A Mother’s Day Gift

Phew. It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything here. Spring was full of a lot of grief and a lot of anger, and I just couldn’t find it in me to say much. I’m not sure what it was that caused Spring to sting so much, and I’m not sure I even realized how badly I was hurting until the fog cleared and summer came.

In April, I was furious about trying to celebrate Easter because I couldn’t get on board with feeling hopeful—about anything. I remember saying to Daniel one night, “If God is willing to take Eleanora from me in this life, how am I supposed to believe that I can trust him to bring us together again in the next one?”

Eleanora’s death changed everything—and I mean everything—for me. The day she died I lost trust in everything I’d ever believed in, and I’m still trying to recover from that.

Thankfully, early summer brought someone new into my life—someone who is helping me pick up the broken parts of myself, piece by piece.

On Mother’s Day (May 8, 2022), we found out we are expecting our second child. The next morning, I wrote the whole story down, and I finally feel up to sharing it with you. 💚

May 9, 2022

Yesterday was my second Mother’s Day, my first Mother’s Day without my child. There are no words strong enough to tell you how much it hurts, missing her every day, but especially on a holiday designed to celebrate the bond between mothers and their children. 

Even so, I was determined to make the most of it, and my family did a really great job of celebrating both me and Eleanora all weekend. It was a really great Mother’s Day. If Eleanora were here, it would have been perfect. 

But I don’t think it’s true to say that she wasn’t here. My Mother’s Day was so perfectly coincidental, so perfectly incredible, that I can’t help but believe she had a hand in it. 

I found out last night, on my second Mother’s Day, my first without my firstborn child, that I’m pregnant with our second.

In the week leading up to my positive pregnancy test with Eleanora, I was exhausted. That entire week, I would come home from work each day and nap until dinner and then go to bed early. I would sleep ten or more hours through the night, and I still did not feel well rested. I had never been pregnant before, and even though I knew all the signs because I did ALL the research and read all the articles and asked all the questions, I didn’t know exactly how *my* body specifically would tell me I was pregnant when the time came. 

Sure enough, that exhaustion was my big clue whether I realized it or not. (The other big clue was that I went to a dear friend’s wedding and was absolutely, completely inconsolable. I was so happy for her that I just could. not. stop. crying. I thought that was weird, but attributed it to being tired and the fact that I am just someone who cries when she’s happy for other people. Even so, it was a LOT of crying. Three days later, I got a positive pregnancy test.) 

This time around, I knew what to expect: be on the lookout for exhaustion and overly strong emotions. 

I knew that Mother’s Day was going to be the first really accurate day that I could test. I also knew that Daniel was going to be out of town that day, and that this was going to be my first Mother’s Day without Eleanora. I knew that I could very well be both exhausted and overly emotional than for no other reason than that is a LOT for one person to deal with.

I think that, because of the anticipation that Mother’s Day could be awful, and because I am so, so weary of heartbreak, I kept my eye out for those signs but wouldn’t let myself believe any gut feeling I had that I might be pregnant.

And I did find that, once last week came, I was exhausted, but I also hadn’t been sleeping well. In my mind, my lack of sleep and subsequent tiredness made perfect sense. I never sleep well when I’m anxious, and I was definitely anxious about the holiday and testing and Daniel’s absence coming up. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t fall asleep for a nap during the evenings. I kept waking up way earlier than I normally do to start the day, and I dealt with insomnia during the night. 

Even so, last week felt different from the last few months. The only way I know how to describe it is to say that the energy felt different. Deep down, even if I couldn’t let myself show it, I felt hopeful. I felt like I had something to hold onto again. 

The only way I know how to describe the grief of losing Eleanora is to say that it feels absolutely hopeless. It has sucked every ounce of life out of me. So, when I noticed that I was carrying myself a little bit differently, that life seemed a little bit more worthwhile, I wondered. But I tucked the wonder away and kept it a secret because I was too scared it would end in another piece of my heart shattering. 

The Rose Bush

The day before Mother’s Day, my mom, sister, and I went and visited Eleanora’s resting place. It had rained quite a bit during the week, and as a result, mud and grass had gotten caked to the bottom of her stone. I wanted to stop by and clean things up a bit. 

When we arrived, there was a yellow rose bush waiting just next to her stone. (Yellow roses, as you might know, are a big part of our story.) The plant had a note attached that read, ”Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy! —E.” 

My mom had picked out the rose bush a few days prior and brought it down to the cemetery early Saturday morning for me to find when we visited that afternoon. It was the perfect Mother’s Day gift. I immediately broke down in tears, and we all shared a big group hug in front of my daughter’s place.

