Friday, November 6th, 2015 I attended a movie screening focusing on the portrayal of birth in the media. It helped me reminiscence about my two previous birth experiences and embrace that even though the newborn stage is really challenging, the birth journey can be really amazing. I walked out of the room a bit lighter and feeling more ready to meet a third birth head on. I got a message to run to Target and pick up body wash and a pack of diapers. (Yes, even the crunchiest of us hippies use paper diapers for night time.)
On my way through to the diapers, I spotted a rack of Christmas fleece sleepers. I stood, my belly rounded at 34 weeks, and stroked the jammies. A tiny spark of excitement flickered. These jammies had feet with sweet reindeer faces on them. Our Christmas baby would need Christmas jammies. I hesitated to buy them, though. I knew my oldest son would want to help pick out Little Brother’s outfit. He was very concerned with the fact our baby would be born naked. He even suggested I eat some baby clothes so our baby could be dressed and warm. I assured him that our baby was warm inside my belly. So I walked away knowing we’d buy one soon. I was only 34 weeks pregnant. I had time.
The very next day, Reece would die. My excitement for birth would crash down over the crown of my head and sit heavy on my shoulders. His birth would be a blur of shock and sleepless sorrow. We never bought Reece his very own coming home outfit and I wasn’t of mind to grab something from the ten thousand pieces we had in boxes in his room. We woke up and packed for the hospital. No car seat. No diapers. No outfit.
I have two lasting regrets. One of them is that we didn’t buy him his very own outfit. He wasn’t as small as the ultrasounds said he was. At nearly 5 pounds, he could have fit in a newborn outfit just fine. I would have liked to have dressed Reece, if only once. It isn’t logical, especially knowing he was to be cremated. It’s purely sentimental. But it is so important to humanize your baby. To mother them. Even in death, I am still his mother. Death does not negate existence. He was real. And he will always be my son.
Because my midwife and my support team were keen on letting my body do as it should during birth, Reece was born late at night. My team was also in Bellevue, an hour from our new home. These two factors meant that our oldest son, the Biggest Brother, would never get to meet his Little Brother. My second regret. I wish every day I had a picture of my three sons together. I wish that my oldest son had witnessed the concrete realness that was his baby brother. His fingers and toes, his sleeping eyes, his red-brown hair. Reece transformed from a wiggly bump in Mama’s belly to a picture on her phone, to a box on the mantle. All of those things are so abstract for someone who is only five.
Although my oldest son will never get to be a Biggest Brother to Reece’s physical form, he is the champion for holding Reece’s place in our daily lives. We light a candle at dinner to hold a place at our table for Reece. I always hear a chirpy reminder to light it while making up plates. A few days ago we pulled up to the park to see a mom wearing a baby while chasing two young boys. My son asked me if that mom’s baby was going to make me cry. He is so thoughtful and aware, such a tender-hearted kid. Yes, sometimes baby-wearing park mamas make me cry.
Reece arrived and left in his perfect naked form, wrapped in blankets. And my oldest son never got to hold his baby brother. But Reece is still impacting our family. Instead of him learning to giggle at farts, he is teaching us compassion and forgiveness. Someday I hope to let go of the regrets. One day, one step, one yoga breath at a time.