Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Tale of Januarys 23

Seven years ago, on January 23rd, I met a sweet young man for dinner in an Irish pub in DC. We'd been chatting online for a few weeks previous, but this was our first "in person," and the rest- as they say- is history.

We hardly had the chance to mark it as an anniversary; by the following January we were newly engaged and planning a date for the wedding that- in my mind- would be the more significant occasion to note going forward. Also, silly as I get about preferred dates and numbers and stuck as I was on whether it was the first date that should be a couple's official anniversary, as opposed to the day they decided to commit to one another exclusively (which for us, smitten as we were, was the following day and a more favorable number: the 24th), I thought it best to move on to a date that unquestionably marked the beginning of something different and important to us: our upcoming wedding day.

By January of 2011, we were still pretty caught up in learning how to be new parents. Though I remember trying to remember the 23rd, for old time's sake, I am not sure how much I was able to given the high levels of sleep deprivation I was still experiencing at the time. Certainly, I was in better shape then than I would be the following year, just five days after Michael was born. Though he was overall my easiest recovery, those first few weeks are unavoidably difficult, and I hardly remember much specific detail about them anymore for any one of my children.

It's possible that Tom and I may actually have noted the date in 2013. I don't have a good excuse for why we wouldn't have. Though I was heavily pregnant with Amelia by then, I don't think I'd reached the high-stress period encompassing her last several weeks of gestation. However, as perpetually disorganized as we are, there wasn't much we really would have had planned for it, regardless.

2014? Well, I could do with skipping that year entirely. As it happened, the pregnancy that began late the year before, put me through weeks of agonizing worry throughout Christmas and New Year's, and finally revealed itself to have terminated sometime in mid-January finally began to miscarry just one day before the procedure I had scheduled for the 24th. It was a brutal experience that I am not certain I can ever leave behind me, even as the pain of the loss- in terms of how much it affects me day to day- continues to subside.

The anniversary of the loss was pretty brutal- especially as it came around just a few months after a second loss in the same year- and I felt sure the date had been ruined for me forever, no matter what meaning it may once otherwise have held. Sadly, it wasn't only the specific day that proved to haunt me, but the whole period of time between Christmas and Michael's birthday, which seemed forever tainted by the experience of the year before.

However, 2015 proved to be the year to make up for the one before it, and it wasn't long after that I discovered we had finally conceived our rainbow baby, Madeleine. Though anxiety largely defined that entire year, as I experienced my first pregnancy after loss, it was filled with good things, like finding out our beautiful girl was healthy, winning the contract on the house we loved, and successfully making it into our new home. And in September she joined us here, two-and-a-half weeks early, so tiny and perfect, and chose not only a Wednesday but that dreaded date in a different month: the 23rd.

Now we come to this January 23rd, when my miracle child has reached her four-month milestone. Though the pain threatens beneath the surface as it so often does on certain days, the joy most certainly defeats it. The realization that we made it through, we made it here, we met our beautiful girl. Though the snow and wind swirl around outside and our tiny angel continues her perpetual struggle to attain a functional nap cycle, there is no denying her uniqueness, her beauty, her importance to all of us, the gift she gave me in my continual quest for healing, her place in our new family of six.

So it was that at some point in this day I realized that what I thought to be an inevitability had not (yet) occurred: I had not caved into the accruing despair, I had not broken down and let my day be darkened by the past. I had lived it. I had focused on the living children around me. And though as the day wanes and the house quiets I know the moment is likely to come upon me soon, where I must break down and feel it all again, I do not have to let it define me, nor even the day that marks its happening.

Today, this day can be about achieving four months of discovery earthside. Going forward, this day can still be about finally finding love, and a soulmate. And though this day will never again pass for me without a bit of sadness, I think I finally know how to appreciate the immense happiness that it offers me, too.

Happy Four Months, Maddie!

I hope you've found your wings in Heaven, little Chickpea. You will always be more than just hopes and dreams to me.