“You shouldn’t get pregnant,” the nurse said, her voice filled with the burrs of being transported through wires and towers to the cell phone I held in my hand.
Her voice went on about a positive test, a bacteria strain, a follow-up appointment to begin treatment. But I stayed behind.
I shouldn’t get pregnant.
I hung up the phone and quick-walked to the bathrooms at work, faking grins the whole way down the hall.
In the stall, I sat down and held my hands in front of me. My fingertips brushed against one another and the sensation felt so strong. I began to sob. I fixated on my hands, the gentle curl of my fingers at rest. The wedding ring that still felt heavy with newness on my finger. The palms that suddenly felt impossibly, permanently empty.
I don’t remember the rest of that day. I don’t remember telling Brad that a baby wasn’t in the cards for us, not now, and maybe not ever. I don’t remember telling my mom I wouldn’t be a mom.
But I do remember the heartache. It was vicious.
That heartache lasted five Mother’s Days. On the morning of each day, I touched this memory briefly, testing to see how much it hurt. By the Lord’s grace, the heartache was never bad on Mother’s Day. Instead, it would assert itself when I was on a long run and had time to imagine being the girl who didn’t get that phone call. Or on long road trips when I let my mind drift. But the day when it was supposed to hurt the most, it didn’t.
Last Mother’s Day was different. It was the first one since Brad and I decided to live by faith, not by hard phone calls. I got pregnant and my due date was just 10 days away.
But I lost that baby months before, in November. I sat through an afternoon of meetings at work, suspecting what was happening inside me, I’m losing my baby on repeat in my mind. I sobbed the entire train ride home and fell into Brad’s arms when he picked me up at the station.
That heartache was vicious.
By May, it still was. I missed my baby. Now it wasn’t just my hands that felt empty, it was my arms, my womb, my heart.
A week later I learned I was pregnant again.
This Mother’s Day, well, I’m not sure what to feel about it. This year, I have a beautiful, happy, giggly four-month-old son. Sometimes I can hardly look at him because the joy he brings me and the promise he represents is so big. I will gladly take this Sunday to celebrate mamahood and rejoice in the One who gave it to me. But I’ll also remember my first child—the one who made me a mother. The one who isn’t with me, but is instead held by the same arms that have been holding me this whole time. And I’ll look around and wonder how many other women have a baby in one arm and another in their minds. Or how many of us have only the children we’ve lost.