Call me crazy, but while we were there visiting Eleanora, I had this feeling that she knew something that I didn’t. That she was just overjoyed about something but didn’t want me to know yet. I could so perfectly picture her giggling. As we pulled away from the cemetery and I blew one last kiss to her, I wondered, but I tucked the wonder away and kept it a secret. 

That afternoon, I posted a picture of my new yellow rose bush to my Instagram, along with a caption that said something like, “Hopefully someday we’ll have lots of Main babies, and each one of them will have their own yellow rose bush.” A friend of mine immediately sent me a message and asked, “Is this a sneaky way of saying you’re pregnant?” I told her that, no, I really didn’t think I was. I knew that, first thing tomorrow morning, I would be proven right. No baby this month.

We went out to dinner that night with my Grandma Connie, and I was so tired that I had to ask for a cup of coffee with dinner because I could hardly keep my eyes open. I got spaghetti (Eleanora’s favorite) for dinner, and I just knew that I would end up with pasta sauce in my hair and on my face if I didn’t get some caffeine, pronto. I wondered then if maybe, just maybe, there was a little someone with me making me tired, but I didn’t let the wonder go too far. I had been up since early that morning (because I couldn’t sleep!), and it had been kind of a busy weekend, and I figured I was just worn out. I knew I would be proven right first thing in the morning when the sure sign that I wasn’t pregnant would show up. We enjoyed our dinner, went back home, went to sleep, and I tossed and turned all night long. I couldn’t stay asleep for the life of me. At 6:30 a.m., I was wide awake. 

Mother’s Day Morning

My first thought when I woke up yesterday morning and opened my eyes was, “Where are the cramps?”

I remember lying under the covers and looking around my childhood bedroom, as if they were hiding somewhere in a corner. There was no way they shouldn’t have been there by then; they ALWAYS meet me first thing in the morning. Always.

But yesterday morning, nothing.

I thought, “Well, it’ll definitely happen once I get up and get moving.” I waited for an hour to see if anything would happen. It didn’t. Finally, I got dressed, went downstairs, let the dogs out, and sat on the front porch with my dad. 

Still nothing. I began to get irritated. 

I thought, “After all that I’ve been through in the last year, it would be just like God to make me wait in agony all day on Mother’s Day for my period to come, to let me get my hopes up, and then to send it right along in the middle of the afternoon.” 

That’s an ugly thought, I know. But my heart is so broken that holding onto hope does not come naturally for me anymore. It takes work. Assuming that more heartbreak is always on the horizon? That is easy for me now.

I tried to keep my composure around my family. When I am anxious, my heart pounds, my eyes feel like they’re bugged out, I start to sweat, my hands get clammy, and I feel that fight-or-flight (flight) urge to run away. But I’ve been told before that I hide it really well. So I tried to hide the fact that I was absolutely and completely coming unwound. 

My Nana came over at noon, and we all sat down for lunch together. Unprompted, and completely out of the blue, and right in the middle of Nana asking me, “Do you want any gravy?” I burst into tears. Big, big sobs that had my mom and my sister running around the table to wrap me in a hug. 

I expected to cry on Mother’s Day. I didn’t expect to not have any idea when it was coming. I think I just missed her. Or maybe the stress of trying to hide my “I have no idea if I’m pregnant or not right now and I am REALLY freaking out about it” face just got to me. Maybe it was both.

I finally got myself together, but when everybody else started eating again, I didn’t have any appetite. 

I made myself eat half my hamburger, a small serving of green beans, and some chocolate-covered strawberries, and I called it good enough.

I enjoyed the rest of the afternoon with my family. But all the while, all I could think about was getting home to take a pregnancy test. I had one ear on the conversation and one ear on my heartbeat, which was pounding harder and harder with every hour that passed by and still no sign that I WASN’T pregnant. 

Finally, around 7:00 that evening, Daniel and I both got home. We told each other all about our weekends, shared stories and pictures and a lot of laughs. I was adamant about drinking water throughout the entire conversation. (With Eleanora, I drank and drank and drank a ton of water to take a pregnancy test before leaving for work that morning, and I still couldn’t go. I went to work that day and waited in agony about not having an answer for eight hours. I was BOUND and DETERMINED to not be in that same predicament again.) By 9:00, the stories were through, and I was ready to take a test. 

I fully expected to get a negative result, to realize that I’d opened my eyes up to the tiniest glimmer of hope for nothing.

But that’s not what happened.

The Test

I pulled two tests out from my bathroom cabinet. We had gone to CVS a few days prior to get some new digital tests, “just in case,” I’d said, because I knew (hoped) that SOMEDAY, we would be pregnant again. 

