How many children do you have? This seemingly innocent, easy question still causes me to cringe. I'm not quite sure how to answer. If I answer truthfully, 4, the follow up is usually how old are they? As I've taken Hannah out and about while the boys are home or at the park, I tend to get asked "Is she your first." Maybe something about me screams first time mom? I get some looks of shock when I reply, no, she's my 4th. And then that question...how old are they? Sometimes it's easier to say 3 and twins who are 2. Sometimes I'll say our oldest would be 3 and I have twins who are 2. But sometimes I take the easy way out, particularly when I'm out with all 3 of these crazy kiddos, and I just say the 3 of them. And then I'm hit with this wave of doubt, of guilt. Reagan made me a mommy. She made me feel this attachment and protectiveness I'd never felt before. She made me into the woman I am today, the mom I am today. And yet, I feel this pressure to pretend like she doesn't exist. I hate that.
Since Hannah's birth, we've been able to bond. Despite sleepless nights and stressful days, I love that little girl immeasurably. She brings me great joy. And yet, I feel a longing for Reagan even more. Maybe it's simply that she's a girl. That I think of my own sisters and the relationships we had and I know Hannah will never experience that with Reagan. Maybe it's the sense of normalcy that was completely lacking after the boys were born, when I didn't have much time to just process through the emotions of having our rainbow babies.
Christmas season is especially hard. Well, really, the entire holiday season, from Halloween (for obvious reasons) to Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's all a reminder of this empty spot in our lives. Another seat that should be around the table, eating turkey and pie. A missing stocking hanging from the mantle. Only 5 instead of 6. One whole member of our family is just erased from our holiday pictures. I want her to be included, I want her to be remembered. She was born, I felt her kick in my belly for months, watched her heart flutter on ultrasounds, planned my life with her, and then held her still body in my arms. The fact that she didn't get to take a breath outside me doesn't erase her life or her significance, doesn't mean she isn't just as much a part of my family as our other kids.
This is our 4th Christmas without Reagan. How can that be? It seems like just yesterday I was holding her close. Regardless, as the years go by, that empty spot does not. The grief, the raw and gripping pain, the immeasurable sense of loss, are all still just as present this year as years past. Our home is full of laughter and tiny feet, but one set is always missing. One blonde girl dressed in purple is dancing in heaven instead of with her mommy. Nothing changes that.
I have 4 children. I have 2 girls and 2 boys. I did not "finally get a girl," I already have one. She's being cared for by her heavenly Father instead of her earthly parents. But she is still very much our daughter.