I lost a child already.

When I was 21, before I met Peter, I miscarried a baby that I hadn’t even known that I wanted until the moment the choice was taken away from me. My first instinct was to get rid of that baby, that I wasn’t ready, I wasn’t prepared. I spent days planning to make this inconvenience go away. Then the clarity came that I might never BE ready for a baby, but I had one now and I was going to do my best to be a mother. I told the father. I cried when I told my mom. But I was sure I was making the right decision.

Three days later I lay in the hospital, as the child I was just starting to anticipate was lost to me forever. I cried tears from a place inside me I never knew existed. I mourned the baby that was never to be in my arms. I spent weeks laying on my bed, unable to make myself get up, move, bathe, want to live. I felt the most incredible guilt I think a person could feel because I knew in my heart that I had wished that baby away in my days of uncertainty. And now it was gone.

I spent years waking from dreams of a crying baby, me wandering halls, searching frantically for that child. I spent months unable to even bear looking at a pregnant woman or a baby snuggled in its stroller. My best friend had a newborn and I was angry and resentful that she got to have her baby. There aren’t words to describe how I felt after my miscarriage: devastated, destroyed, incomplete.

And this was a child I’d never even seen. Let alone cuddled in my arms. I’d never stared into its eyes, felt it’s silky skin against mine, soothed its cry with the touch of my lips to its brow. I still grieved for that child with every fiber of my being.

Each pregnancy with my three beautiful children was faced with fear. I would hold my hand over my belly and beg for movement. I would lay awake at night and cry out of fear. I would still have those nightmares of crying babies, only there would be multiple cries.

With the birth of a healthy baby, the fear would subside and I could move into just loving and being a mom. The nightmare had gone.

Until Peyton was diagnosed with cancer. I guess a part of me never even fathomed that once I got my baby into this world that there was anything that could steal her away. In the way that you know there are car wrecks that take lives, accidents that happen, diseases that kill…those happen to OTHER people. It would never happen to us. It would not come to THIS house.

It did.

I’ve met incredible people who lost a child and through the pain made incredible things happen from the loss. I’ve watched friends wage the day-to-day battle to find a reason to continue after their child’s death. I watch and am in awe of that, because I fear that if it were to be us, to be Peyton…to be me who had to get up and find that reason to go on, I wouldn’t.

I can tell myself that I would. I have two other children who would need me and a husband who loves me and a family to keep together. I want to believe that I would be strong enough to let my faith carry me into healing, that my love for them would sustain me. I see the examples of the person I want to be confident I would be.

But I fear that if Peyton dies, I will die with her. The parts of me that are good and loving and whole will be gone with her. Does it make me a bad mom because I can’t say that I know I would persevere for the sake of Nathaniel and Rachael? Maybe. I wish I could do better. I have seen the struggles of the friends who have buried their children this year and it has echoed inside of me, brought back that grief buried inside me. Grief I didn’t know how to deal with then and don’t know how to deal with now.

Now that grief transfers into fear for Peyton. The incredible, unstoppable Peyton. A baby that captivated me from the first moment our eyes met, whose tiny lips exhaled angel’s breath into my heart. The Peyton that twirls in frilly skirts, begs for perfume to be spritzed on her wrist, who hugs with her whole body and reaches out her hand in her sleep to hold mine. This little girl who lives life with an infectious giggle and a smile that lights up a room, who leaves laughter in her wake and wraps hearts around her pudgy little fingers. Can I live without her? Without that?

I don’t know.

I pray I never have to find out.

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