I am 38 weeks and 2 days pregnant. So I'm busy waiting for our girl to arrive. I've got our bags packed, complete with the usual suspects but with different essentials than we had when Miles was born. Now we have a framed photo of Miles so we can see how our little ones compare on the days of their birth. I've got a baptism dress ready for her because we are hoping for the pediatric chaplain (who supported us during Miles' life and held Miles' memorial service for us in New Hampshire) to baptize her in the hospital...untraditional, sure, but it's where Miles lived and we want for her to have a special connection to that place, too. And we have a tiny little hospital shirt with her name embroidered just like the shirt that Miles wore with his name. And then, most importantly, I remind myself, we have us--Mitch and me--the two people who loved and adored Miles carrying on to love and adore our baby girl.
And here's the thing. I haven't held a baby since I held Miles. It has been intentional. I wanted for my memory of holding Miles to not be cloudy, to not possibly be confused with holding another baby. I did that for me--a gift of sorts and, in another way, as a way to be careful with myself, to give myself a break, to keep me from completely breaking, to hold out until it could be one of my babies in my arms. And now I am getting so close again. But I have held two infants. When our friends' daughter Grace was one and a half years old, she held her arms up for me to pick her up to get in the stroller; it was precious, and of course I grabbed her. My niece Claire, born just three weeks after Miles, needed to be in a family photo of all the girls when she was almost a year old; for the first time, I held her for just a few moments, proving to myself that I could do it, amazed at how heavy she was. And then, several months later, she was crying, and I held her, trying to comfort her, dancing her around, playing in the mirror, looking at the crazy bird in its cage, walking outside, changing her diaper. She is precious to me in the kind of way that tears my heart out. Will I ever look at her and not think of Miles? Will I ever see her and not think, "Miles should be here, too. That's what Miles should be doing..."? Probably not. And that's painful, but it's also real. Yes, I'll be crying (sometimes on the outside and always on the inside), but that's real. It takes Miles away from me yet brings him to me.
So that's it. I've held infants three times but no babies since Miles. And now, finally, finally, I'll get to hold our girl. I'm so excited I can barely stand it. And it brings the painful lump to my throat as the tears form. The moment she is born will mark her place in the world. It will bring such happiness. We will suddenly have two children. And one of them still won't be here. As I hold her and smile and laugh, I will think of holding Miles on the day he was born, I know. Both babies will have my heart, and I wonder how much of a mess I will be.