Prior to Avaleen's death, I didn't think all that much about what it would be like have a miscarriage. I had a vague sense that it would be hard and disappointing, but I focused my thoughts on the bigger picture: as long as the couple involved could eventually have a child, I rationalized, it was kind of okay. The real grief in my mind was not the miscarriage so much as the possibility of not being able to have children at all.
When I found out Avaleen had died, I immediately realized the foolishness of this way of thinking. I already had a child. There was no indication I wouldn't be able to have another. And yet the emotions I was feeling were anything but vague; from the beginning, I had a very clear sense that we had lost a particular, unique child with distinctive physical features and personality. She had lived inside me for 14.5 weeks, and I had felt her move. The miscarriage meant that, no matter how many children we might go on to have, we would never get to meet, hold, or welcome her into our family. She was irreplaceable.
And yet, here I sit, pregnant with another daughter who is due to be born almost exactly a year after Avaleen should have been. In all likelihood, the baby I carry wouldn't have been conceived if Avaleen had been born.
I don't think of her as a replacement for Avaleen, but I understand that others will. I know she will be referred to as Baby #2, and in one sense, she will be. Lord willing, she will be the second child we bring home from the hospital, the second child we strap into our family vehicle, the second child we tuck into bed each night. But to me, Avaleen is Baby #2. She is the second child I carried, the second child I loved.
I'm not sure yet how to incorporate that reality into my speech. When the lady in front of me at Starbuck's asks if I'm pregnant with Baby #2, what will I say? When the grocery store employee comments on my two daughters, will I mention that there are really three?
I don't know. I'm still trying to figure it out. I realize that as much as I want Avaleen's existence to be shared and remembered, there will be times when it will just be simpler and less awkward not to mention her. Our culture doesn't really allow space in casual conversation for references to the children we've lost.
I hope though that can figure out ways to communicate what I feel, that Avaleen is every bit as much my child as the toddler with whom I spend my days, as this baby about to be born.