant, we saw pairs of storks. We thought this was funny. “Why always two?” We would wonder, making a joke that this was a “sign!”
We followed the development of the pregnancy, and I remember the week that the baby would have been appleseed-sized. That week, my husband happened to have but an apple and inside, two appleseeds clung together. He took a picture and said, “another sign?”
So when we learned that there were two babies, one little train hiding the other, we were totally unsurprised.
I was so happy. I believed that if there was anyone determined enough, creative enough, who had enough energy to keep up with twins, it was me.
The Birthday Party
At the time, I worked at a radio station. We were big on celebrating birthdays. My birthday was on a Saturday that year. Since not everyone was in the office on Fridays, I opted to celebrate my birthday on Thursday. I remember many strange little details about that day.
1. Looking out my office window, which directly abutted the street, and seeing a hearse stopped outside. I was at eye-level with the casket. I remember thinking “huh. That’s not a terribly joyous thing to see today.”
2. One of my colleagues said to me, “You know, in Alsace they say it’s bad luck to celebrate before your birthday.”
3. I had not yet told my colleagues I was pregnant.
4. I was going to announce the pregnancy to my colleagues over my birthday cookies, then I would leave for my third ultrasound appointment.
I remember what I wore that day; I remember the cookies I brought (rather than a cake, because my husband is the most amazing cookie baker!) I remember snippets of conversation from that day.
I remember the gasp of surprise and elation from my amazing colleagues when I announced. I specifically remember my friend Jonathan, for once dropping his façade of being a grumpy naysayer, and being unreservedly enthusiastic.
And then I met up with my husband for our ultrasound.
It’s bad luck to celebrate in advance
It didn’t take long for the bottom to fall out.
On the ultrasound, we could make out four little hands, four little feet, two little faces, two little bellies. But there was only one actual heartbeat. The tiny little heartbeat that was thumping was not sufficient. We were probably witnessing the last few beats of that baby’s heart.
And then that was it.
Everything came crashing down.
There were two of them for a reason
I spent hours—days—teetering between fury and sadness. The miscarriage would not complete itself naturally. My body wouldn’t let go of my little ones. We waited for weeks.
Finally, the doctor told me that we would need to complete the process chemically. I begged for one last ultrasound, just in case some miracle could have happened and the last one had been an anomaly. But I knew. I could tell.
The thing I kept shouting at God was, “Fine, fine, fine. Do what you want. But why were there two of them? Why give me so much joy and then dash it like this?”
The day before I had to go to the clinic, we had a Pastor’s conference at my church. That evening, there was a service. Our big choir was singing. I knew I was to participate, I needed to participate. Music was the only thing holding me together by then.
As we sang, I had this unfathomable feeling of walking into a sports arena, the walls of which were lined with a soft, stretchy, beautiful material. A pair of hands used that material and pulled it around my shoulders, like some sort of lovely cloak.
When I arrived at the floor of the arena, it was full of folds of this same material. There was light so bright I couldn’t see, clothed in a robe of that same material. I was afraid to move ahead.
Then, one little hand took my right hand, and one little hand took my left hand. Together, they walked me onto the floor of the arena, where I could stand in the presence of that light and not get burned up.
I remember watching as those two little children walked into that light and left me there, in my cloak, made up of the billows of that robe.
There were two of them, because I had two hands that needed holding to bring me into this place.
It wasn’t just me
I was not the only person who experienced the billows of that robe that night. One of my dearest friends afterwards said she saw the same thing.
I knew, I knew, I knew, that for whatever reason, I needed those two little lives to help me enter the presence of God. Those little lives had served the most glorious of purposes.
And the next day, at the clinic, it was peace and calm that ruled the day. I said goodbye to those babies who lead me into the presence of God.
I forgot to remember
So this year, I forgot to remember the anniversary of the day I watched my baby’s last heartbeats. I forgot to cry.
This year, it was scalawags wrapping birthday presents and eating spaghetti and playing Paw Patrol and taking bike rides and singing to my mini-me while his breathing slowed and he fell asleep curled up next to me.
This year is the start of something new, but I don’t know quite what yet. This is the year, though, that I know I want to go back into the arena and bask in that light. I want to put back on that cloak of grace and enjoy myself there, but this time without the fury or the sadness.
Funny. I’m crying now. But I’m not sad anymore.
It’s a conundrum. That season of so much joy gave way to so much sadness, but then, so much peace. My birthday week has been dampened with the memories for years, and yet this year, I forgot to be sad.
It’s an Appleseed Conundrum.