Actually, I had taken a test Thursday night before Daniel left for Georgia. Just in case. I told Daniel then that I wanted to record our reactions to every test we took so that, whenever we did finally get a positive, we would have our reactions on camera. I have been so scared for so long that I would never again feel as happy as I did when I was pregnant with Eleanora. I knew that, if we caught our reactions to a positive test on camera someday, I would have physical proof that that happiness was still possible for me. 

But Thursday’s test was negative. In that video, I said, “That’s what I figured,” sighed, and threw the test away.

Last night, I grabbed one cheap test—the kind that has one pink line by default and will produce a second pink line if you’re pregnant—and one digital test, which will give you a very clear “Pregnant” or “Not Pregnant” reading on the screen. I told Daniel that I would set the five-minute timer for the cheapie test on my phone and asked if he would set the three-minute timer for the digital one on his. I started the cheapie test, and immediately, I saw the pink dye start to form a second line. I looked, wide-eyed, up at my husband. “That’s a second line,” I said. I sounded almost breathless. My hands were already shaking. “Daniel,” I said. “It’s making a second line.” 

He nodded and said, “Let’s just start the digital one, too, okay? Sometimes there can be a false positive.” 

With the shakiest hands I have EVER had, I started the digital test. I set it on the counter, and he started the timer. The pink line on the cheap test continued to grow darker. I remembered the recording we were supposed to have already started. He turned me to face him, said, “Don’t look at the tests until the timers run out, okay?” and ran to grab the iPad. He came back, set the iPad up to record, and we waited. 

But I was already in tears. I knew. I had seen the line, and that was all the proof that I needed. 

Finding out about Baby #2: May 8, 2022
Finding out about Eleanora: October 5, 2020

Daniel said something like, “I have one more Mother’s Day surprise for you,” and turned me to face the camera and the tests. Right there, plain as day, were two pink lines on one test and the word “Pregnant” on the other. 

And then, like a film reel played back on super speed, I saw this exact same moment nearly two years ago. I saw our first ultrasound, when Daniel dressed up in nice pants and a button-down to “make a good first impression” with our baby. I saw the time we stood in the snow when I was twenty weeks along and we’d just found out she was a girl. I saw the baby showers and the balloons filled with gold confetti. I saw us putting the furniture together in the nursery. I saw Daniel painting the eucalyptus wall, day after day after day. I saw us being so, so ready. I saw us smiling, day after day after day. I saw two people sobbing in a triage room. I saw her funeral. I saw all of last summer, day after day after day of darkness and tears and screams. 

Then, there we were again. I saw us, standing in the same spot, on Mother’s Day, seeing that same result again. I saw my husband, crying and SMILING at the same time for the first time in a very, very long time. I saw myself doing the same thing—feeling the thing I thought was no longer within my reach.

I couldn’t even believe it. I still can’t. 

After a year full of the most devastating heartbreak I could ever imagine, I am pregnant again. There is life here. Not death. Life. 

I. Am. Pregnant.

Just before we crawled into bed last night, my second Mother’s Day, my first without my firstborn child but also my first with my second child, I decided I wanted to read this baby’s first story to him/her in the nursery.

The nursery that’s already perfectly built and put together. The nursery with no spit-up stains. No diaper messes. No piles of dirty clothes. No finger smudges on the windows. Only perfectly hung clothes, unused pacifiers and diapers and wipes, immaculately folded blankets, and echoes and echoes and echoes of screams of hurt. I put a hand on my belly and prayed to God that this child will get to see and use this nursery. 

I opened the closet doors that should have been Eleanora’s and pulled out the book “God Gave Us You,” which was gifted to us at Eleanora’s baby shower. I grabbed Eleanora Bear and held her in my lap. Both my babies, sitting together with me. I sat down in the nursery chair and finally, finally, finally read to my baby again. Daniel and Eliza lay on the floor and listened. I cannot explain how absolutely surreal and wonderful and freeing and uplifting and beautiful that felt. I cannot explain how absolutely grateful I feel. 

I know that Eleanora knows. I know that she knew on Saturday when I felt like she had a secret. I know that she knew when my mom wrote “Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy! —E” that there was another little E tagging along with me. That this baby is my Mother’s Day gift.

I can’t believe my little girl is going to be a big sister. No, she IS a big sister. I am a mom to two babies. Daniel is a dad to two babies.

And that is, by far, the absolute best Mother’s Day gift I could have ever asked for. And I wholeheartedly believe that Eleanora made it so. I believe that Daniel was out of town until Mother’s Day evening and that I wasn’t able to test until then for a reason. She knew, and she wanted us to find out together, at just the right time.

I know that my time with this baby might not be forever. My only other experience with pregnancy ended in absolute heartbreak at the very end. So, just as I did with Eleanora, I am choosing to savor every single moment I have with this child. 

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, or even what nine months from now will bring, but I know that today…I. am. pregnant.

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