Within the first days after we welcomed our son to the world in 2008, it was clear that I was a very lucky Mom. Our baby boy was good natured, quick to latch and nurse, handsome (if I do say so myself!), and except for a fleeting bout of jaundice, he was in good health. Yes, we had hit the parental jackpot.
Our good fortune continued as he grew from infant to toddler, curious about the world around him, quick to make new friends, and excited to explore and learn. Sleep deprivation and the occasional challenges of juggling career and parenting notwithstanding, we lived a charmed life.
Knowing our son would make an amazing big brother, we looked forward to growing our family, and I became pregnant again when our little boy was 3 years old.
Over the next three years, we would endure a series of losses that would simultaneously challenge and reinforce my sense of what it meant to be a lucky parent.
Seven weeks into my second pregnancy, I began experiencing spotting and two weeks later, a sonogram showed that our baby's heart had stopped beating. Over the ensuing weeks, I found myself struggling to stay afloat in a sea of grief and fluctuating hormones. My anxiety spiked, my mood sank, and it was a challenge just to get through the day.
Our son's needs were my motivation to get up in the morning. Reading him his bedtime stories and listening to him breathe as he drifted off to sleep were among the few things that quieted my racing mind at night. In a very real way, his love, affection, and need for me to be his Mommy got me through one of the darkest periods in my life up to that point.
A year later, we again became pregnant, but weeks later suffered a second miscarriage. My perspective after that loss was different. Going through multiple pregnancy losses led me to feel even more fortunate that our first pregnancy had been successfully and heightened my gratitude for our beautiful boy. After many medical tests, time to heal, and reassurances from my doctors, we began trying to grow our family again.
Our fourth pregnancy was reminiscent of our first, a fact that filled me with cautious optimism. While I held my breath with each sonogram, by the second and then third trimester, I began to allow myself to exhale and even start planning for a new addition to our family.
Then, at seven months gestation, the floor fell out from under us. Two days after a normal prenatal appointment, I noticed that I wasn't feeling the baby move. I went to my doctor's office and again heard the words every expect parent dreads: "I'm sorry. I can't find a heartbeat."
Unlike our two first trimester losses, this time our son knew about my pregnancy and was over the moon at the thought of being a big brother. My heart broke not only for myself and our stillborn baby, but also for our living son's disappointment and loss.
Our son's reactions to his baby brother's loss could fill another article, but suffice to say that his characteristic curiosity, resiliency and love shaped his responses in ways that were simultaneously beautiful, heartbreaking and poignant. I remain in awe of his ability to grapple with some of life's toughest issues one moment, and be a fun-loving kid the next.
The year-and-a-half since our loss has been among the most challenging times in my life, but also a time filled with reminders of how very fortunate I am: fortunate to have loving family that looked after our son while we went to the hospital to deliver our stillborn baby; fortunate for a husband and partner who not only supports me, but steps up to make sure our family's needs are met at moments when I just need to indulge my grief; and, most of all, fortunate for a remarkable six year old boy whose love and laughter bring light to our lives on even the hardest of days.
With all our family has been through, I'm still a very, very lucky Mommy.