When you have a new baby, you will hear more than once, “And NOW your life REALLY begins.” This is one of the most ridiculous new baby sayings of all time. What was I doing before my daughter was born? What if I’d never had a baby? What about the rest of my life that isn’t all about the baby? Does nothing I’ve done or continue to do count unless it’s about the baby? This one is a close second: “Don’t you feel fulfilled now that you’re a mother?” Yes and no. You really don’t want me to answer that question honestly if you were the one who asked that in conversation because my answer will not be the simple “Oh, yes!” you were looking for.
My life is just continuing, and now I have an added responsibility and joy. I have a dream that was fulfilled, and it is everything I imagined it to be so far. I am not any more fulfilled as a person and follower of Christ than I was before. You may not believe me, but if you are struggling through infertility or miscarriage and think that your life will drastically improve and you will feel whole if you only had a child, it won’t and you won’t. If you haven’t dealt with all of the pain and loss you’ve been handed, it will not magically disappear when your child comes home. You will only add more work to your emotional to-do list, and you’ll probably feel guilty for still experiencing grief in spite of your bundle of joy – especially when it won’t stop crying for no apparent reason. Then you’ll feel like a bad mom on top of everything else, and the one thing that was supposed to fulfill you is creating more pain.
I’ve said more than once that I think the replacement baby mentality is a really bad idea, and I’m even more sure now that our baby is here. I look at her and love every curve of her face and every expression she makes, and I wonder at the same time what each of my angel babies look like. Each milestone she passes reminds me of what I missed every time we miscarried, and the grief is staggering if I peek over the abyss too long. Our daughter is a gift; her presence is a gift that has soothed the ache of longing to be a parent. She hasn’t erased anything that happened before her arrival, nor should we expect her to lest we force the weight of our losses onto her tiny shoulders. She is our miracle, but I already wonder how to explain that to her when she is old enough to understand without pressuring her to make up for nine angel babies.
I’ve done the work to be a whole person again, and in spite of that, the last month has been hard. Our first baby should have been five on April 1. The first few years, that day was really tough to handle. Each successive year was easier, and the distance of time allowed the open wound to scab over, to heal a bit more and sting a little less – until this year. Having our baby in my arms didn’t soften the blow; I think it may have made it more difficult. This year was incredibly painful, maybe because I’ve experienced a tiny bit of what we missed the last five years. Maybe more than anything else, the April Fool’s Day kick in the pants reminded me that my life is very definitely not just beginning, but my daughter’s is. She is brand new and baggage free, and it is my job to use my experience to teach her how to handle everything that life will throw at her, good and bad. So, my life will continue, her life has just begun, and I pray that we will both be fulfilled by being who God created us to be.