When we first found out I was pregnant with Norah, I remember telling Hank that the second half of my pregnancy would go by so fast, as it would occur during my favorite time of year – Fall and Winter, holidays and happiness – and then she’d be here! I remember imagining the return of my favorite time of year, as a complete family of five, with Hank and our three daughters.
Soon after Norah was born, the girls decided they wanted a Halloween theme for all three of them; they were going to dress up as Alvin and the Chipmunks; Addy as sophisticated Simon, Sydney as ornery Alvin, and Norah as cute, little Theodore.
I washed the “Baby’s First Thanksgiving” turkey bib along with all of the other baby clothes, so that it would be ready for our traditional Thanksgiving/Christmas weekend with my parents and family. How awesome it would be to go around the table saying what we’re thankful for this year.
I had the red and white hat that Addy and Sydney wore, ready for 6 month photos. We would gift my parents with another canvas photo that would fill the fourth and final empty spot on their “grandchildren” wall.
I had visions of Christmas cards, full of love and life, in their coordinating Christmas outfits which were purchased the month before Norah was born, because I just couldn’t pass them up.
I imagined attending the school’s holiday Christmas program, while Addy and Sydney participated in singing, and Hank and I sat in the church pew with Norah as a bouncing 10 month old; giggly and wiggly as she looked for her big sisters on stage.
We’d attend “Breakfast with Santa” at church and get to experience all three of them sitting on Santa’s lap, before anyone was too old to want to do this.
I’d sneak out of the house in the wee hours of the morning, leaving Hank with all three girls, so I could stand in line to purchase the hard-to-find-hottest-toys of the year. I had “number three” budgeted in to my Christmas savings plan.
This year we’d have another little person to add to the traditional “Guerke Christmas-morning on the stairs photo,” which has been a tradition for generations.
She’d try turkey and mashed potatoes for the first time. She’d be in awe of twinkling lights and tinsel; I can imagine how her beautiful steel blue eyes would twinkle along with them. She’d make our hearts burst as we all watched in love and amazement, as she crawled into everyones laps, and tried to eat wrapping paper, and drooled all over her Christmas pjs.
We’d ring in the New Year as a tired but oh-so-complete and joyful family of five, ready to welcome new beginnings and plan a first birthday party.
We’d bundle up all three of them and play outside in the snow, until cheeks were red and the warmth of our house was calling.
And now, here we are. I held my breath and my tears, as we purchased Halloween costumes. I now have the bib and the hat packed away in a “memory box.” I hid the Christmas outfits, hoping that Addy and Sydney would forget about them. We don’t have the canvas photo for my parents, because Norah never made it to 6 months old. Our arms will be empty at the holiday Christmas program and I have no idea what the hottest toys of the year are. I’ll miss Breakfast with Santa this year, because I’m attending a bereaved mothers healing retreat. I removed “number three” from my budget and a symbolic bear that holds her remains will sit in the traditional family photo. We now have to look for her spirit in the twinkling of beautiful Christmas lights. The New Year will be painful, as it will feel like we’re leaving her behind in the only year she lived in.
There will be no first birthday. Or any birthdays.
The anxiety of my favorite time of year is heavier now than the joy I used to experience. I haven’t taken a deep breath in weeks. I’m trying my hardest to maintain joy and happiness for Addy and Sydney, as my chest aches from heartbreak and my eyes constantly sting from tears.
For when one of your greatest loves is missing, your favorite time of year will never be the same; nor will any time.