We removed Katie from her carseat, securely buckled her into the stroller, and lovingly tucked her blankie around her little legs.
It was a short distance to the medical building, where we rode the elevator in anticipation of our 8-week prenatal appointment. We spoke with Katie of Santa and how he couldn’t wait to meet her later that afternoon.
We were truly elated that the day of our appointment had finally arrived. It had taken us five months of temping and charting to conceive.
Nichole? We’re ready for you. Wow … Katie is getting so big!
It was at that same 8-week appointment, nearly two years before, that we had heard the the first sounds of life from our beautiful Katherine. After a year of trying to get pregnant, finally hearing her heartbeat made her so real, so completely ours. And as we sat, in that very same room, we were thrilled to have her with us as we prepared to hear her sibling’s heartbeat for the first time.
Okay, this gel will be a bit cold … so sorry.
The moment when the nurse placed Katie onto my chest for the first time, when I felt her warm and wonderfully sticky body, will forever be a pivotal moment in my life. After a difficult pregnancy and eight weeks of complete bedrest to stave off preterm labor, she was safe and warm and she was ours.
Okay, let’s take a listen to this little one’s heartbeat.
Once Katie got the hang of nursing, I came to treasure those moments that were ours alone. That connection, holding her in my arms, smoothing her downy soft hair, holding her tiny baby girl hands while she looked at me, was a gift beyond measure. I was so eager to experience those early days again, to snuggle our tiny baby while we established our nursing relationship.
Hmmm…sometimes the heartbeat is too quiet to pick up with this fetal Doppler.
When Katie was learning to crawl, we enticed her from her rocking position with her favorite pink bunny, placing it just beyond her reach, encouraging her to push herself to get it. That moment, when the lurching turned to crawling, was bittersweet. My beautiful baby somehow, in just an instant, seemed less of a baby.
Let me just run and grab the sonogram machine.
Katie walked at ten months. Her first, tentative steps were taken in our bedroom, with the lure of her grandmother’s necklace, held just beyond her reach. Once she began walking, there was no stopping her, our baby, still a baby, but somehow older than her months.
I’ll be back in a just a minute.
We’ve always treasured bedtime. When Katie was small, Craig began the ritual of reading three books to her each evening. When they finished their books, I would enter her room, Craig would wish her a good night sleep, and then I would quietly nurse her before carefully placing her in her crib for the night, wishing her the sweetest of dreams. I would close the door with one hand and blow kisses with the other, just as Craig and I do to this day.
Okay, let’s have a look … Hmmm.
We always knew that we wanted to have at least one more baby, to give Katie a sibling, to have another baby to love. It finally felt as though the time was right and we were so eager to see how she would respond to a baby brother or sister.
This family that we’ve built has filled an emptiness in my heart. This life that we’ve given Katie, this life that she has given us, has brought me joy and a sense of fulfillment beyond compare. Being a part of a traditional family for the first time in my life has been completely amazing.
I’m afraid there’s no heartbeat.
Craig’s grip on my hand tightened and when I looked over at him, seeking his soft eyes, through my welling tears, he and Katie blurred into one. One beautiful family within my reach.
I am so terribly sorry.
We gathered our things, too pained to know what to say to one another, too numb to know what to say to ourselves, and we went to see Santa, just as we promised we would.
In that moment, Katie couldn’t and wouldn’t know just how tremendous a loss we had just suffered, loss that would remain with us for always.
What she did know, what she could feel, was the wonder of the season, the magic that we’d been speaking of for weeks. The love that we had for one another.
When you have a toddler, life continues. You can’t simply put it on hold while you grieve.
So, we celebrated Christmas as best we could, finding tremendous comfort in our beautiful daughter.
A Christmas of considerable loss and unprecedented sadness.
But still . . . Christmas.
Our second Christmas.
Above all, we were a family.
And we had each other.
I want to thank my dear friend, Kris, for holding my hand while I relived this painful experience. I love you, Kris. Beyond words.
This post is linked up with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. The prompt was to write a post in response to one of five words. The word that I chose was excruciating.