In the weeks since Henry first let out his strange little squawk from behind the curtain in the O.R., I’ve spent countless hours stroking his fingers, watching his chest roll as he sleeps, worrying about his health, wondering what his hair might look like when he’s toddling at two-years-old and when he’ll drop his full, round baby cheeks for the more carved features of a young man.
And yet on the morning of his birth, before I even saw his pastel skin or touched his tacky hair, I immediately thought of the babies I had lost. That precious moment as air rushed his tiny lungs, should have been mine and his… exclusively, but it was not.
At first it didn’t feel like something I could write about on this blog. How could I accurately explain this clash of emotions? But then a friend shared an article with me that made it all clear.
The article cited research proving that during pregnancy fetal cells cross the placenta and forever alter the DNA of mothers. These powerful cells live on, whether a woman carries a baby full-term or suffers a loss. They can even support a woman’s immune system and aid in the warding off of diseases. And just as these cells become part of mothers, subsequent siblings carry traces within their DNA as well.
And so it all makes sense. Of course, as I welcomed my beautiful Henry into a circle of love and longing as wide as it was warm, the babies who came before him took their places in the ring.
And instead of feeling guilt that in Henry’s first minutes, days and weeks, I still daydreamed about the others, I feel relief and gratefulness. It was scary to imagine that Henry, even in all his marvelousness, could take their place in my heart, fill in holes they left, and “make it all okay,” as many would have suggested. Just as Benjamin and Henry will spend their entire lives sharing one mother, part of me will always be reserved for the babies I lost. And that’s perfectly natural.