I think back to when we made the decision to try for another baby. In my mind, I pictured Ethan with a little brother. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw Ethan posed in matching Christmas pajamas with a little boy or I saw Ethan helping me push a stroller containing a little boy. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I knew we were having a girl. I wasn't even questioning that the baby was a girl -- I just knew -- but when I closed my eyes, I still saw Ethan having a little brother. These were simply thoughts that didn't make sense at the time, thoughts that left me frustrated because, well, we were having a girl. Of course, I wanted our daughter more than anything in the world. I loved her from the moment I found out she was coming, when she was only two pink lines on a stick I had to pee on.
I read a book once, a memoir, about a mother who learned that the little boy she had given birth to had a terminal illness and wouldn't survive infancy. She wrote about the same feelings, being frustrated with herself before she learned her son had any sort of illness because no matter what she did she couldn't picture him growing up. She couldn't picture him as a teenager or as an adult, couldn't picture him even a year from then -- she just kept picturing a little girl despite the fact her child was here and he was a boy. Once he passed on, she recognized these feelings as maybe some sort of glimpse into her subconscious mind, some sort of premonition about what was to come without her understanding it at the time. She went on to have a girl, as she had imagined. Looking back, I've started to wonder the same. Maybe this was why I felt so unnatural combing through the racks of girl clothing, trying to pick outfits out for Wylie. Maybe this was why I was so touchy about what everyone said when they learned that we were having a girl. The thing is, I can close my eyes and imagine what Ethan will be like at every phase of his life. I'm not saying I'll be right, of course, but I can just see him as a teenager or even an adult. I can imagine what he will be like, look like. I felt the same when I was pregnant with him, somehow knowing he would be a gentle lug of a boy just like his father. But when I was pregnant with Wylie, I couldn't picture her even as a newborn. My mind wouldn't even imagine what she would look like. My mom and I both pictured Ethan with bright blue eyes and everyone would laugh because they thought he would have brown eyes like my husband -- but, no, he has blue eyes. We knew somehow, we just knew him. With Wylie, I couldn't imagine what she looked like. I couldn't picture her as a toddler, a small child, a teenager, an adult. I tried. I tried so often and shrugged it off to just being used to being a boy mom. Looking back, I truly believe I somehow knew. Somewhere, in the deepest, darkest depths of my soul, I knew.
I began planning Ethan's birthday party early this year. Really early. I apologized to vendors or people helping, trying to explain how I had a rough pregnancy with Ethan and I just didn't know what would be hitting me this go 'round. Each doctor visit, my OB would remind me that I had virtually no risk for preeclampsia this time around and my vitals were great. Still, each doctor visit, I couldn't shake the fear of something going terribly wrong. Maybe I knew. Maybe, somehow, I knew. Ethan's party is only happening at the extent it is solely because I began planning early, solely because somehow I prepped everything up until the moment the other shoe fell and we had lost our daughter. Originally our plans were to throw a huge rock and roll, New Found Glory themed birthday party for Ethan but one day in the beginning of my pregnancy I decided that I just couldn't do that this year, that it would have to wait. Looking back, I wonder if this is why. "Don't make yourself crazy," everyone tells me, but I'm not. I'm just sort of assembling the pieces that life has left scattered for me. I think back to how when Ethan was a newborn, I told people that we would probably try for a second child once Ethan was four. I don't know why that age popped into our head, it just felt right for whatever reason. It's the first thing I thought of when we decided to try for another child earlier than planned, like we were taking some sort of risk for going against our original plan. I believe these thoughts all came from somewhere, somehow. That the pieces are fitting together finally. That there is good reason I would insist to my husband that we would have three children when he said there's no way we could have more than two. I agreed, I saw us having two children here in our little home, but I still was insistent that we would have three.
The thing is, I love Wylie more than anything, in the way a parent loves their child. I don't believe her life was in vain. I don't believe she lived for such a short period of time for no reason at all. She mattered and she matters still, to more than just us as her parents. Maybe I don't have all of the answers right now but I know one day the pieces will fall into place and I'll know for certain. People have asked us if we will ever try to have another child and while we're not ready yet, I didn't even know what to say -- what kind of callous question was that, anyway? The whirlwind of Wylie's diagnosis and our loss was followed by another whirlwind of risk numbers and percentages and other things that just made my head spin and realize how much I don't like to take risks about anything. But then I remembered the little boy who I always pictured with Ethan in my mind. The baby brother whose name came to us before we were even considering having a second child. I think of him and I believe that he is in our future, that he is reachable, that one day I will hold him and get to bring him home with me awake.
Prior to learning of Wylie's diagnosis, I began to think of my aunt Rina often. She passed away when I was a young teenager, the first time I really ever understood the pain of loss, the first time I realized that tragedies can happen and we can lose people who aren't grandparents. I began thinking of her frequently, began dreaming of her often. I kept telling my mom that I kept thinking and dreaming of aunt Rina, that I thought her energy was going to be there when Wylie was born like I believe my great grandfather's was there for Ethan. "She always wanted to have a girl next," my mom would say each time I brought this up. The day we learned of Wylie's heart abnormality, still unsure of the details or severity, I dreamed of my aunt Rina more in depth than I ever had before. I woke up and I knew. "Stay optimistic," everyone would tell me -- but I knew. I don't believe in much, like I keep saying, but somehow I want to believe that my aunt Rina's energy is able to care for my baby girl.
Each day still feels like a new struggle. I'm realizing that people typically expect two things of you after a loss: you to bounce back quickly and hightail it into social outing mode or for you to retreat into a dark corner and wallow in misery. Let's be frank: the second option would be my coping mechanism of choice, save for the fact that I have Ethan. He keeps me balanced. He keeps me at the perfect pace to tiptoe back into the world without it feeling like I'm alone or smothered. I think of Wylie at nighttime once Ethan is asleep, like this is my time with her somehow, and some nights are better than others. Some nights I can cope and think of her beauty and smile knowing she will always be my daughter. Other nights are harder and I end them soaked in my own tears. I know that Wylie means the world to me, to my husband, to our family; I know that Wylie matters to us. I'm just waiting to figure out the mark she made on this world, the message that she needed us to spread for her, the reason that she couldn't stay with us. Nothing is going to justify that for me right now -- nothing is going to seem good enough to take her from me with the grief fresh in our hearts. Maybe that's why I don't know all of the answers just yet. Maybe that's why I have to wait for them to fall into place.